HONORABLE MENTIONS (Otherwise known as 21-26):

  • Bear in Heaven – I Love You, It’s Cool
  • Tame Impala – Lonerism
  • Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
  • Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
  • Twin Shadow – Confess
  • Titus Andronicus – Local Business

Not really sure why those all ended up being “T” and “B” artists, but there you have it. For the record, I’ve only listened to Local Business once, and I really liked it. So it’s possible if I had waited a few weeks to write this list, it might have crept its way further up the list.

20) Scott Walker – Bish Bosch

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I hope I’m as gloriously weird as Scott Walker when I’m 69 years old. The fact that a guy his age is making stuff this daringly odd is reason enough to give it a listen.

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19) Die Antwoord – Ten$Ion

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Yes, I know they’re a gimmick group that is more interesting on a conceptual level than a musical one. And part of me knows I shouldn’t like this album as much as I do. But I also can’t deny how catchy I actually find most of the songs.

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18) Pop. 1280 – The Horror

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According to Wikipedia, Pop. 1280 call themselves a “cyberpunk” band, which already earns them some points in my eyes. A must listen for horror fans.

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17) Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – The Lion the Beast the Beat

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Though the overall album is coming in at 17, the song “The Lion, the Beast, the Beat” might just be my favorite song of the year.

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16) Menace Ruine – Alight in Ashes

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I don’t often gravitate towards “black metal,” but I enjoy Menace Ruine’s creepy droning sound.

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15) Japandroids – Celebration Rock

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Not really a huge leap forward from their debut album or anything, but in this case “more of the same” is a good thing.

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14) 3-WAY TIE: Ty Segall – Twins; Ty Segall & White Fence – Hair; The Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse

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Alright, maybe I’m cheating here, but geez, I figure it’s the least I can do to reward the incredibly prolific in 2012 Segall, who gave me three great albums this year. If I had to choose one as the standout, I’d go with The Ty Segall Band’s Slaughterhouse.

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13) Garbage – Not Your Kind of People

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Welcome back. I missed you.

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12) Muse – The 2nd Law

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A nice bounce back from 2009’s disappointing The Resistance. I know some fans balked at the album’s dubstep elements, but I thought that was such a small (and for the most part, actually effective) part of what is otherwise a collection of songs exactly as over-the-top and bombastic as you hope for from Muse.

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11) TIE: Grimes  – Visions; Purity Ring – Shrines

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Alright, another cheat here, as I’m lumping these two together simply because they seem so aesthetically similar (AKA, artists that should have been on the Drive soundtrack), and I couldn’t pick one over the other. Hey, I never said I was a real music critic. And if there were ever two artists that should be touring together, it’s these two. Let’s make it happen.

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10 ) Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

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Divine Fits are a  “supergroup” made up of members from Spoon, Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and New Bomb Turks. Obviously, only a certain type of music fan would call people from those groups coming together a “supergroup,” and I’m not even sure I consider myself one of them. But I did love this album.

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9) Jack White – Blunderbuss

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I’m not sure that I’ll ever stop mourning The White Stripes, but as long as Jack White is still making excellent albums like this, it will be a little easier.

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8) David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant

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Sure, the collaboration seems a little dominated by Byrne (not surprisingly), and I wish it featured more of St. Vincent’s guitar gymastics rather than being so horn driven. But these are minor quibbles. I still dug it quite a bit. And hey, we got another music video with wacky Byrne-dancing! That’s always a good thing.

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7) Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti –Mature Themes

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Yeah, Pink is crazy, and I’m not entirely sure I would risk my money to go see him live. But if he keeps putting out albums this good, I can overlook all that. The hair, though? I don’t know, man…

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6) Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

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I wasn’t sure about this sophomore effort at first, as I sort of missed the more straight-ahead beats of the last album. But it really grew on me over multiple listens, and I finally recognized as a nice, subtle (and welcome) artistic jump forward for the duo.

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5) Metz – Metz

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Just a great debut punk album. That is all.

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4) The Walkmen – Heaven 

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The seventh album from The Walkmen made me very sad that I only just started paying attention to them this year. I instantly made up for my oversight by getting the previous six, as well. But I actually do think this is their best yet.

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3) Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

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It’s no fun waiting seven years for a new Fiona Apple album, but man, at least she makes it worth the wait. That being said, could we maybe move the next one along a little quicker, Fiona?

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2) Regina Spektor – What We Saw from the Cheap Seats

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My favorite Spektor album since Soviet Kitsch. I was very happy to hear some of her old trademark vocal weirdness return in a much larger fashion this time around.

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1) Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre is Evil

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Amanda Fucking Palmer.