This past year was sort of odd for me musically. The albums I was looking forward to were mostly disappointments. No Doubt's PUSH AND SHOVE and Garbage's NOT YOUR KIND OF PEOPLE had their high points, but failed to recapture their mid-90's awesomeness. The top artists with the biggest hits, continued to bore me and I got the most enjoyment from artists that were either fairly new (Frank Ocean, Rye Rye), or had been around but I was discovering them for the first time (Gossip, The Presets, Miranda Lambert). Either way here are the top 5 albums that I most thoroughly enjoyed in 2012 and some highlights from other ones that are still worth giving a listen.
1. A JOYFUL NOISE - Gossip
This has to be as close to a perfect pop record as you can get. On their wonderful previous album MUSIC FOR MEN they went a bit slicker and poppier than their early records, but their evolution to a more pop sound is more fully realized on this record. The raw emotion, song craft and gorgeous arrangements are what a good pop record should be so their rock roots give it just the right edge (Think: Hole's CELEBRITY SKIN). Slick and beautifully crafted. It's soulful, danceable pop at its finest.
Download: Get a Job/ Move in the Right Direction/ A Perfect World
2. THE IDLER WHEEL . . . - Fiona Apple
Fiona, our feisty, thoughtful heroine has done it again albeit a bit differently this time. The expressive strings and whining horns of TIDAL and EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE are replaced with more of the the pounding piano we heard on WHEN THE PAWN... and she threw in some stripped down percussion as well, creating a musical style as stripped-down as her naked lyrics.
Download: Anything We Want/ Jonathan/ Hot Knife
3. CHANNEL ORANGE - Frank Ocean
A delicately crafted hip-hop gem of an album. After his previous mixtape NOSTALGIA/ULTRA showed off his eclectic mix of rock/hip-hop/r&b Ocean took it to the next level with his major label debut. Guest spots by the likes of Andre 3000, John Mayer and his Odd Future cohort Earl Sweatshirt never dim the shine of the man at the center. His announcement about his sexuality is at once poignant and rendered irrelevant.
Download: Sweet Life/ Pyramids/ Bad Religion
4. FOUR THE RECORD - Miranda Lambert
Technically it was released in 2011, but it was too late in the year to make an impact and make the list. In 2012, it's been on repeat on my iPod all year. Taking the baton from her plucky country fore-mothers like Loretta Lynn, Lambert has crafted a beautiful set of tunes showing off both her sweet and sour sides and making her all the more relatable in the process.
Download: Mama's Broken Heart/ Baggage Claim/ Fine Tune
5. GO! POP! BANG! - Rye Rye
The plucky 22 year-old rapper has been putting out material since she was in high school and this, her debut album, consists of some of those singles in addition to some newly recorded material. It all adds up to a bouncy, club-banging, burst of energy that is more than welcome among the boring rehashing of dance/pop clogging up the Top 40. The only misstep is DNA, which feels too familiar.
Download: Drop/ Hotter/ Boom Boom
PACIFICA - The Presets
BLUNDERBUSS - Jack White
THE MAGIC HOUR - Scissor Sisters
FANTASEA - Azealia Banks
TRILOGY - The Weeknd
KALEIDOSCOPE DREAM - Miguel
1. Move in the Right Direction - Gossip
2. Let's Have a Kiki - Scissor Sisters
3. Sweet Life - Frank Ocean
4. Some Nights - Fun.
5. Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye
6. Love Interruption - Jack White
7. Ghosts - The Presets
8. Gold on the Ceiling - The Black Keys
9. Gangnam Style - Psy
10. Adorn - Miguel
11. Boom Boom -Rye Rye
12. Baggage Claim - Miranda Lambert
13. Anything We Want - Fiona Apple
14. Beez in the Trap - Nicki Minaj
15. I Hate Love - Garbage
16. Settle Down - No Doubt
17. Shady Love - Scissor Sisters
18. Big Mouth - Santigold
19. My Kinda Love - Emeli Sandé
20. My Fault - Imagine Dragons