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JFM's Top 12 Albums of 2012

1. Matthew Mayfield, A Banquette for Ghosts. Summary: On his best album to date, Birmingham, Alabama's Mayfield strips down his music to the bare essentials, acoustically speaking, to create the most meaningful record of the year. Best song: "Heart in Wire." Most relatable lyrics: "I still love you / you still love me / And that ain't my imagination / that ain't my imagination." Video sample: http://bit.ly/RnYDsF

2. John Mayer, Born and Raised. Summary: A perfect portrait of a post-crash recovery, spotlighting the flaws of a man who has finally grown up. Best song: "Shadow Days." Most relatable lyrics: "I’m a good man with a good heart / had a tough time, got a rough start / But I finally learned to let it go / Now I’m right here, and I’m right now..." Video sample: http://bit.ly/WcVXv7

3. Ben Howard, Every Kingdom. Summary: A flawless album, raw and filled with everything that makes life worth experiencing. (Note: This album was originally released in late 2011, but was reissued in 2012 with a handful of great new songs.) Best song: "Keep Your Head Up." Most relatable lyrics: "Looking out at this happiness / I searched for between the sheets / Feeling blind, I realize / all I was searching for was me." Video sample: http://bit.ly/Ro1l1s

4. Joshua James, From the Top of Willamette Mountain. Summary: While it's hard to top his classic first album, 2007's The Sun Is Always Brighter, the Nebraska-born Utah native dishes out twelve tracks of raw, heartfelt, painfully honest beauty on his third full-length LP. Best song: "Queen of the City." Most relatable lyrics: "I won't keep quiet for the harm I've caused / And I can't read wrinkles on your face." Video sample: http://bit.ly/RnZ2LP

5. The Lumineers, Self titled. Summary: Feel-good folk(ish) music for everyday folks. Best song: "Dead Sea." Most relatable lyrics: "I headed West, I was a man on the move / New York had lied to me, I needed the truth / I need somebody, I needed someone I could trust / I don't gamble, but if I did I would bet on us." Video sample: http://bit.ly/Ro2PJa

6. Imagine Dragons, Night Visions Summary: The best music in the world continues to emerge from the least likely place on earth: Utah, including Joshua James, Isaac Russell, Desert Noises, Parlor Hawk, The Moth & the Flame, Fictionist, Jay William Henderson, and now this Provo-cum-Vegas band's upbeat debut album. Best song: "It's Time." Most relatable lyrics: "Searching to find myself / and all I find is you / I can hardly stand myself / So what am I to you?" Video sample: http://bit.ly/Ro3MkC

7. Fun., Some Nights. Summary: Fun.'s new album is, well, umm, very fun, in a complex way, somehow marrying upbeat pop music with deep, heartrending lyrics. Best song: "Carry On." Most relatable lyrics: "I was never one to believe the hype / Save that for the black and white / I try twice as hard and I'm half as liked ... That's alright, I found a martyr in my bed tonight / Stops my bones from wondering just who I am." Video sample: http://bit.ly/Ro4rlY

8. The Killers, Battle Born. Summary: Makes you want to send frontman Brandon Flowers a greeting card with $20 enclosed just to thank him and the boys for being consistent(ly great) with every album they release. Best song: "Here with Me." Most relatable lyrics: "Wheels are turning, I remember when you were mine / Now just to reach you, I'd stand in line ... Don't want your picture on my cell phone / I want you here with me." Video sample: http://bit.ly/VqArXb

9. Meiko, The Bright Side. Summary: Her long-awaited sophomore album is charming and unpretentious, playfully batting its eyes, unaware of its own beauty. Best song: "Stuck on You." Most relatable lyrics: "Make me believe / I'm the only one you've ever loved / I'm the only one you'll ever touch / Please lie to me." Video sample: http://bit.ly/Ro4HBA

10. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. Summary: More than two decades after Dr. Dre made Compton (in)famous, Kendrick Lamar puts it back on the map with a style that's one-third Andre 3000, one-third N.W.A., and one-third refreshingly unique—all lyrical, all talent. Best song: "Compton." Most relatable lyrics: "I could never right my wrongs / unless I write it down for real." Video sample: http://bit.ly/Ro5IJP

11. Charlie Mars, Blackberry Light. Summary: Q: What's the best way to follow-up a classic album? A: With another classic album. Best song: "Back of the Room." Most relatable lyrics: "Put your head on my chest and listen, listen, listen to that beat, hey / Don't listen to me, I don't know nothing, babe." Video sample: http://bit.ly/WcUAww

12. Childish Gambino, Camp. (Note: I feel like I'd be committing and unforgivable sin if I didn't mention this album, which I would place in the top 5 this year if it hadn't've been released only six week before 2012 began, but alas I heard it for the first time this year, and it's too damn good to leave off the list, so #12 it is, a solid finish to my year-end inventory.) Summary: Leave it to actor/comedian Donald Glover, also known by his tongue-in-cheek moniker Childish Gambino, to singlehandedly reinvigorate self-aware hip-hop with his witty debut. Best song: "Heartbeat." Most relatable lyrics: "So we're done? This the real shit? / We used to hold hands like field trips / I'm a jerk, but your dude is a real dick / I read his posts on your wall and I feel sick." Video sample: http://bit.ly/Ro20jk

Other notable releases of 2012
Trent Dabbs, Future Like Snow. Sample: http://bit.ly/Wg2NA1
The Moth & the Flame, Self titled. Sample: http://bit.ly/WcWj59
Jason Reeves, Songs Are Silent Films. Sample: http://bit.ly/WcUTHA
Desert Noises, I Won't See You EP. Sample: http://bit.ly/WcV1aj
Birds of Tokyo, This Fire EP. Sample: http://bit.ly/WcXAcf
The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter. Sample: http://bit.ly/WcY0zl
Mumford & Sons, Babel. Sample: http://vevo.ly/WcYhlP
Jay William Henderson, The Sun Will Burn Our Eyes. Sample: http://bit.ly/WcX3Hl

Feel free to comment or recommend anything I didn’t hear...
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5 comments
 
I'm generally really behind with the American music scene, so thank you for making my music world ten (twelve?) times better.
Marcy L
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Jack White's Blunderbuss is fantastic. After hearing it, I can't wait for his next one.
 
I spent a lot if time this year visiting old favorites from The Flying Pickets Only You to Grace Jones Living my Life and everything in between.

My favorite album of the year is Hunter Hayes by Hunter Hayes. I'm not a country person, in any sense of the word, but the album is one beautifully written and performed song after the other. Today's 2 favorite songs are Cry For You and Wanted. Tomorrow it could be a different two. 
 
I really enjoyed the Green Day trilogy that they released this year, as well as the Blink-182 EP released just recently in 2012. I haven't heard a lot of the music listed here, but you might enjoy my reccomendations. 
 
And here's something several years old that's hard to find, but you may like: "Blue Pony" by Julie Miller.  She and her husband, Buddy Miller (musical director for the Robert Plant / Allison Krauss tour) did the album together.  Still one of the best Americana albums I've ever heard.  Simply brilliant.
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