2022 In Albums So Far

An overview of three of the biggest albums released in 2022 so far.

Crash – Charli XCX

Throughout the album’s rollout, Charli XCX played up Crash as her biggest and best record yet, “[Turning] it up to high-octane, ten, pop-star level,” as she said. It would be larger than life, a new level for Charli. So, when the lead single, “Good Ones,” an everyday, top-40, lifeless prop was released, she was, for lack of more fitting words, absolutely torn apart by fans expecting the usual over-the-top and out-of-the-box Charli.

Listening to Crash feels like waiting to listen to a Charli album. “Crash” is the pop startup who might open for a Charli show, and drag on their set, making you wonder “Ok, when’s Charli? When’s Pink Diamond, and Vroom Vroom, and Next Level Charli!?”

Don’t get me wrong, the songs are still good. They’re fun, if average, pop songs. I especially like “Beg For You,” featuring Rina Sawayama, who makes everything she touches gold, and “Yuck,” my favorite song on the record, which is much more Doja Cat than Charli with pumping synth and a dramatic earworm chorus.

The thing is, I normally love Charli’s songs because only Charli could make them. She’s always a step ahead, with the rest of the pop world miles behind her. But on “Crash,” the songs I like, I would like if any artist sang them. I don’t get the Charli-factor she normally brings.

“Crash” is a nice pop record. From most other artists, I would consider it a good step in a clearly budding career, but from well-established Charli, with albums like “Pop2” and “How I’m Feeling Now” in her catalog, this is her first miss. Hopefully it will stay as her only miss, and she will continue blazing the pop path as she always has. 


Cholë and the next 20th century – Father John Misty

Enigmatic former-folk powerhouse Father John Misty was not someone on my list this year. He had a collaboration with Lana Del Rey, and while looking for that, I stumbled across masterpiece in disguise, Cholë and the Next 20th Century.

The album is just as inexplicable as its artist, it all seems to take place in a dream. The songs tell stories, but not in clean narratives (with the exception of “Goodbye, Mr. Blue”). The listener is given lines that allude to stories, characters, settings, and just as you think you might get it, Misty pulls the rug and the song ends.

This style doesn’t come off as cheap, or just bad songwriting though. It’s whimsical, and leaves listeners to make their own narratives about what tales the album is telling. Is it a tribute to classic love songs? Making an analogy between 20th century politics and today’s? Is it hopeful? Hopeless? Misty leaves just enough clues for the listener to get vague themes, but not enough for them to take away one clean narrative, which is very hard to pull off.

It appears nothing in this album happened by mistake. Every note is carefully dropped into place, and you can tell. The elegant and expansive instrumentals are movies in and of themselves, Misty brings out jazz, folk, blues, rock and once bossa nova, all together to craft his dreamscape.

I was instantly blown away by his smooth, clean cut voice in jazzy, hard-hitting “Buddy’s Rendezvous,” which compelled me to listen to the rest of the album, that unfortunately never lives up to the pristine craft of “Buddy’s,” but is certainly not a disappointment. 

The only song rivaling “Buddy’s,” and the most unpredictable of the album, is “The Next 20th Century.” It starts slow, with odd, unplaceable lyrics, and builds ever so slowly, strings ebbing and flowing like waves in an eerie tone. After the second verse, is what is possibly my favorite part of the album, an out of nowhere but perfectly slotted in guitar solo, dread invoking and grand, something a villain in a movie would walk in to. It fades as quick as it comes though, leaving you wondering if it was a mirage.

Cholë and the next 20th century will leave you stunned in all senses of the word. Starstruck and awestruck. Wanting more, but not feeling disappointed. I’m glad I stumbled my way into this album, and if you’re looking for a trip, I recommend you do too.


Laurel Hell – Mitski

A Laurel Hell is a dense thicket of laurel bushes. They look beautiful, and their flowers burst like fireworks. One might be lured to walk in and touch, and upon entering the thicket, find themselves trapped in the poisonous branches, never to leave. 

This idea of a “Laurel Hell” stuck with Mitski, and the idea of “I’m stuck inside this maze… I can’t get out, but it’s beautiful,” prompted her to name her 6th, and as it stands, final album, Laurel Hell. 

Dying trapped by beauty is an apt summary for “Laurel Hell”, Mitski sings over glam-y disco inspired instrumentals about losing herself, losing love, and finding comfort in darkness. 

“Working for the Knife” was the first single released for the album, and holds its weight well. It’s grand, and crushing, and Mitski’s quietly sad voice floats over her cutting lyrics and metallic, unforgiving instrumental, standing strong as a highlight on the album. 

All the singles, “The Only Heartbreaker,” “Heat Lightning,” “Love Me More,” and “Stay Soft” stand as highlights on the album, almost to a fault, seeing as they make up half the album with the other half being much more toned down. 

The heavy disco “Only Heartbreaker”, “Love Me More,” and “Stay Soft” particularly stand out, being the loudest, most upbeat on the album, and stealing quite a bit of the thunder from the rest, for example the timid “Everyone” and “I Guess” struggle to make their mark, “Valentine, Texas” and “There’s Nothing Left For You” are only saved by their forceful instrumental drops, and “Should’ve Been Me” falls to the wayside. The only non-single that really gets to me is the closer “That’s Our Lamp” Where Mitski dances among the roaring flames of a crumbling love. 

Overall, the album plays like an 80s horror movie, with Mitski singing like she’s avoiding the monster around the corner. It’s sinister and sorrowful, and might drag its feet a little, but is a maze you don’t want to escape from.