BEST OF 2012: The Best Albums of 2012

Written By Winston “Stone Ford with input from Paul T, and Adam Carnegie

RIP to the Album.

2012 was the year of streaming. The year of the playlist. The year of having every bit of music ever made at your fingertips. With the transition to singles, it seems that albums will become a thing of the past. In fact, several high-profile albums dropped this year to faint appreciation (looking at you Passion Pit, Miike Snow, and The xx). So why even create this list at all?

Because the album (or EP or mixtape) is still the best way for an artist to tell their story. Look at Kendrick or Frank Ocean. You can tell more about them as a person from their albums than a simple 3 minute track. And this is why the album format will persevere. As we get so overwhelmed with the trash that we all now have to filter through, the album will remind us to take the time out and listen to a story, and not someoneone screaming for attention on a social media channel.

ALBUMS 40 – 11

40.) Jack White – Blunderbus
39.) Esperanza Spalding – Radio Music Society
38.) The Weeknd – Trillogy
37.) BJ The Chicago Kid – Pineapple Now & Laters
36.) Emeli Sande – Our Version of Events
35.) Nas – Life Is Good – Reloaded
34.) The xx – Coexist
33.) Lana Del Rey – Paradise
32.) Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
31.) Oddisee – People Hear What They See
30.) Willis Earl Beal – Acousmatic Sorcery
29.) Sean Price – Mike Tyson
28.) JJ DOOM – Keyz to the Kuffz
27.) Brother Ali – Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color
26.) Apollo Brown and Guilty Simpson – Dice Game
25.) Home Again (Michael Kiwanuka
24.) Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
23.) Purity Ring – Shrines
23.) Gary Clark Jr. – Blak & Blu
22.) Kimbra – Vows (US Version)
21.) Dorsh – Neopolitan
20.) Grizzly Bear – Shields
18.) Disclosure – The Face EP
17.) Alabama Shakes – Boys And Girls
16.) Passion Pit – Gossamer
15.) Azealia Banks – 1991 EP
14.) Ava Luna – Ice Level
13.) Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts
12.) Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough?
11.) Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors


10.) Jessie Ware – Devotion

Jessie Ware might have jumped into the pop mainstream and abandoned her underground pirate radio roots, but Devotion is the epitome of a great pop album. Dipping into everything from 80s to house music, Ware is a breath of fresh air to the sometimes hackneyed pop world.

9.) Cherub – Mom and Dad / Man of the Hour

You probably haven’t heard of Nashville based duo Cherub and that’s a shame, because their two EPs contain some of the most progressive music I’ve heard in a long time. Sure they sound like Passion Pit, but as you can see they score higher than that band’s 2012 release Gossamer. Just sayin’.

8.) Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

Flying Lotus has been on a roll this year, and Until the Quiet Comes seems like the culmination of all his success. We describe this one as “vintage” FlyLo, seeing the dude go a bit back to his roots than previous efforts.

7.) Bryan Ellis – Cloud of Unknowing EP

Have you heard of this dude? Most likely not. However, Bryan Ellis put together one of the best R&B albums I’ve heard this year. Tracks like “Wonderful Life,” should be playing on the radio right now, while “She,” can stand up to anything from Frank Ocean or The Weeknd. Give it a download and let me know if you agree.

6.) Wiz Khalifa – O.N.I.F.C.

I had very low expectations for Wiz’s sophomore release. Rolling Papers was a disaster. However, O.N.I.F.C. saw his label (as with Kendrick’s) letting him find his lane. The result was one of the best produced hip-hop albums of the year, with Khalifa letting his ear for great production work to his benefit.

5.) Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man in the Universe

It used to be that, old timers making albums with updated production spelled disaster, but it’s been proven recently that the formula can work. First it was Gil Scott Heron’s collaborations with Richard Russell and Jamie XX. Now it’s Bobby Womack’s collabo with Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn. The result is simply beautiful, and Womack’s tortured soul is a great compliment to Albarn’s trip-hoppy production.

4.) Tame Impala – Lonerism

When the Australian group Tame Impala dropped on the map in 2010 with Innerspeaker it took the blog world by storm. Their follow up might have slipped through the cracks, but it’s just as good if not better than the original. Impala’s formula of lo-fi soul and psychedelia might not be accessible to most, but it’s a great example of a band finding its lane and consistently owning it.

3.) Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream

WIth all of the talk of Frank Ocean, many people may have overlooked fellow Los Angelino Miguel. However, his Kaleidoscope Dream is a fine compliment to Channel Orange, creating a different R&B landscape from the Chris Browns and Trey Songz of the world. Face it people, this is where music is headed, and R&B needs this. You also need this album in your collection.

2.) Joey Badass – 1999

People are sleeping on 17 year old rapper Joey Bada$$, but the dude put out one of the most solid hip-hop projects of 2012. His crew (RIP Capital STEEZ) looks to become the East Coast’s answer to Kendrick Lamar, and 1999 was a project with it’s foot in the past with an eye to the future—kind of like Kendrick’s Section 80. Let’s hope this is only the beginning.

1.) Frank Ocean – Channel Orange and Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.a.a.d City (tie)

This is the first ever tie for Album of the Year for Couch Sessions, but it’s warranted. Both Kendrick’s and Frank’s albums have and will continue to define a generation. It’s only fitting that we look at both works as one complete work.

Channel Orange is an album in the age of singles and iTunes. An album, you know, cohesive
tracks and themes. I discussed “Pyramids,” with a friend over three different forms
of communications: facebook, texts, and phone calls. I still cannot pinpoint the exact
theme of the song, if there is one theme. “Pyramids” could be a discussion on the music
industry, colonialism, the history of women of color, or maybe, just simply a pimp with a
heart and his favorite bitch. My other music heads acquaintances and friends would quote
and discuss “Sierra Leone.” Even the clear single from the album, “Thinkin Bout You,”
contains more depth, cleverness, and honesty than most albums. However, the tracks
that grabbed me were the more “simple,” and on the surface, less complicated songs
compared to the rest of the album – “Lost” and “Sweet Life.”

What can we say about Kendrick Lamar that can’t already be said? In a land of trap music and empty pop, Lamar proved that he could hold his own, garnering a growing fanbase and Billboard success in the process. The most beautiful thing about this album is that his label let Kendrick be Kendrick. No pop stars singing hooks (although Lady Gaga came close), no drawn out crew tracks, and no radio singles. Just Kendrick. There is much to be said about this and it bodes well for the future of music.