1. Frank Ocean –channel ORANGE
The most honest, heartbreaking record to make an impact this year. It doesn’t hurt that the soulful, meticulous production is gorgeous.
2. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
25-year old Compton rapper with a great talent for storytelling. Brushing up against felonies and gang violence, Lamar addresses his past as a fly on the wall instead of a condescending know-it-all, and that is truly refreshing in conscious hip hop.
3. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
The best rock album to come out this year. Yes, it’s reminiscent of 90s college rock, only I like it way better than most of those albums.
4. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Following 2009’s Bitte Orca, a warm, mostly acoustic album seems like a cop out, but the delicacy on this album is matched by its virtuosic spasms.
5. Tame Impala –Lonerism
Australian psych band tops its 2010 debut by stepping deeper into expansive, fuzzy hypnosis.
6. Elle Varner – Perfectly Imperfect
Varner’s debut casually throws soul back into pop music without any fuss. The humility in her songwriting makes you appreciate her nimble transformation from shy wallflower to sassy heartbreaker.
7. Joey Bada$$ –1999
This 17-year-old from Brooklyn is the youngest, most talented rapper since Nas, and he puts east coast hip hop back into the boom bap sweet spot.
8. Hospitality –Hospitality
Simply breezy indie pop with infinite replay value.
9. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Whereas Frank Ocean crossed over from indie soul to mainstream, Miguel is coming at it from the other side; making pop and neo-soul weirder for the better.
10. Fiona Apple –The Idler Wheel…
This unassuming, stripped down album is wound as tightly as Apple, bursting with melodic color under muted textures and reminding us that she works hard to make music that good sound that effortless.