This is it people, the pinnacle of human musical achievement, in our last year as a species. According to dead Mayans and crazy dudes on Fulton Street that dress like sultans—the world is over. These are the last bits or human music to make it out into space before our whole planet goes the way of Krypton.
On our list we have the 50 best albums of the last year. A bunch of the music you cried, partied, and got laid to through the year. More importantly, there's bound to be music you somehow missed through the year, that might give you comfort through the long wintery apocalypse those dudes from Apocalypto
told us was coming.
Maybe you wanna go out with some on the nose doom laden riffs—we got that. Perhaps you having an end of the world party and need some ass shaking anthems—those are on deck too. We've got every mood, genre, and possible style covered. The only thing not on the list are albums/mixtapes we put out; because, our journalistic integrity is widely known to be unfuckwithable. So run through the list, add anything we missed in the comments, shoutout your your favorites, and find new music to take you through the end of days.
A few notes on our list this year. We opted to just include LPs and EPs together in formulating our top 50 releases
for the year. We also excluded every single release we personally put out
. (So please artists we released don't send us angry emails and tweets!!!) It just wouldn't have been fair, especially considering they'd have made up like half the list! Jokes. Well sorta not, 'cause in all seriousness we're pretty proud of the albums we got out to the world and will be doing a look back on them in the coming weeks. But for now we wanted to give you our 50 favorites that we just had nothing at all to do with. And with that said here.we.go... well here we go after the jump that is.
Best of the Bloglin 2012: The Top 50 Albums
50. SpaceGhostPurrp - Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp
The official first full length from Spaceghostpurrp. Mixing new tracks, with redone versions of old songs from the NASA
tape, God of Black
and Blackland 66.6
. Murky ass rap that sounds like the best of mid nineties Houston and Memphis rap, swirled through the gateway to hell—Florida. Because it’s an official release, on a real label, the songs are all mastered and the sound quality is on point. Unfortunately that also means, Purrps trademark Mortal Kombat samples are stripped out due to legal issues. Surprisingly, the missing Mortal Kombat samples make a big difference.
49. Traxman - Da Mind of Traxman
Footwork/Juke music is known for being hyperactive and incredibly energetic. It's the music kids in Chicago made to facilitate dances that look a lil like Riverdance and a dude hallucinating an army of fire ants attacking him. How could it be anything but high energy? Despite the high BPMs, pounding bass, and stuttering chopped up vocals, Traxman has made an almost relaxing juke record.
Da Mind of Traxman
features a lot of jazz samples and a mood that's energized but kind of sophisticated at the same time. If you're teaching a footwork dance class at the retirement home, this might be the record you've been waiting for.
48. Main Attrakionz – Bossalinis & Fooliyones
The two man horror show from the Bay come through with their first "official" full length Bossalinis and Fooliyones
. It's full of the same confessional, real life struggles raps as their previous mixtapes, but features smother and more melodic production from the likes of Harry Fraud.
If you like the coolin' vibe Curren$y and old Wiz Khalifa had, but wished they had something to rap about other than weed, look no further.
47. The-Drum - Heavy Liquid EP
It's a big part of the zeitgeist right now to wistfully remember the 90s as an unheralded age of prosperity and kitschy, day glow innocent fun. Cross Colors overalls, Netscape chic computer graphics, and Bill Clinton playing saxophone on Arsenio Hall—beautifully nostalgic. Heavy Liquid
throws back to the R&B of the era without the rose colored glasses.
The-Drum distort the rhythms and building blocks of your favorite shirtless-dude-singing-in-the-rain ballads into something darker, ethereal, and more sinister, but still danceable. An album perfect for a late night creep, on that late night creep.
46. Men In Burka - S/T
Did you hear that Punjabi MC song with Jay-Z back in the early 00's and got real excited that "world music" was finally making a splash in the American pop cultural landscape? Did you hear M.I.A's "Galang" a few years later and think that soon there were gonna be a whole genre of artists merging exotic rhythms and sonds with pop music tropes? Were you wildly disappointed when that never actually happened?
Men In Burka's self-titled album is the release that fufils the promise of those songs, blending the bounce of modern rap and dance music with the instrumentation of various Eastern musics. Bump this in your system in the convenience store parking lot, become the most worldly loiterer this side of Dubai.
45. Hot Sugar - MiDi Murder EP
Rap bangers, that are constructed with the meticulousness and attention to detail of a 90s IDM song—that's MiDi Murder
. There's features from the likes of Antwon, Heems, and 100s on this EP of songs that bump and bounce all over the place on initial listen, and reveal careful intricate sampling of everyday objects on repeated listens.
Dudes that talk about John Cage a lot during rap related college classes will be talking about this one for years. Girls that smoke a lot weed in college and set their iTunes to random while they get ready to go out will be playing this one for years.
44. Code Orange Kids - Love Is Love//Return To Dust
Eighteen year olds from Pittsburgh make fast, angry hardcore in the vein of Trap Them, Converge, and Trash Talk. Put everything you love about modern D.I.Y, play a show in a basement, sleep on some dude's floor, hardcore is on this album.
Blast beats, sludge parts, somber melodies and dual vocal attacks abound. Perfect for jaded, aging hardcore fans, and newcomers that want a taste of how powerful the genre can be.
43. Amber London - 1994 EP
We've reached the point that the lil kids running around on the set of early Dre, Eazy E and Mac Dre videos are now putting out albums that sound like early Dre, Eazy E and Mac Dre. 90s rap revivalism, for the 90s rap that wasn't immediately revered. Amber London is the Eve to the Raider Klan's Ruff Ryders, but has a flow that's closer to a more pissed off Gangsta Boo.
Dudes crease your dickies, ladies dress like Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice—it's 1994 again.
42. White Car - Everyday Grace
[Hippos In Tanks
Slip Everyday Grace
into your 80's playlist, experience strangely sensual feelings. White Car's Everyday Grace
is an album that touches on the minimal synth sounds of the mid to late 80s. Everything ranging from androgynously erotic pop songs—what's up Bowie—to songs that would've been entirely appropriate at parties in the lower east side where adventurous yuppies did coke, with "artists" in Kabooki makeup named Stab. But, in 1988, not now.
Relive an era you were born too late to actually experience, but have fetishized through shitty music videos and stories your cool aunt that "used to be a lesbian" tells you when she gets drunk.
41. Purity Ring - Shrines
"Trap music" has a big surge this year, as if the world just realized that classic Three 6 Mafia, Young Jeezy and T.I production was the type of shit you could murder an entire club to. So people turned those 808 drums and sped up hi hats into rave music and a "new" genre was born—congrats bro. On Shrines
, Purity Ring took the trap to the forest, took the block to Iceland.
If you ever wondered what a Bjork album circa 2001 would've sounded like as produced by Mannie Fresh, DJ Toomp and Shawty Redd this is your new favorite album. The lyrics are just north of nonsensical poetry and the music sounds like someone put a pixie in the booth. Turn the beat down, turn the magic up, she's about to go in.
40. Prince Rama - Top Ten Hits of the End of the World
Maybe you go to NYU, and you're at some "art space" to watch two girls in shitty DIY costumes perform some new songs, but for the first time in history it doesn't suck. Maybe, you just picked an album out of a garage sale because the cover looks insane and perfect, in the way only bad European 80s design can. Surprisingly, the songs have just the right amount of hi-NRG dance cheese and hooks that get lodged in your brain.
Maybe, you just got this Prince Rama record which channels every amazing Eurovision band I've ever come across on YouTube into one album of overly dramatic, four on the floor, pop dance explosions. Suggested for women that dance primarily by swinging their hair around and striking drag queen poses, and the men that love them.
39. Vatican Shadow - Ornamented Walls
Drony electronic music that will inevitably be used as background tunes to indoctrinate future sleeper agent CIA assassins. Dark moods and knods to Muslimguaze abound on Dominick Fernow's "official" full-length as Vatican Shadow, Ornamented Walls
, yet it's a comforting listen in a strange way.
Never been in a German sex cub, but wouldn't be surprised if a gimp told me this album was his everything right now. If you prefer your architecture brutalist and your music cold, with hints of totalitarianism in the drum programming, this is your album of the year.
38. Grimes - Visions
Despite her most prominent video featuring a bunch of heads that look like The Rave fought The Renaissance fair and everyone lost, Grimes' Visions
is a surprisingly delicate and catchy pop album. Think of the days when Madonna and Cyndi Lauper were on equal footing, think of synthetic futurism, think of music that sounds like it was made entirely by women with identical pixie haircuts.
Imagine Tinkerbell was real, and she got way into John Hughes movies—Molly Ringwald era—and then dropped an album entirely in tribute to that vibe. Yes, fictional faeiries can have Soundcloud accounts, yes you want to listen to this when you need non prescription mood elevation.
37. Heems - Nehru Jackets
The closest you'll ever get to Heems from Das Racist making a straight rap album. Swing back to 90s NY rap with dude as he raps about broads, drugs, and the city. Yeah, that's what every 90s rap album is about, but not every 90s rap album refers to women as "womyn"—shoutout the only(?) rappers to ever come out of Weslyean. This is not every 90s rap album.
Features from the likes of Danny Brown, Despot, Childish Gambino, and Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire. This is one you could play around your cousin that sells weed for a living without him calling you a "raging homo." Actually, no that'll still happen.
36. Cut Hands - Black Mamba
I heard you're making a documentary about industry in Africa, amazing my dude. Yo, do you need an album of African rhythms and percussion, filtered through a lens of industrial music and noise bands? I got the latest from William Bennett's Cut Hands, Black Mamba
on deck, I really think it would be a great soundtrack for the film, you know, assuming it's not too on the nose.
The album is equal parts drony and festive, with a heavy soundtrack vibe, which is very appropriate for the subject matter. What's that, you're gonna use some Phil Collins instead, word, that's appropriate too.
35. John Maus - A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material
Collections of b-sides and unreleased materials are usually the type of thing reserved for bands trying to fulfill contractual album agreements, and record companies trying to bleed a band's catalog dry. At the very best, they're really only necessary for dudes who are thinking about getting said band's logo tattooed on them. So how the hell did one make it as one of our top albums of the year? Because it's that good and seamlessly plays as full and cohesive album. John Maus' A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material
breaks that streak and make it as one of our top albums of the year.
How? Because it works as a cohesive album of synth jams and not a smattering of spare parts. While many of these tracks have been around for a while to die hard Maus fans, they're freshly remastered here and perfectly curated into what is one of Maus' finest releases. If I were to buy David Lynch a record for Christmas this year, it'd be this.
34. Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction
Music for viking funerals. Songs to play as you pilot a ship across the northern Atlantic ocean from Europe to Greenland. Music that sounds like mortal combat with a snowbeast, known simply as The Old One. Songs that studies have shown promote beard growth. Preferred music for candlelit seances. Slow. Doomy. Sludgy. Metal. Makes old Sabbath sound like new Metallica.
Easily head and shoulders this year's best Doom Metal release. Hands down.
33. Nite Jewel - One Second Love
Homegirl in Nite Jewel's got them hooks, drapped over synths. Very powerful, yet ethereal vocals with backing tracks that sound like the best bits of synth driven New Wave. Get that one woman, underwear dance party I've heard so much about going. Then slow it down and feel those emotions over sparse tracks that remind you that we all die alone.
Don't worry though, there's more danceable tracks than depressive empty ones. Hopefully that's a metaphor for how your life turns out.
32. TNGHT - S/T EP
Kanye coined the term "stadium rap" to cover his personal brand of super anthemic, self aggrandizing songs. For the most part, it's been a solid fit for his later era music. TNGHT's brand of EDM influenced new wave crunk music is on a very similar wave.
Think of the hardest Southern rap productions, stripped of vocals, sped up and blasted out of giant amplifiers and you're pretty close to where the TNGHT EP lives. It's all the manic energy of older shit like jungle and breakbeat, but without the need to be on mind numbing drugs to appreciate it.
31. Chairlift - Something
Back in the old days, if a band was lucky their album would have 2 or 3 songs on it that could be strong hits. Get some radio play, sell some singles, get stuck in people's heads. Profit. Now, if a band is lucky they'll have a couple songs that could be in commercials. You need some songs that are infectious, hooky, and in less than 30 seconds convey an entire mood.
has a bunch of potential commercials on it. This is an album of catchy, electro pop songs that have just enough art school gravitas to turn four minute long pop song into a compelling experience that actually rewards repeated listens.
30. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
Ariel Pink continue to make the best album of 1973, that was actually released in 2012. There's tons of fuzzy guitar, trippy effects, angular guitar lines, and choruses about shit like "time warps" on Mature Themes
. Take a lil Bowie, some of the weirder Beatles joints, and some Zappa, throw em in a blender and you've got a pretty good base for this record.
This is an album that would optimally be listened to on vinyl in a wood paneled basement, with the optional lava lamp. If they get hologram Frank Zappa to go on tour, we know who'll be opening.
29. Action Bronson & Party Supplies - Blue Chips
Action Bronson raps really well about being a low life. Party Supplies makes really great beats that make Bronson's descriptions of whores, fine foods, and despicable humans sound like a world we all want to frequent. The album is based around the standard NY boom bap you expect from Bronson, but Party Supplies subtly classes up the proceedings with touches like the violins at the beginning of "Pouches of Tuna."
It's like when you splurge on a girlfriend experience from a hooker instead of just getting the normal hourly rate. You still get the sex, but the small details make the experience a lot better.
28. Mushy - Breathless
Are you a 1990s Goth obsessed with depressive 80's music? Do you go to your local graveyard and listen to the The Cure while writing Edgar Allen Poe influenced poetry under a large tree? Probably not, it's 2012 they don't really make that kid anymore. You however, might have been that kid at one point or, are now sympathetic to that broad's taste in music. If so, you need to check out Breathless
Mushy's second album exist entirely in a depressive haze populated by jangly guitars, John Carpenter synths, muted 808 drums, and her pained siren call. This is the perfect music for long drives at night, where you're depressed and for a second think you see a ghost that looks like a girl you once knew in the fog.
27. Silent Servant - Negative Function
Chain smoke a bunch of cigarettes while you sit in your car, staking out the apartment of a dude that owes you a couple of grand. Take a bunch of amphetamines so you can stay up all night and ride the subway disguised as a homeless dude. Trail a cab driver for a night, because, he might inadvertently lead you to the hide out of the dude that snitched on the triads. Be a real scummy white dude that doesn't look like he's shaved or showered since his last PE class in high school. Live that life.
The anxious, driving, minimal soundscape of Negative Function
playing on loop, constantly, via your dilapidated walkman.
26. The Men - Open Your Heart
Shoutout to adjective-less rock music. Open Your Heart
could've been made in the 80s, 90s, 00s or probably any point into the future before we all evolve into being of pure energy. This album is full of energy but moody at the same time. Read that as: sometimes the shit is really loud and the drummer probably gets real fucking sweaty beating the shit out of his drums, other times dudes slow that shit up and play those songs long songs with synth intros where the lighting guy turns the stage purple and the drummer gets to rest up.
At all times though you could easily tap your foot to this shit; you could also set a movie about people "just out of college, trying to make it" to this album real easily. Cue a scene from Girls
or a Judd Apatow where our heroes go to a "rock concert."
25. Haleek Maul - Oxyconteen EP
Dark, unsettling, oppressive production. Raps that deal with lust, desire and the depression that follows when those things go unfulfilled. All from a sixteen year old from Barbados, because even dudes that live in the places you go on vacation have struggles. The struggle is universal. In a weird way, Oxyconteen
is reminiscent of a Drake album, if Drake took some testosterone shots.
The EP unfolds in the same confessional and personal way, save with none of the whining and placating tendencies of homeboy from Toronto. The production from Supreme Cuts, The-Drum, and King Britt even favours the work of Drake’s producer 40, if you drowned his productions in a sea of anger. Oxyconteen
is hard work for a 16 year old.
24. Alice Cohen - Pink Keys
[Olde English Spelling Bee
Singer/songwriter acts that feature a woman with a sweet voice, a piano, and some choruses that stick to your ribs like southern dinners; are a dime a dozen. They’re generally pretty good, and inoffensive listening, but ultimately, miss me with that Lilith Fair shit. Now you take a lady with sweet vocals and throw her behind a bunch of vintage synths and drum machines—now we got something to get excited about.
occupies the space in your iTunes library between female fronted alt rock (shoutout to Letters To Cleo), crazy synth adventures (‘sup Rick Wakeman) and stripped down indie pop (holla at Matt and Kim). If you’ve recently gotten into Italo Disco, or constantly talk about how much you love Giorgio Moroder and haven’t checked this out yet, you’re fucking up.
23. DJ Sexplay - Enter the Jeep
An album that fetishizes the early 90s smooth R&B, meets rap era. Featuring the likes of Antwon and HImself, The Majestic from Shadowrunners, Enter the Jeep
is an album you'd want to listen to in your jeep, while driving down the California coast with your boo.
With Enter the Jeep
on the system, you'd be swiftly transported back to 1993, where it was totally appropriate to call your boyfriend/girlfriend "boo". Recommended for dudes with exceptional hand moisturization and manicure games.
22. Outlands - S/T
[Chill Mega Chill
Ok, let’s take it back to the disco with this one. Not quite the sparkly, shiny suit disco that everyone makes fun of and Puffy strip mined through the 90s; take it back to the dark, sexy disco. The underground discos—I’ve read about—where people regularly got stabbed and maybe there was a sex act going on in the corner of the room. Discos that were precariously balanced microcosms of New York when New York looked like hell. Outlands have that dangerous disco feel, they make songs for heads that like to fight and to dance; both exceptionally well.
Oh, and they're not from New York... but from dark and dangerous Blacksburg, Virginia. Not really sure how dangerous it gets out there, but it sure sounds dark and spooky.
21. Grizzly Bear - Shields
Never really thought I'd come around to Grizzly Bear, but something about their latest just hits in the right spot, more so than any of their previous releases. Maybe it's just getting older and they're brand of finally nuanced sophisti-pop just strikes the right chords within me. Maybe it's cause bears gotta stick together?
Sure this is artisanal handmade bowtie shopping music but even that needs a soundtrack no? May as well have an exceptional one. So while you’re standing there deciding between the houndstooth or tartan bowtie, maybe you get lost in the music a little bit and hone in on the moments when the songs fall off of the gentle rock song track, and fall into the pool of noise experimentalism. You get that houndstooth bowtie and smash the game on NYE. Put this Shields
on the stereo after you wake up next to a shapely German girl who speaks broken English. Things are looking up this year. Very pleasant.
20. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
Songs of broken hearts, relationships gone bad, and loneliness over sparse guitars and drums. Occasionally a Fender Rhodes will come along to fill out the sound, but this is stripped down personal songs from a lady with a guitar, a chip on her shoulder, her band and her voice. Sounds a lot like old Loretta Lynn with some of the vocal flourishes of a Regina Spektor.
I’m gonna think of this dark folk music. The base of adjective-less rock music, someone with a guitar telling stories of their life and their pain.
19. Burial - Kindred EP
Might be the adult version of dubstep you could play for your parents, where they’ll actually think that Dubstep is actually “music." Kindred
goes through subdued and mature interpretations/synthesis of various types of electronic music. A lil house, some dubstep, some jungle, all mixed up and filtered through Burial’s usual tricks. Great jumping on point for new fans and a satiating burst of music to hold over stans until the next full length emerges from the ether.
Goddamn this guy just can't seem to do no wrong! Are we certain he's not really
Richard D. James? I Kid.
18. Peaking Lights - Lucifer
Ok, this isn’t a satanic disco record as the title and cover would suggest. Just get over that, right now. We’re going to have to wait a lil longer for the definitive satanic disco masterpiece to be let loose on the world. Beelzeboogie. While you’re depressed about that, take a second to actually sit back and listen to Lucifer
Let the combination of comforting synths, dub style delay, and unaffected female vocals lull you into a beautifully cool feeling of suspension. There’s a hint of a tropical influence throughout the album, making the whole experience feel like you’ve been chilling out with the weird lounge bar band that plays comforting songs in the waiting room of hell; while new arrivals await torture assignments. Or maybe, I’m just thinking of that because they named their album Lucifer. Devil get up off me.
17. John Talabot - ƒin
Relaxed, feel good, Sunday brunch vibes at a sophisticated dining establishment. One of those places that has a brunch, with the poached eggs and mimosas and such, that turns into a day time disco affair.
This album would play while people eat, get their bodies going to defeat that hang over and transition into the dancing portion. Some motherfuckers are still partying from Saturday night. ƒin, is helping them work through the tiredness giving that aural pep talk without words. "You can do it bro. just eat this toast, listen to this bass line. Start tapping your foot, yeah that's it. Get back out there, keep the party going man."
16. Julia Holter - Ekstatis
In the best possible connotation, this an album from a woman that sounds like she's equally fascinated by pop song birds and european soundscape composers. There's a vague connotation of greek music over the entire production, and plenty of points that sound like you're listening to minimalist soundtrack for an indie movie about some dude standing pensively on top of a mountain. But, there's also vocal melodies out the ass, that could easily be transplanted to the latest Taylor Swift Walmart classic.
The mix of ethereal experimental compositions with pop vocals reminds of an early Bjork, that's never a bad thing.
15. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
Hardcore is a young man's game. Converge as a band, is older than most dudes that play hardcore. They should not be this angry, precise, and focused, 20 years into their career. Despite that, All We Love We Leave Behind has Converge still serving as the torchbearers for ferocity. The record is explosive when it needs to be and sombre when it calls for it. Short blasts of hardcore with metal flourishes are the norm, but experimenting with different genres is hardwired into the band's DNA.
It's weird to call a hardcore album mature—this shit does not sound like Hall and Oates—but this is an album that could only have been made by Converge, 20 years into the game.
14. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
When a chick who goes to art school starts having sex with her UPS delivery dude, figuring out music to set the mood for love can be difficult. Luckily, Kaleidoscope Dream
exists to bridge their disparate worlds.
There's some songs that sound like the sweetest parts of The-Dream's catalog and other's that sound vaguely like Thom Yorke from Radiohead gone deep into an R&B bender. But, they all work together. Throw in a couple of legitimate hits and a bare song about the sovereignty of pussy, and you have an album tailor made for all kinds of ill advised hookups.
13. El-P - Cancer 4 Cure
El-P of Company Flow/Def Jux fame is known for many things. Raps that have way too many words per bar, beats that sound like b-boy hotwired a dying Transformer, and a justifiably paranoid, antiauthoritarian worldview.
All of those trademark element are present on C4C, along with a newfound emphasis on melody and even more personal lyrics. This, ladies and gents, is how you solidify your position as one of the eder statesmen of rap.
12. Crystal Castles - III
When video games first dropped some people were afraid that they would warp the minds of kids and corrupt them. The flashing lights and repetitive soundtracks would dig deep into the subconscious parts of our brains and make us all depraved, zombies sucked in by the promise of cute cartoon characters. That would've been cool, instead we got Sonic The Hedgehog, who was cool in his own right. However, if video games would have been the tool of the devil religious fanatics proposed they were, Crystal Castles' III would've been the soundtrack to OG Metroid.
A bleak album, of grim near dance tunes that float delicate female vocals over tracks that sound like the ambient music of underground alien hives. Somewhere right now in a loft space, kids re dancing to these songs in a dimly lit room. Somewhere right now, a dude in Montana loads his shotgun while muttering about "that gotdamn devil music."
11. Donnie & Joe Emerson - Dreamin' Wild
[Light In the Attic
A dad in a rural farm town mortgages his land to self produce an album for his two teenage sons in 1979. Dude builds a studio for them to record their one and only album, he builds a small venue for the presumed fans that will show up to hear the yet to be written hits. No one cares. The album goes triple wood. Thirty years pass and whatever private press copies were made have mainly stayed in the most obscure recesses of serious record nerds collections... out of earshot of the world to enjoy.
Flash forward to this year, when Light In the Attic gives Dreamin' Wild it's first proper release and thusly giving the world it's first real opportunity to hear how incredible of an album these two teens put together back in '79. An odd mix of Hall and Oates influence and classic dad rock mixed with unexpected bouts of psychedelia. There's even a slowed down yacht rock ballad titled "baby" that's just as saccharine and panty dropping as the song of the same title by the god young Bieber. Hell Ariel Pink even covered it on his own 2012 release. Dreamin' Wild is a staunch reminder to always follow your dreams, just you know, don't literally sell the farm to do so, because your album might not pop off until your 50.
10. Chromatics - Kill For Love
[Italians Do It Better
Synth pop meets post punk. Italo disco, for after the disco. Chromatics came to widespread attention after their song "Tick of the Clock" was featured on the soundtrack to Drive. If you found Kill For Love after watching Drive
, the album works a s a great digestif.
It's similarly sparse and moody with more than a knowing head nod to the sounds of epic 80s pop songs that slowly unfold and envelope you. It bares stating that this is not coincidentally perfect music to drive to.
9. Twin Shadow - Confess
George Lewis Jr. returns with this incredible follow-up to his fantastic debut, Forget
. Get back deep in that new wave feel. Get that Cure sway going, that Joy Division malaise, a lil Tears For Fears ennui. Call up the spirit of Morrisey and do that janky, all arms and legs, head swinging dance kids at art school "dance parties" do, so well.
Let the 1980s pop music power take you away to a land of emotional drama and tightly contained declarations of love and loss with Indie-Pop's ultimate heartbreaking badass.
8. Lana Del Ray - Born To Die
*Cue the comments that this list is totally invalidated by the inclusion of this*
Listen we know everything about Lana is a calculated (even contrived) marketing ploy. Believe us when we say we wanted nothing more than to H-A-T-E this album, but we just couldn't. We tried. But in the end we kept coming back to it over and over because all things aside, Born To Die
is one honest to god captivating well-crafted pop record. The kind where every song (and "Deluxe Edition" bonus tracks) can stand on their own as singles. That's a pretty impressive feat, and as such we have to give a tip of the hat to Lana.
While this broad looks and performs like she stepped right out of a David Lynch movie about how weird 50s America was, Born To Die
is an intriguing and haunting work. Actually, Born To Die
is intriguing because the whole thing plays out like a weird tribute to capitol "A" America, as sung by a depressed Stepford wife on a couple of Xanax. The album lulls you in with Lana's depressed vocals, but you get hooked by the lush production, subtle hooks, and choruses. Now if someone could just get her to look like she remotely was interested in anything she was singing.
7. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
NY indie rap OG and noisemaker laureate EL-P teams up withthe south' resident dissident rapper Killer Mike. On paper this should be a bitchfest about politics, drone attacks and Bill O'Reilly over El-P beats only backpackers would love. In reality, you get Killer Mike laying out great storytelling raps and El-P tweaking his style just enough to have his beats destroying trunks throughout Georgia.
This one should rank high simply for getting Bun B and T.I. on a EL-P track; something that seemed nigh impossible ten years ago. Rap music to swerve to with internal rhyme schemes, double entendres, and crazy lyricism; the rap internet almost collapsed on itself from their being an album backpackers and dudes with grills could both bump.
6. How To Dress Well - Total Loss
Can we coin R&B chamber music as a genre? Are there such a thing as funeral slow jams? Total Loss is pained R&B from a dude that couldn't be making R&B any other time than right now. HTDW takes influence from the likes of R.Kelly and Mary J. Blige but strips their work down to it's barest components. Every song is full of hurt on this album, but it's beautiful at the same time.
Imagine a world where R.Kelly never got famous, but just kept recording in his bedroom; this would be his amazing 6th album that would be finally gain recognition ten years later. Youtube commenters in 2030 would call it "the realest shit ever."
5. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, m.A.A.d City
A rap album almost tailor made for critics. A concept album that's deeply personal and political at the same time. Quality rappity rap. One man's struggle versus the city he's from. People who get rap recommendations from The New York Times will love this album. Also, a rap album tailor made for people who don't give a fuck about a critic, full of slow cruising west coast anthems, syrupy third coast bangers, and qualifiable hits featuring one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.
Good Kid, m.A.A.d City
is classicist and forward looking at the same time.
4. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
When an album is anchored around a nine minute long single about ancient Pharaohs and modern day strippers you know it's special. While we all expected Odd Future's resident crooner to make an impressive debut, no one expected the expansive and raw progressive R&B masterpiece Ocean delivered.
Take the album apart and there's great single songs—"Thinking About You" is one of the best recent songs about missing someone. Take Channel Orange
as a whole, and you get a layered statement about love and longing, with "Forrest Gump" serving as one of the best arguments in the Gay Rights debate by simply humanizing and the issue. Also, this is the best album of the year to flip an Elton John song.
3. Swans - The Seer
Calling the Swans merely "seminal" seems almost an injustice for a band as influential as they have been. And while Michael Gira has blessed us with some great releases in recent years, who'd have expected that in 2012 these legends would release one of their best albums ever? But they did.
A two hour long trip through some kind of nightmare forest. Full of drone elements, vaguely folk guitars and transcendental soundscapes, this is the type of music you do not listen to if you just want to vibe out and have a good time. This is the type of music that demands your full attention and a desire to experience something weird. At times, it feels overly repetetive, at times it's almost weird for weird's sake but when you fully get into the album those moments become the bits of genius that make this record stand out from the sea of other bands with 30 minute long songs and a strong disregard for people who suffer from A.D.D.
2. Lil Ugly Mane - Mista Thug Isolation
Hearing Mista Thug Isolation
you'd think it was a lost gem from the mid nineties era of Memphis rap, when the entire city briefly got way into lowkey devil worship and rapping about being so fucked up they touched the 6th dimension. In actuality, it's one of the best rap releases of the year made by a mysterious dude from Virginia that use to be in noise bands. As far as breakout albums go, Mista Thug Isolation
is as impressive and auteurish as they come.
Ugly Mane pulls off just about every feat you could want from a rapper while staying entirely in character as death obsessed, murderous, player. There's songs that rival Three 6 Mafia's "Tear Da Club Up" in potential for property destruction, storytelling joints, laid back playa anthems, and songs perfect for holding seances to raise the spirit of DJ Screw. He even did the Pen N Pixel esque art cover and produced all of the beats. Flawless victory.
1. Le1f - Dark York
The short sell of Dark York
would go something along the lines of "gay electro party rap." Four on the floor beats that inspire twerkin, while Le1f spouts out the best quips from RuPaul's Drag Race in a low barritone. Dive a lil deeper into Dark York, forget the gay thing as the point of focus and you'll find an extremely fresh new take on the concept of rap bravado. While A$AP Rocky, Soulja Boy, Kanye and Lil B have all dabbled in varying degree of "pretty boy swag" Le1f takes it to its logical conclusion.
Where we've had other fringe rappers toy with incorporating energetic dance rhythms into their raps (Big Freida, Spankrock), Leif's tongue twister mumble rhyming style would be just as impressive over a minimal boom bap. If nothing else, the beats sound like outer space.