1. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
2012 was a pretty lackluster year for music after 2011’s flood of new material by Tom Waits, The Black Keys, The Decemberists, The Roots, Radiohead, Wilco, and Kanye West. Moreover, after serviceable yet average returns to the Hip Hop/R&B form by Big Boi and Santigold, both the medium and the genre was left with one defining artist: Frank Ocean. I don’t pretend to be an expert on all matters music, as my exposure is limited due to the amount of film and television I watch, but after listening to Channel Orange about ten or fifteen times, I’m finally getting past the deep and diverse soundscapes Ocean has layered into his tracks (ranging from funk to electronic) to the actual stories he’s telling. This is not to say the album is a case of form over content. Rather, this is a form of absolute praise that it remains nearly impossible for me not to get lost in the heat of it all.
2. Jack White – Blunderbuss
3. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits
4. The XX – Coexist
5. Cat Power – Sun
Comparable to the maturity and emotive brilliance of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, The Idler Wheel is a remarkable musical feat not only for 2012, but for Fiona Apple herself. Like Blue, The Idler Wheel explores the various facets of relationships from insecurity to infatuation, combined with Apple’s signature self loathing. What makes this album such a success is the maturation of Apple’s own self contempt with her newfound grace and wisdom; each personal blow has behind it a sagacity afforded through experience.
With uncompromising song structure and percussive instrumentation, Apple’s signature contralto delivers melodies which hit the listener with blaring force.
The Idler Wheel, the culmination of an admirable yet sporadic sixteen year career, has undeniably proven itself to be well worth the seven year wait.
(The rest, in no particular order.)
2. Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts
3. The Lumineers – The Lumineers
4. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
5. The XX – Coexist
6. Melody Gardot – The Absence
7. Max Richter – (Recomposed) Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
8. Lotte Kestner – Stolen