Make sure to to check out all of our Best of 2012 coverage.
Santigold – Master of My Make Believe
Oh, how quickly we forget. Early in 2012, Santigold’s Master of My Make-Believe turned heads, finding its way on many “Best of 2012–so far” lists (which for the record: what a gimmick). From the opening track “Go” listeners are swept up till the album’s finish. Within the concise (under 40mins) eleven-track album–a lot happens. It’s Santigold–remember. What do you call her music anyhow? Swagged out punk-rock infused hip hop with pop sensibilities. Give me a break! Lyrically, she boasts on “Look At These Hoes,” talk politics on “Disparate Youth,“ tells naysayer off on “Big Mouth,” and introspectively finds herself on “Fame” and “This Isn’t Our Parade.” It doesn’t stop there: she sings, raps, and mixes so many genres all flawlessly. Master of My Make-Believe is an amalgam that proves (twice) Santigold’s diversity, clarity and talent.
Keaton Henson – Dear
Every time I listen to this album tears swell up inside me. It doesn’t matter the state I was in before I pressed play, I always will return to that feeling. Why then, you ask, would I ever subject myself to this? (For the record I’m not a staunch Elliot Smith fan or a diehard Death Cab for Cutie supporter.) It’s not that I am masochistic–I just love being reminded. From the album’s start to finish, Keaton Henson details cathartically his dealings with a breakup. The honesty and lyrical resolve is moving, albeit painful at times, like when he remembers the lonely nights in an empty bed spent holding “your small hands in the palm of mine, The fact they’re good at making, Miss your sitting up incessantly, And the fact you’re always waking in the night.” Moments and descriptions like this are almost too relateable, but great reminders of how painful times can be–and how where we are now.
Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
If Bitte Orca was the Dirty Projectors’ most tangible album to date because of its vocal harmonies, Swing Lo Magellan is the most tangible because of its instrumentals. The album is stripped (for the most part) of Longstreth’s mastery of polyrhythmic layering. Album opener “Offspring Are Blank” begins with just humming and a metronome. “Gun Has No Trigger” is a radio friendly track (you’d never thought it would happen) with a straightforward doo wop beat, backing ‘oohs,’ and Longstreth’s singing. Don’t mistake simplicity for blandness. There are plenty of Dirty-Projectors-subtleties to tickle your audiophile fancies: the orchestral bridge from a handclap rhythm on “Dance For You,” the late Beatles’ undertones of “Maybe That Was It,” or the R&B themed “The Socialite” with its Third Encounters of the Third Kind notes.
It should be noted that this is Longstreth’s intention. In an interview with the The New York Times, he explained “‘These are songs without any context,” and continued “They’re less about arrangement. They’re less about orchestration.” It’s possible this is the first record Dirty Projectors fans can play to non-fans without the preface, “I love them, but you’re probably not going to like them because they’re…different.” There may not be a thematic story line, but for all the aforementioned structural characteristics, Swing Lo Magellan is a wonderful, unique listen, to be repeated and shared over and over again.
Patrick Watson -Adventures In Your Own Backyard
Like the comforting warmth of hot chocolate or coffee on a cold day, Patrick Watson’s vocals can send magical shivers through your bones that warm your heart. Adventures In Your Own Backyard is full of dichotomies–like the songwriter himself. Sweet tones accompany sad and lost lyrics. Live his playfulness understates the seriousness of his music. Together though, these balances provide for a beautiful experience.
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
This album unquestionably is the best of album in 2012 because its impact will be felt for years to come. Amidst the many rappers who use f***** in casual slang and those that are actually homophobic, Frank Ocean’s coming out is courageous, but in the context of this album, there’s more. He wrote in his Tumblr letter, “I reminisced about the sentimental songs I enjoyed when I was a teenager. The ones I played when I experienced a girlfriend for the first time. I realized they were written in a language I did not speak.” There’s no doubt that Ocean speaks this language on Channel Orange, which just by the mere fact of all the end of the year lists this album tops, is a language that we all understand — regardless of our sexual preferences.
Tame Impala – Lonerism
It’s easy to get lost in the je ne sais quoi of Lonerism. The revving guitars of “Elephant” pump tightly, the synths of “Music To Walk Home By” soar and Kevin Parker’s somber tones cry out on “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” It all just pulls you in. It’s happen to me more than one that I’ll press play and wind up eight tracks in, unaware that I’ve almost finished the album. This isn’t to say it’s nondescript–quite the contrary–the album reminds me of late Beatles and Cream–rather its tone is unwavering. Truly, one of the surprises for me this year.
It should be mentioned….
San Cisco’s – Awkward EP
It’s not fair to include San Cisco’s Awkward because it’s an EP; however, I want to note there’s something special about this group. Like Gotye, vocalist Jordi Davieson and Scarlett Stevens have a playful back and forth on “Awkward” about an unrequited crush–which is both hilarious, sad and catchy as all hell (quite possibly my favorite single of the year). From “Girls Do Cry” to “Golden Revolver” the band shows their ability to craft gorgeous melodies with angsty vocals and lyrics that fall somewhere in-between the young Jimmy Eats World and college bound Vampire Weekend.