While lists upon lists are bestowing praise on Drake and Beyoncé for releasing stellar albums this year, there are a ton of albums not getting nearly as much credit as they should. Granted, this list probably won’t deviate too much from the typical Pitchfork’s and Complex’s of the world, but there will be a couple surprises. Remember, it’s an opinion! This isn’t set in stone like the 10 Commandments. Just read, agree or disagree and we’ll agree to disagree – or something like that. Here are my top albums of the year, in no specific order.
The Kills – Blood Pressures
This album is just … wow. Though this dynamic duo have three albums prior to BP, this seems to be the one that put them on the map. When VV and Hotel came through Detroit months back, it was Kills fever all around – sold out show, gossip galore. It was a buzz to beat all buzzes. And with good reason. With only possibly one “miss” track on the whole album, BP contains gems like “Satellite” and “Baby Says,” both of which get quoted by yours truly on a semi-regular basis. Go out and get this album if you haven’t already.
The Roots – undun
Though only released a couple weeks ago now, undun is everything I’ve been waiting for the Roots to do. While I’m a huge fan of their last album, How I Got Over, undun‘s heart goes much deeper. Amazing rhymes by Black Thought and flawless production by ?uestlove give this album all it needs – adding in features including up-and-comer Big K.R.I.T. and frequent collaborator Phonte just makes this amazing album even greater.
Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials
Florence Welch is an amazing singer with a great band behind her. Ceremonials dwells on the darker side of Welch, using Virgina Woolf’s death by suicide as a muse for each track. Depressed and deathly dreary, this albums description alone might make you not want to pick it up – though you’d be remiss to not. The songs are beautifully structured, and Welch’s high-vaulting voice paired with the harp and accompanying instruments is pure magic.
Lights – Siberia
Easily a dark horse for album releases this year, the young Canadian who’s legally now known as Lights released a stellar album. Her sound has been completely dismantled and put back together with the help of Holy Fuck. She’s gone from pop princess to a strange mixture of electronica and slight avant garde. It’s a messy album; nothing fits together perfectly, but it’s in these imperfections that Lights shines the most. On the titled track, her voiced is muffled and sweet and is paired with a thumbing beat. There’s also some vocal accompaniment from fellow Canadian, Shad. From “Toes” to “Everybody Breaks a Glass,” you might find your new favorite nerd-core songstress.
Cults – Self-Titled
Out of nowhere this year came Cults. From the catchy guitar strums of Brian Oblivion, jam-band like drums and the peppy, infectious voice of Madeline Follin, everything about Cults is foot-tapping goodness. “Abducted” is a peculiarly fast-pased tune about a guy stealing her heart. “You Know What I Mean” is hard hitting in the chorus, making you listen even closer to the quiet verses. They’re pure fun with an added sense of ce la vie.
Bad Meets Evil – Hell The Sequel
Yep, this is on the list. A lot of people might disagree, but please see my side-note in the introduction. The intro, “Welcome to Hell” is absolute fire. Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ kill both of their verses, which are both carried out in such a fever pitch that you have to listen closely to get every single punchline. “Fast Lane” was probably one of the track bumped the most often by the most people. Hell, it was even in NBA 2K11 and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol trailers. “I’m on Everything” was a definite party track and, though played out, “Lighters” is still a great song with the help of Bruno Mars. With this nine track EP under their belts, what does 2012 hold for the dynamic duo?
The Black Keys – El Camino
For what some devoted Black Keys fans may say isn’t their best album, El Camino sure does measure up to the majority of albums to be released this year. There’s all the same grittiness, melodies and messy guitar riffs of previous releases, but this time around the sound is simply bigger. They’re going on an arena tour in the spring, which makes sense given this deliberate attempt at making an arena album. Each track is gold, with perhaps the exception of “Little Black Submarines” taking a bit too long to get off the ground. Still a great record from an exceptional band.
Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
If Drake is the guy who cries over girls, Kendrick Lamar is the ones taking them away from him with his passionate thesis on his generation and why the hell it’s so messed up. Having seen him perform at a showcase down at SXSW, I saw the fire that was within Lamar from the start. I interviewed him before his set and what he appeared to be a street smart kid with a heart of gold. Absolutely genuine despite his hardships and living in this digital age full of parents who ignore their child’s upbringing and pride themselves on how many Facebook fans they have. He gets it. And he gets where he wants his career to go. From this standpoint, he’ll only get better.