Make sure to to check out all of our Best of 2012 coverage.
Brother Ali – Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color
Along with two other artists on this list, I have been listening to Brother Ali for over ten years now. Back when I was 15, I slowly drew myself into the counter-culture of indie-skate hip-hop; Living Legends, Atmosphere, and Souls of Mischief ruled my 10gb 2nd generation iPod. As time passed, the world changed, I changed and so did Brother Ali. Although I still pay homage to many of the artists I once adored, Brother Ali is one of the few that has made it to the other side of my love for music. He became wiser, more insightful and his musicianship has grown with each album. Aside from being praised by nearly ever major music outlet, Mourning in America is full of clever lyricism, thought-provoking arguments and fresh beats for you to fall in love with.
Do I really need to say anything about this album that hasn’t already been said?
An absolute gem of a record. Ripe with double-meanings, suggestive reasoning and absurdly solid songwriting and not to forget, the production, make this my album of the year.
Rage Against The Machine – XX
Yes, it’s a reissue. Yes, it’s 20 years old. But are you kidding me? Does anyone do it better than these guys? The energy and volatility of their sound is unlike any other. Not only did their self-titled debut pave the way for so many acts after them, it also represents a cultural shift. The astonishing mixing and mastering that pours out of this re-release is not only a welcomed surprise, but also rather timely: the balanced EQs, paired with the occasional new delay and distortion textures, will make you want to march your way up to Washington Square for some much needed activism.
Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
As a person who has always had an on and off again approach to playing music, I’ve always marveled at the work of the ridiculously-talented jazz musicians. What Flying Lotus has done here is merge the exploding LA Beat Movement with the free-forming jazzing structures that are mostly non-existent in music today. Beyond that, the concept and tone of the entire album is one that you would be hard-pressed to forget or be displeased with.
I reviewed this record earlier this year.
Kendrick Lamar – good kid M.A.A.D City
I’ll admit I was only a casual listener, who thought that Kendrick would be another has-been rapper being raved about on Pitchfork and XLR8R. I assumed his voice and delivery were his greatest strengths, and were the centerpiece of his astonishing hype. I was wrong. good kid M.A.A.D. City is so much more than that. With a little extra push from Fabian Molina, I found myself falling deeply into the completely conceptual world of Kendrick Lamar. Man, Kendrick Lamar’s live performance was amazing too.
Aesop Rock – Skelethon
Nearly everything I stated above for Brother Ali could be reiterated for Aesop Rock. His style and delivery couldn’t be on an any more distant scale, but it is no accident he has found himself residing on the same powerhouse label that started the movement in the first place: Rhymesayers. Skelethon was Aesop’s first record in nearly 5 years and is filled with dense wordplay and cohesion that only he can deliver.
Chromatics – Kill For Love
Holy shit did they nail it on this album.
A perfectly warm and fulfilling soundscape matched with cunning lyrics, amazing timbre, perfectly timed melodies and chord progressions make this album a wonderful share with a new friend or long lost lover. Listen to “Lady.” It may change your life.
Albums that just barely missed my mark:
Matthew Dear – Beams
The xx – Coexist
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
Hot Chip – In Our Heads
Most Dissappointing Album of the Year:
Yeasayer – Fragrant World – Really?