Backbeat writers sound off on the year's best national albums

See also: Moovers and Shakers 2012: Backbeat writers praise the year's best local albums

Backbeat writers sound off on the year's best national albums

This past year was another splendid one for music. Despite the fact that the music industry continues to teeter on its own fiscal cliff, creativity of the artists abounds. And while there were plenty of records that made us grateful for the advent of Spotify, so that we could consume without actually having to commit, there were just as many albums worth actually owning. As we do every year around this time, we asked our army of talented wordsmiths to give us a few words about each of their favorite releases. As expected, while there were some crossover conflicts that were resolved by a few friendly bouts of arm wrestling, for the most part, everybody's tastes completely ran the gamut, from EDM and death metal to folk, hip-hop and everything in between. Below you'll find the records that moved us the most in 2012.

See also: Moovers and Shakers 2012: Backbeat writers praise the year's best local albums

Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls (ATO). Seamlessly distilling rock and roll, R&B and blues back into whatever primordial truth informs them all, Alabama Shakes delivered one of the most refreshing records of the year. There are moments that are Rolling Stones-esque, but they're awesome, not derivative. The outfit synthesizes old and new in wonderful ways. — Patrick Rodgers

Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel... (Epic). Don't call it a comeback: Seven-year lapses between albums are nothing new for the notoriously stubborn Apple. Playing with more expansive, less hooky compositions, The Idler Wheel doesn't impress on first listen — yet with a bit of patience (as this proven songsmith deserves), it slowly soaks into your bones, revealing a treasure of provocative musical choices and characteristically vivid lyrics. — Josiah Hesse

Azealia Banks, Fantasea (Self-released). Although the single "212" put her on the map, it was the Fantasea mixtape that confirmed Azealia Banks was the most exciting new act in the game. Her flow slays on cuts like "Fuck Up the Fun," and she goes from attack to seduction mode in mere seconds on songs like "Luxury." Banks has a big, badass future ahead of her. — Cory Lamz

Bassnectar, Freestyle EP (Amorphous Music). Never one to miss out on the opportunity to showcase new music, Bassnectar caught some listeners by surprise with his Freestyle EP, which reflected a strong hip-hop influence. In fact, Lorin Ashton, the brainchild behind Bassnectar, has honed his heavy-metal sound by delving deeply into hip-hop, which laid the foundation for his popularity. — Britt Chester

Beach House, Bloom (Sub Pop). Just when it seemed like things couldn't get any better than Beach House's 2010 release, Teen Dream, Bloom came along. But while Bloom is expectedly luminous, lush and brimming with emotion — the tenets of the band's sound haven't changed — it reveals even more facets of an already complex personality. — Sam Alviani

Beats Antique, Contraption Vol. II (Antique Records). Beats Antique, the EDM gypsies of our time, have found the formula for success: Create upbeat, danceable music and couple it with a live performance that does that music justice. Utilizing the vocals of Lynx again, tracks like "Crooked Muse" and "Skeleton Key" remind you why you fell in love with these belly-dancing multi-instrumentalists in the first place. — Chester

Big K.R.I.T., 4eva in a Day (Self-released). While waiting for Def Jam to drop his highly anticipated album, Big K.R.I.T. dropped a gem of a mixtape, narrating a day in the life of the Mississippi MC. K.R.I.T. raised the bar for his contemporaries and himself when he dropped this excellent project. — Antonio Valenzuela

Crystal Castles, III (Casablanca Records). Setting aside some of the cartoonish aspects of previous albums, Crystal Castles reveal more of the dark side of its music. From Samuel Aranda's haunting cover image to songs about the consequences of violence on the interpersonal and international levels, this third album is weighty but never heavy-handed. — Tom Murphy

Dan Deacon, America (Domino). Before writing the songs on this record, Dan Deacon must have had an epiphany about using turbulent, frantic and beautiful music to reflect the story of America and its place in the world right now. The album gives voice to the desperation and hopefulness within the American spirit while yearning for simpler, more inspiring times. — Murphy

Deadmau5, >album title goes here< (Ultra). Leave it to Deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) to release yet another tongue-in-cheek-titled album. Featuring artists such as Wolfgang Gartner, Imogen Heap, Cypress Hill, Chris James and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, Deadmau5 leaves no stone unturned in his quest for musical domination. — Chester

Death Grips, The Money Store/No Love Deep Web (Epic/Self-released). A bracing fusion of noise, dub, IDM, math rock and hip-hop, Death Grips' two releases explore a raw, brutal aesthetic that was never trying to be anything anyone outside the band was expecting. Menacing, abrasive, forbidding, stark and blunt, this music was clearly made to either alienate or inspire. — Murphy

Mac Demarco, 2 (Captured Tracks). Mac Demarco's lovingly worn-out, David Lynchian vibe makes it seem like he's been making artful records for decades. But 2012 saw his first releases (the beautiful Rock N' Roll Night Club came out this year, too), and Demarco benefited from being able to introduce himself in a visual sense, as well, with the warbly VHS "Ode to Viceroy" only adding to his appeal. — Bree Davies

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