50. Kaleidoscope Dream---Miguel
KD opens with Adorn, the musical equivalent butter, and only proceeds to get more deliciously indulgent from there. The man's voice is about as smooth as it gets, never reaching for a note, delivering morally questionable enticements over ever-varied production. Simply put, Miguel is a pro in the art of seduction, musical or otherwise.
49. Pink---Four Tet
Four Tet is a brand, a promise of percipitous dancefloor beats and grooves, all set in a sort of murky, underwater playplace. Pink might be par-for-the-course for Kieran Hebden, but that's only because the artist plays without a handicap, making music to the project's own distinct muse. It's somewhat unvaried within the FT catalogue, but completely unmistakable with anyone else.
48. Until the Quiet Comes---Flying Lotus
Down-tempo? Steven Ellison doesn't know the meaning of the word. One of the critical darlings of the electronic world, Lotus' releases may deserve their lauded status, but that doesn't make them anything less than exhausting. Quite arrives as a glorious respite from the hyper-speed madness; the album maintains much of the producer's eccentricity and cadence, but does so while broadening and smoothing out his sound into something the goes down easy, and passes in a blur.
47. Shrines---Purity Ring
Where many of their contemporaries make bedroom pop that's perfectly happy to stay indoors, Purity Ring misappropriates the genre tag, turning it into something far larger, and ready for the stage. Corin Roddick's beats are simply too towering, too attention-grabbing to be misconstrued as shy, vocalist Megan James' feathery touch disguising violent imagery and foreboding narratives. The whole thing hangs above you like an ominous raincloud... but in a good way.
46. Attack on Memory---Cloud Nothings
Attack is right! While Cloud Nothings' latest still posesses a handful of those wonderfully bratty pop-punk songs on which the group made their name (Fall In, Stay Useless), it also makes space for a new kind of sound: blistering, ferocious rock. Check out the air-locked trudge of opener No Future, No Past for proof, or better yet, Wasted Days, the disc's sweaty, snarling, muscle-flexing centerpiece.
Far and away the most appropriately-titled album of 2012, CR lasts all of eight tracks and 35 minutes, during which no breaths are taken. A clamorous, elated affair, stuffed to the brim with Thermals-style ruckus and energy. And yet, somehow, all this thrashing about doesn't begin to leave the thing hookless, as both Fire's Highway and The House that Heaven Built will readily attest. Just turn it up, already.
44. Interstellar---Frankie Rose
Interstellar is girl-and-guitar pop dressed up in something verging on the etherial. From her washed-out ax-work, to her blurry, layered voice, Rose's solo debut is a nocturnal journey throught the cosmos, deceptively speedy, and head-spinningly textural. Throw in the Rose's savvy nose for a sticky hook, and you've got one of 2012's best night-time-tinged offerings.
43. Ekstasis---Julia Holter
A certain white fuzz permeates all of Ekstasis, like you've suddenly boarded an impossibly soft, billowy cloud, and are calmly watching the world below. Holter is a deciple of reverb, each cushy sound bouncing off the next with contented beauty. It certainly won't get you ready for the game, but Ekstasis posesses a beauty that's hushed, confident, and easy to get lost in.
As if Caribou's last stunning release wasn't dance-y enough, along comes Daphni, Dan Snaith's most literal stab at MCing an album to date. The artist's signiture mannered croon is nowhere to be found here, replaced by a club-ready chug-and-bounce that launches with highlight Yes, I Know
, and sends your feet tapping and head bobbing from there on out.
Don't get me wrong, Hot Chip has been making dance music from the word, 'go,' but never quite this dance-y. In deciding to play free and loose with the verse-chorus-verse pop song structure that's always structured their music, the band highlights their greatest strengths (propulsive bass lines, fidgety, color-wheel beats), while minimizing their weaknesses (Alexis Taylor's unsteady croon). Just try sitting still, I dare you.
Centipede Hz---Animal Collective
Perhaps no 2012 album had to grapple with pre-release expectations the way that CH did, serving as the band's follow-up to the universally-lauded Merriweather Post Pavillion. And while the disc doesn't exactly match up to its sky-scraping forebearer, the LP nonetheless stands as another welcome oddity into the group's discography, not to mention sporting one of the year's most glorious middle sections.
39. Major---Fang Island
There's a palpable sense of fun that's emitted through the speakers whenever you put a Fang Island song on, an inescapable feeling that the musicians themselves are having a total blast, and that you should do just the same. Major does next to nothing to buck this trend, opening with a slew of solid (if rigidly structured) pop-rock songs before blasting off with lead single Asunder, and never looking back. From there on out, Fang Island's latest is pure kinetic, rollicking bliss.Gossamer---Passion Pit
No 2012 effort was more at war with itself than Gossamer, dizzyingly ectstatic beats often played at break-neck speed for the purest of pop elation, all set to Michael Angelakos' unrelenting self-hatred. The singer skewers himself (or his characters, in fairness) on subjects as big-picture as finacial issues, alcoholism, domestic abuse, and social barriers, all while the listener unknowingly burns off calories on the dancefloor. The electro hooks get your attention; the juxtaposition holds it.
37. Devotion---Jessie Ware
2012 saw a massive comeback from the R&B genre, and while many artists ascended to stardom by re-writing the playbook, Jessie Ware took the straight road. Devotion is an album from another time, the unironic songstress flexing her resplendent voice over backings that add a touch of enveloping, woozy gloss over 90's radio-standard trappings. It's quite the time machine.
36. Spooky Action at a Distance---Lotus Plaza
Bradford Cox might get the lion's share of the attention, but Lockett Pundt's latest could represent a turning of the tides in camp Deerhunter. The songs he writes balance enormity and intimacy with exacting precision, cuts like Monoliths just as eager to blast from speakers as they are to roll out calmly from headphones. A welcome batch of dreamy classic rock.
Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2012:
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2012: