Stereogum's Top 50 Albums Of 2012

This year, the three albums at the top of Stereogum’s 50 favorite albums of the year are all, in one way or another, Californian studio-pop singer-songwriter opuses. Admittedly, the makers of two of the three aren’t originally from California (they’re from New York and New Orleans) and even though the maker of the other one doesn’t really ever sing. But all three, coming from musical virtuosos with richly observant eyes and powerful emotional vocabularies, exist in that uneasy mental place where an endless string of 73-degree days can’t make up for the tense and roiling things happening deep inside your soul.

All three brought their own contexts. For Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is endless potential made good — a guy from the rising Black Hippy crew and from the endlessly-spinning internet-rap universe seizing on the idea of being a lost kid in a hostile world, looking for depth wherever he could find it and then interrogating the moments of transcendence he does find. For Frank Ocean, there’s almost too much context (major-label shelvings and Odd Future co-signs and litigious former Eagles and, more than anything, a heartening and brave Tumblr missive about his own same-sex love story), but all those disparate strands of thought somehow melted together into a soul odyssey of frightening depth and empathy. And for Fiona Apple, the woman on top of this list, the context is in the years of bungalow semi-seclusion, of past famous and maybe-genius boyfriends, of a skin so publicly thin that her every onstage hand-flutter looks like an act of courage. On her fourth album, Apple dug deep into her own braaa-ee-aa-ih!-aaain and found a musical vocabulary that mirrored her berserk lyrical synapse-firing. And in an extended music-business apocalypse, all three albums came out on major labels and sold in the six figures in their first weeks. High fives for everything.

Looking deeper at our picks for the year’s best albums, we see no grand narrative, just fascinating strands splayed out in different directions. Old gods like Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Converge brought monolithic dread in wildly different ways, while younger guns like Japandroids, Cloud Nothings, the Men, Baroness, and Screaming Females showed that pummeling fuzz-pound is once again, thankfully, on the upswing in the underground. Ocean personified a gentle and genteel soul-music sophistication that also showed up in the forms of Jessie Ware, Miguel, and How To Dress Well. Intricate and sophisticated indie-pop orchestrations endure in the recent records from Chairlift, Dirty Projectors, Tame Impala, and Grizzly Bear. Rap got a series of shots in the arm from outsize characters like resurgent El-P, tracksuit firebrand, Killer Mike, sad-robot fantasist Future, kid out of time Joey Bada$$, snarling head-tripper ScHoolboy Q, and comic-book food-fetishist Action Bronson.

And then there’s a ton of stuff that’s just on here because it’s great. The Walkmen and Chromatics and Taylor Swift and Nude Beach only have one thing in common: They all made great records this year. Check out Stereogum’s editorial staff’s list of 2012′s 50 best albums below…


Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes50 Flying LotusUntil The Quiet Comes (Warp)

Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold49 Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold (Dull Tools)

The Shins - Port Of Morrow48 The ShinsPort Of Morrow (Columbia/Aural Apothecary)

Rick Ross - Rich Forever47 Rick RossRich Forever (Maybach Music)

Matthew E. White - Big Innere46 Matthew E. WhiteBig Inner (Spacebomb/Hometapes)

The Evens - The Odds45 The EvensThe Odds (Dischord)

Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man44 Bat For LashesThe Haunted Man (Capitol)

Action Bronson And Party Supplies - Blue Chips43 Action Bronson & Party SuppliesBlue Chips (self-released)

Sharon Van Etten - Tramp42 Sharon Van EttenTramp (Jagjaguwar)

Sun Kil Moon - Among The Leaves41 Sun Kil MoonAmong The Leaves (Caldo Verde)

Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind40 ConvergeAll We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)

Jessica Pratt -Jessica Pratt39 Jessica PrattJessica Pratt (Birth Records)

Mount Eerie - Ocean Roar38 Mount EerieOcean Roar (P.W. Elverum And Sun)

Joey Bada$$ - 199937 Joey Bada$$1999 (self-released)

Chris Cohen - Overgrown Path36 Chris CohenOvergrown Path (Captured Tracks)

Swearin' - Swearin'35 Swearin’Swearin’ (Salinas)

Future - Pluto34 FuturePluto (Epic/A1/Free Bandz)

How To Dress Well - Total Loss33 How To Dress WellTotal Loss (Acéphale)

Ty Segall - Twins32 Ty SegallTwins (Drag City)

ScHoolboy Q - Habits & Contradictions31 ScHoolboy QHabits & Contradictions (Top Dawg Entertainment)

Torche - Harmonicraft 30 TorcheHarmonicraft (Volcom)

Purity Ring - Shrines29 Purity RingShrines (4AD/Last Gang)

Cat Power - Sun28 Cat PowerSun (Matador)

Beach House - Bloom27 Beach HouseBloom (Sub Pop)

Grimes - Visions26 GrimesVisions (4AD/Arbutus)

Nude Beach - II25 Nude BeachII (Other Music Recording Company)

Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror24 Sleigh BellsReign Of Terror (Mom + Pop)

Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music23 Killer MikeR.A.P. Music (Williams Street)

DIIV - Oshin22 DIIVOshin (Captured Tracks)

Screaming Females - Ugly21 Screaming FemalesUgly (Don Giovanni)

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

Taylor Swift - Red19 Taylor SwiftRed (Big Machine)

Baroness - Yellow & Green18 BaronessYellow & Green (Relapse)

The Men - Open Your Heart17 The MenOpen Your Heart (Sacred Bones)

Grizzly Bear - Shields16 Grizzly BearShields (Warp)

El-P - Cancer For Cure15 El-PCancer For Cure (Fat Possum)

Chromatics - Kill For Love14 ChromaticsKill For Love (Italians Do It Better)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!13 Godspeed You! Black EmperorAllelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)

Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream12 MiguelKaleidoscope Dream (RCA)

Tame Impala - Lonerism11 Tame ImpalaLonerism (Modular)

Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan10 Dirty ProjectorsSwing Lo Magellan (Domino)

Chairlift - Something09 ChairliftSomething (Columbia)

The Walkmen - Heaven08 The WalkmenHeaven (Fat Possum)

Japandroids - Celebration Rock07 JapandroidsCelebration Rock (Polyvinyl)

Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory06 Cloud NothingsAttack On Memory (Carpark)

Jessie Ware - Devotion05 Jessie WareDevotion (PMR)

Swans - The Seer04 SwansThe Seer (Young God)

Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d. City03 Kendrick Lamargood kid, m.A.A.d. City (TDE/Interscope)

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange02 Frank OceanChannel Orange (Def Jam)

Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel…01 Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel… (Epic)


Coming up with the Stereogum list meant leaving out some personal favorites of our staff members:

01 Wymond MilesUnder The Pale Moon
02 James BlackshawLove Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death
03 Dinosaur Jr.I Bet On Sky
04 Ice ChoirAfar
05 Lotus PlazaSpooky Action At A Distance

01 PO PODope Boy Magick
02 Vijay IyerAccelerando
03 YeasayerFragrant World
04 SantigoldMaster Of My Own Make-Believe
05 Delicate StevePositive Force

01 Roc MarcianoReloaded
02 TragedyDarker Days Ahead
03 Cult Of YouthLove Will Prevail
04 Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
05 CeremonyZoo

02 LiarsWIXIW
03 …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of DeadLost Songs
04 Bob MouldSilver Age
05 Scott WalkerBish Bosch

01 Chief KeefBack From The Dead
02 Justin BieberBelieve
03 Nicki MinajPink Friday: Roman Reloaded
04 JeremihLate Nights With Jeremih
05 2 ChainzBased On A T.R.U. Story


And our favorite EPs…

01 SolangeTrue
03 Dum Dum GirlsEnd Of Daze
04 AlunaGeorgeYou Know You Like It
05 Sky FerreiraGhost


Let us know what you think in the comments (as if we have to ask). Check out last year’s list here.

Comments (430)
    • Except:

      • Burial made a top 10 album (or the number 1 EP)
      • Hot Chip > Sleigh Bells and Taylor Swift
      • Chromatics, Grimes, Talabot > Fiona, Frank, et al.

      • crabtron  |   Posted on Dec 5th, 2012 +20

        Yeah, I couldn’t believe that Burial wasn’t even in the EP-length list of 2012 EPs. Is Burial just such a critical given by this point that people don’t even feel the need to put him on lists anymore? I can sense his musical ghost secretly haunting all these lists. . .

        • I hear you—his talent seems to be taken for granted for the purposes of year-end lists recently, but both Street Halo and Kindred are too short to be considered a LP, so I can understand some critics overlooking these. But when there is a separate list for EPs, I don’t get it. Although the EPs listed above are indeed good or great (but I haven’t heard the Dum Dum Girls one), I doubt that the Stereogum staff consensus is that they’re each/all better than Kindred. But I could be wrong.

      • Hot Chip is getting SNUBBED on all these lists! I think it’s their most consistent album front to back to date. Nothing as great as ‘Ready for the Floor’ on it, but definitely at least deserves to be ON there.

      • well said

  1. Great list, I especially like the inclusion of Chairlift in the top 10.

    • Also I’ll miss Corbon and his pop inclinations, kudos for him riding for Believe. I hope he brings some of his pop appreciation to Pitchfork. I like how Tom comes here and Corban goes there, a fair and fitting swap I think.

    • agreed. Also, Chairlift and Cloud Nothings both released on the same day, way back in January… both in top ten

    • I had always been skeptical towards the 2nd album of Chairlift (because of the underproduced Evident Utensil and the hyperglycemic Bruises single and its inclusion to one of the numerous iPod commercials) until last week. I heard it for the first time (shame on me!) and was immediately falling in love with Something! I guess, Stereogum has some special affection for Chairlift as opposed to other music sites which makes that album even cooler.

      • By the way, the following list is not my personal TOP10 but a list of what I expected the Stereogum staff to include in their listing, based on what Stereogum users sang from the treetops the most:

        1. Frank Ocean
        2. Fiona Apple
        3. Kendrick Lamar
        4. Japandroids
        5. Fiona Apple
        6. Grizzly Bear
        7. Cloud Nothings
        8. Beach House
        9. Chairlift
        10. Swans

        It seems to resemble the actual Stereogum list very closely!

        • Haha fionna at 2 AND 5

        • GvB has Chairlift in their top ten as well. And Was Fiona Apple that good that you needed her in two spots? Here’s your cookie for being so close to Stereogums list.

        • oops:

          1. Frank Ocean
          2. Fiona Apple
          3. Kendrick Lamar
          4. Japandroids
          5. Grizzly Bear
          6. Cloud Nothings
          7. Beach House
          8. Chairlift
          9. Swans
          10. Tame Impala

          I guess, I was scared of omitting Fiona on this list so much that I included her 2 times and left out Tame Impala for her album.

          Grizzly Bear’s Shields is my personal album of the year, by the way.

  2. oh i think you misspelled #19. it’s ‘Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes’

  3. Things I like:
    The Evens, Converge, Torche, Baroness, Screaming Females, The Men, Dirty Projectors (probs my #1), Cloud Nothings, Japandroids, The Walkmen, Swans.

    Album I love that probably won’t appear on any lists: Christian Mistress – Possession

  4. taylor swift? is this a fucking joke?

  5. Surprised to see Jessie Ware so high. Definitely a good album though

  6. Shout out to Amrit for recognizing the greatness that is the Positive Steve album.

    Also, I am just constantly returning to Fang Island’s Major. It’s mos def a transitional album and it doesn’t all take off (that opener is kind of weak), but man, the back half of that album is just guns a-blazing.

  7. where’s fiona apple??

  8. Solid list. But no Father John Misty, that’d be be my number 2 behind Tame Impala. But whatever, it’s good.

    • favorite album of the year, I couldn’t stop listening to it

      • Best country I’ve heard in so long. And the dude brought a cockeyed, trippy sensibility to the genre that I’ve never encountered before. All extremely solid tracks. I want to see him number one on a list.

        • tame impala was my number 2 behind frank.

          i think this is a pretty good list. but why bother listing best EPs of 2012 if you’re going to omit BOTH Antlers’ “Undersea” and Burials “Kindred EP”

          To that I roundly decree:

          Bitch, don’t kill my vaiiibe.

        • I know, it’s great. And a different direction for Tillman as well.
          If you’re into FJM I’d recommend listening to this.
          The dude’s hilarious.

          • Good looks, honlads, I’ll check it out. Maybe it will explain the lyrics to “I’m Writing A Novel” for me.

          • sorry to interject, but he was literally writing a novel.

            like honlads, i’ve fallen into a vortex of FJM interviews and i’ve yet to be letdown. he was hands-down the most enthralling figure in music this year. he’s a revelation live and has got a big voice. it’s almost like Sinatra if he’d gotten way into the Beat scene. he’s smart in interviews, and brought a shiny, polished production to some pretty dark and subversive lyrics.

            entertainer of the year.

          • That’s awesome. I absolutely agree. Hopefully gonna see him in January, getting prepared to have my mind blown.

            Do you have a link to that interview?

            The track I really want to know the meaning of is “Teepees 1-12.” I’ve gathered that the narrator is castrated by a woman and they then exchange faces via plastic surgery. Still a bit off about how he “was drinkin greyhounds below the ground and he got his own TV show” or whatever in between those two events. I may spend the next few hours trying to decode it further. Either way, I really love both those tracks.

          • Alright so here’s my 20 minute interpretation. The narrator falls in love with a psychopathic girl who displays a penchant for BDSM early on in their relationship. She may chop off his manhood when they’re in the garden shed, or at least expresses the desire to do so. She then takes him to a ceremony of a cult she belongs to, in which she decrees his spirit guide is a cosmic serpent. He then declares he won’t sleep in a teepee again, where snakes can have easy entry.

            This is where I get confused, but I’m gonna say “round ten” might be their tenth round of lovemaking, drinks or a game they’re playing. She doesn’t even recognize him and thinks he’s a prowler in her apartment. Then the “Trout fishing in America / Baby go and buy a pole” might be her purchasing a penis to surgically implant on herself. But it seems like the narrator actually gets good at fishing, so I think that line might just have a double meaning. He then starts his own fishing show at one of the studios at Hollywood and Vine, which if Fox News is any indication, may be partly underground.

            Then the last verse is him resigned to just go along with his girl, to get plastic surge’d up together so their “faces finally match,” and put his “member behind glass.” He then says if he ever escapes his life he’s going to “build a cabin up in the Northwest,” presumably to escape both the insanity and to avoid the possibility of serpents crawlin in to bite his ass.

            Lyrics I was referring to are here (though I can tell some are def wrong):

  9. I’m glad someone finally acknowledged The Shins put out an album this year.

  10. where is animal collective?

  11. Corban’s honorable mentions are hilariously awesome. Atta be dude

  12. Finally The Men in those lists. And yes Taylor Swift and no Actress, Hot Chip or Julia Holter (she was in your June’s list)? What is wrong with you. Why is it cool to like Top 40 drivel now?

    • People who call Taylor Swift Top 40 drivel must not listen to the radio a lot.

      • Exactly, she may be popular, but everything else on Top 40 stations is one big four-on-the-floor synth jam dance fest.

        Small anecdote: I drove home for Thanksgiving and the only radio stations my friend’s car would pick up were Top 40 which: fine all right okay that’s cool, but they kept playing this one song that had every line end with “on the flooooor”. It was the most grating thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

        Anyway, I’m sold on that T. Swift record. Up there with METZ and Lotus Plaza.

      • i never listen to the radio for that reason: drivel.

      • I feel the only reason Taylor Swifts album is in there is because of popularity, not because the music is good. Just because it is played on the radio a lot doesn’t necessarily mean it is worthy of being in the top album of the year chart!

  13. Great list. I wish First Aid Kit would’ve made an appearance, but oh well.

  14. By the way, RS list is out too… On AcclaimedMusic.
    You’ll never guess who is number 1. I mean. never…

  15. Father John Misty

  16. Fiona where she belongs.

  17. Taylor Swift is on this list, but Father John Misty is not? FOR SHAME, Stereogum. Also, lists!

  18. where’s animal collective? not that i give a fuck

  19. Loved seeing Parquet Courts in there.
    Loved the Torche dig in there.
    Loved that Tom included CEREMONY’s Zoo in his list.

    For all the fun, headaches and absurdity I’ve seen here over the past 365 days, you’re still my #1, Stereogum.

  20. Parquet Courts made it, nice!

  21. As the one regular commentor who doesn’t have their own blog I haven’t posted a top ten albums of the year list anywhere. I don’t want to bore you guys with it if most of you don’t care so I’ll check back in a few hours and if this comment gets to a plus 5 I will come up with something(I’ve already put some thought into it) and post a list.

    (potential for the lowest rated comment ever here)

    • You guys… I could cry…

      Anyways, didn’t exactly go out on a limb for most of these but here it is…

      1. Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
      2. Chromatics – “Kill for Love”
      3. Tame Impala – “Innerspeaker”
      4. Miguel – “Kaleidoscope Dream”
      5. Ty Segall Band – “Slaughterhouse”
      6. Menomena – “Moms”
      7. Japandroids – “Celebration Rock”
      8. Passion Pit – “Gossamer”
      9. Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music”
      10. Death Grips – “The Money Store”

      1-4 I’m pretty solid on, the rest could be in almost any order. Others I considered were… Hot Chip – “In Our Heads” Dirty Projectors – “Swing Lo Magellan” Jack White – “Blunderbuss”.

      • Fiona?

      • Innerspeaker?

      • Moms! Nicely done.

      • I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought Gossamer was a solid album. I was getting worried it was just me.

        • crabtron  |   Posted on Dec 5th, 2012 +4

          Oh, so “Gossamer” is the title for the Passion Pit record! I was wondering why someone kept posting a picture of the Looney Tunes monster in various list comment threads here. It all makes sense now!

          • OHHH! THAT’S WHAT THAT MEANT!?!?!

          • crabtron  |   Posted on Dec 6th, 2012 +1

            Yeah, at first I thought Anton meant that each of those lists was “gossamer” meaning “Anything delicate, light and flimsy,” to quote the Wiktionary definition. Which I thought was a clever visual pun for making fun of a list’s credibility or whatever. But I guess it’s also a fairly clever visual pun for the Passion Pit album.

      • Yeah! Finally some love for Moms. Surprisingly underrated.

      • This is a great list.

        I’ll have to try the “upvote me” if you want to see my top albums list game. Your list certainly delivered.

        • so is this the comment we need to upvote to see a list or are you going to do that later?

          • Let’s go ahead and make that one the comment to upvote. It already looks like I owe you all a Top 5 Albums. Plus I got the support of Michael_, so what the hell, here is my Top 5 albums of 2012 (I’ll add to it if/when need be)

            01. Chromatics — “Kill For Love”
            02. Killer Mike — “R.A.P. Music”
            03. Godspeed You! Black Emperor — “‘ALLELUJAH! DON’T BEND! ASCEND!”
            04. Frank Ocean — “channel ORANGE”
            05. Swans — “The Seer”

          • ok rj, you’ve convinced me.

            tonight i try the seer again.

          • Here’s a pro tip for “The Seer” and also how I came around to embracing its genius.

            Start with Disc 2 and just work on that. “Song For Warrior” / “Avatar” / “Pieces of the Sky” / “The Apostate” is a run of songs worthy of its own album. Once you’ve become obsessed with Disc 2, enjoy the first half of the album. “Lunacy” / “Mother of the World” is one of the best 1-2 opening punches from any album this year.

            The song “The Seer” makes a lot more sense live than it does on record. Enjoy.

          • +1 for paying close attention to proper letter case structures.

            This Killer Mike guy is getting lots of loving I see, but I guess I should have expected that from Stereogum’s resident body talker.

          • More upvotes… more list!

            06. Grizzly Bear — “Shields”
            07. Grimes — “Visions”
            08. Spiritualized — “Sweet Heart Sweet Light”
            09. Japandroids — “Celebration Rock”
            10. Tame Impala — “Lonerism”
            11. How To Dress Well — “Total Loss”
            12. Flying Lotus — “Until The Quiet Comes”

        • *throws +1 around raptor jesus neck*


      • No love for the Antlers’ “Undersea” in the top five EPs? OR Burial? C’mon guys, you’re better than this.

        Channel Orange is the best album of the year. Er’body know, stop trying to fight it.

      • The Money Store! I knew Stereogum left something out

      • +1 on Menomena

    • I don’t have a blog, plb102. Let’s start one right now.

      • I would co-blog with Wesley & plb in a heartbeat.

      • lol, lets do it. I could be a great platform to talk shit about other gum commenters behind their backs.

      • First article would be a live round-table discussion on our reactions to “R.A.P. Music”

        • Dude, writing about music is hard as fuck. I doubt I could write an article about an album I liked without using the word “awesome” like 15 times.

          Maybe we should start a podcast

          • Lookin forward to this. Could you guys deconstruct my comments one day? Totally fine if it’s all negative.

          • Podcasts / Radio shows are fun. Doing my vinyl radio show this year has been real rewarding.

          • What!? Please expand on said vinyl radio show.

            Also, I gave Chromatics a second listen the other day mostly because of your heraldry. Still don’t see what makes it #1 potential, but I def got a little Night Bus vibe. Some nice and dark electronic stuff that you seem to enjoy. May check out your old comments on it and see if it inspires me for a third listen.

          • I started a radio show last year for a local radio station that has been on/off the air in this area and was currently online Internet radio. Halfway through the year our state’s NPR station contacted them to have their content air on their FM frequencies. Since my radio show was already on the Internet radio cycle, we just had to stop cussing and our show was being broadcast throughout my state. We pre-record it out of my mixer and use only vinyl records. Lots of current stuff. I’ll find a way to get those interested a link to my RSS feed that works in iTunes as well (podcast stuff) but I figured I’d wait til the end of 2012 when we had a decent body of work built up.

            OK! Chromatics. Good call on the Night Bus vibe! Definitely a factor since I was still bumping Night Bus II around the time I switched gears (car reference!) to Chromatics excitement. I think it all has to do with my love of movies before my love of music. I’ve always loved songs that feel like they should accompany a movie. Obviously having Godspeed high on my list should support this thought. So I’ve always loved post-rock because it sounds like it should be sound tracking some epic movie scene. I think that helps explain my love of long songs in general…

            So this year of course my favorite album is the one that wishes so hard it actually was a movie. I feel like I’m enjoying a movie when I listen to “Kill For Love”. Now’s a good time to bring up SYMMETRY since it is in the same vein (I also listened to SYMMETRY a lot).

            So there is the movie aspect, then there is the car aspect. In the Midwest, we drive to get anywhere. Lots of driving. All of my top albums of the year have been on blast, on repeat, at some time throughout this year. So having bands like Chromatics & SYMMETRY that make long ass movie albums about driving… it was the perfect music for me. SYMMETRY even says in the liner notes: “Total Driving Time: 2 hour 37 seconds” — this music was designed to be enjoyed on the road, at night.

            Then the whole fact they put the album out themselves on their own record label. In a year when Trent Reznor is talking about how major labels are actually a good thing, it’s refreshing to know that my favorite album of the year was homemade by Italians Do It Better. Comforting to know that such a great album can still be released in a DIY fashion.

            I could go on (and I did go on in the Chromatics AOTW earlier this year) but the point is it did for me what no other album could even touch. Long songs, instrumental tracks, dope beats, beautiful singing, 14-minute closing track. Yeah. They were amazing live as well. Talking to Adam Miller, they’re bigger vinyl nerds than me. So I have a lot of respect for Chromatics. Lots of respect.

            PLUS all the music videos for the… okay I’ll stop. I’ll stop :)

          • I got the first entry right here y’all:

            R.A.P. Music is the best album of 2012 because, I mean…just…like, c’mon! POW motherfucker! Shit’s a w e s o m e. CHUCH!

            11.7 Best New Rap

          • Can’t wait to check out the show, lookin forward to it. That’s a sweet deal you got goin.

            About Chromatics: damn, now THAT is an explanation. As somebody who trains in to work and owns a barely-functional automobile, I can see why I haven’t been able to get into Chromatics or Godspeed as much. SYMMETRY sounds pretty sweet too, that’s cool they included the driving time in the liner notes. And I respec’ your respect for Chromatics’ DIY ethos.

            Swans was another one that didn’t really hit me, although I could tell it would’ve been sick if I was in a cave or apocalypse or something. I will heed to your advice many comments up on that one.

            This reminds me of an anecdote my dad once had for me. Back in the day he used to DJ and he was talking to his black friend one day (we’re both white), and he’s like, “Damn man, I really wanna get into funk music but every time I throw something on the Walkman I can’t really vibe with it.”

            His friend looks at him and goes, “Come on man, only a WHITE guy would try to get into funk by listening to it on headphones.”

          • raptor jesus: Of course, in the vein of your comments, their the fact that Johnny Jewell was initially approached to soundtrack “Drive” and the probably pretty accurate theory that the Symmetry album is what that soundtrack would have been. I watched “Drive” again recently and got the urge to listen to “Kill for Love” immediately afterwards, so I totally get where you’re coming from, also with the driving aspect as I have to sit in the back of the car for a few hours drive every time I’m going to/coming home from University.

          • “Drive” is to thank for my hyper-love of Chromatics in the first place. I missed the train on 2007′s “Night Drive” and “After Dark”. It was the few months between “Drive” and “Kill For Love” that I did my reverse musical research and found out Chromatics was right up my alley (Specifically, ALL 15 minutes of “Tick of the Clock”).

            A lot of listening to Chromatics in the car is me pretending to be Ryan Gosling in “Drive”. Not the elevator scene so much as the stoic, silent and skilled driver scenes. Besides, director Nicolas Winding Refn said that the movie was going to be about how the main characters passion in “Drive” was driving around listening to pop music. A character I can relate to all too well.

            lwd — when I was reading yr graf on Swans, specifically the part about hearing it in “…a cave or apocalypse…” my mind said, “Or live.” Seriously, I would’ve never put “The Seer” in my Top 5 if they didn’t come to my city and play live. Easily the most unique show I’ve ever attended. Hearing those songs played at Max + 11 audio levels truly does something, aside from giving you tinnitus and making your jeans flap in the audio wind. You don’t hear those songs so much as feel them. Michael Gira is a champion for a reason.

            I’ll find a way to get you the radio show info. I’m slightly hesitant at the idea of putting it all out there.

          • Good point. I would definitely check them out live. They just look so gnarled and badass, I bet they straight up destroy. Another reason the Swans album threw me off was I originally got them confused with the band Stars, who I’m also not extremely familiar with, but who it seems is pretty safe to say are a bit more upbeat.

            I totally understand your hesitancy for putting the radio show all out there. Shit’s scary. I did that recently with a project of mine, got downvoted, and had to spend the rest of the day driving around to find random computers/hotspots where I good log on and upvote myself back up. Jk, I didn’t really do that. Or did I?

            But maybe I’ll just catch you at a Sigur Ros show one of these days wearing a Jurassic Park shirt and a Jesus piece. We’ll just exchange info verbally after spotting some Nordic celeb. For what it’s worth, I’m sure the show’s great.

          • Meeting up with Stereogum commenters at concerts is quite fun. We’re smart people! How else would we all instantly know what is wrong with every year end list?

          • crabtron  |   Posted on Dec 6th, 2012 +1

            raptor jesus & plb and whoever else cares: Chromatics just released a cover of New Order’s “Ceremony” and, as one would expect, it’s quite beautiful. Man, I’m starting to get the wonderful suspicion that Chromatics are specifically trying to become my favorite band, and succeeding. I hope at some point they’ll cover something by The Cure. Can you imagine how awesome it would be if they covered “Plainsong” for instance? Ruth or Johnny (Jewel, not Rubber), if you’re reading this, please cover “Plainsong.” I’d pay a bag full of puppy blood to hear that.

          • I DID hear that “Ceremony” cover and absolutely love it. I second The Cure cover, for some reason I always got a Cure vibe listening to “Birds of Paradise” (but maybe my brain just makes a connection to “Like Cockatoos” because birds).

            Seeing as how they covered The Boss on their first EP, I’d suspect more covers are in their future. They do them incredibly well. How well they handled Neil Young’s song on “Kill For Love” is a big reason I love that album.

            And to reply above to blackdove (how I do dat?) I kind of figured that would be a hang up for most people. Having a car in the city isn’t even the same because it seems you’d be parked in traffic or looking for parking more than actually driving. Back in August I got to visit my friend at a nearby lake and had to drive out after work at like 10:30pm. The drive was exactly the length of the SYMMETRY album, so I got to jam that whole album driving about 85mph at night. The police samples always give me a jolt (police samples been giving me jolts since Rae’s OB4CL actually).

            I think you can draw a comparison between seasonal music too. One of my lazy complaints to Tame Impala is I wish I had that album over the summer. “Innerspeaker” came out before the summer and that greatly contributed to why I loved it so much. I love “Lonerism” but it just doesn’t feel like a winter album. Or how some albums are much better on headphones and some on big booming speakers (like lwd’s Funk Music comment above). Some music just needs the adrenaline boost of driving really fast down a dark highway.

            Music’s cool, guys.

        • Fuck Raptor Jesus, you are really making me miss having a car. : (
          As much as I love living in a city where I can get around just fine on public transit (though, admittedly, having a car/driving here is also kind of a pain in the ass), not being able to listen to music while I was driving was something that took some getting used to after my last car was totaled. There was this one time after that where I had to travel to another office for work, and I had to get a rental car since the airport was over an hour away from the office, and I just remember how exhilarating it felt to be driving down that highway. One particularly vivid and amazing moment from that was discovering how awesome the drum breakdown from Bear in Heaven’s “Beast in Peace” sounded on those speakers…

          (Also, sorry, this in response to the long comment about the Chromatics and SYMMETRY, there’s just no reply button.)

  22. Good job on putting Swearin’ on this list. That’s in my top albums of the year too.

    But fuck you for putting Taylor Swift above Killer Mike. Seriously, that is some goddamn ironic trendy bullshit and you all should be ashamed of yourselves. I can’t even begin to imagine what the fuck was going through your collective heads. I mean sure, R.A.P. Music might not be the best record this year no matter how much I believe it is, but that is some goddamn motherfucking bullshit.

  23. I’m very surprised that Mature Themes didn’t make it. However Fiona Apple is also my #1, so I agree!

  24. death grips?

  25. I don’t know guys…It’s nice to see some great albums that seem to be missing from other lists (Schoolboy Q, Spiritualized) but put fucking Taylor Swift ahead of tons of better albums. Could someone please explain to me how Red is a better album than R.A.P. Music? Or Sweet Heart Sweet Life? Or Habits and Contradictions? Or Bloom or Sun or Ocean Roar? I understand it’s about personal taste, but we’re talking about the whole staff of an indie music site choosing decent pop music against albums that were crafted to do more than just sell a bunch of records to teenage girls.

  26. Someone much smarter than me is going to have to explain the logic behind this Taylor Swift thing. If you can convince me why she isn’t just a glorified musician for teen girls, I’m all ears. I have nothing against her, but her lyrics are those of a 13 year old in a constant struggle with young/fake love. You know, girl loves boy, boy breaks girl’s heart, girl proudly proclaims she was too good for said boy anyway. Add some decent melody, chord progression, etc., and you have Taylor Swift, superstar in pop music.

    Again, nothing against her, but what sets her apart?

    • The fact a ton of the songs on her new album sound like Jimmy Eat World songs does it for me.

      • What sets her apart is craft.

        • Say more on that, please. Cause I’ve listened to that album front to back, and I don’t hear much of what I call “craft” other than an appeal to the lowest common denominator.

        • I might buy that in the context of other super successful top 40 acts, but I don’t think it holds any water for this list. I honestly don’t care, though. It’s not my list (even though 6 of my likely top 10 match this list), and it’s not as if you’re wrong. I just don’t see where this sudden fondness came from.

    • Just to add, I’m not trying to criticize anyone for including Taylor Swift. Good for you guys if you liked it, I just wanted to know what it is about her specifically that puts her on that kind of level with people of our musical sensibilities.

    • I gave Red a spin last night and my impressions are that it’s a pretty fun, well-produced, modern take on power-pop. The album wouldn’t be hurt at all by losing 3-5 songs. At 16 tracks, it goes on too long and loses some sense of cohesiveness. And yeah, the lyrics can be a little eye-rolling at time, if that’s a large factor for you, it may keep you from enjoying the record. But with pop music I’m looking more for a sense of melody than lyrical profundity. Silly lyrics never kept me from loving the Beach Boys, or early Weezer stuff. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I could listen to the album when I don’t have other distractions without asking myself what the fuck I was listening to.

      Also, Red is quite unlike anything else I’ve been listening to this year. I don’t listen to top-40 radio, and I haven’t for a long, long time. I managed to get until November without hearing “Call Me Maybe.” So I don’t know how significant that comment is. But, keeping in mind that it’s only been one listen, I think the album is more than flavor-of-the-week kitsch, and people aren’t just being contrary by saying that it’s good. I’ll need a few more listens, but I’m not rolling my eyes at the records inclusion on any of these lists.

      Still, how could you forget Father John Misty?

  27. I’d love to get a breakdown of where people think The Idler Wheel fits into Fiona Apple’s discography. Personally, I wasn’t comfortable overpraising an album I don’t consider to be one of her two best collections. Obviously, ranking an artist’s albums against previous ones can be silly, considering every work has its own set of objectives and goals. But if When the Pawn was released in 2012, would it be the #1 album of 2012 too?

    • I’ve been a fan of Fiona since Tidal, and Idler Wheel is my personal favorite of her discography. I think it’s also her most meticulously crafted record, both lyrically and musically.

      • Personally, I look at discographies in two ways. What’s the album I’d give to someone who knew nothing of their music? What’s the album I’d most want to see performed live? If those two answers line up, I consider it their best. My logic is, what’s the album that best captures an artists’ core sound while allowing for the greatest potential to share emotional experience with that artist. On my standard, I’d pick When the Pawn. Therefore, I can’t argue that Fiona Apple, not at her best, is still better than all the artists’ who released albums this year. For that alone, I wouldn’t put her at #1. But if you do, I dig it. She’s very good.

    • Huge fan of Fiona… this would be my breakdown:

      1. The Idler Wheel…
      2. When the Pawn…
      3. Tidal
      4. Extraordinary Machine

      The Idler Wheel just has that extra stroke of fucking go for broke brilliance. But, in my opinion, it and When the Pawn are perfect and absolutely complete albums.

      Really glad to see her where she belongs on this list, at #1 :)

    • I’m not sure exactly where I would rank The Idler Wheel in her discography, and this summer I was super into it but then that period didn’t last very long. But right now I still think it’s a great album totally deserving of top spots in year end lists, and to be held in high up there in her cannon… it definitely painted her previous albums in a different light to me, since it’s so much more raw and visceral but yet still so her that now it’s weird how much her earlier work feels poppy in comparison.
      So to answer your question, I kind of want to put it in her top two albums, but I’m not actually sure what order I would rank her albums right now.

  28. Great list, as usual, but I’m surprised Tanlines didn’t get any recognition. Mixed Emotions was pretty solid.

  29. Was there really 50 albums better than Blunderbuss this year?


    If there were, was Taylor Swift one of them?


    Do I like asking myself questions and answering them?


  30. **Lowers self into home-dug bomb shelter to await “WHAT?! NO ANCO?!” nuclear comment fallout**

  31. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Wrong list, bro. You’re looking for the Gummy Awards, and voting ends today.

      • crabtron  |   Posted on Dec 5th, 2012 +6

        It’s gonna be hilarious if all the silent Taylor Swift supporters came out in droves to vote for Red, and it ends up even higher on the Gummys than on this list. I didn’t vote for it, but I do like her music, and am thoroughly enjoying how appalled a lot of people here are in response to her inclusion on this list. C’mon Taylor Swift for Gummys # 1! Oh, that I might live to see the day!

  32. No Alt-J? No Polica? No Death Grips? No respect.

    • Downvoted for being the token “You don’t have the thing I like? Your list is irrelevant” comment.

      • Downvoted for being the token “Downvoted for being the token “You don’t have the thing I like? Your list is irrelevant” comment.” comment. Seriously, it’s a Best Of list. What else is there to say other than “Hey you didn’t have this that I like” or “Hey you had this that I like!” you absolute cretin.

    • Personally I think that Death Grips were an interesting idea, but I don’t think that their albums could beat any of these.
      Alt-J and Polica had incredible albums though and I’m a little bummed that they some how got knocked off by T-Swift and Rick Ross.

    • Polica and Alt-J are not big enough in the States as well as Hot Chip and Actress… but I saw all of them in the Uk’s EOY lists.

      • agreed. Polica and Alt-j deserve to be in there. despite them not being big in the states YET, it should not take away from them having incredible albums! it should be less of a popularity contest, and more on talent.

  33. taylor swift? oh lord jesus! smh

  34. Lower Dens, Crystal Castles and Sigur Ros would have made my list somewhere.

  35. Can’t really complain, but I was hoping to see Swans top at least one list.

  36. Time to bash lists as if music tastes aren’t subjective!

    • Yes and no. Art is subjective, yet anyone can tell that, in terms of craft, theme, subtext, etc, Van Gogh’s art is objectively better than your 3-year old’s stick drawings. On that note, was Taylor Swift’s album better than Sharon Van Etten, Beach House, Killer Mike, or a crapload of artists who didn’t make the list (Father John Misty??)? No way.

      • Exactly. My go to analogy analogy to the “it’s all subjective” claim is a restaurant that serves shitty, overcooked, steaks. There are people out there who love well done steaks. I’ve seen adults order a $30 well done filet, and then ask for ketchup with their meals. And that’s fine. It’s their money. But despite these personal preferences, son’t think it’s a stretch to say that a you will get an objectively better meal at a nice restaurant than you will get at a Applebees or a Olive Garden.


  38. Missing:

    Dinosaur Jr.
    Angel Haze
    Royal Headache

    Otherwise, solid list. But seriously, Taylor Swift, WTF??

  39. Michael Kiwanuka????

  40. Also:

    Ab-Soul (IMHO better than Schoolboy Q’s record)
    Mountain Goats (consistently great so it’s no big surprise they’re overlooked)
    Trash Talk (did people not like this for some reason?)

  41. Best list of the year so far, and seeing a few personal favs in the honourable mentions, high fives all round everyone!

    The only real problem for me is the continued absence of Burial’s Kindred EP, even in a top 5 EP’s list. That thing is seriously amazing.

    Also pleasantly surprised as I wasn’t expecting to see Nude Beach on any lists, thought that would be one I was complaining didn’t get the attention it deserved.

    I do think Centipede Hz. is going to get a positive re-evaluation eventually, it took a while to grow on me but when it did I got into it in a big way.

    • Also, personal list…

      Top 10:

      1. Grizzly Bear – “Shields”
      2. Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, m.A.A.d. city”
      3. Japandroids – “Celebration Rock”
      4. Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
      5. El-P – “Cancer4Cure”
      6. John Talabot – “fIN”
      7. Flying Lotus – “Until the Quiet Comes”
      8. Passion Pit – “Gossamer”
      9. Joyce Manor – “Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired”
      10. Chairlift – “Something”

      11 – 45 in absolutely random order as they come to me:

      Tame Impala – “Lonerism”
      Grimes – “Visions”
      The Shins – “Port of Morrow”
      Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music”
      The Walkmen – “Heaven”
      Dirty Projectors – “Swing Lo Magellan”
      Joey Bada$$ – “1999″
      Nude Beach – “II”
      Animal Collective – “Centipede Hz.”
      DIIV – “Oshin”
      Coud Nothings – “Attack on Memory”
      Delicate Steve – “Positive Force”
      Jack White – “Blunderbuss”
      Schoolboy Q – “Habits & Contradictions”
      Miguel – “Kaleidoscope Dream”
      Chromatics – “Kill for Love”
      The Men – “Open Your Heart”
      METZ – “METZ”
      Nas – “Life is Good”
      M. Ward – “A Wasteland Companion”
      Angel Haze – “Reservation”
      Ab-Soul – “Control Systems”
      Azealia Banks – “Fantasea”/”1991″
      Heems – “Nehru Jackets”/”Wild Water Kingdom”
      Crystal Castles – “III”
      Purity Ring – “Shrines”
      Sleigh Bells – “Reign of Terror”
      Aesop Rock – “Skelethon”
      Beach House – “Bloom”
      Titus Andronicus – “Local Business”
      Wild Nothing – “Nocturne”
      Odd Future – “OF Tape Vol. 2″
      Daugh Gibson – “All Hell”
      Fang Island – “Major”
      How to Dress Well – “Total Loss”

      Favourite EP’s:

      1. Burial – “Kindred”
      2. TNGHT – “TNGHT”
      3. AlunaGeorge – “You Know You Like It”

      A big thanks to anyone patient enough to be bothered reading through all that.

  42. One disappointing thing I’m seeing with all these lists is Captain Murphy being overlooked. It came out really late, but I think it’s one of the most well rounded rap albums of the year.

  43. I would just like to point out that Rick Ross, Taylor Swift, and Swans are all on the same list

  44. taylor swift gives me gas

  45. This is by far one of the better, if not the best list, I’ve seen thus far.

  46. I love the first Sleigh Bells album, but can’t for the life of me figure out how Reign of Terror is making any year end lists.

  47. I’m so fucking happy someone included Matthew E. White. Big Inner is such a brilliant album and I love it so.

    That inclusion rights any wrongs I might find with this list.

  48. Shabazz Palaces?

  49. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

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