AQ’s Staff Picks for the Top Albums of 2022

2022 started with the mourning of the one-and-only Betty White and is ending with the side-eye-evoking release of ex-presidental trading cards. To say it is has been quite the year would be an understatement.

The last 365 days were excruciating at times, exuberant in others. Music and media were both a saving grace, but also directly effected by the whirlwind events of 2022. The world lost rock and roll royalty: Christine McVie, Taylor Hawkins, Ronnie Spector. True royalty, too, with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. There were moments of light, as well, including the first My Chemical Romance single in eight years and the return of Paramore. Live music came back with a vengeance: Sir Paul McCartney celebrated his 80th birthday (two days early) with Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi at MetLife Stadium, Harry Styles took on Madison Square Garden for 15 historic nights (all sold-out), and Elton John brought his last U.S. leg of his Farewell Tour to a close at Dodger Stadium (after stopping at all the major tri-state venues over the summer).

Festivals also took flight in ways that made our hearts flutter. The highly-anticipated – and even more highly-speculated – When We Were Young Fest shook up Las Vegas… almost without a hitch. Governor’s Ball sparkled for three days right in our backyard NYC thanks to the likes of alternative starlet beabadoobee, GQ‘s ‘Man of the Year’ Jack Harlow, and, if you can believe it, Shaquille O’Neal.

Some of our favorite moments came from right here! Our columns, features, reviews, and premieres in 2022 struck a chord in our writers and readers; this is something we are always grateful for. We premiered songs and videos for artists like New Jersey native Kevian Kraemer and New York’s Charlotte Rose Benjamin. We reviewed new music from Ozzy Osbourne, Nessa Barrett, LÉON, Halsey, and HBO’x Euphoria. We covered events and releases that left us stunned, ranging from a book release by own James Campion to Olivia Rodrigo’s Disney+ film. We dove headfirst into a band who needs no introduction, but still came together in a new and nostalgic way over the last 12 months: Red Hot Chili Peppers (with John Frusciante). We chatted with our friends and our idols: Joe Perry, John Waters, Lilith Czar, Skid Row, Ann Wilson, Matt Pinfield, Isabel Pless, Paul Stanley. We rolled out digital covers, too, which was one of the most important happenings from our year.

The Aquarian has always had eye-catching, coveted, and memorable covers, similar to that of Vogue but on a much different, much more light-hearted and expressive scale. We never wanted to do away with those, but the COVID-19 pandemic has other thoughts… until now. Our very first digital cover was such a fulfilling moment and spectacle that we had to make it a two-for-one deal – both Dirty Honey and MammothWVH were our first in the series. Since then we’ve had Lamb of God, Wallows, Josh Groban, Def Leppard, and more grace the virtual ‘front page.’ We couldn’t be more elated to have returned to our iconic cover story roots and brought all of you along for the ride – thank you for welcoming the online with open arms.

Without further ado, and in the form of record releases, The Aquarian presents some of our own personal highlights and individual favorites from 2022. Below is our annual ‘Top Albums’ ranking, an esteemed and diverse look at the year at large from the eyes of our staff.

Debra Kate Schafer – Managing Editor

  1. Camila Cabello – Familia (Epic Records / Sony)
  2. Louis Tomlinson – Faith in the Future (Deluxe) (78 Productions / BMG UK)
  3. Bruce Springsteen – Only the Strong Survive (Columbia Records / Sony)
  4. Lizzo – Special (Nice Life Recording Company / Atlantic)
  5. Harry Styles – Harry’s House (Erskine Records / Columbia Records / Sony)
  6. Demi Lovato – Holy Fvck (Island Records / UMG)
  7. Mandy Moore – In Real Life (Verve / UMG)
  8. Casey Bishop – Casey Bishop (19 Recordings / BMG)
  9. Novo Amor – Antartican Dream Machine (All Points)
  10. Death Cab for Cutie – Asphalt Meadows (Atlantic)

Mike Greenblatt – Rant ‘N Roll Columnist

  1. Club d’Elf – You Never Know (Face Pelt)
  2. Catherine Russell – Send For Me (Dot Time)
  3. Futurenot – Greatest Hits (Color Red)
  4. Queen Kong – Fray (self-released)
  5. Ches Smith – Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic)
  6. Dentist – Making A Scene (Cleopatra)
  7. Dan McCarthy – Songs of the Doomed: Some Jaded Atavistic Freakout:  Music Inspired By The Writing Of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (TPR)
  8. Peter Rowan – Calling You From My Mountain (Rebel)
  9. Amjad Ali Khan and Wu Man – Music For Hope (Zoho)
  10. Dr. John – Things Happen That Way (Rounder)

Sherry Thomas – Contributing Writer & Lead Book Critic

  1. The Last Bandoleros –Tex Flex (TLB Recording, LLC.)
  2. Soraia – Bloom (Soraia / Wicked Cool Records) 
  3. Love In Reverse – Fake It (Dada Drumming)
  4. Chris Day – Hidden in Plain Sight (Heart Songs Music Group)
  5. Spoon – Lucifer On The Sofa (Headz / Matador Records)
  6. Blake Morgan – Violent Delights (ECR Music Group)
  7. Mickey Leigh’s Mutated Music – Variants of Vibe (Mickey Leigh / Wicked Cool Records)
  8. Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts – Ballad Of A Misspent Youth (Music Recording Group)
  9. Skid Row – The Gang’s All Here (earMUSIC / Edel Music & Entertainment Group)
  10. Ghost – Impera (Loma Vista Recordings / Concord)

Brian Aberback – Contributing Writer

  1. The Beatles – Revolver (5CD Super Deluxe Edition) (Calderstone Productions / Universal Music Group)
  2. Kreator – Hate Über Alles (Nuclear Blast)
  3. Machine Head – ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN (Nuclear Blast / Imperium Recordings)
  4. Alice Cooper – Live from the Astroturf (earMUSIC / Edel Music & Entertainment)
  5. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Live at the Fillmore, 1997 (Deluxe) (Petty Legacy LLC / Warner Records)
  6. Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying … And The Dead! (UMG)
  7. Queensrÿche – Digital Noise Alliance (Century Media Recordings)
  8. The Halo Effect – Days Of The Lost (Nuclear Blast)
  9. Motörhead – Iron Fist (40th Anniversary Edition) (Sanctuary Records / BMG)
  10. Anthrax – XL (Megaforce Records)

Valentino Petrarca – Contributing Writer

  1. The Wonder Years – The Hum Goes on Forever (Loneliest Place on Earth / Hopeless Records)
  2. Silverstein – Misery Made Me (UNFD)
  3. Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind (Roadrunner Records / Elektra Music Group)
  4. Dashboard Confessional – All The Truth I Can Tell (Dashboard Confessional / AWOL)
  5. Motionless In White – Scoring The End Of The World (Roadrunner Records)
  6. Lorna Shore – Pain Remains (Century Media Records)
  7. I Prevail – True Power (Concord / Fearless Records)
  8. Enterprise Earth – The Chosen (Entertainment One)
  9. The 1975 – Being Funny In A Foreign Language (Dirty Hit)
  10. L.S. Dunes – Past Lives (Concord / Fantasy Records)

Raymond Romanski – Contributing Writer & Photographer

  1. Hatchie – Giving the World Away (Secretly Canadian)
  2. Undeath – It’s Time…To Rise from the Grave (Prosthetic Records)
  3. Russian Circles – Gnosis (Sargent House)
  4. Lorna Shore – Pain Remains (Century Media Records)
  5. Westside Gunn – 10 (Griselda Records / EMPIRE)
  6. Cold Night for Alligators – The Hindsight Notes (Arising Empire)
  7. Noah Kahan – Stick Season (Mercury Records / Republic Records / UMG)
  8. SZA – SOS (Top Dawg Entertainment / RCA)
  9. Maggie Rogers – Surrender (Debay Sounds / Capitol Records / UMG)
  10. Blood Red Shoes – GHOSTS ON TAPE (Velveteen Records)

Robert Frezza – Contributing Writer

  1. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers (Top Dawg Entertainment / Aftermath / Interscope)
  2. Taylor Swift – Midnights (Taylor Swift / Big Machine)
  3. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (Big Thief / 4 AD)
  4. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Return of the Dream Canteen (Warner Records)
  5. Beyoncé – Renaissance (Parkwood Entertainment / Columbia Records / Sony)
  6. Ribbon Stage – Hit With the Most (K Records)
  7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down (Secretly Canadian)
  8. Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry (G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam / UMG)
  9. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights (L-M Recordings / RCA / Sony)
  10. Mt. Joy – Orange Blood (Mt. Joy / Island Records / UMG)

Chrystina Lenge – Graphic Designer

  1. Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti (Rimas Entertainment)
  2. Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Domino Recording Co.)
  3. Drake & 21 Savage – Her Loss (OVO / Republic Records / UMG)
  4. Harry Styles – Harry’s House (Erskine Records / Columbia Records / Sony)
  5. Machine Gun Kelly – mainstream sellout (Bad Boy / Interscope)
  6. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers (Top Dawg Entertainment / Aftermath / Interscope)
  7. The Weeknd – Dawn FM (The Weeknd XO / Republic Records / UMG)
  8. Silverstein – Misery Made Me (UNFD)
  9. BLACKPINK – BORN PINK (YG Entertainment / Interscope)
  10. Placebo – Never Let Me Go (Elevator Lady / Rise Records)

Readers’ Votes

  1. The Driver Era – Summer Mixtape (The Driver Era / TOO Records)
  2. The Smithereens – The Lost Album (Tollie Records / Sunset Blvd. Records)
  3. The Backseat Lovers – Waiting to Spill (Capitol Records / UMG)
  4. Kehlani – blue water road (TSNMI / Atlantic)
  5. Ted Nugent – Detroit Muscle (Pavement Music)
  6. Weezer – SZNZ Collection (Crush Music / Atlantic)
  7. Whiskey Myers – Tornillo (Wiggy Thump Records / WHY&HOW / Thirty Tigers / The Orchard)
  8. Lamb of God – Omens (Epic Records / Sony)
  9. Charlie Puth – Charlie (Atlantic)
  10. Marcus King – Young Blood (American Recordings / Republic Records / UMG)