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The Best Music of 2012

If you know me at all, then you know that music occupies a significant portion of my heart's real estate. If Writing is my full-time lover, then Music is my secret crush. And although I'm not involved with her personally, I frequently enjoy her sweet voice from an earshot away. She often reminds me of what it feels like to be alive—the euphony of the peaks, the valleys, and everything in-between.

Because I find so much joy in music, I feel compelled each year to share with you my favorite albums from the past twelve months. This year proved to be a stellar year for new music, which essentially killed my theory that only odd-numbered years spawn large heaps of notable tunes. Below are my 12 favorite albums from 2012, a diverse list if there ever was one. 

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." 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."

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: 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 three 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
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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