The 25 Best Albums Of 2022 (So Far…)

the-25-best-albums-of-2022-(so-far…)

Let’s get this out of the way first: 2022 has brought a truly gargantuan amount of new music.

It’s almost – almost – as though leaving musicians locked away for 24 months with nothing to do apart from write songs would result in a tidal wave of activity, with release schedules chock-a-block for weeks on end.

The flip-side of the coin, however, is that fans have been truly blessed by the opening weeks and months of 2022, with a slew of phenomenal releases arriving on our playlists.

From returning big-hitters through to surprise left-field breakouts, it’s already been a rollercoaster ride, with enough top tier projects to leave the most cynical fan breathless with wonder.

Now that the first quarter of the year is out of the way, Clash writers rounded up their 25 favourite albums (and the odd mixtape, too!) of 2022 so far…

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The Weeknd – ‘Dawn FM’ 

Synthy, shadowy, and conceptual, ‘Dawn FM’ is The Weeknd’s most experimental album to date, and also his strongest. The Weeknd, (a moniker for Abel Tesfaye) has revealed in various interviews that the project’s concept comes from a state of feeling suspended in purgatory, brought on by the pandemic.

Tesfaye envisions the experience of listening to a radio station whilst stuck in a perpetual traffic jam – admittedly a worthy end if it involves enjoying the stellar production and captivating beats of ‘Dawn FM’. This haunting drive towards death is a glimpse into the evolution of pop music in 2020s: the resurgence of the glitz and glam of 80s synth pop remoulded into brooding dance.

Tracks such as ‘Best Friend’ and ‘Starry Eyes’ sound straight from Tesfaye’s heart – featuring his trademark tender lyrics, but with gloomy electronic instrumentation. Singles ‘Take My Breath’ and ‘Sacrifice’ lean sonically into the brighter side of disco-pop, but with intriguingly intense lyrics. Even boasting a Jim Carrey feature, ‘Dawn FM’ has it all – and having topped the charts, listeners definitely agree. (Gem Stokes)

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FKA twigs – ‘Caprisongs’ 

“Hey, I made you a mixtape,” FKA Twigs croons on ‘Ride The Dragon’ – the opener of her latest album. In ‘Ride the Dragon’ R&B beats back samples of Twigs’ giggles and entrancing panflutes, painting an eclectic soundscape. ‘Caprisongs’ takes the true form of a mixtape – combining genres and emotions for a truly personal listening experience. This is an album best received chronologically, not only because of carefully crafted segues between songs, but because the features peppered throughout are best experienced in their wider context.

Lead single ‘Tears in the Club’ (featuring The Weeknd) took expectant listeners by surprise, as the pop direction didn’t end up informing the rest of the album’s sound. Instead, Twigs keeps us on our toes with further cross genre-references like the drill-tinged ‘darjeeling’ and dancehall-influenced ‘papi bones’. ‘Caprisongs’ successfully displays Twigs’ many faces, acting as the perfect showcase of her talent. (Gem Stokes)

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Mitski – ‘Laurel Hell’

The sixth studio album by Japanese-American artist Mitski, ‘Laurel Hell’ is a clear continuing evolution on her previous works. Written throughout several lockdowns, the 11 track LP is an arresting concoction of new wave, synth-pop, indie pop and electronic rock, characterized by the artist’s signature velvety vocals and lyrics that portray the emotional complexity that landed a clearly bemused Mitski with her fawning fanbase.

With standout tracks such as ‘Living For The Knife’, a dark look into a capitalistic system that weighs us down as we try to create art and ‘The Only Heartbreaker’, an upbeat synth melody covering self sabotage in love, ‘Laurel Hell’ is an apt and engaging commentary on internal and external worlds, making you want to dance along and wipe your tears away simultaneously.

Coming out of a year-long hiatus with a full length album and North American and European tour, this established singer-songwriter is a force to be reckoned with. (Oshen Douglas McCormick)

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Burial – ‘ANTIDAWN’

Released on Hyperdub Records, South London artist Burial (aka William Bevan) has delivered his longest release since ‘Untrue’ in 2007; ‘Antidawn’, an eerie exploration of the inbetween.

Made up of five songs spanning over 43 minutes, the music is punctured by Burial’s classic soundbites such as the musty crackle of an old record player and soft organ-like synths and while being clearly stylistically recognisable, delves deeper into haunting ambience than previous works. The EP explores the zones between dislocated, patchwork soundscapes and gloomy, game space ambience, any percussive sounds buried deep in the mix, creating a feeling of being immersed in the sound but standing far away from any concrete noise, a feeling that both comforts and disturbs.

Released in January and receiving resoundingly impressed reviews, ‘Antidawn’ fed Burial’s cult-like following a variable feast of tracks to dissociate and dream to. (Oshen Douglas McCormick)

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Big Thief – ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’

Folk-leaning indie rock powerhouse Big Thief’s 20 track release is an ambitious, moving exploration of songwriting and soundscapes. The project, produced by drummer James Krivchenia, was written and recorded over fivr different locations and was met with universal acclaim on its February release.

With lyrical content from singer-guitarist Adriene Lenker covering everything from lost love to the book of genesis to potatoes, the LP also features the band’s long-time friend Mat Davidson on the fiddle and backing vocals, adding more texture to an already layered vocal landscape of licks and harmonies and peppering the heartfelt laments with some downright hoedown hooks.

Finding breakout success, ‘Dragon…’ maintained Big Thief’s reputation of pioneering folk sounds with innovation and grace. (Oshen Douglas McCormick)

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Charli XCX – ‘CRASH’

‘CRASH’ opens with “I’m high voltage, self-destructive, end it all so legendary,” starting off one of Charli XCX’s most interesting albums with an explosive look at her role as a pop icon. Charli’s collates her numerous pop-girl-adjacent personas, almost as a highlight reel of her prolific work. Positioned between a faithful pop album and a futuristic outlook on what pop could look like, ‘CRASH’ combines elements of pop-funk, disco, Eurodance, and glitch-core to produce one of Charli’s best, most cohesive albums since ‘Pop 2’.

Famously captivated by the idea of “selling out,” Charli wanted to serve main-pop-girl for her latest release, while still exploring the experimental potential of the genre. Working with a powerhouse of former collaborators like Ariel Reichstaid and A. G. Cook, Charli mixes classic interpolating with glitchy reworking for a unique sound that simultaneously feels familiar. ‘CRASH’ may be Charli’s closing chapter with Atlantic, but it is in no way the end.

What’s next for Charli, who has cemented herself among the likes of Madonna, Britney, and other icons as a staple of the culture, is unclear, but creating a send-off that merges old classics with an avant-garde new touch could only indicate a bright future for an iconic, obsessive artist. (Ruby Carter)

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Conway The Machine – ‘God Don’t Make Mistakes’

‘God Don’t Make Mistakes’ is Conway The Machine’s most enthralling and intimate project to date. Hailing from Buffalo NY, the Griselda trio rapper flexes the range of impactful and emotional bars in his arsenal against a sharp production of smooth and dark beats. Conway is accompanied by countless features on the project including Rick Ross, Jill Scott, Lil Wayne and Westside Gunn.

‘God Don’t Make Mistakes’ continues the flashes of Conway’s crucial and intense persona that were present on his previous projects ‘La Maquina’ and ‘From King to a GOD’. Husky vocals illustrate his exceptional lyricism, as he taps into his personal experiences for ‘Guilty’ and ‘Stressed’ he shows a side of himself that is both ruminative and resilient. Using a hard-hitting delivery and candid revelations to produce an incredibly evocative release. (Naima Sutton)

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Raveena – ‘Asha’s Awakening’

‘Asha’s Awakening’ is the emotive second album from New York singer-songwriter Raveena. The concept album is written from the perspective of a Punjabi space princess, drawing on her cultural heritage and intertwining it with her unique blend of pop, R&B and neo-soul. R

aveena places her soothing pillowy voice on top of south Asian instruments whilst singing in English and Hindi. Shifting away from a more ambient electronic sound that infused her previous album ‘Lucid’ to include more traditional percussion is a move that served her well. Making for a second album that feels fresh but still maintains the phenomenal ethereal sound that she is known so well for.

As Raveena moves easily between upbeat bopping tunes like ‘Secret’ and ‘Mystery’, through to heart-rending melodies like ‘Love Overgrown’, it’s clear that her lovesick and airy take on neo-soul is crafted perfectly for the slow golden sun of a late Friday afternoon in spring. (Naima Sutton)

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Nas – ‘Magic’

For Nas’ fifteenth LP he teams up with producer Hit-Boy for the third time to create a project that brings Nas’ immaculate bars and unmatched flows to some of their fullest potential. Put together by what is clearly a match made in heaven, ‘Magic’ was released unexpectedly on Christmas Eve to an exceptional critical reception. Nas plays to his lyrical strengths with tracks like ‘Ugly’ and ‘Wave Gods’ – featuring A$AP Rocky and DJ Premier.

A mix of classic and lo-fi boom-bap beats ‘Magic’ is arguably one of Nas’ best albums in the past two decades. You would think by the time a musician hits their fifteenth LP they would be struggling to maintain the same creative quality. This is definitely not the case with ‘Magic’, which carries exactly the same energy and densely woven, trenchant lyricism that moulded the New York rapper into the hip-hop figurehead he stands as today. (Naima Sutton)

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Binker & Moses – ‘Feeding The Machine’

Following 2020’s Mercury nominated ‘Dark Matter’ and straight on the heels of a club single with breaks wunderkid Sully, London drummer extraordinaire Moses Boyd returned this Spring with frequent collaborator and saxophonist Binker Golding for ‘Feeding The Machine’. Recorded with modular synths and overdubs courtesy of Max Luthert under the guidance of engineer Hugh Padgham at the magnificent Real World Studios; the session is emblematic of an infectious spirit of collaboration.

But where previously Boyd has been pulled towards London’s adjacent club cultures, lending his considerable talents to familiar drum templates, ‘Feeding The Machine’ is uniquely unconstrained. Binker and Moses’ jams are instead freeform and reflexive, and they’re often drenched with reverb and echo. Underneath the session, Luthert’s synthesizers hum with life, as the proverbial machines fill out the trio. The result is a live session that is at once psychedelic and stupefying, and certainly worth hearing. (Louis Torracinta)

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Earl Sweatshirt – ‘SICK!’

Earl Sweatshirt’s journey has by no means followed the conventions of a rap prodigy, straying away from the ecstatic teenage angst of Odd Future, into a discography that grapples with mourning, addiction and depression. At 16 years of age, Earl seemingly stumbled into what would become a cult following, one that would welcome both the highs of ‘Doris,’ the lows of ‘Some Rap Songs’ and everything in between.

‘SICK!’ captures Earl Sweatshirt in a state of acceptance and overcoming, finding the 28-year old entering fatherhood. It’s a body of work that moves away from the more fragmented, extensive search for answers, refining his more experimental approach across a succinct, 10 track project.

Tracks like ‘2010’ see the rapper’s flow return to an energy reminiscent of his early mixtapes, whilst incorporating today’s more prevalent free-flow style on ‘God Laughs’. Earl Sweatshirt’s next chapter finds the balance between his introspective work, and looks forward into the future with a new-found optimism. (Ana Lamond)

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Rosalía – ‘MOTOMAMI’

The question that’s on everybody’s mind: who and what is a ‘MOTOMAMI’?

‘MOTOMAMI’ is an energy. ‘MOTOMAMI’ is a way of life. ‘MOTOMAMI’ is, above all, Rosalía’s third studio album. The Catalan singer burst onto the scene in 2018 with ‘El Mal Querer’, a project that set out to redefine more traditional Spanish art forms, experimenting with flamenco through the lens of electronic music. Today, Rosalía expands across the globe, immersing herself within the spheres of reggaeton and trap, further shifting what it means to be a pop artist in this day and age.

The tracklist weaves through Rosalía’s ambitions as a musician, with jazz-infused Reggaeton banger ‘Saoko’ serving as an introduction. A rumbling bass paves the way for versatility, whether that’s in a refreshing take on Burial’s ‘Archangel’ on ‘CANDY, to the rawness of ‘BULERÍAS’ or bouncing production from Pharrell. Although sparing in her features, the multi-disciplinary is tactical with her spotlight, using the likes of James Blake or The Weeknd to push her sound into new territory.

There is no doubt that ‘MOTOMAMI’ is a landmark project within Rosalía’s evolution, which remains unpredictable in the best possible way. (Ana Lamond)

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Nilufer Yanya – ‘PAINLESS’

‘PAINLESS’ sees Nilufer Yanya’s distinct alt-pop soar to crisp new heights, with each song carrying its own nuance of identity, all in all tied together by the web of Yanya’s characterful sonic-weaving. The album’s songcraft flits between tightly wrought riffs with loopy rhythmic hooks (the dealer, chase me), and contrasting slower moments of pop poignancy alongside a warmth of choral catharsis (shameless. try).

Yanya offers alt-guitar sensibilities with a modern makeover, akin to indie and bedroom pop counterparts, but it is perhaps the quiet confidence of her rich, oft-hushed vocal delivery that fully commands semantic intention, and captivates the listener. Being of near perfection, the album’s production value serves a satisfying spread of varied electronic and acoustic drum patterns, guitar-driven sparkle and jangle, and even the quirks of a clever panning exercise (L/R), indicative of the textural range and intricacy that ‘PAINLESS’ presents. (Kieran MacDonald-Brown)

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Cat Power – ‘Covers’

Being the newest addition to Cat Power’s existing string of cover versions, ‘Covers’ provides the listener with further proof that Power is queen of serving the song. As a whole body of work the album takes the essence of each song’s origin and carefully considers the components that matter most. The result sees these songs exacted through satisfying live arrangement, the occasional strip back, and all watermarked by Power’s characteristically passionate and muted drawl.

From the bluesy swagger in titles such as ‘Endless Sea’ (Iggy Pop) and referential namesake ‘Pa Pa Power’ (‘Dead Man’s Bones’), to the considered integrity of Pogue’s ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’ and succinct spin on Nico’s ‘These Days’, Covers sees Cat Power redefining the classics and contemporaries alike; an overall live clarity and stunning charm, laid on a bed of mesmerizing vocal harmony. (Kieran MacDonald-Brown)

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Aldous Harding – ‘Warm Chris’

Aldous Harding has always been an artist ready to disregard the constraints of any genre. In just eight quick years and three acclaimed albums, her work has flirted with jazz, folk and chamber pop, but rather than any specific music styles, it’s her wit, candour, and the ease with which she moves in and out of a multiplicity styles that really confirms her stand-out talent.

On ‘Warm Chris’, the New Zealander’s fourth album, Harding reiterates her class, with an album of unassuming yet firmly assured excellence. Working again with producer John Parish, it’s wonderful to hear an album so quietly confident, in a world where artists often have to shout to be heard. (David Weaver)

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The Growth Eternal – ‘PARASAiL-18’

On debut album ‘PARASAiL-18’, LA-based Byron Crenshaw aka The Growth Eternal is the nu soul devotee creating a constellation of sonic matter, mutating sounds and structures into a space-dwelling Dionysia. Crenshaw builds these sound collages – or a kind of rhythmic science – through arpeggios and nifty use of the vocoder, modulating between tender trills and engineered ASMR robotics.

Opener ‘Sustainer’ establishes the album’s primary tenet; alienation and the neurodivergent urge to escape. ‘The Remains’ is woozy technoid seduction and on ‘Roden’, the veneer of future trap dissipates into an ambient fever dream. On ‘PARASAiL-18’, Crenshaw puts sound to our collective lassitude by rupturing classical conventions, fashioning a kind of psychedelic mood music with its own synthetic heart. (Shahzaib Hussain)

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Ivy Sole – ‘Candid’

Vignettes of generational burdens and blessings bind together the Brooklyn-based artist’s album, ‘Candid’. Told through an indeterminate three-parter, ‘Candid’ examines Ivy Sole’s early years growing up in Carolina in the shroud of the Southern Christian tradition, Sole’s parents’ opaque ‘love story’ the backbone through which they wrestle with their own belief systems and relationships.

The album’s journal-like chronicle of familial half-truths, incarceration and the chasms between religious dogma and queer identity, is augmented by Sole’s temperate tonality; through the fervid might of gospel, spoken-word confessionals and buttery ballads, Sole discursively free flows between suppressed desire (‘One More Night’) and hard-won freedom (‘Chico’).

Even in its most contrite moments, Sole refrains from implicating their forebears, allowing the space for reconciliation. It’s this softness and sensitivity that makes the autodidactic storytelling of ‘Candid’ a universal experience. (Shahzaib Hussain)

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Yard Act – ‘Overload’

‘The Overload’, like the band that created it, is a product of the pandemic. A product of a space and time that we’re not hoping to relive any time soon. So why is it that I have this album on repeat since it slid onto the streaming platforms? It was Yard Act themselves who answered my question. Tweeting: “When the clock strikes twelve, the record is no longer ours.” They’re letting it go. Giving it away. Allowing others to find their own meaning in songs that once saw them through.

It’s not a rigid and uncomfortable retelling of the pain we endured, when the world locked down and our lives upturned. It’s funny and satirical, witty and familiar. ‘Dark Days’ set the premise, and thankfully, the rest has followed. Sack off therapy – just stick this on. (Megan Walder)

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Black Country, New Road – ‘Ants From Up There’

Where Black Country, New Road’s debut album, ‘For the first time’, was heralded by a bullet train of hype far ahead of its release, the band’s second – though still with a warranted level of momentum – feels like the pressure has tapered. Appropriately, for the brisk time between albums, the band’s latest feels like a slightly refreshed iteration of the past. Rather than the breakneck pace on their debut record, this album mostly revels in a colossal slowness that extracts several tonnes more heaviness.

The album feels much more spacious, steeped in a more contemplative, pensive romanticism. Prior elements are contorted into new, even more wildly fascinating elements; a klezmer-centred Intro on their debut; a more succinct, and more on the intro here. This time it segues fluidly into ‘Chaos Space Marine’, which – like a slinky descending an increasingly narrow spiral staircase – sends the sax into a continuously maddened spin.

The band’s use of backing vocals, first witnessed like a biblical ray of light on ‘Track X’ – also the first of the band’s releases you could call ‘poppy’) – also gets fleshed out. They’re used wholly differently, but to siphon a similar yearning as ‘Track X’ – signifying the divergent tributary this album takes from past material. (James Kilkenny)

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yeule – ‘Glitch Princess’

The self-proclaimed Glitch Princess, Nat Ćmiel, better known by their stage nameyeule, is a non-binary London-based painter, musician, performance artist, and cyborg entity, who, with this album, opens up a channel into the in-between spaces to make sense of their identity, which straddles both digital and human landscapes. Dripping in error messages, glitching computer code and introspective melodies, yeule guides us through their intense and complex connection to virtual realities and the real world as we know it.

‘Glitch Princess’ is an undiluted flood of emotion and a redirection of yeule’s chaotic energy into verse and an opportunity to confront their own vices. As is presented in the opening line of Flowers are Dead, yeule asks us “what makes you uncomfortable?”, and hopefully will continue causing us to question this with many more explorative feats to come. (Megan Warrender)

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Blue Lab Beats – ‘Motherland Journey’

Blue Lab Beats have long been regarded as a pivotal force in UK music. Joining the dots between boom-bap hip-hop and avant jazz, afrobeat’s percussive attack and R&B lyricism, the pair’s slim but riveting catalogue is comprised of endless questions, with the production team pulling apart standard tropes to inject fresh innovation. ‘Motherland Journey’ expands this creative cosmos still further, the duo’s broadest statement yet and one that stands as an inspired musical mosaic.

‘Labels’ is an early highlight, matching Kofi Stone’s succinct bars to dulcet vocals from Tiana Major9. ‘Gotta Go Fast’ is a stellar collaboration, the phenomenal drumming underpinning that gorgeous delivery from Poppy Daniels. A record packed with stellar peaks, ‘Motherland Journey’ can move from the super-smooth afrobeats-fuelled funk of ‘Sensual Loving’ through to the stunning, dubby neo-soul of the Ego Ella May enhanced ‘Slow Down’. (Robin Murray)

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Bodega – ‘Broken Equipment’

Anarchic art-punks BODEGA garnered people’s attention with 2018’s debut album ‘Endless Scroll,’ a groove-fueled dissection of modern life delivered with smartass sneer. The following year’s ‘Shiny New Model’ EP saw the group tightening their sound, leading us to this stellar sophomore effort. Evoking the post-punk revival of the early noughties, the band answers the question, ‘What if The Strokes and The B-52’s had a baby?’.

Dripping with unmistakable New York cool while rocking enough humour to avoid coming off like indie dickheads of yore, BODEGA are the audio equivalent of your well-read but slightly off-kilter mate. While the group takes influence from some of N.Y.’s heroes, the themes they tackle are very much today’s. Media gentrification, the demands of a self-help lifestyle, and social media’s ability to turn us against one another all appear over the album’s 12 tracks.

It’s a testament to the band that this never becomes dour or preachy. The opposite is true, frontman Bodega Ben and fellow co-founder Nikki Belfingo firing off infectious reports from the front line of this weird age. (Sam Walker-Smart)

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Hinako Omori – ‘a journey…’

London-based artist Hinako Omori has delivered a devastatingly beautiful debut that proves that music does indeed calm the savage beast. The aptly named ‘a journey…’ sees Omori taking inspiration from the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or forest-bathing and combining it with her interest in sound therapy.

This meditative work drifts over the listener like a cool breeze and proves a treat for both head and heart. With angelic vocals floating over analog synths, each track remains grounded enough to make an impact yet remains fluid in nature. Like most ambient music, this is best enjoyed in one sitting and with a decent pair of headphones.

In a genre often suffering from pretension, ‘a journey…’ succeeds in sounding original and, more importantly, organic. (Sam Walker-Smart)

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KOFFEE – ‘Gifted’

KOFFEE’s incredible rise felt wholly natural, the journey of a phenomenal talent who was being recognised in real-time. Coming to the fore after a viral cut about ‘Usain Bolt’, she plugged herself into Jamaica’s production network, with a string of singles – the impeccable ‘Toast’, the ridiculously catchy ‘Rapture’ – making her name.

If ‘Gifted’ feels somewhat delayed, then perhaps the reverse is true: KOFFEE has earned the right to take her time. It’s a record that dials back the hype, focussing once more on her roots – both personal and musical – in order to present a more rounded, soulful, and mature aesthetic vision.

That fantastic pop touch remains, but it’s aided by a diverse yet unified sonic palette, one that remains in perpetual love with Jamaica, and Afro-Caribbean culture. (Robin Murray)

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Denzel Curry – ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’

Denzel Curry hits hard. The rapper makes tunes for mosh-pits, tracks for fans to lose their minds to; yet he’s also capable of cutting deeper, an artist whose ear for production marks him out from the pack. Building a catalogue that is illuminating on a neon-drenched level and absorbing on an emotional plane, Denzel has a habit of switching between those poles, but rarely finding the correct balance.

‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’ is an emphatic reversal of this, with Denzel Curry smashing through his central dichotomy and applying the balance of Medieval ninja. Bold, brash, and at times moving, the record feels unified in a way his projects have always reached towards, while affording the rapper space to build ever outwards. Breaking with convention at every turn, ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’ is a helter-skelter experience.

Opening with the emphatic one-two of ‘Melt’ and ‘Walkin’ the introduction is a pulse-quickening, lung-filling experience, with Denzel sending the needle straight into the red. There’s a punk-like disregard for the rules at play here, whether that’s the cartoonish braggadocio of ‘John Wayne’ or the introspective elements on ‘Troubles’ – the project seems to relish in portraying Denzel in his 360, contradictions and all. (Robin Murray)

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Link to the source article – https://www.clashmusic.com/features/the-25-best-albums-of-2022-so-far

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