10. MellowHype – Numbers (Odd Future Records)
A lot of albums rotated into and out of the number 10 spot on this list. Numbers kept popping up, and I wasn’t sure why as I hadn’t really listened to the full album more then once. So I started skipping around to the songs I liked and I realized that its Left Brain’s production that kept me coming back. See, I’m pretty sure Odd Future as a group has a shelf life like they wont be all together forever. Some will go on to greater success than others and they wont all be famous for rapping. After giving the highlight tracks a few more spins I realized that Left Brain could go on to be a legit in demand producer for mainstream hip-hop tracks. Numbers will be the touchstone, the album we go back to and say…”this….this is when we know Left Brain was going to be huge”.
Spotify Link: MellowHype – Numbers
9. Further Seems Forever – Penny Black (Rise Records)
There was a lot of reunions this year and a lot of Emo revival. Of course I’m talking about late 90s early 00s Emo music and not the hairstyle. A lot of great bands got back together but one of the most welcome reunions in 2012 was Further Seems Forever. In 2001 the band released their absolutely incredible debut album “The Moon is Down”. Unfortunately not long after its release singer Chris Carrabba would find fame with his solo project Dashboard Confessional. The band stuck together and recorded two more albums each with a different singer and each with varying levels of success. The band called it quits after the release of the 3rd album “Hide Nothing”. Over the last couple of years the band would pop up at festivals playing with Chris back in the role of lead singer. But they wouldn’t commit to being back together. Thankfully that changed in 2012. The band has released the proper follow-up to “The Moon is Down” and it is as dynamic and emotional as its predecessor. But it definitely doesn’t sound like it belongs in 2001, this is an emotional alternative rock album that honestly should be playing on modern rock radio. This thing is chock full of catchy singles and would please fans of Dashboard Confessional if only they knew it existed. Hopefully the lack of success on this record doesn’t dissuade the band into sticking it out and making more incredible music together.
Spotify Link: Further Seems Forever – Penny Black
8. Odd Future — The OF Tape Vol. 2 (Odd Future Records)
The perfect introduction to Odd Future is this album. It features every member including Earl has some of their best songs and even features a multiple cover gimmick so fans would try to collect them all. The album spans all of the groups sounds from dark and sinister, to ridiculous hip-hop satire. There’s even the first half of Frank Ocean’s “White” the second half of which would appear on “Channel Orange”. I’m not sure this album would change any minds about Odd Future but it would definitely give you a glimpse into their world. For a fan like me it was everything I was hoping for and more. Proof that these guys still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.
Spotify Link: Odd Future – The OF Tape Vol. 2
7. The Chariot — One Wing (Entertainment One Music)
The Chariot is a band that fades into and out of my musical consciousness every other album. But when I do remember to check them out they absolutely floor me. Their latest “One Wing” is an absolute showstopper. Taking twists and turns you wouldn’t expect. The albums 10 tracks dart and dive between full on hardcore barn burners to a song featuring a mariachi break down. I can’t make this up. If any part of you has any respect for heavy music then definitely give this album a shot. Its a short journey but you’ll be glad you took it.
Spotify Link: The Chariot – One Wing
6. The Casket Lottery — Real Fear (No Sleep Records)
The Casket Lottery toiled away for years as one of the most underrated bands in Emo. 10 years after the release of their last album “Survival is for Cowards” the band returns pretty much out of nowhere with “Real Fear”. The band hasn’t played any shows, or made many waves. I don’t think they even have a Twitter account. Yet they are so well respected that No Sleep agreed to release this album. The band still hasn’t played any shows outside of their hometown and show no signs of touring. In their heyday I was a HUGE Casket Lottery fan and was terrified that this wouldn’t be any good. I mean how could it be? I vaguely knew the band was even back together. Luckily, this album is incredible. Track after track I continued to be blown away by the musicianship, the lyrics, and how well it all fit together. Its like they didn’t even miss a step. You know what? Its better than that its like they are a whole new band. This might as well be their debut album. The only thing that betrays that notion is how incredible it is front to back. You know these guys are veterans after one listen. Here’s hoping they hit the road and continue to make incredible music.
Spotify Link: The Casket Lottery – Real Fear
5. Circa Survive — Violent Waves (Self-Released)
Circa Survive’s fourth album is arguably their best. There are no singles here but instead we get probably the most cohesive album of the year. Skipping around probably wouldn’t be wise. I compare this album to The Felix Culpa’s “Sever Your Roots” which is about as high of a compliment I can give an album. Violent Waves is meant to be listened to all the way through. An experience like this is rare these days, most bands struggle to write a few good songs. Circa Survive has crafted a brilliant album. I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
Spotify Link: Circa Survive – Violent Waves
4. Mixtapes — Even on the Worst Nights (No Sleep Records)
While Pop-Punk isn’t dead it does evolve pretty quickly these days. “Even on the Worst Nights” the debut album from Mixtapes is solid proof of that. At their heart the band is pop-punk and they have some definite pop-punk gems on here, but it’s the deviations from the formula that make this album special. First there are the dual male/female vocals. They never feel forced and are always in the right place. The acoustic tracks are inserted into the album perfectly. Giving the album a chance to breathe. Then there are heavier “alt-rock” tracks. Still catchy, still heartfelt and will make you wonder why Mixtapes isn’t a huge band. I could see these guys sharing an arena stage with Green Day or Foo Fighters. There were so many incredible debut albums this year and Mixtapes is way way up there.
Spotify Link: Mixtapes – Even on the Worst Nights
#3 Cloud Nothings “Attack on Memory” (Carpark Records)
Cloud Nothings latest album leads the Emo revival charge. Released in January “Attack on Memory” kicked the year off with a vengeance. I was convinced for a good chunk of the year that this would be my Album of the Year. The album opens with the droning and frantic “No Future/No Past” and continues to throw curve balls for the entire 30 minutes. The album is only 8 songs but there is enough variety and emotion here to eclipse almost every other album I heard this year. Cloud Nothings have made what is easily the most underrated album of the year and by a wide wide margin.
Spotify Link: Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
#2 Code Orange Kids — Love is Love//Return to Dust (Deathwish, Inc)
You have exactly one second to prepare yourself for the onslaught that is “Love is Love//Return to Dust”. That’s all you get before the insanity begins. If you can make it to the end of the first track you are rewarded with a chance to breathe. 30 or so seconds of a single guitar lulls you into a false sense of security before the next track begins and promptly begins kicking your ass again. While at their core Code Orange Kids are a hardcore band that’s not all they do here on their debut album. The song “Colors (Into Nothing)” is like all the best parts of Underoath’s atmospheric tracks distilled down to 3 minutes. Code Orange Kids are blazing their own trail. Not by going in their own direction, but by burning to the ground everything that came before them.
Spotify Link: Code Orange Kids – Love Is Love // Return To Dust
#1 Frank Ocean — channel ORANGE (Def Jam)
This album is truly the album of the year. In a year where we re-elected a black president, several states legalized gay marriage and marijuana, no album was more 2012 than “channel ORANGE”. A complete destruction and rebuilding of R&B Frank Ocean manages to defy simple genres. There is nothing here that can be categorized. For over an hour Frank Ocean lays his life open for all to hear. Its like stumbling on a journal you know you shouldn’t be reading but you can’t put it down. The music almost doesn’t matter, but luckily the music is incredible. The dubstep tinged “Pyramids”, the heart-wrenching ballad “Bad Religon”, and the funky “Pink Matter” are just a few examples of how all over the place this album can seem when separated. But when combined the 17 tracks of “channel ORANGE” make for the greatest listening experience of the year. Frank Ocean is the breakout star of 2012 and he’s made a masterpiece of an album that will live on as a historic moment in music history for years to come.
Spotify Link: Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE