Putting this list together was much more stressful than I had ever expected it could be. Trying to decide if I like one great album more than another great album ended up forcing me making a lot of arbitrary choices in the rankings. I kind of wish I hadn’t bothered ranking them at all, but I had to rank my top ten for Chicago Innerview so I figured I might as well rank the whole twenty-five.
A few artists in particular had great years. Ty Segall cemented his place as the king of San Francisco’s growing garage rock scene. El-P reappeared after five years with two records that stand up to anything else he’s released in his 15 year career. The Alchemist completed his transition from run of the mill boom-bap producer to rap’s resident psychedelic explorer. Most excitingly, L.A.’s Black Hippy crew, consisting of Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, and Ab-Soul, finally arrived. After a few years of interesting and occasionally very good projects, every member matured suddenly and had the best performances of their careers (although Jay Rock, the only member who didn’t put out an album this year, wasn’t as visible as the others). Black Hippy is going into 2013 as the best and most exciting crew in hip hop.
I have a few regrets. 2012 has been the year that I rediscovered rock. As I mentioned in the write-up on OFF!’s self-titled album, listening to rock music wasn’t a major concern for me over the last few years, but my discovery of a number of incredible punk and 80s independent rock bands reignited that fire, and it’s been a pleasure exploring some of the more ragged and psychedelic bands that put out great records this year. I still feel like I missed out on a lot though, but I look forward to listening to even more new rock next year. I also wish I listened to more new jazz. I’m still mired in decades worth of canonical albums and forgotten gems (free jazz, my favorite jazz style, is insanely full of classic records that never got enough exposure to make it into the canon), and I’m still a few decades behind. Playing catch up has forced me to miss out on a lot of great albums, and I’m hoping that I can make a bit more time for new stuff next year.
I’ll be uploading #25-21 tomorrow and will do five albums a day through Friday. It looks like I’ve gotten enough writing done in advance that I’ll be able to stick to that schedule.
One last note. The image at the top comes courtesy of Hip Hop is Read, which closes every year with a series of massive Best Of compilations of that year’s hip hop MVPs. The site makes great Blue Note-style covers for each one, and like LoganWalter’s Wu-Note project from a few years back, it’s great to see the Blue Note aesthetic applied to hip hop. Hip Hop is Read understandably highlighted Black Hippy with one of these compilations, and the Blue Note cover for that comp is one of the highlights of a great set of covers this year.