Stereogum's TOP 25 ALBUMS OF 2012 So Far

The year isn’t half over yet. We know that. But since everyone starts unveiling their year-end lists in November, we figured we wouldn’t be too far out of pocket if we unveiled our favorites of the 2012 calendar year the week before Memorial Day.

Our favorite album of the year (so far) is the one on which a talented young band teamed up with a production hero of the ’90s and immersed themselves in the decade’s hard, chunky, scraping, anthemic rock music. There’s no drift at all in Cloud Nothings’ Attack On Memory — just forward drive, rendered with style and conviction. That same Clinton-era ferocity is on display in a bunch of the other albums that appear on this list. Japandroids, Screaming Females both ran with it, and so, in their own ways, did Torche and Ceremony. Other albums don’t necessarily draw on that decade’s style, but they do sprint into chaotic combat in refreshingly concrete ways: El-P, Sleigh Bells, Killer Mike, Death Grips.

But it doesn’t make too much sense to impose a narrative on this list. There’s plenty of druggy float in the albums from Beach House and Future and the Chromatics, and plenty of glamorous sheen in the records from Chairlift and Rick Ross and Kindness. The albums that appear on our list don’t really share too much in common, except this: They’re all deeply personal, idiosyncratic visions. That, and we like all of them. Check out our list below.


Heems - Nehru Jackets25 HeemsNehru Jackets (Greedhead)

Ceremony - Zoo24 CeremonyZoo (Matador)

Willis Earl Beal - Acousmatic Sorcery23 Willis Earl BealAcousmatic Sorcery (Hot Charity/XL)

Grimes - Visions22 GrimesVisions (4AD/Arbutus)

Kindness - World You Need A Change Of Mind21 KindnessWorld You Need A Change Of Mind (Polydor/Female Energy)

Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light20 SpiritualizedSweet Heart Sweet Light (Fat Possum)

Chromatics - Kill For Love19 ChromaticsKill For Love (Italians Do It Better)

Death Grips - The Money Store18 Death GripsThe Money Store (Epic)

Frankie Rose - Interstellar17 Frankie RoseInterstellar (Slumberland)

Tanlines - Mixed Emotions16 TanlinesMixed Emotions (True Panther)

Torche - Harmonicraft 15 TorcheHarmonicraft (Volcom)

Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action At A Distance14 Lotus PlazaSpooky Action At A Distance (Kranky)

Julia Holter - Ekstasis13 Julia HolterEkstasis (Rvng Intl.)

Action Bronson And Party Supplies - Blue Chips12 Action Bronson & Party SuppliesBlue Chips (self-released)

Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music11 Killer MikeR.A.P. Music (Williams Street)

Future - Pluto10 FuturePluto (Epic/A1/Free Bandz)

Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror09 Sleigh BellsReign Of Terror (Mom + Pop)

Rick Ross - Rich Forever08 Rick RossRich Forever (Maybach Music)

Screaming Females - Ugly07 Screaming FemalesUgly (Don Giovanni)

El-P - Cancer For Cure06 El-PCancer For Cure (Fat Possum)

Beach House - Bloom05 Beach HouseBloom (Sub Pop)

Japandroids - Celebration Rock04 JapandroidsCelebration Rock (Polyvinyl)

Chairlift - Something03 ChairliftSomething (Columbia)

The Walkmen - Heaven02 The WalkmenHeaven (Fat Possum)

Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory01 Cloud NothingsAttack On Memory (Carpark)


Here’s that list in a more scannable format:

25 HeemsNehru Jackets
24 CeremonyZoo
23 Willis Earl BealAcousmatic Sorcery
22 GrimesVisions
21 KindnessWorld You Need A Change Of Mind
20 SpiritualizedSweet Heart Sweet Light
19 ChromaticsKill For Love
18 Death GripsThe Money Store
17 Frankie RoseInterstellar
16 TanlinesMixed Emotions
15 TorcheHarmonicraft
14 Lotus PlazaSpooky Action At A Distance
13 Julia HolterEkstasis
12 Action Bronson & Party SuppliesBlue Chips
11 Killer MikeR.A.P. Music
10 FuturePluto
09 Sleigh BellsReign Of Terror
08 Rick RossRich Forever
07 Screaming FemalesUgly
06 El-PCancer For Cure
05 Beach HouseBloom
04 JapandroidsCelebration Rock
03 ChairliftSomething
02 The WalkmenHeaven
01 Cloud NothingsAttack On Memory


As always, coming up with the master countdown meant leaving out some personal favorites of our four staff members. Here are those…

01 Sun Kil MoonAmong The Leaves
02 Wymond MilesUnder The Pale Moon
03 Field MusicPlumb
04 Moonface With SinaiBravery
05 Sharon Van EttenTramp

01 Mount EerieClear Moon
02 Vijay IyerAccelerando
03 PO PODope Boy Magick
04 John TalabotƒIN
05 The MenOpen Your Heart

01 Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
02 Schoolboy QHabits & Consequences
03 TragedyDarker Days Ahead
04 Killa Kyleon & MouseWelcome To The Fish Fry
05 Split CraniumSplit Cranium

01 Lil BGod’s Father
02 THEESatisfactionawE naturalE
03 Chief KeefBack From The Dead
04 Best CoastThe Only Place
05 Rye RyeGo! Pop! Bang!


That’s a solid chunk of the year’s most notable releases to date, though obviously not all of them. Feel free to nominate those that we missed.

Comments (328)
  1. How is Rick Ross on this list but not Andrew Bird? Or Father John Misty or Jack White? Rick Ross would make way more sense if this was a list of “Top Rappers Who Eat Crazy Amounts of Fast Food and Are Also Rick Ross” otherwise, come on. Andrew deserves a spot.

  2. Glad to see Julia Holter’s Ekstasis on the list, but where is Tennis’ Young & Old, Lower Dens’ Nootropics, Hospitality’s Hospitality, and Father john misty?

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  4. I love Chairlift up so high on here. They don’t get enough credit. Also I’m starting to wonder if I’m the only one who really got into “Hairdresser Blues,” the new Hunx solo album. That’s probably in my top 5 so far this year.

    And finally, has anyone else heard “6 Volts” by Fred Eaglesmith? It’s just an excellent set of country songs. Definitely my most listened to so far this year.

    • I liked Hairdresser Blues, but for me it kind of came down to a couple of great, great songs (“Always Forever” is just the BEST) alongside some others I didn’t like as well. So while I could see putting a few tracks from it on a year-end songs list, I don’t know that the album would make it. Curious to hear why you disagree!

      • Props for the civility of the discourse you’ve got going here. But I just think we disagree about the quality of non-album highlights, and the number of actual highlights. About half the album, to me, is choice as fuck (“Private Room,” “Say Goodbye Before You Leave,” “When You’re Gone,” “Your Love is Here To Stay,” “Always Forever” will all end up very high in my favorite songs of the year, I’m sure). And the other half is still strong, if not GREAT in all caps. That’s more than enough to put it in my top 5 at this point in the year.

  5. Personal non-listed faves:

    Hospitality S/T
    Father John Misty “Fear Fun”
    Graham Coxon A+E
    Lambchop Mr. M

  6. Daniel Rossen? Too short?

  7. of Montreal??? I guess I am alone thinking that Paralytics Stalks is genius!

  8. Sharon Van Etten not even in the top 25, and Sleigh *superficialheavyshit* Bells makin the top 10, 2012 is really a bad year … for Stereogum’s tastes.

  9. No Port of Morrow???? That would have been my number one.

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  11. I’m surprised to see that Nada Surf is not included. The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy is killer.

  12. Beach House and Perfume Genius put out the 2 best albums of the year so far.

  13. I thinkawE naturalE and I Love You, It’s Cool are definitely some of this year’s best. But if this were my list, I’d take of C4C and Nehru.

  14. Ty Segall/White Fence – Hair and Django Django – ST

    This list is making me think that this year’s music has been pretty sub-par… at least we have another 7 months.

  15. Definitely:

    Tu Fawning: An Anchor
    AU: Both Lights (sadly overlooked I feel)
    Here We Go Magic: A Different Ship
    Lower Dens: Nootropics
    Dustin Wong: Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads

  16. Yay cloud nothings! Definetly my favourite album so far, with C4C in a close second

  17. Wow the only thing more unnecessary than this list is a new Madonna album

  18. My first thought was where’s the Birdman, so I was glad to see him mentioned in the comments. Still a good list, but I expect the second half of the year dominate.

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  21. ….really?

  22. what about “DonTitty – Get Boned”?

    disappointed in you guys.

  23. Did you guys listen to the Japandroids album via the shitty leak? I mean it’s not even released yet so I don’t know how it’s on this list.

    I think the web download on Polyvinyl’s site comes up in a bit for those who purchased but other than that..

  24. One word: Lanegan

  25. And your favorite EPs of the year thus far are…… ???

    I discovered Clams Casino last year because you had it at #1 of your favorite EPs.

    Hands down this year it’s Burial – Kindred EP. So, there, I helped :)

  26. OF Tape Vol. 2 beats all of these.

  27. This list renews my faith in the existence of guitars.

  28. Schoolboy Q. That’s the only one I’ve managed to play consistently.

  29. Dr. John – Locked Down

  30. For metal, Prong’s new killer release, Carved Into Stone. It’s phenomenal!

  31. other albums that didnt get a mention:

    Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral
    Lower Dens – NOOtropics
    Locrian & Mammiffer – Bless them that curse you
    Horseback – Half blood
    Laurel Halo – quarantine
    Pelican – ataraxia
    Light Asylum
    KTL – V
    Burial – Kindred
    Actress – RIP
    Lee Ranaldo
    Carter Tutti Void

    somehow I miss Brandon’s metal column, this place needs the occasional darkness

  32. No DIAMOND RUGS?!?!?! For shame!

  33. On a completely unoriginal note,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,two bitches.
    #1 – again, Chromatics WAY too low
    #2 – I’ve already declared Perfume Genius as my album o’ the year. When an almost embarassingly heterosexual 47 year old man with 5 kids is moved to tears by the tales of a young gay man it’s the truth in music we rarely see these days. BUT THAT ALBUM


  34. Vacationer has a rad debut out.

    And that Lemonade album is killer too.

  35. I agree with most of the 25 albums being placed in the top 25, but the order seems all screwy to me.
    In my list Death Grips, Spiritualized, and Grimes would all be much higher. And Japandroids, Chairlift and The Walkmen should be much lower.

    Also Schoolboy Q’s omission, while Action Bronson and Rick Ross hold places, is all manner of riddikulus.

  36. but what about BASED GOD?

  37. My list would not include Sleigh Bells or Death Grips. Kaylen Hann describes it thusly:

    “In one Japanese fishing/sea-to-table practice, it is one of the fishermen’s jobs to insert a thin bamboo piece into a fish’s anus and feed it through until it ruptures the swim bladder and breaks the air sac, ideally without harming the inside of the fish… And what a small—like, impossibly minute—space, the fish anus, to be the whole crux of one’s career/routine…It is with both mammoth, bullheaded velocity and a fish-asshole-narrow precision that Death Grips approach their preternatural blend of highly charged and viscous music.”

    It’s a bamboo stick inserted into a fish’s anus. If that doesn’t describe it, then I don’t know what does.

    • I’m joining Peter on the downvote train for:

      -Citing CMG.
      -Wanting to remove Sleigh Bells (SORRY D-TitS!) and Death Grips (SORRY Michael_!)

      Although I still don’t understand the bamboo stick in the fish anus comparison… I feel like we can forget about those two albums now that we have R.A.P. Music & Cancer 4 Cure.

      • no need to apologize to the Mr. Dontitty for speaking your mind.

        I must admit, my slay bells fever has broken and all i care about now is pumping climax into my head 24/7 (PUN INTENDED).

        But seriously guys, why is climax not on this list?

      • Ya’ll must be trippin cause the new Death Grips is straight up fiya!!!!!

  38. I’d say that while it hasn’t been an amazing year for music, there have been some outstanding releases in just the 5 months of the year. Japandroids, Cloud Nothings, Spiritualized, The Men, Beach House and Lotus Plaza’s albums have all been fantastic, 4.5/5 to 5/5 albums for me.

    Add Titus Andronicus, No Age, another The Men album, Mission of Burma, DIIV, Tallest Man on Earth and many more to come, I think it has the potential to be one of the best years in recent memory.

    • step into the electronic world on some tron shit and i’ll show your pantaloons a jazzing like they’re never felt a light cycle ‘tween their legs.

  39. High five to Amrit for giving the HM to Vijay Iyer’s Accelerando. It’s my most-played album of the year by far. If any of you kids ever think to yourselves something along the lines of “jazz musicians are so out of touch; there hasn’t been a good jazz album in 50 years,” do yourselves a favor and check out Mr. Iyer’s work.

  40. I really like the Love, Always EP by F. Stokes. I guess you could call it conscious rap, but it’s really good. Also, can’t believe no one’s mentioned about Cursive. “A child screaming, I am Gemini!”

  41. Has anyone ever not clicked on the “Hidden due to low comment rating?”
    They’re like poops. No one has ever not looked before flushing.

  42. Habits and Contradictions* (Correction)
    Blue Chips
    R.A.P. Music
    In some order.

  43. I’m surprised Royal Headache continues to get overlooked by Stereogum, especially given the retro “ferocity” love that was mentioned at the top. Easily album of the year for me.

  44. I love that I just got a dozen new bands from ya’ll to lend-an-ear to. Thank you cards are in the mail. You’ll find them full of chocolates and roofies!! Woo! And, to add my own two cents, am I the only one who loves the sweet Swedish country tunes of The Lion’s Roar from First Aid Kit? I hope not. I dig it. But chocolates and roofies all-a-round regardless! Woo!

  45. Needs Sleep Party People and Porcelain Raft!!

  46. Am I the only person who enjoyed Soko’s album?

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  48. I try not to get too worked up about lists like this. But putting Future ahead of Killer Mike is the single greatest injustice in the entire recorded musical history of the known universe.

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