Since the Mayan gods decided to give us a reprieve on doomsday, I will appease our five readers with the best post of the year. Here is my list of the top 10 albums of 2012.
10. Purity Ring - Shrines
This Canadian duo is on the list thanks to suggestions to listen from both Nate and Tanner. As I get older, I'm getting more and more into electronica-type music. Shrines reinforces this growing appreciation. And when you get remixed with Danny Brown, how can I not like you?
9. Sol - Yours Truly
My list is pretty NW hip-hop heavy. If you ask Kenny, that is because I'm a NW hip-hop nerd (which is probably true). But it's also because this was a really good year for NW hip-hop. One of those leading the charge is Sol. He may not be getting the national recognition right now, but his debut album, following a series of short mixtapes and various guest spots, deserves rec. Keep an eye on this guy.
8. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Mature Theme
This album is super weird. But I love it. It's like a the Beach Boys had a baby with Os Mutantes, then that baby got really into punk, but then decided that the punk aesthetic was too limiting, and started listening to its parents old 45s. Then that baby had a baby (via immaculate conception) and that baby (the baby's baby) decided to make an album that would make The Cure proud. Yup, it's weird but good.
7. Dark Time Sunshine - ANX
What happens when you mix a Seattle-based rapper (Onry Ozzborn) and a Chicago-based producer (Zavala)? In this case, magic. Dark magic. The beats are heavy and melodic; the rapping is rapid and varied.
Plus, the "making of" video is great. Microphones everywhere.
6. Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe (just that one song)
I have only ever listened to one song by Carly Rae Jepsen. But that one song is awesome enough to make my list. Because seriously, has there been a more perfect pop song, ever? I don't care if this is supposed to be a top albums list. Call me, maybe?
5. The Physics - Tomorrow People
Did I say it was a good year for NW hip-hop. Yeah, I did. Because it was. Tomorrow People captures Seattle hip-hop in 2012. Fun, catchy, name dropping streets, collaborating with other local artists (Jarv Dee, Sol, Grynch). In a word: FUNKY. And having Jake One on a beat doesn't hurt either.
4. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
Another local rap group? Seriously? Yup. And this isn't just another local rap group no more. If you haven't heard of The Heist, go ask any 19-year-old college student anywhere in the United State of America. Go ask. Now. Not only have Ben and Ryan crafted a great album, but they did it all themselves. For Christmas, I got my wife's brother-in-law a Macklemore t-shirt. When the package arrived at his house in Colorado, the return address was for Ben Haggerty. Yup, that is building an entertainment brand DIY-style.
3. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Appearing for a second year on my top ten list, Mr. Ocean has done it again. First, he drops a metaphorical bomb about his sexuality, prompting cries of support from across the rap royalty pantheon. Then, he releases a spectacular album that covers everything from love to lust to pain to anguish to remorse. As I said last year, "When going in for a second, third, and fourth listen, it's Ocean who gets the play."
2. Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes
Flying Lotus took the baton from J. Dilla and ran with it (1983, Los Angeles). Then he did some other, also good stuff (Commogramma). Now he is back at it again, kinda-sorta channelling J. Dilla, but in his own unique, futuristic soundscape that floats, beeps, gurgles, and bops. If this is the happy future where electronica, hip-hop, and house meld into a complete art form called Until the Quiet Comes, I welcome that future.
1. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
Yes, this is a phenomenal first major-label album. Possibly a classic. And yes, Kendrick was on my top ten list last year. So you could kind of say I called it. But what I really love about this album is that it does an amazing job of balancing substance with appeal. The songs don't just say something or sound good, they say something and sound good. When your debut album is getting compared to The Great Gatsby and earns 9.5 on Pitchfork, you know you're doing it right. Not just the best rap album of the year, but the best overall album of the year.