List Criteria: As usual, I don't include live albums, compilations, or reissues
Limiting to just a Top 20 turned out kind of challenging this year, which either means I listened to a lot more music in 2012 or that it was just a far better year than most. Not sure which. Spotify certainly makes the former more likely, and also is the main reason I found myself trending more towards playlists and individual songs this year than listening to albums straight-through, which used to be basically the only way I listened to music. So I think a Top Songs of 2012 might actually be more telling about the way I heard new music this year... but still, a Top Albums list is standard and, as I said, there were more than enough complete album experiences I enjoyed in 2012 to fill out a good list.
In particular, this is an intense Top 5. Fiona Apple returns with probably her best overall collection of songs to date, Tame Impala made the year's most listenable rock album - and probably the one that will hold up the best after another year or two of listens - Dinosaur Jr. continued the greatest rock reunion imaginable, Kendrick Lamar proved definitely that rappers are the only ones who can pull off a concept album any more, and Grizzly Bear continued to mesmerize.