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August 28, 2014
Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best CDs of 2012

Lana Del Rey closes the year looking more like the future of music than just the advertising face of H&M, Jaguar and Mulberry.

Something like 1,000 review albums have come my way since her Born to Die, and it’s still among my favourites of 2012.

She’s just beaten by Frank Ocean. He came to attention with his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra, which was the freshest things I’d heard in ages. Now we have his début proper, Channel Orange, crowned with the glossy, 10-minute track Pyramids.

Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball has the energy to see off criticism that The Boss is no longer a cutting-edge star.

Leonard Cohen brought out the ever-articulate Old Ideas, Donald Fagen the tasteful Sunken Condos and Mark Knopfler the virtuoso Privateering — all sticking to character. Bob Dylan’s Tempest has its moments, even with the overdone title track about the Titanic.

Bobby Womack has recovered from health problems to make his best CD, The Bravest Man in the Universe, with Damon Albarn.

Ry Cooder’s Election Special was confidently dashed off, and so was Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill, which came months after Americana. The White Stripes star Jack White has been going it alone, with the retro-tinged Blunderbuss.

Emeli Sande made an assured start with Our Version of Events. It does Sande a disservice to compare her to Aretha Franklin — that’s a little over the top, though she eclipsed Jessie Ware, whose Devotion also showcases an original voice.

Taylor Swift’s Red places Joni Mitchell-style maturity in a pop form. Fiona Apple’s fine CD is called The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do. If that seems a mouthful, keep in mind that it’s short compared with the 90-word title of one of her others. Pink’s The Truth About Love rises above its brash commercialism, while Regina Spektor’s What We Saw From the Cheap Seats is kooky, in a good way. Indie rock is finding its way forward after the demise of its patron saints, R.E.M.

Waiting in the wings to replace them we have Britain’s the XX, with Coexist taking minimalism to a new level; Django Django, making a self-titled début; Spiritualized (Sweet Heart Sweet Light); Grizzly Bear (Shields) and Beach House (the sublime Bloom). Alt-J’s ‘An Awesome Wave‘ was a worthy Mercury Prize winner, Lonerism by Australia’s Tame Impala gently psychedelic, and Attack on Memory by Ohio’s Cloud Nothings a dark slab of vitriol with catchy guitars.

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