Opinion

11 albums to stream and anticipate in early 2022

Your New Year's resolutions might not last, but these bangers will

Every already-broken New Year's resolution, obligatory Galentine's Day wine night, or snowed-in Sunday dinner is made better with a bit of music — and friends don't let friends listen to the same playlist on repeat. 

Switch up your 2022 soundtrack with these brand-new or upcoming releases, which are perfect for a commute out in the cold, that 7 a.m. workout you promised yourself you wouldn't cancel, or a late-night stroll back from the office.

Besides, "Easy on Me" is already so last year. 

1. The Lumineers, 'BRIGHTSIDE' (Jan. 14)

For their latest project, Denver-based Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Schultz left behind the sounds of their hauntingly beautiful, addiction-focused 2019 concept album III and opted instead for a warm, acoustic reminder of what the folk-rock duo does best. BRIGHTSIDE, the Lumineers fourth studio LP and perhaps their most exuberant yet, sounds like the feeling of going 65 on a deserted back road, laying in a summer patch of sun, or blowing out the candles on your birthday. Nonetheless laden with the band's deep lyricism and signature instrumentation, BRIGHTSIDE embodies perhaps the perfect note upon which to begin another year. 

2. Earl Sweatshirt, 'Sick!' (Jan. 14)

Quite the fitting name for a mid-pandemic project, Earl Sweatshirt's newly released Sick! — or what the rapper has dubbed a "humble collection of 10 songs" — was inspired by the "chaos" of lockdown. And per Rolling Stone, this latest album, which arrives following 2019's Feet of Clay, is Earl's "most artistically rewarding" yet.

3. Mitski, 'Laurel Hell' (Feb. 4)

Surely nobody (nobody, nobody) will succeed in getting enough of Mitski's newest project, to be released Feb. 4. Following 2018's Be the Cowboy and a stint as TikTok's trend of choice, the indie-pop starlet's newest collection of hits has already produced "brutally incisive" singles like "Working for the Knife," a lamentation of the creative career path, and the upbeat, '80s-inspired "Love Me More," which is sure to have you dancing around the kitchen while surreptitiously wiping tears from your eyes. 

4. Big Thief, 'Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You' (Feb. 11)

If your New Year's resolution involves resting your eyes next to gargantuan snow-filled windows, or perhaps traipsing around Manhattan imagining yourself an extra in an indie film (I know mine does), Big Thief's upcoming album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, to be released Feb. 11, may be the 2022 soundtrack you're looking for. To get in the mood, listen to lead singles "Little Things" and "Sparrow," the former a winding, folk-rock meditation and the latter a soft, smooth ballad.

5. Charli XCX, 'Crash' (March 18)

Should Big Thief carry you through a blustery February, queue up British diva Charli XCX to propel you into spring. The 29-year-old has said she's erring on the side of "ultra pop star" for her next collection of songs, a departure from 2020's hyperpop lockdown album How I'm Feeling Now. To whet your appetite ahead of Crash's release, stream the devilishly catchy single "Good Ones" or the synth-reliant "New Shapes," featuring Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens, pop divas who frequent Charli's musical universe but carry outrageously delightful discographies of their own.

6. Maren Morris, 'Humble Quest' (March 25)

I identify as a country music skeptic; though my taste in music was forged in the fires of folk-rock and Americana, the sounds of hallmark southern twang never quite appealed to my sensibilities. That said, I couldn't be more excited for the release of country darling Maren Morris' third album Humble Quest, due March 25. The name an ode to both the fitful pandemic as well as the confounding concept of modesty, Morris' new project tells the stories of "my rises, my overshares, my appreciation of Midwestern guys who stand at least a foot taller than me, my lullabies, my wine-soaked conversations with a dear friend, and my final goodbye to one."

7. Father John Misty, 'Chloë and the Next 20th Century' (April 8)

The lyrically-meandering John Tillman will return as Father John Misty on his fifth studio album Chloë and the Next 20th Century, for which he already shared on Instagram a multitude of black-and-white photos — presumably a preview into the tone of the project. The images give off a distinct Mulholland Drive vibe: think foggy, abandoned scenes, reveling in mysterious 20th-century allure. Seemingly fittingly, the album's first single, "Funny Girl," opens in a burst of old Hollywood-sounding glam and continues over a slow, jazzy beat while Tillman croons along. It could have worked in the La La Land planetarium scene if it weren't years too late.

8. MUNA (TBA)

Though unclear whether it's a set of singles or a full album in the works, indie pop group MUNA (or as they'd like to say, "the greatest band in the world") has confirmed there will be new music in 2022. Most recently, the trio released the bubbly "Silk Chiffon," an infectious ode to "sissies, angry girls, emo queers, and crybabies" everywhere. 

9. Kendrick Lamar (TBA)

Kendrick Lamar has graced us with a number of singles and 2018's star-packed Black Panther soundtrack since winning a Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 album Damn. But it was only in August of 2021 that the rapper spoke up regarding his next record, which he noted would be his last with longtime label Top Dawg Entertainment: "As I produce my final TDE album, I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years," Lamar wrote online. With a Super Bowl halftime performance on the horizon, it seems only natural to assume (as both Pitchfork and Rolling Stone have) that the rapper's next missive will shortly follow.

10. Rex Orange County, TBA (TBA)

It's been over two years since British musician Alex O'Connor — known on stage as Rex Orange County — released his third studio album and major-label debut Pony, a 10-song peek into the mind of a young indie artist contending with newfound notoriety and anxiety. Now his Instagram and social accounts appear to be teasing a new track, which will presumably arrive as part of an album fans hope to see on streamers and in stores this year. On Jan. 3, for example, O'Connor posted a photo of himself wearing a shirt with a walking, yellow thumbs-up on the back; the same symbol is featured alongside a phone number in a post from Jan. 14

11. Rosalía, 'Motomami' (TBA)

Madre mía — if you've been waiting to get into Spanish superstar Rosalía, now is your chance. The Latin Grammy Award-winning singer has said her follow-up to 2018's El Mal Querer is coming soon, meaning there's still more than enough time to dive into her catalog before Motomami drops. Perhaps begin your listening journey with the infectious "Aute Cuture," the spicy "MALAMENTE," or " LA FAMA," her latest collaboration with The Weeknd.

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