Choosing your favorite album of the year is certainly much easier than choosing your favorite album of all time. Well, that was until 2012 - a year that experienced a great flood of brilliant records. Best album proved to be this year's toughest category, thus the viewer poll resulted in a first-place tie.
The draw was between Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel... and Frank Ocean's channel ORANGE - two albums which are also nominated for a Grammy in the same category (who could have ever imagined we'd agree with the effing Grammys?!). In all honesty, it's no surprise that these two albums have and will continue to receive such great praise. They're both uniquely compelling, and interestingly, both are the work of solo artists. Perhaps we find it easier to identify with individual artists rather than groups of musicians? Whatever the reason may be, here are the results of Best Album of 2012:
1. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...
"Beneath all of this is some great music. Apple's virtuoso piano-playing that we all know is still apparent - her knack for melodic melancholy is unmatched. Also excelling on this release are Apple's accompanying players. Charley Drayton's percussion stands out almost as much as Apple's piano, sometimes rolling through with alarming immediacy, other times being just involved enough to work. And on "Hot Knife" - a song which ironically has hardly any percussion - Apple's sister Maude Maggart does unbelievable harmony work, adding a unique extra layer to the song." Read the full review.
1. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE
"channel ORANGE is an artist's assertion that he's the best at what he does, and that to argue otherwise would be stupid. And what's even scarier, is that channel ORANGE's sonic elements might not even be its most impressive element." Read the full review review
3. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
"It's hard to pinpoint a favorite aspect of the oddities, but the tightness of the vocal arrangements really strike me the most. Alt-J seems to understand that the human voice is simultaneously the most versatile and underused musical instrument available, and in a world full of instrumental exploration both acoustic and electric, the voice still affords an opportunity to make something new. On An Awesome Wave, they capitalize on this theory in a big way. Which is why it's perhaps the most uniquely new music to be released this year." Read the full review.
"To engage a new Yeasayer album is to engage the faceless beast - the band is like a phoenix, continually bursting into flames and emerging from the ashes a new, changed aesthetic. To criticize them for stylistic integrity would be missing the point - they actively avoid photocopying themselves. Thus with Fragrant World, the third tent pole in their ever-growing discography, they've nailed yet another style with surprisingly fresh sounds, coating their brilliant hooks in a new sense of self. And it's one of their best senses yet." Read the full review.
5. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
"Adventure - the only word you can really use to describe this album. Longstreth takes you to so many different places in such a small amount of time, it's exhaustively impressive. You start in a Nicolas Jaar-jazz-percussive world and then are swept onward to a rock 'n roll/folk journey. And that's just the lead track. Dirty Projectors meld folk, rock, Grizzly Bear, electronica, Abbey Road-era Beatles, radio pop, and Nat King Cole all into this one album. There's a part of me that wants to say that this amalgamation of styles shouldn't work, that an album without one specific sound is a lost one. But I just can't. Dirty Projectors do it with such conviction and intuition that it actually comes off feeling natural. So when the upbeat poppiness of "Dance For You" melts into a dark, paranoid interlude a la "Day in the Life," something about it just feels right." Read the full review.
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