Joyce Manor - Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
Now, for most people I know, they are already well aware of this record - I have had it in heavy rotation in my car, and all of my other friends' cars who let me DJ. It's Long Island Pop-Punk, but the same way Brand New was Long Island Emo with Screams (L.I.E.S.); it's intelligent, original, and moving. There's even a cover of "Video Killed the Radio Star" that doesn't make you want to rip your hair out! It seems Absolute Punk was right...wait, what? Well, their community still sucks, giving the record a mere 72/100. The production is decidedly less lo-fi from the band's previous release, which really helps bring out all the subtle inflections that make this release so exciting and fresh.
Joey Bada$$ - 1999
The album sounds like the title suggests: a return to the golden years of hip-hop. Featuring boom-bap beats, guest spots from the larger Progressive Era crew, and Joey's time tested - not necessarily by him - flow and style. 1999 feels comfortable all throughout. It's hard to believe he's only 17. With beats ranging from J Dilla, MF Doom, and Statik Selektah, this is a noteworthy mixtape, in a era where the lines between album and mixtape are beginning to blur more than ever. Album highlight "Survival Tactics" attracted the attention of Pitchfork and the website did a feature on the rapper. The best part is you can download the mixtape here for free. Yay, internet!
Suis La Lune - Riala
Easily the least accesible on this list, the Swedish Screamo band crafted one of the densest listens this year thus far. The vocals aren't overly harsh, as they are washed clean with reverb, and there are moments when they wane and strengthen in emotional fatigue and vigor. What's so great about this album is that every song is flooded with excellent guitar harmonies and arrangements. At about 3:09 on "In Confidence", there is a major movement from the melancholia to an almost ecstatic feeling. The song feels extremely special, warranting multiple listens. The album shouldn't come as a surprise success to fans that have followed the band, as they have always released really solid material. I'm just kind of upset my copy of this record is the white first pressing, not the second pressings of black and clear splattered...
∆ (Alt J) - An Awesome Wave
If you were wondering how I typed a ∆, read the band's name again. Hip geometrical shapes aside, Alt-J created a sharp, technical album for 2012. The band's debut album, An Awesome Wave is exactly what I would like Maps & Atlases to sound like, if they continued the more poppy approach to mathy music like they seem to be. They even have a "Power" inspired music video for album standout "Tessellate". The vocals sound very familiar to Devendra Banhart, but the textured, swimming instrumentation and arrangements supporting the vocals is what sets the band apart. It's the perfect poppy album to pitch Math Rock to your friends! And isn't that what every fan needs?
blu - UCLA
If you consider yourself a hip-hop head, then you know who blu is. What makes this release such an under the radar one is how it was released, and now its difficulty to locate. The album randomly appeared on the mercurial rapper's Bandcamp page, boasting that it was entirely produced by underground hip-hop stalwart Madlib. Stones Throw then released a statement saying Madlib had nothing to do with the project. Despite the claim, the album does sound like it could have been produced solely by Madlib. And a single, "EZ", was released, then with Madlib's credit. All the controversy does nothing to discredit a great album from one of the underground's most consistant rappers.