The Best Albums of 2012 (So Far)

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We asked 10 Paste contributors about their favorite albums of 2012 so far:

Bo Moore – Assistant Videogames Editor
Reptar – Body Faucet
While the electropop scene may have diminished significantly since the near-ubiquity of Merriweather Post Pavilion and Oracular Spectacular, Reptar has kept the party alive. Last year’s EP, Oblangle Fizz Y’all, set the stage for the Athens-based electro/Afro-pop outfit, but full-length debut Body Faucet built on the groundwork laid by the likes of Vampire Weekend and Passion Pit, resulting in a fully formed effort that makes you wonder as much as it makes you dance.

Stephen M. Deusner – Contributing Writer
Lambchop – Mr. M
Just when you thought Lambchop had settled into a string of fine albums that would never play outside their pre-existing raft of fans, Kurt Wagner pares the notoriously massive Nashville orchestra down to a quintet and throws out some of his most assured lyrical compositions to date. Waxing melancholy about such mundane matters as Christmas lights, war movies, cooking and the passing of friends, he makes not only the best album of the band’s long career, but also the best album of the year.

Holly Gleason – Contributing Writer
John Fullbright – From the Ground Up
It’s been too long since a new singer/songwriter emerged with a truly startling—and complex—worldview, but the 23-year-old Okie sees hypocracy with a tenderness in religion, big business, society and even the Bible. With a voice plainer than a split-rail fence, he is Everyman channeling early Tom Waits, lean Leon Russell, an earthier Randy Newman, a less steroidal Steve Earle. Spare instrumentation let the language do the lifting and whether it’s the demi-carny “Fat Man,” the crunchy rumination of “Gawd Above” or the shining “Me Wanting You,” this opens up a modern folk lexicon with strong roots in the past of Woody Guthrie, Steve Goodman, Odetta and even Merle Haggard.

Mark Lore – Contributing Writer
King Tuff – King Tuff
Straddling the line between underground rock and upper-crust pop, King Tuff has released an early contender for best rock album of the year. It won’t change music, but it will make you yearn for the days when the anticipation of a release date was almost unbearable and spending an entire summer listening to one record was normal. Rock ‘n’ roll should always feel this good.

Geoffrey Himes – Contributing Writer
Kevin Gordon – Gloryland
The album includes the 10-minute story song “Colfax/Step in Time,” based on Gordon’s own experiences of marching in a middle-school band led by an African-American teacher when the Ku Klux Klan showed up in the same small Louisiana town on the same day. The subject matter is rich, but it’s the storytelling and musical flourishes that lift it beyond journalism into transcendant art, the best song of this young decade. A published poet with deep roots in Baton Rouge blues and Memphis rockabilly, Gordon creates several more story-songs about his Louisiana childhood and Nashville adulthood that are nearly as moving.

Patty Miranda, Intern
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
It’s a tall order, endeavoring to make a classic album. Killer Mike knew that going into his sixth studio release, and his choice to enlist veteran underground producer El-P was a pivotal one. Since R.A.P. Music’s release on May 15, the just under 46-minute LP has garnered widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike, bringing newfound recognition to both El and Mike. This is partly due to the pair’s out-of-studio close friendship, but mostly due to the union of El’s Brooklyn aural sensibilities and Mike’s strong Atlanta musical roots. Opposites have never meshed so well together.

Ryan Bort, Intern
Ty Segall + White Fence – Hair
Prolific San Fran garage rocker Ty Segall teamed up with White Fence’s Tim Presley to record Hair, a jangly collection of psychedelic folk that clocks in at just under half an hour. While still rife with fuzz, distortion and other psych-rock touchstones we’re used to hearing from Segall, Hair is executed with a sublime nonchalance that is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Mariah Czap, Intern
Bowerbirds – The Clearing
With its lyrical maturity, dynamic mix of instruments and stunning harmonies, The Clearing, the third album from the North Carolina-based band, tells the tale of life, death and everything in between. The album was primarily written in a hand-built cabin in the woods, and you can’t help but hear the organic textures in each track, creating a natural blend between Philip Moore and Beth Tacular’s voices. Once again, Bowerbirds give listeners a gentle, yet powerful folk record that could serve as the soundtrack to any mountain-filled road trip.

Erin Parisi, Intern
John Talabot fIN
Although he’s released a number of tracks since 2009, fIN is the debut album from Barcelona-based house producer John Talabot. It’s a mashup of IDM, hyperdub, deep house, indie pop and disco. The build and release with loops, vocal sounds and melodic lines pays homage to the structure of house music. The track “Destiny” has a wonderfully extended break-down.

Darren Orf, Intern
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
With their sophomore album, Vancouver-native Japandroids have settled into something that can be best described as controlled chaos. Celebration Rock might not be as sonically complex as other albums in 2012, but the duo bites through every fist-pumping anthem and celebrates the simple joy and power that still thrives behind crunching guitar and screaming vocals. When you hear the quiet fireworks that introduce the album, hold on: It’s going to get loud.

The Best of 2012 (So Far) Collaborative Rdio Playlist

For this collaborative playlist, we invite you to add a song from your favorite album from the first half of 2012. Please just add one song per person and make sure it’s a 2012 release. The Paste staff will get things started off with our favorites.