50 Favorite Albums of 2012
I’m at it again with one of the only things I ever blog about anymore: my favorite music of the year. I did fifty again this year, with short to long write-ups about the top 25.
My overall reflection about this year in music: Not quite as strong as last year, but still good. There were many albums that I liked, but few that I really loved. The R&B influence on alternative music which has been going strong for going on 4-5 years has gone from hip to ubiquitous. But there are still some holdouts of bands with some actual equipment hanging around, and they’re still putting together great albums. It’s almost strange listening to new stuff from The Mountain Goats. It feels like it’s stirpped down, or too reminiscent of the past to be new.
Hip-hop feels like the real winner of 2012. Its popular and alternative acclaim is not only strong in the U.S., but also highly adored in Europe (especially the UK and France). Its influence is also felt strongly within electronic music spheres–be it indie pop groups like Purity Ring and Phantogram to those pesky trap music DJs.
80s dream pop inspired artists are still going strong, though one wonders how much longer we’ll allow their endlessly echoing reverb before we tire of them. I know I’m good for now, so long as the production is good and the vocals stay as ethereal as Victoria Legrand’s.
Perhaps there were no completely new and innovative movements this year. But I still feel like there was a lot of diversity, and certainly a lot of new artists with much to look forward to in the future.
On to the list… (I apologize for the long load times. I decided to insert audio links and they take a bit of time to load)
I included a “highlight” track from each album. Might be my favorite track on the album, or it might just be all I could find on the interwebs, preferrably on Soundcloud. Also as time passes some of these clip links could die due to being taken down from Soundcloud.
50. Aesop Rock – Skelethon
49. Xiu Xiu – Always
48. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
47. Pinback – Information Retrieved
46. Nas – Life Is Good
45. Diamond Rings – Free Dimensional
44. Phèdre – Phèdre
43. Menomena – Moms
42. DIIV – Oshin
41. of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks
40. Brian Eno – Lux
39. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
38. JJ Doom – Keys to the Kuffs
37. Twin Shadow – Confess
36. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
35. The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
34. The xx – Coexist
33. Poliça – Give You The Ghost
32. Grimes – Visions
31. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
30. Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
29. Holograms – Holograms
28. Frankie Rose – Interstellar
27. ScHoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions
26. Holy Other – Held
25. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
I feel like The Lion’s Roar album garnered a lot of attraction when it came out, and then slipped away from its acclaim as quietly as it came. Well, I didn’t forget, nor have I tired of listening of these great folk tunes. The vocal harmonies are phenomenal here. The album is unpretentious and straightforward.
24. Teen Daze – The Inner Mansions
Soothing and hypnotic, as its name suggests. The Inner Mansions is gorgeous mix of ambient and electronica, and can help to calm a troubled mind.
23. Burial – Kindred (EP)
I think Burial is around solely to make other producers of the genre (dubstep/future garage) look bad. Kindred maintains his sound in top form, especially on its titular track. It’s crazy how absolutely precise he curates these dark, urban soundscapes. It’s like something out of a DC Comic–a detailed depiction of a seedy underbelly within a post-apocalyptic dystopia. There are tons of producers going for that style right now, but none that have quite nailed it as well as Burial.
22. Black Moth Super Rainbow – Cobra Juicy
Maybe this album was hyped up a little more than it should have been, but I still think it was fantastic. I was never a fan of BMSR’s more dissonant side, and this album seems to run with the poppier aspects of 2009’s Eating Us. Reasonable complaints are that the album is a bit too formulaic, and the melodies don’t really feel all that fresh. Nonetheless, I found myself listening to this album quite a lot. What can I say–I feel at home with its weirdness. The guitars don’t pack much of a punch, but I feel like that’s intentional. The album’s main focus are the synths, by far, with the strangely altered vocals characteristic of BMSR making a close second. The end result is strange, perhaps even phantasmagorical. But I was just desperate to use that word, so perhaps not.
21. The Shins – Port of Morrow
Certainly an underrated album, at least. While I’m sure most Shins fans have given up hope that they will ever top Chutes Too Narrow, I think they’re still doing great work. There aren’t many gambles on Port of Morrow, but it’s well-written and well-executed indie rock with a heart. The only issue with this album is a fairly weak mid section of songs. But its opening three tracks are among the best of 2012, and its closer title track, “Port of Morrow,”is a bizarre ballad that seemingly takes a plunge into another world.
20. Zammuto – Zammuto
This self-titled album from The Books’ Nick Zammuto was a surprise in a year full of expectations. It’s the most easily digested album, but it’s certainly catchy at times. The album’s most striking feature is its effortless mixing of acoustic and electronic sounds into one coherent style. The production is stellar, as could be expected from a project fronted by Zammuto. There are some areas that are a bit *too* repetitive and dissonant for my liking, but for the most part this album is highly innovative and skilful.
19. Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t
It’d been a long time since 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala, the album that really put Jens Lekman on the map as a top tier indie songwriter known for his pleasant splicings of wit and heartbreak and adoration. I started wondering if Lekman was going to release another album. When he finally released a fantastic new EP last year, An Argument With Myself, my doubts were finally set aside.
I can’t say that the new album–I Know What Love Isn’t–– is worth 5 years of anticipation, but it’s not a complete letdown, either. The production isn’t quite as colorful as Kortedala, but the songwriting is still on point. Lekman has some great lyrical gems hidden away in here, some of which I’m still discovering on repeated listens. The album is heartfelt, to say the least, and “The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love” is certainly apt for 2012.
18. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
In case it could be mistaken for something like baroque, let it be confirmed that this is southern hip-hop. Extra fucking crispy southern hip hop. Killer Mike… kills it here, completely. El-P’s production on this album balances it a bit, giving it a bit more edge. If El-P’s solo albums carry motifs of some futuristic dystopia, R.A.P. Music is its grimy ghetto.
17. Chairlift – Something
This album came out in January ‘12, and oh how far ago it seems now. Something has some of the first songs of the year I really liked: “I Belong In Your Arms,” “Sidewalk Safari,” and “Amanaemonesia.” The album can be a bit corny at times, but it’s endearing. I’m glad they’ve mostly ignored the commercial acclaim “Bruises” brought them from their previous album and continued doing what they love: a sparkling hybrid of 80s synth pop, R&B, and indie electro with tiny accents of 70s psychedelia in there as well. This album actually had top 5 potential, but a small handful of weak songs hold it back from being greater.
16. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
I’d like to think there’s still a place for The Mountain Goats. In a time when lyricism–especially in indie/alternative–are taking a backseat in importance, we really need John Darnielle releasing albums to remind us how important these desperately meaningful sounds coming out of our mouths are. There’s not much new to Darnielle’s formula here on Transcendental Youth. It’s more of the same. But the formula was always good, and I’m not sure what he could really do to change it. This is a singer songwriter album, like pretty much every other Mountain Goats album. He remains one of the best today, and certainly one of the few worth listening to.
15. iamamiwhoami – kin
It’s no surprise finding out this is the product of a Swedish artist. Certainly in a similar vain as The Knife, iamamiwhoami’s kin is a dark oddity of electro and dream pop. The album’s rhythms are dizzying, especially on tracks like “Good Worker.” Jonna Lee’s vocals leave a bit to be desired in terms of range and variation, but they fit well. It’s the production that ultimately wins me over here.
14. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
Attack on Memory is a dedicated throwback to post-hardcore and 90s indie. I’m not a big fan of the former, though definitely am of the later. But this album is more than just a diamond in the rough of a spent genre. The songs are well-written, each standing out exceedingly well apart from one another. The opener is dark, slow crescendo with post-punk vibes. “Wasted Days” shows his pop songwriting potential before descending into a furious yet barely coherent jam session. “Fall In” and “Stay Useless” are much more welcoming short pop songs, both equally catchy and invigorating. The rest of the album continues to keep you guessing in terms of its structures and mood. The album leaves a bit to be desired lyrically, but at least they successfully capture the angsty mood here.
13. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
This band has grown on me slowly since Bitte Orca. The harmonies on Swing Lo Magellan are lovely and their range as a group of vocalists is striking. The album may be losing some of the edge that Bitte Orca had, but at the same time they have captured their sound into a more cohesive, consistent package.
12. Purity Ring – Shrines
In some ways, Shrines should have been bad. It’s practically a fad nexus, and on first listen sounds like a legion of identical electro pop bands with female vocalists and subtle hip-hop/R&B influences. And it’s true–they do. But it’s all executed masterfully, especially the production and songwriting. I think Megan James has a lot room to grow as a vocalist, though. Her range is the one thing that holds this album back from being much greater.
11. El-P – Cancer for Cure
El-P’s solo career has been on a roll for over ten years now. With Cancer for Cure, he maintains his dissonant production and otherworldly lyricism. Appearances from Killer Mike, Mr. Motherfucking Exquire, Danny Brown, and even Islands’ Nick Diamonds are all put to use excellently and seem at home in El-P’s post-apocalyptic backdrop. It’s not a perfect album, but imperfections are scarce. El-P continues to be one of the best lyricists of today, and has one of the most addictive flows out there.
10. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
A top album pick for many publications, channel ORANGE has received widespread acclaim for its spotless production, smooth vocals, and somewhat offbeat style. While I do have some issues with this album, it does still stand as an undoubtedly strong and influential album.
Self-deprecation rather than egocentricity is nothing new to hip-hop and R&B. But perhaps a balance between these while maintaining a focus on the self is the new narcissism. I think perhaps what attracted attracted many to this album is something I felt indifferent toward: its detached, wayward, despondent approach to love and lust and everything in-between. At some point, I just don’t care anymore, no matter how cute your oxymoronic hyperboles about fighter jets and beach houses are.
Be that as it may, this album holds some of my favorite songs of 2012. I was snagged by some pretty hard nostalgia when I heard the PlayStation boot sound and fighting game character select samples on the album’s strange intro track, which beautifully transitions into one of the best opening songs of the year, “Thinkin’ Bout You.” It’s after this track that I have some issues with early/mid section of the album. There are a series of mediocre tracks here–at least for me. It’s not until epic single “Pyramids” that I think the album restores its quality. While Pyramids does drag at times, it’s a phenomenally produced track. The following 7 tracks are also quite enjoyable, full of Frank Ocean’s now infamous mix of lyrical surrealism and carnal mundanity combined with ace production and vocal delivery. Had this album maintained its top quality throughout, it would have been a contender for #1 of the year for me.
9. Ryan Hemsworth – Last Words (EP)
I occasionally make exceptions for EPs on these lists (Burial’s Kindred being another on this one). Usually the length is an issue which makes it a poor comparison. Last Words, however, is five original tracks with some of the best production in electronic music today, along with four remixes. Its duration really isn’t an issue for me. Last Words feels like a labor of love that preferred quality over quantity.
There are no missteps here. I’m still in awe at the arrangement, layering, and flow of these songs. The atmosphere is like some urban fantasy–heightened, epic beats with strange juxtapositions so smooth they feel natural. Opening track “Charly Wingate” builds up with an adrenaline-pumping crescendo that reaches its apex in the unexpected: a smooth, headbobbing beat, which further evolves into the release’s most gripping moment that tantalizes you for more. Other tracks like the cathartic “Colour & Movement” (sampling The Notwist’s “Consequence” with grace) and hypnotic closer “Overthinking” further solidify Last Words as an essential piece of 2012. Its length as an EP is the only thing that really holds me back from placing it at an even higher spot.
Full album: http://wedidit.bandcamp.com/album/last-words
8. Chromatics – Kill for Love
On Kill for Love, Chromatics’ take on minimal post-punk pop is further subdued by Ruth Radele’s softly-delivered, airy vocals. The album’s standout tracks and singles are often surrounded by lengthy interludes and slow jams. Totaling over 75 minutes in length, the word “epic” often comes up when describing Kill for Love. For some, this album’s slower moments could result in a mixed bag, perhaps even a frustrating experience.
Even with the lengthy interludes removed, the album would stand as a strong collection of tracks with catchy melodies counterbalanced by deeply morose yet somehow faintly celebratory moods. For me, the album’s length is a huge plus. It gives me as a listener different options in listening. I can dive into the full breadth of its experience. I can become enveloped in its ambient soundscapes and spacious pop ballads, with the shorter singles standing serving as attractive milestones through its chapters. Alternatively, I can skip over the longer tracks and stick to the easiest to digest, such as “Back from the Grave,” “The Page,” “At Your Door,” and of course the title track, “Kill for Love.” Either experience is great in its own way.
Concept albums–or even albums cohesive at all–have fallen out of style. They’re still around, but found few and far between and often only found in strange niches. It might be a stretch to call Kill for Love a concept album, but it’s absolutely an album tied together by cohesive themes, sounds, and emotions. I have always been an “album person,” so, this is a huge plus for me. But in the end, it’s the consistent production quality and engaging songwriting that establish it as one of my favorites of the year.
7. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Whatever breed of psychedelic indie folk rock Grizzly Bear has found themselves creating, their diehard fans are desperate for more offspring (OK, I took that metaphor a bit too far, but I’m tired of writing). Their highly anticipated followup to 2009’s much-appreciated Veckatimest has, for the most part, satisfied expectations. I find myself mostly preferring the tracks with Daniel Rossen as the leading vocalist rather than Edward Droste–case in point with greats like “Sleeping Ute” and “A Simple Answer.” But Droste has some likeable tracks as well, like “Yet Again” and “Gun-Shy.” Both their voices are fairly similar for the most part; I just feel like Rossen has more character.
Anyway, not much can really be said about this album. If it has any faults, there are a few points where the album drags a bit, in the mid-end sections, but for the most part the quality is consistent and far behind anything in the indie rock world right now–at least among indie rockers still actually rocking electric guitars.
6. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
I was never a big fan of Bat for Lashes in the past. But this release hit all the right places for me. The album ranges from harrowing to hilarious to both at the same time (see: Oh Yeah) throughout its 51 minutes. The album’s production is quite daunting. Natasha Khan’s style has always had a bit of a tribal edge–and that remains–but the scope is so beyond that. High points include the billowing and solemn soundscapes on opening track “Lilies,” the infectious and bizarre pop tune of “All Your Gold,” the melodramatic orchestral beauty of “Winter Fields,” and of course the most crushing ballad of the year: “Laura.”
I’m reminded of St. Vincent’s release last year, Strange Mercy, in many ways stylistically. While Strange Mercy was perhaps more challenging and intricate, The Haunted Man has an incredibly strong core of songwriting and vocal delivery. Like Annie Clark managed to do last year, Khan’s vocals remain in the forefront despite a diverse splattering of production efforts. It’s a testament to her maturity as a vocalist.
5. John Talabot – ƒin
ƒin is difficult to describe without acknowledging an arsenal of influences and connections. But doing so might cheapen the album’s urgency. Regardless, on this album you’ll encounter a magnificent mold of deep house with styled around a blend of 80s dark synth pop, Caribbean rhythms, and urban microhouse/dubstep (à-la Burial, Nicolas Jaar).
Barcalona’s John Talabot is no stranger to production. But until this year he’s mainly released only singles and remixes. ƒin showcases his veteran chops as one of the best electronic artists of the moment. There are no gimmicks here. This is an album that works equally well as background music or music to get lost in. Its listenability invites you in, but its depth keeps you around. Clocking in at just over 51 minutes, the album never lulls. Its guest vocal spots–while not absolutely essential to this album–are the icing on the cake, and help add some great additional textures to this album.
4. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
At first listen, Hot Chip can easily be become lost in a haze of electronic pop artists. Groups with similar production and mood are ubiquitous. But Hot Chip stand out through their highly memorable songwriting: a core of which transcends their electronic textures. In Our Heads is perhaps one of their most consistently strong releases to date.
Hot Chip are a rare case where an artist’s refinement into a more predictable sound results in improvement rather than stagnation. Their first three albums failed to impress me because the quality of the songs were weighted so heavily toward the singles. As great as the singles were, their album quality drifted far too often. With 2009’s One Life Stand, Hot Chip produced a more cohesive album which lacked standout singles. It ranked as one of my favorites that year. One Life Stand ran a balanced gamut of emotions with flawless, standout production and worthwhile songwriting.
In Our Heads reaffirms that the group is still at the top of their game. Not only does it continue the full length album quality brought by One Life Stand, it brings back their knack for catchy standout tracks and singles. Most notably on this record: “Flutes,” “Motion Sickness,” “Don’t Deny Your Heart,” and the year’s most killer slow jam, “Look at Where We Are.” No track on the album bores me. The only spots of the album are the lyrics, which are almost completely about love and loss. But that is common Hot Chip affair, and it always fits well. Since its release in the middle of this year, In Our Heads is an album that I never really stopped listening to. The songs still affectionately get stuck in my head, and I find myself looking forward to the next listen. That might not sound like the most empowering review, but it’s also not something I can say about many albums this year.
3. Wild Nothing – Nocturne
Nocturne shares a lot in common with my #4 favorite, Hot Chip’s In Our Heads. Both albums are well-received follow-ups to their equally celebrated previous albums (2010 and 2009, respectively). Both have a cohesive production and tone throughout their entireties. Both command addictive pop songwriting garnished with dreamy production. Both are highly listenable with few noticeable production imperfections.
What separates Nocturne from In Our Heads and any other album on this list is the mood it has managed to capture: one that is both painfully sad and triumphantly happy simultaneously. Its nostalgic, retro production feels much a part of that outcome. I’m reminded of M83’s 2008 album Saturdays=Youth, which desperately tried to capture the same mood. Although not a terrible album, M83’s goal often felt contrived. It takes more than a retro production to achieve that nostalgic twinge of pain.
Their emotional honesty and maturity are what separates Wild Nothing from so many similar artists, like Ariel Pink or Toro Y Moi (although I also think Nocturne’s songwriting is far more sound than recent releases from those artists as well). It doesn’t seem saturated in reverb for the sake of desperately mimicking a particular style. Nocturne is natural in its paradoxes. It manages to feel childlike and adult, new and old, serious and facetious. The incessant showering of feelings I know I’ll encounter when listening to Nocturne sometimes makes me fear turning it on, like rewatching an old favorite childhood movie connected to memories I desperately wish I could relive, yet know I never can. But the album is listenable. It’s comforting, warm, and open. In an era when dreamy music often equals something distant and cold, Nocturne is charming and passionate.
2. Beach House – Bloom
Bloom maintains Beach House’s signature sound: reverb-soaked soundscapes of sullen synthesizers and dreamy guitars. This is the perfect canvas for Victoria Legrand’s charming and elegant voice. Their formula really hasn’t evolved all that much. That’s usually a recipe for boredom, especially when trying to follow-up such a great album like Teen Dream (which I’m still partial to).
Where this album succeeds are the only things that ever really need to succeed: songwriting and performance. This album, despite its detached dreaminess, somehow manages to be urgent and primal. Legrand’s vocals are of course at the forefront throughout the album, and they are in top form. While her range may not challenge some of pop’s greatests, she makes up for it in sincerity and emotion. Her voices has perfect balances between masculine and feminine, sultry and chilling. Nowhere is this more apparent than the album’s primary single, “Myth.” Her loud and desperate last line, “Help me to make it,” fade out so naturally into the ocean of hypnotic textures. It punctuates a sense of necessity which pervades this album and promotes me to constantly relisten.
But oh yes, the songwriting. I would be lost in a monotonous haze on this album if it weren’t for the standout melodies and lyricism. Nearly every track on here has an unforgettable, spectacular chorus. “The Hours” has been a constant listen to me throughout the year–its pulsating, heart pumping guitars surrounding Legrand’s vocals arranged in a cajoling melody. It begs me to dance. “Other People, “Troublemaker,” and “New Year” follow similar patterns, yet each bring their own unique pleasures. This album has everything from crescendos to lullabies and back again.
1. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
This shouldn’t really be a shocker to anyone following music and these kinds of lists. But I’ll throw down my thoughts on this album nonetheless.
My first couple listens of this album left a bad taste in my mouth. Its singles stood out and grasped my attention while the rest of the tracks washed in the background wholly unnoticed. I glossed over its potential. Not that there’s anything wrong with hip-hop for the sake of hip-hop, but lyrically dense albums are few and far between these days.
Let me start over. I enjoyed Lamar’s debut, Section.80, quite a lot (came in at #16 on my list last year). I commented that, lyrically, it stood out as being gritty, modest, and sincere in a rap scene full of loud gimmicks. At first I thought that had been abandoned on good kid, m.A.A.d city (GKMC), since the drama has been amped up and the production values raised drastically. This caught me guard upon first listening and made me go on the offensive a bit.
It’s silly, boorish lyrics like “I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower/So I can fuck the world for 72 hours” and “Bitch dan’t kill my vibe” that can get in the way initially. After I set this album aside for a week or two and let both the media hype and my preconceptions about this album dissipate, I found myself enthralled when I returned, listening to it on repeat for days in its entirety. Beyond the catchy hooks and the funny punchlines, this album is sprawling with lyrical depth. Paradoxically on his major label debut, Kendrick Lamar emerges as one of rap’s best storytellers in years. I’m not sure ostentatious gangster rap has ever been so introspective.
As a white boy who grew up on the other side of the country as Compton, it’s impossible for me to really assess how accurately the album captures the city. But the detail is vibrant enough to feel real. It’s like listening to a musical version of The Wire (which covered inner city Baltimore) right down to the gritty street smart wisdom conjoined with abrasive portrayals of sides of the human condition we rarely want (but need) to understand: loss, betrayal, revenge, addiction, death. We also see the other side of the coin, which at times can be equally unnerving: profit, devotion, love, redemption, life. But that’s an oversimplification. The semi-autobiographical portrayal of these themes are full of conflicting grey areas, and make you repeatedly question if the bad is good and the good is bad. Family, for example, is another recurring theme on the album, and it often is an instigator of both good and bad. That’s about as true to life as you can get.
As far as the album’s quality goes song-by-song, it’s consistent. The only track that is skip-worthy for me is “Poetic Justice,” which features Drake. I really don’t care for that one. The rest are top notch in every way: songwriting, lyrics, production. The first half of the track “m.A.A.D City” may be the album’s best example of how well the album blends immediacy with depth: its unabashedly and intentionally cliche gangster rap beat colored with a seemingly endless flow of images (often disturbing). I think my favorite lyric on the track (and possibly the album) is: “This is not a tape recorder saying that he did it. But ever since that day, I was lookin’ at him different.” That line is fucking chilling, especially since the next line he announces, “that was back when I was nine.”
My initial concerns about this album’s changes from Section.80 are mostly out the window. This is a different kind of album, yes. But somehow GKMC managed to be more accessible yet more engaging at the same time. I think that’s the crux of it, and it’s certainly what critical acclaim has been chanting.
This album is about more than gang violence. It’s more than about gang culture. It’s about gang life, and being raised within its reach. By the end of it, you gain perspective of how so many inner city youth probably have become trapped within it. It’s sort of sickening how well GKMC does this, actually, because a corrupted youth’s limb-like attachment to their gang– especially when cyclically reinforced by family and friends–initially feels reflective of our fascination with themes on this album (by “our” I mean those of us who enjoy this album from completely different walks of life than those lyrically portrayed).
Being entertained might even feel shameful when those themes often glorify or emblazon the idea of gang violence with badassery and infamy. But after a few listens and more fully considering the lyrics, I realized how distant I am from the album’s core themes, and how little I understand the motives behind getting into a gang. But from what I gathered, it’s definitely not because it’s cool. Cool isn’t worth getting killed over. But enough cool can tranquilize crippling fear and doubt, and worse, can entrap you in willful ignorance, unable to stare reality in its face. At first on this album, the cool distracted me from its frequently described atrocities. But eventually, it wasn’t enough. And I wondered why I was so foolish before.
I think Kendrick Lamar’s experience in Compton might have gone something like that. But I’m probably dead wrong. That’s just my interpretation, and my interpretation is motivated by the tactics of literary analysis I grew up with. I’m biased. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m pretty lost in a good portion of GKMC’s lyrics. Not only is much of its slang alien to me, but the peril described is like nothing like I’ve encountered in my life nor can scarcely fathom. But you know what–that’s the same experience I had reading Hamlet: a verbally enigmatic, violent mess. However wrong or far off I am, I’m less ignorant than I was yesterday, and for that alone this album is essential. There aren’t a lot of albums that manage to do something like that while also managing to be highly listenable. That’s why it’s my #1, and why you’ll see it #1 on a lot of other lists this year.