The records that for us, define the very best in the past year's music
Gigwise
16:38 14th December 2012

2012 has been a very brilliant year for music, but an even better year for new music and smaller bands.

A glance through our Top Ten albums of the year shows that many of the bands on the list are still in the early stages of their career and, despite having released hugely impressive albums in 2012, have huge potential to become even more amazing in the future.

Picking the album of the year was tough, but it came down to choosing the one album that Gigwise listened to on repeat when it was released and that still sounds fresh months later. The album that still surprises us with additional listens and one we recommend everyone has in their collection.

We've been counting down our favourite albums of 2012 all this week. Check out our number 50 - 11 on the links below.

Nos 50 - 41: Jack White to Jake Bugg

Nos 40 - 31: Ellie Goulding to Jessie Ware

Nos 30 - 21: Muse and Maccabees to Tame Impala

Nos 20 - 11: Kanye West to Perfume Genius

Check out our top ten albums below. Click NEXT to scroll through and see what we chose.

  • 10. The Vaccines - Come of Age: After What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, many people expected The Vaccines to fade into obscurity as just another buzz band to be chewed up and spat out again at the arrival of an inevitable disappointing second album. Sceptics and doubters were proved wrong. Come of Age is a rechanneling and elaboration of their debut; a sophistication of their token quick burning punk-inspired songs into a more reflective effort. Justin Young still sings about laymen's issues, but this time it's with the sullen insistence of being 'Reserved and shy your average guy/ No piercing stare/ Just out of shape with messy hair'. Standout track: 'Aftershave Ocean'

  • 9. The Japandroids - Celebration Rock: There's something so impassioned and urgent about Celebration Rock, in a way that loses all of the pretensions that sometimes come along with writing about youth. If you've ever worried about growing up - or that you've already grown up - then at least one song on Celebration Rock will resonate with you. More likely, all of them will. It's crazy and unstoppable - and about being fearless. Celebration Rock burns like a roman candle, a tense adrenaline-fuelled firework of an album - and it's all the better when it explodes. Standout track: 'Younger Us'

  • 8. The XX - Coexist: The XX conquered the difficult second album syndrome with a record that more than matches its predecessor. In many ways this record is a better crafted and more thorough body of work than XX. It may not be as instantly likeable as their debut record, but after a few listens it's under your skin before you can say Jamie XX. As we have come to expect The XX are still boldly minimalistic, creating songs that are built from single chords and delicate vocals full of heart and emotion. Sombre and moody, but well worth the three year wait. Standout track: 'Angels'

  • 7. The Skints - Part & Parcel: Given the band's name the cover of their first album, you'd be forgiven for dismissing The Skints as just another ska-punk band on regular rotation at Camden's Underworld. But second album Part & Parcel shows them to be something a whole bunch more than that. They've got rid of the knotty punk passages that used to punctuate their music and have begun to craft a brand of reggae music that's wholly original and entirely their own. The presence of Prince Fatty's production is apparent throughout the record, but only really as a guiding hand in allowing The Skints to fulfil their potential. Standout Track: 'Ratatat'

  • 6. Best Coast - The Only Place: Best Coast are catchy, sunkissed and fun - and sometimes that's just what's needed from an album. The Only Place sees the band take all the good bits of of Crazy For You and add some even better bits - forget whining, Cosentino sings and means it. Complicated isn't always necessarily better, and Best Coast keep their songs deceptively simple. Blues roots sit alongside 60s lo-fi inspired pop - angsty lyrics with a soaring melody. Regardless of critics, Best Coast are determined to keep doing what they do, and they do it well. Standout track: 'How They Want Me To Be'

  • 5. Sigur Ros - Valtari: After the pop sounds of previous album, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, and Jonsi's solo release Go, the ethereal landscapes of Valtari came as something of a curveball from the Icelandic superstars. But beneath the surfaces of haunting, barely-there tracks such as 'Ekki Mukk' and the delicate 'Fjogur Piano' there lies great intricacy, and warmth is extracted from the most sparse of tracks. Then of course, there are tracks such as 'Varud' and 'Daugalogn', which, in total contrast bombard the listener with heavenly crescendos packed with orchestras and choirs. There's nothing on here to keep the ad man as happy as 'Hoppipolla' of course, but Valtari finds its strength not in crowd-pleasers, but instead in a depth and sense of majesty no other band could hope to achieve. Standout track: 'Varud'

  • 4. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls: Making blues inspired rock relevant in 2012 is no mean feat, but somehow Alabama Shakes manages it, and without an ounce of pretension or trace of being contrived. Boys & Girls is above all else cool in the original sense of the word - everything about the record is raw and soulful. Brittany Howard's voice melts over the rippling riffs before bursting into flourishes of pained soliloquy about topics ranging from God to heartache. Authentic instrumentals, ambiguous lyrics and an unavoidable sense of a band at the peak of creative brilliance, Boys & Girls is the most intriguing albums of 2012. Standout track: 'Hold On'

  • 3. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave: There isn't much more to say about this album that hasn't already been said: Mercury Prize Award winning, mould-breaking and best-selling. An Awesome Wave was worked on for five years by the Cambridge-based band and they are blessed to have a lead singer with one of the most unique vocal ranges around. A hushed falsetto, gentle piano, guitars and drum kicks make for one of the best records of 2012. Completely addictive listening, An Awesome Wave deserves all the plaudits it receives this year. Standout Track: 'Tesselate'

  • 2. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange: Channel Orange is an album that likely to become a seminal record in R&B when it's looked back on. In a time when the R&B scene has been getting increasingly stagnant and at risk of being entirely absorbed by pop, Ocean's album is a breath of fresh air in its forward thinking attitude. Heartfelt, painfully honest and wonderfully put together, it's a great listen as well as being representative of some very important developments withing R&B. You'd think that all anyone would be able to talk about this year would be Ocean's sexuality, but no one really cares when there's an album this good on offer. Standout Track: 'Super Rich Kids'

  • 1. Twin Shadow - Confess: So this is the album we are placing at No.1 on our countdown on the year. And why? For a start, Confess is a flawless record. George Lewis JR sets the bar from opening track, the Lost Boys-sampling 'Golden Light' and doesn't miss a beat across the album's haunting, uplifting 11 tracks. A perfect blend of pop hooks and dark, sexual undertones, Confess is also rides high on its cinematic scope, drawing influence from the aforementioned Lost Boys - but tossing in the uplifitng nature of The Breakfast Club for good measure. If Justin Timberlake is ever to make his pop comeback, he needs to take this album as his template. A perfect blend of squealing rock guitars and pounding r&b beats. Our album of 2012. Standout track: 'Five Seconds'