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As the new year settles in, there’s plenty to discuss when it comes to anticipated music, especially coming off such a hot year of releases in 2021.

Moving into 2022, there’s a packed lineup of albums coming soon from big names such as The Weeknd, Cardi B, Lizzo and Charli XCX. Alternative acts with sizable followings have also generated lots of buzz with confirmed release dates for new projects from Mitski, Big Thief, 100 gecs and Earl Sweatshirt to name a few.

This list will be broken up into two parts: the most anticipated releases that have been officially announced to be coming out this year and the artists that we’d like to see drop this year who have remained quiet about any specific dates as of yet. 

With that out of the way, let’s get into our list of this year’s most anticipated releases:

Announced 

Earl Sweatshirt – Sick! (Release Date: Jan. 14)

The Oddfuture graduate Earl Sweatshirt proved that he had found a way to outgrow his juvenile past with the release of 2018’s Some Rap Songs. This upcoming album contains a stacked guest-list, including New York veterans Billy Woods and Elucid, and producer extraordinaire Alchemist. Whether Earl can produce another disorienting diamond in the rough like Some Rap Songs is still up for debate, given that it’s been nearly three years since his last record.

Mitski – Laurel Hell (Release Date: Feb. 4)

Mitski’s Be the Cowboy was a celebration for those who yearned for a veritable palette of chamber music, bittersweet pop ditties and borderline rock ballads from a female artist who can seemingly do it all. Reminiscent of an early Björk, Mitski has remained one of the most intriguing artists in the art pop scene through her talent and mystique as displayed in the last few years. This next record, Laurel Hell, is one to keep your eyes and ears out for. 

Charli XCX – Crash (Release Date: March 18)

The first pop star to openly call their album a “quarantine record,” Charli XCX’s how i’m feeling now was a snapshot of all the uneasy feelings of 2020 in the form of abrasive pop bangers. Her anxiety shone through on the experimental, Death Grips inspired “Pink Diamond” and earned her a whole new group of admirers, while at the same time alienating her casual fanbase who identified with her through the major radio hits that launched her career in the mid-late 2010s. The promos for this next album seem to hint at a return to the fun and accessible, but without major label obligations. Regardless, Charli has shown that she’s no one-hit wonder and pop fans should stay on alert for Crash in March.

Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (Release Date: Feb. 11)

Adrianne Lenker’s visions of a folk music that purposefully belies the “organic/grounded” label that folk music gets in general has been a successful formula so far. The band’s opting for stripped-back, folksy dreamscapes through simple chords has kept indie listeners hooked since their breakthrough album U.F.O.F. released in 2019. Of the handful of tracks released that will be featured on this upcoming album, it’s apparent that Big Thief have not lost their magic. 

Hopeful Releases

Kendrick Lamar

The Compton rapper has remained fairly quiet since 2017’s DAMN, only hopping on a few feature spots that haven’t been all that impressive, especially the lackluster single “Family Ties” ft. Baby Keem, who is Lamar’s cousin. However, in August of 2021 Lamar announced that his next album is being produced and furthermore that it will be his last record under the label of Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). 

2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly was quick to garner acclaim from fans and critics alike on release and in the nearly seven years since its release it’s no longer controversial to claim it’s something of a modern masterpiece; it made an all-embracing intelligent comment on gangster rap, the African-American experience and the dark side of the music industry. DAMN was a safe record in comparison; Lamar had traded out left-field, jazzy beats with more radio-friendly production and a lowerbrow conceptual framework. 

Nevertheless, Kenrick’s genius is undeniable at this point in his career and his final album with TDE will truly signal the end of an era. 

Danny Brown

Moving from the west coast to the east, Detroit rapper Danny Brown has announced a new album, titled Quaranta, to be released in 2022. He revealed in an interview with The Needle Drop that the album’s being mixed and to look out for it in the next few months. Danny’s last full-length in 2019, U Know What I’m Sayin?, marked a stylistic shift from the Dionysiac rap experiments that made up Atrocity Exhibition (2016) — one of the most celebrated rap albums of the 2010s — to a more laid back sound. There’s no saying what direction Brown will take on this next record, but it’s safe to expect something off-the-wall and chock full of zany bars and his patented charisma. 

Swans

The giants of modern experimental rock Swans posted a video on their Instagram in March of last year that showed a full track-list with writing above and below that said “SONGS FOR NEW SWANS ALBUM.” Expecting the band to drop this year might be hasty given the arduous process of recording that band leader Michael Gira, an infamous perfectionist, has to undertake for tracks that average around ten minutes and sometimes stretch to 30-plus minutes. However, hardcore Swans’ fans have always had  to have patience, as the band has taken breaks that lasted years on end in the past.  Despite that, they have managed to drop classic LPs since the 80s.