Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Getty Images
2022 is in full swing, as are the huge music festivals and multiple-city tours that were simply unthinkable the last two years. As music fans acclimate to swaying in big crowds again, artists — especially pop stars such as Post Malone, Lizzo, and Carrie Underwood — are eager to drop new material knowing it will actually reach a live audience and not just become the latest viral success on TikTok. The upcoming season is also a ripe moment for ascending musicians Rina Sawayama, Bartees Strange, Conan Gray, and Beabadoobee, who found pandemic success with their debut albums and are set to unleash their sophomore efforts to a changed world. Meanwhile, established acts Journey, Jack Johnson, and Regina Spektor are back with their first projects in years. Whatever you’re into — from the earnest country tunes of Jimmie Allen to the dance compositions of Perfume Genius to the bold hip-hop of Joey Bada$$ — there will be something worthwhile to spin this summer. Read on to see what albums Vulture is most excited to hear.
Post Malone earned his second No. 1 album with 2019’s Hollywood’s Bleeding, a streak he’ll look to continue with Twelve Carat Toothache. The pop-rap star’s first release on Mercury Records (the label that’s being revived by Republic) will “speak more to how I’m feeling at the moment: the ups and downs and the disarray and the bipolar aspect of being an artist in the mainstream,” he told Billboard. It will also include the Roddy Ricch–featuring melodic trap song “Cooped Up,” which Post recently performed on SNL, as well as the Weeknd-featuring ’80s synth-pop single “One Right Now.”
Chicago trio Horsegirl has been nurturing a highly anticipated debut project after gaining buzz for their 2020 breakout single “Ballroom Dance Scene,” which recalls the fuzzy, lo-fi vibes of ’90s indie rock. The three met as teens in local youth-arts programs and bonded over their fandom of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and Belle and Sebastian. The influences of these bands can be heard in the garage-pop and no wave of Versions of Modern Performance’s early singles “Anti-Glory” and “World of Pots and Pans.”
Indie-rock star Angel Olsen hasn’t shied away from showing off her different sides. Since her 2019 studio album, the orchestral All Mirrors, Olsen has released a 2020 acoustic reworking of that album along with 2021’s Aisles EP, a collection of ’80s pop covers. On her upcoming LP, Big Time, she leans into a country sound, as she reflects on a period of time where she was coming out as queer and mourning the death of both her parents. The album will be accompanied by a 28-minute film, made by Olsen and director Kimberly Stuckwisch, and inspired by a dream about time travel that serves as an homage to her late mother.
Welcome 2 Club XIII, the new album from Drive-By Truckers, is named in tribute to the Alabama venue where founding members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley played early in their careers. For the project, the long-running Athens, Georgia–based rock band recruited background vocals from Margo Price, Schaefer Llana, and R.E.M.’s Mike Mills. Promising more of their roots-rock sound, the LP follows their two 2020 albums, The New OK and The Unraveling.
070 Shake, the New Jersey artist who broke out for her contributions on Kanye’s 2018 self-titled LP, proved she couldn’t be contained by a single genre on her 2020 debut Modus Vivendi. Her sophomore effort is sure to contain more sonic roving, which can be heard on singles “Body,” a haunting synth-pop collaboration with Christine and the Queens, and the psychedelic rap song “Skin and Bones.” The project was inspired by Shake “being detached from a lot of things [and] never really being too hurt by anything,” she told Highsnobiety. “I see life as if it already happened.”
Neneh Cherry’s latest project is a showcase of the Swedish experimentalist’s impact on pop music today. The Versions collects reworked songs from artists who have a personal connection to her music, including Sia, ANOHNI, Jamila Woods, Sudan Archives, Kelsey Lu, and Honey Dijon, among others. It follows Cherry’s last album, 2018’s Broken Politics, as well as the following year’s reissue of her debut, Raw Like Sushi.
Last year, Joyce Manor cemented their reputation as a beloved punk band with their remastered reissue of their 2013 breakout self-titled album. The Torrance, California–based act is now returning with their first record in four years, 40 oz. to Fresno, whose title was inspired by an auto-corrected text message about Sublime’s similarly titled 1992 debut. “This album makes me think of our early tours, drinking a 40 in the van on a night drive blasting Guided by Voices and smoking cigarettes the whole way to Fresno,” singer and guitarist Barry Johnson said in a statement.
Proof is a three-disc anthology celebrating BTS’s prolific nine-year career so far, starting with their 2013 debut single “No More Dream,” going all the way to the 2021 global hit “Butter.” The trove includes unearthed demos and a cappella versions of the group’s beloved songs like “Spring Day” and “DNA,” as well as tracks that never got an official release — including 2013’s “Born Singer,” which interpolates J. Cole’s “Born Sinner.” Three new songs round out the expansive collection: the lead single “Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment)”; “Run BTS,” which has the same name as the group’s long-running web series; and “For Youth,” which is being billed as a fan song.
Carrie Underwood is a master of the vengeful breakup anthem (see: “Before He Cheats”), but she calls her latest triumphant country-pop single “Ghost Story” a “different take on a revenge song.” She performed the track at the 2022 Grammys ceremony, and it’ll appear on her new project Denim & Rhinestones. The album sees her teaming back up with David Garcia, with whom she co-produced her 2021 gospel hymn project, My Savior, as well as her 2018 release Cry Pretty. She embarks on an arena tour behind the LP this fall, with more dates of her Reflection Las Vegas residency to be announced at a later date.
After breaking through with his multidimensional take on indie rock on 2020’s Live Forever, Bartees Strange continues to make expansive music on Farm to Table, his first record with 4AD. The project is led by singles “Heavy Heart”; “Cosigns,” in which he name-drops Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, Courtney Barnett, and Justin Vernon; and “Hold the Line,” a tribute to George Floyd’s daughter. Throughout, Strange folds in gospel melodies, rap flows, math-rock guitar patterns, and blown-out arena-rock riffs.
When 17-year-old Joey Bada$$ released his debut 1999 mixtape in 2012, he impressed fans and critics for his updated take on ’90s golden-age hip-hop. Now, a decade later, the Brooklyn rapper and actor is releasing its spiritual successor 2000, which follows his 2017 studio album All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ and the 2020 EP The Light Pack. The new project is preceded by the punchy, horn-sampling single “The Rev3nge” and the announcement of a summer tour behind both 1999 and 2000.
In 2019, Perfume Genius’s Mike Hadreas co-directed and composed songs for a contemporary dance performance called The Sun Still Burns Here, alongside Seattle choreographer Kate Wallich. The Seattle pop experimentalist is now compiling that music for Ugly Season, a new album that includes the previously released jangling dance tracks “Eye in the Wall” and “Pop Song.” The project, which was produced by Blake Mills and features contributions from Hadreas’s longtime partner Alan Wyffels, is also getting a short film by Jacolby Satterwhite, the New York visual artist best known for co-directing Solange’s When I Get Home film.
The TikTok gods smiled upon Kevin Gates when his 2013 Juicy J–featuring song “Thinking With My Dick” suddenly went viral on the platform this spring, launching to No. 37 on the Hot 100. The Baton Rouge rapper is including the track on his upcoming full-length, Khaza, which is also the name of his 8-year-old son, who appears on the project’s cover art. His first studio album since 2019’s I’m Him also includes the guitar-sampling trap single “Bad for Me” and the spiritually questioning “Big Lyfe.”
Inspired by Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” Rivers Cuomo of Weezer is releasing a new EP on the first day of each season. Each project in the SZNZ series is slated to include a song that interpolates one of Vivaldi’s riffs and reflect on the mood and themes of each period, just like how the wistful Spring edition focused on “rebirth [and] coming out of a long, cold hibernation,” Cuomo told NPR. It follows the band’s two projects from last year: the hair-metal tribute album Van Weezer and their pandemic-inspired orchestral-pop project OK Human.
Rising country star Jimmie Allen continues to pay familial homage on Tulip Drive, his new album titled after the street his late grandmother grew up on. (His 2018 debut Mercury Lane was a tribute to Allen’s old home, while his most recent releases Bettie James and Bettie James Gold Editions were named for his grandmother and father.) Allen’s first new project since winning New Artist of the Year at the 2021 CMA Awards is led by the nostalgic single “Down Home.”
The underlying idea behind Dripfield, the new project from Connecticut jam band Goose, is “of saturation,” says singer and guitarist Rick Mitarotonda in a statement. “Imagine a piece of earth — it’s kind of like the water level rising and seeping up to the top. It’s a metaphor for the creativity we have inside of us.” There’s a sense of gradual surfacing and unwinding in the project’s early singles, “Borne” and the psychedelic title track, which received companion music videos following a man (played by Mitarotonda) heading out to the Mojave Desert.
Last year, Los Angeles indie-pop trio MUNA launched tens of thousands of sapphic TikToks with “Silk Chiffon,” their breezy hit collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers. The song opens their upcoming self-titled album (which will also be their first full-length on Bridgers’s Saddest Factory imprint), followed by the power-pop single “Anything But Me” and the country-tinged “Kind of Girl.” “With it being our third record, this sounds woo-woo maybe, but there’s something powerful about the number three,” said guitarist Naomi McPherson in a Dork interview. “It just felt right. Self-titled, fuck it.”
With her curious lyrics and whimsical vocal delivery, Regina Spektor came to define the mid-2000s’ mainstream rise of the “anti-folk” genre. Now, the New York singer-songwriter is back with her first album in six years, Home, Before and After, featuring the pop ballad “Becoming All Alone.” Spektor co-produced the project, which was recorded in upstate New York, with John Congleton.
For those unfamiliar, “One Step Ahead” is a good introduction to the Jack Johnson vibe — laid-back acoustic guitar, a slight reggae groove, and lyrics advocating for people to chill out. It’s the lead single to the surfer-singer-songwriter’s upcoming Blake Mills–produced studio album, Meet the Moonlight, which follows 2017’s All the Light Above It Too. On Earth Day, Johnson will kick off a lengthy tour by performing on his foundation’s Kōkua Learning Farm (which supports environment education) in his hometown of Oahu, Hawaii.
Soccer Mommy, the moniker of Nashville singer-songwriter Sophie Allison, seems like an unlikely artist to be paired with experimental producer Oneohtrix Point Never. But after the two discovered they were mutual fans, they decided to work together on Allison’s third album, Sometimes, Forever, bonding over ’80s goth bands like the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Early singles “Unholy Affliction” and “Shotgun” already see Allison’s indie-rock sound expanding into more dream pop and atmospherically dark territories.
With his 2020 debut album Kid Krow, Conan Gray graduated from bedroom-singer YouTuber to certified pop star. Now the 23-year-old singer-songwriter from central Texas is prepping his sophomore album, Superache — a “vulnerable album, but not without its sarcasm,” he says in a statement. “It’s a story of heartbreak, friends, yearning, mourning, and grieving parts of your past you ignored for years.” As promised, he delivers his emotionally devastating songwriting on the first singles “Yours” and “Memories,” two tear-jerking pop ballads.
Andrew Bird, Inside Problems (June 3)
Prodigy, The Hegelian Dialectic: The Book of Heroine (June 10)
Alanis Morissette, The Storm Before the Calm (June 17)
Hercules & Love Affair, In Amber (June 17)
Lupe Fiasco, Drill Music in Zion (June 24)
For the past five decades, Journey simply has not stopped believing. Though it’s been a whopping 11 years since their last album (their longest gap between projects), the classic-rock band is returning with their 15th studio album, Freedom. The follow-up to 2011’s Eclipse has been previewed by the synth-rock single “You Got the Best of Me,” which guitarist and Journey founder Neal Schon has called a “punky rendition” of 1980’s “Any Way You Want It.” Front man Arnel Pineda also confirmed to Rolling Stone that Freedom recalls the band’s ’80s sound, as it features bassist Randy Jackson for the first time since 1986’s Raised on Radio.
“End of days banger” is what vocalist Emily Haines calls the new Metric single “All Comes Crashing,” the first taste of their project Formentera. The follow-up to 2018’s Art of Doubt is the band’s eighth studio album, arriving two decades after the Toronto synth-pop mainstays started delivering their dark-edged indie-rock anthems. Its release will be followed by the Doomscroller tour, which will see the band playing dates with Bartees Strange and Interpol.
Beabadoobee has captivated a global Gen-Z audience with her ’90s grunge-rock-inspired sound. The Filipino British singer-songwriter born Beatrice Laus is now set to drop her sophomore album, Beatopia, which was inspired by a fantasy world she invented when she was 7 years old. Featuring fellow internet icon PinkPantheress, the project is previewed by fuzzy-rock single “Talk,” which sees Laus indulging in going out on a Tuesday and “doing things that aren’t necessarily healthy or great for you.”
It’s been seven years since she made her debut as a recording artist with her Labrinth-featuring hit “Make Me (Cry),” but the youngest Cyrus sibling is now ready to release her debut album. The Hardest Part was made with producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice) and features the country-inflected pop singles “I Burned LA Down,” which sees Cyrus using the dread of wildfires as a metaphor for her festering breakup emotions, and “Mr. Percocet,” a message to a lover who’s “only mine ’til your high is gone,” she sings.
Though Lizzo’s rise to pop stardom has been mired with hate comments and overwrought discourse, she swiftly shut down critics with the title track to her new album, Special. “If it wasn’t me then would you even get offended / Or is it just because I’m Black and heavy?” she sang during the SNL premiere of the song. The follow-up to her 2019 album, Cuz I Love You, which brought her eight 2020 Grammy nominations, is also confirmed to include the funk-pop single “About Damn Time” and will be followed by a documentary on her life and career from HBO.
For Interpol’s seventh studio album, front man Paul Banks whipped up an idea that was a first for the band: “A hyper-modern, cinematic dance film,” he called it in a statement. Banks stars as a grizzled cop observing a gang of dancers in the Van Alpert–directed music videos for the project’s first two singles. The follow-up to 2018’s Marauder, The Other Side of Make-Believe was made entirely during the pandemic, as the long-running post-punk band wrote remotely until meeting up in the Catskills and North London to finish it up with co-producer Alan Moulder and producer Flood.
After issuing Fear of the Dawn in April, blues-rock stalwart and Third Man Records founder Jack White is following it up just three months later with another LP, Entering Heaven Alive. His fifth and sixth studio albums follow 2018’s Boarding House Reach, an adventurous project that saw the former White Stripes member delving into art rock and even rap. After releasing two maximalist projects, it seems like his forthcoming one, which includes the stripped-back folk song “Love Is Selfish,” will be slightly more laid-back.
Since blowing up on TikTok with their 2018 indie-rock anthem “Prom Queen,” Chicago pop-rock act Beach Bunny have continued to have a strong hold on the platform. Their debut album, 2020’s Honeymoon, brought another viral hit: the young-love-capturing “Cloud 9,” which has been remade by Tegan and Sara. Now the band, led by singer and guitarist Lili Trifilio, continue the momentum with their upcoming Emotional Creature. Produced by Sean O’Keefe (Fall Out Boy, Motion City Soundtrack), the project sees them delving into a synth-pop sound for the first time.
Not many pop stars can say they’ve acquired a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School in between albums, but Maggie Rogers did just that when her thesis on “spirituality of public gatherings” and “the ethics of power in pop culture” passed with distinction in May. Now, she’s gearing up to release her sophomore album, Surrender, which shares a title with that paper. To follow her debut LP, which featured the breakout single “Alaska,” she previewed the new project with the alt-pop epic, “That’s Where I Am.”
Amanda Shires has spent two decades releasing music as a solo artist and as a collaborator (including with her husband, rocker Jason Isbell, and with the Highwomen, the country-music supergroup she founded in 2019 alongside Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby). The Texas-born singer-songwriter and fiddle player is now set to drop an emotionally revealing solo album called Take It Like a Man, which includes contributions from Isbell, Hemby, Morris, and breakout country star Brittney Spencer. It’s produced by Lawrence Rothman (Angel Olsen, Courtney Love, Kim Gordon), who called Shires the “new Dolly Parton” upon hearing her for the first time.
Burna Boy, Love, Damini (July 2)
Black Midi, Hellfire (July 15)
She & Him, Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson (July 22)
Ty Segall, Hello, Hi (July 22)
The mere news of a Black Thought album would’ve been enough to draw buzz, but the fact that he’s linking up with superproducer Danger Mouse for his solo sophomore effort should excite any hip-hop head. Cheat Codes, Mouse’s first project since his Lux Prima album with Karen O, is the product of a collaborative relationship that started in 2005. Led by bluesy single “No Gold Teeth,” Codes is stacked with illustrious guests, including Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, MF Doom, Run the Jewels, and more.
With their 2020 album Who Am I?, Manchester-based pop-punk revivalists Pale Waves brought the influence of Avril Lavigne and Liz Phair to a new generation. The band led by Heather Baron-Gracie promises to continue their streak of angsty guitar-ripping songs with “Lies,” the first single from their third studio album, Unwanted. “It’s bold and unapologetic,” Baron-Gracie said of the project. “We don’t need to fit a perfect mold, we don’t need to apologize for being ourselves, and we won’t change for anyone.”
Rina Sawayama ascended to pop stardom with 2020’s Sawayama, which saw her exploring a little bit of everything: nu-metal, glossy 2000s-era pop, and club beats. The unbounded Japanese British artist started teasing her sophomore effort last fall on tour, previewing a new song about her relationship with her mother called “Catch Me in the Air.” The project’s first official single, though, is a country-pop bop called “This Hell,” which revels in reclaiming the homophobic belief that LGBTQ+ people are doomed in the afterlife.
Muse, Will of the People (August 26)
Yungblud, Yungblud (September 2)
Metro Boomin, a pivotal force in shaping the sound of modern rap, is constantly in the studio working on tracks for Future, 21 Savage, the Weeknd, and many other A-list artists. The St. Louis–born producer has also been teasing his own music, including a collaborative project with Lil Durk “on the way,” as well as a solo album that he mentioned last November as being titled Heroes and Villains. It would be Boomin’s first solo full-length since his 2018 compilation Not All Heroes Wear Capes, and is likely to have another stacked track list of his close collaborators.
When 100 gecs, the duo of Laura Les and Dylan Brady, released their 2019 album 1000 gecs, little did they know that their genre-blending freneticism would fuel the ascent of a movement dubbed hyperpop. The two have since been plotting a follow-up titled 10000 gecs (their debut release on Atlantic Records), whose writing process consisted of paring down 4,000 demos to about 12 songs until they decided to completely start over, the duo told Pitchfork. They’ve since come up with new tracks like “Doritos and Fritos” and “Frog on the Floor,” as well as the ska-inflected single “mememe.”
For two decades, it was unclear whether the world would ever get more than the three Aaliyah records that broke new ground in pop and R&B in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Though her posthumous album is now finally arriving, some listeners don’t know what to make of the project, which is being issued by the late singer’s divisive uncle, Barry Hankerson, the Blackground Records founder and sole owner of her catalogue who pushed to put her music on streaming services for the first time last year against the wishes of her estate. Hankerson now promises that Unstoppable will include features from Drake, Future, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, and the Weeknd, who appears on the lead single, “Poison,” plus production from her longtime collaborator Timbaland. It’s set to arrive sometime January.
After Saweetie blew up for her undeniably charismatic 2018 single “Icy Grl,” listeners have been eagerly awaiting the California rap star’s debut album, Pretty Bitch Music, which has repeatedly been pushed back. In the past two years, she’s released four singles that were promoted as PBM singles, including the TikTok earworm “Tap In” and the Doja Cat–featuring “Best Friend,” but has since explained that she needed more time to tweak the project after realizing it “had no soul.” To hold fans over, she’s promised to release her fourth EP, Icy Season, in January.
Scott Mescudi’s long-teased Netflix musical animated series, Entergalactic (made in collaboration with Black-ish creator Kenya Barris), and its accompanying album are landing later this summer. It seems like the rapper-actor is itching to share new material sooner than that, though; at his December headlining set at Rolling Loud California, Mescudi revealed that an entirely separate album, the follow-up to 2020’s Man on the Moon III: The Chosen, may also land earlier in the year. “I got some tasty surprises and I really am excited about all this new shit, this new music,” he told the crowd before previewing an unreleased song.
For SZA diehards, it’s no longer a surprise when her album releases get drawn out seemingly to no end. At least, that’s what happened ahead of her 2017 R&B masterpiece Ctrl, and recently again, after the chart peak of her 2020 hit “Good Days,” when the singer once again claimed that her label Top Dawg Entertainment was barring her from putting out music. While the singer-songwriter hasn’t made many promises about what her next project will look like (and definitely not when it’ll see the light of day), it already seems like she wants to take matters into her own hands. In August, SZA self-released three tracks on an anonymous SoundCloud account; by December, one of the songs, “I Hate U,” became another viral hit and was released as an official single.
Normani’s debut album has been hotly anticipated ever since she made her post–Fifth Harmony debut as a solo artist in 2018 with “Love Lies,” a duet with Khalid that became a sleeper hit. Since then, she’s only cemented her rising-star status with a handful more singles, including 2019’s “Motivation,” a bouncy pop–R&B bop that paid homage to the 2000s hits she grew up on, and “Wild Side,” last year’s sensual hit with Cardi B. A meticulous, charismatic dancer, Normani has been relatively tight-lipped regarding details about her album, but recently teased to ET that “summer is going to be lit” and offered a taste of an unreleased song on New Year’s Eve.
Despite releasing her Grammy-winning debut Invasion of Privacy more than four years ago now, Cardi B has maintained a firm grip on the culture by just, well, being Cardi B. To recap: There was her scene-stealing cameo in 2019’s Hustlers where she pretty much played herself to a T; the incendiary single “WAP” that dominated 2020; features on last year’s hit songs Lizzo’s “Rumors” and Normani’s “Wild Side,” alongside her own chart-topper “UP”; and a fiery guest verse on Kay Flock’s “Shake It.” Though COVID and her second pregnancy made her pause work on her sophomore effort, she confirmed in December that this project is coming this year — sometime when she’s not filming her first starring-movie role for the comedy Assisted Living. “I gotta put out this album,” she said on Instagram Live, mapping out her big 2022 ahead.
One can safely file these two under “but ACTUALLY???” and “soon soon soon.” *heavy sigh*
A$AP Rocky, All Smiles
Brockhampton, final album
Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2
Chloe Bailey, debut album
Danny Brown, Quaranta
Megan Thee Stallion