10. Foxy Shazam – Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll
9. Sharks – No Gods
8. Larry and His Flask – Hobo’s Lament EP
6. You Me and Everyone We Know – A Great Big Hole EP
7. Make Do and Mend – Everything You Ever Loved
You’ve heard “Little Talks”. You’ve sung along to it. You’ve likely compared it to the work of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, First Aid Kit, Belle & Sebastian, and/or The Civil Wars. Now, it’s time for you to check out the whole album behind “Little Talks”, because there is so much more to My Head is An Animal than this near-perfect poppy single. Most indie-pop lovers would be hard-pressed to not enjoy guy/girl duo vocals done well; Of Monsters and Men is just that. This Icelandic sextet has knocked the pants of audiences this year when performing at Newport Folk Festival, SXSW, Lollapalooza, and on Leno and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The best thing about My Head is an Animal is that the songs are all so varied from one another; you are not getting “Little Talks” over and over (but why would you want that? Boring.) “King and Lionheart” and “Dirty Paws” are powerful and impassioned, while “From Finner” and “Love Love Love” are softer, more introspective tracks. The distinctive difference between each track–while each being strong enough to stand on its own–creates a wonderfully cohesive and strong album that is easily a contender for one of the top albums of 2012.
Who doesn’t love Passion Pit? Infectious pop with shiny beats that just make you want to dance is what this band has come to be known and loved for. With “Sleepyhead” and “The Reeling” having been so popular in the late 2000’s, their 2012 release had a lot to measure up to. Luckily, first single “Take A Walk” certainly holds up to the aforementioned singles, and presents a new facet to the band’s appeal. This album is not just a poppy presentation of feel-good songs that are nice but forgetful; Gossamer’s lyrics often address deeper issues that are not at first noticed due to the fun nature of the sound. The upbeat “Love is Greed” questions the legitimacy of love, while “Cry Like a Ghost” is an infectious plea to a drunken love; “Take a Walk” is a commentary on the hardships of a father trying to provide for his family in this difficult economic climate. The track that is the most noticeably dark is the album closer “Where We Belong”, appropriately backed by lamenting strings, which discusses frontman Michael Angelakos’ suicide attempt at age 19. With this unforeseen depth, Gossamer is an album that truly shines in terms of maturation, songwriting, and true staying power.
3. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
Even if you haven’t heard this album, you have probably heard of this album (or at least this artist). Why? Because the blogosphere and music world absolutely blew up and dropped to its knees in worship over this record. It may be his smooth rhymes, his effortless rapping, or the old-school familiarity of another West Coast artist discussing women, weed and booze; whatever it is, Kendrick Lamar is really resonating with his audience. My first experience with this hip-hop artist was when he performed on a secondary stage at Pitchfork Music Festival this past July in Chicago. When word of Lady Gaga hanging out backstage at his performance surfaced, it seemed everyone had Kendrick Lamar’s name on their lips. And for good reason — good kid, m.A.A.d city was rightfully met with universal acclaim and is easily one of the top albums of the year.
It doesn’t matter if you think this album is overplayed, overhyped, or if “We Are Young” makes you want to claw your eyes out every time you hear it. It’s overplayed because it is awesome, and you know you used to love that song before you heard it every twelve minutes for days on weeks on months. “Some Nights” has now gotten its fair share of radio play, rightfully so as it is one of the strongest tracks on the album. With fun tracks like “Stars” and “It Gets Better”, a different kind of poppiness comes into play as well. Meanwhile, other songs like “Carry On” and “All Alright” are delightfully reminiscent of the previous release of Aim and Ignite. The versatility and accessibility of this album shows both steadfastness and maturity on the par of the band, and certainly merits Some Nights a top spot. Oh, and did I mention that Nate Ruess is a god?
1. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
Most readers probably aren’t surprised to see Mr. Ocean take the top spot, as this debut took the music world by storm. Having written songs for the likes of Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and John Legend, and getting signed by Def Jams, Ocean proved himself worthy and joined Tyler, The Creator’s Odd Future collective. Interestingly enough, channel ORANGE assisted in a coming out of sorts for Ocean. Most notably addressed in “Bad Religion”, many lyrics speak of a love he had for a man and the hardships that came along with it. This album brings a fresh new appeal to R&B, with Ocean’s relaxed vocals beautifully expressing that raw emotion throughout. This is a new twist to songs discussing love, sex, vices, and regrets, and Ocean has set the bar very high for the future.