TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2012
10. Electric Guest – Mondo
Every year it seems like I can find less and less quality albums. And by albums, I mean a complete story from the first track to the last. All the albums on this list have more than a couple good tracks. They’re full albums. And starting off the list are Indie-pop rockers Electric Guest. With the help of producer Danger Mouse they created some of the most fun tracks by a new artist I heard all year. They made me dance with “This Head I Hold” and they slowed it down and had me feeling emotions Mariah Carey-style with tracks like “Amber” and “Troubleman”. A solid debut from a band with all the right industry connections.
9. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
One of the most talked about albums of 2012. One of my female friends from Ohio just doesn’t get Frank Ocean. I tried to explain to her that unlike other R&B lame-o’s, like Chris Brown and Ne-Yo, Frank Ocean talks to me. Not just sing some silly chorus, he actually talks to me. Like how soul singers in the 70’s would have interludes in the middle of their songs and literally talk to the listener. It’s a welcomed departure from the cheese on the radio. One of the most imaginative commercial R&B releases I’ve ever heard. Good shit Franky. And having John Mayer play guitar on a couple tracks doesn’t hurt your credibility.
If this album would’ve came out earlier this year, it might be higher on the list, cuz every time I give it a listen it climbs one notch higher. The psychedelic Australian rockers once again enlisted the help of super producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, MGMT) to help them deliver a solid Sophomore release. Lonerisms immediately garners comparisons to early Beatles and Beach Boys. Their sound is poppy, but experimental, rocking, yet electronic. It is one of the my favorite experiments in sound this year. Bridging the gap between an MGMT and sample-loving turntablists like RJD2 or DJ Shadow.
LA’s own Poolside definitely wins the crown of most talked about Socal DJs this year. Poolside was on everyone’s lips all year. KCRW’s music director Jason Bentley called their sound “Daytime Disco”, which is unbelievably fitting as they tore up every Rooftop Pool Party this summer. Their entire album fits in that space between dancey and loungey, which of course is one of my favorite moods when I’m lounging by the pool or behind the decks. One half of the group used to be in Guns N’ Bombs, so you know these guys can crank it up when they need to.
6. Santigold – Master of My Make Believe
I’m a huge Santigold fan and I’m hoping her sophomore release firmly plants her in the pop zeitgeist for a long while. She started as a talented A&R/Songwriter/Producer and has evolved into one of the most fun female artists on the block. She perfectly mixes dance, R&B, and indie the way no one else can. And has a sense of humor and style that I’ve only seen on Roisin Murphy. The only female ahead of her in the game right now would have to be M.I.A. I also have to tip my hat to former Major Lazer member Switch for doing a bang up job with producing a lot of this album. Here’s wishing that those two have a long, beautiful relationship.
5. Friends – Manifest!
I am very happy I got to see Friends play at the Echo earlier this year, because now I know they are a little bit more than a group of Friends making silly songs together. They want to make you dance. They want you to have fun. And they do it with great pop tracks that are only indie by association. Their music is so accessible, I’m surprised I haven’t heard it on 3 commercials yet. I tried to help them get placed on Ray-Ban’s last mixtape, but apparently they drive a hard bargain. I hope their stubbornness doesn’t prevent them from being the pop superstars I think they can be. Their debut reminds me a lot of CSS’s first effort, which seemed to work out pretty well for those Brazilians funksters.
I listened to a lot of the burgeoning Indie Dance that Empire of the Sun and the like have helped crossover to the mainstream. And of all the albums that I heard, Niki and the Dove’s debut was the most complete. The Swedish trio is blessed with a chameleonic lead singer who can channel Stevie Nicks or Heart and then go do her own thing like on the tracks “The Fox” or “The Drummer”. It makes sense that a band from Sweden would make the best indie dance album of the year, their country damn near specializes in female-lead Indie pop (that and meatballs). Like Robyn, the Cardigans, and Little Dragon before them, Niki and the Dove show everyone else how it’s done. I’m sure the US is paying close attention.
3. Oddisee – People Hear What They See
EASILY my favorite discovery of 2012. If Oddisee would have put all his best work on one album, there is no doubt he would have been #1 on this list. But unfortunately most of his best songs were on his Odd Renditions EP. And I get it, those samples would have been too expensive to clear and put on an album. But what we get is still a very solid album from my favorite newcomer this year. People Hear What They See is a better Common album than Common has been able to put out in the last 5 years+. His flows are clever and carefully crafted. He might only have the #3 album of the year, but he made more great music than anyone else in 2012.
Yeah yeah, this came out in 2011, but I missed it ok! It got released late last year and I didn’t give it my full attention until after I made my Best of 2011 list. But I’m glad I missed it because 2012 was the year of Pusha. He did all his hard work in 2011 (appearances on MTV, Coachella w/ Kanye, and cameos on HBO’s How to Make It in America) and got to sit back and watch as everyone marveled at how great he is. After dropping his twin brother Malice and going solo, Pusha found a new best friend in Kanye West and can be found all over Ye’s G.O.O.D. Music mixtape Cruel Summer. He’s also found himself atop the rap Totem Pole in my opinion. Yes, I am saying that right now Pusha T is the best rapper out! He comes with a scorching hot verse every time he steps up to the mic. Even his one off “Exodus 23:1” had people buzzing earlier this summer. CRS is the super group of Kanye, Pharrell, and Lupe Fiasco. I would love to see Lupe get the boot and be replaced by Pusha mother fucking T. No one would be able to knock that group off the Throne.
I’m as shocked as you are, but I’ve always been an Usher fan. I can go back to the days of “Call Me a Mack” from the Poetic Justice Soundtrack in 1993. He did kind of lose me along the way with cheesy tracks like “Moving Mountains” and “Burn”, and though there are some love ballads on this album, they are few and far between. Usher’s well-documented love of electro is in full force on this album as he enlisted the help of Diplo and Swedish House Mafia. The entire album is a great listen all the way through with singles like “Climax”, “Scream”, and “Lemme See”, and the hidden gem “What Happened to U” which has been my theme song all damn year. Maybe this is coming in at #1 because I am just impressed to see a pop artist deliver something so impressive. Not since JT’s FutureSex/LoveSounds have I felt so satisfied with a mainstream pop album. And I thought pop was lacking big time this year. But Usher is here to save the day.
“Now do that dance I taught you.” – She’s All That