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Sunday, December 2

Vinnie the Intern #27: My Top 5 Albums of 2012

Here are my top albums of 2012. You may notice that this list is predominantly hip-hop. To me, this has been a year for hip-hop to remember. This year albums have been created by many artists that are working hard to transcend genres and push the envelope. Death Grips has been notable for their record label shenanigans and the mystery behind Captain Murphy was fun to see full circle. These were not gimmicks. They did not solicit controversy to cover up a lukewarm album. These albums are innovative and memorable. 

I also had a couple stipulations: EPs, box-sets, and reissues do not count.

Of course there are many albums I enjoyed this year that are not on the list. Some of you may be shocked to see that the new Animal Collective or Dirty Projectors didn't make it on my list. While I adored those albums, these five albums are the best that 2012 has to offer. Albums that you can immerse yourself in and continuously find a new aspect you love about it . This is just my opinion, so feel free to comment on what your favorite album of the year is.

5. Joey Bada$$ - 1999

1999 is a success in every way, shape and form. Not only an incredibly realized debut mixtape, Joey Bada$$ happens to only be 17. But that is all besides the point. It is not a great album due to his age or his lack of prior work. It is great for bringing back the sound of 90s gritty, New York hip-hop. His group PRO ERA is featured on a majority of tracks and fortunately they can keep up with his mic skills. "Survival Tactics" and "Killuminati" feature some of the best wordplay of the year, not to mention some absolutely outstanding beats. With the bar is set incredibly high, Joey Bada$$ has a bright future ahead of him.

4. Captain Murphy - Du∆lity
Steven Ellison (also known as Flying Lotus and now as Captain Murphy) has had a busy year. Not only releasing his lush and dreamy Until the Quiet Comes, he has been creating quite a following as the anonymous villain: Captain Murphy. Punctuated by maniacal laughter, pitched vocals, and an amazing video, Duality has everything that you could want from a hip-hop album. While the lyrics delve into dark subject matter, it is not done in a cheesy way due to the skill with Captain Murphy's lines which can border as dark as they are humorous  The beats are where Duality really shines. For the amount of different artists who dipped their pens into the ink, it sounds very cohesive. It may be due to many of the artists being of the Brainfeeder collective.

3. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
Kendrick Lamar's major label debut creates a narrative of his upbringing in Compton. Kendrick, a genuinely good kid, is stretched in every way of his life: his positive and loving upbringing with his parents keep him a hardworking youth who knows that knowledge is the way out of the hood while his friends play the bad influence bringing him to get involved in robbery and gang violence. Probably one of the more diversified albums on this list, there is a little bit of everything here beat-wise. From the spacey "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe" to the G.O.O.D-esque "Backseat Freestyle," this album has a bulk of variety, the perfect amount of guest performers that don't overpower the album, and a story that inspires hope that "a flower bloomed in a dark room."

2. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti have outdone themselves with their latest, Mature Themes. Where some may think that Before Today was the better of their post-Paw Track releases, I found this album to be an album that defines their craft as songwriters. Tracks like "Only in My Dreams," a shimmery pop gem, showcase refinement and more mature (as the title would imply) arrangements. Even some of the would-be filler (Schnitzel Boogie) is catchy in just how odd it truly is. The flow works really well, too. Especially the back half of the album. Putting the last track, a cover of Joe and Donnie Emerson, was a smart choice as it didn't take away from the consistent nature of the Ariel songs. An album that wears its nostalgia on its sleeve, it's not afraid to indulge in it's strong suits: making songs that were the norm in the late 70s/early 80s with a modern edge.

1. Death Grips - The Money Store
I don't even know where to begin with an album that is as awarding as it is challenging. Death Grips, after releasing last year's outstanding mixtape, Exmilitary, chose to sign to Epic Records, release the Money Store, cancel their tour, release NO LOVE DEEP WEB without their label's permission, and get dropped from their label. This album started the rise to their turbulent, yet productive year. As where Exmilitary was more cluttered (due to much of Zach Hill's percussion) and NLDW was more central to MC Ride as a lyricist (due to it's sparse instrumentals), The Money Store is the healthy medium with some of the most unique instrumentals ever created in hip-hop. This can be much praise to Flatlander. Genre-bending and proud of it, The Money Store commits to being a no holds barred aural assault while still demanding the listeners attention. I have probably listened to this entire album 40+ times and due to the murk and grime and I am still digging through it to hear things I did not find on prior listens. If you have followed any of my blogs or know my musical tastes, this album being number one should in no way surprise you. I wholeheartedly love this album and will attest that you will be hard pressed to find anything like this again any time soon.

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