TOP 10 ALBUMS of 2012
1. Kendrick Lamar // good kid, m.A.A.d city
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is the second studio album by American hip hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar released on October 22, 2012. The concept album follows the story of a young Lamar growing up in Compton, California, while including skits at the end of several tracks that relate to the story of the album. It is referred to as a “short film by Kendrick Lamar” on the album cover. The album’s concept narrates a teenage Kendrick borrowing his mother’s van to visit a girl named Sherane and experiencing the Compton gang lifestyle with his friends, then entering reality after the death of a friend during a shoot-out.
Channel Orange is the debut studio album of American singer-songwriter Frank Ocean, released on July 10. An R&B and neo soul album, Channel Orange has an unconventional musical style, film-inspired segue tracks, and influences from electro-funk, pop-soul, jazz-funk, and psychedelic music. Its songs are characterized by unconventional melodies, spatial arrangements, mid-tempo beats, and instruments such as electronic keyboards, muted percussion, and shifting synthesizers. Ocean’s songwriting explores themes of unrequited love, sex, decadence, class, and drugs with empathic lyrics, surrealistic imagery, conversational devices, and descriptive narratives depicting dark characters. His subtle baritone singing on the album exhibits free-form flow and alternating falsetto and tenor registers.
Lonerism is the second album by Australian psychedelic rock band Tame Impala released on 5 October 2012. Lonerism is far more abstract, fluid, and resplendent than its predecessor, Innerspeaker. Where the debut broke its sound into episodic chunks, Tame Impala now finds a singular sound in the cross-section of timeless pop and psychedelia. Structurally, Kevin Parker swaps out intricate guitar lines for phased-out flutters and intense swaths of warmth, and leans heavily on soaring analog synths, crisp piano plunks, and a percussive march. Apart, these components aren’t particularly inventive, but Parker threads them together in an unpredictable and immaculately produced bundle, topped with his lovely, melodious tenor.
Kill for Love is the fourth studio album by American electronic music band Chromatics, released on March 26, 2012. Chromatics operate in a brand of indie electronica borrowing heavily from the italo-disco and no-wave of the past to craft retrospective, moody alternative pop. Less danceable and synthy than his work with label-mates Glass Candy, Kill for Love is a rigid, cinematic piece marked by sturdy, motoric melodies and a sense of late night sombre moodiness.
Visions is the third studio album by Canadian recording artist Grimes, released on January 31, 2012. Visions is like audio dark choclate: At times bitter, sort of sweet, but on the whole you can’t deny that this is satisfying stuff. There are a lot of familar sounds here: Some elements of The Knife, Lykke Li, Fever Ray, Glasser, and Dream pop. But the way the parts are put together makes for a sound that is 100% her own. She creates songs that are in a realm where listeners don’t know if they should dance or chill out to it in a bean bag chair.
This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Grimes’ music follows in the footsteps of artists such as Bjork and Kate Bush in its inaccessability. But in contrast to those artists, Boucher blends her vocals in to the background. Her lyrics don’t seem to be so much about expressing an idea as they are about adding to the enigmatic atmosphere of the lush synths. It works. This album is a hazy dream that is as hard to describe as it is to wake up from.
The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, frequently abridged as The Idler Wheel…, is the fourth studio album by Fiona Apple released on June 19, 2012. Fiona Apple’s instrumentation has always been minimal, usually consisting of pianos, bass guitars, drumkits, and a few other accompanying session players. This album however, feels bare-bones. While critics of Extraordinary Machine point to the album’s production interfering with Apple’s original intention, The Idler Wheel… feels like an open response to it. It feels like everything unnecessary has been stripped back until the only thing left is raw emotion and artistic intuition. Compare this with Extraordinary Machine, an album that sounded slick, polished, and glossy. This album isn’t always pretty, but it sure is powerful. While she’s never been known for her shyness, The Idler Wheel… feels like her most confident and sure-handed album to date.
Coexist is the second studio album by English indie pop group The xx, released on 5 September 2012. For Coexist, The xx drew on the electronic dance music that occurred when they were away on tour in 2010. It was produced by group member Jamie xx, who had pursued electronic dance on other projects and developed as a DJ prior to the album.
The album features a minimalist musical style with spatial arrangements, loose song structure, little dynamism, and experimentation with tension. Its songs are characterized by sparse elements such as simple chord progression, sketchy guitar patterns, slight grooves, keyboard ostinatos, and fading motifs. Jamie xx’s production incorporates both programmed beats and live percussion instruments. Thematically, Coexist is about heartbreak, loneliness, and intimacy. Croft and Sim’s lyrics address a failing relationship and changes in a romance with inner monologues and simple metaphors.
Kin is the audiovisual debut album by electronic music project iamamiwhoami, pseudonym of Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee. It was released on 11 June 2012. In the past two years, Iamamiwhoami has surprised, delighted and intrigued in equal measure. Beautiful and mysterious music videos began to appear online, both surreal and visually sumptuous.
Kin’s defining sound is surging, synth led and layered with Lee’s typically charismatic Swedish vocals high-pitched, fey, and impeccably melodious. Flowing smoothly through playful and jubilant to more sinister, pulsing, and tense, her ear for an arresting arrangement is matched only by her flair for surprising you with a dramatic change from one track to the next without it ever feeling contrived or jarring.
Bloom is the fourth studio album by Baltimore-based dream pop duo Beach House, which was released on May 15, 2012. Like all great sequels, Bloom takes what worked before and intensifies it, lining up humming synthesizers, luminous guitar tones, and intricate human and digital percussion to create an even more alluring package. Of the numerous bands now revisiting the neon ’80s, Beach House—with Chris Coady, returning on production duties—deserves credit for constructing the most unmistakable sonic identity.
DIIV is the project of Z. Cole Smith, musical provocateur and frontman of an atmospheric and autumnally-charged new Brooklyn four-piece.
With their debut album Oshin, released on June 25, 2012, DIIV craft a sound that is at once familial and frost-bitten. Indebted to classic kraut, dreamy psychedelia, and the primitive-crunch of late-80s, the band walk a divisive yet perfectly fused patch of classic-underground influence.
10 Honorable Mentions
- Grizzly Bear // Shields
- Miguel // Kaleidoscope Dream
- Bat For Lashes // The Haunted Man
- Japandroids // Celebration Rock
- Flying Lotus // Until the Quiet Comes
- Dirty Projectors // Swing Lo Magellan
- Chairlift // Something
- Purity Ring // Shrines
- Alt-J // An Awesome Wave
- Jessie Ware // Devotion
TOP 10 TRACKS of 2012
- Frank Ocean // Pyramids
- Kendrick Lamar // Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe
- Miguel // Adorn
- Jai Paul // Jasmine
- Grimes // Oblivion
- Tame Impala // Feels Like We Only Go Backwords
- Beach House // Lazuli
- Chromatics // Lady
- Chairlift // I Belong In Your Arms
- DIIV // Doused
TOP 10 REMIXES of 2012
- Fleetwood Mac // Dreams (Psychemagik Remix)
- Of Monsters and Men // Little Talks (Passion Pit Remix)
- Elite Gymnastics // Here, in Heaven 4&5 (CFCF Remix)
- Ultraísta // Smalltalk (Four Tet Remix)
- Sufjan Stevens // Futile Devices (Shigeto Remix)
- Shlohmo // Rained the Whole Time (Nicolas Jaar Remix)
- Tame Impala // Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix)
- Chromatics // Birds of Paradise (Amtrac Remix)
- Yuna // Lullabies (Adventure Club Remix)
- Bon Iver // Perth (Teen Daze Remix)