Top 20 Albums of 2012: 20-11

best albums of 2012Lana Del Rey, Born to Die20. Lana Del Rey: Born to Die
Lana Del Rey had quite an up-and-down year, from the low point of her Saturday Night Live episode to high points like becoming the face of H&M’s fall and winter campaign. But the reason all those were possible was her music. Born to Die came from one singular idea: a gangsta Nancy Sinatra. By combining expert string arrangements with Timbaland-esque drum programming, Del Rey crafted a musical identity based on epic sounds that were both vintage and new–fimilar and unique. And because of this vision, she became one of the most polarizing figures of the year. – Adam Morgan
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Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes19. Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes
Among the vast array of crossover musicians popular today, Flying Lotus takes the cake as not only my personal favorite, but one who consistently puts out genre-bending, mind-blowing musical compositions. Most recently, FlyLo did this with his latest album, Until the Quiet Comes. A new set of sounds was explored on this project; more dreamy ambiances were developed along with varied drums and note patterns. A complex, electronic, one-man orchestra, Flying Lotus truly boasts the talents of a highly skilled musical mastermind and undoubtedly holds a spot as the creator of one of the best projects of the year. – Stone
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Godspeed You Black Emperor, Allelujah Don't Bend Ascend18. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor has become the definitive post-rock experience and when GY!BE announced their fourth album was in the works, fans everywhere rejoiced. ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend presents all new music in a familiarly grim, dark, interminable landscape of instrumental glory. The band’s fourth album is impressive. Doing what they do best, Godspeed You! Black Emperor enthralls the listener in long, drawn, climatic build ups using a mix of fearsome, distorted strings and then ends it all in a quiet descent. ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend, has brought Godspeed You! Black Emperor out of it’s long slumber in a triumphant, maddening roar, thus making it one of the greatest albums of 2012. – John Naessig
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Hospitality, merge records17. Hospitality: Hospitality
With the advent of Vampire Weekend, lit-pop has become a bonafide genre. On Hospitality‘s sel-titled debut album, they show the listener the gritty side of the genre. Instead of praising the highly educated, they seem to gentle mock them. They sing “So you found the lock/ But not the key that college brings/ And all the trouble of your B.A. in English literature/ Instead of law, or something more practical.” Truer words have never been sung. – Adam Morgan
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16. Hot Chip: In Our Heads
Hot Chip‘s fifth full-length album, In Our Heads is their most insouciant album to date. The record continues the band’s trajectory of blending electro and pop but additionally continues their obsession with love songs. Through a myriad of styles and song lengths, they create odes to love that are joyous, effervescent, and danceable. – Adam Morgan
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Bob Dylan, Tempest15. Bob Dylan: Tempest
Tempest is not Bob Dylan‘s finest work; in fact, it might not even be in his top 10. But when you have released 35 albums, not being in your personal top 10 does not mean diminish the album’s overall power. He re-write’s history on the title track while he has never sounded feistier than on “Paid in Blood.” For Dylan, any record could be his last so naming his 35th album Tempest, the same name as Shakespeare’s final play (sans a “the”) seems like a premonition. If it is indeed Dylan’s last album, he goes out with a bang. – Adam Morgan

David Byrne, St. Vincent, Who14. David Byrne & St. Vincent: Love This Giant
What happens when an 80s icon teams up with an oughts indie darling? We find out on David Byrne and St. Vincent‘s Love This Giant and the answer is simply that the two find a harmonious balance. St. Vincent is a powerful enough indie pop songwriter, that even being 30 years David Byrne’s junior, she can not be swayed too far off her beaten path. And for David Byrne’s part, he is album to inject his combination of world music and art pop easily enough. We can only hope these two team up as often as Byrne and Brian Eno have. – Adam Morgan
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Shins, Port of Morrow13. The Shins: Port of Morrow
When The Shins released Wincing the Night Away in 2007, it felt like their first album not to be an instant classic. Over the last five years, the band has undergone lineup changes and an indefinite hiatus before re-emerging for Port of Morrow. With all that drama, one would think Port of Morrow would be their most tumultuous album yet. Instead, the album feels like the Shins at their most assertive. From the album’s energetic opening of “The Rifle’s Spiral” and “Simple Song” back to back to the nearly six-minute R&B-esque titular closing track, the album feels like a Shins without remaking Oh, Inverted World or Chutes Too Narrow. – Adam Morgan
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12. Beach House: Bloom
From the album cover to the name, Bloom is an album that hints at further maturation for one of indie pop’s darlings. For the most part, Beach House’s latest deals with topics already addressed ‒ and the approach certainly isn’t revolutionary. Yet the success of this record, and of Beach House’s past three records, lies in the duo’s ability to perfectly execute their limited approach. Standouts like “Other People” and “Wishes” are similarly breathy and ornate. But their ability to transcend the style of the album through sheer beauty and defined tones makes these songs truly memorable. – Mark Steinbach
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Japandroids, Celebration Rock11. Japandroids: Celebration Rock
Every year mentally–if not publically–I name a record which has made me believe that punk rock is not dead. Winners have included The Gaslight Anthem‘s American Slang, The ThermalsFuckin A, and now, JapandroidsCelebration Rock. Although it is something of a concept album, the Canadian duo created youthful intensity that can make even the most hardened 30-somethings remember their days of basement shows and photocopied zines. – Adam Morgan
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