The First Listens of 2012: What We Got Right, What We Got Wrong

Other 2012 Awards That Need Be Handed Out:

Not as Bad as You've Heard: Madonna's MDNA, Animal Collective's Centipede Hz.

Madonna's most minimal album ever probably was the product of sheer laziness, and it did waste Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., but "Girls Gone Wild," "Some Girls," and "Bang Bang" hold up better than you think. Animal Collective made the same record they always do, except it actually challenged their fan base for once, and it's incredible that the same people who overrated Fall Be Kind and Sung Tongs couldn't be bothered to let "Monkey Riches" or "Wide Awake" sink in.

Not as Good as You've Heard: Ke$ha, Warrior.

Five incredible songs to add to her uneven oeuvre ("Die Young," "C'Mon," "Wherever You Are," "Gold Trans Am" and "Dirty Love") and a whole bunch of witless filler. P!nk's The Truth About Love outsmarted it in every way, and it has a fucking fun. duet.

Song That Gave the Most Misleading Impression of an Album: If everything on the Shins' ultra-banal Port of Morrow was as earthshaking as "Simple Song," we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Cut a Few Tracks and You'd Go "Frank Who?": Usher's Looking 4 Myself, which has a ton more to offer than the wondrous "Climax."

I Was Too Nice to: Odd Future Vol. 2. Took forever to write, and I haven't been able to get through it since. Kinda scared to play Goblin again, too.

I Was Too Harsh to: Taylor Swift's Red, which ended up garnering the best reviews of her career. I'd still cut it down to 10 songs from 16, two of which ("Red," "Holy Ground") are near-perfect. And I hope everyone goes back and plays her real masterpiece, Speak Now, which has a lot more to offer than gossip about Kanye and John Mayer.

Albums I Wish I Liveblogged First Listens of: Where to begin? Frank Ocean of course, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, David Byrne/St. Vincent, and Lana Del Rey's Paradise.

Special Limp Bizkit Gold Cobra Award for Indicatively Hideous Art+Music Combo: Kreayshawn. Happy 2013, everybody.

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