Best Music Of 2012

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Ken Tucker's Top 10 Albums Of 2012

Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel... is a sustained mood piece, a series of intricate word puzzles swaddled in ferocious emotion. i i
Dan Monick
Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel... is a sustained mood piece, a series of intricate word puzzles swaddled in ferocious emotion.
Dan Monick

The hardest song of the year to escape was probably Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe." It was everywhere — on the radio, all over the Internet and on TV in a vast array of re-recordings done by fans ranging from ordinary citizens to Jimmy Fallon. "Call Me Maybe," with a lyric that captures a certain kind of 2012 casual speech, stands in a long tradition of novelty songs that hold up to repeated listens — as opposed to the novelty song this year that quickly became just irritating, Psy's "Gangnam Style."

My favorite album of the year, however, barely dented mass consciousness, and it's full of songs whose sentiments were rather more vehement than "Call Me Maybe." With its clattering percussion and Fiona Apple's twisty wordplay, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do is a sustained mood piece, a series of intricate word puzzles swaddled in ferocious emotion.

I want to provide a sense of the diversity of good music this year, so I'll name my favorite country album of the year: Dwight Yoakam's 3 Pears, which is not just a return to form for the honky-tonk singer, but also one of the most consistently pleasurable albums by anyone this year.

There was a lot of excellent hip-hop music in 2012, including albums from Killer Mike and Kendrick Lamar. For me, the pop crossover success of Frank Ocean, with his album Channel Orange, provided some of the year's most beautifully moody music.

If there's one consistent theme that ran beneath the music this year, it was the survival of the fittest: the endurance or reemergence of various artists in late or middle age. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bobby Womack, Bonnie Raitt, Loudon Wainwright III and many others released strong, vital work in 2012, but perhaps no return was more welcome than Iris DeMent's. Her first album of original material in 16 years, Sing the Delta, offered many strikingly gorgeous moments.

Ken Tucker's Top 10 Albums Of 2012

Cover for The Idler Wheel...

1. Fiona Apple, 'The Idler Wheel...'

  • Song: Every Single Night

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Song
Every Single Night
Album
The Idler Wheel...
Artist
Fiona Apple
Label
Epic
Released
2012

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3 Pears

2. Dwight Yoakam, '3 Pears'

  • Song: A Heart Like Mine

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Song
A Heart Like Mine
Album
3 Pears
Artist
Dwight Yoakam
Label
Warner Bros./Via Records
Released
2012

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Cover for Channel Orange

3. Frank Ocean, 'Channel Orange'

  • Song: Thinkin Bout You

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Song
Thinkin Bout You
Album
Channel Orange
Artist
Frank Ocean
Label
Def Jam
Released
2012

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Sing the Delta

4. Iris DeMent, 'Sing The Delta'

  • Song: Go On Ahead and Go Home

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Song
Go On Ahead and Go Home
Album
Sing the Delta
Artist
Iris DeMent
Label
FlariElla Records
Released
2012

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R.A.P. Music

5. Killer Mike, 'R.A.P. Music'

  • Song: Reagan

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Song
Reagan
Album
R.A.P. Music
Artist
Killer Mike
Label
Williams Street
Released
2012

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Older Than My Old Man Now

6. Loudon Wainwright III, 'Older Than My Old Man Now'

  • Song: Here & the Now

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Song
Here & the Now
Album
Older Than My Old Man Now
Artist
Loudon Wainwright III
Label
2nd Story Sound
Released
2012

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Tempest

7. Bob Dylan, 'Tempest'

  • Song: Duquesne Whistle

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Song
Duquesne Whistle
Album
Tempest
Artist
Bob Dylan
Label
Sony Music Entertainment
Released
2012

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artwork

8. John Fullbright, 'From The Ground Up'

  • Song: Satan and St. Paul

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Song
Satan and St. Paul
Album
From the Ground Up
Artist
John Fullbright
Label
Blue Dirt Records
Released
2012

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Good Kid

9. Kendrick Lamar, 'Good Kid, M.A.A.D City'

  • Song: Swimming Pools (Drank) [Extended Version] [Version]

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Song
Swimming Pools (Drank) [Extended Version] [Version]
Album
Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Artist
Kendrick Lamar
Label
Aftermath Records
Released
2012

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Kin

10. Mary Karr And Rodney Crowell, 'Kin'

  • Song: I'm a Mess

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Song
I'm a Mess
Album
Kin: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell
Artist
Rodney Crowell / Mary Karr
Label
Welk
Released
2012

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Best Music Of 2012