Favorite albums of 2012

It's been a busy 12 months of blogging music. I started the year sharing new releases I was enjoying.

The second half of 2012, I had running features on: Joy Division, The Flaming Lips, The Cure, Johnny Cash, Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music, and lastly, Destroyer. If you missed my shared tracks from those artists, you can access them here.

In terms of listening to new albums, I got through a great deal, as I also did in 2011 and in 2010.

This year, I got a bit bored with acoustic and folk music. The sound really needs to stand-out in a memorable way to interest me. Well-written lyrics are important, but if the melody and vocal is bland, I'm not going to get into it, and prefer a book instead.
I also grew a little weary of dream pop over the last 6-12 months, mainly because I've listened to so much the last couple of years, and the same applies, it really has to be something special to hold my attention now.

With the exception of a few artists in my top 25 who managed to deliver on past glory, especially Fiona Apple, I thought 2012 was a fairly weak year for the music community. Granted there were interesting new acts, but many established artists had anticipated new material out. The following failed to impress me, besides maybe one track I liked per album:
Alanis Morissette, Aerosmith, Neil Young, Madonna, The Cranberries, The Killers, Pet Shop Boys, Dave Matthews Band, Marillion, Soul Asylum, Band of Horses, Nelly Furtado, Bloc Party, Katie Melua, The Dandy Warhols, No Doubt, Aimee Mann, Passion Pit, The Ting Tings, School of Seven Bells, Nite Jewel, Craft Spells, Marissa Nadler, The Temper Trap, Memoryhouse, Twin Shadow, Freelance Whales, & Diamond Rings.

I suppose you would expect a few disappointments. This is just my opinion, I'm sure you'll find other people who enjoyed those releases.

Perhaps some of these guys are past their best, and just putting out new stuff based on their name in the business, who knows. In any case, a good deal of my favorite albums below are by up-and-coming artists.

I'm no expert, looking at the year as a whole, perhaps the music scene is in a transitional phase, where old artists are on the way out, and new artists are still finding their feet, finding an audience. I know this is a big generalization, however there could be a grain of truth to it.

There were many decent releases I quite liked, but only a small number of full length LPs that I actually loved all the way through, and had on repeat. Maybe this is because my standards are very high, and I'm more of a song than an album person, who knows. Or maybe because the music business has seen better days.

So without further ado, here are my 25 favorite albums of 2012:

1.) The Idler Wheel - Fiona Apple

(If I personally had to name an album from 2012 which would deserve to go in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, this is the one. I really feel she has something on her mind she wants to communicate through her music, this could be because it's years since her last studio album. I love how she returns to a similar style to her debut album Tidal (1996)-which by the way is among my all-time favorites)

Favorite tracks:
Anything We Want
Every Single Night

2.) Born To Die (Paradise Edition) - Lana Del Rey

(Basically this collection consists of tracks from autumn 2011-November 2012. Rarely do you listen to B-sides that are as strong as you get on this album. In fact I'm not sure disc 2 are strictly B-sides. Overall, the lyrics on several tracks are pretty shoddy, though you can forgive this when there are wonderful and haunting tracks as well.)

Favorite tracks:
Carmen (youtube version)
Video Games
Born To Die
National Anthem
Bonus: Blue Jeans (RAC Remix)

3.) All Hell - Daughn Gibson

(I have never heard a vocal quite like this guy. A few of the tracks from his album have haunted me all year.)

Favorite tracks:
Lookin' Back On '99
A Young Girl's World

4.) Kill for Love - Chromatics

(If you enjoy dream pop, or you liked the Drive soundtrack, this could be for you)

Favorite tracks:
Into the black (Neil Young cover)
Bonus track from November: Cherry

5.) Searching For Sugar Man - Rodriguez

(I cheated a little putting it on here. The best kept secret of the 70s finally got the recognition he deserved thanks to the 2012 documentary Searching For Sugar Man. This new soundtrack is basically a collection of his best stuff.)

Favorite tracks:
Crucify Your Mind
Jane S Piddy
Street Boy
I Think of You
I'll Slip Away
I Wonder
The Establishment Blues
Sugar Man

6.) St. Lucia - St. Lucia

Possibly the most underrated release of 2012. Wonderful EP I stumbled upon by chance, the opening track is number 2 on my top 100 songs of 2012, and the other tracks are solid enough too. I told Alex Withrow that this music is similar to M83, and he went gaga over it (:

Favorite tracks:
We Got It Wrong
All Eyes On You
Closer Than This

7.) Amanda Mair - Amanda Mair

(I don't usually bother with these teenage pop singers, this is an exception. From Sweden, the production I think is quite high quality, and the lyrics are pretty good considering the blandness we often get in this music category. I'm a little surprised she doesn't feature on more best album or best song lists of 2012.)

Favourite tracks:
It's Gonna Be Long
Leaving Early

8.) Little Broken Hearts - Norah Jones

(Really impressed by Norah Jones' latest, arguably her best since debut Come Away With Me (2002). Little Broken Heats (2012) I think is an album with solid tracks all the way through.)

Favorite tracks:
Out On The Road
Say Goodbye
Little Broken Hearts

9.) Privateering - Mark Knopfler

(A double album by the former Dire Straits singer, that I didn't have high expectations of. Turned out to be surprisingly good. It's not full of hits, just a pleasant album to relax to.)

Favorite tracks:
Redbud tree
Haul away
Kingdom of gold
You two crows

10.) Old Ideas - Leonard Cohen

(His 12th studio album I don’t think is as haunting as Leonard’s best work, but still a hell of a lot better than a lot of other music currently being released, particularly in terms of lyrics. If I had to criticize Old Ideas, it’s that I feel like I've already heard the things he confesses on previous albums, maybe he is just feeling the same way? I’m not disappointed, but I’m not feeling he’s reinvented himself either, apart from the feeling of being close to death. I liked about half the album tracks on Old Ideas. Read my full review here)

Favorite tracks:
Show me the place
Going Home
Crazy to love you

11.) There's No Leaving Now - The Tallest Man on Earth

(I like the direction he took with this his third full length studio album. The songs have a quieter production, so that means the lyrics are easier to hear)

Favorite tracks:
Revelation Blues
Bright Lanterns
To Just Grow Away

12.) Port Of Morrow - The Shins

(Received mixed or average reviews, nevertheless I liked about half the songs on the album)

Favorite tracks:
The Rifle's Spiral
Its Only Life
No Way Down

13.) The Salesman and the Shark - Sean Rowe

(I loved his debut album, and this was an excellent follow-up effort, with a bunch of solid tracks)

Favorite tracks:
Joe's Cult
The Wall
The Ballad of Buttermilk Falls

14.) Sun - Cat Power

(Overall the album does lack variation. I still really enjoyed the four tracks below)

Favorite tracks:
Nothing But Time 

15.) Young Man in America - Anaïs Mitchell

(Her voice is not for everyone, but Hadestown was for me among the very best folk albums of 2010. Anais Mitchell has created a fine follow-up entitled Young Man in America. Most of my favorites on the new 2012 LP are towards the end. Stream the whole album for free at Paste Magazine)

Favorite tracks:
You are forgiven

16.) Here - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

Enjoyable album , which I actually prefer over their previous studio album, which in my opinion only had one great track, the amazing HOME, which is an all-time-favorite of mine. A pity about the album sleeve which looks embarrassingly amateurish!)

Favorite tracks:
Man On Fire
Dear Believer
That's What's Up

17.) Beams - Matthew Dear

(Never knew about Matthew Dear until a few months ago. The sound on this LP is quite something. I wouldn't be surprised if Joy Division was an influence on a track or two.)

Favorite tracks:
Her Fantasy
Do The Right Thing

18.) Instinct - Niki & The Dove

(Wonderful new Swedish band. Actually below personal favorites from album are a couple of years old now(from 2010), but are still in my opinion the cream of the crop on new LP.

Favorite tracks:
Mother Project
DJ Ease My Mind
Gentle Roar

19.) Which Side Are You On? - Ani Difranco

(A new discovery, the album ?Which Side Are You On? (2012) features some of the most original new lyrics I have heard this year. I'm surprised I haven't stumbled upon her music before, apparently she's been active for years.)

Favorite tracks:

20.) Visions - Grimes

(I struggled to rank this album, because it was my favorite of the year for a month during the spring. Now I barely listen to it anymore due to overplaying. Does that make it a top 25? I think so.)

Favorite tracks:
Symphony IX (My Wait Is U)
Be A Body

21.) Mature Themes - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

(The band made a big splash in 2010 with the single Round and Round. They have pulled off an interesting mix of tunes here, which point in many directions, I enjoyed about half the tracks. )

Favorite tracks:
Nostradamus and Me
Farewell American Primitive
Live It Up

22.) What We Saw From The Cheap Seats - Regina Spektor

(I thought Regina's album would be higher on my list. Having listened to it on a few occasions now, I can only find 3-4 songs that I want to return to.)

Favorite tracks:
All The Rowboats
Don't Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)
Small Town Moon

23.) Bloom - Beach House

(I didn't love the whole album in its entirety. Below are my personal favorites)

Favorite tracks:
New Year

24.) Ekstasis - Julia Holter

(The voice, nobody else I know sings with a vocal like that. She has the voice of an angel. A breath of fresh air. I'm not convinced this will go down as her best album, so I expect big things from her in the next few years.)

Favorite tracks:
Our Sorrows
In The Same Room
Goddess Eyes II
Bonus tracks:
To Look At You (INXS cover)
Betsy on the roof
Goddess Eyes (Echo Manor version)

25.) Early Takes Volume 1 - George Harrison

(To coincide with the release of the Martin Scorsese George Harrison documentary, a bunch of rare acoustic demo recordings were dug up, and included as a separate disc with the deluxe blu-ray edition of the doc. Alternatively, you can now also buy the 30 minute album as a stand-alone cd. Some of these versions I actually prefer over the originals. With a title like that, you would hope Volume 2 is on the way.)

Favorite tracks:
Run of the Mill (Demo)
I'd Have You Anytime (Early Take)
All Things Must Pass (Demo)

Honorable mentions 26-

The Body Wins - Sarah Jaffe
Django Unchained - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Perks of Being A Wallflower - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Adventures in Your Own Backyard - Patrick Watson
Tramp - Sharon Van Etten
Fear Fun - Father John Misty
Not Your Kind Of People - Garbage
In Our Heads - Hot Chip
The Light The Dead See - Dave Gahan & Soulsavers
Something - Chairlift
Devotion - Jessie Ware
Good Morning To The Night - Elton John VS. Phau
Maraqopa - Damien Jurado
A Wasteland Companion - M. Ward
Wrecking Ball - Bruce Springsteen
Where It Hits You - Jim White
Redemption City - Joseph Arthur
I Know What Love Isn't - Jens Lekman
I Thought I Was An Alien - Soko
Strange Weekend - Porcelain Raft
Acousmatic Sorcery - Willis Earl Beal
An Omen - How To Destroy Angels (EP)
Kindred - Burial (EP)
Observator - Raveonettes
Tempest - Bob Dylan
The Absence - Melody Gardot
Home Again - Michael Kiwanuka
The Haunted Man - Bat for Lashes
Other Worlds - Taken by Trees

Any thoughts on the selected albums? Which of the LP's did you listen to during the year? Have I missed any great albums? Has 2012 been a good year for music in your opinion? Share your views in the comments below


  1. Glad to see Lana's album on the list! I love it so much, American and Cola are my 2 favorites.

    1. @Sati: Lana's album is a highlight of 2012, I agree. By the way, you can buy the Paradise songs on a separate EP now, not just the 2 disc paradise edition

  2. Here's my 10 favorite albums of 2012:

    1. The XX-Coexist
    2. Bat for Lashes-The Haunted Man
    3. Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel
    4. Crystal Castles-III
    5. Grizzly Bear-Shields
    6. The Chromatics-Kill for Love
    7. Jonny Greenwood-The Master OST
    8. Spiritualized-Sweet Heart Sweet Light
    9. Beach House-Bloom
    10. Bob Dylan-Tempest

    Honorable Mention: How to Destroy Angels-An Omen EP

    1. @thevoid99: Nice to see love for Fiona Apple, Chromatics, and Beach House. I enjoyed a couple of track on Tempest, the Titanic song is epic, and Duquesne Whistle I also dug. Didn't know about that EP, thanks

  3. Nice list. We have two of the same albums in our top 10. (Just posted mine: http://classicblanca.blogspot.com/2012/12/top-10-favorite-albums-of-2012.html)

    Can't wait to check some of these out.

    1. @Josh: Thanks, hope you find something new on my list to listen to. I'll head over to your top 10 shortly

  4. As always, there were lots of pleasant listens. I enjoyed quite a few of the ones you've listed like the Chromatics, Cat Power, and Beach House; and there were a good number of singles that I loved, but I'd have to say there was nothing close to a 'life changing' album for me this year. My favorite was probably Pepe Deluxé - Queen of the Wave, and that one came out in January.

    1. @Bonjour Tristesse: I agree, even in what, in my opinion, is a fairly weak year for masterpiece albums, there will always be enjoyable new music, especially if you do a little searching.
      I don't know anything about Queen of the Wave, going to have to track down Pepe Deluxé, thanks for the heads up!

  5. Oh man I know none of these... well I've heard of a couple! I'm currently loving The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack... that's an album right? It's one of my favourite soundtracks of all time I think.

    1. @Pete: Good call on that album, forgot about that. I've seen a few bloggers talk about The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack. I think, personally, I prefer Hans Zimmer's score together with the movie, glad you loved it so much!

  6. Fantastic list. Recognise a couple of them. I do love a bit of Regina Spektor, but find a lot of her music very samey. All just blends in.

    Will be giving some of these a listen, always on the look out for new music.

    Me? Well, of course listening to a lot of film scores. But got drawn back into hip hop with Macklemore's The Heist. One of my fave albums of the year. I've gone back and started listening to new things, of previous years. Lots of recommendations got listened to this year - M83, Bat for Lashes, Kavinsky, Jonsi. A very big mix!

    1. @Jaina: Thanks for saying so! To be honest I only started listening to Regina Spektor this year, so I can't comment really on her earlier work. Her 2012 has some average, and also above-average tracks.

      Hope you find an album or two you like here, mind you it's not hip hop ( :
      That M83 LP has definitely grown on me, I initially wasn't a fan, but have gone back to it this year and reevaluated my verdict.

  7. Good picks! I nearly stuck Lana Del Rey's "Ride" into my list last minute. It's a great one. Having seen Chromatics high on your list (and everyone else's), I'm convinced I must have missed something and will try to give it another chance. Had never heard of St. Lucia and liked the first track you've posted a lot. I'm also pleasantly surprised how much I liked that Anais Mitchell song, but I'm an unapologetic Nickel Creek fan, so I really love pleasant folk music like that.

    I hadn't listened to the Ariel Pink album all year, but now I find myself loving all the songs I see on the lists. Oh and the songs you posted from Beach House are my faves as well. I had similar feelings about it. I found certain songs great but never had the album as a whole connect with me. Our biggest disagreement is probably Regina Spektor, because I found the album to be wholly disappointing save for a couple tracks (including two you listed, "All the Rowboats" and "How"). I'd be interested to hear your opinion of her previous albums if you get the chance to listen to them, because I think they are both much stronger. And of course, as we talked about before, we both seem to hold The Shins album in higher regard than our blogging peers. Don't really understand why. I honestly thought there were about five amazing songs there and only one so-so track on the whole album.

    Just for discussion since I know everyone does this on lists, but I notice no Grizzly Bear in favorites or HM? Did you not like it or are they just not your cup of tea? Great list as always. You do great work.

    1. @Derek Rubino: Thanks, and thanks for the comments. Yes, those Lana Paradise tracks are better than I expected they would be. Even some of Lana Del Rey's unreleased tracks are good, such as one of my favorites, Backfire:

      Yeah, the Regina Spektor album is quite low on the list, and is by no means perfect, I liked 4 tracks, but you are right the album has quite a few forgettable tracks on there. All the Rowboats is in my top 5 songs of the year.

      The Grizzly Bear song 'Yet Again' does feature on my upcoming top 100 of 2012(to be published soon). I don't know, in terms of their albums, I haven't connected with the band, besides a track here or there. We like what we like ( :

  8. I'm still piecing together my list, but I find it interesting that we will have very little overlap. I haven't heard a lot of these, but at least one that we will have in common is Matthew Dear's Beams. It's not his best work, but it's still quite good.

    Also, your list is a further reminder that I need to seek out Searching for Sugar Man ASAP! Really excited to see that one.

    1. @Eric: Must check out Matthew Dear's other releases, if it's not his best work.

      I'll be seeing Searching for Sugar Man soon. Really enjoyed the soundtrack

      Look forward to your upcoming music list! We may have a bit more in common with my top 100, which I just published today. By request I created the playlist on spotify.


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