Adventures Of 2012: Top 30 Albums [#10-1]

Monday, December 31, 2012


...and now here we are the end.

Thank you all, the readers and supporters, for trekking on another year musical adventures with me, and I hope you enjoyed it. I don't know what next year will bring, but I sure know (and as sure as my 'spidey senses' are) that not a dull moment will be had. So stay tuned for Audio Diva in the new year! And without further ado...here we are at the finishing line of 2012 with my top ten albums of this year!

Happy New Year! 


10. Radio Music Society - Esperanza Spalding [Review]
Playing as the peppy young sister companion piece to the elder Chamber Music Society, the classical cool of Ms. Esperanza Spalding saw an expansion of fanbase this year with Radio Music Society. Guest spots from Algebra Blessett and Q-Tip put a little smattering of accessibility into the mix, but Spalding still stands firmly rooted in free-form experimental jazz and the prototypical lineages of it as heard in a majority of the numbers present. The soul shiverings of "Cinnamon Tree" mixed jovial proclamations like "Crowned & Kissed" and "Black Gold" have Spalding once again constructing the past vs. present bridge with such vivacity and agility it's no wonder she's dubbed as the new darling for the preservation of classical minded soul.

Notable Tracks: Cinnamon Tree, I Can't Help It, Black Gold (feat. Algebra Blessett), Crowned & Kissed, Let Her, Hold On Me

9. He Said, She Said - DivaGeek
For all the 80's babies (and lovers) out there, DivaGeek has got you covered with a crackling collection of songs that trip the synth fantastic. With a brief introduction way back in 2008, He Said, She Said, was a long-time in the making, and it does feel like a labor of love from the two, as they just have a ball making music the way they see fit, leading to why the album is one of the most joyous and freeing releases this year. Pleasing to the ear is Vula Malinga's peerless voice and she along with partner in crime, Ben Jones, make an album that should get more recognition, especially here in the fickle States. That's my wish for next year --- for this little-known group to enjoy success akin to the majority of the major artists I have counted down here, because they step out in a such a big and spirited way here.

Notable Tracks: I Can't Go For That, Money, Mr. Happy, Trouble, He Said She Said, Hangin' Wid U

8. Push and Shove - No Doubt [Review]
As far as comebacks go, No Doubt didn't have the most perfect one (their ignoramus nod to Native American culture for the "Looking Hot" video proved a big head-shaking misstep), but a comeback is a comeback, and I have to say that the Orange County quartet did make on their promise after about eleven years of "will they, won't they?" talk. Sure my bias for a band from my youth is showing, yet I can't sit here and not say that Push and Shove was a dud, because it wasn't as it still had the band as electrically charged, Ska-minded, and as candid as they always were --- plus had me dancing/thrashing about like it was 1996 especially when single, "Settle Down" kicked the door in. Sometimes we need albums that don't push an agenda or are designed to change the face music, we just need solid good music that livens up the party, and Gwen and the guys are the ones who never fail at providing that sort of thing.

Notable Tracks: Easy, Settle Down, One More Summer, Looking Hot, Dreaming The Same Dream, Heaven, Gravity

7. Pour Une Ame Souveraine - Meshell Ndegeocello [Review]
With grace and agility, Meshell Ndegeocello tackles the staggering mountain of Nina Simone's career by hand-picking fourteen of the High Priestess of Soul's best-known works and dressing them up in new attire. She brings along some friends (Sinead O' Connor, Cody ChestnuTT, Lizz Wright, Valerie June, Toshi Reagon) to give it a little extra oomph. Yet Simone's presence is the one most heavily felt as all involved expertly achieve the intricate and unique spirit of Simone, and it's alive, raw, and catching on easily one of Meshell's finest creations.

Notable Tracks: House Of The Rising Sun (feat. Toshi Reagon), Four Women, See-Line Woman, Feelin' Good, Suzanne, Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

6. Is Your Love Big Enough? - Lianne La Havas [Review]
Someone who I have no qualms about make a lasting impression in the new year is singer/songwriter/guitarist Lianne La Havas, whom debuted this year on the whimsy and throwback folk-soul of her debut album. After being just a mere whisper among the blog brethren, she exploded on the scene with such sophisticated tapestries like "Lost & Found", "No Room For Doubt" and it's boisterous title track. Bringing the singer-songwriter era back in a big way, La Havas is on the fast track to being a mainstay in music.

Notable Tracks: Lost & Found, No Room For Doubt (feat. Willy Mason ), Au Cinema, Is Your Love Big Enough, Age

5. From The Roots Up - Delilah [Review]
It was gusty when Delilah decided to merge Rufus & Chaka Khan's classic "Ain't Nobody" into her track "Go". It was even more ballsy when she released it as her debut single. This valiant attitude isn't just a one-time stunt, as Delilah continues to leap artistic bounds with her freshly squeezed debut that was one of my favorite surprises this year. Blistering Aaliyah-esque mood swings to cuddly smart pop are present on Roots, and hearing Delilah blossom as the album unfolds is quite the treat.

Notable Tracks: So Irate, Shades Of Gray, Love You So, 21, Inside My Love, Never Be Another, I Can Feel You, Go

4. Return To Paradise - Sam Sparro [Review]
Paying homage to the defunct late-70's and early-80's institution known as the Paradise Garage and late DJ/innovator Larry Levan, Return To Paradise is a time capsule of a work that explores all of what soul and pop music were, and how Sam Sparro envisions it for the future. Completely avoiding the second album slump, the dapper Sparro weans a collection that is jubilant and sublime and ready for the dance floors. Sure that sounds just like how his debut album operated, but Return To Paradise is more insulated in its grooves and is less melancholic and with tracks like "Happiness" and early 80's funk workout like "Let The Love In" and "Quarter Life Crisis", Sparro's not out to prove something this time out, he's just having a good old time and join the party I shall. Note: Mirror ball is sold separately.

Notable Tracks: Happiness, Let Love In, Hearts Like Us, Return To Paradise, Quarter Life Crisis, We Could Fly

3. Electra Heart - Marina & The Diamonds [Review]
We run to the hills these days when we hear the term: "concept album" --- especially in the Pop market because we (stupidly) believe that almost everyone who dubs their music such has a brain made out of bubblegum and has no business trying to do something so "complex". Marina Diamandis knows of this underestimation that goes 'round so putting tongue to cheek she crafts this year's finest pop album and gets the last giggle in. We follow her alter-ego, the zany and somewhat bratty 'Electra Heart', through all the trials of competing with the crowd and herself, and we hear her through every tantrum, heartbreak, and reflection that is splashed out on this insanely infectious collection of some of the smartest pop around. Seriously, pop albums should always sound like this.

Notable Tracks: Power & Control, Bubblegum Bitch, Homewrecker, Fear & Loathing, The State Of Dreaming, Starring Role, Teen Idle, Lies, Primadonna

2. Black Radio - Robert Glasper Experiment [Review]
The roster of talent on Black Radio is insane. Bananas. If your mind wasn't blown by that fact then the tracklist of re-imagined classics from all walks of musical genres is also one to spaz out about. All the twist and turns, back alleys and front yards that Black music (and music in general) have occupied are presented so effectually on this sprawling set that it's a marvel how it all came together. The real beauty in Black Radio and Robert Glasper's expert precision to weave the fundamental building block of Jazz into the mix, is that you can alter you're frequency the way you see fit. Whether you want to bask in hip-hop, pensive soul, or proggy-electronica, the freedom of choice mixed in with the agility to love music in all of its forms is the proclamation that this album so gracefully stands tall on.

Notable Tracks: Move Love (feat. KING), Cherish The Day (feat. Lalah Hathaway), Smells Like Teen Spirit, Gonna Be Alright (feat. Ledisi), Ah Yeah (feat. Musiq and Chrisette Michele), Why Do We Try (feat. Stokley Williams)

1. Devotion - Jessie Ware [Review]
From start to finish, with no fine wrinkles, Devotion comes out on top as this year's best. It lives up to all the promise of it's debut singles (the brilliant duo of "Running" and "Sweet Talk" more so), cuts to the chase, as it packs in eleven songs (fifteen if you count the deluxe edition) that are influenced by the icy flourishes of 80's New Wave and sweeping soulful love letters so scribed by artists of yore a la Sade, Lisa Stansfield, and Annie Lennox. With producers Julio Bashmore and David Okumu guiding the way, Jessie Ware just blossoms while penning an albums for all the lonely love hunters out there, and it's just so damn exquisite and fresh that it amazes me that there are artists today and of Ware's age that still do this kind of thing. For me, this album isn't really all about making a grandiose statement or getting all the hippest producers to achieve radio status or rack up cool indie points, it's just a refreshing reflective of talent in the raw, and with that I'm anxious to see how Ware will top this bewitching craftwork --- but still I'm enjoying all that is on Devotion in calming, happy stride.

Notable Tracks: Running, Sweet Talk, Night Light, Wildest Moments, Devotion, Still Love Me, Taking In Water, Swan Song

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