The 53 Best Records of 2012

A List of What's New & Necessary from the Year that was.

About Our List...
The Annual Album Buyer's Guide is a celebration of music and personality. At the root of it all - the website, the shows, the sharing - it's all about the music that makes us go. We're music fans first and foremost. Nobody's wrong writing about the things that make them happen. Thanks for reading and being a part of it. We're really happy with everything you're about to discover here.

RSL's 2012 Album of the Year

There isn't a single bad song on Hacienda's "Shakedown," produced by Dan Auerbach. It mesmerized me from first-listen and has yet to release me. Unstoppable. This record summons all kinds of ghosts into the room. I've listened to this one dozens of times.
- Ryan Spaulding

Much of what we hear on the new one, "Arrow," from Heartless Bastards is a band's evolution into a state of excellence. Heartless Bastards have released the best record of their lives. This record gives me chills.
 - Ryan Spaulding

Sharon Van Etten and this record took me by storm. "Tramp" tied me up in emotional knots. It's all part of Sharon's plan: the songs are laid out like a series of labyrinths - intended for the listeners to get lost in. Surrender to this one.
- Ryan Spaulding

It's a great thing when people get famous for actually making exceptional music. This is a fantastic record and it's only surpassed by the band's live performance. Alabama Shakes are one of the most important bands in the world right now. If you don't already own it, you need this record.
- Ryan Spaulding

An instant classic here from Ted Billings, "American Bedrooms" harkens back to the personal records of the late 1980s by a mind that's contemporary and forward-moving. Listen to "American Bedrooms" and then listen to it again and again and again and you'll see what I mean.
- Ryan Spaulding


1. HaciendaShakedown
2. Heartless BastardsArrow (more)
3. Sharon Van EttenTramp
4. Alabama Shakes Boys and Girls (more)
5. Ted BillingsAmerican Bedrooms (more)
6. K Phillips & The Concho PearlsAmerican Girls (more)

7. Field Report – Field Report (more)
8. The LumineersThe Lumineers

9. Good Night, StatesCountry/Static (more)
10. Thieving IronsBehold, This Dreamer! (more)

11. Coyote Kolb – United State (more)
12. Tame ImpalaLonerism

13. RosebudsLove Deluxe *Sade - free download
14. Counting CrowsUnderwater Sunshine (album + photos)

15. Plants and Animals – The End of That (more)
16. Tallest Man on EarthThere’s No Leaving Now (more)

17. Father John MistyFear Fun
18. Jukebox the GhostSafe Travels (more)

19. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan (more)
20. Mellow Bravo – Mellow Bravo (more)

21. Diamond Rugs - Diamond Rugs

22. Delta SpiritDelta Spirit (more)
23. Daniel and the LionDeath Head (A side) (B side)

24. StepdadWildlife Pop
25. FantasmesRedness Moon

26. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Here (more)

27. Divine FitsA Thing Called Divine Fits
28. Bob Dylan – Tempest (more)

29. Communist Daughter - Lions & Lambs (more)

Lions & Lambs embodies a triumphant return for John Solomon and company after the singer/songwriter overcame his battles with addiction. The songs from Communist Daughter are smart and beautifully arranged with gorgeous harmonies, at times evoking Bon Iver and the Shins.
- Chris Fullerton

30. Shovels & Rope – O’ Be Joyful (more)
31. Family of the Year - Loma Vista (more)

Family of the Year comes at you with a wall of sound, vocals, guitars, keys, drums working in unison to overpower you with feelings of joy. In a world of dreary tunes, this collection of songs makes you want to sing at the top of your lungs while you dance with friends.
- Chris Fullerton

32. Good Old War – Come Back as Rain (more)

33. Kasey Anderson & the Honkies - Let the Bloody Moon Rise (more)
34. Lucero – Women & Work (more)

35. Christian McNeil and the Sea Monsters – Everything Is Up For Grabs (more)
36. Nneka - Soul Is Heavy
37. Christopher Paul Stelling – Songs of Praise and Scorn

There’s voodoo magic in the wandering old soul vocals and finger-picking fury of Christopher Paul Stelling. His astonishing debut album, Songs of Praise & Scorn, was recorded above a funeral parlor, an appropriate setting for this starkly beautiful work of art.
- Julie Stoller

38. Foreign Fields - Anywhere But Where I Am (more)

39. Air Traffic Controller - Nordo (more)
40. Kathleen EdwardsVoyageur (more)
41. Leonard CohenOld Ideas (more)
42. Of Monsters and MenLay Low (more)

43.  RIBSRussian Blood (more)
44. Cloud NothingsAttack on Memory (more + video)
45. Vivian DarkbloomKnow Your Exit (more)
46. Smoke FairiesBlood Speaks (more)
47. The Last BisonInheritance (more)

48. Dan Webb & The Spiders - Much Obliged

49. Kodacrome – Perla (more)
50. Jeff the BrotherhoodHypnotic Nights
51. Ty SegallTwins (more)
52. Avett BrothersThe Carpenter
53. The Minor Leagues - North College Hill (more)


Unknown said…

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Jay said…
Since seeing Heartless Bastards at the SXSW show last spring, I've had the opportunity to see them in Austin another 3 times, most recently opening for Grace Potter at Stubbs. Arrow is one of the most amazing albums I've listened to in recently. If you have a chance to see them live, don't hesitate....they are amazing. I can't wait for their next effort.
Ryan Spaulding said…
I couldn't agree more Jay! "Arrow" is a game-changer of a record. It really is marvelous. Heartless Bastards are probably the most underrated band in America today.
Jay said…
Just purchased Shakedown by Hacienda and listened to it twice already. All I can say is WOW! Even my 16 year old son likes them and he doesn't like anything I listen to!! Living in Austin, never knew they were just down the road. Looking forward to them performing around here soon.
Jay said…

Just want to say thanks for all you do to promote music. Can't wait for more details about the Outlaw Roadshow for this coming March at SXSW. I'll definitely be there....last year's show was unbelieveable. Best kept secret at SXSW!!

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