Skip to main content
  1. AXS Entertainment
  2. Arts & Entertainment
  3. Music

The Best Albums of 2012 So Far: Leonard Cohen, Esperanza Spalding + More

See also

We're one-quarter of the way through the year, and it's never too early to start thinking about the best albums of 2012. Which records have impressed us most so far? Here are five that stand out, presented in random order.

Esperanza Spalding, "Radio Music Society"
People are paying a lot more attention to this young star after her shocking Best New Artist win at the 2011 Grammys.

Most singers start winning awards after they go pop, but Spalding actually won the Grammy for her jazz style and is now moving in more of a pop direction. "Radio Music Society" is still far from "mainstream" pop, but the new album is warm, exotic and appealing.

Leonard Cohen, "Old Ideas"
At age 77, Leonard Cohen scored the highest-charting album of his career when "Old Ideas" entered the charts at #3. Many of Cohen's arrangments, like "Going Home" and "Darkness," still sound stuck in the '80s, but Cohen's voice alone makes them haunting and powerful. The man who brought us "Hallelujah" is as good as ever.

Sleigh Bells, "Reign of Terror"
Sleigh Bells' debut "Treats" was a blast of manic energy and our favorite album of 2010. The dissonance of the searing guitar solos paired with delicate female vocals made that record impossible to resist, and their new effort, "Reign of Terror," is more of the same.

Sure, the band may want to say it's more experimental, more melodic in places, but it's basically still just loud noise with hooks. And there's no reason to dramatically change such a winning formula.

The Shins, "Port of Morrow"
Frontman James Mercer fired his band are started over before recording "Port Morrow," his first release in five years. The impressive "Simple Song" and "Bait and Switch" were both released before the album and helped build anticipation, and the group's Saturday Night Live performance helped add to the buzz as well.

The Ting Tings, "Sounds From Nowheresville"
The Ting Tings wanted to make an album that was like an iPod playlist, where each song sounds completely different than the one before. "Hit Me Down Sonny" is almost a rap song. "Day by Day" has a '90s R&B edge. There are catchy pop songs and ballads across this diverse album. But they all retain the spirit and energy the Ting Tings are known for.

Check out more of my Chicago live music articles.

Comments

Advertisement

Today's top buzz...

  • Backstreet Boys
    The Backstreet Boys have canceled several upcoming Israel shows, citing safety concerns
    Music Buzz
  • NFL
    The NFL is considering adding a stadium to Los Angeles, but is it a good idea?
    Video
    NFL Buzz
  • Hulk Hogan
    Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin are on board for this year's WWE SummerSlam
    WWE News
  • Paul McCartney
    Get an exclusive look at Paul McCartney's soundcheck for a recent performance
    Camera
    20 Photos
  • Oscar contenders
    Oscar season is about to begin as fall festivals announce films
    Camera
    9 Photos
  • Sammy Hagar
    Sammy Hagar is taking fans on a raucous history of rock on the road
    Camera
    20 Photos