Roundup: The Playground’s Favourite Albums of 2022

I’d like to begin this year with an introduction. 

Hi, my name is Tazmé Pillay. Editor of The Playground. If you’ve read most of the reviews and think pieces that we do here, chances are you’ve read most of my work. Coming into the end of last year, I knew it was time to put out a “best of 2022” list for the magazine. And while I would typically assume a passive register and avoid speaking in the first person, for some reason I felt compelled to do the opposite this time around. As the editor responsible for what’s given visibility on The Playground, I decided that a personal approach to this list would be a more accurate representation of how we approach critiquing music at our magazine. While there will inevitably be a few common choices, you will find that for the most part, our “Best Of 2022” list looks a bit different to those of our peers. I hope that this provides some insight into the type of space I wish to create here at The Playground. A space to celebrate bold taste unapologetically. A space that embraces and supports the underground. A space who’s thinkers and critics consider Beyoncé on the same scale as Shygirl, and who approach critiquing music outside of industry politics.

So, here they are. Our favourite albums of 2022, in no particular order.


Hagop Tchaparian – Bolts

Released on Four Tet’s Text Records, Bolts is an amalgamation of Tchaparian’s journey thus far. Weaving together the threads of nearly two decades of field recordings with beats informed by the British club circuit, Tchaparian manages to craft one of the most inspired techno releases of the year. His sonic tapestry of culturally rich folk sounds, diary-like recordings of daily life, and razor-edged techno are never out of step with each other, so that Bolts nails its flips every time. 

Essential listening: Flame



Kelly Lee Owens – LP. 8

LP.8 sees Owens exploring her intuition (and spirituality) more vehemently than before. She is so utterly invested, immersed in her mission to break open a portal to the spiritual core of her craft, that she assumes the role of shaman and us her followers. From the electronic harmonium on Quickening, the mantra of Voice, to the guttural and visceral Sonic 8, this body of work feels significant to the future of Kelly Lee Owens, an essential entry that pivots her work toward the profound.

Essential Listening: Anadlu



Ela Minus, DJ Python –

is a stunningly successful and unlikely collaboration. It’s the most emotionally in tune we’ve heard either artists, with Minus and Python finding something in one another that we haven’t seen from them before. For Minus, it’s the tenderness she exudes over Python’s beats that feels like a progression from her usually frigid melancholy. For Python, the addition of Minus’s voice over his sounds reveals a capable pop producer as much as a psychedelic experimentalist. It’s fantastical, breathlessly romantic, and easy to get lost in, even if it only lasts about as long as a daydream. 

Essential Listening: Kiss



Björk – Fossora

When Björk began the process of creating Fossora, she decided that her tenth studio album would be her “mushroom album.” The full weight of that metaphor only comes into focus when you sit down and dig deeply into Fossora’s rich and fertile soil, in which Björk looks to feminise the patriarchal tradition of familial historicization. Only then does the odd network of bass clarinet symphonies, sylphlike choral arrangements, and random bursts of gabber techno begin to reveal what it truly is: a stunningly realised rumination on life, death, and motherhood. 

Essential listening: ancestress 



Perfume Genius – Ugly Season 

In many ways, Ugly Season is an inevitable evolution for Perfume Genius. The shift from bright-eyed, beauty hungry queer youth toward the harsher realities of queer adulthood, more inline with the chaos of the lived experience, is a natural progression for an artist who’s always managed to speak of queerness through honesty. It’s a revolutionary album and resounding triumph for Perfume Genius that affirms what has always been true of him; he is without question, too bright and brilliant. 

Essential Listening: Herem



Saâda Bonaire – 1992

The sudden emergence of this lost body of work from the German studio project making left-field synthpop fused with elements of Kurdish and Turkish folk music is one of the year’s most intriguing happenstances. With its en-vogue R&B New Jack swing, house, and neo-soul, 1992 is an astonishing look into the past at a time in the present where nostalgia for the 90’s has never been more pertinent. There’s something strikingly original about whatever Saâda Bonaire were cooking up thirty years ago, and it’s a rare blessing to be given the chance to dance to it at last. 

Essential Listening: Woman



SHXCXCHCXSH – Kongestion 

Kongestion is very much like the experience of trying to tune into the hardest going party in all the world from an old television set or disturbed car radio, a proposed mirage of something that you can’t quite seem to find the frequency to. Its opposition to techno’s usual preference for austere clarity challenges the form itself. If it’s heard through endless layers of static, is it still techno, or something new? SHXCXCHCXSH don’t really propose an answer on Kongestion, but rather dare you to throw the rule book out the window and just get lost in their dancefloor dystopia. 

Essential Listening: Esti



Kai Whiston – Quiet As Kept, F.O.G

You leave Quiet As Kept, F.O.G., with the sense that you know Kai Whiston a little better than before, and there’s an incredible sense of clarity that comes with this. The album, by virtue of this fact, is a resounding success and possibly one of the most deftly moving electronic music releases of the year. Whiston transcends his own music. He becomes an archivist, crafting a narrative that uses himself as the starting point to tell the story of a wider community and place in time.

Essential Listening: Div Era 



Hudson Mohawke – Cry Sugar 

Cry Sugar is a bloated, gonzo, oft grotesque mindfuck, and easily the most utterly fascinating work Hudson Mohawke has made to date. It swings from one extreme to the next, echoing the absurdity of American life. The tracks here play on different facets of this life and culture, and the alarming disparities between groups of its population. This makes the album work best as a whole. It’s a work of overwhelming maximalism, a vast pastiche of trash, pop, and consumerist cultures.

Essential Listening: Cry Sugar (Megamix)



Two Shell – Icons 

Icons is an urgent EP, and Two Shell handle the dynamics of building tension masterfully. From its opening minutes, the entire thing surges forth with a consistent rising motion that never ceases. The vocal loops and blips of Ghosts keep ascending upwards so that the whole track swells, tossing you straight into the digital shredder of Pods. Who are Two Shell? Truth be told, that’s probably a question that won’t have any sort of satisfying answer for the foreseeable future. But at least for the present moment, they’re here to show us the future. And they’re doing it with some bloody epic music. 

Essential Listening: Mainframe 



Charli XCX – Crash

In the scope of her oeuvre, Crash is an essential entry that gives credence to XCX’s previous work and status as pop visionary. A departure from the bedroom rave of How I’m Feeling Now and the serpentine hyperpop of Charli, Crash is XCX’s embrace of the mainstream, yet sounds like nothing else in mainstream pop right now. As the final body of work to fulfil a contractual obligation, Crash honestly has no business going this hard, but we’re so glad that it does. It’s the hit of RUSH that the pop mainstream so desperately needs right now, and it’s a camp, tongue in cheek gesture from XCX that shows she’s not just breaking the rules, but she’s become the one making them. 

Essential Listening: Lightning



DAPHNI – Cherry 

Outside of the constraints of Caribou and himself, Daphni has arguably been responsible for some of Snaith’s most outright fun and club driven work to date. In fact, the most satisfying moments on Cherry are its strangest. These come when Snaith fully lets his guard down enough to embrace the humour of an alias like Daphni. His synths often feel oddly opposed to the beat, ever so slightly skewed as they are on the album’s title track. They’re masterfully skew, if such a thing exists, rendering you captivated rather than confused. Try not to take Cherry too seriously, or you’ll be missing the point (and the party). 

Essential Listening: Mania 



Marina Herlop – Pripyat 

The perfect storm of her unbridled imagination with the classic and ancient theory of Carnatic music has resulted in something magical. Sung entirely Herlop’s made up language (or Simlish, tbh), much of Pripyat feels excavated from a distant time and place. This juxtaposition with the album’s ultramodern production makes for something with striking gravitas, reminiscent of Björk’s electronic alchemy. Pripyat, imbued with the mythological and sacred, but programmed for the modern ear, is beautifully realised, an album that seemingly opens a portal into an alternate dimension by way of Herlop’s voice alone. 

Essential Listening: Miu 



Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul – Tropical Dancer 

Tropical Dancer is a remarkable debut LP, one which pushes the boundaries of Adigéry and Pupul’s electroclash, avant-pop influences by playing within them on their own terms. It’s a refreshing take on a sound that is otherwise attributed to gratuitous hedonism, Eurocentric glamour, and notions of an elite underground. Surreal, irreverent, and painstakingly real, with Tropical Dancer Adigéry and Pupul imagine a new kind of dancefloor for the age of PC culture and post-colonial identity. The future of dance music, perhaps, but only because they are so in tune with the present moment. 

Essential Listening: HAHA



Jana Rush – Dark Humor 

Last year, Chicago’s Jana Rush single handedly pivoted footwork from the streets to the forefront of electronic music innovation. Her masterful album Painful Enlightenment both disrupted and evolved the form, a documentation of the unravelling of her own mental health through jarring, misshapen loops and stylistic mutations. On Dark Humor, Rush continues to break the boundaries of footwork, delivering a worthy successor to one of last year’s best albums. But this time, there’s a new energy about her, a renewed confidence that allows Rush to play more and think less. Yes, she’s still grappling with some lofty emotional ideas here, but on Dark Humor more so than anything she’s done before, she really just wants to have fun. 

Essential Listening: Lonely (ft. DJ Paypal)



Yeule – Glitch Princess

For Singaporean singer Yeule, post-human is the ultimate human, and on their sophomore record Glitch Princess, they ruminate on identity and the dichotomy between life and death in the digital age. Yeule’s vocals are feather light, but there’s an inhuman strangeness that lurks beneath their robotised cradle songs. Even when exploring more straightforward pop territory, Glitch Princess is never quite settled. Everything moves along an unnatural cadence, sometimes phasing into lullaby-like harmony. It doesn’t seem quite right to refer to Yeule’s music as hyperpop. Rather, it’s a statement of intent that signals the arrival of Yeule as one of the most innovative and exciting pop acts in recent memory. 

Essential Listening: Mandy 



FKA Twigs – Caprisongs 

Glossy and sun soaked, CAPRISONGS sees FKA Twigs liberating herself; more grounded in her identity than ever before. The mixtape’s breezy afrobeat heavy influences and “the universe will provide” sentimentality is a breath of fresh air to her otherwise weighty discography. While she typically leans into darker sensibilities driven by experiences of trauma, there’s always been a radiant joy about Twigs. When she dances, when she creates, when she… lets go. On CAPRISONGS, she’s finally allowing that joy to permeate her sound. 

Essential Listening: meta angel 



The Weeknd – Dawn FM 

Dawn FM is a marvelously ambitious pop record, perhaps the most since Lady Gaga’s Born This Way or Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience. It sees The Weeknd play outside of his lane like never before, on a synthwave informed concept album set in purgatory. In a moment where mainstream pop found itself enamoured with the cottagecore of Evermore and Solar Power, Dawn FM is a reminder of pop’s endless potential when its boundaries are pushed toward new shapes and spaces away from the sway of the mainstream. Like Vincent Price did for Michael Jackson on his similar magnum opus Thriller, Jim Carrey closes this chapter in the legend of The Weeknd by offering a final bit of Faustian wisdom against an ominously mournful organ; “In other words, you gotta be heaven to see heaven. May Peace be with you.” 

Essential Listening: Gasoline 



Alice Glass – PREY//IV

Fuck what Pitchfork thinks, Prey//IV is a triumphant rebirth for Glass that ends (or rather, slaughters) the narrative of her past on her own terms. the product of Glass’s confrontation of her trauma, Prey//IV is an intense, acrid recollection of her pain that serves as a means for Glass to take back her power. And she does so with force. At times macabre, at others dangerously seductive, Prey//IV surges with a fiercely feminine energy, like electronic hymnals in reverence of Kali. This is dance pop with some seriously sharp edges. Glass doesn’t filter her trauma through any prism of beauty or self-reflection. Instead, she calls it out for what it is: violent. 

Essential Listening: PREY



DJ Lag – Meeting With The King 

DJ Lag’s debut album plays out like an expertly structured DJ set, carrying us from his rarely heard melodic afrohouse side to his darkest, most foreboding uthayela gqom. It makes for a beguiling experience, and one that speaks toward Lag as a visionary who refuses to be boxed in. Having already achieved legendary status without the formality of an album, Meeting With The King serves as a milestone that bookends the first chapter of Lag’s journey. From this point onwards, he has earned the freedom to explore his instincts outside the uthayela box without having to forsake his gqom legacy. With Meeting With The King, he’s secured the throne. 

Essential Listening: Khavude 


Honourable Mentions:

TSHA – Capricorn Sun

Ariel Zetina – Cyclorama

Shygirl – NYMPH

Loraine James, Julius Eastman – Building Something Beautiful For Me