I'm not even going to try to defend my picks for 2012. They are, for the most part, pretty mainstream. Maybe I just wasn't feeling sonically adventurous this year. I don't know. Many of the albums that made it to the tops of other year-in-review lists never really took hold with me, some for reasons I can easily explain and others for reasons that elude me. For example, Taylor Swift's Red isn't on my list, because I think Taylor Swift is awful. But other albums, like the Alabam Shakes' Boys and Girls and Frank Ocean's Channel ORANGE, were albums that I liked-but-didn't-love, and so they didn't quite make the cut. Then there were the ones that a lot of people loved but just weren't my cup of tea at all, like the Japandroid's Celebration Rock and Smashing Pumpkin's Oceania. Taste is a funny thing, I guess.
In no particular order, here are the albums that got the play-and-repeat treatment from Dr. J in 2012:
Fun., Some Nights: This may be my favorite album of 2012. Down to a track, it delivers exactly what the band's name promises, that is: Fun. Period. (I love that the band's name is "Fun
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas: There's not really much to say here. In any given year, if Leonard Cohen puts out an album, that album is going to be on my list. If you know anything at all about Leonard Cohen, there will be nothing at all surprising to you on this album. It's slow, brooding, tortured, equal parts consonance and dissonance, full of reflections of the vicissitudes of life and love as they are always seen in Cohen's fun-house lyrical mirror. It's poetry. When I listen to any of Cohen's albums, I feel like the narrator of the second track on this album ("Show Me The Place"), left helpless to say anything other than "show me the place where you want your slave to go." I guess this is true for a lot of his fans, but I find Cohen's songs inescapably gripping. They grab hold, squeeze tight, hurt a lot but caress a little, too. He's always sounded old and wise, but there's something even older and wiser about Old Ideas. And something that convinces you that there probably aren't really any new ideas anymore, anyway.
Flo Rida, Wild Ones: I'd like to say that Flo Rida is one of my guilty pleasures, but that would require that I feel at least a modicum of guilt about my pleasure. Which I do not. I have both of his previous albums (2008's Mail on Sunday and 2009's R.O.O.T.S.) and this one is every bit as good. If you need something to get you up and moving, "Wild Ones" is a winner, but my favorite track is the absolutely addictive "Whistle." If you've heard the song, you might find this interview with Flo Rida amusing, since he explains that "Whistle" is just a song about "getting my attention" and NOT what most people think, namely (in Flo's words), "some real freaky stuff." The first track of Wild Ones ("Run") is a high-energy pairing with RedFoo of LMFAO, and somehow manages to take an otherwise LMFAO-sounding track and give it just the right dose of barbiturates. For the best hip-hop sampling of 2012, I'd nominate Flo Rida's "I Cry," which samples the Bingo Players' "Cry (Just A Little),"which itself included a sample of Brenda Russell's "Piano in the Dark." That's some meta-musical-goodness.
Rolling Stones, GRRR!: Last but not least, I have to include the newly-released, 3-disc mega-compilation of Rolling Stones' hits. What's noteworthy about GRRR!, other than the obvious fact that it's ALL STONES, is that it includes two previously-unreleased tracks, "Doom and Gloom" and "One More Shot," neither of which are anything to write home about really. Compilations can be tricky sometimes if the work compiled is not uniformly good. But it's not tricky at all with the Stones. Just push play on GRRR! and you get more than three straight hours of the greatest rock-n-roll band of all time. It's that simple. Just hang your tongue out like a gorilla and growl to your heart's content.
Honorable Mentions:I would've included Katy Perry's Teenage Dreams: The Complete Confection, Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday... Roman Reloaded and Ke$ha's Warrior, but all three are technically "re-releases," that is, expanded versions of previously-released albums. I also really liked The Wallflowers' Glad All Over, but it sounds like every other Wallflowers' album (which is fine by me). Ne-Yo's R.E.D. was another close call; it didn't make my list but definitely counts as the R&B album that beats out Frank Ocean this year. Finally, I'm a little surprised myself that there isn't any alt-country/roots music on my list this year, but if there were, the nods would definitely go to The Avett Brothers' The Carpenter or The Lumineers' The Lumineers.
That's it, readers. Feel free to let me know what I missed in the comments section.