Best Hip-Hop Record:
Danny Brown - XXX (Fools Gold)
Ok, so this came out digitally on Fools Gold in 2011, but wasn't available physically until 2012. XXX is an instant classic: it's a drug album, a depression album, a party album, and a pop album. Some of the highlights are "Party All The Time", "DNA", "XXX", "I Will", and "Die Like a Rockstar". I think what really makes it great is Danny's unique Detroit realness. Coming from a relatively unknown rapper on an independent label, one would think his cockiness would disrupt his natural flow and progression, or make him seem fake, but, in actuality, it only adds to his sense of power and skill. Here is an up and coming emcee who can admit to his own flaws while simultaneously claiming ownership of the rap game: impressive indeed.
Best Pop Record:
Frank Ocean - Channel Orange (Def Jam)
I'll admit that I wasn't a fan of Nostalgia, Ultra. and the first time I listened to Channel Orange, I wasn't impressed-- boy did that change. What we have here is perfectly crafted alterna-pop, proving once again that the dirty south can do no wrong. Frank Ocean crafts beautiful melodies on this album, both with instruments and with his voice. This record was a lot more drug-inspired than I expected, and if you're looking for the next bunch of sing-a-long party tunes, look no further.
Best Noise Record:
Moth Cock - Moth Cock (Tusco/Embassy)
You can read my full review of this record, but suffice it to say that this is a record full of stony drones, screeching hiss, and morphing, creepy alien horns that really make you wonder just what the hell is going on. Oh, and did I mention the A-side of the record plays backwards?
Best Synth Record:
Discoverer - Tunnels (Digitalis)
This was a really tough category for me, because 2012 had a lot of great synthesizer music come out. We saw amazing records from Motion Sickness Of Time Travel, Hive Mind, Raglani, Emeralds, and Headboggle, just to name a few, but I really think Discoverer's Tunnels really set the bar on just want a synth record should sound like. It's cold, but not too cold, its dancey, but not shake-ya-ass-dancey, more like, nod-your-head-dancey. It evokes thoughts of modern legends like Oneohthrix Point Never, as well as classic synth gods like Tangerine Dream. Almost instantly Tunnels transports the listener to the great disco in the sky, and I never want to come back down.
Best Electronica Record:
Crystal Castles - (III) (Casablanca)
I've been a Crystal Castles fan for a long time now, and I've always been afraid they would put out a bad record. Too poppy, not crazy enough, to watered down. It seems instead, with the release of (III), they've gone in almost the opposite direction, becoming stranger, less accessible, and perhaps even isolating all but the most dedicated fans (of which there is no shortage). Crystal Castles seems to have taken a turn to the darker side of the spectrum, evoking more elements of noise, witch house, and drone music with them on their descent into madness. What I've always loved about this band is that they don't really give a shit, and that attitude shines through in their music.