This year, the indie music scene made a resurgent rebound after a few devastating years for many artists.
After experiencing this impressive comeback month by month, artists have come back with some of their best creative work this year, utilizing the struggles and obstacles they overcame to create emotional, inspirational, and sonically impressive works of art.
Without further adieu, here are our top 15 outstanding indie singer-songwriter albums that dropped in 2022.
15. Candy Cigarettes – Horse Lungs
Candy Cigarettes earned a slot on the list for their creative, otherworldly production style and the creative role they play in the singer-songwriter genre. Horse Lungs is their debut release on streaming platforms, and introduces listeners to their synth-filled instrumentation and catchy hooks that distinguish Candy Cigarettes’ sound, which is pioneered by multi-instrumentalist Lane Mueller. Upbeat tracks like “Tomorrow,” features layers of techno instrumentation with prospective lyrics about the future, while more retrospective tunes like “Circle,” include classic percussion with watery vocals that bring listeners into Mueller’s headspace.
14. Katy Kirby – Cool Dry Place (Expanded)
Katy Kirby’s falsetto and quirky production are key players in the creation of this fun and confessional album. Growing up a member of the bible-belt choral community, Kirby used this project to dismantle the musical cage the Christian genre locked her in. She features grand, choral vocals that are common in the traditional genre, along with modern pop production that creates a new sound unique to her and her story. Dramatic retellings of intimate trauma in songs like “So Much Wine, Merry Christmas,” showcase her veracity and openness in her songwriting, while she also plays with joyful melodies and groovy guitar leads heard in “Juniper.”
13. Ida Elina – Capital Letters
The Pop Kantele diva has transcended singer-songwriting norms with this unique project that features her iconic Kantele playing and dynamic voice. Gentle acoustic tracks like “When I Was 10,” which touches on the abundance of hope during childhood, show her storytelling talent while bombshells like the title track, “Capital Letters,” features her vocal range and the bright, powerful instrumentation that distinguishes her from other songwriters. We covered her album back at its release in October.
12. Sophie May – You Do Not Have To Be Good
UK-based singer-songwriter Sophie May made a statement with this debut album. It showcases her unique rhythmic songwriting and intricate instrumentation that create an undeniable groove with catchy hooks. May has found increasing success on media platforms like TikTok for her clever song teasers and detailed lyricism that leave listeners in awe of her relatability. Her conversational vocals tell tales about youthful troubles and surviving them in tracks like “Drop In The Ocean,” and “Some Italian Mountain.”
11. Scott Clay – Let It All Lay Bare
In his fifth studio album, Scott Clay bares it all with his honest storytelling. It speaks to his pursuit of true love and an intimate connection to the natural world. Clay’s organic vocal tone and warm acoustic instrumentation tell tales about the search for meaningful relationships with peaks of musical climax that move his listeners. Tracks like “Aurora” feature some more modern production stylings while cutting it back with his musical roots, with acoustic tracks like “Simple Kind,” demonstrating that his talent radiates through all levels of production.
10. Stephen Sanchez – Easy On My Eyes
Stephen Sanchez found international success this past year when his hit single, “Until I Found You,” which topped charts and infected social media with his vibrant vibrato and romantic lyricism. Easy On My Eyes is his debut album, and it’s filled with classic instrumentation that rings of the good-old waltz signature of the 1950s, mixed with modern production and songwriting. Each song features stories of the peaks and valleys of young love, with intricate piano instrumentation that adds to the pure musical aura Sanchez displays.
9. Julia Jacklin – PRE PLEASURE
Julia Jacklin’s sultry and feminine tone mixed with her minimalist instrumentation make for an immersive musical journey in her latest album. Jacklin demonstrates musical versatility, from the retro and upbeat stylings in “End of A Friendship,” to the acoustic raw vocals and guitar in “Less of A Stranger,” which tells the honest story of her strained relationship with her mother. This is the songstress’s third studio album since her debut in 2016, and she’s accumulated global attention as she tours the world, entrancing audiences with her clear-cut vocals and beautiful storytelling.
8. Field Guide – Field Guide
With intimate vocals and gentle instrumentals that define Dylan MacDonald’s aka Field Guide’s sonic footprint, his latest project pulls at the heartstrings and invites you to reflect on both the darkness and light that defines daily life. The project’s vocals and guitar were recorded in an isolated cabin in the Canadian forest and add to the raw, natural elements of the record that make it so unique. Introspective tunes like “Worst of Ways” reflect on having faith in the wrong type of people, and earnest songs like “In Love Now,” showcases singer MacDonald’s hopeless-romantic songwriting style and raw musical energy.
7. Lizzy McAlpine – five seconds flat
As another Gen-Z favorite and the latest lyrical genius to weave her way into young ears and hearts around the world, Lizzy McAlpine brings you back to the emotional turmoil that is your twenties in her latest musical masterpiece. From head-bop anthems like “orange show speedway,” to emotional tear-jerkers in “ceilings,” the songstress combines her thoughtful songwriting style with modern production styles that mesmerize listeners. The project contains collaborations with top tier producer extraordinaires like FINNEAS, along with innovative artists like Jacob Collier that help radiate the singer-songwriter’s compositions.
6. Angel Olsen – Big Time
Angel Olsen’s crooning vocals and minimalist production style are gloriously put on display in her latest passion project, which dropped over the summer. Her transformational lyricism about finding her personal freedom and joy in the darker corners of life pairs perfectly with her mellow, emotional, piano-driven musical style. Slow grooving tunes like “Ghost On” bring you into a soft waltzing trance, while delicate songs like “Chasing the Sun” provide a moment of musical introspection that leaves listeners yearning for more of her thoughtful wisdom.
5. Caamp – Lavender Days
Caamp’s latest album warms the heart and stirs the soul. The band’s upbeat folk melodies and stomp-and-holler songwriting has made them a staple in the indie folk music scene. Romantic ballads like “The Otter” and nostalgic tunes like “Snowshoes” blend together to form the soothing and delightful aura that emotes from every note in this colorful project. The folk group wrote Lavender Days – their third full-length album – as an ode to “the days sewn into your heart, that make you who you are.”
4. Ethel Cain – Preacher’s Daughter
The ethereal production style and emotive songwriting within Ethel Cain’s latest release have made it into one of the more impactful and moving projects of the year, and an impressive debut for the blooming artist. Her songwriting battles some of life’s toughest themes in pieces like “Family Tree,” and “American Teenager,” as she tells personal stories with musical elegance and eloquence unique to her and her style.
3. Madison Cunningham – Revealer
Madison Cunningham’s latest exploratory album Revealer lands in our top three, due to its exemplary indie nature and adventurous rhythms and melodies. She is another Grammy nominee on this list, with Revealer competing for Best Folk Album in this year’s award show after two previous nominations over the past two years. Cunningham’s playful guitar hooks and buoyantly dynamic vocals are imperative parts of songs like “Who Are You Now” and “Anywhere” that make up this endearing novelty album.
2. Noah Kahan – Stick Season
Filled with stories of isolation during the pandemic and the unique experience that is growing up in the Northeast, Noah Kahan has earned a top spot on this list and a permanent space on his fan’s indie-folk playlists. After finding impressive popularity on TikTok with acoustic teasers of the single “Stick Season,” which shares the name of the album, Kahan released the folk-inspired album, and has since been selling out venues across the country touring the record. The project demonstrates Kahan’s musical versatility, as it includes both anthemic foot-stompers like “Northern Attitude,” as well as reflective, slower pieces such as “Orange Juice,” which showcases the singer’s earnest songwriting style and creative heart.
1. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
Big Thief deservedly takes home the top prize for this entirely unique album that came out in the beginning of this year. It has held the attention of listeners through the change of seasons due to its timeless style and undeniable sound. This collection of songs has also landed Big Thief a Grammy nomination this award season, their third nomination since their formation in 2015. Led by lead singer Adriene Lenker’s siren vocals and layered with exciting percussion and thoughtful guitar hooks, this 20-song-long project is a musical adventure featuring mellow melodies like “Simulation Swarm” and folksy upbeat tunes like “Spud Infinity” that demonstrate the group’s diversity of talent and creativity.
Featured Photo: Big Thief – Photo by Alexa Viscius