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In a world dominated by playlists, these 20 LGBTQ+ artists proved that there’s still so much value in dedicating time to listen to a record in its entirety. From critically acclaimed projects by Cavetown and Tove Lo, to personal records from Oliver Sim and Omar Apollo, as well as standout releases from Yeule, Shygirl and Rina Sawayama, it’s been a stellar year for dynamic and innovative albums that centre the queer experience.

This year, there have been so many brilliant albums that have had an unmistakable influence on us and our community. While we’re sure many of these records have made it into your music library, we’ve included a variation of genres and artists to keep things interesting. Below is our alphabetised list of favourite albums of the year. We hope you enjoy these albums as much as we did.

AURORA: The Gods We Can Touch
Aurora’s third record is a stellar, effervescent soundscape that hooks you in from the very first note. Ethereally imaginative, the Norwegian artist gracefully makes musical incisions blending whimsical pop, maximalist EDM tinges, and whispery Billie Eilish-sounding vocals to great effect. Giving In To The Love and The Cure are blown up, atmospheric concert-ready bangers. Elsewhere Aurora showcases her versatility with the tempting, wailing Blood In Wine and the exponentially powerful Artemis. Closeout The Woman I Am guides a melodious message of self-love drawing the album to an earnest, artful end. Aurora channels her kinship with the divine to produce a record that feels like an hour long enchanting incantation that you don’t quite want to end. – ZRS

Cavetown: Worm Food
British artist Cavetown has come a long way in recent years, selling out venues across the globe and amassing a passionate and loyal following. But while his profile has climbed to new heights, his latest album Worm Food still thrives on the bedroom-pop intimacy his music has always captured. Unashamedly honest in his songwriting, on tracks like Kill U, Better and title track Worm Food he laments on themes of self-care and self-discovery that continually connects with his young listeners. Through splashes of pop-punk and introspective folk, Cavetown never offers up a moment worth skipping, keeping listeners hooked to a journey through his mind and experiences. – LC

Christine and the Queens: Redcar les adorables étoiles
Moving away from his previous mainstream palette of pop, Red Les Adorables is a concept record graciously indulging in moments of honesty and heartbreak. Predominantly all in French, Redcar stands as a “poetic and philosophical construction” set to the singer’s darkest sonic direction to date. Dipping between synths and sharp production, Redcar feels fluid and measured like a brand new introduction. With this record, Chris introduces his new persona, Redcar, with a transitional sense of certainty. Redcar, the album, might not adhere to what was expected, but sits comfortably with the strength of Chris’ past projects. – ZRS

Demi Lovato: HOLY FVCK
“Demi leaves rehab again / when is this shit gonna end?” Demi asks over revved up guitar rumbles, before launching into their mosh-pit worthy anthem Skin of my Teeth. The singer-songwriter hasn’t shied away from speaking about substance abuse and their mental health on their recent records, but here on their eighth studio album, Holy Fvck, Demi speaks of their experiences in the music industry with frankness – and in doing so rightfully bites back at their own treatment in the world of entertainment. It all plays over a pop-rock backdrop that has always suited Demi’s voice perfectly, with tracks like Freak, Eat Me, and City of Angels sounding like they’ve been pulled from any setlist on a Warped Tour. After the polished pop and balladry of recent years, this switch-up from Demi came at just the right time. – LC

Ethel Cain: Preacher’s Daughter
Scouring the internet you can find unreleased demos from Hayden Anhedönia dating back almost three years. The Tallahassee-born artist’s experimental projects are scattered across the likes of Bandcamp, SoundCloud and YouTube. Earlier this year, Ethel Cain shared her hauntingly brilliant second full-length release, Preacher’s Daughter. “Jesus can always reject his father / but he cannot escape his mother’s blood,” Cain observes in opener Family Tree (Intro). The gloomy track peels back a core concept to Cain’s record, one which was originally envisioned as a screenplay; the interrelationship of faith and its community. Elsewhere, Cain diligently explores motels, seedy American backdrops and violence in ways that aren’t too distant from Lana Del Rey’s own romanticised imaginings.

Gleaning rock-pop hit American Teenager swirls like a glitzy anti-war Taylor Swift anthem. Cain quickly trades out dreamy synths for melancholy, slow-burn notes as she sets her story in practice – one that follows a young woman across the US to her tragic death. Long-running tracks House Of Nebraska and Hard Times acquaint us with Cain’s skilful vocals. The opening of Ptolemaea, is textured with the nightmarish buzzing of flies, disturbing background moans, and a thumping heartbeat. Here, Cain’s vision swells as a pained scream adds another layer to her dysfunctional horror-like soundtrack. Closeouts Sun Bleached Flies and Strangers resolve the fate of the singer’s doomed heroine, burying her in sorrowful piano, dark electronica and a preacher’s sermon. Preacher’s Daughter brings to life a gothic Americana fable and spearheads an artist destined for cult success.- ZRS

FLETCHER: Girl Of My Dreams
An “all or nothing” record, FLETCHER pushes her vulnerability to new extremes in her debut, Girl Of My Dreams. In recent years, breakthrough musician Cari Fletcher has amassed a following for her emotive, anthemic queer pop-rock tunes. Becky’s So Hot and Healing became banner singles for the artist’s next steps. Meanwhile, self-titled Girl Of My Dreams and vibrant deluxe track Suckerpunch tap into catchy hooks that have led to the singer’s almost instant virality. From self-love anthems to chorused confessions of desire, Girl Of My Dreams is a spirited record that has solidly resonated with LGBTQ+ fans across the globe — and for good reason. – ZRS

King Princess: Hold On Baby
In her second full-length studio album, King Princess resumes her reign as a confessional, queer pop icon. Over the last few years Mikaela Straus has truly come into her own. Pairing her distinct sound with her eccentric style, the artist brings her best to her latest record, Hold On Baby. Straus lets us in on twinkly soft-rock ballads and demonstrates her strength as a lyricist in Crowbar and Dotted Lines. Meanwhile Let Us Die excels in its frankness, backed by the thumping drums of late musician Taylor Hawkins. This year has been saturated with queer excellence when it comes to music, but King Princess touches on something exceptional with Hold On Baby. – ZRS

Maggie Lindemann: SUCKERPUNCH
Following the alt-rock artist’s EP PARANOIA, Maggie Lindemann bears all in her formative debut record, SUCKERPUNCH. Lindemann puts forward her best with an album packed with fizzy guitars, ecstatic drums and ferocious vocals. A step-up from her former dark-rock efforts, Lindemann crosses over from gleaming dark pop and fully commits with a record hopped up on early 2000’s hallmarks and Paramore era influences. Yet, the singer’s inspirations don’t come at the detriment of her sound. Instead, the project’s stomping soft-punk beats capture the project’s frenetic nature. SUCKERPUNCH culminates as a self-actualised, spirited project that doubles down on Lindemann’s up-and-coming alt-pop icon status. – ZRS

In signature style, alt-pop trio MUNA ruminate dissatisfaction, queer joy and heartbreak over vibrant, power beats. In their newest phase, contentment is not an emotionally wrought proposition, but a permissible goal for the band. As Katie Gavin choruses “life’s so fun” over the gleaming, breezy pop hit Silk Chiffon, you know, for a few minutes, everything is going to be okay. Elsewhere, the album’s twinkling cinematic single Anything But Me and the guilt-free party anthem What I Want sets MUNA’s new era in motion. The sanctity of MUNA is inescapable. From penning Y2K boyband-style bops with Mitski to emotionally devastating ballads, MUNA work side-by-side like a well-adjusted palette of primary colours, even if they tend to be a little grittier than most. The band’s third record is no doubt MUNA at their very best. – ZRS

Oliver Sim: Hideous Bastard
It’s a flex to open your debut album with a collaboration with a true LGBTQ+ icon. Oliver Sim’s vocal soars into the mystical production of Hideous, while Jimmy Somerville (of Bronski Beat and Communards fame) takes the ethereal atmosphere to even greater heights with his unmistakable falsetto. “Been living with HIV since 17, am I hideous?” Sim asks on the track, laying the ground for the record ahead. It’s a record of coming to terms with your queer identity, navigating relationships and battling self-doubt. Fruit hears Oliver reflect on moments of shame he experienced as a queer man, while GMT sees him pining over a love he’s missing. It’s a special debut solo record – and one we’ve waited so long for. – LC

Omar Apollo: Ivory
Omar Apollo keeps knocking it out of the park again and again. Ivory – billed as his first proper studio album – switches between tender soulful moments, to energy-pumping anthems fuelled by scuzzy guitar lines and pointed vocals. Talk really gets the pace going with Omar’s snappy vocal-lines backed by an urgent kick-beat, while Invincible with Daniel Caesar takes the tempo back down again for a beautiful ballad. The gentle lull of Evergreen (You Didn’t Deserve Me At All) is as soulful as they come, breaking through as one of his best performing singles to date. But it’s on Spanglish track Tamagotchi produced by Pharrell where his chops for a seductive R&B bop shows that his long-overdue ascendancy as one of the leading male artists in music is on the cusp. – LC

Orville Peck: Bronco
Country music’s mysterious lone ranger Orville Peck continues to breathe new life into the genre. Second album Bronco continued his talent for a yee-haw blend of compelling storytelling and desert-swept production. Cinematic in scope, the record is full of same-sex love stories while sonically harking back to the 1950s with Orville’s vocal leaning further into that deep drawl that made Elvis Presley a legend. Daytona Sand is a galloping opening full of life, while the soft melody of C’mon Baby, Cry immediately draws you into a western love affair. Orville has built upon his reputation of revitalising the country genre by leaning into its past even more eagerly – and by doing so has produced a timeless classic. – LC

Raveena: Asha’s Awakening
Bombay-born artist Raveena’s sound has always been a “complete expression of the self”. In Asha’s Awakening, the musician unites dreamy South Asian influences and Western sounds for an atmospheric record. Elsewhere, R&B and hip-hop hallmarks interplay with subtle drum beats, hand claps and Bollywood-styled harmonies. Raveena’s impressive experimentation soundtracks the artist’s concept album, which follows the journey of a space princess from Ancient Punjab. Rush and Kismet standout with their danceable beats and gleaming production. Elsewhere, Secrets ft. Vince Staples is endearingly sung and a captivating listen. Spanning 15 tracks, Asha’s Awakening effortlessly pulls you in with its breezy, technicolour feel. And, by the end of Raveena’s illuminating major-label debut, it’s immediately clear the artist’s uniqueness is otherworldly. – ZRS

Rina Sawayama: Hold The Girl
Rina Sawayama’s debut album SAWAYAMA was big, bold and brilliant, and while this follow-up feels more contained it’s no less impactful. Anything with wistful panpipes gets us immediately, but for it to then glide into epic pop anthem Catch Me In The Air completely sums up Rina’s innovative approach to music. Feeling both familiar and new, it whisked us all up with it. Lead single This Hell was the perfect tone-setter for second album Hold The Girl, kicking down the barn door with female empowerment, earworm hooks and a chorus that will have you up and line-dancing without realising it. Rina’s love for the pop of yesteryear is present throughout, switching up genres and echoing some of music’s greats – but it never overshadows her. Hold The Girl is very much an album where the pop star is in charge – and serving it while doing so. – LC

Shygirl: Nymph
“Hello.. Is anyone there? It’s the coochie calling.” That, dear reader, is one of the best lyrics of 2022, which is why it is right at home on one of the best records of the year too. Sexuality has always been a focal point of Shygirl’s music, but on Nymph her soft cooing tone is almost hypnotic over a backdrop of tinned beats and airy synths. The collection overall is ethereal electronica at its finest, Shygirl the in-command seductress luring us in with her effortless melodies and breathy vocals. Shlut and Nike are direct and hit harder, but there are softer moments in Heaven and Honey, giving us a broad spectrum lyrically, sonically, emotionally and sexually. No matter the tone, it hits the spot every time. – LC

Steve Lacy: Gemini Rights
Steve Lacy is such an accomplished musician it’s easy to forget he’s still only 24-years-old. The Californian singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer achieved long overdue mainstream success with his summer hit Bad Habit, lifted from his second outing Gemini Rights. It’s broadly reflective of the effortless blend of R&B, funk, and indie rock that plays throughout. We start with the revelation that Steve is over dating boys after on opening track Static, but following cuts Helmet, Buttons and Sunshine offer further reflection on that post break-up period. Across 10 tracks, Gemini Rights offers a magical concoction of genres, styles, stories and smooth vocals achieving that rarest of qualities: being both timely and timeless. – LC

Tove Lo: Dirt Femme
Marking her first studio album after parting ways with her major label, Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo delivered one of her finest pop masterpieces to date. Dealing with themes of resisting heteronormativity, eating disorders and recovering from heartbreak, Tove somehow turns serious subject matter into perfect packets of dance-pop brimming with unrelenting hooks and catchy choruses. No One Dies From Love is a standout moment, with follow-up singles 2 DIE 4 and Grapefruit continuing Tove’s knack for a stone-cold banger. Call On Me and Pineapple Slice – both with DJ/producer SG Lewis – bring the flirty energy with euphoric intent to provide those nightclub moments, while I’m To Blame brings in guitars and piano for an angsty reflection on a failing relationship. It all works together nicely for a career-best record. – LC

Years & Years: Night Call
The first Years & Years studio album that serves as a solo vehicle for Olly Alexander, Night Call dives into the artist’s queerness with no apology. An album packed with electro-pop sparkle, chewy hooks and seductive beats, Olly struts through the record with confidence and desire. Glittering single Starstruck will be a mainstay on gay club playlists for years to come, while Night Call winks at collaborator Kylie Minogue by lending a pop construction not too dissimilar from some of her own greatest hits. Muscle is bedroom-pop of the more sexual brand, while Sweet Talker is a storming anthem that deals with a partner who repeatedly gives you nothing but trouble. It’s big pop and even bigger fun. – LC

Following on from the pop-punk stamped Lately I Feel EVERYTHING (LIFE), WILLOW steps things up with her confident, amped up record, <COPINGMECHANISM>. Careening from previous psychedelic indie-pop tunes to rugged, screamo stacked songs, the young artist is staking her claim in a scene that all too often lacks Black and Brown faces. <COPINGMECHANISM> is as the name suggests; a crutch for the overwhelming realities of every day. In this case, the record is a beefed up Get Z break up album with a bite.

Chugging guitars sprawl across <Maybe> it’s my fault. WHY? unpicks the anxieties and isolation the Hollywood star finds herself facing. Album title track <Coping Mechanism> is packed with gutsy vocals and forthright lyrics as WILLOW blames her jeopardised mental health (and emotional state) on a sour relationship. Journeying further into the record, WILLOW shines on hover like a GODDESS cranking out ethereal falsettos and bellowing vocals with ease. The record’s production, paired with WILLOW’s confident vocals, spotlights tracks Ur A <Stranger> and BATSHIT! as guaranteed fan favourites. A steadfast and notably dialled up record, <COPINGMECHANISM> deserves its praise.- ZRS

Yeule: Glitch Princess
A self-proclaimed fourth-generation goth, Yeule is the captivating music project from Singapore artist Nat Ćmie. The producer’s latest release, Glitch Princess, is a gateway to Yeule’s glitchy pop universe. Electric and Flowers Are Dead are enchantingly dark masochistic openers. Layered with pitched effects, both tracks guide you further into Yeule’s disorienting cyberpunk soundscape.

Opening track My Name Is Nat Ćmie introduces Yeule as a cyborg-like entity, which is a concept carried through the entire record. Glitch Princess persistently explores themes of desire, humanity, and a sense of eerie otherness. Tracks Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself and Fragments are brilliantly engineered mid-album touchpoints. While, further on, Bites On My Neck shines as it builds from drummed up beats to euphoric synths set against pitched game-like screams. Glitch Princess does not downplay its magnitude — it’s an album self-aware of its existentialism and immersive sound — and it doesn’t let you forget it. – ZRS