We already took a look back at the year’s Top 25 singles, now here’s my list of 2012′s best albums.
Full disclosure: As a consumer of music, I have migrated heavily away from albums and toward singles. I believe in albums and support the album format in theory more than I sit down and listen to albums, and I believe singles are a better indicator of where music is at as a whole.
That said, here are 10 albums that broke through for me in 2012, followed by a handful of assorted noteworthy musical events in 2012.
THE TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2012
10. Kanye West Presents G.O.O.D. Music, “Cruel Summer”
Kanye West leads his troupe through a musically rich and forward-thinking collection of sounds; that this album was underappreciated shows how ahead of the game Kanye is, and how we’ve come to take him for granted.
9. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “The Heist”
8. Beach House, “Bloom”
7. Leonard Cohen, “Old Ideas”
“I love to speak with Leonard, he’s a sportsman and a shepherd, he’s a lazy bastard living in a suit.” So goes the opening line of Cohen’s 12th studio album, which acts as a homecoming of sorts for the 78-year-old sportsman and shepherd.
6. Miguel, “Kaleidoscope Dream”
5. Ke$ha, Warrior
4. Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange”
3. Kendrick Lamar, “good kid, m.a.a.d. city”
Compton upstart Kendrick Lamar labels his first full length set “a short film by Kendrick Lamar,” and it’s full of the sort of vivid storytelling that backs up that claim. It’s an album so rich that even its leftovers (“The Recipe,” “West Side Right on Time”) is better than most rappers’ A-list material.
2. Bruce Springsteen, “Wrecking Ball”
Think of it as Occupy Springsteen. The Boss is fired up about the state of things and he lays it all out there on “Wrecking Ball,” an incredibly potent set of protest songs that come off like Irish bar sing-a-longs.
1. Fun., “Some Nights”
An ambitious pop record that managed to break through on the strength of two zeitgeist capturing singles (“We Are Young” and the title track), fun. made the soundtrack for 2012 and had it sounding pretty, well, you know.
MORE MUSICAL MOMENTS FROM 2012
Concert of the Year: Big Sean, Dec. 1, Palace of Auburn Hills
Big Sean became the first Detroiter to headline the Palace since Kid Rock and Eminem a decade before him, and he stepped up to the big leagues with a youthful, vibrant show that felt like a whole new energy for Detroit. Swerve!
Music Video of the Year: 2 Chainz featuring Kanye West, “Birthday Song”
Director Andreas Nilsson takes all the rap video cliches — booty girls, parties, 40s — and filters them heavily through a cloud of weird in this oddly disorienting daylight-set clip. I’m not even sure 2 Chainz himself realizes how good this video is. Speaking of 2 Chainz…
MVP of the Year: 2 Chainz
Where were we before 2 Chainz? The rapper was everywhere in 2012, appearing on songs with everyone and standing tall over the hip-hop community; he made it to Detroit alone four times, opening for Young Jeezy (in January), Drake (in May) and Nicki Minaj (in July) before headlining his own show at Saint Andrew’s Hall (in September). That his breakthrough came at 35 in the youth-dominated world of hip-hop is all the more heartwarming. He is truly more than the sum of his chainz.
Worst Song of the Year: Owl City featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, “Good Time”
Offensively lazy bedroom pop bozo Owl City ropes in Carly Rae Jepsen for the year’s blandest celebration, a song that makes having fun sound like market research. Let us not speak of this song in 2013, please.