2012 was the year YouTube became more important than the radio. The year’s two most ubiquitous songs, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” spread mostly through the video site. It was also the year that the “indie” title became as meaningless as “alternative.”—many people are now hearing “indie” bands during a car commercial.
These aren’t bad things. Bands are reaching audiences they wouldn’t have been able to in the past. And there was still good music in 2012, some of which started out on YouTube or can be heard during a commercial break.
5. Pink – The Truth About Love
This is Pink’s strongest album in years. After over a decade, she’s still releasing catchy dance-pop that’s relevant. Maybe it’s her sincerity that sets her apart from her peers. All of these songs sound as honest as ever, and it never feels like Pink is trying to impress you or reach a bigger audience. She’s just herself, and it seems like she’s living her anthems like “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” and “Try.”
4. The xx – Coexist
One of my friends thinks that this is the future of electronic music. Sound-wise he may be correct, but I doubt there will be many other indie rock bands who play music that sounds like electronic trance music. The xx eschew the excesses of both indie rock and electronica by keeping the songs short. The result of what’s left is the best part of electronica, minus the boring parts.
3. The Lumineers – The Lumineers
The Lumineers’ country-tinged folk-rock is not a new sound by any stretch of the imagination. However, this is the most well-crafted album of the year. Every part of every song is in the exact right place and everything is meticulously executed.
2. B.o.B – Strange Clouds
B.o.B seems to be the one rapper who realizes that rap has become America’s pop music. Because of this he pushes the genre to its fringes, mixing rap with rock, pop, and even country. But he still knows what makes a good rap song. The songs have great beats, just the right amount of poppy hooks, and great vocal flow. It feels like B.o.B is an album or two away from making a genre-busting masterpiece. This isn’t quite that, but it has some great moments and is fun throughout.
1. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
This was the one album I returned to over and over again in 2012. It’s the most unique, creative, and interesting sound of the year. Del Rey has taken torch-songs, hip-hop, punk, female singer-songwriter, and blue-eyed soul and created her own sound out of it.
Because of her confessional lyrics, her odd persona, and her tendency to switch singing voices mid-song, some have labeled her sound amateurish. It’s not in the least. She has full control over all the various pitches she sings in and her lyrics paint vivid pictures. This is the best album of the year.
Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
Diana Krall – Glad Rag Doll
Fun. – Some Nights
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
Lana Del Rey – Paradise EP
Passion Pit – Gossamer