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Best Music of 2012: The Complete List. (NPR)

Best Music Of 2012: The Complete List

Dec 5, 2012

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Use the list below to browse all of NPR's Best Music Of 2012 recommendations. Each critic's list is presented separately. Click on the article names to read our comments about the music. Be old-school: print it out and take it with you to a local music store. Be new-school: use it to make a playlist with your favorite streaming service. Happy listening!


NPR Music's 50 Favorite Albums recommended by NPR Music Staff

  • Ab-Soul, Control System
  • Alabama Shakes, Boys And Girls
  • Alisa Weilerstein, Cello Concertos (Elgar & Carter)
  • Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
  • Andy Stott, Luxury Problems
  • Astro, Astro
  • Berlin Philharmonic, St. Matthew Passion
  • Meek Mill, Dreamchasers 2
  • Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man In The Universe
  • Bomba Estereo, Elegancia Tropical
  • Brooklyn Rider, Seven Steps
  • Cafe Tacvba, El Objeto Antes Llmado Disco
  • Carla Morrison, Dejenme Llorar
  • Cat Power, Sun
  • Cody ChesnuTT, Landing On A Hundred
  • Dan Deacon, America
  • Death Grips, No Love Deep Web
  • Debo Band, Debo Band
  • Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan
  • Dwight Yoakam, 3 Pears
  • Exitmusic, Passage
  • Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel
  • Flying Lotus, Until The Quiet Comes
  • Frank Ocean, channel Orange
  • fun., Some Nights
  • Homeboy Sandman, First Of A Living Breed
  • Iris DeMent, Sing The Delta
  • Janka Nabay, En Yay Sah
  • Japandroids, Celebration Rock
  • Karriem Riggins, Alone Together
  • Kendrick Lamar, good kid, M.A.A.D. city
  • Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
  • Leila Josefowicz, Violin Concerto (Salonen)
  • Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas
  • Matt Ulery, By A Little Light
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  • Neneh Cherry and The Thing, The Cherry Thing
  • Now, Now, Threads
  • Pallbearer, Sorrow And Extinction
  • Patrick Watson, Adventures In Your Own Backyard
  • Pink, The Truth About Love
  • Regina Spektor, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
  • San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas, Harmonielehre/Short Ride in a Fast Machine (Adams)
  • Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
  • Swans, The Seer
  • The 2 Bears, Be Strong
  • The Very Best, MTMTMK
  • Ty Segall, Twins
  • Vijay Iyer Trio, Accelerando
  • Wadada Leo Smith, Ten Freedom Summers


NPR Music's 100 Favorite Songs, recommended by NPR Music Staff

  • Algodon Egipcio, "La Espidina Del Cardenche"
  • AlunaGeorge, "You Know You Like It"
  • Ana Tijoux, "Las Cosas Por Su Nombre"
  • Ane Brun, "Do You Remember"
  • Angel Olsen, "The Waiting"
  • Arnaldo Antunes, Edgar Scandurra & Toumani Diabate, "Ce Nao Vai Me Acompanhar"
  • Baauer, "Harlem Shake"
  • Bang On A Can (David Lang), "For Madeline"
  • Baroness, "Take My Bones Away"
  • Bat For Lashes, "Laura"
  • Behzod Abduraimov, "Danse Macabre"
  • Best Coast, "The Only Place"
  • Bill Fay, "The Never Ending Happening"
  • Bonnie Raitt, "Not Cause I Wanted To"
  • Bruce Springsteen, "We Take Care Of Our Own"
  • Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"
  • Cecilia Bartoli, "Amami, e vederai"
  • Chairlift, "I Belong In Your Arms"
  • Cloud Nothings, "Stay Useless"
  • Daughn Gibson, "In The Beginning"
  • David Byrne & St. Vincent, "Who"
  • Death Grips, "I've Seen Footage"
  • Django Django, "Default"
  • Egyptian Project, "Besharis"
  • Ellie Goulding, "Anything Could Happen"
  • Father John Misty, "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings"
  • Fatoumata Diawara, "Bakonoba"
  • FIDLAR, "Cheap Beer"
  • French Montana, "Pop That"
  • fun., "We Are Young"
  • G.O.O.D. Music, "Mercy"
  • Gregory Porter, "Be Good"
  • Grimes, "Genesis"
  • Grizzly Bear, "A Simple Answer"
  • Heems, "Womyn"
  • High On Fire, "Fertile Green"
  • Hospitality, "Eighth Avenue"
  • Hot Chip, "Look At Where We Are"
  • Icona Pop, "I Love It"
  • Jack White, "Sixteen Saltines"
  • Jai Paul, "Jasmine"
  • Jamey Johnson & Alison Krauss, "Make The World Go Away"
  • JEFF The Brotherhood, "Sixpack"
  • Jeremih, "F—- You All The Time"
  • Jeremy Denk, "Ligeti: Automne e Varsovie"
  • Jeri-Jeri with Mbene Diatta Seck, "Mbeuguel Dafa Nekh"
  • Joey Bada$$, "Waves"
  • John Fullbright, "Gawd Above"
  • John K. Samson, "When I Write My Masters Thesis"
  • John Talabot, "Destiny"
  • Julia Holter, "Marienbad"
  • Justin Martin, "Don't Go"
  • Kacey Musgraves, "Merry Go Round"
  • Kelan Philip Cohran and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, "Spin"
  • Kishi Bashi, "Bright Whites"
  • Kristin Kelly, "Ex-Old Man"
  • Le1f, "Wut"
  • Lianne La Havas, "Is Your Love Big Enough?"
  • Little Big Town, "Pontoon"
  • Loudon Wainwright III, "In C"
  • LV, "Nothing Like Us"
  • M.I.A., "Bad Girls"
  • Machel Montano, "Go Down"
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Same Love"
  • Mala, "Mulata"
  • Marcel Khalife, "Oh, My Proud Wound"
  • Martha Wainwright, "Everything Wrong"
  • Metz, "Headache"
  • Miguel, "Adorn"
  • Neil Young and Crazy Horse, "Walk Like A Giant"
  • Perfume Genius, "Hood"
  • Ralph Peterson, "4 in 1 (Fo'tet)"
  • Rick Ross feat. Andre 3000, "Sixteen"
  • Robert Raimon Roy, "Robert Raimon Roy"
  • Rufus Wainwright, "Montauk"
  • Ryan Truesdell, "Punjab"
  • Saint Etienne, "Tonight"
  • San Francisco Symphony (Adams), "Short Ride In A Fast Machine"
  • Schoolboy Q, "Blessed (feat. Kendrick Lamar)"
  • Scissor Sisters, "Let's Have A Kiki"
  • Sean Rowe, "Horses"
  • Shemekia Copeland, "Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo"
  • Shovels & Rope, "Birmingham"
  • Simone White, "Big Dreams And The Headlines"
  • Sinead O'Connor, "The Wolf Is Getting Married"
  • Sinkane, "Jeeper Creeper"
  • Six Organs Of Admittance, "Waswasa"
  • Solange, "Losing You"
  • Spiritualized, "Hey Jane"
  • Tame Impala, "Elephant"
  • Tanlines, "All Of Me"
  • The Mynabirds, "Generals"
  • The XX, "Angels"
  • THEESatisfaction, "QueenS"
  • Titus Andronicus, "In A Big City"
  • Todd Terje, "Inspector Norse"
  • Usher, "Climax"
  • Waxahatchee, "Be Good"
  • Wiley, "I'm Skanking (The 2 Bears Remix)"
  • Y.N. Rich Kids, "Hot Cheetos and Takis"


Top 10 Folk & Americana Albums Of 2012, recommended by Folk Alley

  • Anaïs Mitchell, Young Man In America
  • Black Prarie, A Tear In The Eye Is A Wound In The Heart
  • Carolina Chocolate Drops, Leaving Eden
  • Iris DeMent, Sing The Delta
  • Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell, Kin
  • Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy MacIsaac, Seinn
  • The Lumineers, The Lumineers
  • Rose Cousins, We Have Made A Spark
  • The Stray Birds, The Stray Birds
  • The Tallest Man On Earth, There's No Leaving Now


Top 10 Classical Albums Of 2012, recommended by NPR Classical

  • Alisa Weilerstein, Elgar And Carter - Cello Concertos
  • Brooklyn Rider, Seven Steps
  • Cecilia Bartoli, Mission
  • Gianandrea Noseda/London Symphony Orchestra, Britten - War Requiem
  • Jan Storgårds/Lapland Chamber Orchestra, Holmboe - Chamber Symphonies
  • Jeremy Denk, Ligeti/Beethoven
  • Leila Josefowicz, Salonen - Violin Concerto
  • Maya Beiser, Time Loops
  • Michael Tilson Thomas/San Francisco Symphony, Music Of John Adams
  • Simon Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic, Bach - St. Matthew Passion


Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2012, recommended by A Blog Supreme

  • Billy Hart, All Our Reasons
  • Darius Jones Quartet, Book Of Mae'bul
  • Matt Ulery, By A Little Light
  • Neneh Cherry & The Thing, The Cherry Thing
  • Omer Avital, Suite Of The East
  • Ryan Truesdell, Centennial: Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans
  • Scott Dubois, Landscape Scripture
  • Theo Bleckmann, Hello Earth: The Music Of Kate Bush
  • Todd Marcus, Inheritance
  • Vijay Iyer Trio, Accelerando


Listener Picks: Your Favorite Albums Of 2012, recommended by NPR Music Listeners

  1. Mumford & Sons, Babel
  2. Of Monsters And Men, My Head Is An Animal
  3. Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls
  4. Jack White, Blunderbuss
  5. Grizzly Bear, Shields
  6. The Lumineers, Lumineers
  7. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
  8. Beach House, Bloom
  9. The XX, Coexist
  10. Fiona Album, The Idler Wheel...
  11. fun., Some Nights
  12. Avett Brothers, The Carpenter
  13. Japandroids, Celebration Rock
  14. Regina Spektor, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
  15. Passion Pit, Gossamer
  16. Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself
  17. Cat Power, Sun
  18. The Shins, Port Of Morrow
  19. First Aid Kit, The Lion's Roar
  20. Tame Impala, Lonerism
  21. The Tallest Man On Earth, There's No Leaving Now
  22. Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan
  23. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
  24. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  25. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city


Bob Boilen's Top 10 Albums Of 2012, recommended by Bob Boilen

  1. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
  2. Grizzly Bear, Shields
  3. Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan
  4. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
  5. Cat Power, Sun
  6. Patrick Watson, Adventures In Your Own Backyard
  7. Jeff The Brotherhood, Hypnotic Nights
  8. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
  9. Jack White, Blunderbuss
  10. Exitmusic, Passage


Robin Hilton's Top 10 Albums Of 2012, recommended by Robin Hilton

  1. Cat Power, Sun
  2. Exitmusic, Passage
  3. Ty Segall, Twins
  4. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
  5. Hospitality, Hospitality
  6. Kishi Bashi, 151A
  7. Sic Alps, Sic Alps
  8. Patrick Watson, Adventures In Your Own Backyard
  9. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
  10. Jason Lytle, Dept. Of Disappearance


Stephen Thompson's Top 10 Albums Of 2012, recommended by Stephen Thompson

  1. Japandroids, Celebration Rock
  2. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
  3. Now, Now, Threads
  4. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light
  5. Best Coast, The Only Place
  6. Sera Cahoone, Deer Creek Canyon
  7. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
  8. Nada Surf, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy
  9. Cody ChesnuTT, Landing On A Hundred
  10. Lianne La Havas, Is Your Love Big Enough?


Ann Powers' Top Albums And Songs Of 2012, recommended by Ann Powers

  1. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  2. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
  3. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel...
  4. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city
  5. fun., Some Nights
  6. Gregory Porter, Be Good
  7. The Very Best, MTMTMK
  8. Sinead O'Connor, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?
  9. Melanie Fiona, The MF Life
  10. Shovels & Rope, 'O' Be Joyful
  11. John Fullbright, From The Ground Up
  12. Hurray For The Riff Raff, Look Out Mama


10 Artists You Should Have Known In 2012, recommended by NPR Member Stations

  • Lord Huron
  • THEEsatisfaction
  • Poliça
  • John Fullbright
  • Savoir Adore
  • Aaron & The Spell
  • Graham Dechter
  • Radiation City
  • Pedro Moraes
  • Shakey Graves


Top 10 Latin Alternative Albums Of 2012, recommended by NPR Music Staff

  • Ana Tijoux, La Bala
  • Café Tacvba, El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco
  • Carla Morrison, Dejenme Llorar
  • Bomba Estereo, Elegancia Tropical
  • Campo, Campo
  • La Santa Cecilia, El Valor
  • Xenia Rubino, Magic Trix
  • Ruben Albarran, Hecho En Mexico: The Soundtrack
  • Astro, Astro
  • Illya Kuryaki And The Valderramas, Chances


Top 10 World Music Albums Of 2012, recommended by Banning Eyre

  • Debo Band, Debo Band
  • Staff Benda Bilili, Bouger Le Monde!
  • Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, Radio Salone
  • Mokoomba, Rising Tide
  • Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang, En Yay Sah
  • K'Naan, Country God Or The Girl
  • Ondatrópica, Ondatrópica
  • Zani Diabaté Et Les Heritiers, Tientalaw
  • The Very Best, MTMTMK
  • Jaojoby, Mila Anao


Top 10 Top 40 Of 2012, recommended by Ann Powers

  • One Direction, "What Makes You Beautiful"
  • Usher, "Climax"
  • Maroon 5 feat. Wiz Khalifa, "Payphone"
  • Ellie Goulding, "Lights"
  • Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
  • Neon Trees, "Everybody Talks"
  • Little Big Town, "Pontoon"
  • Hunter Hayes, "Wanted"
  • Nicki Minaj feat. 2 Chainz, "Beez In The Trap"
  • Demi Lovato, "Give Your Heart A Break"


Heavy Rotation: Public Radio's Top Songs Of 2012, recommended by NPR Member Stations


Top 5 Slept-On R&B Songs Of 2012, recommended by Bobby Carter

  • Robin Thicke, "Another Life"
  • Gwen Bunn, "Epitome"
  • BJ The Chicago Kid, "Dream II"
  • Benny Sings, "Fake Love"
  • Rashad, "For The Life Of Me"


Listener Picks: Your Favorite Latin Alternative Albums Of 2012, recommended by NPR Music Listeners

  • Ana Tijoux, La Bala
  • Bomba Estereo, Elegancia Tropical
  • Carla Morrison, Dejenme Llorar
  • Alexander Abreu Y Havana D'Primera, Pasaporte
  • Natalia Lafourcade, Mujer Divina: Homenaje a Agustín Lara
  • Café Tacvba, El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco
  • Gaby Moreno, Postales
  • Illya Kuryaki And The Valderramas, Chances
  • Campo, Campo
  • Las Cafeteras, It's Time
  • Ondatrópica, Ondatrópica
  • Quetzal, Imaginaries
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