The Top 50 Best Albums of 2012 –

The following list was compiled from recommendations by various regular MusicZeitgeist writers and informants that include Ighuaran, Ascender, Tragic Josh, KMS, Truffle Jones and Daniel Waters who in aggregate have worked in A&R, music supervision, film directing and writing in Hollywood and record producing and songwriting.

The final list is essentially a guide to some of the most adventurous, beguiling and intriguing music we encountered in 2012. The order is provisional, a way to help you perhaps prioritize or mentally break down all the data but ultimately it’s just an ordering – if you don’t like the sequence, then by all means ignore and change it to suit your needs!

Ultimately we hope this helps broaden your record collection and reinforce your interest and appreciation for contemporary music, which is our mandate.

Enjoy listening and thanks for an amazing year!
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50. The Dø – Both Ways Open Jaws
Sounds like something between Tings Tings and JEM, but drier and more poised. A very good release. ~ KMS

49. Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Grifter’s Hymnal
Get down and dirty with this great Southern folk record. Hubbard has been releasing records since 1971 and is now music royalty in his Texan music scene. Get out some whiskey, grab a pool cue and when yer done hit the dusty road and go have a word with Devil about some outstanding issues. ~ KMS

Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Grifter's Hymnal  - album cover

Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Grifter’s Hymnal – album cover

48. Deftones – Koi No Yokan [Explicit]
How the fuck do these guys always sound sleepy-ambient and John-Deere-tractor-heavy at the same time? Another amazing release, just different enough from the last few to matter. ~ KMS

47. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Pretty good, especially when you play the guitar, White Stripes man.

46. Wintersleep – Hello Hum [Explicit]
Nicely done post-rock record, manages to surprise. ~ KMS

45. Calexico – Algiers [Deluxe Edition]

44. Cheek Mountain Thief – Cheek Mountain Thief

43. Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal
A definitive record for 2012. ~ KMS

42. Lavender Diamond – Incorruptible Heart
A very tender, almost doo-wop record with contemporary Elisabeth Fraserisms inserted for good measure. Very laid back, like a late 70’s ballads compilation. Nonetheless, unlike anything else on this list. Lovely. ~ KMS

Lavender Diamond - Incorruptible Heart - album cover

Lavender Diamond – Incorruptible Heart – album cover

41. Tame Impala – Lonerism

40. Mystery Jets – Radlands [Explicit]
Just great songs. Very retro, but beautifully done. ~ TJ

39. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

38. The xx – Coexist
They are just so original, it can’t be denied. Even the tracks I was disappointed with at first have grown on me. Very special. ~ TJ

37. Breton – Other People’s Problems
Properly nuts, this record. ~ TJ

36. Damien Jurado – Maraqopa [+Digital Booklet]
For fans of Junip. Lovely songwriting for dark environments. ~ KMS

35. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Spare late-Bristol grindy ambient tracks with enough dimensionality to deserve a pair of them fancy new glasses they hand you in the movie theaters. ~ KMS

34. Meursault – Something for the Weakened
This surprised me – hugely interesting, and lovely songs. ~ TJ

33. Beach House – Bloom
Great songwriting. ~ TJ

32. Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
If Edward Gorey and Hedwig made a minimalist electro-clash record and played it back on half-speed while chasing the dragon, this is what its nightmare would sound like after Jan Svankmeier made a stop-motion biopic about the entire debacle. ~ KMS

31. Islands – A Sleep & A Forgetting

30. The Magnetic North – Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North
Haunting and sublime. Such a delicate touch without sounding precious.

29. Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson – Wreck and Ruin
Here is the country/bluegrass singalong soul-food record you’ve been searching for since you lost your Oh Brother Where Are Thou soundtrack in the fire.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Wreck and Ruin album cover

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson – Wreck and Ruin album cover

28. Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
Really surprised me. Not normally a fan, but this was amazing. ~ TJ

27. Caspian – Waking Season
Utterly gorgeous. Yes there were too many somber releases that ended up sound like a gray goo of indie media democratization, but this one stands out. It slinks away from every genre definition that starts to coalesce and scurries into new ground as if phobic of being captured. Brilliant and beautiful. ~ KMS

26. Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
This guy can seemingly do no wrong. Like the musical love child of Nick Drake and a young Bob Dylan, with every record, Tallest Man on Earth comes increasingly into a thing all his own, and it is just amazing to witness. ~ KMS

25. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
As strangely alluring and mildly disturbing as her image, this record of Hollywood audio tropes – from worn out MPC shouts and breakbeats to David Lynchian orchestral intrusions, from Del Rey’s beleaguered alto singing jaded anthems about tolerating the bullshit to her clearly feeble desire to break out as a dance poop queen, this is just too fascinating to miss. It IS the sound of contemporary Hollywood life without the Shinola. “Video Games” does something amazing with chord progressions. ~ KMS

24. The Unthanks – Vol. 2-Diversions: With Brighouse & Rastrick Brass
Available on IMPORT CD only. But amazing.

23. Jenny Owen Young’s – An Unwavering Band of Light

22. Bear in Heaven – I Love You, It’s Cool [+Digital Booklet]
This one was near the top of Daniel Water’s list. So glad he turned us onto it. It’s great. Sort of hangs out in that gap between Flaming Lips and MGMT, but also there is something else, tauter, more aggressive going on. Dig it, all the way to China. ~ KMS

21. Tanlines – Mixed Emotions (Amazon Exclusive Version)
These guys really make interesting stuff. Very cool ~ TJ

20. Anais Mitchell – Young Man In America

19. Kyte – Love To Be Lost
It’s magical. definitely has my vote. ~ TJ

18. Lower Dens – Nootropics

17. Julia Holter – Ekstasis
There is nothing predictable about this record except that after a few songs you can expect the unexpected. Some really clever stereo field design and ways of short-circuiting all them other girls singing through a 1K radio filter wishing they were Billie Holiday or Kate Bush. No, no, there is an full upgrade at work in this one. ~ KMS

16. Grimes – Visions (Bonus Track Version)
Well, well, what have we here (other than like, everybody’s album of the year, it seems). Something that is adventurous, and sneaky and winsome and summons Yolande from Die Antwoord and Rocketothesky and Fever Ray. Now gently erase the whiteboard. OK good. Now you are ready for Grimes’ Visions. ~ KMS

15. Apparat – The Devil’s Walk
This album stands apart from anything else on this list. It’s just it’s own thing, and listened to it a lot more than I ever expected to. This one comes from Tragic Josh (as do many of the great albums on this list.) But we wouldn’t have found this one without TJ, so proper respects for that, because they won’t be given enough for his input on this collection. ~ KMS

Apparat - The Devil's Walk - album cover

Apparat – The Devil’s Walk – album cover

14. Cheyenne Marie Mize – Before Lately

13. Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit
An ethereal consistently powerful record. Listened to many time this year. ~ KMS

12. Twin Shadow – Confess

11. Nas – Life Is Good [Explicit]
I’ll never forget the time that Eminem said he could take anyone in a cipher, but Nas intimidated him. Nas has always been one of the best rappers around, but on this record he takes no prisoners. Epic production. ~ KMS

10. alt j – An Awesome Wave
Thiiis iiiss soooo fresshhhh. Nothing else sounds quite like this. But imagine if The Knife got together with a swing band crooner and decided to get a little high and little weird. ~ KMS

9. Stew & The Negro Problem – Making It
Another one from Daniel Waters’ list. Look, that guy owns every CD/digital album ever released. So when he says something is on his top ten of the year, shut up and listen. This is a very accomplished, rich, amazingly produced record by an old LA staple with some surprisingly tender moments. But it also has some good old funky smackdowns with full horn section in tow. Go for it, this is the best band you would never have heard of this year. ~ KMS

Stew and the Negro Problem - Making It - album cover

Stew and the Negro Problem – Making It – album cover

8. Shearwater – Animal Joy
Beautiful songs. ~ TJ

7. Bill Fay – Life Is People [+digital booklet]
Oh my god, this is divine. Listen kid, you don’t know who Bill Fay is yet, and you will think he’s some old fogey singing old people music, and you would be right. But he knows more than you do about life and he is laying it all out across his cigarette burned piano while some of his most sensitively tuned fellow musicians back him up. Own this when ready. ~ KMS

6. Cafe Tacuba – El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco
An incredible Mexican rock/funk/punk band that needs way more recognition. Some terrific melodies amid all the styles that are tied together into a seamless whole. Trust… ~ KMS

5. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
Just knocked my socks off. Regardless of the hype this record is fucking incredible. Great songs, great vocals, great playing. Fucking A. ~ TJ

4. Burial – Kindred
Only three songs on this soaring darkstep EP. But it is so good. Burial at his best. ~KMS

3. Swans – The Seer

2. X-TG – Desertshore / The Final Report
Is that Antony of the Johnsons that I hear singing over what sounds like the horns from the Mimi Rogers vehicle The Rapture? What is going on here? Why doesn’t everyone own this amazing numinous 2-Disc masterpiece? ~ KMS

1. Dr. John – Locked Down
Are you kidding me with this record Dr. John? You have been spinning your voodoo magic for a good many years inside my jukebox, but this is next-step nonsense going on right here. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys who also features as guitarist, background vocalist, this saucy, grooving, smoky experience just dominates. Must own.

And on that note, we’ll take you out with some of his back catalog:

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