The 50 Best Albums of 2012

50. Future – Pluto


Highly Arguable Fact: There is no greater moment in music in 2012 than “Turn on the Lights”, which finds iFuture as the saddest robot to ever sing about a Craigslist Missed Connection. I lobbied for this album to be in the top 3. That it is at least at 50 is one of my greater moral victories of 2012. I am playing “You Deserve It” right now. Future probably is too. –Andrew Winistorfer 

49. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits


New wave in 2012? Why the fuck not? Oh yeah, forget about the fact that Divine Fits are a super-group because, really, the whole premise of a super-group will immediately screw with your expectations from said group. Just throw out any reservations and preconceived notions, put A Thing Called Divine Fits at full blast, and enjoy some of the best ’80s-indebted guitar-driven music of the year. These guys could do some serious damage if they continue on, if only because Britt Daniel is such a monster songwriter.—Andrew Martin

48. Brian Eno – Lux


Brian Eno’s Lux dropped in November, a quiet, austere little project that reminded the world once and for all why he’s the father of (and master of) ambient music as it exists today. A thematic descendent of his seminal 1978 Music For Airports, Lux is a percussionless, hour-plus workout of gently plucked strings and single piano notes, all but guaranteed to go over the heads of the general public but absolutely captivating in the right time and place.—Graham Major

47. Fool’s Gold Records – Loosies

fools gold loosies

The case for Loosies landing on a year-end list can be made by presenting someone with El-P’s show-stopping guest verse on A-Trak’s “Piss Test” remix. But then you’d be overlooking the proper release of AraabMuzik and Danny Brown’s bonkers “Molly Ringwald”, a thrilling performance by Freddie Gibbs on “All Types”, and the always-versatile Action Bronson ripping shit apart on “Twin Peugeots”.—AM

46. RYAT – Totem


RYAT’s Totem exists in a world many of us aren’t exactly ready for just yet. It’s one where Bjork reigns supreme with assistance from RYAT’s Brainfeeder crew. But to say the album simply draws from its influences and nothing more would be to sell it short. Extremely short. Because Totem is one of the more engaging music listening experiences of the year. It’s not one that you simply throw on and let fade in and out as you work or study. Rather, you best have some good headphones and about 40 minutes to properly digest Totem and all of its layers.—AM

45. Jessie Ware – Devotion


British songbird Jessie Ware and her team of producers found a way to harness all the best parts about ’80s R&B/pop and create something refreshing and infectious. Devotion runs from one earworm to the next, with tracks like the bursting “Wildest Moments” and the Big Pun-sampling “110%” leading the way. We still wish she would have worked with previous collaborator SBTRKT again.—AM

44. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes


It’s easy to simply write off Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti outfit as bizarre psychedelia that only appeals to hipsters and people who like “weird shit.” But there’s always an oddball catchiness about Pink’s approach. More often than not, the most fetching elements of his latest album, Mature Themes, are what they should be: the hooks. Whether he’s deadpanning “You sunk my battleship” or getting glammy on “Baby”, Pink reveals that he’s a master of his craft … whatever that may be.—AM

43. Groundislava – Feel Me


Since we discovered his lo-fi work a year or two ago, Los Angeles producer Groundislava has expanded and progressed his sound substantially. But in doing so, he hasn’t lost the essence of what makes his synth-heavy tunes so damn endearing. Across his latest album, Feel Me, he retains a simplicity while working with a few of our favorites (Baths, Shlohmo). Beyond that, Groundislava successfully worked a Troll 2 sample into “Cool Party”, thereby making him an automatic year-end list candidate.—AM

42. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream


Miguel is often the odd man out when indie-centric, usually R&B-ignoring websites start talking about the R&B Renaissance that happened via everyone realizing Weeknd, Frank Ocean and The-Dream are generally pretty great. But Miguel has something the likes of Frank and Weeknd don’t have and probably won’t: His Kaleidoscope Dream had a real hit single—not a single we all say is a hit because it’s awesome, a legitimate hit—in “Adorn”. That Miguel still managed to jack the Zombies”, flip the sample from Em’s “My Name Is,” and deliver an album as singular as Kaleidoscope Dream is a testament to him, and an argument for the continued existence of labels that will bankroll R&B weirdos.—AW

41. Brother Ali – Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color

brother ali dreaming in color

When your pen game is as crazy as Brother Ali’s, the production isn’t necessarily that important as, say, someone less gifted. But the Minneapolis street preacher has always had a strong ear for beats, most of which have come from Atmosphere’s Ant. On the narrative-laced Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, however, Ali teamed up with sample maestro Jake One for a heady and heavy listen.—AM

55 thoughts on “The 50 Best Albums of 2012

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  1. Channel Orange > GKMC imo.

  2. lildicknigga|

    nas sucks

  3. I’ll keep listening to REAL Hip Hip until someone from this generation actually puts out something worth listening to. Drake, j cole etc are disappointments.fashawn, Joey badass, big krit, action Bronson, jay electronica are a step in the right direction.

  4. not on there for obvious reasons

  5. Great list until it got boring and predictable and commercial at the end.

  6. They didnt think it was one of the best of the year

    At least that would be my guess as to why its not on here

    *Kanye Shrug*

  7. AGREED: how can “Illmatic” and “Only Built 4 Cubic Linx” not at least bust the top ten? This list is LUDACRIS.

  8. Glad to finally see “Control System” in a top ten this year, I probably wouldn’t have thrown Kool AD’s so high, but hey not many more complaints than that here.

  9. This list sure feels randomly scattered for the most part, but whatever.

  10. I don’t know How Nas life is good is not number 1. Or at least top 3? Plus I would put action Bronson rare chandeliers at number 2. Kendrick Lamars album was boring the first time I listened to it and still is. Is anyone really listening to it anymore? Big let down. Shit year for hip hop once again. In the 90s you got maybe 20 or 30 classics every year now your lucky to get one very couple of years. Nas released his best album since stillmatic is it a classic? Time will tell.

  11. No love for “ANX”? I assume you didn’t check it out then. Zavala deserves producer of the year for that album.

  12. We didn’t make this list to be unpredictable. We made this list to show appreciation for our favorite albums. Thanks for checking it out.

  13. I love both Rare Chandeliers and Blue Chips, but the latter edged out the former for me.

  14. Danny! is on our label, Potholes Music, so he and his labelmates can’t appear on our year-end lists.

  15. By the way, D.Swain’s Payback and Lushlife’s Plateau Vision would have made my list as well. I’m a little surprised not to see Payback on here given this site’s general love for all things Danny!

  16. Word. And thank you!

  17. There is no such thing as “real” album of the year. In the end it’s all about personal choice. Nobody can listen to every album out there, hell, nobody can even listen to every hip-hop album. I agree that it would be great to see some non US rappers here, but this is a list of 50 albums, the authors of these site liked the most (out of everything THEY have listened to this year). No point of getting butthurt over something like that.

    PS: I listened to that Jack Flash and Wizard LP and tbh, it’s nothing special. Some of the beats are really good, but Jack Flash is super corny.

  18. predictable top 2

  19. Where is Sole – A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing?

  20. Captain Murphy is 23

  21. Really? I thought Rare was a big step back from Dr. Lecter and Blue Chips, and even more so because Alchemist is generally a producer whose work I love.

    Then again, these things are all a matter of opinion.

    The thing I get out of these lists more than anything are that there’s always a ton of great music I missed — Six of the top 10 were albums I liked or loved, and a couple were ones I’d never even heard of. The Year-end lists are always a reminder that hip-hop is even more alive and well than those of us who spend a lot of time listening to it think it is.

  22. Brother Ali was really low in my opinion. The production on that album was banging. Probably some of the best Jake One beats to date. Also Disappointed to see no Mellowhype, or Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Kaleidoscope Dream would’ve definitely cracked my top 25.

    Everything else on this list is on point. I should give Wild Water Kingdom and Rare Chandeliers a proper listen.

  23. Great list! I would have flipped Kendrick Lamar’s and Killer Mike’s placements. Schoolboy Q, Brother Ali, and O.C. & Appollo Brown would probably have made my top 10, while Ab-Soul, Heems, and Frank Ocean wouldn’t have. I don’t understand all the hype around Channel Orange and just didn’t really enjoy Control System or Nehru Jackets. The only glaring omission from the top 50 in my mind is Skyzoo and maybe the Black Keys and Jack White. I think I need to go back and give THEESATISFACTION, Rapsody, and Nacho Picasso a second look and give Jeremiah Rae and a number of others a first look. Good lookin’ out!!!

  24. oh yeah, where’s Captain Murphy and Murs & 9th Wonder?????

  25. Just downloaded Action Bronson and Party Supplies’ album. Yall are sick! There’s no way it’s better than Rare Chandeliers! It’s good, but Rare is way better.

  26. youknowmySteez|

    Great list! on point

  27. There’s also a difference between the best albums of a year, and the best albums of a year the team of a certain website has bothered to listen to.

    Listen to the Homebrew album on Bandcamp. Afterwards you can talk shit.

    Also, many of these rappers are anything but obscure.
    Sure, for an ignorant American audience that isn’t interested in anything that goes on outside of the US; no matter how good, they might be obscure. Not for Hip Hop fans in their respective countries though, and definitely not for lovers of all English-language Rap Music, regardless where it’s from.

  28. Le Magnifique|

    where’s Holy Other – Held!!!!??????

  29. Yeah, Mystrogen is a really good album, not sure about being top 50 thi…Jehst’s Kingdom Of Fear is something coming from the UK that I would personally put in my top 50 list tho.

  30. Ain’t bad at all. I don’t agree with everything but this is still one of the best lists out there. Keep doing it, cuz you are definitely one of the best 🙂

  31. Solid list. I would have Kalediscope Dream in the top 10. Iv got no love for Wild Water Kingdom, But Nerhu Jackets was a big favourite for me this year.

  32. I feel ya. I prefer Rap over Nitty and yeah, that Ace joint was rad, but I couldn’t get over the older beats.

  33. Thanks, man. Four things ain’t too bad.

  34. Good list but also many things I disagree with.
    1. I know that you all love Heems but come on, both of his mixtapes have plenty of skip-able material. Also he is getting boring with his “i’m not even trying, i’m just having fun” attitude. Even most Das Racist fan admit that both mixtapes are mediocre, especially the second one.
    2. I’m surprised that El-P’s album is so much higher than Aesop’s. I love both, but for some reason I think that this has something to do with that Danny Brown feat, haha.
    3. Still don’t understand why people praise Channel Orange that much. Probably the most overhyped album this year. Incredibly boring and forced.
    4. The Black Keys’ album really is amazing.

    These are my main butthurts. Other than that – a really good list…again 🙂 Goob job 🙂

  35. dollarbillrussell|

    There’s a difference between the most obscure rapper’s albums you enjoyed personally, and the best albums of the year.

  36. bobbynipples|

    dunno if i agree about kendrick lamar being number 1. Fuck macklemore tho.

  37. thatdudemanny|

    fuck. that list was on point. beyond stoked that both action tapes AND both heems tapes made it, let alone two of them in top ten. mad list.

  38. def like oddisee on there best album he made yet.

  39. Molly Sweatin Me|

    Now the Future makes more sense. The Rap over Nitty will always get me because 9th wonder got beats, but Nitty has actual Bars and Energy, imo. Black keys getting tiring? damn. welp.
    I think Masta Ace did a great job of telling a story over beats artists really ignore, then again i don’t listen to a whole bunch of Doom, so most of it was “fresh” to me. Other than that, rest of the list was different which is always good in this industry. No Heems for me thank you.. peace

  40. Andrew Martin has the best taste in music ever.


  42. Nitty – Solid but not great.
    Skyzoo – See above.
    Future was a choice of one writer who we gave some leeway to.
    Black Keys are getting tiring.
    We love Heems.
    Masta Ace’s LP was aight but the recycled DOOM beats were frustrating.

  43. Molly Sweatin Me|

    So Rapsody made it but Nitty Scott’s EP wasn’t good enough? Skyzoo’s album wasn’t good enough but Future’s album was? You Got MMG (Mellow Music Group) which is a refreshing thing to see. Glad to see Tame Impala, that Psychedelic stuff is greatness. No Black Keys – El Camino? Why is this dude Heems on there so much, am I missing something? No Masta Ace, Wordsworth, or Punchline.. No eMC at all. I like that Jessie Ware was on here too.

  44. Only one I could argue for of those three is Glasper. I don’t play ‘Life Is Good’ at all anymore and Miguel kinda fell flat for me. Great singles, though.

  45. Robert Glasper, Nas and Miguel should’ve all been way higher than Oddisee (#9???) but seeing Tame Impala in the Top 6 makes me very happy. Lonerism is a funky album! Love the top three albums

  46. I know they’re not very well known because they’re from New Zealand… but I just can’t take a list without the self-titled Homebrew LP in the Top 10 (if not on first place) seriously. Best Hip Hop album in years.

    Other notable (English) Hip Hop LPs not from the North America:
    Jack Flash & Wizard – Progression.
    Verb T – The Morning Process.
    Illy – Bring It Back.
    Edward Scissortongue – Better.Luck.Next.Life.
    Urthboy – Smokey’s Haunt.
    Mystro – Mystrogen.
    FS & HG – Paid To Lst£n.

  47. Spotify Users, I may a playlist with all available albums: Potholes In My Blog Top 50 – 2012 (

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