2012 has already been a year of musical orgasms (or eargasms, if you will) for me.  I started the year where I left off in 2011, steadily listening to Ed Sheeran’s album, +.  The 21-year-old Brit originally released the album in September of last year in the UK, which was when I got my grubby little hands on a European copy of it.  However, if you’re looking to snag a your own copy of Sheeran’s soulful, acoustic-pop debut, it was released here in the States just this June.

Another late-to-the-States release comes courtesy of Gotye.  Of course, everyone’s heard “Somebody That I Used To Know”, but I’m pretty sure I was somehow the last person on earth to hear it, subsequently fall in love and then pick up Gotye’s third album, Making Mirrors.  I fell in love with the album immediately and replayed it frequently.   But if you think the lead single is any indicator of what the full album sounds like, you’ll be surprised; the album is a delightful mix of soul, pop, rock, and indie music, all courtesy of  Wouter De Backer’s unique talent.

Is it too early to call Mayer’s Born and Raised the best album of 2012?

The biggest release of 2012 for me has been John Mayer’s fifth studio album, Born and Raised.  After all his shenanigans in the public, and his less impressive fourth album (Battle Studies), I was a little worried that John Mayer had lost his touch.  I was happily mistaken: as Born and Raisedis quite possibly one of Mayer’s greatest works.  I’d like to first clear up the main misconception with the album: It is NOT filled with country music.  Instead, Mayer returns to his acoustic guitar roots, for a folksy album with beautifully written songs, reminding me why I fell in love with John Mayer some 12 years ago.

Another highlight from this year has been New Zealand singer, Kimbra’s album, Vows.  You probably know Kimbra’s name from her collaboration with Gotye, but she’s so much more than a chorus in an overplayed pop song; Vows is a catchy, fun album perfect for summer- not to mention, Kimbra has some serious chops (she could probably make a succesful career as an R&B singer- watch out Adele!).

Since my boyfriend lives in Australia, I get to hear all the cool Australian artists before they hit the States, which is the case with Kate Miller-Heidke and her album, Nightflight.  Milller-Heidke’s voice is lovely and almost ethereal; it’s easy to get lost in her vocals, though her rock/pop songs are amazingly well-written and interesting to listen to, in general. Though Nightflight hasn’t been released in the US yet, I highly recommend listening to it on Spotify.

I’ve been a fan of Fiona Apple and Keane for years, so it was great that both artists released new albums this year.  Apple’s latest, The Idler Wheel… is as quirky and dark as her previous releases, but her style definitely seems more polished and matured this time around.  Keane’s newest, Strangeland, sees them returning to the stripped back sounds of their debut album, which was a great thing for me; personally, I was never a fan of the 80′s/New Wave sound they tried on for their last album.  I haven’t really spent much time listening to either The Idler Wheel… or Strangeland yet (as I joked with some friends, maybe it’s hard for me to listen to Fiona Apple when I’m not going through a breakup), but both albums are ones I’ll have no hesitance returning to as the year goes on.

The only disappointment the year has brought me so far has been Jason Mraz’s latest, Love Is A Four Letter Word.  I’m a pretty big Mraz fan, so I was extremely excited for a new album, even though my excitement admittedly waned a bit after hearing the first single, “I Won’t Give Up”.  Though the love ballad did grow on me, the rest of the album just hasn’t.  I enjoyed it upon first listen, but after repeated listens, I found all the songs sort of blending together without any real stand out tracks.  The album honestly just sounds like one never-ending acoustic guitar track with some breezy vocals; it’s like elevator music for a hippie festival.   The worse offense, however, is that Mraz’s songwriting seems to have taken a step back: gone are all his snappy, witty lyrics, and instead are bland lyrics about love and peace and…blah blah blah.  This is easily the most boring album of 2012.

As the year progresses, I’m definitely looking forward to a few new releases.  Muse is putting out a follow-up to their “Resistance” album, which I’m absolutely stoked for (The 2nd Law, September 15th).  After making their fans wait for 12 years, and suffer through two Gwen Stefani solo albums, No Doubt is finally releasing a new studio album, titled Push and Shove (September 25th).  I’m also looking forward to some smaller releases – one of my favorite indie bands, Yeasayer, is coming out with their third album, Fragrant World, in August, while another of my favorites, The xx, is releasing their follow-up album, Coexist, in September.  And as always, though no release date has been issued, I’m eagerly hoping, wishing, and praying for a new release from my favorite jazz-pop artist, Jamie Cullum.

All in all, 2012 has been a good year in music.  Here’s hoping the rest of the year continues to live up to my musical expectations!

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