Top 10 Albums of 2012

January 4, 2013 3 comments

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2012 wasn’t a year of certainty when it came to music releases. If you entered the year expecting veterans to churn out game-changers, and newcomers to limp into recognition, then 2012 may have shattered any assurance you possess. In a year when “blog stars” got significant national attention, one-hit wonders got million dollar parting gifts, and the best-selling album saw its release nearly an entire two years ago; 2012 was a mixed bag of innovation, exploration, polarization and, possibly, a few genuine classics. All of which, quite democratically, are represented in Mostly Junk Food’s top 10 Albums of the Year.


10. Fiona Apple – “The Idler Wheel…”

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Fiona Apple has made a career of expending her musical resources for a project and then completely regenerating for the next. The fact that it may take six to seven years to complete each cycle has gone from hindrance to routine. If 2005’s Extraordinary Machine was a muddled, re-tooled mess of emotion and meticulous mental probing, then The Idler Wheel is Apple executing that on purpose. Raw and powerful are just the backdrop, with tracks like “Chaperone” and “Werewolf” declaring, with defiant aplomb, her own shortcomings and faults, Fiona builds the context of her own disfunction into the sheet music this time. Now, would it be possible for us to get another one this decade?


9. XXYYXX – “XXYYXX”

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Lyrics? Who the Hell needs something as trivial as lyrics to make one of the best albums of the year? Seventeen-year-old Marcel Everett, better know as XXYYXX, definitely don’t need no stinkin’ lyrics. The production on the Orlando native’s self-titled debut album is nothing short of phenomenal, from the ghastly synths and clever Beyoncé sample on “About You,” to the hard-hitting 808’s and Southern Hip-Hop vibe on “Witching Hour.” X’ nails it all the way through. Tracks like “Good Enough” and “Set it Off” make use of straight forward samples (From TLC and Monica, respectively) while songs like “Alone” chop up the sample (R. Kelly and Keri Hilson’s “Number One”) so well it’s barely recognizable, even to those familiar with the original record. Most impressive, however, is the patience shown on each track as he lets the beat build before bringing in the full composition. That pacing, paired with eclectic samples and experimental production, generated a project with more emotion than the majority of traditional albums released in 2012. Maybe words are, indeed, ‘just words’ after all.


8. Chance The Rapper – “10 Day”

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Chance?… The Rapper? From the moment Chano starts sing-rapping (or “rapping pretty” as he calls it) on “14,400 Minutes,” you get the feeling this tape is going to be something special. In a Chicago rap scene dominated by drillin’ and underage miscreants, Chance’s music is a welcomed respite. It’s groovy, simultaneously familiar and new. And, considering a high schooler made (a majority of) it during a 10-day suspension from school it is even more impressive. The originality this project possesses is rare, a perfect introduction for an artist looking to make you remember his name. Chance displays a wide-range of song-writing abilities (from the mellow “Hey Ma” to the uptempo fuckthishit banger “Fuck You Tahm Bout”) while showcasing just how nimbly he can float atop an instrumental; it doesn’t even seem like he has to try. Also, lest we not forget that Chance outrapped Childish Gambino, Twista (twice), Chuck Inglish and Chip Tha Ripper on songs this year. If you aren’t familiar, change that. If you already are, you’ll understand this project’s placement in our end-of-year list. AHK!


7. Jessie Ware – “Devotion”

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Devotion is a creep of an album. Where some records blatantly state their purpose with song structure, Jessie Ware’s debut LP draws its strengths from sneakily imposing its subtleties on the listener. Never once does “Wildest Moments” do anything revolutionary, or “Sweet Talk” break any new ground sonically; yet, the atmosphere and, most endearingly, Ware’s own soulful sense of purpose within her delivery, keeps this album from being easily categorized as R&B. The framework here should lead to an absolute snooze of a record but, instead, Devotion takes risks in the songwriting and willingness to mesh ideas through ease of cohesiveness. The overall impact is somewhere within the composition, but doesn’t quite belong there either. It is to be searched for.


6. Chromatics – “Kill for Love”

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Over 30 years ago Neil Young wrote “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” for his 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps. It served as one half of the bookend to, arguably, Young’s finest solo work, as he toiled with the idea of traversing fresh, new musical terrain, or the option to simply “fade away.” Kill for Love, Chromatics’ fourth studio album, opens with “Into the Black”, taking their synth-pop background and manifesting it, quite seamlessly, into one of the most appropriate covers of the year. If only for the pacemaking attributes of that intro, it speaks volumes to how tightly-crafted an album Kill for Love truly is. It bobs and weaves through anguish, love, sex and tragedy, all while retaining its own personality. This may be the untraveled terrain Young had in mind.


5. Grizzly Bear – “Shields”

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Expectations come and from prior progress. Grizzly Bear might just be the most beloved “indie-rock” and currently performing, and that’s undeniably the most vanilla way I could convey that. To follow up the gargantuan success of an album like Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear had to look forward and back. With singles like “Sleeping Ute” and “Yet Again”, it seemed as though they’d been staring in the rearview a tad bit too long. Fortunately, Shields is a record fully aware of its own impact, taking shape despite the familiar motifs and structures of albums past. Gone are the explosive hooks of “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Others” and in come the deliberately subdued tension of “A Simple Answer” and the triumphant finale “Sun in Your Eyes”. The amount of time this album may take to remove itself from the comparitive shadow of its trailblazing predecessor is indeterminate but, if one thing is for sure, Grizzly Bear have turned a page. So be it if that page is still in the same chapter.


4. Action Bronson x Party Supplies – “Blue Chips”

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Action Bronson’s approach to rap music is unfuckwithable. From the tight lyricism, esoteric pop culture name checks and exotic cuisine references, Action is seemingly everything a teen growing up in the 90’s obsessed over balled up into one musical figure. What we find most interesting is Bronsolino’s propensity for teaming up with one producer to create an entire project. Tommy Mas on Dr. Lecter, Statik Selektah on Well Done, Party Supplies on Blue Chips, Alchemist on Rare Chandeliers (with an upcoming collaboration with Harry Fraud on Saab Stories and Tommy Mas again on Mr. Wonderful)… this is something few rappers do, and it brings a cohesiveness to a project, as opposed to a sounding like a disjointed arrangement of loosies. Blue Chips, with its dusty, YouTube-ripped samples and inclusions of do-overs and fuck-ups, is utterly entertaining from start to finish. Inclusive of this mixtape is, without question, the best one-liner of 2012: “Mesothelioma money, drop Mercedes-Benz” on “Steve Wynn,” and, without question, the best beat loop of 2012: second half of “Thug Love Story.” Action has said that it was just him and Party Supplies fucking around in PS’s apartment. In a world that often takes itself too seriously, this project is a nice reminder that hip hop is supposed to be fun. Blue Chips is no-frills entertainment with infinite replay value. Shouts to Nick Nolte.


3. Future – “Pluto”

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I’ve heard Pluto dismissed as out-of-auto-tune, pointless, robotic, formulaic and mindless. To me, Pluto is an expression of raw emotion unlike any other project put out this year. Front to back, Future’s raspy voice slaps you across the face with whatever material he chooses to expound on. Yes, he raps about women, weed and money, but songs like “Truth Gone Hurt You” and “Permanent Scar” lay bare his soul and the landscape of his life. When he croons “turn on the lights, I’m looking for her”, you feel that desperate search for someone to hold onto. All of this comes on top of the best beat selections of the year, making for a can’t-miss project.


2. Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, m.A.A.d city”

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good kid, m.A.A.d city is the type of debut LP you almost never see anymore. Kendrick Lamar seemed poised to have the formula of new talent label handling thrown at him the day we all heard that Twin Sister sample come swooning through on the press single “The Recipe”. So, it speaks volumes that that song is relegated to bonus track material. What came about from the meshing of underground MVP Kendrick Lamar and the Interscope production machine was an album more nuanced and brave than any of Lamar’s peers. A sprawling 68 minutes is used to tell a John Singleton-style tale of violence, lust, faith and friendship in Compton, CA. It also features the least cheesy use of the phrase “ya bish,” which is a feat in and of itself.


1. Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”

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A studio posse album, a liberated Earl Sweatshirt, a transcontinental tour, a brand new Mellowhype LP, the signing of Trash Talk and even the debut of television show couldn’t cast a shadow on Odd Future’s most polarizing (and most valuable) member: Frank Ocean. Channel Orange was the triumph that many fans were expecting, but the level of emotional immersion bears a context not written solely into the music. To the ears of someone unaware of the surrounding backstory — the Nostalgia, Ultra callbacks, the surprise digital release, the infamous letter — the album still might still intimately resonate, but Frank left all the subtext curious and voyeuristic. What transpires is a deeply personal, yet universally relatable, LP that feels so unique to its creator that each listen feels like an audibly pleasurable intrusion. Channel Orange wears its imperfections like a mid-day robe, and that’s the main reason that it’s the most revered album of 2012.

Staff Picks

Dan

10. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
9. How To Dress Well – Total Loss
8. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
7. Band Of Skulls – Sweet Sour
6. Chairlift – Something
5. Jeremih – Late Nights with Jeremih
4. Grizzly Bear – Shields
3. Gary Clark Jr – Blak and Blu
2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
1. Jessie Ware – Devotion

Fred

10. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
9. BADBADNOTGOOD – BBNG 2
8. Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape 2
7. El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
6. TNGHT – Self-Titled
5. Heems – Nehru Jackets
4. Lute – West1996
3. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
2. Action Bronson – Blue Chips
1. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid Maad City

LoneXI

10. Rick Ross – Rich Forever
9. BJ the Chicago Kid – Pineapple Now & Laters
8. fun. – Some Nights
7. ZZ Ward – Till the Casket Drops
6. St. Lucia – St. Lucia EP
5. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city
4. The Royal Concept – The Royal Concept EP
3. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal
2. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
1. Future – Pluto

The Black Kevin Arnold

10. The Game – Jesus Piece
9. Ty$ – Beach House
8. Nas – Life is Good
7. Freddie Gibbs – Baby Face Killa
6. Ab-Soul – Control System
5. Childish Gambino – Royalty
4. Kendrick Lamar – GKMC
3. Lord Future – Pluto 3D
2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
1. XXYYXX – Self-Titled

Bauce Sauce

10. Cee Lo Green – Cee Lo’s Magic Moment
9. Phony Ppl – Phonyland
8. Curren$y – Cigarette Boats
7. Tame Impala – Lonerism
6. Homeboy Sandman – First Of A Living Breed
5. BJ The Chicago Kid – Pineapple Now Laters
4. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
3. Future – Pluto 3D
2. Action Bronson – Blue Chips
1. Chance The Rapper – 10 Day

lloyd

10. Jessie Ware – Devotion
9. Aesop Rock – Skelethon
8. Chromatics – Kill for Love
7. Death Grips – The Money Store
6. Beach House – Bloom
5. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
4. Grizzly Bear – Shields
3. Ondatropica – Self-Titled
2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
1. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

Catfish

10. Don Trip – Help Is On The Way
9. IAmSu! – Kilt
8. Phony Ppl – PhonyLand
7. The Game – Jesus Piece
6. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
5. Ab-Soul – Control System
4. Chance The Rapper – 10 Day
3. Future – Pluto 3D
2. Rashad – Museum
1. Ty Dolla $ign – Beach Hou$e

marc

10. TNGHT – TNGHT EP
9. Beach House – Bloom
8. Grimes – Visions
7. Tame Impala – Lonerism
6. Cat Power – Sun
5. Future – Pluto
4. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
3. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
2. Chromatics – Kill For Love
1. Kendrick Lamar – good kid m.A.A.d city