PopBytes’ Top Ten Favorite Albums of 2012!

Without any intro or further ado, I finally present to you my top ten favorite albums of 2012!

Marina and the Diamonds Electra Heart

It certainly hasn’t been a secret that Marina and the Diamonds would once again land on the top of my list. Her stunning debut album, The Family Jewels, topped my list back in 2010. Although I probably still prefer Jewels over Electra Heart, her sophomore effort comes in right behind it! Every track on the album is superb, it’s quirky girl pop with an edge, loosely telling the tale of her “Bubblegum Bitch” character Electra Heart. She’s a brilliant songwriter, and an amazing performer, I’ve seen her four times in person, each time was better than the last, it has been fun watching Marina hone her skills. I would love for Marina to break out next year here in the states (along the lines of how Ellie Goulding managed to make a huge splash from across the pond), she’s definitely got the chops and the looks, girlfriend is gorgeous, plus her sense of style is impeccable. I’ve been going on (gushing actually) about Marina for a couple of years now, she’s easily become one of my all-time favorites and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her!

Essential Tracks:
Starring Role, State of Dreaming, Teen Idle, Lies

Marina and the Diamonds - Electra Heart

Lana Del Rey Born To Die

A whole lot has been said about Lana Del Rey‘s authenticity, we’ve even written about it here on PopBytes. I still don’t care whether she’s the real deal or her vintage chanteuse schtick was created in a test tube by stellar producers, Born To Die is for sure one of the most solid releases of the year, it’s actually a sonic masterpiece. Lana has come a long way since she dropping her first mysterious and seemingly homemade music video for “Video Games,” back in the summer of 2011. Although Lana isn’t new to the scene (see Lizzy Grant), I think she has been able to really nail down the exact vibe that works for her that you either love or hate, there’s no fences when it comes to Ms. Del Rey. She wasn’t joking around when she proclaimed herself ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra.’ It’s that precise vibe that she shouldn’t try to switch up, fans such as myself all want more of the same from her, which is exactly what we got with the album’s re-released Paradise Edition which dropped just a few months ago that included eight brand-new tracks including one of my favorite singles from this year, “Ride.”

Essential Tracks:
Dark Paradise, National Anthem, Blue Jeans, Ride

Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

Delta Rae Carry The Fire

I don’t even know this six-person band (out of North Carolina) up until about six months ago, on a random whim I happened to listen to Delta Rae‘s debut album, Carry The Fire, and instantly became a fan. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them perform three times this past year, and they are truly the real deal, signed by music legend Seymour Stein himself. I absolutely love their unique and heartwarming blend of rock, country, folk and even pop. Four of the six take turns on vocal lead, which does at first sound a bit odd but it totally works for them, so please do not miss out on this album. (Plus I happen to have a small crush on Eric Hölljes, he’s so adorable, check him out on lead vocals in the music video below for “Morning Comes.”)

Essential Tracks:
Morning Comes, Dance in Graveyards, Holding On To Good, If I Loved You

Delta Rae - Carry The Fire

Christina Aguilera Lotus

This is the album I have been patiently waiting for ever since Christina Aguilera dropped her masterpiece Stripped back in 2002, think of this album as a sequel of sorts. I know a lot of people who didn’t care for Lotus (it sounds like the main complaint was its overcooked vibe), but I also know a lot of people who loved it just like myself. I’ve never been the hugest fan of Ms. Aguilera but with this album she definitely hit all the right notes with me. The dance tracks are delicious and the ballads soar, I have zero issues, solid from start to finish, her Lotus is truly unbreakable.

Essential Tracks:
Let There Be Love, Blank Page, Sing For Me, Cease Fire

Christina Aguilera - Lotus

Pet Shop Boys Elysium

I still can’t believe duo Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have been making consistently great pop music since the early eighties! Their latest release, Elysium, is a truly cohesive collection of tracks (recorded in Los Angeles, a first for the band) that all work together to create a super tight and infectious album that flows from beginning to end. Neil’s vocals (incredible as always) are backed by smooth electro beats and lush orchestrations, it’s super relaxing and perfect for a chill evening.

Essential Tracks:
Winner, Leaving, Invisible, Memory of the Future

Pet Shop Boys - Elysium

Mika The Origin Of Love

To be completely honest, I really wasn’t a fan of English singer/songwriter Mika when he first appeared on the scene in 2007 with Life in Cartoon Motion, but he eventually won me over with his second album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much, and now he has really sealed the deal with his third release, The Origin Of Love. Mika also happens to be the only solo male artist on this list, I think it’s difficult to be a male in a female-dominated pop world, but Mika has managed to rise to the top with his talent (his songwriting is truly top notch), charm and super good looks proving to be one of pop music’s most exciting people on the scene today.

Essential Tracks:
Celebrate, Origin Of Love, Underwater, Popular Song

Mika - The Origin Of Love

Emeli Sandé Our Version Of Events

Emeli Sandé was yet another new discovery for me this past year, my first time really hearing her was at a little showcase she did here in Los Angeles at the Bootleg Theatre near downtown. She began to sing, and I instantly acquired an intense case of goosebumps. Her voice was so stunning and pure in person, I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Shortly after that I became obsessed with her debut release, Our Version of Events. Not only are her vocals top notch, her songwriting skills are stellar, she’s managed to prove wildly popular over in the UK, I hope the states eventually catch on to one of today’s most talented stars on the rise.

Essential Tracks:
Heaven, Next To Me, Clown, My Kind of Love

Emeli Sandé - Our Version Of Events

Ke$ha Warrior

I’m kind of shocked that Ke$ha (that dollar sign seriously drives me nuts) landed here on the list, but I cannot deny the pop power of her sophomore effort Warrior! She didn’t shake up her poptrashtic vibe but refined it (with the help of cutie hit-maker Dr. Luke) into one of this years most enjoyable releases. It’s a tight collection of tracks that all blend together to create a totally fun album that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. I’m hoping she releases “Crazy Kids” as a single, I think the track has huge potential to put her back at the top of the charts, just like she did with “Die Young,” which setting aside all that silly controversy (and her basic stupidity), really was one of this year’s best singles.

Essential Tracks:
Crazy Kids, Supernatural, Wherever You Are, Only Wanna Dance With You

Ke$ha - Warrior

Rihanna Unapologetic

It’s hard to believe this is Rihanna‘s seventh album in seven years, and even though she barely has time to breathe between dropping albums and all her drama, Unapologetic definitely turned out to be one of her best. It’s dark and personal, just like 2009′s Rated R, which still happens to be my favorite release of hers. I still don’t see a lot of potential hit singles (like “Diamonds” which was a slow burner to the top of the charts) but that’s actually fine, I think she was able to produce something that wasn’t necessarily intended to garner huge radio play (like 2010′s Loud, which was packed with singles but didn’t feel complete), when you’re at the top of your game, you have the power to do just that. When RiRi first appeared on the scene back in 2005 with “Pon De Replay,” I quickly wrote her off as a one-hit wonder, but girlfriend has truly proven herself to be one of today’s leading talents.

Essential Tracks:
What Now, Diamonds, Jump, Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary

Rihanna - Unapologetic

Jessie Ware Devotion

Even though I heard all the buzz, I’m bit of a latecomer to the Jessie Ware party. I recently saw the UK sensation perform for the first time in Los Angeles (at the Bootleg Theatre, the very same place I came upon Emeli Sandé for the first time), and she absolutely blew me away. After that night I started listening to her debut album, Devotion, and fell totally in love with it while it played in heavy rotation. She reminds me a drop of Sade, which is certainly not a bad thing at all, her smooth and silky vibe is the perfect soundtrack (with seriously impeccable production) for kicking back with a glass of red wine, or slipping into a nice hot bath, and yes, even sexy time. Make sure to check out the completely adorable music video for “Sweet Talk” below, I dare you not to get that song stuck in your head.

Essential Tracks:
Sweet Talk, Wildest Moments, Devotion, No To Love

Jessie Ware - Devotion

Honorable Mentions

Kylie Minogue The Abbey Road Sessions
No Doubt Push and Shove
Pink The Truth About Love
Tori Amos Gold Dust
Scissor Sisters Magic Hour
Madonna MDNA
Carrie Underwood Blown Away
Miike Snow Happy To You
Ellie Goulding Halcyon
Gossip A Joyful Noise

Michael Knudsen About Michael Knudsen

MK (Michael Knudsen) first started PopBytes back in September of 2003—while trying to make a website for his design portfolio, the site quickly turned into one of the premiere online destinations for all things pop culture! A native New Yorker, he currently resides in Los Angeles with his partner Ivan along with three dogs, three cats and three parrots. Follow him on Twitter @PopBytes.

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