The 25 best debut albums of 2022

These are the most innovative and meaningful debut albums of the year

In numerous ways, 2022 was a rebuilding year for new music. As we continued to adjust to post-pandemic reality, numerous rising artists enjoyed a well-earned victory lap. Having either established themselves from their bedrooms during lockdown or honed their live shows across last summer’s wave of restriction-heavy festivals, this year they were finally able to put out the debut albums that they spent years working on.

Crucially, these young and emerging acts were able to reap the rewards of their patience. After spending almost half a decade crafting his first full-length release, Omar Apollo finally broke into the mainstream, while visionary duo Jockstrap – who have skilfully played the long game – sold out headline shows on both sides of the Atlantic. Ultimately, the music that kept us on our toes this year came from acts with breakthrough records that went beyond the corners of their genre. Their long-deserved victories were a win for us all.

Sophie Williams, Associate Commissioning Editor (New Music)

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Additional words: Andrew Brown, Hannah Mylrea, Sam Moore

Alfie Templeman – ‘Mellow Moon’

Who: Indie’s boy wonder comes good on his long-awaited debut
What NME said: “The songs are prompt and involving: there’s real angst between the synth stabs on the glistening ‘Broken’, his biggest and boldest pop moment to date, its rippling keys giving way to a deliciously juddering chorus.” Read more
Key track: ‘Broken’ (SW)

Caroline – ‘Caroline’

Who: Eight-piece spitting out an limitless and uncontrollable stream of ideas and sounds
What NME said: “The Rough Trade-signed band’s gorgeous, challenging debut incorporates Midwest emo, Appalachian folk and more into a thing of unique beauty.” Read more
Key track: ‘Skydiving Onto The Library Roof’ (SW)

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul – ‘Topical Dancer’

Who: Belgian pop-disco duo throwing two fingers up to everyday racism and misogyny
What NME said: “They’ve created an album that works just as well as the soundtrack to a killer house party as it does a crucial behave of rebellion against the negative forces in our society.” Read more
Key track: ‘Blenda’ (SM)

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CMAT – ‘If My Wife New I’d Be Dead’

Who: Modern country hero who spins painfully relatable lyrics over playful pop tunes
What NME said: “The Dublin artist’s witty and conversational debut album sees her match the scope and ambition of her pop heroes.” Read more
Key track: ‘Every Bottle (Is My Boyfriend)’ (HM)

Courting – ‘Guitar Music’ 

Who: Scouse gang making distorted, fiercely experimental songs rich with existential angst
What NME said: “It would have been easy for Courting to play it safe on ‘Guitar Music’, but by challenging both themselves and their scene, they’ve guaranteed longevity and arrived with one of the year’s greatest debuts.” Read more
Key track: ‘Jumper’ (SW)

DOMi & JD Beck – ‘NOT TiGHT’

Who: Spellbinding jazz duo with friends in Thundercat and Mac DeMarco
What NME said: “Keyboardist DOMi and drummer Beck stay delicately in tune with one another throughout, remaining approachable for the jazz newbies and thoughtful enough for the diehards.” Read more
Key track: ‘SMiLE’ (SM)

HAAi – ‘Baby, We’re Ascending’ 

Who: Australian-born, London-based producer crafting cathartic club anthems
What NME said: “‘Baby, We’re Ascending’ feels as though it was made to carry you through the tender transition from night to daybreak, watching the sun rise as you ride the bus home.” Read more
Key track: ‘Baby, We’re Ascending’ (HM)

Horsegirl – ‘Versions Of Modern Performance’ 

Who: Chicago trio conjuring up abstract imagery with a tinge of indie rock growl
What NME said: “Rushes of no wave-tinged indie-rock are fit to burst with infectious energy and intriguing experimentation.” Read more
Key track: ‘World Of Pots And Pans’ (AB)

Jockstrap – ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ 

Who: Pop experimentalists thriving off a thrilling, ever-evolving unpredictability
What NME said: “‘I Love You Jennifer B’ is the product of a voracious appetite to find the gaps in between the familiar, a record emblazoned with such pristine, disorienting, unsettling originality that at first, you don’t quite know what to do with it.” Read more
Key track: ‘Concrete Over Water’ (SW)

Koffee – ‘Gifted’ 

Who: Reggae’s boldest – and brightest – new star
What NME said: “‘Gifted’ wastes no time by grabbing its listeners from the off, offering a blissful soundtrack to the summer months through its mix of slow bops, punchy tracks and genuine moments of joy.” Read more
Key track: ‘Shine’ (SW)

Kojey Radical – ‘Reason To Smile’

Who: Mercury-nominated east London rapper who is now truly realising his potential
What NME said: “Kojey Radical sells us the image of the refined Renaissance man he has become.” Read more
Key track: ‘Talkin” (SM)

Laufey – ‘Everything I Know About Love’ 

Who: Accomplished multi-instrumentalist bringing jazz to a new generation
What NME said: “With velvet-smooth harmonies, swelling string sections and the faintest crackle of an old jazz record, the album plays out like a storybook; each song a little glowing orb of magic.” Read more
Key track: ‘Beautiful Stranger’ (SW)

Lil Silva – ‘Yesterday Is Heavy’

Who: Dialled-in Bedford producer serving up soulful electro-rave and heartfelt sincerity
What NME said: “‘Yesterday Is Heavy’ is a bold and inventive step forward from an artist who has been threatening to create this kind of artistic statement for some time.” Read more
Key track: ‘Still’ (SM)

Omar Apollo – ‘Ivory’

Who: Silky smooth pop tunes from an otherworldly star
What NME said: “A collection of gorgeous, sultry songs that contend with the angst of feeling like you’re the only person who is truly awake and alive in an otherwise sleepy world.” Read more
Key track: ‘Tamagotchi’ (SW)

PVA – ‘Blush’ 

Who: South London trio serve up dark and danceable electronic beats
What NME said: “Their music takes hold of the punchy, fast-paced structures of rock before shooting the whole lot through an acid-dance kaleidoscope.” Read more
Key track: ‘Kim’ (AB)

Skullcrusher – ‘Skullcrusher’ 

Who: LA folk star tapping into a deep well of human emotion
What NME said: “A record that establishes Ballentine as a clear-eyed truth-teller, with poignant songs that move relentlessly as she revisits cobwebbed childhood nightmares and the dark shadow of familial trauma.” Read more
Key track: ‘It’s Like A Secret’ (SW)

Shygirl – ‘Nymph’

Who: London-based party-starter creating innovative and experimental bangers
What NME said: “After working tirelessly on her long-awaited debut album for a number of years, the juice has clearly been worth the squeeze: this record is a striking reminder of why Shygirl is one of the capital’s brightest talents.” Read more
Key track: ‘Firefly’ (HM)

The Linda Lindas – ‘Growing Up’

Who: Sun-soaked punk from LA’s brightest rock band
What NME said: “What The Linda Lindas show us here could go a long way, even for those who think they’re done with growing up.” Read more
Key track: ‘Growing Up’ (AB)

The Mysterines – ‘Reeling’

Who: Sizzling alt-rock from Arctic Monkeys’ future tourmates
What NME said: “‘Reeling’ is gripping throughout, and the band always appear ready to ascend to another level.” Read more
Key track: ‘Life’s a Bitch (But I Like it So Much)’ (AB)

TSHA – ‘Capricorn Sun’

Who: Reflective dance music with that all-important playfulness at its core
What NME said: “It’s infrequent that an electronic album manages to tell such a strong story while eliciting so numerous different emotions. Impressively balancing calmness with rave euphoria, ‘Capricorn Sun’ proves that TSHA really is in a league of her own.” Read more
Key track: ‘Dancing In The Shadows’ (SW)

Warren Hue – ‘Boy Of The Year’ 

Who: Rapper-singer phenomenon in a perpetual state of growth
What NME said: “As one of the most accomplished debuts in recent memory, ‘Boy Of The Year’ fully justifies the belief its creator has in himself, feeling like the work of a very special young artist who is overflowing with ideas.” Read more
Key track: ‘W’ (SW)

Wet Leg – ‘Wet Leg’

Who: Isle of Wight rock duo churning out the year’s catchiest indie anthems
What NME said: “A giddy race around a funfair, those pesky lows batted away with wit and wisecracks like a game of verbal whack-a-mole.” Read more
Key track: ‘Wet Dream’ (AB)

Witch Fever – ‘Congregation’

Who: Manchester doom-punks bristling with passion and fury
What NME said: “‘Congregation’ is a fiery, relentless punk blowout that pulls no punches against priests, patriarchy and those who abuse power from the top of our society.” Read more
Key track: ‘12’ (AB)

Wunderhorse – ‘Wunderhorse’ 

Who: Rock‘n’roll upstart with a real fighting spirit
What NME said: “‘Cub’ isn’t the sound of punk fury being replaced by complete bliss: the album sowever fizzes with grit and energy, but is showed with both eyes constant on the future.” Read more
Key track: ‘Leader Of The Pack’ (SW)

Yard Act – ‘The Overload’

Who: Leeds four-piece boldly staking their claim as the UK’s next leading guitar band
What NME said: “The familiar touchstones of the post-punk scene’s rigid sound – minimalist grooves, sharp guitars – are all here, but the band thrive when they shake up the magic 8-ball.” Read more
Key track: ‘100% Endurance’ (SM)

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