I'm WAY behind on my 2012 albums but here's a list of my 15 favorites that I couldn't be bothered to put into numerical order. Also, I managed to get two blog posts in this year so that's cool.
Alabama Shakes -- Boys & Girls
I'd like to see Frank Ocean take home a bunch of Grammys next year for Channel Orange, but I'm also hoping Alabama Shakes sneaks "Best New Artist" out from under him. Singer/guitarist Brittany Howard is a phenomenal new talent and the band's debut, Boys and Girls, is the kind of rock album we need more of.
Anais Mitchell -- Young Man in America
This album received a good deal of praise when it was released and then people seem to have forgotten about it come year-end list time. BUT NOT ME. Anais Mitchell may have toned down the ambition a bit for Young Man in America (her last album was a folk opera variation on Greek mythology) but her songwriting is better than it's ever been.
Andrew Bird -- Break It Yourself
I love pretty much everything Andrew Bird does, but I was especially excited about Break It Yourself because it's easily his finest effort since The Mysterious Production of Eggs. It's also perhaps the album where he best balances his experimental side with more melodic pop.
Dirty Projectors -- Swing Lo Magellan
Swing Lo Magellan is the album where Dirty Projectors frontman Dave Longstreth seems to have settled into his groove. His creativity and energy remain, but he spends more time refining an established style here rather than leaping into something completely unexplored. For him that ends up being a very good thing as this collection of consistently great songs shows.
Django Django -- Django Django
I was introduced to Django Django by a friend of mine who got me hooked on the song "Default" by playing it about nonstop for three months. It may be the best tune on the band's self-titled album but there are plenty of psychedelic grooves and killer riffs to be found throughout this impressive debut.
Dr. John -- Locked Down
I recently saw Dr. John's Locked Down listed on a forum as the "dad rock album of the year," which I suppose may be true, but I think that title may discount the energy and intensity of the music on display. The septuagenarian singer/keyboardist, with the help of producer Dan Auerbach, has released a great rock 'n' roll album by any standard.
Father John Misty -- Fear Fun
Joshua Tillman switched from recording under his own name to Father John Misty for his latest record, and with the new moniker comes a remarkably different album that expands his drowsy folk style into a busier, stranger, and far more interesting set of tunes. With music like this it's unlikely Tillman will continue to be known only as "that guy who used to play drums for Fleet Foxes."
First Aid Kit -- The Lion's Roar
Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg are just 22 and 19 years old respectively, but the fine songwriting and beautiful harmonies on their second album, The Lion's Roar, make it feel like the work of much more mature artists. One of the best Americana albums of the year—from Swedes? Go figure.
Frank Ocean -- Channel Orange
This is the best album I’ve heard this year, no question, and it deserves every ounce of praise it has received.
Jack White – Blunderbuss
Was anyone surprised that Jack White could make a great album sans Meg? Probably not. Still, Blunderbuss is by far the best thing he’s done without her after a number of good-but-not-great side projects, so it’s reassuring just the same.
Kendrick Lamar -- good kid, m.A.A.d city
It took me a while to get to Kendrick Lamar’s latest because I figured, given that it had been labeled as gangsta rap, I wouldn’t have much interest. Maybe I’ve just spent enough time in LA to get over that (not likely), but either way it’s easy for me to understand that good kid, m.A.A.d city is a fantastically strange, intelligent, and exciting rap album.
Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
There is a lot of sadness packed into the 32 minutes of Put Your Back N 2 It, but Perfume Genius (aka Mike Hadreas) displays it beautifully. And though it’s a dark album, there are moments of hope and affirmation that help make his second effort a powerfully emotional statement.
Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now
Chris Thile’s Wikipedia page features an overwhelming list of projects, bands, and collaborations. His third album with Punch Brothers reflects this sort of variety with a restless creativity deserving of the inarguable brilliance of these four musicians.
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
I didn’t really understand what all the fuss over Sharon Van Etten was about until I heard her third album, Tramp. Producer Aaron Dessner and an impressive group of collaborators help to underscore Van Etten’s inward-looking songwriting with simple yet striking arrangements.
Tame Impala – Lonerism
I found Tame Impala’s debut, Innerspeaker, so boring I had no interest in hearing their second album, Lonerism. But the praise being heaped upon it was hard to ignore, and after one listen I was hooked on this outrageous and otherworldly psych-rock album. This thing is light-years ahead of its predecessor.