10. Death Grips – The Money Store
By no means is The Money Store one of 2012’s most pleasing albums to the ear. However, it’s earned its stripes with its uniqueness; it houses the kind of thrashing, raw and ridiculous noise that would make your grandparents cover their ears. Death Grips brings unparallelled intensity to the table, like a car horn, or war, or tin cans being dragged behind a moving vehicle.
9. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d City
Kendrick Lamar’s debut album is a lesson to artists everywhere in storytelling, precision and attention to detail. While riding a wave of fluid, pulsing beats, the listener follows the artist deep into the trials and tribulations of his upbringing, personal life and rise to fame. Personal touches include segments of voicemails left by his parents from when he was young that punctuate the album and ease the plot along.
8. Snowblink – Inner Classics
Snowblink’s Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman have long floated beneath the CBC Radio 3 – Canadiana indie mainstream. After appearing as Feist’s backing band at this year’s Polaris Prize ceremony, the duo continues to gain recognition. Inner Classic, their second studio album, plays like the 10-day meditation retreat it was inspired by. Gesundheit’s pure, perfectly rounded-out voice glides over Goldman’s harmonies, track after track.
7. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Although British rock band Alt-J stepped onto the scene in 2007, it took them five years to release their debut album. An Awesome Wave boasts harmonic vocals occasionally akin to a barbershop quartet paired with obscure, often nonsensical lyrics against a backdrop of punchy, ringing, resonating melodies. This album wins the quirky award – alongside Britain’s legitimate Barclaycard Mercury Prize – for 2012.
6. Feist – Metals
Though the album was officially released at the close of 2011, Metals’ 2012 acquisition of the Polaris Prize lands it safely on this list. The album plays out like her most recently released music video: intimately. “Graveyard,” like Metals, was produced entirely in California’s Big Sur region. Feist and her backing band are shot from the distance in the desert, but it feels as if it is all for an audience of one.
5. Here We Go Magic – A Different Ship
The appearance of any Brooklyn-hailing band on a ‘top ten’ list may sound trite, but Here We Go Magic have paid their dues. Now touring off their fourth album, the band has successfully covered all the bases. A Different Ship keeps your toes tapping, encourages your date to drink a few more beers and is the perfect travel companion. After catching the band’s Glastonbury performance, Radiohead’s Nigel Godrich signed on to produce the album. Godrich’s production is heavily apparent in the album’s first single, “Make Up Your Mind.”
4. Patrick Watson – Adventures In Your Own Backyard
A Montreal staple, it’s not often that Patrick Watson skips out on any list of local music favourites. In his downtime, the composer-singer-songwriter hides out in Plateau with his family, but he has been touring relentlessly for most of 2012. As the title suggests, Adventures In Your Own Backyard is an experience. Though it was released just last spring, the album has brought Watson across the continent multiple times. Adventures features lyrics, vocals, full band and strings that will tease the wildest of imaginations.
3. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Melodic, layered, folky and seemingly emanating from deep inside a forest, Shields gives the modern-day music maven something simple yet lovely to digest. What has the potential to slip through the cracks into the abyss of mediocre ‘hipster jams’ is instead spun into a full-bodied masterpiece of an album. Powerful vocal work, rolling drums, and ambient undertones allow Shields to fill your soul.
2. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Tramp stands out as the most surprising album of 2012, yet its tracks play out as familiarly as the lines around your lover’s smile. The album is the story of girl setting aside anyone and anything that stood in her way in the quest for inner satisfaction. In the two albums released prior to Tramp, Van Etten’s voice was a whisper. This time around, Van Etten confidently puts down the college boyfriend who hid her guitar, told her she was shit and could never make it as a singer. Not one track on this album disappoints.
1. Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE
Channel ORANGE will undoubtedly provoke listeners to frantically feel around for the nearest bottle of expensive champagne. Ocean’s sultry voice oozes glamour against delightfully chilling bass lines, evoking class and elegance. Riddled with social commentary and refreshing depth, this monolith of an album is more than a pretty face — beneath the surface lies more wisdom than you can shake a stick at.