“We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.” —John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Over the past year, it has come to my attention that I am not the most sociable person during office hours. I have a struck a particularly friendly bond with my headphones, much to the chagrin of my co-workers. Exhibited here is a potentially little-known fact about myself: I am, similar to Neil Diamond — and hopefully more in the vein of Johnny Cash — a solitary man. In no way does this speak to a distaste for my coworkers on my part. I hope it can be recognized, rather, as I myself see it: a mechanism towards productive ends.

The main incentive, to my mind, is that music helps me focus on the work. Distractions at bay, task at hand. But it also aids in maintaining my own sanity, allowing me to spend time with the other sides of my self, sides that I tend to easily lose track of in a busy environment. I can find, if I so desire it, solace in the aural spectrum of an album. Or emotional unhinging, or beauty where there is none, or perspective where I feel bereft.

Whether an introvert has excuses for his solitary behavior or not, everyone needs a friend. And while there is no replacement for the real thing, I have found musicians to make particularly good friends, at least in my head(phones) during work hours. In contrast to podcasts, music aids concentration while allowing me to stay woven, thread by thread, album by album, into the larger fabric of culture. This engagement with the artist’s voice, and the larger conversation that this voice so effectively cultivates, is a prerequisite of the designer, and thus it is important to me.

My reason for writing is that I would like to introduce you to several of the musical friends I’ve made over the last year. Most are truly new, but you may already know a few from years past. I am sure some of these ‘relationships’ are soft and depressing to a handful of readers. Others may have the grace of a sloppy high-five. But whether melancholic or dance-inducing, richly storied or largely incoherent, I have come to appreciate the albums on this list for what each alone can offer. Every album here has helped me go deeper within myself while somehow widening my eyes to the human story.

My favorite albums of 2012:
01. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
02. Fleetwood Mac, Tusk (1979)
03. Kendrick Lamar, good kid m.A.A.d city
04. William Basinski, Melancholia (2008)
05. Mac Demarco, 2
06. Beach House, Bloom
07. Grizzly Bear, Shields
08. Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes
09. Burial, Kindred EP
10. Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again

Honorable mention:
Crystal Castles, (III)
Mermaid Avenue Vol. III
Jonathan Wilson, Gentle Spirit (2011)

High hopes dashed:
Starkey, Orbits
Twin Shadow, Confess
Baroness, Yellow & Gold