2012 was the year that London hosted the Olympics, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond jubilee and Felix Baumgartner jumped from space to Earth. It was also the year of some bloody amazing albums, but which were the best? Here is our top ten list of the best albums of 2012.
10. Beach House – Bloom
Dreampop group Beach House kick off this list with their ethereal fourth album Bloom. Recorded in Texas and described by the band as “an abstraction of many feelings”, this album touches on nostalgia as well as future hope with memorable hooks and atmospheric instrumentals. The general mood is one of beauty on here and the subtle riffs bring it up that extra gear. It could well be the group’s best album to date.
9. Mac Demarco – 2
The debut album from Canadian-born synth dad Mac Demarco is a dreamy project with squeaky clean guitar riffs and spaced out production. My Kind Of Woman has remained a staple hit of his discography for it’s glamorous ballad sound while songs like Freaking Out The Neighbourhood proved he was no one trick pony. Songwriting stood tall on this album and it made Mac the loveable rogue we know him as today.
8. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
The album that began the now infamous duo of Killer Mike and El-P is 8th on our 2012 list; it is hard to deny the punchy brilliance of Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music. Produced entirely by Mike’s now Run The Jewels collaborator El-P, the album dares to be different while sticking to the fundamental norms that help demonstrate Killer Mike’s deadly flow and intense lyrical content. It is political, hard-hitting, and represents the South to the full; a mid-career album that matters.
7. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
Toxic love lyrical content over bespoke trip-hop beats has become the Lana Del Rey formula as her career has blossomed; and Born To Die is perhaps the most obvious case of those very factors. Production wise it is her finest work ever and songs like National Anthem display this anthemic but melodramatic vibe in the best kind of way; while her lyrical masterclasses on the title track and Summertime Sadness helped elevate Lana into the big leagues of critical female soloists.
6. Grimes – Visions
This album was recorded on GarageBand in Grimes’ apartment, just take a moment to realise how unbelievable that fact is. How anyone can make an album this sonically diverse and experimental on software as limited as that just proves how innovative she is, not to mention the depths of her talent. Her blend of hook-friendly electro-pop makes for polarising listening and it has been seen as a real flagship moment in Grimes’ career, helping her to progress artistically and develop further.
5. alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Reigning as the 2012 Mercury Prize winner, alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave is a journey of multi-genres; so much so that they became masters of their own world of the industry with this album. It possesses beauty and spirit, but also fragility and sorrow; the album for me encapsulates the mindset of the generation it caters for. Songs like Matilda and Tessellate will forever be perfect to get in tune with your emotions while Fitzpleasure and Breezeblocks remain classics of the alt-rock community. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time but I had to put my critical head on to stop it going higher than it should have (trust me it would be in the top 3 if we went off personal tastes here rather than purely critical sound).
4. Tame Impala – Lonerism
On Tame Impala’s debut album InnerSpeaker, Kevin Parker was often criticised for sounding too much like a psychedelic Beatles tribute act. Well, on his sophomore album Lonerism, Kev squashed all those concerns with an eloquently delivered, cohesive synth-rock project that solidified his standing as one of the most exciting acts in modern music. Elephant and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards were stunning singles while Mind Mischief and Apocalypse Dreams became some of the band’s best ever songs.
3. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
A coming of age record for the history books, Frank Ocean went from Odd Future alumni to bonafide R&B megastar with channel ORANGE, an album that delicately portrayed the sincerity and genius of Frank as a songwriter. Jazzy and soulful but also modern and electronic, this album’s greatest asset is that it doesn’t need to stick to one narrative to remain excellent. You can hear the sweet serenity of Frank’s vocal harmonies over harmonic tracks like Bad Religion just as much as you can on scintillating cuts like Sweet Life. Oh, and don’t get me started on Pyramids…
2. Death Grips – The Money Store
Very rarely will an album this good not rank first on an end of year list, but it just so happens that The Money Store, the debut album from Death Grips, falls short to a certain masterpiece of the same year. Regardless of this, what the Sacramento-based experimental hip-hop group achieve on this project is unhinged chaos with a hint of lunacy and a whole lot of forward thinking. Instrumentally it is a fever dream, lyrically it is an exhibition and conceptually it is daring; Death Grips became an underground phenomenon thanks to this.
1. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
The conceptual king of 2012, one of the best rap albums of the century and the birthing of Kendrick Lamar as an undeniable modern mogul; good kid m.A.A.d city has been granted just about every single superlative possible since it’s release and it’s not that hard to work out why. Following the stories of Kendrick’s gang warfare filled teenage years and the dangers he faced on the streets of Compton, he shows that poetry really can be found in the harshest of realities. The album juggles being an artistic masterpiece and a commercial smash, a bridge that is very rarely crossed even by the most acclaimed of artists; if that isn’t indication of how good this man and this album truly are then I don’t know what is.