I am going to step out on a limb and say 2012 will be a better year for recorded music than 2011, based on the albums that have released and those scheduled to be released. I’m referring to upcoming albums from Animal Collective, Big Boi, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit, Purity Ring, and Twin Shadow, among others. It’s clear everyone wants to drop an album before the Mayan Apocalypse, and we the listening public are the beneficiaries.
A lot of shuffling could happen between now and the end of December, with respect to my favorite albums of 2012. Here in alphabetical order are my favorite albums of 2012 (so far).
1999 by Joey BADA$$
Nas took hip-hop heads on a trip to memory lane in 1994 with his debut, Illmatic. While I am not ready to call 17-year-old Brooklyn MC Joey BADA$$ the next Nas, his fresh off the presses mixtape 1999 definitely has me feeling nostalgic. BADA$$ possesses a flow, vocabulary and charisma well beyond his years.
A Monument by Tu Fawning
When Portland alt-weekly Willamette Week released its Best New Bands list a few weeks ago Tu Fawning did not make the cut. (Possibly because they are not a “new” band) Regardless, on its second album, Tu Fawning announces its presence as one of Portland’s best bands, producing ethereal earworms that would sound equally at home on the morning commute or a seance out in the woods.
Boys and Girls by Alabama Shakes
Best debut album of 2012 by a mile. Brittany Howard announced her presence as one of rock’s preeminent frontwomen on Boys and Girls, an album full of timeless soul meets southern rock stunners.
Bloom by Beach House
I wanted to write this one off and go back to listening to Teen Dream. Yet, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s latest on the Beach House moniker would not let me go. Its haziness is intoxicating, its loveliness is enchanting, its spiraling guitars dive straight for my heart. I can’t get enough.
Celebration Rock by Japandroids
This album makes me happy to be alive in 2012. So much energy, so much passion, so much fun. Seizes the moment and does not let go. Just a phenomenal rock’n'roll record.
Fear Fun by Father John Misty
J. Tillman’s departure from Fleet Foxes will hurt most in their live show. He provided a sense of charisma otherwise lacking from the band. Here on his first album under the name Father John Misty he shows that charisma and a charming ability to weave yarns that would be considered too dark for his old band.
Habits and Contradictions by Schoolboy Q
Hip-hop is having a great year so far, with the new Killer Mike, El-P, and Ab-Soul albums. I selected Ab-Soul’s Black Hippy collective mate Schoolboy Q here because on Habits and Contradictions he has two of my favorite tracks of 2012 – “Hands On The Wheel” featuring A$AP Rocky and “Blessed” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Schoolboy Q sparks fire with his unhinged, blunted, and compelling style.
Heaven by The Walkmen
Heaven is an album that conversely tugs at my heartstrings and makes me want to jump up and down. The Walkmen have been one of my favorite bands over the past decade, growing from a drunken, wild-eyed, angry wreck at times to a hopeful, dare I say inspiring, bunch on Heaven.
Tramp by Sharon Van Etten
My breakout performer of 2012 (so far) is Sharon Van Etten. Tramp improves on everything I thought SVE did well on her previous album, Epic. The emotional sweep is greater and her voice is lovely as always. It was a pleasure hearing her perform these songs twice this year.
Visions by Grimes
Canadian solo electronic artist Grimes earns a spot here on the strength of her two singles “Genesis” and “Oblivion” that are like witchy supernovas bursting out of speakers. Her music builds and then explodes, daring you not to dance, like a ghost had inhabited your body.