Earlier this week, we started counting down the 25 best albums to be released over the course of the year. You can find and listen to #25-#11 here. There were dozens of notable albums but we’ve whittled down the list to the top 10! Here are the records you must listen to!
Special Note: For all intents and purposes, My Head Is An Animal, the hit debut record by Iceland sweethearts, Of Monsters and Men, has been available since 2011, when it was originally released overseas, a year prior to the North American release – the album would have landed among the top ten from this year due to incredible songs such as “Little Talks,” “Sloom,” “Six Weeks,” “The King and the Lionheart,” and “Lakehouse.”
This record is one that brings a constant sense of urgency. Don’t interpret that statement as negative, as Santigold consistently one ups herself with unique songwriting coupled with spectacular production from this year’s wonderboy, Diplo, who happens to be her ex… Big things are yet to come from this alternative superstar.
#9 Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Yet another incredible album from the supreme rulers of indie music, Dirty Projectors, was released this year, in the form of Swing Lo Magellan. Despite the album’s incredulity, not enough people have heard it yet.
#8 Grimes – Visions
Canada’s own Grimes churned out this gem of genre-bending album. This trail-blazing, unclassifiable record is the buzz-album of the year, being sold on vinyl in Urban Outfitters around the continent…
#7 Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
The prince of R&B is back, with his first full-length album (not counting Nostalgia/Ultra). This is contemporary R&B as it should be, emotionally charged, cohesive, and just captivating. This, like the rest of the OFWGKTA crew’s work, incorporates a great-funkified sound.
The best folk album of the year, The Lumineers’ eponymous record features the spectacular hit “Ho Hey,” which you could catch every couple hours on tv, as it is the soundtrack to Blue Moon’s latest commercial.
#5 Macklemore – The Heist
Seattle’s best is more than a coffee, in hip-hop, it is found in the personification of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. This rapper-producer combo have worked together on this masterpiece for several years to be self released, which went to #1 on the iTunes charts for several weeks. You can find a plethora of upbeat, inspirational tracks that fit any mood or situation.
This British trio released Coexist as a follow-up to their cult hit debut, XX. With production by Jamie xx, one of the three best producers out there, every beat is incredible, with lyrics to match on every song. Every track could find itself atop a Top Songs of 2012 list so do not overlook this work of art.
#3 Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
It takes me so long to find the words befitting of Alt-J, the latest band to win Britain’s prestigious Mercury Award—equivalent to Canada’s Polaris Prize—The xx (Coexist – #4 on this best of list) winning it in 2010 for their debut album. An Awesome Wave is awesome—the band got that right. Toting unique vocals throughout the entirety of the album, Alt-J makes a completely unique sounding album, having released some completely unique visuals for their single, “Fitzpleasure.”
Kendrick Lamar is Compton’s latest (and very possibly greatest of all time) rapper. Laugh at me if you want, but consider this: Dr. Dre uses Kendrick as his ghost writer. If that doesn’t cut it, this album was streamed 2.8 million times on Spotify in its first week! Not only that, but just this month, the record was certified Gold, just six weeks after its initial release. This album features an incredible group of producers: Pharell, Hit-Boy, Tha Bizness, Just Blaze, Scoop DeVille, and T-Minus, as well as features from Drake, Mary J Blige, and Dr. Dre to add a bit of fire power. Kendrick even cut a version of “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” featuring vocals from none other than Lady Gaga, all because this perfectionist of a musician liked the way an unknown musician’s voice had a bit of twang melding perfectly with the production. Good Kid M.A.A.D. City has the definite potential to be a “classic album,” trading punches with such LA classics as N.W.A.’s Straight Out Of Compton or Dr. Dre’s 2001.
#1 Mumford & Sons – Babel
British folk band, Mumford & Sons, returned to the spotlight with their magnificent sophomore album, Babel. This 15 track album is pure emotion track after track. From cut to cut, you will be entranced by the musicality and perfection that is each track. Lead singer, Marcus Mumford, sings to the point of empathy and want to cry out “Who hurt you so badly?!” They covered Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” and even Idris Elba aka Stringer Bell, from the Wire, directed and acted in the music video for “Lover of the Light.” There really aren’t words for the magic that comprises this record. It is a “hear it to believe it” record.