This year was packed with so many excellent new releases, I had a very difficult time compiling a list of the Top 10 Albums of 2022. I was able to put together a roster of my 30 favorite albums, but found it too hard to cut that down to 10. But, rather than inflict a list of 30 on you, I looked instead to my Apple Music data to find out which albums I gave the most number of listens. So, with that objective component to measure my own personal subjective pleasures, here is the slashed down list of 10. I begin with the best album of the year:
#1 Lobate Scarp, You Have It All
While it was arduous to edit down a list of the 30 best into my top 10, it is nonetheless very easy to name the #1 album of the year. Without a doubt, it is the amazing sophomore disc from Lobate Scarp. This CD was a decade in the making, and it could fill all ten slots of my top 10 list, if that could be allowed. It’s so good, you have to hear it to believe it, as I explained at length in my ecstatic Progarchy review.
#2 Pure Reason Revolution, Above Cirrus
The return of this band has been something special to celebrate ever since 2020’s Eupnea. Their stunning debut, 2006’s The Dark Third, has long been on the prog short list for a Greatest of All Time. I discuss in detail in my Prograchy review of Above Cirrus how this brilliant new disc fits within their exciting oeuvre.
#3 Brass Camel, Brass
Here’s an obscure one for you, but it will seduce your heart and mind. A genuinely unique mixture of hard rocking funk plus an intricately overlaid tapestry of prog. Dive into this album (the follow-up to their 2018 debut) by sampling the prog cred on tracks like “King for a Day,” “Easy,” and “Last Flight of the Vulcan.” I’d say one of the strongest contenders for Prog Song of the Year is “Last Flight of the Vulcan,” because the way that song takes flight is truly thrilling. As it fades out, you just want it to circle back and never end. The album itself ends perfectly with “Only Love.”
#4 Sloan, Steady
Canada’s own version of The Beatles (but with a harder edge). A four-man band of talented musicians and each of them songwriters, they gave us this incredible masterclass in power pop. Every track slays, but check out “Magical Thinking,” “Spend the Day,” and “Scratch the Surface” for a hard rockin’ intro. Then pick your own favorites, which for me include “Dream It All Over Again,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “Keep Your Name Alive.” But there’s enough here to excite anybody with classic tastes for the finest indie rock.
#5 Ghost, Impera
The union of AOR and metal takes the world by storm again. Radio would be conquered, if that were still a thing. But this gem of an album is where Ghost has perfected their previously undeveloped full potential. “Spillways,” “Call Me Little Sunshine,” and “Driftwood” are miraculous tracks that combine studio craftsmanship with the utmost musical skill, to achieve the most splendid of audio effects.
#6 Dorothy, Gifts From the Holy Ghost
The first track and the last track of this album grab you first, but then repeated listens pull you in ever further. While “A Beautiful Life” is a joyous song that can instantly turn your mood around for the better, and is thereby a perfect opening track, “Gifts From the Holy Ghost” also consolidates the uplifting mood and thereby makes for a perfect parting track, a rousing song full of hard-won wisdom, earned no doubt via 12-step recovery. Once you open yourself to this album, it will rock you hard, in an unexpected way, somewhat like the experience sung about on the suitably pounding track, “Hurricane.”
#7 Porcupine Tree, Closure/Continuation
Porcupine Tree never stole my heart, even if they had some head appeal thanks to their skillful artistry. On the contrary, Steven Wilson as a solo artist is what excited me the most, especially with Raven and Hand. But now this disc converts me to extended PT headphone excursions. Absolutely fascinating songs and sonic landscapes are discoverable here, thanks to Wilson’s uncanny production skills. And I really love the Rush “Tom Sawyer” allusions in the solo section of “Chimera’s Wreck.”
#8 Coheed and Cambria, Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind
This may be a concept album with a story that arcs over multiple albums, but this disc alone is the one that blindsided me with its ridiculously catchy prog metal. Try out “Beautiful Losers,” “Shoulders,” and “The Liars Club” and see if you can resist its charms. The singing alone is so unique, and the band’s YouTube 2M2LN Rush tribute should garner your willingness to give this incredible new album a try. No wonder I listened to this CD again and again.
#9 Alter Bridge, Pawns & Kings
The first few tracks didn’t convince me right away, but the middle of this album is what knocked me over and brought on the repeated listens. “Sin After Sin” (which had me pumping the volume, thanks to its thrilling finale), “Stay,” “Holiday,” and the totally epic “Fable of the Silent Son” brought me back again and again to this album. The heavy guitar sound and the one-of-a-kind vocal gifts of Myles Kennedy are a perfect combination. Unexpectedly, on this disc, the songwriting breaks into a new level, making this my favorite of all the Alter Bridge albums, or of any Myles collaboration with Slash.
#10 The Cult, Under the Midnight Sun
If you thought The Cult was currently resting in The “Where Are They Now?” File, you are sadly mistaken. Sure, keep playing your copy of 1987’s Electric. But don’t miss this 2022 triumph, which shows the band to be moody and mature rock geniuses. Check out “Vendetta X,” “Outer Heaven,” and the six-minute prog-ish “Knife Through Butterfly Heart.” The title track, “Under the Midnight Sun,” invites your compulsive return, with its brooding and haunting poetry. With a short, thoughtful album that gets right to the point, these no-longer young dudes show they still know how to deliver the goods.
Keep calm and prog on, dear citizens of Progarchy. The year 2022 has been magnificent, and I look forward to all of us sharing new music with each other in 2023.