Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012:

Top 50 Albums of the Year

BY James KeastPublished Dec 21, 2012

Throughout the month of December, Exclaim! has been rolling out our coverage of the best albums of the year, divided into seven different genre sections: pop and rock, electronic, soul, R&B and world, folk and country, metal, hip-hop and experimental and avant-garde.

With one exception (avant-garde), these lists are built by consensus by the entire pool of Exclaim! contributors, who all submit their "best of the year" lists, organized by genre. They are then ranked via a points system that's been developed at Exclaim! HQ over a number of years; the resulting tally is how we determine our best albums of the year.

The music of 2012 didn't make these genre designations easy; some have argued, both in Exclaim! editorial meetings and in our comments pages, that genre is dead, an arbitrary distinction that has increasingly little relevance to music fans. And while that's certainly true for the genre-blurry likes of Robert Glasper Experiment, Purity Ring, Swans, BadBadNotGood and many more, there are also albums like Kendrick Lamar, Converge, Frank Ocean, METZ or Flying Lotus that sit comfortably in the firmament of their genre, without any doubt.

There are other reasons for our genre designations too, not least of which is that by this division, we're able to highlight at lot more music: over 100 albums across the seven genres, an unwieldy and nearly incomprehensible number to glean insight from in a giant one-list pile-up of awesome. It gives music fans an aisle in which to shop — could you imagine if Home Depot threw the screwdrivers, the flooring, the plumbing and the appliances into random spots all over the store? Genres help people find what they're looking for if that's their preference; shoppers more interested in browsing are welcome to do so.

But just out of curiosity, what if we did abandon our genre designations and simply go with a genre-less "best albums of 2012" list? The results are below, culled from the same points system that determined the rankings in our genre lists. Here are the 50 best albums of 2012 according to Exclaim!:

1. Kendrick Lamar
good kid, m.A.A.d. city
(Top Dawg Entertainment)

2. Frank Ocean
Channel Orange
(Def Jam)

3. Killer Mike
R.A.P. Music
(Williams St.)

4. Flying Lotus
Until The Quiet Comes

5. Grimes

6. Tame Impala

7. Converge
All We Love We Leave Behind
(Deathwish Inc)

8. Cloud Nothings
Attack On Memory

9. Japandroids
Celebration Rock

10. Fiona Apple
The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

11. Dirty Projectors
Swing Lo Magellan

12. Miguel
Kaleidoscope Dream

13. Andy Stott
Luxury Problems
(Modern Love)

14. El-P
Cancer 4 Cure
(Fat Possum)

15. METZ
(Sub Pop)

16. Action Bronson
Blue Chips

17. Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

18. Jessie Ware

19. Beach House
(Sub Pop)

20. Pig Destroyer
Book Burner

21. Chromatics
Kill for Love
(Italians Do It Better)

22. Joey Bada$$

23. The Men
Open Your Heart
(Sacred Bones)

24. Roc Marciano

25. Robert Glasper Experiment
Black Radio
(Blue Note)

26. Daphni

27. Swans
The Seer
(Young God)

28. David Byrne & St. Vincent
Love This Giant

29. BadBadNotGood

30. Santigold
Master of My Make-Believe

31. Georgia Anne Muldrow

32. Corb Lund
Cabin Fever
(New West)

33. Laurel Halo

34. Actress
(Honest Jon's)

35. The Roots
(Def Jam)

36. How To Dress Well
Total Loss

37. Schoolboy Q
Habits & Contradictions
(Top Dawg Entertainment)

38. Dragged Into Sunlight

39. Grizzly Bear

40. White Lung

41. Purity Ring
(Last Gang)

42. Nas
Life Is Good
(Def Jam)

43. Neurosis
Honor Found in Decay

44. Alabama Shakes
Boys & Girls

45. Liars

46. Gaza
No Absolutes in Human Suffering
(Black Market Activities)

47. Pallbearer
Sorrow and Extinction
(Profound Lore)

48. Azealia Banks

49. Ty Segall Band
(In The Red)

50. Neneh Cherry & The Thing
The Cherry Thing
(Smalltown Supersound)

For our complete Best of 2012 coverage, click here.

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