The Best Albums Of 2012 (According To Your Friendly Neighborhood VH1 Staffers)

by (@unclegrambo)

VH1 Best Albums Of 2012

Last week, we successfully brought you the VH1 staff’s favorite songs of 2011 without any bloodshed, and we’re happy to report that no one’s brain exploded while trying to narrow down the amazing albums of 2012 into a concise list. Again, what VH1 staffers enjoyed in 2012 was a rich and vibrant tapestry of genres, created both by newcomers and veterans.

As far as consensus is concerned, there were 23 LPs that appeared on multiple ballots, but only 6 that appeared on four or more lists: Miguel‘s Kaleidoscope Dream (7 ballots), Emeli Sandé‘s Our Version Of Events and Frank Ocean‘s channel ORANGE (6 ballots apiece), Kendrick Lamar‘s good kid, m.A.A.d. city (5 ballots), Taylor Swift‘s RED and Macklemore & Ryan LewisThe Heist (each with 4 ballots).

Now, on with the show!

TEAM VH1 TUNER

Mark Graham, Managing Editor, VH1 Tuner (@unclegrambo)
Jessie Ware Devotion1. Jessie Ware, Devotion – From the very first notes of the album, Jessie Ware had me in her grasp. Her debut album recalls the best moments of the careers of Sade and Blue Lines-era Massive Attack; let Devotion‘s sultry blend of laid back vocals and hip-hop influenced basslines and backbeats wash over you and I guarantee you’ll be taken on the most enjoyable aural journey of the year.
2. Taylor Swift, Red – It’s very easy to make fun of Taylor Swift —she makes too many regrettable decisions when it comes to her personal life not to— but no one should ever doubt her prowess as a songwriter. By taking a creative risk and teaming up with some decidedly non-country-friendly producers like Max Martin, Shellback and Jeff Bhasker, she emerged from the studio with what is far and away the best album of her short career. For every radio-friendly hit (“I Knew You Were Trouble.”, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”) present on the LP, there’s an emotionally rich song to counterbalance it (“All Too Well”, “Begin Again”).
3. Lana Del Rey, Born To Die – LDR and producer Emile Haynie had a very specific and rather unique sonic aesthetic they were looking to capture with this album, and they more than achieved their goals. I’m not sure that Del Rey will have much of a shelf-life as an artist, but this record will always come to define the year 2012 for me.
4. fun., Some Nights – A really rich album, both musically and lyrically, that plays equally well on the radio, on your tinny laptop speakers, and through a spendy pair of headphones (#teambose).
5. St. Lucia, St. Lucia EP – This up-and-coming South African-by-way-of-Brooklyn band blends electronic beats and acoustic guitars in a way that’s guaranteed to transport you, regardless of your locale, to sunnier climates.
6. Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox – This album is all over the map, stylistically speaking, but that’s a large part of Bruno’s appeal: He’s equally adept at singing soaring ballads (“Young Girls”), aping the Police (“Locked Out Of Heaven”), and breaking out the steel drums and dub production tricks (“Show Me”).
7. Miguel, Kaleidoscope DreamKaleidoscope Dream has been #OnRepeat since it’s release in late September, and will no doubt stay that way for the entirety of 2013.
8. Killers, Battle Born – Never a band prone to understatement, The Killers finally perfected the Western American widescreen sound they’ve been trying to achieve since Sam’s Town with a hand from go-to U2 production stalwarts Steve Lillywhite and Daniel Lanois.
9. Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine FitsSpoon + Wolf Parade = The Divine Fits. My fave indie rock record of the year.
10. Delta Rae, Carry The FireYou Oughta Know them by now!
Runners-Up: Gotye, Making Mirrors; Japandroids, Celebration Rock; R. Kelly, Write Me Back

Lacey Seidman, Associate Producer, VH1 Music (@lacezilla)
Nas Life Is Good1. Nas, Life Is Good – The hip hop legend returns to exceed fan expectations and project the best of mantras.
2. Phony Ppl, Phonyland – Plain Pat’s behind the kids who might just be the next A Tribe Called Quest.
3. Jessie Ware, Devotion – A true student of the R&B greats, Jessie’s album has been on repeat for months.
4. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city – Kendrick’s versatility dazzles as he brings hope for a new generation of MCs. Ya bish.
5. Alex Clare, The Lateness Of The Hour – Clare’s more than just the voice from the IE9 commercial. The album is electro soul heaven.
6. Bat For Lashes, The Haunted Man – The album is delightfully moody and chill, and I always loved her Bjorkish-ness.
7. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream – From top to bottom, Miguel delivers what might be the best R&B album of the year.
8. Sean Price, Mic Tyson – A member of Boot Camp Clik, Sean P is 40 and probably one of the most underrated MCs in the game.
9. Emeli Sande, Our Version Of Events – Emeli pours her heart out over this record. Up-tempo or ballads, she’s got my stamp of approval.
10. Rick Ross, Rich Forever – Nothing like listening to Rozay on the subway in the morning to get you pumped for the work day.

Bené Viera, Writer, VH1 Tuner
Nas Life Is Good

  • Nas, Life Is Good – Once again Nas proved why he’s the greatest living emcee. “Well I am a graphic classic song composer / Music notes on sheets,” her raps on “No Introduction.” Precisely.

  • Jessie Ware, Devotion – Jessie Ware is coming for Adele’s spot. Devotion is nearly flawless, and with her calming yet powerful voice it’s easy to understand the Sade comparisons.
  • P!nk, The Truth About Love
  • Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II
  • Elle Varner, Perfectly Imperfect
  • Melanie Fiona, The MF LIfe
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream – Miguel is coming to take R&B back to its rightful place of creativity, love, feel-something music.
  • Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city – As a cohesive project there just aren’t many albums that tops GKMC for its storytelling, lyricism and production. Great major-label debut for the Compton youngster.
  • Emeli Sande, Our Version of Events
  • Brandy, Two Eleven

Lana Del Rey Born To Die Paradise EditionLindsey Weber, Online Producer, VH1 Tuner (@lindseyweber)

  • Lana Del Rey, Born to Die: Paradise Edition – As if Lana’s debut Born to Die could get any better—the Paradise Edition took the perfect album and added nine(!) fresh tracks.

  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream – Everyone who adored Miguel’s three free EPs (Art Dealer Chic 1, 2 and 3) knew that many of those songs deserved to be on his next album. That’s why it was no surprised that “Adorn” lead the way for Kaleidoscope Dream to become the top R&B album of 2012.
  • Taylor Swift, Red – Was Red worth its hype (and sales?) Actually, yeah. Taylor’s newest is filled to the brim with everything from innovations in dubstep to diary entry ballads.
  • Elle Varner, Perfectly Imperfect – Dare I say Elle Varner came out of nowhere? Perhaps I wasn’t looking hard enough, but this album was enough to get me firmly on the bandwagon.
  • 2Chainz, Based On A T.R.U. Story – 2012 was arguably the Year of 2Chainz, and this was his National Anthem. #BigBootyHos
  • Carly Rae Jepsen, Kiss – If hip-hop went to 2 Chainz, then Carly Rae Jepsen takes the pop award—captivating the nation with “Call Me Maybe” and following that up with a slew of saccharine earworms. One Hit Wonder be damned.
  • Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again – If you haven’t already heard the smooth, sultry sounds of Michael Kiwanuka, who is a Sam-Cooke-meets-Van-Morrison type of dude, you must.
  • Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE – An album so perfect that it can only truly be appreciated by listening straight through. Singles, be damned.

VH1 STAFF PICKS

Jeff Baumgardner, Producer of VH1 Classic’s THAT METAL SHOW, Director & Exec Producer of VH1 & MTV’s Unplugged

  • John 5, God Told Me Too – Easily one of the most talented guitarists that has ever graced the stage of THAT METAL SHOW. This guy just exudes talent. A true virtuoso, and one of the nicest guys in the business. This album is guitar porn for guitarists. I grew up a drummer, so I’m drawn to the tracks that come as a surprise such as, “Asland Bump”, “The Castle” & “Noche Acosdor”.

  • Beck, KICK – What does it sound like when Beck invites some friends into the studio to cover INXS’ KICK from head to tail in a day? It sounds and looks like this: http://www.beck.com/recordclub/index.php/category/inxs
  • Dr. John, Locked Down – Amazing album produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Packed with amazing musicians, and seeping with voodoo. This album feels like a return to the Dr.’s Gris Gris roots.

Warren Cohen, Executive Producer VH1 News and Docs (@wjcohen)
Ranked by scrobble order (what I think I played the most this past year):
1. Japandroids, Celebration Rock – This short album is a noisy happy pill; much more potent than 5-hour energy drinks!
2. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do – Like a kaleidoscope, Fiona’s latest masterwork seemed to change shape with every new listen. So much to explore in her oversharing mental attic.
3. Rodriquez, Searching for Sugar Man – A compilation of the best of both Rodriquez’s records from the 1970s to accompany the year’s best rock documentary, Searching for Sugar Man. Even though his music dates 40 years, discovering this treasure trove is a new introduction to a potential legend who vanished.
4. fun, Some Nights – Gigantic choruses that will fill the next generation of karaoke playlists.
5. Best Coast, The Only Place – Not as special as their 2010 debut, Bethany Cosentino’s songwriting still swoonworthy.
6. The Walkmen, Heaven – Something heartfelt and affirming in this collection, certainly the longtime band’s apex.
7. Nude Beach, II – Not only a great band name but a solid collection of singles evoking earlier 1990s indie rockers.
8. Cody ChestnuTT, Landing on a Hundred – Always worth the long wait for his new material, which feels like recovering a time capsule of old school R&B.
9. Taylor Swift, Red – I still think I would have listened to this record a fair amount even if my daughters hadn’t put it on infinite rotation.
10. Metz, Metz – A sprawly hot mess even by noise rock standards.

David Donerlson, Production Assistant, VH1 Digital (@KoolKidDave)
1. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
2. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dreams
3. fun., Some Nights
4. Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid M.A.A.D city
5. Alicia Keys, Girl On Fire
6. Brandy, Two/Eleven
7. Nas, Life Is Good
8. P!nk, The Truth About Love
9. 2 Chainz, Based On A Tru Story
10. No Doubt, Push & Shove

Joe Maziarski, Producer/Editor, VH1
1. Japandroids, Celebration Rock – Nostalgic, energetic & fun!
2. JEFF the Brotherhood, Hypnotic Nights – JTB is a band with two members, a three string guitar, and half a drum kit that needs to be seen live. Produced by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), JTB went a little more Weezer and a little less Sabbath on their major label debut.
3. Titus Andronicus, Local Business – Sing-a-longs and awesome double guitar solos!
4. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city – Ya Bishhhh
5. Wild Nothing, Nocturne – Out of all the reverb soaked “dream-pop” (or whatever it’s called) this album stands out for me.
6. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange – Didn’t love it as much as Nostalgia/Ultra, but all in all a great “headphone” album.
7. Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors – A late entry to the mix, but I’ve been hooked on it since it hit Spotify.

Jay Moran, Sr. Producer, VH1 & VH1 Classic

  • Bob Dylan, Tempest – When the greatest songwriter of all time puts out an album, you should probably listen to it. Yeah maybe Bob is old, maybe his voice sounds like sandpaper, but he writes better songs then ANYONE else! Mr. Zimmerman assembled an amazing backing band for this album, featuring the incredible Charlie Sexton on guitar. The opening track, and first single, “Duquesne Whistle” is a goodie; and it’s the only song co-written on the album. Who was the co-writer you might ask? Jerry Garcia’s long time friend and Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter. For those of you who actually understand good music, this is the best album of 2012.

  • Led Zeppelin, Celebration Day – I mean, come on…the most incredible rock band in the world reunited in London with their deceased drummer’s son, Jason Bonham, on drums. Enough said. “For Your Life” is the surprising winner here…a song the band never ever performed live is on the cd, and it’s amazing!

Ambika Muttoo, Writer, VH1 Celebrity (@MissMuttoo)
1. John Digweed, Live in Cordoba – Three CD set recorded from Digweed’s marathon, inspiring set in Cordoba, Argentina … just press play and leave it on the whole day
2. Hobo and Matador, Enter.Grooves – Two incredible artists who have made a fantastic compilation of stand-out minimal and techno tracks named for M-nus boss Richie Hawtin’s incredible Ibiza summer residency, “Enter.”
3. Jitter, Anxious Awakenings – No one can weave genres like Jitter can. Each track has different essences woven in — psychedelic, techno, minimal — to a tight, seamless package.
4. Jack White, Blunderbuss – Jack White’s first solo album! Of course it’s a favourite!
5. Grimes, Visions – It’s Grimes vocals that make you sit up and listen – at times whispery, at times fey, at times shrill, but always perfectly layered within her electro, synth-y, lo-fi sound.

Dan Sacher, SVP Digital, VH1 (@dansacher)

  • Gossip, A Joyful Noise

  • Ladyhawke, Anxiety
  • Grimes, Visions
  • Cat Power, Sun
  • Ghost Beach, Modern Tongues
  • Rebecca Ferguson, Heaven
  • Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
  • Savoir Adore, Our Nature

Jeremiah Silva, Manager, Music & Talent Relations + Music Producer, VH1 Big Morning Buzz Live (@JeremiahSilva13)
1. Taylor Swift, RED
2. Ke$ha, Warrior
3. Usher, Looking 4 Myself
4. P!NK, The Truth About Love
5. The Lumineers, The Lumineers
6. Lisa Marie Presley, Storm & Grace
7. Emeli Sande, Our Version of Events
8. Whitney Houston, I will Always Love You: The Best of Whitney Houston
9. Kylie Minogue, The Abbey Road Sessions
10. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist

TEAM VH1 CMI

As 2012 draws to a close, VH1’s Creative Music Integration department took some time to reflect on the artists that released music this year that made a significant impact on us. As music supervisors, managers, coordinators, and assistants part of our day to day is to sift through massive amounts of newly released tracks from a variety of different artists. We are always looking for the perfect track that’s going to beautifully highlight a pivotal moment in a show or that’s going to demand your attention when a VH1 promo plays on your TV screen. Since we’re such music lovers it’s only natural that we’ve developed a few musical obsessions along the way! Here is our CMI Passion Playlist, complied of artists we have had the privilege of placing this year and others that on our wish list. There are a couple of repeats but they resonate uniquely with each CMIer (isn’t it neat how music can do that?). Enjoy and click hear to get a taste of what we’re talking about on Spotify!

Jennifer, VH1 Creative Music Integration Vice President

  • Imagine Dragons, Night Visions – This band is catchy, catchy, catchy.First time I heard “It’s Time” I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Loved the EP and wasn’t sure if the full album would live up to it, but it sure did. Every track is solid!
    Recommended Tracks: “Radioactive” & “On Top of the World”
    For Fans Of: Young the Giant, Walk the Moon
  • The Gossip, A Joyful Noise – Beth Ditto is the coolest. She owns it and she is a powerhouse vocally. I truly adore every track. More ladies like her in music, please.
    Recommended Tracks:”Get Lost”, “Get A Job”, “Perfect World”
    For Fans Of: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Le Tigre
  • Gary Clark Jr, Blak And Blu – What can you say about this guy? Pure, raw, authentic talent. Fell in love with him when he came in to play for us and I literally had to pick my jaw up off of the floor afterward. I believe we were his first big sync (with vocals) and I’m so proud of the fact we were able to use his music for a high profile image spot and in Mob Wives. I had The Bright Lights EP playing non-stop.
    Recommended Tracks: “Bright Lights”, “I Don’t Owe You a Thang”
    For Fans of: The Alabama Shakes, Jack White
  • Emeli Sandé, Our Version of Events – If she doesn’t break through in 2013 there is something very, very wrong. When she came to perform for us in the office I got non-stop chills and actually cried. Visceral responses tell you everything you need to know. The whole album is fantastic and the fact that we licensed her MANY times in our shows (Basketball Wives LA, Hollywood Exes, Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta, Basketball Wives) is further proof of how her songs can really resonate with people.
    Recommended Tracks:”Daddy”, “Heaven”, “Clown”
    For Fans Of: Massive Attack, Nina Simone
  • Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE / Macklemore & Ryan Lewis , The Heist – It’s a TIE, and yes I’m cheating!Frank Ocean is the re-invention of R&B and Macklemore is a breath of fresh air for Hip Hop. I truly love them equally because they brought change to their genres on their OWN terms. You can’t help but stop what you’re doing and pay attention to their music for not only the content lyrically and musically, but because they are fantastically interesting human beings with unapologetic perspectives so needed and necessary in music right now. I’m sure we all can agree they should take over in 2013. Oh, and Macklemore – the song about Jimmy Iovine? Talk about BRAVE!
    Recommended Tracks from channel ORANGE:”Pyramids”, “Fertilizer”
    Recommended Tracks from The Heist: “Can’t Hold Us”, “Same Love”
    Frank Ocean For Fans Of: OutKast, Odd Future
    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis For Fans Of: Tyler, The Creator, MGK, Childish Gambino

Isaac, VH1 CMI Music Supervisor

  • Gotye, Making Mirrors – Yes, the U.S. debut for Australian, Wally DeBacker, sits somewhere near the top of my favorites for this year and NOT just because of the ubiquitous single, “Somebody That I Used To Know”. There’s no denying the single is the strongest song on this album. An album that, to some, may feel a little disjointed with the mélange of genres he’s channeled (rock, soul, electro pop) but it holds up as a whole and the result is some really fantastic pop.
    Recommended Tracks:”Eyes Wide Open”, “Bronte”, “I Feel Better”, “Smoke and Mirrors”
    For Fans Of: Peter Gabriel, Beck, Sting
  • Jake Bugg, Two Fingers EP – Eighteen year-old Jake Bugg (unfortunately not his real last name) is a singer-songwriter out of Nottingham, England who delivers an impressive, late ‘50s inspired, self titled album [out now in the UK]. The 14 song effort is a collection of concise engaging tunes drawing from rock ‘n roll, folk, blues, and a bit of country. Folks in the US can pick up the EP via digital retailers now but a date for the album is still TBA.
    Recommended Tracks:”Simple As This” (my favorite track), “Lightning Bolt”, “Taste It”
    For Fans Of: Arctic Monkeys, Oasis
  • St. Lucia, St.Lucia (self-titled EP) – South African born Jean-Philip Grobler, otherwise known as St. Lucia, blends eighties influences on his electro pop debut drawing on inspiration from early Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, and Peter Gabriel as well as African music. The St. Lucia EP is a collection of synth pop tunes full of infectious melodies. A near perfect contender for a spot on your summer soundtrack. The full album is scheduled for release in 2013 on Neon Gold/Columbia Records.
    Recommended Tracks:” Before The Dive”, “Closer Than This”, “All Eyes On You”
    For Fans Of: Duran Duran, Phil Collins
  • Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again – On Home Again, Michael Kiwanuka would have you believe he’s someone much, much older than twenty four. The album, a combination of soul, folk, and jazz, can’t help but remind you of Otis Redding and Bill Withers. While the album is great, it’s his live show that helps cement him on my favorites list for 2012. The instant his set begins, all of the day’s worries go right out the window as the music and soothing vocals are able to captivate the, often loud, NYC audience and reduce them to a whisper.
    Recommended Tracks: “I’m Getting Ready”, “Home Again”, “Worry Walks Beside Me”, “Tell Me A Tale”
    For Fans Of: Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding
  • Civil Twilight, Holy Weather – VH1 friendly Civil Twilight [you may have heard songs in Rehab With Dr. Drew, Couples Therapy, and Mob Wives] follow up their debut record with Holy Weather. A beautifully produced and dynamic album with its share of radio friendly jams ["Fire Escape", "Shape Of A Sound", "River"], the intricately layered title track “Holy Weather”, and introspective ballads ["Please Don’t Find Me", "It’s Over"] .
    Recommended Tracks: “Highway Of Fallen Kings”, “Fire Escape”, “Holy Weather”, “Church On Fire” (Bonus Track)
    For Fans Of: Radiohead, Muse, U2
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist – This absurdly awesome debut LP from Ben Haggerty, aka Macklemore, and producer Ryan Lewis was released late this year and I can easily put it atop my 2012 favorites list. Awesome hooks and excellent production paired with insightful lyrics covering addiction, same sex marriage, and materialism on this completely independent release make it a new obsession. The album is solid front to back…and I’m even talking the 18-track Deluxe Version.

Paul, VH1 CMI Music Manager

  • Emeli Sandé, Our Version of Events – The top album of the year for me, and one of the few albums out there where every single track is worthy of being a single. I literally can’t pick one song as a favorite over the others, but four tracks I used in shows were “My Kind Of Love,” “River,” “Lifetime,” and “Read All About It (Part III).” And best of all, after studying neuroscience at Glasgow University, Emeli is qualified to give Isaac his long overdue lobotomy.
  • Elle King, The Elle King EP – Elle has every quality you’d want in a girlfriend but you’re not sure if you want to bring her home to your conservative parents – she’s pretty, cusses, and will drink you under the table. Just listen to her cover of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” on The Elle King EP. And “Playing For Keeps” was a perfect fit for the Mob Wives theme song. Expect more big things from her in 2013.
    Recommended Tracks: “Playing for Keeps”, “My Neck, My Back” (cover)
    For Fans Of: Carla Thomas, Joey Ramone
  • ZZ Ward, Til the Casket Drops
    I’ve had both “Last Love Song” and “Til the Casket Drops” stuck in my head for most of 2012. It’s no surprise a bunch of networks (including VH1 on both Mob Wives and Couples Therapy!) featured her songs in shows this year.
    Recommended Tracks: “Put the Gun Down”, “Til the Casket Drops”, “Last Love Song”
    For Fans Of: Elle King, Fitz & the Tantrums, Gin Wigmore
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist – I seriously do the Bernie every time I hear “Thrift Shop.” Here’s another album in which every single track is a single, including “Make The Money,” which out-Kanye’d Kanye.
  • Gary Clark Jr., Blak And Blu – All I want for Christmas is to be Gary Clark Jr. The dude makes guitars his bitch. And when you hear “Bright Lights,” don’t you picture yourself in black & white walking slow-motion through the streets of NYC? Just me?

Tracey, VH1 CMI Music Coordinator

  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream – “Adorn” was one of those songs that I had on repeat as soon as it came out. When Kaleidoscope Dream was released, I was blown away by the diversity. Not all tracks are as hooky as “Adorn”, in fact most are much grittier. Each catches you off guard, but is equally as enjoyable as the next. I think Miguel and Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE clearly win best R&B albums of 2012.
    Recommended Tracks: “Adorn”, “Do You…”, “Candles In The Sun”
    For Fans Of: Frank Ocean, Usher
  • Daley, Alone Together EP – I first heard about Daley earlier this year via various tweets from one of my favorite artists, Maxwell. One of the many reasons I love Maxwell was what also drew me to Daley, his falsetto. You can’t help but get the chills on “Those Who Wait” and “Alone Together”. His soulfulness has me dancing along to “Remember Me”, “Blame the World” and “Game Over”. I can’t wait to hear a full album in 2013!
    Recommended Tracks:”Alone Together”, “Those Who Wait”
    For Fans of: Maxwell
  • Melanie Fiona, The MF Life – Out of the handful of female R&B releases in 2012, “The MF Life” was by far my favorite. It’s a great mix of upbeat tracks and gut-wrenching ballads, with appearances from J. Cole, John Legend, Nas and B.o.B. My favorite track is a ballad that received very little attention, “Gone And Never Coming Back”.
    Recommended Tracks: “4AM” , “Wrong Side of a Love Song”
    For Fans Of: Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott
  • Emeli Sandé, Our Version of Events – Emeli delivers powerhouse vocals every time she sings. The emotion she exudes through her voice and lyrics, make all of her songs easy to relate to.
  • Ed Sheeran, + – I think this came out at the end of last year, but still an album I spent a great deal of time with in 2012. Half of Ed Sheeran’s album “+” can be listened to on a rainy, melancholy day, the other half shows off a soulful, urban side which you wouldn’t initially expect from him.
    Recommended Track: “Lego House”
    For Fans Of:Jamie Foxx, James Morrison, The Script

Monsé, VH1 CMI Production Assistant

  • Ellie Goulding, Halycon – I want to be Ellie Goulding but alas I don’t think I can pull off leather shorts and half a shaved head with the same flair – I also don’t have an ounce of musical talent so there’s that. Her first album Lights caught my attention after hearing remixes of “Starry Eyed” and “Lights” done by almost every hip prominent DJ out there. Her high pitched vibrato just begs to be looped and manipulated but she can bring it down to a low and raspy level too. It feels almost primal, raw, and even a bit desperate as though she’s been up crying all night. Halycon is a solid sophomore album from the stampeding beat of “Anything Could Happen” (reminiscent of Passion Pit) to the dark and dramatic “Only You”.
    Recommended Tracks: “Only You”, “Anything Could Happen”, “JOY”
    For Fan Of: Florence + the Machine, Passion Pit, La Roux
  • The Lumineers, The Lumineers – The Lumineers came in to perform a short three song set in our offices earlier this year and I could easily tell that these three individuals just loved making music together. It’s folk-rock/Americana done right: simple yet infectious foot stomping instrumentation and rich storytelling. I found the comparison between boxing and ballet (violent men who dance the blood ballet) in “Big Parade” particularly striking when I took a first listen to the album. It isn’t often that I’m struck by lyrics these days but the images drawn in this album are so vivid they almost feel tangible.
    Recommended Tracks: “Big Parade” “Ho Hey” “Flowers in Your Hair”
    For Fans Of: Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford & Sons
  • Of Monsters and Men, My Head Is An Animal
    Of Monsters and Men was introduced to me by a friend/coworker who had heard of them at a music festival in Iceland. I listened to their EP, Into the Woods, and I understood what she had been raving about. I could have just listened to the same four songs on repeat the whole year ( and I did for sometime) but thankfully they released My Head Is An Animal, a full length album just a few months later. The album reminds me of a children’s fairytale book with tall tales of mythological animal wars told by children living in enchanted woods, it just gave me a feeling of youth and exuberance.
    Recommended Tracks:”King And Lionheart”, “Yellow Light”, “Dirty Paws”
    For Fans Of: Arcade Fire
  • Mumford and Sons, Babel – There isn’t much to say about Mumford and Sons that hasn’t already been said so I’ll keep this brief. I listened to this album on repeat while I was sitting in a dark bus on a four hour ride to a mini weekend vacation. I don’t fancy four hour rides but it felt more like one with this album on repeat. Marcus Mumford’s voice has this uncanny ability to kick down the door to my soul.
    Recommended Tracks: “Lover’s Eyes”, “I Will Wait”
    For Fans Of: Edward Sharpe, Arcade Fire
  • Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE – The album is a masterpiece. I was blown away by the descriptive storytelling and the cast of heartbreakingly beautiful characters he conjured. “Pyramids” was the winning track off this album for me where we’re presented with Cleopatra in all her ancient glory and pomp and her reincarnation as a downtrodden stripper literally “working at the Pyramid”. Beautiful. Bold. Brilliant.

Avantia, CMI Department Assistant

  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream – This my favorite album of the year. I think Miguel single-handedly brought R&B back.
    Recommended Tracks:”The Thrill”, “Where’s The Fun In Forever”, “How Many Drinks?”
    For Fans Of: Prince, Frank Ocean
  • Solange, The True EP – It was a great comeback for Solange. Her last album was 60s/70s inspired, so it’s only right that this would be 80s inspired. Although there are only 7 tracks, it’s a good mix of upbeat love songs.
    Recommended tracks: “Sleep In The Park”, “Lovers in The Parking Lot”, “Losing You”
    For Fans Of: Theophilus London, Miguel
  • Santigold, Master of My Make Believe – This a strong sophomore album. You can literally play it from start to finish without skipping through.
    Recommended tracks: “The Riot’s Gone”, “The Keepers”, “Freak Like Me”
    For Fans Of: Sleigh Bells, Little Dragon
  • Justin Bieber, Believe – I know I will be judged for this but Believe was actually a pretty good album. (Yes, I listened to the entire thing) I’m a Belieber.
    Recommended tracks: “As Long As You Love Me”, “Right Here”, “Boyfriend Remix”
    For Fans Of: One Direction, Chris Brown
  • Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.a.a.d city – I think what separates good kid, m.a.a.d city from other rap albums is that it’s literally a rap audio book. Kendrick tells very interesting stories about what it was like growing up in Los Angeles. He even used his parents’ voicemails as interludes.
    Recommended tracks: “Sing About Me (I’m Dying of Thirst)”, “The Art of Peer Pressure”, “Backseat Freestyle”
    For Fans Of: Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q