Brennen Kelly’s Record Rewind, Best of 2022 | Arts & Entertainment

2022 was a great year for an avid music listener. From indie pop to indie country and established rap to established pop, there were major releases seemingly every week throughout the year. Given that, it was pretty hard to pick a top five. 2022 saw Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ smash Spotify records and Harry Styles’ ‘Harry’s House’ dominate the mainstream all summer long. While none of those records appear on this list, the year saw some absolutely brilliant releases from newcomers, pop and everything in between. Without further ado, here are my picks for the five best albums of 2022.

  1. “American Heartbreak” – Zach Bryan

2022 will forever go down as the year of Zach Bryan. Bryan released three albums during the year, the first being “American Heartbreak”. At a mammoth 34 songs, “American Heartbreak” feels like Bryan’s magnum opus. This long, sprawling album takes you on a journey full of love and loss. Bryan is one of the most prolific songwriters out there today and it shows throughout the album. His smash hit, “Something in the Orange,” is a great example of this. The truly cinematic album perfectly captures the American experience. Bryan expands his horizons on this album as well. His first two independently produced records focused much more on loss and generally have a very somber tone. However, “American Heartbreak” brilliantly combines the bright and dark moments of life. There are much-needed moments of levity here that complement the sad, moving songs brilliantly.

  1. “Stick Season” – Noah Kahan

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If 2022 was the year of Zach Bryan in the country genre, 2022 was the year of Noah Kahan in the alternative genre. Kahan, like Bryan, delivers some impressive songwriting moments throughout the album. Buoyed by the social media success of the self-titled track, “Stick Season,” Kahan quickly became a star in the alternative genre. The album is a brilliantly written and produced record that draws you right into Kahan’s Vermont home. This album has such a distinct sound that showcases Kahan’s self-proclaimed “Northern Attitude” as performed in the album opener. It’s a very acoustic-heavy alternative album that blurs the line between folk, alternative and pop in the best possible way. Kahan talks about anxiety, addiction and depression throughout “Stick Season.” The balance of heavy themes with some lighter ones is reminiscent of Bryan’s “American Heartbreak”.

  1. “Palomino” – Miranda Lambert

I reviewed “Palomino” at the end of spring semester last year and fell head over heels for it. Lambert has always been a prolific figure on the country scene. However, “Palomino” feels like the best parts of each of her albums combined. Her sense of humor, wandering spirit and sense of longing are all on full display throughout the record. It’s very rare to see an album these days that is extremely cohesive and focused on a single theme. “Palomino’s” is a journey. Almost every one of the 15 tracks evokes a strong sense of travel and movement. Lambert and her co-authors put a lot of emphasis on small details, and it pays off. The final track, “Carousel,” is one of the best country songs of recent years, depicting the love and breakup of two circus performers. The world-building and storytelling contained within the four-and-a-half-minute song is breathtaking.

  1. “Single and in Love” – ​​Brendan Abernathy

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Abernathy is easily the most unknown artist on this list. Still, “Single and in Love” was one of the most impressive albums I heard in 2022. Abernathy, a completely independent artist from Georgia, delivers an extremely heartfelt and personal debut album here. Abernathy’s songwriting style is very distinctive. It presents very specific details about his quirky personality while keeping the overall themes of the songs extremely relatable. His approach to songwriting reminds me of Taylor Swift, especially when he lets his personality shine through. It’s very special, funny and relatable, while also being brutally honest and sad at times. The production choices throughout the album are also very good. it’s a very acoustic, stripped down approach to pop. It’s great and fits the tone and personal nature of the songs. With only eight tracks, “Single and in Love” leaves you wanting more in the best possible way.


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Although Kane has been on the radar of many since the release of “CHICKEN TENDIES” in 2021, “MAYBE SOMEDAY IT’LL BE ALL BE OKAY” is Kane’s debut full-length album. Many of these songs have previously been released as singles, however, as a collection, this album works great. Kane’s vocal prowess is on full display throughout the record. He flexes his impressive range, showing off his wonderful falsetto throughout the record. Ignoring the technical brilliance of his voice, Kane’s raw, emotional renditions of these tracks elevate these already well-written and prolific songs. Kane, best known for his slow, ‘sad’ ballads about breakups and broken relationships, expands his limited catalog with ‘GO TO HELL’. This alternative rock song acts as a spark plug to an otherwise very slow, gloomy album.

Honorable Mentions: “WHO CARES?” – Rex Orange County, “Lindeville” – Ashley McBryde, “Her Loss” – Drake & 21 Savage

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.


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