Making a list of my favorite albums of a year is fairly simple: I think of which discs I spun most often in my Jeep in 2012, then subtract the ones that weren't released in 2012 (even though I may have discovered them during that calendar year). For me, three albums got the most airtime in my vehicle last year. They are:
1. "Bloom" by Beach House -- The opening strains of introductory track "Myth" are so transporting that I told multiple people that this album would sound good on a plane. I had been listening to the disc for months assuming the lead singer was a dude with a slightly feminine voice until my music-geek buddy Chance (who recommended the album to me) pointed out that it's Victoria Legrand, a chick with a slightly masculine voice, who fronts this Baltimore outfit. Sometimes the gender of the musicians doesn't matter; if it sounds great, it sounds great.
2. "Battle Born" by The Killers -- Although Chance dismissed this album as a letdown, I think it found the perfect balance between the sometimes overproduced "Day & Age" (2008) and the straight-ahead rock of "Hot Fuss" (2003) and "Sam's Town" (2006). When those drums start pounding a minute into "Runaways" -- which continues to build like a stairway to rock heaven -- I'm not sure how anyone can't love this latest epic from Brandon Flowers and the boys.
3. "Glad All Over" by The Wallflowers -- I have this thing where I've kept track of my favorite Nineties bands even after they fell out of popular favor. This is the fourth very strong album put out by Jakob Dylan's band since the ubiquitous "Bringing Down the Horse" (1996). Like all of the discs, the tracks tend to alternate between really good and merely OK, but because there are no long stretches of boredom, they tend to get a lot of spins from me. The Wallflowers also have a tendency to not release their coolest songs as singles -- the prime example from this album is "It Won't Be Long." (Sorry, there's no great recording on YouTube -- the Wallflowers are notoriously hit-and-miss live -- but it sounds awesome on CD.)
As you may have figured out from my top three list, I'm not as much of a music geek as I am a TV or movie geek. However, I think you'll agree that my friend Chance Oja, who is currently compiling his top 50 list (!) of 2012 albums, easily qualifies for music geekdom. His recommendations often lead me to new favorite bands. Go to his blog, Mangoes and Music, to check out his countdown.
And share your own lists of 2012's best albums in the comment thread below.