Lists, lists, lists. It’s now that time of year when every website you read, friend you know and maybe even you — rank the year’s best albums. Instead of publishing a pseudo-scientific study that you probably will just scroll through, we’re providing you with a different sort of insight. We rang up a handful of our favorite musicians over the year and asked them one question: What’s your favorite album of 2012 and why? The results are below and we can safely say, this is taste you can trust.
Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city
This record is great. He displays so much talent here. His storytelling is captivating and very thoughtful. He has versatility – assuming different voices in a way that is reminiscent of biggie when he sang “gimme da loot” in two characters. Kendrick does that WELL.
The beats are all hot. The hooks are HUGE. “Good kid” and “swimming pools” being key examples. He has a feel-good vibe that is mellow and entrancing in the spirit of q-tip, and he also has edge. He never flexes the edge or overstates it, but it’s always there. I’m a big fan of this dude. – Paul Banks
I’m gonna have to say Kendrick’s album, because it was just like a story and I’m a fan of Kendrick. He had true stuff that you can listen to, stuff you can get high too and stuff you can ride around and listen to. If I had to pick a favorite song on the album, it would be “Money Trees.” – A$AP Rocky
Lana Del Rey, Born to Die
At first she kinda horrified me: the internet sensation, the breakdowns, the SNL fiasco, etc. But then my opinion totally turned on a dime after really listening to her record. She is a total original. Bravo! – Rufus Wainwright
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel…
It’s so wonderfully inspiring and comforting to watch an artist you know is brilliant just go on and be brilliant without the restrictions of industry rules or standards. She’s such a genius writer that it hurts. I first heard and saw “Every Single Night” randomly. I had that song on repeat for weeks. Musically, the album is primal and complex and simple, simultaneously. It’s just something that makes me work harder to be a better writer. Seriously, who starts out a song with, “My cheeks were reflecting the longest wavelength.” WTF. Thanks, Fiona. What a gorgeous project. Be free. — Jean Grae
Father John Misty, Fear Fun
This is our absolute favorite record of the year and definitely the one we’ve listened to the most. It was instant love from the first time we heard “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.” It reminds us a lot of Gram Parsons’ music. It’s witty, funny and touching all at the same time. Josh Tillman has an effortless way of writing lyrics that is very inspiring. Jonathan Wilson’s production is never demanding, but always beautiful, soulful and fun. And that voice – oh my! — First Aid Kit
Lower Dens, Nootropics
Nootropics is my favorite album of 2012. It has been so amazing to see the development of Jana Hunter’s writing and the connection with her extremely talented band that continues to build. She has expanded her glacial guitar scapes and pushed herself vocally, experimenting with synths and meditative lyrics. It’s going to be a record that I have in my “often played” pile. And that pile isn’t very big. — Sharon Van Etten
Niki & the Dove, Instinct
They take you into their magical world and everything is so well done. If you haven’t seen them live … Do it! — Icona Pop
Bear in Heaven, I Love You, It’s Cool
The songs have a unified sonic and lyrical theme, sounding like a true and whole artistic statement from start to finish. — Bob Mould
The Gaslamp Killer, Breakthrough
My favorite album this year was Gaslamp Killer’s criminally slept on Breakthrough. All of the technical tricks of modern electronic music but with an organic, soulful sound and a heavy Middle Eastern and psychedelic influence. Beautiful record. — El-P
Oddisee, People Hear What They See
I say without hesitation that oddisee is one of the greatest producers our culture has ever produced. From a lyrical thematic standpoint it is equally as brilliant. Oddisee’s distinctive DMV drawl, in conjunction with his patient,calculated, personal, delivery allow his verses to seep into your mind. — Homeboy Sandman
Soap & Skin, Narrow
I want music to make me feel different. I don’t necessarily care if I feel better or worse. There are moments on this album of pure desperation, deep sadness and a sort of numb hope. I deeply felt each moment and got chills multiple times even after multiple listens. I was very moved by it and it is my favorite. — Perfume Genius
As told to Mike Ayers, Phillip Mlynar, Marissa Muller, and Marcus Moore. What’s your # 1 album of the year? Leave it in the comment section below.