Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, m.A.A.d. CityHoly shit, what an album. After two incredible mixtapes, it’s really great to see Kendrick Lamar swoop in and fuck shit up so properly with his debut record. With its accomplished storytelling and Kendrick’s basically unstoppable flow (not to mention Dr. Dre's immaculate production), Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is going to go down as a classic, for sure.
Indian Wells - Night Drops The electronic music of today probably has some of the most unfortunate terminology associated with it. The term “post-dubstep” is going to make just about anyone groan (as well it should), but acts like Mount Kimbie and James Blake have turned out some pleasing sounds by utilizing some of dubstep’s more recognizable generic conventions. Similarly, Indian Wells falls into the post-dubstep genre by default. Night Drops, however, is an album whose beautiful textures and impressive song structures showcase a talent that goes far beyond hitting some keys an twiddling some knobs.
Frank Ocean - Channel ORANGE We were all waiting for the first studio record from Odd Future’s resident crooner, and Frank Ocean did not disappoint. Channel ORANGE is a mature, self-assured R&B record with a healthy dose of experimentalism, for progressiveness’ sake. And progressive it is: if this album had come out a year earlier, it’d be giving The Weeknd a run for their money.
Alt-J - An Awesome Wave One of the most fun art-rock records that came out in 2012, Alt-J’s debut is complex, yet flawlessly executed. These guys, though unfairly compared to Readiohead and dismissed by some of the more prominent music blogs, boast a unique and refined style in their early efforts that most bands take years to develop.
Mala - Mala in Cuba One of the guys who basically invented dubstep, Mala cruised down to Cuba to make himself a record with a bunch of Cuban influences. The result is basically exactly what you’d think it would be — sparse, atmospheric dubstep with a healthy dose of traditional Cuban music — and it’s awesome.
Jack White - Blunderbuss Those of us who were wondering what Jack White’s solo album would sound like were not disappointed. He basically took everything that was awesome about his previous projects and put them into ONE project. The White Stripes’ earnest, heart-on-the-sleeve songwriting gets mashed together with the full-frontal rock of the Raconteurs and Dead Weather for an album that will be thought of as important for years down the line, most likely.
Tame Impala - Lonerism It’s not really a surprise that Tame Impala’s second album is a great one, because their first record came with the kind of quiet, subtle excellence that speaks to some serious talent. Sure enough, Lonerism builds on just about everything that made Innerspeaker great.
Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel... It’s really a shame, what happened to Fiona Apple’s last album. Anyone who’s heard the Jon Brion-produced sessions that never got a legitimate release know that Extraordinary Machine should have been a much better album. Thankfully, The Idler Wheel... sees Fiona Apple ditching the drums and electric guitars that hip-hop producer Mike Elizondo (a great producer, just mis-matched with Apple) brought to the mix on Extraordinary Machine, instead opting for her more traditionally eclectic arrangements.
Cat Power - Sun Chan Marshall wanted desperately for her newest album to be a bit of a left turn, and she was successful. After apparently throwing out a record’s worth of work because someone told her it sounded like her other material, Cat Power created a record more textured and varied than anything she’s worked on previously.
Metz - Metz These Canadian noise rockers showed up out of nowhere and basically just tore the roof off of whatever building they found themselves in. If you want an album full of excellent beating-the-shit-out-of-people music (or working-out music; whatever you're into), Metz is a great choice.
Django Django - Django Django An album that makes you feel like you’re at a party in a digital desert, Django Django’s debut record joins awesome efforts by bands like Yeasayer and Bear in Heaven, crafting spacey, psychedelic songs around organic-sounding pop frameworks. Great for the touch-screen Bedouin in all of us.
Solange - True This EP, produced by Blood Orange’s Dev Hines, finds Solange busting out some serious songwriting chops, finally sounding like the accomplished artist we all knew she was.
Opossom - Electric Hawaii The album starts off with an almost too-simple summertime jam, but quickly gives way to an intense, psychedelic head trip that will make you want to have yourself an acid-fueled, beachside hippie freakout.
Born Gold - Little Sleepwalker In interviews, Born Gold’s Cecil Frena has said that he intended for Little Sleepwalker to be the polar opposite of his first album, Bodysongs. He succeeded. While the previous album was great, the second album heads in a completely opposite direction. As it turns out, Little Sleepwalker’s ice-cold electronica is just as compelling as Bodysongs was enjoyable.
THINK I MISSED ANYTHING? Let me know in the comments! I'm always on the lookout for some new tunes.