Best of 2012

How we made the list

To pull together the Best of 2012 list, we did a sweep of sources including the BBC, NME, The Guardian, Pitchfork, Q, Rock Sound, The Observer, The Independent, Resident Advisor, The Telegraph and Drowned in Sound.

After scouring ratings and reviews for hundreds of releases we came out of a small room with this list - our top 100 picks of the most acclaimed albums of the year.

Best of 2011

Bon Iver
Discover the top 100 albums of 2011 in our Best of 2011 feature.

More of the Best of 2013

Check out our top 100 albums of the year.

Top Ten
Classical Albums
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Bestselling Tracks of 2012

Somebody That I Used To Know
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Call Me Maybe
Carly Rae Jepsen
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Jessie J
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Gangnam Style
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Feel The Love (feat. John Newman)
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Too Close
Alex Clare
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Drive By
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Mama Do The Hump
Rizzle Kicks
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Best of 2012

Our top 100 of the most acclaimed albums of 2012, as published on November 14, 2012.

1. Devotion Jessie Ware
Jessie Ware "The sort of sophisticated, soulful pop record that comes along all too rarely" says the BBC of South Londoner Jessie Ware's debut album Devotion. Beautifully haunting, Jessie's voice is effortlessly bewitching, and with the help of production from the likes of Julio Bashmore, Dave Okumu and Kid Harpoon every track is polished without being overdone. Pitchfork describes her voice as "a marvel throughout, often gaining power by holding back or briefly teasing its scope while staying faithful to melody over melisma", while Resident Advisor says "Adorned with production that's as sympathetic to UK underground dance as it is to modern R&B and classic soul, Devotion is a classy affair that delights in its own refinement yet stays pinned to the earth".
• "A record filled with moments that bring you to your knees." 8/10 NME, "A solid album of strong, emotive pop music." Drowned In Sound
CD ( £8.99) | MP3 ( ) | More from Jessie Ware
2. Blunderbuss Jack White
Jack White Never one for conformity, Jack White’s first solo album was the result of a cancelled collaboration with Wu Tang Clan’s RZA, which left the former White Stripes frontman with a band, a studio and a few songs he had been working on over the past six months. The outcome was Blunderbuss, an album we consider to be one of the best to come out of 2012, and one that White says he could not have released until now. Embracing country, soul, R&B, blues and rock’n’roll, the album lets White show off his natural flair for writing perfectly crafted songs about love, albeit in his own rather peculiar way. Highlights from a remarkably consistent and strong 13-track record include first single “Love Interruption” and a cover of Little Willie John's “I'm Shakin”.
• "White at his most strange, contradictory and unfathomable, and therefore at his best." The Guardian, "Stranger and more fascinating the closer you listen." Rolling Stone
CD ( £8.99) | MP3 ( £7.49) | More from Jack White
3. Ill Manors Plan B
Plan B After the rip-roaring success of Plan B’s soulful second album The Defamation of Strickland Banks, his label could have been forgiven for pushing back when he proposed a return to his roots, in the form of hard-hitting UK hip-hop, the like of which can be found on Ill Manors. But like the artist himself, Plan B’s sound has matured over time, and this album combines the musicianship of his previous release with the more visceral feel and lyrical incision of his darker debut outing, Who Needs Actions When You’ve Got Words. Real name Ben Drew, Plan B also wrote and directed the film that shares its name, and some songs, with the album.
• “Ben Drew is the boldest and most lyrically ambitious pop star in British music right now” Telegraph, “We've had to wait a very long time for a record like this.” The Independent
CD ( £3.37) | MP3 ( £3.99) | More from Plan B
4. Locked Down Dr John
Dr John A long-standing veteran of cool, Dr. John has returned in 2012 with Locked Down, his latest release following 2010's Tribal. A contemporary reassessment of his sound saw Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys join him in the studio for knob twiddling duties and some guitar work to produce what The Guardian refer to as "a thoroughly great record that adds punch and groove to Rebennack's humid party music". Still the raging, grooving political conscience of post-Katrina New Orleans, this album places at number four in our Best of 2012; not bad for a man in his 70's.
• "10 of the funkiest tracks Dr. John's been involved in since the '70s." Mojo, "a vivid reminder as to why his myth has endured for so long. No one else comes close to sounding like this." Q Magazine
CD ( £11.53) | MP3 ( £8.99) | More from Dr. John
5. Boys & Girls Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes Probably the most striking debut album of 2012 so far, Boys & Girls gave the world the first taste of the soul-rock of Alabama Shakes and the arresting voice of one Brittany Howard, both of which justified the considerable hype leading up to its release. The Independent was impressed by “the kind of natural songwriting that seems to contain the entire history of Southern music within its staves”, while the BBC describe the album’s “vintage fusion” as being “nailed by a quartet barely out of their teens”. The Observer summed up the band’s achievement as: “a double rarity in being both absolutely aptly named and absolutely deserving of all their hype”.
• "Storming debut …fully delivers" 5/5 The Independent, "A tightly coiled slice of primal southern soul" BBC
CD ( £7.52) | MP3 ( £7.49) | More from Alabama Shakes
6. An Awesome Wave Alt-J
Alt-J Winner of this year’s Mercury Prize, An Awesome Wave is Alt-J's debut album. Drawing on folk and rock in "Breezeblocks" and "Fitzpleasure" the quartet bridge the gap to alternative dance pop with tracks like "Tessellate" and "Something Good". Sputnik tells us "your musical year is not complete without dipping your toes into An Awesome Wave" while NME says "the charm of Alt-J’s musical scatterbrain is that it works." With such critical acclaim justifying the hype that saw their third single played consistently across the UK and US for months we can only agree when the BBC says "this debut offering is strong, addictive and enthralling, the perfect accompaniment to any mood, any moment, anywhere."
• "Vibrant, yet artistically matured." 9/10 Clash Music "A brilliantly disquieting debut." 8/10 NME
CD ( £9.24) | MP3 ( £5.99) | More from Alt-J
7. Tempest Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan Six decades and 35 albums into his career and Bob Dylan is still doing it. Claimed by some to be his darkest ever record, Tempest finds Dylan in some of his finest lyrical form for years: not least on the title track, a 13-minute opus about the sinking of the Titanic, or “Roll on John”, his tribute to John Lennon. Rolling Stone suggest that “lyrically, Dylan is at the top of his game, joking around, dropping wordplay and allegories that evade pat readings and quoting other folks' words like a freestyle rapper on fire”. The music was also widely praised, with the Guardian calling it “beautifully played blues, rockabilly, folk and country”. Undoubtedly another triumph from one of music’s true greats, the 5* review in Uncut sums up the reaction: “Tempest is in many respects the most far-reaching, provocative and transfixing album of Dylan's later career”.
• “Dylan's best musical album of this century.” 5/5 Mojo "Remains mesmeric after all these years." 9/10 Drowned in Sound
CD ( £5.95) | MP3 ( £5.79) | More from Bob Dylan
8. Django Django Django Django
Django Django Django Django’s self titled debut album, is hailed with reviving the indie scene. After laying low since their double A-side "Love’s Dart"/"Storm" back in 2009, it seems it has been time well spent. Of the songwriting, The Guardian called it “routinely top-notch, the album gaining impact as it plays and the moods shift imperceptibly”. BBC Music summed it up as “smart but not showy, clever but never at the expense of a catchy hook, this is 'indie' par excellence”.
• "Updated psychedelia that beguiles and delights." 5/5 The Guardian, "So good they named themselves twice." 9/10 Drowned in Sound
CD ( £5.67) | MP3 ( £7.99) | More from Django Django
9. Channel Orange Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean One of the most talked about releases of 2012, Frank Ocean’s debut Channel Orange breathes new life into the modern R&B album. From the laidback funk of “Pink Matter” to the ten-minute epic “Pyramids”, it’s an album bursting with musical references and features an equally eclectic mix of contributors, including John Mayer, Andre 3000 and fellow Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt.
• "Channel Orange is as dazzling as it is baffling, rarely staying still long enough to get a grip on." The Telegraph, "A brave and often brilliant debut." Metro
CD ( £6.12) | MP3 ( £8.29) | More from Frank Ocean
10. Old Ideas Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen The Canadian's twelfth studio album released 44 years after his first, Old Ideas has been declared to contain all the aspects that have made Cohen so well loved and respected. The Guardian says "it is more of the stuff that has made Cohen indispensable for six decades: desire, regret, suffering, misanthropy, love, hope, and hamming it up” while All Music Guide says "Cohen’s topical standards, on yearning, struggle, spirituality, love, loss, lust, and mortality are all in abundance here, offered with a poet's insight.”.
• "It is, in short, and as we might have expected, a work of genius." 5/5 The Telegraph, "A quite brilliant release from an unmissable artist." BBC
CD ( £6.64) | MP3 ( ) | More from Leonard Cohen