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BEST ALBUMS 2012: Siddhartha Mitter

Robert Glasper Experience, "Black Radio."
Frank Ocean, "Channel Orange."


"Caravana Sereia Bloom" Made of songs from the road, laced with the rhythms and inspired by the wide-angle landscapes of Brazil's northeast, this muscular and poetic outing from the São Paulo singer is her best and most rock-driven yet.

Debo Band

"Debo Band" Disclaimer: I wrote liner notes for this album. That's how much I enjoyed this long-awaited debut CD from Boston's Ethiopian-led soul outfit, which reimagines 1970s Ethio-jazz in original and provocative ways.

Frank Ocean

"Channel Orange" His official debut was even better than his fantastic mixtape "Nostalgia (Ultra)." For all the hype, Frank Ocean's the real deal, his sound blessed with that eerie, sun-washed lethargy that Southern California uniquely breeds.


Gregory Porter

"Be Good" Male jazz singers with fiber and righteous soul energy rarely make it big these days. It couldn't happen to a better one than Porter, who allies Nat King Cole songcraft and Gil Scott-Heron consciousness, with an ace band backing.

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang

"En Yay Sah" The obscure, mystical, deeply rural bubu music of inland Sierra Leone seeds this made-in-Brooklyn, N.Y., collaboration by the hypnotic Nabay and his merry crew of hip electronic-rock mavens.

Just A Band

"Sorry for the Delay" Another superb album of finely dosed pop and house flavors from the Nairobi foursome who call themselves, most accurately, "Africa's Super-Nerdy Electro-pop/Art Collective."

Neneh Cherry & The Thing

"The Cherry Thing" Cherry's return after a long absence is cause enough for celebration; that it's with the dissonant, turbulent jazz outfit the Thing on this funky and highly experimental album is that much more of a treat.


Robert Glasper ExperiMENT

"Black Radio" An album that fully delivers on the promise of its title, and tells the world about the rich conversation underway between hip jazz and soul milieus. Come for Erykah Badu singing "Afro Blue," and stay for the whole set.

Vijay Iyer Trio, "Accelerando."

Sierra Leone's Refugee

All Stars

"Radio Salone" The best yet from the Sierra Leonean crew, with a spectrum of highlife to Caribbean flavors underscoring shared cultural histories of the Black Atlantic. Also: very funky.

Vijay Iyer Trio

"Accelerando" From pianist Iyer and pals, yet another memorable entry in jazz's current flourishing phase. This one explores speed, acceleration, and ultimately the idea of progress, through equal application of technique and soul.

Biggest Surprise

Sasha go hard

"Do You Know Who I Am" (mixtape) The Chicago drill scene is the anti-Drake: young, rough, potentially self-destructive (Chief Keef). It's redeemed by its strong female characters, of whom Sasha is the most charismatic.