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Radio Milwaukee’s favorite albums of 2022, part two: 10-1

Welcome to the second installment of our top albums from the past year. The rundown below takes you all the way to number one, so if you missed the other half of the list, you can catch up on albums 20-11 right here.

10. Pre Pleasure , Julia Jacklin

There’s a special type of lyrical flow Julia Jacklin provides in her third album, fragments of confessions you can only find buried deep in your Notes app. This is clear in her song “ Moviegoer,” when she bumps into a stranger, and they both naturally apologize. “If you can say it to a stranger / You can call your sister later.” 

When I think of my top albums of the year, I pay close attention to the first and final tracks, which introduce you to the artist's world and dare you to come back. Those tracks for Jacklin — “Lydia Wears a Cross” and “ End of a Friendship” — revolve around friendship. Or maybe her memories of those past friendships. It feels like not enough is intentionally said on this album. Pre Pleasure seems to be about holding on to the feeling before it vanishes and becomes a tossed-away memory.

— Salam Fatayer

9. Fear of the Dawn , Entering Heaven Alive , Jack White

It all started one day when I heard this amazing song that was a stripped-down, punked-up take on Delta Blues. I was so curious and wondered who the band was that caught my instant attention, and it was Jack White (then of The White Stripes).

When I first heard “Taking Me Back,” the lead single off Fear of the Dawn, I knew this album had that “it” factor. It made me stop what I was doing and believe in the power of rock and roll again. Then came the next sensation “What’s the trick?” — an amazing explosion of rejection of anything and everything and a commitment to a better future. 

Fear of the Dawn has a lot of that boisterous guitar action and brims with bonkers solos. Then you have White’s second album of this year, Entering Heaven Alive, which is a completely different animal altogether, with more laid-back, subdued acoustic work that shows his softer side.

What can I say about White’s creative genius? Thanks to these two albums, I don’t need to say anything.

— Jen Ellis

8. Wet Leg , Wet Leg

When Wet Leg released " Chaise Longue" in 2021, it became an insta-hit (and, at the time of writing this, has over 37 million plays on Spotify alone). The accented deadpan from Isle of Wight residents Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers sidles up against an unassuming drum machine paired with snaky bass and guitar lines. On first listen, it felt like classic slacker rock and dance-punk at its most refreshing and digestible (like, as the song says, “a pack of warm beer that we can consume"). 

Beyond "Chaise Longue," Wet Leg is a playful, energetic album built on spicy language, corny jokes, terrible relationships and plain old depression; all this and more gets amped up under a dance-punk lens that would feel plainly genre-nostalgic if its generators weren't so young. These jittery ditties are authentically nostalgic in other forms, holding the hands of the hedonism and existentialism specific to one's early 20s. 

— Erin Wolf

7. Natural Brown Prom Queen , Sudan Archives (Element)

On Natural Brown Prom Queen, Sudan Archives explores artistry in her own way. She has all the swagger of a Beyoncé and the unsuspecting visuals of an ultra-creative like Jean Dawson.  

She begins the album by asking, “Do you know what you like? Do you care what you be thinking?” before moving to the song “ Ciara,” which gives you all the feels of a Saturday night freeway drive, headed home lit from a girl’s night out, and everything has gone right.

Sudan’s entire album is a renegade’s anthem for music lovers and creatives alike. On her song “ Loyal,” she lightly croons while asking the listener to “Tell me I’m conceded. Tell me you don’t want me, and I’ll be happy.” She makes no apologies for her rebellious nature. On this album, she proudly boasts in her melanin defiance and artistry.

Nothing displays this more than the video for “Selfish Soul.” At one point, she is surrounded by a group of muddy black women while screaming into the camera: “I don’t want no troubles, I don’t want no fear.” She can then be seen playing the violin upside down on an exotic dancer’s pole.  On the title track, “ NBPQ (Topless),” she delivers the perfect line to describe the listening experience for this album: “I’m not average.”

— Element Everest-Blanks

6. Once Twice Melody , Beach House

Beach House has a mystic allure that ceases to dull, and Once Twice Melody is no exception. The band has a knack for creating sonic, shape-shifting utopias that encourage you to release your grip on reality and give in to the experience. 

The album is a blissful treat, a maternal inner dialogue, an illusory, ascendent trip drenched in nostalgia. Imagine a pinball machine, more meaty than mechanical, swallowing you up and juggling you around your glowing memories with a euphoric grace. Still with me? Great.

It’s a recipe to get delightfully lost in. Take it from Victoria Legrand herself, who — at her own show, amidst her heap of curly hair — rose up from her keyboard after playing a song, and with a jolted haste admitted, “I’m so sorry, I forgot where I was!”

Once Twice Melody is heavy — not in a brutal way, but in a complete way that cathartically balances intentionality and spontaneity. That balance is exactly what attracts me to Beach House. They’re clever in their lyricism, and understand the symbiosis of words and instrumentation. They know how to evocatively describe moments that are difficult to assign words to. And in instances where words are futile, the music carries the message through. I could listen to this album once, twice, ten thousand times over.

— Erin Bagatta

5. Gemini Rights , Steve Lacy

Steve Lacy’s sophomore album came out kicking and screaming in July of this past year. A surefire soundtrack for summer, Gemini Rights rightfully earned its spot at the top of the Billboard charts for three weeks straight. With a modern take on a classic post-breakup album, Lacy interrogates things from all angles, taking us on an emotional rollercoaster laced with fluid guitar work and raw storytelling.

The album has broad appeal to listeners both young and old, weaving nostalgic notes of funk with a personal psychedelic twist. Despite its broad appeal, the album and particularly Lacy’s track “Bad Habit” became a Gen Z anthem, popularized mostly through Tiktok. I’ve had my eye on Lacy since his debut EP in 2017, and it’s safe to say he did not disappoint.

— Mallorey Wallace

4. Un Verano Sin Ti , Bad Bunny

Crashing waves hitting the fine sand on a lush beach in Puerto Rico. The singing of the gaviota birds soaring in the sky while attempting to cut through the thick humid air of Vega Baja. Deep vocal tones punching through small crowds of the La Perla venues as a young budding artist. That’s the scene set in the first 15 seconds of “ Moscow Mule” from Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti (“A Summer Without You”). 

Bad Bunny started becoming a permanent fixture in my circle around 2016 with the Trap Latino release “ Soy Peor.” Could I envision El Conjeo Malo gracing Billboard Magazine’s cover as 2022’s artist of the year? Was it even possible for an all-Spanish language album in the genre to be up for album of the year at this years’ Grammys? No, but I will say, I AM HERE FOR IT ALL! 

Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio carries our island on his shoulders with grace, love and respect. He understands the origins from which the genre came and isn’t afraid to stand alongside his PEOPLE who grow increasingly frustrated with the government taking advantage of the native islanders, as seen in the video for “El Apagón – Aquí Vive Gente.”

Un Versno Sin Ti is unapologetically, fun, sexual, alive, sad, playful, upbeat, flavorful, smart and Boricua AF! That is why this release is my favorite album of the year.

— Kenny Perez

3. 11 , SAULT

Definitely a personal favorite of the five albums and two EPs SAULT released this year, (wow). The album makes such good use of the instrument not often considered an instrument: the human voice. It’s given equal importance within the symphony of the album’s orchestration and not simply a driver of melody. 

This isn’t universal in the album, however. Songs like “Fight for Love” do have more typical structures. As in previous projects, SAULT mainly pulls from funk and neo-soul to craft these melodies, but those are hardly the limit of styles that influence this album. The non-traditional approach allows the music to breathe in ways that are both simple and grand. 

11 is an ambitious album that doesn’t give up its secrets quickly or, thankfully, not quietly. SAULT’s new one might be a masterpiece but is definitely a must-listen!

— Marcus Doucette

2. Renaissance , Beyoncé

Beyonce’s album cover for her seventh and latest album is just as she is — strong and inspiring … and just as appealing as the music inside. My favorite tracks include "Cuff It," "Energy" and, obviously, "Break My Soul," where she samples the 1993 hit song from Robin S., "Show Me Love." It’s a feel-good album, needed when our world experiences so much negativity.

The album nods to old-school house music, pop, funk, hip-hop, jazz and top 40. It appeals to all. It is, truly, a Renaissance. It's also different from your typical Beyoncé sound, which is so "dope." She was "in her bag" with this one. If you want to dance, this is the album for you — one that could easily make it in the club, and have everyone smiling and feeling hopeful.

— Chris Alexander

1. Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers , Kendrick Lamar

I realize true love is about saving face / But unconditionally / When will you let me go? / I trust you find independence / If not, then all is forgiven / Sorry, I didn’t save the world my friend / I was too busy building mine again / I choose me, I’m sorry

It’s hard to create a body of work that can impress itself upon the masses and make an impact.

But, when the world is going through a deadly pandemic, “universal” becomes an unforgiving and unyielding reality. Over the last two years, many of us replaced the walls we built with mirrors and spotlights. We had to look at each other, but most importantly we had to look at ourselves.

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers was Kendrick Lamar’s diary or journal of self-discovery, grief, trauma, toxicity, pride, racism, family, love … choice. But this album wasn’t a selfish gift to listeners; it was presented simply to explore Kendrick’s personal journey and his perspective of Black life and generational curses. 

This album was universal because it was also a challenge — a provocation to listeners to finally sit down, be honest, bare their souls and stop looking to others as idols. To think critically. To love. To give grace. To silence the noise and to work on yourself. 

Because the outcome of all that hard work is freedom.

— Kim Shine