The Best Albums of 2012: 10 – 1

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We Present to You, We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2012

Over the course of three or four weeks, I bet you’ve all been inundated with several ‘Albums of 2012’ lists – my personal favourite has been NPR’s list of their favourite albums of 2012 – but alas, this is the definite list of the Best Albums of 2012 – in other words, this is the only list that you need! We recently released the first half of our list which showcased the best albums of 2012 from #25 to #11 and you can check that out HERE. Without wasting anymore time, here are our TOP 10 Albums of 2012!

10. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

Lana Del Rey Born To Die

Lana Del Rey’s debut studio album Born To Die simply put, can be described as Retro 50’s sound meets Contemporary Pop. I was intrigued first by her image and then sound, which seems like it was carefully crafted to fill a musical void. Born to Die is a refreshing album, with its different way of telling stories in a uniquely abstract and dreary form unusual from any artist and sound out there. For 2012, this is that Indie Pop album that you want to have listened to. – Temi Yembra

New Yorker, Lana Del Rey released Born To Die in January 2012. She emerged onto the scene clad in a twin set and pearls and gravity defying backcombed hair, introducing her particular brand of pouty, doe-eyed dream Pop to the world. The collection of songs on this album plays like a sombre treatise on the intricate tragedy of living in a privileged America. And Del Rey’s voice is filled with a unique variety of quirks to convey this. She is intermittently and skilfully smooth and lax or high and flighty or dark and dreamy. Born To Die is a beautifully morbid depiction of modern Americana. – Bibi Cofie

9. Beach House – Bloom

Beach-House-Bloom

I have a list of female vocalists that I’m want to impregnate based solely on the sound of their voices: Coco from Quadron, Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon, Corinne Bailey Rae, and floating around the top of that list doing battle with the spirit of the late Aaliyah is Victoria Legrand of Beach House. Bloom is a beautiful record from start to finish. From the lyrics, to the instrumentation, to (obviously) the vocals as well. Despite the occasional sadness and melancholy throughout, it’s actually been my go-to album for a mood lift this year. A somewhat appropriate title in that regard. – Tim Haywood

Taking a formula that they’re familiar with, Beach House expands that dreamy, airy Pop music we’ve come to expect from them into something even better. It isn’t all that different, but every song is gorgeous. The fact that, to me at least, 90% of the words are hard to understand, speaks volumes about the quality of the music itself. – William Stickles

8. Ab-Soul – Control System

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Ab Soul had an axe to grind. For some reason he had obtained middle child status in the Black Hippy collective. No one seemed to take notice of him. K Dot was the golden child (of course), ScHoolboy Q was the slackjaw that everybody wanted to hang with, and Jay Rock was… well Jay Rock. Everyone except for Soulo had a defined role. 17 jaw-dropping tracks later his fate changed; the middle child gets redemption. – Niyi Okuboyejo

Soul Brother #2 came out swinging this year. In fact, the whole Black Hippy crew did. But Soul showed something special with Control System. Charisma galore, infinitely interesting subject matter, and giving K. Dot a run for best wordplay in TDE, if not the entire rap game. Ab-Soul claims he wasn’t eating much this year, and I believe him because he was damn sure the hungriest rapper out there in 2012. – Tim Haywood

Soulo’s been slowly climbing up my list of faves since I peeped LongTerm 2. With Control System, he’s fully come into his own and firmly established himself as the “real thinker” of the Black Hippy collective. This album definitely contains Ab at his most introspective and hungry. On tracks like “Pineal Gland”, he just straight goes for broke and unleashes verse after verse of quotables, while on cuts like “Book of Soul”, you truly get a soul stirring peek at the man behind the music. It’s that kind of balance that makes this album such a formidable and engaging piece of art. – Jonesy Stark

7. The Weeknd – Trilogy

the-weeknd-trilogy-album-cover

The Weeknd is one of the few new R&B cats I can say that I truly rocks with. I’ve been a huge fan of Abel’s music since the first time I heard “The Knowing”. Despite the lions’ share of this album having already been free as separate mixtapes, the little retouches and additonal tracks on this one make it worth re-exploring. On the surface, The Weeknd’s music is simply about sex, drugs, and women. Fair enough, but when you truly peel back the layers and start analyzing the deeply personal lyrics, and how they reflect his view of his relationship with his fanbase, you come to appreciate just how masterful a writer, this brother is. – Jonesy Stark

Why? Because any reason I can find to have House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence on my year-end list two years in a row, I’m going to take advantage of. Also, “Valerie” goes hard as hell, and that alone is enough to justify Trilogy’s inclusion. – Tim Haywood

6. El-P – Cancer 4 Cure

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As if creating his own version of Madvillainy with Killer Mike wasn’t enough. El-P’s sounds of the apocalypse still shatters craniums. Only difference is that his angst has transformed to cynical smiles and menacing grins. In his eyes, the Armageddon he had been warning us about has already come. Now he is just laughing at us all as we burn. – Niyi Okuboyejo

El-P and Killer Mike redefined chucking deuces this year by throwing up two parallel middle fingers side by side. Only thing is they aren’t leaving to go anywhere. On the contrary, their presence in Hip-Hop was probably at an all time high this year, or at least higher than it’s been for a while. El-P’s always been the kind of emcee that demands repeat listens and a lot of times, to let his verses sink in. That’s exactly the case with Cancer 4 Cure. The bars are dense and abstract; but loaded with wit and sincerity, and laced in paranoia. “$4 Vic/FTL (Me and You)” is probably the closing track of the year, and sums up the album perfectly. – Tim Haywood

El-P had a hell of a year, his production work on Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music was more than enough to put him on my producers of the year list, but his work on Cancer 4 Cure was unlike anything else I heard this year. El’s always been one of the most dense lyricists in the game and C4C continues that tradition. C4C is at the same time a very personal and abstract album and it’s that contradictory nature that keeps me coming back for more. – Jonesy Stark

5. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music

The Ice Cube of this generation finally dropped the album that will define his legacy. Not to say the ATL native has not dropped great music in the past, but nothing he had done before sounded like R.A.P. Music and I doubt anything else he does after will. This isn’t just a career changer for both Killer Mike and El-P, it also shatters and re-established the line of who should work together in the Rap game. – Niyi Okuboyejo

I couldn’t be more of a Killer Mike supporter. I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II was my 2008 college soundtrack. I ended up with a 3.5 GPA and made the Dean’s List that year. I’ve been yelling Grind Time Rap Gang ever since. Fast forward to 2012 and the same guy that made “Pressure” has in-listed the help of the same guy that made “Patriotism” to craft an album that plays through pretty like a middle finger right in the face of anyone that pronounces nigga with an –ER. Not only that, it’s a “fuck you” to the government, to the status quo, to the cops, the textbooks in high school lockers, and lying ass rappers. It’s pretty much the album that Hip-Hop has needed for a long ass time. – Tim Haywood

4. Emeli Sande – Our Version Of Events

Emeli-Sandé-our-version-of-events-artwork

When it came out in February, I foresaw Our Version Of Events winning every award out there over the following twelve months and I predicted that this record was going to be one of the albums of 2012 and alas, here we are. Her voice is simply beautiful and you can hear her passion in each song, she is a great song writer and the production of each song is done excellently. Kudos to her and her entire team on a stellar debut album. – Neefemi Oyedele

Emeli Sande made a strong debut, this year with Our Version Of Events. The album consists of heart-felt Pop songs. Sande has achieved something unique with this album – she manages to be accessible yet honest. This is perhaps why she has been selected to sing at so many of this year’s prestigious occasions. Our Version Of Events is quietly brilliant. It doesn’t rely on taboo subject matter or over stylisation. It’s just simply constructed songs with timeless themes. There is something for everyone on this album. Our Version Of Events is a wonderful dose of genuine, gimmick-free Pop music. – Bibi Cofie

Soul singer Emeli Sande made such an impression with her debut album Our Version of Events. I first heard the radio friendly “Heaven” and “Next To Me” and then the more sincere “Read All About It Part 3”. The album offers a host of Pop and soulful ballads and I’m not surprised the award-winning songwriter’s handprints are on every track on the 3x platinum album. This is one of the albums I certainly don’t use a skip button for. – Temi Yembra

3. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

Until The Quiet Comes

A lot of the fun in listening to Flying Lotus’ music is trying to describe it and trying to figure out the narrative in it. At this point, you can’t knock anyone for being a bit too outlandish in their attempts. For me, Until The Quiet Comes gives me this feeling of being an infant that’s still not ready to open its eyes and discovering what the world is only through sound. My favorite track on the album, “Getting There,” is like hearing your mother singing to the cadence of her heartbeat while still lying in her womb. I also feel it’s an album heavy on juxtaposing birth with death, and therein innocence with guilt. Regardless of all that, it’s just a really enjoyable album to experience. – Tim Haywood

Steven Ellison continues his remarkable run of form with another beautiful instrumental album, simple and dense at the same time. The simple bass knock of “All In” carries through to “Tiny Tortures,” perhaps one of the more aptly-named songs of the year. Tiny percussive clicks and clacks suddenly give way to heaving bass, and it’s all pretty hypnotic. And he doesn’t slow down, throwing all types of sounds at you; in anyone else’s hands, a project like this could easily become a mess. Then again, I don’t think anyone else could pull something like this off. – William Stickles

Dismiss this as a stepback to Cosmogramma all you want, but do so at your own peril. Until the Quiet Comes is a force on its own. It helps to tell the whole story of Fly Lo’s evolution as the zeitgeist producer of this era. The pauses, still moments and quiet spaces all come together to create another momentous year for Flying Lotus. – Niyi Okuboyejo

2. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d City

Kendrick Lamar Good Kid m.A.A.d City

10 years from now… when this generation is bitching about how the music of that moment isn’t as great as it used be when they were young… Good Kid m.A.A.d. City will be the album they turn to as reference. – Niyi Okuboyejo

It’s kind of hard to tell whether Kendrick Lamar is more of a lyricist or an author when you listen to good kid, m.A.A.d city. The album’s packed from start to finish with incredible song after song, but what’s really amazing is how each song and skit weaves into one another, developing the greater story that Kendrick has penned. Like all great literature, you see glimpses of the author through their characters and that’s where Kendrick excels. Bringing the story of his Compton up-bringing alive through the P.O.V of his parents, his homies, the hoodrats he fucks with, and the little old ladies that walk the block preaching the good book. The only thing I’m trying to still figure out is where Drake fits in to all that… (j/k). – Tim Haywood

To say that Kendrick had lofty expectations to meet would be the understatement of the decade. The critical success of albums like O(verly) D(edicated) and Section.80 had propelled him firmly into the spotlight and the anticipation for his major label debut was at a fever pitch. Surely nobody could deliver on the hype surrounding this album. I mean every one of his peers before him had more or less failed to do so on their major debuts. But Kendrick Lamar not only met these expectations, he exceeded them with ease. Every song on this album is purposful, the running narrative expertly executed, the concept holding it all together but not constraining the individual songs. This album is likely the one I played most this year and the only reason it’s not my #1 is because the three preceeding entries have a bit of seniority on it due to release dates. – Jonesy Stark

1. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Frank Ocean Channel Orange

This year’s best R&B album is Channel Orange. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of other great albums in that genre, but we have to be real and give this one to Frank. Publicity and declarations of sexual orientation aside, Mr. Ocean is one of the most interesting singer/songwriters out right now. Need proof? Look no further than the epic (literally EPIC!) “Pyramids”, I’m still in awe of that one. – Tim Haywood

Channel Orange dives deep into territories that mainstream R&B usually avoids. It discusses love from different angles and perspectives, tackles wealth and complacency, and addresses several other social issues. Its greatest accomplishment though is doing so without attaching fussy gimmicks. The album is built deep with layers that reward the listener with each strip. – Niyi Okuboyejo

I’m not generally an R&B guy, but I guess it would be a bit of a cop-out to pigeonhole this album into one genre. It’s influences flip and switch almost constantly, making it an incredibly diverse and rewarding listening experience. Ocean’s style of singing also adds to this, changing from spoken baritone to croon almost instantly, and it all complements itself extremely well. Also, fantastic use of guests, with only three credited, Earl Sweatshirt, Andre 3000 and John Mayer. Well played. – William Stickles

Much like his peer The Weeknd, I discovered Frank Ocean by accident and my life has been richer for having done so. Channel Orange is a deeply personal album. There’s much to be analyzed, digested, debated, deconstructed and reconstructed here. I’d say it’s definitely one of the most thoughtful albums (in the traditional sense of the term) I’ve heard in a while. – Jonesy Stark

After the huge success of his mixtape Nostalgia/Ultra, I eagerly anticipated Frank Ocean’s debut studio album. Channel Orange showcases Frank Ocean’s amazing songwriting skills. A track such as “Sweet Life” housing quotes like “why see the world when you’ve got the beach” keeps you wondering what the true meaning of his lyrics are. Other album favorites such as “Thinkin’ About You” and “Pyramids” are few of the great tracks that make the Pop/R&B album land at the top of my albums list for 2012. – Temi Yembra

Special THANKS to Bibi Cofie, Temi Yembra, Jojo Sainvilier, our associate editor Neefemi Oyedele and a selection of music connoisseurs from the Hip-Hop Lovers family and forum – Niyi Okuboyejo, Jonesy Stark, Williams Stickles and Tim Haywood – for putting this list together with me. Happy New Year!

Ayo Adepoju

Head of PR + Publicity @WPGM_PR // Founder + EiC @WePlugGoodMusic
Ayo Adepoju

About the author:

Head of PR + Publicity @WPGM_PR // Founder + EiC @WePlugGoodMusic. Follow him on Twitter / Facebook.

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