Yep, I’ve been really quiet the last few months and for good reason – one which I can’t quite disclose (yet), but let’s just say I’m busy. So busy, the Top Ten Records of the Year will be limited to 141 characters (or in that area) in description. Honorable mention to The Dirty Projectors and Kathleen Edwards… loved those records. Happy New Year everybody! See you in 2013. Let’s do this.
10. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafitti – Mature Themes
At 1st listen, I thought this was a joke or I had downloaded the wrong leak. Maybe it is a joke, but you’ll undoubtedly be singing “Kinski Assassin” before you know it, and hell, probably the confounding “Schnitzel Boogie” and “Symphony of the Nymph” too. <shrug> The oldie cover “Baby” and “Only in My Dreams” are pure pop gold.
9. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
Bare bones production, mainly Fiona’s voice, keyboards, a few strings and some percussion. Frantic and dramatic, and at times bordering on epic Daniel Johnston meltdown proportions. It feels like a nasty break-up and a panic attack at the same time, and Fiona plays the part to a tee.
8. Beach House - Bloom
Blissed out dream pop, not really any different from their last outing Teen Dream… but it’s still essential listening. Can I type the word “dream” again? That’s really what its like. “Myth” is one of the best singles of the year.
7. Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action at a Distance
To me, this is a pensive portrait of a young man looking out into a wide open world. Not much trickery here, just Deerhunter’s Lockett Pundt’s soaring, almost Panda Bear-like vocals and driving guitars that will be etched into your conscious. Friendly and accessible, a beautiful one-man affirmation the likes of Merriweather Post Pavilion.
6. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
If you love The National, this will hold you over till their next record. Sullen, dark, and gritty to the core – yet full of determination and hope to conquer all. Riffs tower and the vocals creak. Packed with corkers.
5. Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes
This must be what it feels like to fly through space. This is not a record, it’s an experience, man. A truly unique trip I couldn’t get enough of this year. So seemless and hypnotizing that I missed Erykah Badu and Thom Yorke’s cameos the first time around. Description defying.
4. Tame Impala - Lonerism
This kaleidoscopic pop record is short, sweet and likely dipped in MDMA if you know what I mean. Opener “Gotta Be Above It” and should-be single of the year “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” are pretty wonderful.
3. Death Grips – The Money Store
This album builds upon skull crushing beats, samples, and God knows what else in the mix – MC Ride growls, howls, and spits ferocious rants and rhymes front to back. The kitchen sink clashes and clangs throughout the record, finally and properly boiling over with the infectious 120 bpm album closer “Hacker”. If the Mayans had been right last week, this would have been a fitting soundtrack.
2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, mA.A.d city
The technical prowess of Eminem with thunderous choruses and the desolate temptation of sex and drugs, haunted by the ghosts of fallen MC’s of the days of yore in present day Compton – complete with voice mails from mom. Even the most reserved red state soccer mom would crank “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” in her mini-van. In years that pass, I am positive it will go down with The Chronic as a staple in South Central L.A. hip hop.
1. Frank Ocean – channelOrange
A killer verse on Watch the Throne’s “No Church in the Wild” doesn’t mean Frank Ocean is the next Nate Dogg people will just be calling for hooks… my favorite record of 2012 has the potential and promise of an artist the likes of D’Angelo. Even the 40 second tease of “Fertilizer” is proof that Frank can write a tune that hangs with Sly and the Family Stone’s Stand! era. No fronting, believe the hype. Here and now Frank Ocean is the man.