With the year almost at a close, it is about that time when most periodicals post those “best of the year” lists for music. Instead of just listing out songs and albums, I’m going to look at some of the best major label debuts of this year. Here it goes:
Channel Orange – Frank Ocean: A member of the rap collective Odd Future, Frank Ocean achieved initial popularity with his first mixtape, “Nostalgia, Ultra,” which was released to critical acclaim. With critics calling his songwriting “ingenious” and himself a “gifted R&B artist,” there was plenty of hype concerning the major label LP he planned to release in 2012. And boy did “Channel Orange” live way past that hype. While the LP was not as sample-reliant as the mixtape, the experimental music and melodies combined with Ocean’s brilliant lyrical ability make this one of the best R&B albums to be released in a while. As the years go by, this is going to be considered a classic.
Shrines – Purity Ring Formed in 2011. They are a Canadian duo that has a dubstep-inspired electronica sound. They reached the spotlight with their successful singles “Ungirthed,” “Loftcries,” and “Belispeak,” which they released in 2011. Then in 2012, after signing to a major label, they announced their debut album “Shrines,” which they released in July. The unusual electronic beats combined with vocalist Megan James’ delightful voice created a new, refreshing sound. In addition, this album is just fun to listen to with its strange yet simply enlivening sound.
good kid m.A.A.d city – Kendrick Lamar: The West coast rapper, who is part of the hip hop collective Black Hippy, reached the public eye with his independent release “Section.80.” The mix tape achieved much acclaim and put the spotlight on a promising young rapper with a lot of potential. Lamar lived up to that potential with “good kid m.A.A.d city.” The low-key production with its atmospheric beats made it very reminiscent of Outkast’s highly successful 1998 album “Aquemini.” Lamar’s internal rhyme use and sophisticated flow enabled him to be storyteller, chronicling his life growing up in Compton and the harsh realities of that place throughout the album.
Devotion – Jessie Ware: English singer-songwriter who collaborated with electronic producer SBTRKT in concert and in the studio. Four singles (Running, 110%, Wildest Moments, and Night Light) from the debut album, “Devotion,” were released over the summer and showed a lot of promise. In the end, “Devotion” is an incredible pop oriented R&B album with an 80’s, soul, funk, and electronic inspired sound. The sophisticated yet smooth production combined with Ware’s soulful and elegant voice and lyrics create a new original sound that can’t be beat.