The Top 20 Albums Of 2012


I haven’t listened to as many full albums as I usually do this year, especially when it comes to Australian music. So more than ever before this really is a list of my favourite albums of the year, rather than the best albums of the year. With that being said, all the end-of-year lists I’ve read so far have been very similar, so at least this one might be a little different. And there have been some albums this year that I absolutely and unreservedly adore. Here are some of them.


Andrew Bird

“What would you have us pay? I didn’t know that your love was a commodity.” 

This is Andrew Bird’s best release in quite a while, probably since 2007, and demonstrates a songwriter still at the peak of his powers. I’ll never get over how awesome his whistling is.


Last Dinosaurs

“The future the future yeah it stays true.”

This is the only Australian album on this list, and I’m not sure whether that’s a sadder indictment of me or Australian music in 2012. Probably me. Anyway whatever, this is a great record from an old favourite who are finally getting the recognition they deserve.


Alabama Shakes

“Don’t worry, sweet baby. Don’t you ever worry ’bout a thing.”

Alabama Shakes do the impossible and make preacher music cool.  I don’t like this album as much as I did earlier in the year, but it’s still very solid and very enjoyable.


Django Django

“It’s like a default.”

Unfortunately nothing on Django Django’s debut album comes close to the brilliance of its lead single, but even so it’s a record that manages to be both experimental and fun, which is all too rare.


Hip Hatchet

“She said that every good song mentions rain”

Hip Hatchet are one of my biggest discoveries of this year. They play honest, untarnished and raw folk music and maintain a sense of intimacy that makes you feel like you’re listening to them in a warm bar on a cold night surrounded by friends.


Think Bigger

“I’m only human, I watch stories on TV. They give me an ending when an ending’s all I need.”

Cosmo Jarvis’ most straightforward, accessible, and focused record to date is easily his best. It’s also still full of his trademark endearing special little touches that make this album a joy to listen to.


Sharon Van Etten

“Everyone changes in time. I hope he changes this time.”

While this album is full of attention-grabbing guest musicians, the real star is Sharon Van Etten and that incredible voice, as well as the impeccable song-writing.


The Walkmen

“I don’t need perfection, I love the whole. Give me a life that needs correction.”

The Walkmen are one of the most consistent bands around at the moment, but this album is more than ‘solid’: it’s downright fantastic.


Freelance Whales

“We have the rations to go anywhere.”

Freelance Whales’ music is so intimate that it feels like I’m listening to them busking on the streets of New York back before they even released any albums. Just like their debut record, this album just feels intangibly special in a way I can’t really describe.


Various Cruelties

“Set the night on fire, we’re gonna tear it apart.”

Oddly, the release of Various Cruelties’ debut record seems almost to have halted the momentum that they were building. However despite the slightly indifferent reception to this record I still think it’s pretty great; full of fun and polished pop songs that would sound at home in a stadium.


The Tallest Man On Earth

“I was more than just a coward, I was handsome too.”

Whilst perhaps not reaching the lofty heights of The Tallest Man On Earth’s earlier two records, there’s still a bounty of pure and touching folk music to be discovered here.


Sigur Ros


Sigur Rós’ latest album certainly isn’t their best, but it’s still a very powerful and moving record that sounds like nothing else in the world. Which can only be a good thing.



“Pacing down the balance beam of half-remembered holidays.”

Shearwater have always been a fantastic band, but they reached a new level with this record, which somehow feels both otherwordly and like home.


The Lumineers

“I don’t know where I went wrong, but I can write a song.”

The Lumineers’ debut record is ridiculously easy to listen to and ridiculously easy to like. It’s full of instantly accessible and catchy folk songs that often hide a deeper meaning behind their shimmering surface.


Put Your Back N 2 It

“I will take the dark part of your heart into my heart.”

One of the worst-named and most depressing albums of the year is also one of the best. This is music so fragile that it feels like it will shatter if you listen too closely. Emotionally powerful to deadly effect.



“Take your time with it, all of it.  And what we miss we miss, and what we see is what we get.”

The American folk band Bowerbirds make good on their potential with this, their third record. Full of beautiful, dark, haunting, poignant songs, this is everything that folk music can and should be.


Cloud Nothings

“I want to be like you, show me what I should do.”

At times Cloud Nothings’  third record can be brutal and heavy, and the lead vocals can be slightly grating, but there’s so much energy and passion here, as well as some great melodies, that it’s hard not fall in for it.


Of Monsters And Men

“And as I looked around, I began to notice that we were nothing like the rest.”

Of Monsters And Men are the new Mumford And Sons, and it’s a shame that it’s become hip to hate on them so quickly. Because there’s nothing not to like about their debut album: it’s full of heartfelt, genuine, catchy, fun music that at times is simply spectacular.


Lonesome Dreams

“No time to rest, I’m gonna find me a life.”

Lord Huron’s debut full-length was a long time coming, but it was undoubtedly worth the wait. This is poetic and vivid music that will transport you to another world and another time, and you’ll never want to leave. Really stunning stuff.


“He opens his eyes, the day has begun. Pours black coffee in the morning sun.”

This should come as no surprise to anyone. I had been waiting forever for the debut album from Inspired And The Sleep, and it not only lived up to my expectations but surpassed them. The old favourites are all here, but there are also a heap of new and fantastic songs, all with a very distinctive and unique feel to them. This is a really special, really beautiful record.

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