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Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024
The Observer

Scene’s Top 22 Albums of 2022

22. 'Cave World' by Viagra Boys

“Cave World” is the third LP of punk rock band Viagra Boys, and it expands upon what made their previous records so great. The album is absolutely soaked in meta-irony and absurdist humor. Viagra Boys are simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the eclectic world of conspiracy theories, incels and the internet at large; they poke fun at this chaotic space from the inside. This isn’t even to mention the incredibly catchy riffs that permeate the album: “Troglodyte” and “Punk Rock Loser” are standouts. Overall, “Cave World” is Viagra Boys’ strongest and most interesting album to date. — Coby McKeown, Scene Writer

21. 'Uncanny Valley' by COIN

“Uncanny Valley,” released by COIN on March 25, is an album meant to be listened to from beginning to end. From the strong guitar twang of “Chapstick” to the piano chords and melancholic atmosphere created in “Plug Me In,” the album takes you on a musical journey that you won’t regret. Within the album's strong futuristic concept, each song has something distinct for the listener to enjoy but flows from one song right into the next. Want to listen to something that sounds new and familiar all at once? Listen to “Uncanny Valley.” — Claire McKenna, Scene Writer

Read the review here.

20. 'Hold the Girl' by Rina Sawayama

Sawayama’s second full-length release, “Hold the Girl,” is anything but a sophomore slump. She jumps from slay to sadness and from pensiveness to pop-rock. The album’s sonic and thematic tensions contradict at times, but it’s held together by Sawayama’s fantastic vocals and her unwavering commitment to satisfying her inner child. — Claire Lyons, Associate Scene Editor

Read the review here.

19. 'Proof' by BTS

“Proof” is a compilation album by popular K-pop band BTS that hosts a vast catalog of older hits in addition to introducing five new songs. After experimenting with different genres, “Proof” feels like concrete evidence of BTS' unique sound. The new songs, especially “Run BTS,” are exactly the hip-hop and pop fusion that the group has been aiming for. With BTS on a long-term hiatus to complete their military service in South Korea, the compilation aspect of the album feels like a farewell and a celebration of their previous work. — Caitlin Brannigan, Scene Writer

18. 'Unlimited Love' by Red Hot Chili Peppers

John Frusciante is back! This album is one of their most dynamic albums since “Stadium Arcadium” (2006), nearly two decades later. “Unlimited Love” brings the band back together, literally and figuratively. Anthony Kiedis’s punchy lyrics coupled with Flea’s hard-hitting bass lines, backed by Chad Smith’s pounding drums are perfectly paired with Frusciante’s unique sound. Many would disagree, but “Poster Child” is on repeat and one of the most lyrically complex songs on the album. — Willoughby Thom, Scene Editor

17. 'American Bollywood' by Young the Giant

Standing at a Young the Giant concert while “American Bollywood” played is an experience I will forever hold on to. “American Bollywood” is Young the Giant’s fifth album and is by far the most intimate and epic album they have released so far. It tells the story of a wayward individual trying to find his place in a world of chaos, exploring themes of identity, belonging and immigration through the marriage of beautiful alternative rock and South Asian musical influences. “American Bollywood” is a musical triumph and masterpiece which pushes the boundaries of rock music to new heights. — Rachel Hartmann, Scene Writer

16. 'It’s Almost Dry' by Pusha T

I was skeptical when this was effusively recommended to me in a dorm hallway. After all, isn’t this the guy who named his son Nigel Brixx? I had forgotten that he’s also the guy who remixed the “Succession” theme. Produced half-and-half by Kanye and Pharrell, the No. 1 album reacquainted us with the quality of Pusha T’s flow, pop poetic lyricism (“Had a million answers, didn’t have a clue / Why Michael kissed Fredo in ‘Godfather II’”), storytelling and investigativereporting. Familiar references to Virginia Beach cocaine and rap industry rivalries are plentiful (certainly not limited to his son’s name), but it’s a far more unique, catchy and supremely well-produced record. I’ll say it: Move aside, Kendrick. Go home, Drake. Rap album of the year. — Isa Sheikh, Associate News Editor

15. 'Dawn FM' by The Weekend

The Weeknd has been at the top of the pop pantheon for years now, but where does he go from here? How about teaming up with legendary chart-topping producer Max Martin and creating a concept-based synth-pop record that explores passion, love and the inevitable approach of death? By seamlessly combining his older and darker songwriting with his newer retro style, The Weeknd creates his most cohesive project to date. — Coby McKeown, Scene Writer

14. 'Wet Leg' by Wet Leg

Wet Leg is a force to be reckoned with. After releasing two debut singles in 2021, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers found themselves on charts all over the world almost instantly. The English duo has firmly established themselves on the scene, and we are not complaining. Their blend of indie, punk and disco is a mash-up we didn’t know we needed. Some instant favorites are “Chaise Longue,” “Angelica” and my personal favorite, “Oh No.” They are everything that the world needs: a band that makes “sad music for party people, and party music for sad people.” — Willoughby Thom, Scene Editor

13. 'Un Verano Sin Ti' by Bad Bunny

“Un Verano Sin Ti” is Bad Bunny’s third album and diverges from his previous discography. Instead of boxing himself into the style of his previous releases, Bad Bunny embraced the album's Caribbean musical influences, inspired by his childhood visits to the coasts of Puerto Rico. “Un Verano Sin Ti” is an exquisite reggaeton album that encapsulates fun, thrill and soul. — Rachel Hartmann, Scene Writer

12. 'Gemini Rights' by Steve Lacy

Released this summer, “Gemini Rights” was Steve Lacy’s second album. Lacy immediately saw internet fame with songs “Static” and “Bad Habit” going viral on Tik Tok. “Gemini Rights” takes the listener on a journey, with no two songs sounding like another. Lacy opens with the familiar “Static,” a short two-minute song that parallels the entire album. In this track, Lacy is calling out to an ex who self-medicates after their breakup. This contrasts beautifully with his final song, “Give You the World,” which also sees him begging for the forgiveness of a lover. — Olivia Schatz, Associate Sports Editor

11. 'Surrender' by Maggie Rogers

Maggie Rogers’ sophomore album bears the same name as her Harvard Divinity School thesis (“Surrender”) and it's no surprise, as the singer-songwriter effortlessly inserts divinity school-worthy questions into a slate of pop-rock anthems. She wrote the album mid-pandemic in her family’s Maine home, and indeed the album’s intensity feels like a necessary catharsis after months in COVID isolation.

Rogers is “surrendering.” She commits fully to her desires on “Want, Want,” to feeling deeply on “Shatter” and to escapist fantasy on “Anywhere With You.” Her commitment pays off. As Rogers soared to the top of my Spotify Wrapped, I couldn’t help but surrender, like she did, to this beautiful album. — Katie Muchnick, Scene Writer

10. 'Special' by Lizzo

“Special,” Lizzo's fresh new album, is a masterpiece about self-love and loving others. The twelve songs are a gorgeous mix of pop, R&B and hip-hop that invites listeners on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. After the massive commercial success of “Truth Hurts,” Lizzo had a high bar to live up to and she succeeded with this album. It is a raw, vulnerable and special work that proves Lizzo’s musicality and solidifies her place as one of the greats in the contemporary music industry. — Rachel Hartmann, Scene Writer

Read the review here.

9. 'The Car' by Arctic Monkeys

“The Car,” Arctic Monkeys’ seventh studio album, displays the British rockers’ perspectives on life, love, fame and more through the rearview mirror (or rather, through a mirrorball). It features copious orchestral components (similar to frontman Alex Turner’s side project, The Last Shadow Puppets), cinematic elements and an air of mystery and intrigue in both the instrumentation and lyricism. In “The Car,” the band progresses their sound’s sophistication and states their desire to make music for its own sake rather than the sake of their fans. — Anna Falk, Scene Writer

Read the review here.

8. 'Being Funny in a Foreign Language' by the 1975

This year was rife with releases from many 2014 Tumblr favorites, most notably the 1975’s “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” (“BFIAFL”). This LP’s lyrics are as quirky, laughable, sincere and cutting as ever, and the sound is the most consistent from their discography. “BFIAFL” features vocals from Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast on “Part of the Band” and (as many TikTok users are aware of) guitarist Adam Hann’s wife, Carly Holt, on “About You.” Healy maintains his usual live performance antics, but this album remains one of the band’s most honest and coherent pieces yet. — Anna Falk, Scene Writer

Read the review here.

7. 'RENAISSANCE' by Beyoncé

It’s late summer, and I play “Plastic Off the Sofa” on repeat as I edit articles for my internship in a fever dream. Beyoncé’s silky vocals, the track’s blissed-out chords and sweet lyrics almost distract me from my task. Queen Bey’s seventh studio album, “Renaissance” feels like a return to her early 2000s R&B sound but still draws on unique influences like afrobeats, gospel and 1970s disco. — Angela Mathew, Manger of Talent & Inclusion

6. 'Laurel Hell' by Mitski

Mitski’s sixth studio album marked a return to the industry after a four-year hiatus. After her 2018 album, “Be the Cowboy,” she took a break from music and the public eye. But now, she’s back with “Laurel Hell,” an ‘80s-inspired dance-pop tour through the tangles of interpersonal relationships and Mitski’s complex feelings toward her career. Sobering lyrics play against synthy electro-rock beats to weave a rich and layered tapestry of vulnerability, guilt, finality and forgiveness. I’ve written about “Laurel Hell” before, and I’ll continue writing about it as long as it continues wrecking me with each replay. — Natalie Allton, Scene Writer

Read the review here.

5. 'Dance Fever' by Florence + the Machine

In F+TM's “Dance Fever," Florence Welch resurrects like Jesus “in a beautiful dress” (“Choreomania”). Emerging from the pandemic, Welch's new album uses mountainous harmonies to offer a characteristically witchy portrait of her life. She searingly defies gender expectations and challenges oppressive institutions in “Free” and “King.” She retrospectively explores all-too-universal battles with addiction and depression in “Daffodil” and “Girls Against God.” In “Dance Fever,” Welch explores trauma from COVID and the patriarchy through her innovative and gut-wrenching orchestral clashes. — Connor Marrott, Scene Writer

4. 'Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers' by Kendrick Lamar

“I’ve been goin’ through somethin’ / 1,855 days / I’ve been goin’ through somethin’. / Be afraid.”

Wake up! It’s 2022, and Pulitzer Prize winner and rap legend Kendrick Lamar has just released his newest album since the chart-topping original “Black Panther” soundtrack. In “Mr. Morale,” Lamar reflects on the eventful past few years, on how the world has gone up in flames and on how he’s trying to put it out. The album’s complicated, but I’m a “Die Hard” fan of the production quality and Lamar's lyrics. — Claire Lyons, Associate Scene Editor

Read the review here.

3. 'Stick Season' by Noah Kahan

Both of Noah Kahan’s singles in “Stick Season” went viral, making his “ode to New England” highly anticipated. Kahan fully encompasses the changing of seasons. The first half of the album is upbeat, with lyrics about love and memories accompanied by a cheerful acoustic guitar. At the midpoint, the album falls into the winter season where his tracks transition into a more solemn tone. He ends with “The View Between Villages,” a piece that fully encompasses the entire album, as well as the feeling of being displaced in your own home, something many college students can relate to. — Olivia Schatz, Associate Sports Editor

Read the review here.

2. 'Harry’s House' by Harry Styles

With the release of “Harry’s House” in May, Harry Styles leapt to a greater level of stardom than he had ever experienced before, including in his days with One Direction — something that surprised even Harry himself. The album captures the split desire to dance or cry your heart out. Here, you don’t have to decide; you can do both.

Recently someone asked me, “What color is Harry’s House?” Answer: the yellow of sunglasses, the green in eyes and fried rice, the grape juice blues and most of all, the gold of a shining star — because 2022 was Harry Styles’ year, and the world is his home. — Alysa Guffey, Editor-in-Chief

Read the review here.

1. 'Midnights' by Taylor Swift

On Oct. 21, when the clock struck midnight, a wonder was released across the world ... Also known as “Midnights” by Taylor Swift. There was doubt lingering in all of our minds as we played the album: Could Taylor Swift do it again? Could she enchant us and have us screaming her lyrics for the days to follow? 

And, yes, she did.

“Midnights” captured the essence of thirteen sleepless nights with exciting pop songs and heart-wrenching slow tracks that kept listeners on their toes. The album captured our hearts as we pondered the meaning of Swift's brilliant lyrics and related to her restless midnights. Swift succeeded once again, and “Midnights” is exactly the album that 2022 needed. — Rachel Hartmann, Scene Writer

Read the review here.

Some of our favorites didn’t make the top-22, but they still deserve an honorable mention: “Aethiopes” by Billy Woods, “MAN PLAYS THE HORN” by Cities Aviv, “And in The Darkness, Hearts Aglow” by Weyes Blood, “Emails I Can't Send” by Sabrina Carpenter, “Stereotype” by Cole Swindell and “Sweet Tooth” by Mom Jeans.