Hi, New Year! Starting ahead by looking back… yes, it’s time for the best of 2012 lists! I make no promises to get past the music list (I didn’t last year), but at least for now, here are my top 12 albums of 2012. The first few are pretty much in order, and the rest are records I returned to multiple times and loved throughout 2012. It’s by no means a definitive “OMG BEST!” list (because really, who can write that?), but it is the soundtrack to my year…

Andrew Peterson – Light for the Lost Boy: Sure, I’m inclined to like anything AP releases. Sure, this record pushes musical boundaries, is lyrically cohesive and deep, and contains lots of nerdy literary references while sounding incredibly pretty. But it also has an emotional resonance that is impossible to define in words and a spirit that haunts long after the final notes fade. Also, it made me ugly cry in my car once. This album defined 2012 in so many ways. (Highlights: Come Back Soon, Carry the Fire, You’ll Find Your Way, Don’t You Want to Thank Someone)

Matthew Perryman Jones – Land of the Living: Discovered on Noisetrade, and oh, is it glorious. A spacious, gritty, anthemic, earthy, spiritual desert valley of a record, the kind that gets in your soul and doesn’t let go. I still can’t get enough of it. (Highlights: O Theo, Waking Up the Dead, Cancion de la Noche, Land of the Living)

Audrey Assad – Heart: I was a fan of Audrey’s debut, but I always felt like it was only scratching the surface of what she could do. I’m pretty sure Heart is the album she was born to make. Gently passionate piano pop with a 70’s songwriter flair. Beautiful. (Highlights: Even the Winter, O My Soul, Lament, Slow)

Mumford & Sons – Babel: At first, I wasn’t sure it could hold up against Sigh No More for me, but Babel very became an oft-played favorite of mine. Their songs have passion, grit, and soul, the kind that you want to play a little loud, get a little angry, and shout along with. Here’s to making banjos cool again. (Highlights: Whispers in the Dark, Holland Road, Lover of the Light, Hopeless Wanderer, Not with Haste)

fun. – Some Nights: It’s kind of embarrassing how much I love this record. It’s weird, brash, anthemic, simultaneously hipster and Top 40, happy and melancholy with the right mix of swagger and nostalgia. Kind of reminds me of attempting to describe Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, though it’s probably not that serious. Also, I will forever associate it with the time I got a flat tire on the Turnpike. It made the drive bearable. (Highlights: Some Nights, We Are Young, Carry On, All Alone)

Derek Webb – Ctrl / Sola-Mi – Nexus: No album made me think half as much as I did while puzzling out the mysteries of Ctrl, but when Derek Webb confirmed that his side project Sola-Mi was a companion piece designed to seamlessly blend into the story, my brain exploded. An inseparable duo, these two albums combined tell a disturbing sort of love story about the places humanity and technology meet. (Highlights: Blocks, Attonitos Gloria, Crowd of Silent Strangers, Trust Falling)

Andrew Osenga – Leonard the Lonely Astronaut: A sci-fi concept record about loneliness, love, and forgiveness…. recorded in a spaceship studio. This was too nerdy and awesome to not support on Kickstarter, but it turns out to be a rather heartbreaking and introspective work of art. Also, the B-sides EP has a song about space pirates. (Highlights: Ever and Always, Hold On Boy, Firstborn Son, It Was Not Good for Man to be Alone)

Paper Route – The Peace of Wild Things: Noisetrade introduced me to Paper Route’s fantastic debut Absence, but the follow up release made me love them more. Gloriously hooky, smart electronic pop that sounds a bit like the 80s meets OneRepublic meets a less spacey M83. (Highlights: Two Hearts, Better Life, Glass Heart Hymn, You and I)

Gungor – A Creation Liturgy (Live): Normally, I wouldn’t put a live album on one of these lists, but truth be told, this could be the best live record I’ve ever heard. Rather than a mere rehash of songs already released, this is a stirring experience that captures the heart of a Gungor show. (Highlights: Let There Be, Spotless/You Have Me, We Will Run/He is Here)

Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal: A delightfully quirky Icelandic indie-folk band that I discovered on a friend’s recommendation. I’m not really sure how to describe them other than super catchy and fun. (Highlights: King and Lionheart, Mountain Sound, Little Talks)

Anberlin – Vital: Anberlin was a huge part of my college days, and sometimes I think I’ve outgrown them. It’s true. Then a new record comes along and I buy it on principle and suddenly I’m a college kid again. It’s different, it pushes and experiments in multi-textured alternative rock, but at the core, it’s another fantastically fun, fist-pumping alternative rock record. (Highlights: Little Tyrants, Other Side, Innocent, Modern Age)

Eric Peters – Birds of Relocation: I slowly started getting into Eric Peters last year, starting with Chrome, a haunting, honest, and heartbreaking folk record. Three years later, Birds is the perfect counterpoint, tempering the melancholy with true heartfelt joy. These songs are quietly subversive, getting into your heart before you know it. (Highlights: The Old Year (of Denial), Don’t Hold Your Breath, Voices)

Honorable Mentions: As in, I didn’t listen to these a ton for whatever reason, but I enjoyed them at some point… um, 2012 was a good year.

Matthew Mayfield – A Banquet for Ghosts, David Crowder Band – Give Us Rest, Andrew Bird – Break it Yourself, Jack White – Blunderbuss, Bebo Norman – Lights of Distant Cities, House of Heroes – Cold Hard Want, Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror, Regina Spektor – What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, Anchor & Braille – The Quiet Life, The Killers – Battle Born, Kimbra – Vows, Sucre – A Minor Bird, The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter,  Dave Barnes – Stories to Tell, Sigur Ros – Valtari, Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts