First off, I have to admit 2012 was my official foray into hip-hop. Although I've explored the genre little by little over the last few years, I've never quite delved into it to the extent that this year entailed. As a result, many of my favorites from 2012 are hip-hop classics. Sure, I've always been a metalhead at heart, but the albums I was interested in from this year were all at least somewhat of a disappointment.
Perhaps one has bigger expectations when they know what exactly they expect. This could be said for many of 2012's letdowns for me: Between the Buried and Me was cohesive but forgettable, Periphery II was riddled with filler and The Contortionist was incredibly forced. And it's because I know what makes a successful progressive metal album that I'm so picky about specificities. Maybe that's why hip-hop was so appealing to me this year. I like to think it's more than that, though, which is why you'll see quite a few albums from the genre in my list.
Top Albums of 2012
1. Dark Time Sunshine - ANX
ANX is a culmination of everything Dark Time Sunshine have ever really succeeded in, and it's only the duo's second album. From the bombastic hooks to the insightful lyricism, I had no doubt this one would end up on top.
2. Of Montreal - Paralytic Stalks
Of Montreal are still insane, but they know how to channel it into a powerful energy. The Atlantan indie group experiment away on this one, creating some of the biggest tracks of the year.
3. Jizue - Novel
Novel is a stunning combination of freeform jazz and post-rock. I never quite imagined the two genres could be merged so deftly, but the album exceeded my expectations thoroughly.
4. Niechec - Smierc w miekkim futerku
Imagine The Mars Volta ditching Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and replacing him with an incredibly competent saxophonist. Niechec fulfill this expectation and then some, wearing ambition on their sleeves to create some of the most inspired jazz-influenced progressive in awhile.
5. Father Figure - Congratulations On Your Loss
Congratulations On Your Loss is a total bombshell. I'm surprised it didn't spread any more than it did, too. This album deserves to be recognized for its skillful exploration into progressive rock, and with great musicians to boot.
6. Submotion Orchestra - Fragments
Fragments is more immediate than its predecessor, but just as lasting. Submotion Orchestra have never sounded as inspired as they do on their latest album: each track is equally adventurous.
7. Aesop Rock - Skelethon
Aesop Rock has always been a rapper with a problem - inaccessibility. Skelethon sees Aesop deal with more straightforward lyrics, while tacking on stellar production.
8. Icarus the Owl - Love Always, Leviathan
Icarus the Owl know exactly what they're doing, and it truly shows on their latest release. Every track, whether frenetic or subdued, has a clear and certifiable purpose, and the album covers so much terrain in its runtime that one can't help but admire them.
9. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Godspeed are exceptional at creating unforgettable atmospheres, and this album is a continuation of that trend. 'Allelujah creates one eerie setting, although this time around it's due to stylistic changes.
10. Caught In The Wake Forever - Against A Simple Wooden Cross
This album's the tale of a grief-stricken man. How else to purge the demons then to embrace your passions? Well, one option is always to create an album about them.
11. Beach House - Bloom
Beach House finally have made an album both hypnotic and engaging.
12. Ne Obliviscaris - Portal of I
Progressive and black metal have never sounded so majestic together.
13. Meshuggah - Koloss
This album's punishing, and its riffs are unforgettable.
14. Bloc Party - Four
I'd never heard of Bloc Party until this album, but damn is this thing catchy.
15. Fero Lux - Some Divine Ashtray
Fero Lux make mathcore their bitch, and one can't help but respect them for it.
16. John Talabot - Fin
What I love about Fin is how often it changes direction. And each time it does, it succeeds just as much.
17. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
An eccentric frontman, unique instrumentation and sweet album artwork - what more could I ask for?
18. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
R.A.P. Music truly does push the genre's boundaries forward with every move. El-P's production is so interesting on this one, too, offering both retro-styled jams and innovative beats.
19. The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
The Mars Volta embraced logical song structures, then disappeared into the dust.
20. Suis La Lune - Riala
Riala is all one wants out of an exceptional emo album: longing vocals, captivating instrumentation and a sense of intimacy.
21. koi. - Maelstrom
No, this isn't an indie game soundtrack yet, but it will be.
22. Photographers - Nostalgia the Country
Male-female indie-pop duos were so 2011, I know, but Photographers came out of nowhere with this utterly adorable album.
23. Air Tycoon - Winter Purple
Winter Purple is infectious chillwave from one turn to the next.
24. From Indian Lakes - Able Bodies
I love this album because it's so natural for From Indian Lakes. There are some fantastic tracks here, too.
25. fun. - Some Nights
Maybe fun. went mainstream, yeah, but since when is that a bad thing? They're still making catchy pop, and this album has some stellar singles.
Did I miss anything?