Halftime Leisure

Best (and worst) of 2022: Albums


Alternative album cover for Beyoncé's RENAISSANCE (2022) Courtesy of Carlijn Jacobs

BEST: 

MUNA – MUNA 

MUNA’s third studio album earns its self-titled status by presenting a sublime collection of songs embodying the group’s hallmark style: emotionally rich lyrics with an energetic flare. This unstoppable trio—composed of Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson, and Josette Maskin—is no stranger to crafting an excellent record (look no further than 2017’s stellar About U), and yet MUNA manages to eclipse all of the group’s earlier projects with its pristine production. Though firmly rooted within the pop genre, the record maintains versatility, with songs such as “No Idea” and “What I Want” tailored for the club dance floor, while selections like “Home By Now” and “Kind of Girl” feel better suited for a coming of age film. MUNA boasts a strong start with the electric, bubblegum number “Silk Chiffon ft. Phoebe Bridgers,” and “Shooting Star” brings the record to an equally satisfying conclusion, especially once the track’s mellow beginning erupts into a constellation of synths and strings in the bridge. MUNA’s collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers has already exposed the group to a much wider audience, and I am excited to see them continue to rise in fame now that they have been announced as one of the opening acts on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in 2023. New fans need not look further than this album to confirm that MUNA is one of the best pop groups working today and wholeheartedly deserving of all of the popularity that is undoubtedly coming their way in the new year. – Hailey Wharram

five seconds flat – Lizzy McAlpine

While surpassing the alpine heights set by her flawless debut Give Me a Minute (2020) seemed impossible, Lizzy McAlpine’s five seconds flat somehow manages to blow this first record completely out of the water with its mature songwriting and production. Equal parts lovesick and headstrong, this no-skip album boasts a diverse yet cohesive tracklist saturated with hit after hit. The eerie yet earnest “doomsday” opens the album with a salt-seasoned open wound, introducing the breakup which serves as the central catalyst for the rest of the record. Collaborations with artists such as Jacob Collier, Ben Kessler, Laura Elliott, and FINNEAS on “erase me,” “reckless driving,” “weird,” and “hate to be lame” respectively, prove that McAlpine shines just as brightly when she shares the spotlight. While McAlpine has already proven herself to be a skillful singer and songwriter time and time again, five seconds flat showcases her unique talent in crafting a vocally and lyrically show-stopping bridge. For proof, look no further than the vengeful, volcanic “firearm” or the tender-hearted “ceilings,” a song which rips the rug right out from under the listener in the third act by revealing the love she’s been describing throughout the song is nothing more than a reverie. The effervescent “all my ghosts” and “orange show speedway” see McAlpine haunted yet hopeful after a breakup. These upbeat selections feel fit for a suburban summer drive with the windows rolled down, scratching that infectious indie pop itch to perfection. Though 2022 was a year bursting at the seams with phenomenal releases, Lizzy McAlpine’s brilliant sophomore record five seconds flat still manages to individuate itself, claiming the coveted top spot for album of the year without question.  Hailey Wharram

emails i can’t send – Sabrina Carpenter

On emails i can’t send, Sabrina Carpenter delivers a masterclass in storytelling. Standout track “because i liked a boy” acts as a raw and angry critique of popular fan culture that refuses to be misunderstood. Softer songs like “skinny dipping” represent the simultaneous heartbreak and yearning for closure that one can feel for an ex, characterized by incredibly personal details and excerpts of conversation. But not all tracks are odes to broken hearts: there is also “Nonsense,” a sassy and flirtatious pop anthem that has since gone viral on Tiktok. Carpenter has certainly taken advantage of its success, recently releasing the fun and provocative “A Nonsense Christmas” that is sure to become another Christmas pop classic. As if reading her journal, emails i can’t send takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions. From heart-wrenching ballads to carefree melodies, Carpenter delivers one of the most honest, polished, and well-rounded records of 2022—the album is pop perfection. – Eileen Chen

1200 mètres en tout – Odezenne

Listening to 1200 mètres en tout is probably the closest I’ll get to floating through space. The Bordeaux-based band Odezenne’s fifth album builds on the ethereal synths and deeply personal lyrics of 2018’s Au Baccara to create a stunning portrait of loss, isolation, and love, and it is perhaps the band’s heaviest release yet. But never fear—Odezenne treats life’s darkest and ugliest moments with grace and care. “Caprice,” the album’s second single, is a desperately beautiful ode to band member Alix Caillet’s sister Marie-Priska Caillet, a former member of the band herself, who passed away from ovarian cancer last year. “Take me to see beyond time / See that time is money / And love is priceless,” Alix repeats before building to the ultimate revelation: “It’s life, it’s free.” This vulnerable and poetic lyricism creates the perfect intersection between New Chanson and rap and emotionally grounds the album’s otherworldly electronic sound. In contrast to past releases, the album is generally quite subdued and reflective, often trending towards the existential. Despite the profound sense of loneliness that runs through the album, its ultimate message of hope is powerful. “Life comes, life goes, life above all!” Alix commands on “Pablo”—and with that simple maxim, the isolating despair of 1200 mètres en tout transforms into kinship. — Isabel Shepherd

Un Verano Sin Ti – Bad Bunny

What can be said about Un Verano Sin Ti that hasn’t already been said? One of the most played and talked about albums this year, Un Verano Sin Ti broke chart records and lit up dancefloors and jangueos around the world, once again establishing Bad Bunny as one of the most exciting performers on the charts—there’s a reason why he’s been Spotify’s most streamed artist for the last three years. Benito has always been a collaborator, but on Un Verano Sin Ti he breaks out of his trap latino and reggaeton to experiment with indie pop. Alongside reggaeton legends and rising stars alike, indie pop heavy-hitters The Marías, Buscabulla, and Bomba Estéreo bring their signature sounds to the album to carefree, dreamy effect. “Ojitos Lindos,” featuring Bomba Estéreo’s siren-like vocals, is perhaps Bad Bunny’s most romantic song yet—his lovesick sincerity is a far cry from the brashness of his “Diles” (2016) days. Still, Bad Bunny hasn’t gone all soft. In “Tití Me Preguntó,” a bold foray into dembow, Benito enumerates his many girlfriends and (somewhat) regretfully confesses, “I’d like to fall in love / But I can’t.” From the hard-hitting reggaeton beat of “Me Porto Bonito” to the wistful synths of “Otro Atardecer,” Bad Bunny crafts an album that works as a soundtrack to heated summer nights and dog days alike. “I hope summer never ends,” Bad Bunny croons on “Agosto,” and with Un Verano Sin Ti, it doesn’t have to. — Isabel Shepherd

Faith In The Future – Louis Tomlinson

Ever heard someone say that the sequel is never better than the original? They probably weren’t talking about Louis Tomlinson’s sophomore album, Faith In The Future. In a shift away from the mellowness of his first body of work, Tomlinson veers from the acoustic sounds of his past to dabble in new genres like pop punk and indie rock, complimenting his distinctive rasp and particularly strong Doncaster accent (which he doesn’t lose at all while singing). He’s bold enough to proclaim himself as being “The Greatest,” in the very first song of the album, but also acknowledges that he couldn’t have reached this high alone. From there, Tomlinson winds back down, regaining enough humility to recognize that the world is much bigger than him, and that he was simply lucky enough to be given the opportunity to succeed. With near seamless transitions between his songs, Tomlinson crafts the story of how (presumably) his overconfidence later morphs  into greater understanding of the world. Faith In The Future explores both the highs and lows of life, from feeling on top of the world to missing someone so badly that their phone number is permanently etched into your mind, something he outlines in “Chicago.” Even with a song that seems almost too cheesy to be one of Tomlinson’s accomplished songwriting credits (“She Is Beauty We Are World Class” just doesn’t sound right), he has created a story cohesive enough to visualize. I, too, have Faith In The Future he’s presenting. — Sagun Shrestha

Superache – Conan Gray

In the aptly named Superache, Conan Gray laments cheating exes, failed romances, and a disillusioned family tree. With all of Gray’s woes outlined in a single album, the whole experience plays out like a movie—just not the romantic one he wishes his love life mirrored in his leading track “Movies.” Rather, Gray seems trapped in a tragedy with no way out. The album is characterized by a deep longing: for a “love like the movies” in “Movies” and for “all that love and emotion” in “People Watching.” It’s clear to see that a common theme emerges—perhaps a certain keyword? While “Best Friend,” a lighthearted ode to his best friend that stands out against his classic melancholy and downright sad lyrics, makes it seem like things are getting better for Gray, later tracks reveal that they’re not. Instead, Gray seems to crash violently. He falls further into reminiscing lost loves (who don’t seem so great after unveiling what’s under the guise of nostalgia). He describes feeling like a shattered puzzle waiting to be dissected and discarded, and later succumbs to his family trauma, which he fears will always catch up to him. Gray is overwhelmingly fraught with despair, and his music is a direct reflection of that (it’s near impossible to add any of his songs to a happy playlist for anyone who’s tried). A look at his social media and interviews will confirm that he’s talking from his own experience of heartbreak, amplified by the fact that, as he’s stated numerous times, he’s never been in a relationship. Though he usually tends to treat this fact as a joke, on Superache he lays out his deepest, darkest secrets for the world to see. His exploration of different types of grief ensures that there’s something for everyone to relate to—from relationship woes to daddy issues. It’s vulnerability-defined and, one thing’s for sure, listening to this album is resigning to a Superache that will never subside—but at least Gray is making sure that you’re not in this alone. — Sagun Shrestha

Crash – Charli XCX

Despite a long career rejecting the traditional pop sound in favor of more underground genres, with Charli XCX’s fifth studio album Crash, she has produced an iconic pop album that marries the mainstream and experimental into one. Fusing her familiar EDM and synth-pop style with more well-known genres like dance-pop and rock, Charli proves with Crash that she is more than capable of making music for all the pop girlies and not just her cult following. Each track on Crash explores what it means to be reckless, impulsive, and self-destructive—particularly what that means for love. With songs like “Good Ones” and “Lightning,” Charli embraces a masochistic, carefree form of love defined by lust and impulsive attraction rather than commitment. On the other hand, tracks like “Beg For You” and “Move Me” describe her desire for intimacy despite an inability to make it last. In the end, though, Charli decides that there’s no point to living in the past by saddling yourself with regrets and mistakes. So instead, join Charli in the front seat, hit 90 on the highway, and live every moment like it’s your last—like you’ve driven off a cliff and only have seconds before the crash.  – Zach Warren

RENAISSANCE – Beyonce

Arguably one of the most important and influential releases of this year, it would be a crime to omit RENAISSANCE from this list. As Beyonce’s seventh studio album, RENAISSANCE delivered an immaculate collection of tracks that blessed listeners in clubs and ballrooms across the globe. Beyonce is constantly exploring new territory with her music, and this album is no exception, embracing a more dance-heavy sound accompanied by notes of disco and funk. Still, every track feels so familiar—so intimately Beyonce. Maybe it’s how this album highlights the black and queer influences on her music, particularly in the lyrics of “COZY” and “PURE/HONEY.” Maybe it’s how tracks like “THIQUE” unabashedly exude Beyonce’s confidence and sex-appeal, which her earlier music could only hint at for fear of being too risqué. Maybe it’s just how damn iconic every song is, as Beyonce turns would-be corny lyrics  into memorable one-liners (see “she gon’ shake that ass and them pretty tig ol’ bitties”). Whatever that Beyonce-factor is, RENAISSANCE is the perfect album to manifest your inner “alien superstar,” get out on the dance floor, and own the spotlight. If Beyonce can do it, then so can you. For a more in-depth analysis of the album, please visit our full review here. — Zach Warren

Surrender – Maggie Rogers 

Emerging from the isolation of 2020 and the uncertainty of 2021, 2022 has been an inflection point, a year of trying to embrace the things we missed while understanding that our lives will never be the same. Maggie Rogers’ Surrender perfectly captures the cautious optimism of this year and this phase of the pandemic, masterfully evoking a nuanced feeling of what she described as “joy with teeth.” Rogers demonstrates her dexterity across an impressive variety of sounds and messages, all while honing in on an immersive, transcendent style that is distinctly her own. In the album’s most upbeat moments (see “Want Want,” “Be Cool”), Roger conveys a sense of exuberance, openness, and release through pulsating synths and bright falsetto vocals. Meanwhile, midtempo tracks like “Overdrive” and “Honey” speak to how the disruptions of the pandemic allowed many to pause and reflect on past experiences with new distance and perspective. The record’s greatest strength is Rogers’ ability to balance the personal and the universal: “Horses” creates a deeply introspective and intimate listening experience, while another acoustic and stripped-back song, “Different Kind of World,” builds to an anthemic critique of the present political and social climate. On Surrender, Rogers urges us to channel the grief of missed experiences over the past few years into fully and freely celebrating joy in the present, an apt reminder to move forward but not move on. – Maanasi Chintamani

Ivory – Omar Apollo 

Five years after Omar Apollo’s debut single “Ugotme” (2017), Apollo released his long-awaited, full-length debut album, Ivory– his most artistically crafted work yet. Apollo’s musicality oozes on every track on Ivory with his ability to defy genres while staying so utterly true to himself. Tracks like “Talk” and “Go Away” remind listeners of the indie pop and soft R&B sound that they have come to expect from Apollo, while simultaneously, Ivory leans into reggaeton and Mexican ballads on tracks “Tamagotchi” and “En El Olvido,” diversifying Apollo’s sound while paying homage to his Latino roots. While each track adapts to a different genre, Apollo’s voice is able to keep up, with tracks like “Petrified” showcasing heartwrenching belts to soft and sweet falsettos all in one. These genre shifts don’t act to flex Apollo’s musical muscles, but rather, to show all dimensions of himself; Ivory is Omar Apollo in music form. From the desperate shrieks of blatant queer heartbreak on “Evergreen,” to the sweet and naive yearning on “Waiting on You,” Ivory encompasses all sides of Apollo. Musically diverse, yet cohesive, Ivory is beautifully introspective and authentic to the “sadboi” themes that ignited Apollo’s rise to fame back in 2017. – Sofia Kemeny

WORST: 

Come Home The Kids Miss You – Jack Harlow

It is no easy feat to score as low as 2.9 on a Pitchfork review, but Jack Harlow is never one to back down from a challenge. After much hype and anticipation, the rapper’s latest release, Come Home The Kids Miss You, featured 15 largely forgettable and painfully one-note tracks. Harlow has built a career on tongue-in-cheek lyricism, instrumentation that walks the line between interesting and TikTok-friendly, and a charismatic public persona. However, on this album, that tried-and-true formula seems to fall apart. Harlow raps about themes that have become staples in his discography: his rise to the top of the game and his successes with women. But without the confident quips and witty one-liners of his best past work, Come Home The Kids Miss You falls short lyrically. From too-topical references (see: “can’t lie, I’m on Angus Cloud nine” on “First Class) to a general, overwhelming ethos of corniness (too many examples to choose from, but perhaps the most egregious: “like a blade of grass wants sunlight, I just want that ass” from “Like A Blade Of Grass”), the album feels lackluster and stale. Even flashy features—Pharrell, Justin Timberlake, Lil Wayne, and the only man cringier than Harlow himself, Drake—can’t salvage the record or sufficiently break up the monotony of Harlow’s repetitive flows and production. A year ago, Harlow was poised to reach new heights following the success of “Industry Baby,” his chart-topping and Grammy-nominated single with Lil Nas X. Despite debuting at #3 on the Billboard 200, Come Home The Kids Miss You was ultimately a flop, and Harlow is going to have to dig deep in the new year to get his stock back up. – Maanasi Chintamani

The Car – Arctic Monkeys

The Car is by no means unlistenable. But almost as soon as long-time fans hit play on the album’s first track, “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball,” the question on everyone’s mind was answered: For better or worse, the slick and intensely divisive lounge sound of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018) is here to stay for the Arctic Monkeys. On The Car, lead singer Alex Turner goes all-in on the higher ends of his register to endlessly aggravating effect—the triumphant build and breathlessly earnest lines like “if you’re thinking of me / I’m probably thinking of you” are hard to enjoy against Turner’s tinny vocals. Even in the album’s most emotional moments, it’s hard to get any sense of feeling other than sneering condescension. Like Turner’s work with Miles Kane in their band The Last Shadow Puppets, the album aims for the drama and emotional potency of 60s film soundtracks and baroque pop. Unfortunately, without the moving depth of Turner’s full register, the reliance on soaring string sections verges on trite, rather than cinematic. Both lyrically and sonically, the album’s potential is encapsulated in “Big Ideas,” quite pointedly:  “I had big ideas, the band were so excited… But now, the orchestra’s got us all surrounded / And I cannot for the life of me remember how they go.” Here’s to Arctic Monkeys’ next big idea. Maybe it’ll be better than this one. — Isabel Shepherd


Hailey Wharram
Hailey is a sophomore from Richmond, Virginia studying English and journalism in the College of Arts and Sciences. When she isn’t writing for The Georgetown Voice, she loves songwriting, scrupulously updating her Letterboxd profile, and romanticizing her life one Spotify playlist at a time.

Eileen Chen
Eileen is a freshman in the College studying government and economics. She likes dirty chai lattes, pretty flowers, and making playlists for every minor inconvenience.

Isabel Shepherd
Isabel is a junior in the college studying sociology, English, and art history. She loves trying new hobbies, but she isn’t very good at keeping them.

Maanasi Chintamani
Maanasi Chintamani is a junior in the College studying history and biology. In addition to being the Voice’s copy chief, she writes for Leisure. Her three defining qualities (in no particular order) are her love of “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado, her undying loyalty to the New England Patriots, and her penchant for procrastination.


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