I had a difficult time picking my favorite album of 2012. Unlike last year—when I had a clear front runner: Patrick Wolf’s phenomenal Lupercalia—I loved so many albums that came out over the last twelve months. I did pick a favorite album to review, but before I do that I want to discuss the other albums I obsessed over and adored.
First of all, I was happy to see the return of two 90s superstars. Alanis Morissette released her strongest album in years, Havoc and Bright Lights. The LP showcases a wise, sharp, and warm Morissette, not to mention some of the singer-songwriter’s most melodic songs to date. The highlights include “Empathy,” “Receive,” “Win and Win,” and “Spiral.” Morissette has a knack for exploring self-doubt, joy, spirituality, and romance. Marriage and motherhood has imbued her music with a relaxed confidence, and while many critics did not love Havoc, I played the album over and over; it’s swiftly becoming one of my favorite records by the artist.
Similarly, Fiona Apple rocked it out with The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of the Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. The album is a sharp and focused piece of art. If 2012 yielded a perfect, classic record, her album is it because the ten tracks featured perfectly encapsulate her musical aesthetic: a mix of melancholy, passion, self-deprecation, sadness, anger, and lust. It’s spare, but flawlessly produced, hook-filled, and lyrically dazzling. I particularly loved, “Every Single Night,” the very standard-like “Valentine,” and masterful closing tracks, “Anything We Want” and “Hot Knife.” Needless to say, it was a close second for my favorite album of the year.
The year also saw the release of strong sophomore efforts, namely Adam Lambert’s glam-rock-meets-disco gem, Trespassing, and Ke$ha’s 70s-rock-meets-dance effort, Warrior. Lambert’s swagger on tracks like “Trespassing” and “Cuckoo” made his album a solid and delightful summer record. And Ke$ha’s dabbling in multiple genres, including country-rock on “Wonderland” and dubstep on “Warrior,” made for a likable and interesting release. Both projects showcase artists expanding their aesthetics and hitting their strides. They spent a lot of time in my CD player.
Only one debut caught my attention, but has turned out to be more durable than I first anticipated. Carly Rae Jepsen’s Kiss dishes out the kind of pure pop that rarely gets respect from critics. However, as far as I am concerned, it has turned out to be one of the most enjoyable records to come out this year, with each track riding on a clean production and good hook. Tracks like “Curiosity,” “Guitar String/Wedding Ring,” and “Your Heart is a Muscle” show that Jepsen has real writing and vocal chops. I hope her success this year will mean we get to hear more from her in the future.
It’s been a great year for pop music. Rarely do I feel excited about so many records. Of course, before I slip away for the holidays, I will tell you about my favorite album of the year and why I loved it so much. Stay tuned, and I wish you happy music-listening.