NPR albums list

NPR Music has become an invaluable resource over the past couple of years, streaming a ton of great albums before their release on its website and employing some very good music writers, queen O.G. Ann Powers among them. And now it’s unveiled its year-end list of 50 albums, and this thing is just nuts. The unranked list somehow finds room for Ab-Soul, Pallbearer, Fun., Pink, Dwight Yoakam, Dan Deacon, a healthy smattering of classical and jazz, and a ton of stuff I’ve never heard of. Check out NPR’s picks below.

Ab-Soul – Control System
Alabama Shakes – Boys And Girls
Alisa Weilerstein & Daniel Barenboim – Elgar & Carter Cello Concertos
Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Astro – Astro
Simon Rattle & The Berlin Philharmonic – Bach: St. Matthew Passion
Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man In The Universe
Bomba Estereo - Elegancia Tropical
Brooklyn Rider – Seven Steps
Cafe Tacvba – El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco
Carla Morrison – Dejenme Llorar
Cat Power – Sun
Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred
Dan Deacon – America
Death Grips – NO LOVE DEEP WEB
Debo Band – Debo Band
Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears
Exitmusic – Passage
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Fun. – Some Nights
Homeboy Sandman – First Of A Living Breed
Iris DeMent – Sing The Delta
Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang – En Yay Sah
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Karriem Riggins – Alone Together
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
Leila Josefowicz – Salonen: Violin Concerto
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
Matt Ulery – By A Little Light
Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 2
Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Neneh Cherry & The Thing – The Cherry Thing
Now, Now – Threads
Pallbearer – Sorrow And Extinction
Patrick Watson – Adventures In Your Own Backyard
Pink – The Truth About Love
Regina Spektor – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas – Adams: Harmonielehre/Short Ride In A Fast Machine
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Swans – The Seer
Ty Segall – Twins
The Very Best – MTMTMK
Vijay Iyer Trio – Accelerando
Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers
The 2 Bears – Be Strong

For blurbs and music streams, head over to NPR.

Comments (48)
  1. I’m now convinced, albums released in January are completely ignored come ranking season

  2. This is the route I prefer to go when constructing a year-end list; favorite vs. best. I don’t have the scientific method or background to magically deduce who created the best music, so I’ll just list what I enjoyed the most in 2012.

  3. This list is like, regular rotation in every Northampton, MA coffee shop or something.

    • Point me to the coffee shop that’s cranking Death Grips and Pallbearer along with Pink and Neneh Cherry and I will gladly move back to Central Mass.

      • Northampton is in western half, actually, which — unlike Worcester / Central Mass — is entirely forgotten instead of only somewhat forgotten. What do the two have in common? Both are generalized as “Boston” even though they’re hours away from the capital haha

        • Major difference between the two: Worcester is a horrible shithole known mostly for monster truck rallies and pro wrestling events, while western MA is absolutely gorgeous and generally awesome.

          • Part lie, part truth. Worcester is indeed pretty dumpy and has little offer. For me, it reminds me of the Palladium and going to see emo shows back in the early 2000s, and now it hosts mostly bad black metal shows. Last I heard, they wanted to tear it down and make it into a parking lot.

            As for Western Mass, I’ll give you that the the five college area and the Berkshires are very nice looking in a natural, aesthetic way overlooking the valley. “Things to do” are an entirely different story, however. There’s hiking, biking, sight-seeing etc., which all gets pretty old for longtime residents. For music, ever since the Bowery Group moved into Boston, it’s killed most of the chances of Northampton’s proper venues getting indie / alternative-type shows (Fiona Apple had to be moved to a smaller venue because of poor ticket sales this past year, for example.) You get an occasional band passing through the area, but not on the multiple-times-a-month level like it was 5 years ago. There’s a few younger bands reviving the area’s grunge past, but it’s not yet amounted to a movement per say. Those bands, if they continue growing and gain traction in the press, will likely head out to NYC or something anyhow. The rest and greater whole of Western Mass is just sprawling sections of suburbia and growing urban blight. Springfield’s downtown night life scene is located in a dangerous place, and due to ongoing violence there, younger professionals and college students are heading up to the laid back Northampton bar scene, which in turn, is now becoming more rowdy and disruptive (in my visits to them in the past month, I’ve seen at least four bars evacuated due to fights. That literally never used to happen there.)

            You’ll be hard pressed convincing me that Western Mass has much to offer aside from affordable living. I grew up in, went to school in and worked in this area for 30 years now. As I type, one of my co-workers is outside with the police because he just had his car windshield smashed. Not sure if you’re a transplant or someone like myself who has lived and seen both the good and bad of Western Mass, and the changes it’s undergone for the past three decades. To each their own, I suppose, but I do know that every single one of my friends who also has grown up here has fled the area for big cities or nicer areas in general. For some wacky reason, I do notice the transplants tend to like it here.

          • haha spot on….is the centrum still there?

          • It got renovated and is now the DCU Center. Up until recently, they used to get concerts for arena rock bands still like the Foo Fighters and NIN, but I don’t think much happens there aside from said-monster truck rallies and sub-pro sporting events. All arena acts now head to the Garden in Boston or — if it’s college-y enough — the Mullins Center in Amherst.

    • As a resident of Amherst, I have no problem with this.

      • Thank you, Weszy. It takes a real Western Masser to understand the true demographic breakdown of the five college area’s mixed bag of NPR-leaning musical tastes.

  4. The soothing dulcet tones of an NPR host…

    heralding the new P!nk album.

  5. Well, there’s no Taylor Swift…there’s that, I guess.

  6. I’m very surprised Jack White isn’t on this list. I don’t think he should be but it surprises me he’s not.

  7. i think i’m too old to “get’ Death Grips

    • I like some of their stuff, but I really REALLY hate the whole self obsessed, “The music industry stifles our genius!” act.

      • they are damned if they do and damned if they dont. When No Love was released people, including folks on here, came up with ridiculous conspiracy theories involving Epic and DG. We now know DG was correct and that the label did drop them, that the free album concept wasnt one that was thought up or okayed by Epic, and that they surely disliked the album cover. I wouldnt claim Stefan and Zach as geniuses, but clearly they do have a case for the label trying to control DG. What DG got out of the Epic deal, exposure and money that makes complete sense. And there is a long history of “out-there” and avantgarde bands signing with majors to expand their fan base. But Ive long felt that Epic actively wanting DG as part of their roster is a complete headscratcher. When Epic signed RATM it would have been blatantly obvious the band was going to express a lyrical viewpoint and stance that was completely opposed to Epic’s corporate structure. And to expect RATM to include Epic in their corporations are evil rants, should have been 100 percent expected.

        Same for DG. Exmilitary was out. Released free on their website. DG talks about dark stuff, the music is experimental and abrasive, and Zach has been upfront from day 1 the point of the band is to be pro-gay, pro-feminist, anticapitalist etc…

        From my point of view Epic got everything it deserved. The press was overwhelmingly antiEpic. in terms of all this. The names are interchangable, Epic, BMG whatever. Its just clueless older CEO’s and guys in suits who believe art is measured in units sold rather than the value it holds on an individual level with fans. My life has been changed by albums and bands. I could tell an Epic or major CEO that certain albums have altered my life, but I dont think they would understand it.

  8. I’m surprised they didn’t put The Walkmen on here, both because Heaven was great and because NPR seemed to really dig them this year.

  9. Probably the only list that Steregoum will publish that includes Matt Ulery’s By a Little Light. A seriously amazing album that fuses together jazz, contemporary classical, Eastern European folk and indie rock influences. Y’all should check it out:

  10. Dreamchasers 2? Quite the surprise from NPR.

  11. I just want to hear a middle-aged female read me off the list with smooth jazz in the background on the radio.

  12. Pretty Surprised either of the latest Mount Eerie albums didn’t show up. Seems like a natural fit.

  13. MORE LOVE for NO LOVE!

  14. Well it seems good except the fun. part .

  15. Why the hell is Grizzly Bear being panned everywhere? Way better than Veckatimest and I can’t think of any album besides Fiona’s or Frank’s that I liked more this year.

    • I’m shocked by that, too. I’m still working on my list, but I started writing it before the big sites/publications began publishing theirs, and just assumed Grizzly Bear would be near the top. This is what I wrote about Shields: “It’s likely to rank highly on most lists, and the comments section for those it doesn’t will likely be filled with complaints that it isn’t higher.”

      Oddly enough, neither of those things have happened. I’m really surprised. Shields is probably my favorite album of the year.

    • I recall everyone shouting album of the year when it came out, yet I feel like I’m the only one who stuck to my guns.

  16. nice to see a varied, non-genre specific list. not nice to see fucking Pink on it. or Fun. cuz they suck. :)

  17. So glad ChesnuTT made the cut. This article on his new album is great:

  18. so Fun made the list but no Tame Impala? as well as Meek Mill but no Roots? ಠ_ಠ

  19. Really surprised Kishi Bashi didn’t make this list.

    One of my favorites of the year, and npr seemed to give his album a lot of attention when it came out

  20. About as good or bad as most in its way. Nice variety I guess.

  21. Glad to see some recognition for Wadada Leo Smith’s 10 Freedom Summers. Even if you’ve never listened to avant garde jazz before, it’s four hours of mind-blowing interpretation of 150 years of black history in America.

  22. There are 3 albums that are a must for best 50 albums that didn’t quite make it.

    Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

    The Freelance Whales – Diluvia

    Wintersleep – Hello Hum

    I’m ecstatic that Now Now made it onto the list. Such a young band that deserves a bunch of recognition.


  23. I’d like to point out the brilliance of creating an unranked list, and the generally higher quality of discussion in the comments section that results from that approach.

  24. Heeeey! Lots of latin albums, what’s the deal? Usually our stuff gets ignored on the anglo end-of-the-year lists.

  25. Nice to see a list with Alt-J. Why does it seem like everyone on here hates them?

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