The Gummy Awards: Your Top 20 Albums Of 2012

Two weeks ago, we crowned Fiona Apple with the honor of Stereogum’s Top Album Of 2012. Today, you guys gave your award, the vaunted Best Album Gummy, to another. We could have seen it coming, given this week’s Mr. Indie Rock reveal. We also could have seen it coming since it’s been his year all along. He’s built a demographic coalition and transcended “genre” restrictions on the back of stirring live performances, tremendous talent, and a very brave Tumblr post. (Also: that face.) His is a contemporary epic mining a very modern sort of intimacy. Hails to Frank Ocean, and his Channel Orange, winner of your 2012 Gummy for Best Album.

And with the other 19 slots on this list, you guys offered a referendum on a few records we left off ours: Father John Misty, Death Grips, Jack White, Alt-J, and Animal Collective. The rest of our lists essentially line up: Fiona and Kendrick and Dirty Projectors’ lyrical headspins are Top 10 material. You gave it up to Tame Impala, and Grizzly Bear, and Beach House. The Walkmen and Chromatics made it. You have good taste. Scan the entire list here:

Jack White - Blunderbuss20 Jack WhiteBlunderbuss (Third Man/Columbia)

Alt-J An Awesome Wave19 Alt-JAn Awesome Wave (Infectious Music)

Purity Ring - Shrines18 Purity RingShrines (4AD/Last Gang)

Animal Collective - Centipede Hz17 Animal CollectiveCentipede Hz (Domino)

Death Grips - The Money Store16 Death GripsThe Money Store (Epic)

The Walkmen - Heaven15 The WalkmenHeaven (Fat Possum)

Grimes - Visions14 GrimesVisions (4AD/Arbutus)

Chromatics - Kill For Love13 ChromaticsKill For Love (Italians Do It Better)

Father John Misty - Fear Fun12 Father John MistyFear Fun (Sub Pop)

Sharon Van Etten - Tramp11 Sharon Van EttenTramp (Jagjaguwar)

Swans - The Seer10 SwansThe Seer (Young God)

Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory09 Cloud NothingsAttack On Memory (Carpark)

Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan08 Dirty ProjectorsSwing Lo Magellan (Domino)

Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d. City07 Kendrick Lamargood kid, m.A.A.d. City (TDE/Interscope)

Japandroids - Celebration Rock06 JapandroidsCelebration Rock (Polyvinyl)

Beach House - Bloom05 Beach HouseBloom (Sub Pop)

Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel…04 Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel… (Epic)

Tame Impala - Lonerism03 Tame ImpalaLonerism (Modular)

Grizzly Bear - Shields02 Grizzly BearShields (Warp)

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange01 Frank OceanChannel Orange (Def Jam)

Here’s the list in simpler form:
20. Jack White – Blunderbuss
19. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
18. Purity Ring – Shrines
17. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
16. Death Grips – The Money Store
15. The Walkmen – Heaven
14. Grimes – Visions
13. Chromatics – Kill For Love
12. Father John Misty – Fear Fun
11. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
10. Swans – The Seer
09. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
08. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
07. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
06. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
05. Beach House – Bloom
04. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
03. Tame Impala – Lonerism
02. Grizzly Bear – Shields
01. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

And, in case you missed a category these past few days, or in case you just want to relive the magic all over again, here are the results of all our Gummys categories this year:

In summary: GOOD JOB, EVERYBODY. These were very good results! We had a good voter turnout this year, and your selections confirmed and confronted ours in perfect measure. It always feels good for us to know we are writing for, and participating in, a passionate community. But Gummys time is when we get confirmation that our community is not just passionate, but tasteful and informed at that. You were good in ’12. Looking forward to more xo.

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Comments (135)
  1. this list is bs im out

  2. That’s cool.

  3. The list is life.

  4. *Centipede Hz.

  5. I’m generally in agreement, but since I need to say something contentious; where’s Hot Chip?

  6. I mean… I guess I kinda knew it was going to look like this? Being a white 20something indie-alternative-listening professional and male gives just gave me that feeling.

  7. Frank Ocean? What! This is a travesty. Who makes these damn lists? Oh. Wait. I picked him. Great list.

  8. blech

    you know, for all the crowing over the school of seven bells record on this website, it didn’t make any of your year-end lists

  9. Feelin’ higher than a Pilot Jones right now…

  10. Jessie Ware > Death Grips

  11. I was baffled as to why Kendrick wasn’t in there until I realised it’s a typo. He’s at number 7 but you haven’t included it in the graphical list.

  12. Not a critism just an observation… Father John Misty gets more love from Stereogum commenters than anyone else. Also, I still have no idea who Alt-J is.

    • Yes, I was wondering about this oft-mentioned Alt-J as well. I never bothered before because their name is so horribly dull. I listened to a few songs, and if you have ever wished that David Gray would try his hand at rock music, well you’re in luck, buddy.

      • I just don’t get them at all, it seems I’ve been the lone dissenting voice around here, just boring Coldplay(without the emotion)-esque “alt” rock. Also there name never seems to work for me…

        • I don’t know where you are hearing Coldplay in Alt-J.
          Perhaps it’s the guitars and drums.
          But seriously, you’re entitled to your opinion but I can’t believe you actually listened to them if you think they sound like Coldplay.

          • It does sounds like that. Coldplay has a few really good songs, but the rest is really boring. Coldplay, David Gray, the Fray, Alt-J…it’s all the same.

          • I’d put coldplay lightyears ahead of The Fray. Coldplay is dec to pretty good, The Fray are about as pits as it gets.

          • never thought i’d defend david gray on here (can’t comment on the fray ’cause i’ve never heard em), but it’s definitely not all the same. alt-j sounds more like wild beasts to me than anything.

            to say all those groups are the same is like saying, pavement, guided by voices, dinosaur jr., sebadoh…. all the same.

          • Ben, those bands you named do have things in common, the most obvious being that they are all what every indie rock band should aspire to be, authentic, melodic, challenging, inspired, versatile purveyors of crunchy guitar music. All of them are capable of expressing vulnerability while still never coming off like soggy little doormats. All of the artists I named a couple of days ago generally make safe, tepid music that can easily be integrated into the background of any situation and feature whiny, maudlin frontmen that are guaranteed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, who fear anything confrontational that might force them to have a complex thought or feeling. They are all making escapist products for the masses that masquerade as art. If you can stomach it, go back and watch every season of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ll bet you all those artists I named have been on the show, and if Alt-J haven’t been already, they absolutely will be. Grey’s Anatomy is your one-stop place for everything that is mom rock.

          • i’m not arguing preferences here, i’m just saying that because you can find similarities between bands, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re “all the same.” apart from the aim of sounding “pretty,” in a non-jarring way, coldplay and alt-j sound like two very distinct groups to me. likewise for pavement and GBV… despite the crunchy guitar vibe.

            but i can see where you’re coming from – when you really hate a niche genre, it does all end up sounding like the same shit. i’ll admit that all pop-country sounds the same to me, and i’m sure that many a country fan would disagree.

        • Actually many fans of real country music absolutely lump the pop-country artists together when they talk about them. They have to contend with the same crap I do within the realm of rock, which is people giving props to a debased, homogenized version of the kind of music they love. There wil necessarily be more similarities between crappy bands than between good ones because the good ones are making an effort to create something new and the bad ones are making an effort to create an imitation of something that was popular and sold well before. The latter essentially have no artistic identity. They only represent the commodification of music. I feel like we have had this conversation before; it’s kind of amazing that you still don’t get it. Maybe you should read some Marx.

          • I am pretty far from being a Pitchfork fan, but this review takes the words right out of my mouth. By the way, the first inoffensive mom-rock band to ever claim to be influenced by Radiohead was Coldplay.
            http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/17233-an-awesome-wave/

          • first off, i really haven’t been an asshole to you up until this point, so there’s no reason to be a dick.

            if by “getting it” you mean i’m simply not understanding you, you’re mistaken. i understand your point very well, and contrarily, it seems that you are misunderstand me. whereas i’m saying that coldplay and alt-j SOUND like two completely different bands – and i think that most objective listeners would agree – you’re offering up the counterpoint that anything you personally deem as lacking artistic merit is one-in-the-same garbage. i’m taking a neutral stance on the style of the music discussed; you’re responding to me only through a lens of *personal* revulsion toward that style (and your biases are well on display with the “fans of really country” remark – i’m guessing that “real country” is whatever the hell michael hanna says it is).

            in fact, it seems that you’re trying to have a battle of tastes with me, waiting for me to say “oh my god, i was so wrong / didn’t understand you, please tell me some “real” bands i should listen to, thanks!” i also get the idea that you think i’m some gomer who listens only to the top 40 station, which, really, is pretty fucking far from the truth. and note that i haven’t said anything in either of our conversations about what i actually listen to – both times, it’s just been a matter of you acting like a jerkass when i had an opinion not amounting to shitting on non-recipients of the michael hanna “100% true artist” seal of approval.

            tl; dr: fuck off.

          • *misunderstandING
            *real country

            god dammit.

          • 1. There was way more to what I was saying than what bands I do or do not like. In addition, the quotes from members of Alt-J in the Pitchfork review confirm everything I assumed about this band after hearing only a few of their songs. If you could defend them, I’m sure you would have.
            2. You have not really addressed any of my points, which means that you have, by default, failed to demonstrate any understanding of them.
            3. The debate about real country vs. pop country is old and well-known, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t listen to country music. I’m a little shocked that you would need someone to explain it to you. In short, there is a major difference between what country was supposed to be (Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton) and what many popular country artists play (Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban). The pioneers and fans of artists who have continued playing music according to the original ideals resent the dilution of the art form for commercial purposes. Many radio stations refuse to play country artists who play music in the old vein.
            4. I did not expect you to have any sort of epiphany; that would run counter to your nature as a “gomer.”
            5. You are very entertaining.

          • 1. didn’t bother with the review, so i didn’t see those quotes. i’m surprised that anyone would say that about their own product, although i dont think that an artist needs to strive for pure innovation to make good music… and that, i believe, is the great divide between me and you. also, i’m one of those multi-genre-liking people, and i know how you feel about that. explains a lot, really.
            2. i feel the exact same way, flip-flopping me with you.
            3. yeah, dude, i know. no need to feign surprise.
            4/5. don’t care.

            if it makes you sleep any better at night, i don’t care for arcade fire, david grey, post-2005 coldplay, and am ambivalent toward alt-j.

            stay purist, bro.

    • ∆ … Oh I get it now. Kids these days

    • The folks over at Aquarium Drunkard crowned Father John Misty as the best album of the year. So there are at least two places on the internet.

  13. I tried, Lockett Pundt…I tried. Other than that great list.

  14. Surprising not to see Fiona at #1…And once again we all apparently forgot about Perfume Genius.

  15. The world must hate Sigur Ros these days :(

    • nah dude, we all love sigur ros!

      that album just didn’t measure up. i was actually thinking about that last night because “ekki mukk” came on my best of 2012 shuffle. i really liked it and thought it was a solid record, but it wasn’t about to win any converts. the manic rushes of intensity were largely absent and it gave the whole thing a narcotic, restrained feel that i don’t think brought out the best in them.

      • This.

        There was one song on that album that I felt echoed Sigur Ros’ strengths (Varud). Other than that the new songs kind of float on by live and it’s the old songs that proove their new album just wasn’t that great.

        • If you are ever unsure whether you like a band’s new or previous album better see them live and you’ll know by the end of the show.

        • honestly, i just forgot completely that they released an album this year.
          i love sigur ros, but valtari just didn’t leave much of an impression

    • Valtari beats anything on this list outside of Lonerism.

  16. It’s called Fear Fun… and Centipede Hz…

  17. Hey, don’t think that Animal Collective record was called “Collective”. I also don’t think it was a top twenty of the year, but that’s just me.

  18. Father John Misty’s Tramp should have been number 1. Wait…

  19. drgonzo’s Self Indulgent Year End List of Things

    Favorite Albums:
    10. The Men – Open Your Heart
    9. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
    8. Burial – Kindred
    7. Mac Demarco – 2
    6. Tame Impala – Lonerism
    5. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
    4. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance
    3. Wild Nothing – Nocturne
    2. Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
    1. Grizzly Bear – Shields

    Favorite Songs
    5. Kendrick Lamar – Westside (Right on Time)
    4. Wild Nothing – Shadow
    3. Grimes – Genesis
    2. Ab-Soul – Nibiru
    1. Burial – Loner

    Favorite TV Show Not on AMC – Adventure Time
    Favorite Movie – Prometheus
    Favorite Live Show – Grizzly Bear at 930
    Favorite Music Video – Bad Girls (but also Oblivion)
    Favorite New Act – Mac Demarco
    Favorite Crush – Victoria Legrand. Fo’eva.

    So very self-indulgent. Now validate me! Or not.

    • I really do not get the fascination with Mac DeMarco. The album is not bad by any means, but it does not stand out to me. Beyond that, self indulgence is the best indulgence.

      • I dunno it’s not groundbreaking by any means, but I like his voice, like the lyrics, and the general feel of the album. It sounds kind of like a glam rock Real Estate (which for me just sounds perfect).

    • Like your lists, but best film was totes Cabin in the Woods.

      • I heard that was really good. I missed a lot of movies this year, so it was either Prometheus or Avengers for movies I’d actually seen, and Michael Fassbender beat Robert Downey Jr. (just barely).

  20. Typo: Father John Misty’s album is named Fear Fun, not Tramp.

  21. “This is an outrage, because Dr. Dee is the artist that (I’m from Switzerland, okay? I’ll just tell everyone that) and since I was a small boy, I had dreamed that Dee would win this, and now this has happened. And I just want to tell everyone and this is a FARCE, that I had all the ideas for Star Wars,

    and everything.”

  22. Was WILD NOTHING close?

  23. anyone else do a double-scroll when they didn’t see “Taylor Swift – Red”?

    • The bag of Best Buy gift cards from the publicity firm only covered putting ‘Red’ on the editorial best-of list. It did not stipulate tampering with Gummy voting as well.

  24. WHAT IS THE APPEAL with Cloud Nothings? I don’t get it. Someone please explain.

    • It’s not just indie rock, it’s not just garage rock, it’s something more. There’s an idea behind it, a concept and it was extremely well executed. The guitar riffs are out of this world – the melodies are poppy and fun – Dylan’s voice is rough and spiked – the album feels like everything and nothing all at once. It’s one of the best accomplishments in rock and roll all year.

    • I know what you mean. Personally I really like the album but it took me a few listens. It wasn’t really exceptional or groundbreaking but it does all of the little things right.

    • Thanks. But I can’t get past his voice. It’s grating and not the least bit enjoyable to listen to. But neither is mine….so whatever.

    • That Cloud Nothing’s record is the closest approximation of Nirvana that I have heard yet, which I am sure has something to do with Albini’s production, errr, “engineering” … but his voice isn’t nearly as cool as Kurdt’s

    • Also, they play with all the precision and force of a SWAT team.

    • It’s like all the best 90s alt rock bands put in a blender. When I listen to Cloud Nothings, I hear Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Sunny Day Real Estate, Archers of Loaf, Superchunk, even some early Radiohead. It’s not the most original sound, but it’s well-executed and it hits the nostalgia triggers.

  25. What??? No Taylor Swift?

  26. same same, but different…seems to be a solid 50 albums revolving around all blogs. This one kinda feels like the “Best Of” all those lists.

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

    • I don’t think you’re legally allowed to play Death Grips in a public place.

    • No. They just all read pitchfork.

      • making cracks at urban outfitters or pitchfork, whilst on stereogum, is pretty much the functional equivalent of me walking into men’s warehouse – while wearing a suit – and going, “HURR DURR LOOK AT ALL THESE LAME PEOPLE WEARING SUITS!” herpderp indeed.

        • That would make sense, if in actuality, I did like one of the websites over the other, or if i was a fan of one the sites at all, but the fact is i’m not. You assumed too much to make your analogy work. Nice try, though.

      • WHOA HERPDERP COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT FOR AN UNDERWHELMING p4k SLAM! I LIVE FOR THIS SHIT!

        • Everything about this comment makes me sad. For one, the fact that this is your definition of a “slam”. Right, I point out that white, indie nerds listen to alot of the same crap from the same source. What a diss. Not like anybody has ever pointed that out before. Also, people who posts gifs on a website just to get cheap upvotes for a living shouldn’t be using adjectives like “underwhelming’, especially when your best comeback is “SARCASM IN CAPLOCKS”. But then again, you “live for this shit” because you have no life. I wait for my unfunny reply gif momentarily.

        • “That would make sense, if in actuality, I did like one of the websites over the other, or if i was a fan of one the sites at all”

          WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE IN CAPSLOCK!

    • I don’t think so, sir. They spell and pronounce their names differently.

  28. This really is a solid list. Good work everyone.

    This would be my little top 10 here. It’s actually changed since I voted in this thing. And it’ll change again no doubt:

    1. Father John Misty – Fear Fun
    2. Tame Impala – Lonerism
    3. Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
    4. Grizzly Bear – Shields
    5. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
    6. Burial – Kindred (Yeah it’s an EP. Whatever.)
    7. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
    8. Swans – The Seer
    9. Dan Deacon – America
    10. Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

  29. i don’t like that stereogum spoils the surprise of knowing the winner of the gummy awards by posting a huge picture of the album cover :(

  30. This is probably one of the more solid lists I’ve seen so far this year. #19 and #20 kinda leave me scratching my head (what happened to Ariel Pink or DIIV??) but overall, I’m happy. Fives all around!

  31. Nice list but it seems in 2012 more than ever, indie webzines (and readers) give the same favorites more or less. So many people talk against over hyped artists and albums (grimes ? alt-j ? japandroid ?) but we always find them in the lists at the end. Anyway, like said, pretty good list but no surprise or discovery.

  32. wanna find a list without frank ocean on top. I agree with his album holding #1, I just want such a list for some variety.

  33. This thread needs more comments. The Pitchfork thread is destroying it.

  34. Why is the Tallest Man on Earth never mentioned on any of these lists? I feel like most people don’t even know he even released an album this year. Glad FJM is on here though. Also glad Nicki Minaj is not.

  35. I finally convinced myself to sit all the way through Channel Orange because I like I need to belong with the group here (call it a needy personality, if you will). I’m sorry I just think it is an absolute snoozefest.

    I also maintain that Chairlift had the best album of there year, so what the hell do I know?

    • Agreed, Pyramids is one hell of a track though. I felt like Chairlift’s album felt a little distant for me to top my list. Don’t get me wrong it still made my top 10, some excellent song crafting there, but I just didn’t connect to it too much.

  36. if you throw out the order and the hip hop, then my top ten and your refined top 15 would get along very well

  37. Frank Ocean… paaleeeze

  38. *pictures Cancer For Cure somewhere in the top ten*

    This list is perfect!

  39. Ok I’m liking this list in general. I’m putting off my list til after christmas. I’m gonna have to buy myself the Fiona Apple record cos you know i’m from England and almost no one here has heard it. After all these lists I suppose I’m gonna have to give in and get it.

  40. No love for Burial or Baroness?

  41. No love for The Men or GodSpeed You! Black Emperor?

  42. Centipede Hz? Really? MPP was great, and a lot earlier stuff is intriguing, but this new one sounds like John Cage’s ‘Radio Music’ barfed on a compilation of songs from ‘Fraggle Rock’.

  43. 2012: The year our Gummunity predominantly stopped loving Animal Collective, Titus Andronicus and The xx.

  44. I want a Hummingbird Award.

  45. I like to think of myself as a contrarian, so it annoys me a whole hell of a lot that my favorite albums of 2012 are the same as stereogum’s. Here they are, because I feel I deserve the attention:

    Kendrick Lamar – good kid, mAAd city

    Chromatics – Kill For Love (inferior to Night Drive, still love their stuff)

    Grimes – Visions

    Cat Power – Sun (a major grower)

    Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (I drank the kool-aid on this one. My wife is trying to kill it for me by listening to only this album every day)

    Soundgarden – King Animal (Curveball!!! not much love for this one. I thought they recaptured some old magic. better than down on the upside)

    Grizzly Bear – Shields (I resisted this band so hard. this album won me over)

    Swans – The Seer (like being born again. quite a listening experience)

    Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light

    Japandroids – Celebration Rock

    Ugh. I clearly don’t have a personality of my own. Oh well. I like what I like. Honorable mentions to Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill, Flying Lotus, Smashing Pumpkins (I liked it! nostalgia trip), Fiona Apple, Sleigh Bells, Sufjan Stevens, Rick Ross, and Tame Impala. And Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

    Fave Tracks:

    Kendrick Lamar – Sing About Me/I’m Dying Of Thirst

    Cat Power – Nothin but Time

    Chromatics – Kill For Love

    Grizzly Bear – Yet Again

    Japandroids – House That Heaven Built

  46. More or less what you’d expect, but not in a particularly bad way. Sure, the majority aren’t albums I flipped over, but there weren’t any bad surprises, either. Glad to see Tame Impala made it so high, surprised Lamar came in so (relatively) low, and unlike many here, I’m glad Jack White squeezed in.

  47. Sweet list, love the top 5 in particular.

    However, Matthew Dear-Beams. Was I the only one who loved that album, or what? Maybe I’m slipping…..

  48. It’s predictable, but not a bad list all things considered. For anyone who wants a little change of pace, here’s a list of some of the best unheralded Christmas songs, for the last few days before the Eve.

    Check it: http://ahorizontalmyth.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/have-yourself-an-unorthodox-little-christmas/

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