Well I seem to be in the minority now but I still love the album. I guess that’s why all my favorites this year reminded me of past artists’ work. Here’s my list of favorites in no particular order:
Frank Ocean Channel Orange – It feels like Prince wrote a love letter to the city of LA. A deeply personal and introspective album and one in which I discovered subtle nuances with each listen.
Jack White “Blunderbuss” – Also artist of the year in my book. He kept us on our toes at shows by having an all female and an all male band at the ready and deciding the day of the show which band would play that night. Both bands added a different dynamic and made for electrifying shows. Of course it wouldn’t have mattered if the music wasn’t there but Jack came through with his first solo record. Although I know he will continue to follow his muse, I hope it includes more solo records where Jack is free to roam and help keep rock and roll as a vital music format.
Tame Impala “Lonerism” There is a group out there called Australian Pink Floyd that does Pink Floyd covers but I think that would be a name that best suits this band. Trippy music but with an indie edge, no David Gilmour-esque guitar solos but still music that elevates your subconscious.
Fun. “Some Nights” – Whenever someone mentioned that they don’t like current music and no one makes good commercial top 40 type music anymore, I point them in the direction of fun. It’s music for adults but played for the kids. Great hooks and melodies and just a great time from start to finish. This album came out in early 2012 but never got old for me.
Alicia Keys “Girl On Fire” – This one came out of the blue for me. I saw Alicia Keys on a commercial for MasterCard and figured that she was tapped out creatively and needed a new source of revenue. Instead I heard an album of an artist reinvigorated and making classic Pop and R&B music, just like Stevie Wonder used to make, “Brand New Me” indeed!
Beth Orton “Sugaring Season” Another surprise as this was first album in six years but apparently it was time well spent as this is a mature, reflective album of just living life. It doesn’t hurt that she’s got some great players backing her up to add to the tension of the music.
Japandroids “Celebration Rock” – The album is perfectly named. It starts with the sound of fireworks and continues with a relentless explosion of sounds. In the year where Bruce Springsteen experimented with hip hop on his last album, it’s good to hear a band just plain rock and make no apologies because that’s what they want to do. This album gave me hope that the kids still want to rock in 2012.
Passion Pit “Gossamer” – Thought provoking dance music. It might be hard to dance to the music if you think about the words behind those infectious beats but it didn’t matter as the music will always win out.
Alt-J “An Awesome Wave” Mercury Prize winning band that combines a little folk with electronica to astounding effect. Are they a jam band? Possibly, but the sounds emanating from this album were unlike anything else this year.
Leonard Cohen “Old Ideas” – While Bob Dylan’s “Tempest” had some intriguing moments but was wildly uneven, this 60’s folk troubadour completely fulfilled its promise of Old Ideas from a wise old man.
Lana Del Rey – Comeback artist because she was left for dead after her Saturday Night Live performance earlier this year but came back strong with a solid album and better reviews for her shows.
Favorite New Artists
Lianne La Havas – Tremendous R&B artist with a huge future
Gary Clark Jr. – He’s been around for a while but this was his year to shine. His guitar playing transforms ordinary songs into the extraordinary.