To be honest, this was one of the more disappointing music years since I've started doing these lists, though I'll readily admit some of that may have to do with my failure to listen to as many albums as I have in years past. For that reason, I've limited my list to 10 instead of my usual 25. Here were my favorite albums of 2012:
10) Lord Huron -- Lonesome Dreams
10) Lord Huron -- Lonesome Dreams
Of the many Mumford & Sons copycats to hit the scene this year, Lord Huron was my favorite with his beautiful harmonies and his elegaic vocals.
Best tracks: "Time to Run", "Lonesome Dreams"
9) The Shins -- Port of Morrow
I had stopped paying attention to The Shins a while ago, so it was news to me that the lone remaining member of the band is frontman James Mercer. Turns out he doesn't really need anyone else, as the latest Shins album is their best in nearly a decade, filled with the trademark jangly melodies Mercer writes best.
Best tracks: "Simple Song", "It's Only Life"
8) Cloud Nothings -- Attack on Memory
Cleveland-based Cloud Nothings find the right balance between punk noise and pulsing melody, producing music that feels both aggressive and welcoming at the same time. Their third album is their best yet.
Best tracks: "Stay Useless", "Fall In"
7) Grimes -- Vision
Grimes' incredibly catchy synth-pop is all the more remarkable for the fact it originates from a young canadian woman producing songs on her computer. However it was made, Vision features some of the most irresistible music to come out this year.
Best tracks: "Oblivion", "Genesis"
6) Frank Ocean -- Channel Orange
Frank Ocean rocked the hip-hop world this year when he came out of the closet, but he would have made a mark regardless; Channel Orange is a shockingly assured debut from a young artist who sounds like he's lived multiple lifetimes.
Best tracks: "Bad Religion", "Thinkin Bout You"
5) Beach House -- Bloom
Beach House songs have such an ephemeral, hazy quality it's easy to think they all sound the same, but that fails to appreciate how much the Baltimore duo have continued to refine and evolve their dream pop sound. Bloom is their most lush and expansive album to date.
Best tracks: "Myth", "The Hours"
4) Divine Fits -- A Thing Called Divine Fits
Three of my favorite bands of the last decade are Wolf Parade, Spoon, and the Handsome Furs, so it's no surprise I loved this album from the frontmen of those groups. Combining Dan Boechner's propulsive rock sound and Brit Daniel's staccato rhythms, Divine Fits don't always transcend the sum of its parts but when they do (which is most of the time), the sound is utterly original.
Best Tracks: "My Love is Real", "Would That Not Be Nice"
3) Alabama Shakes -- Boys and Girls
A pure slice of blues-rock Americana, The Alabama Shakes' debut album is loaded with hook-filled melodies about love, death, and everything in between. Fronted by vocal dynamo Brittany Howard, The Shakes started out the year on a wave of buzz following their first EP, and Boys and Girls demonstrated that the hype was well deserved.
Best Tracks: "Hang Loose", "Hold On"
2) Fiona Apple -- The Idler Wheel...
Fiona Apple takes her sweet time making new albums -- her last one came out in 2005 -- but it's almost always worth the wait. Her latest is a beautiful collection of intimate, inventive songs that once again demonstrate Apple's unique talent for creating music of delicate, raw emotion.
Best Tracks: "Every Single Night", "Left Alone"
1) Japandroids -- Celebration Rock
Chock full of rock anthems, Celebration Rock is remarkable for the intensity and power it generates from just two men rocking out on just a guitar and drums. But Japandroids leave it all out there on each track, and the result is an energetic, inspiring collection of fist-pumping rock songs that add up to the best album of the year.
Best Tracks: "Continuous Thunder", "The House That Heaven Built"