As I looked back on the 2012 rock landscape and reviewed the year’s best rock music, I realized that I’ve definitely become more of an Indie Rock fan over the past few years. 2012 brought us lots of great Indie rock, but we also heard some rocking albums in the mainstream. You may see a few albums here that you’re not familiar with, but I implore you to check them out. You’ll open your ears to some killer new rock, and impress the hell out of your friends. (After each selection, you’ll find a link to check them out on iTunes as well as our recommendations if you just want to grab a few tracks off of each album).
So, here are the Farmer’s Dozens in reverse order. The two dozen best rock albums of the year:
Bonus Selection: Each farmer’s dozen comes with a bonus, so here are two: Grouplove, Never Trust a Happy Song and The Black Keys, El Camino. Both of these albums would be at the top of our 2012 list… if we had not already recognized them in 2011. Here’s our Top Rock Albums of 2011, to see what else we visionaries were thinking last year.
23. Lovedrug, Wild Blood – These Indie rockers out of Ohio are powered by Michael Sheppard’s unique voice and a nice Kickstarter campaign. Best tracks: “Premonition” and “Ladders.” Read our full review
21. Green River Ordinance, Under Fire – Great rock ‘n roll harmonies from this quintet out of Forth Worth. They offer up a diverse selection of tunes on another self-funded effort. Best tracks: “Dark Night” and “Lost in the World.” Read our full review
20. Mumford and Sons, Babel – A nice follow-up to their hugely successful 2009 release Sigh No More for these barrier-breaking folk rockers. Best tracks: “I Will Wait” and “The Boxer” (Simon and Garfunkel cover).
19, Dinosaur Jr., I Bet on Sky – The Massachusetts Alt-Rockers continue to put out solid Alt-Rock with their distinctive brand of guitar rock. Every song is good on this one. Best tracks: “Rude” and “Pierce the Morning Rain.”
18. Luke Dowler, Polarized - Dowler’s music offers raw vocals with an urgent passion, mixed with poignant lyrics about world affairs, relationships and deep personal faith: Good stuff from Big Sky Country. Best tracks: “Polarized” and “Gun.” Read our full review
17. Jack White, Blunderbuss – White breaks away from the shackles and structure of his former band mates in The White Stripes and Raconteurs and it works nicely. Best Tracks: “Love Interruption” and “Trash Tongue Talker.”
16. The Shins, Port of Morrow – Fantastic lyrics, beautiful harmonies and rock and roll that just oozes likability I just wish these New Mexico natives would put out album more often than every four years. Best tracks: “Simple Song” and “It’s Only Life.”
15. Muse, The 2nd Law – The band, built for stadium rock, took some chances on this, their sixth release. This stuff is nothing like what we’ve heard from them before, but it is intriguing and captivating. Best tracks: “Madness” and “Survival.”
14. The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten – Talented New Jersey rockers who offer up their most polished record to date. Strong heart felt rock and roll with excellent lyrics. Best tracks” “Too Much Blood” and “45.” Read our full review
13. The Killers, Battle Born – Brandon Flowers and the band never disappoint. One of the year’s best produced albums and it shows the band moving in a more mature direction. Best tracks: Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb.”
12. Neon Trees, Picture Show – Everybody talked about “Everybody Talks,” but this album was much more than one hit. Tyler Glenn is a future superstar and highlights his broad talent throughout the band’s third album. Best tracks: “I am the DJ” and “Everybody Talks.”
11. Django Django, Django Django – Hip, cool, groovy, rock ‘n roll with an oddly familiar feel considering this is the band’s debut. Mixes the best of the sixties, eighties and modern times. Best tracks: Default” and “WOR.”
10. Metric, Synthetica – From the opening lines of “Artificial Nocturne,” where Emily Haines offers “I’m just as fucked up as they say,” this album demands your attention. Some deep introspective tracks disguised as excellent pop rock songs. Best tracks: “Youth Without Youth” and “Breathing Underwater.”
9. Thousand Foot Krutch, The End is Where We Begin - The songs are positive Christian rock but these guys don’t slam you over the head with their beliefs. It’s solid, active rock music that any hard rock fan will enjoy. A very diverse selection from a band returning to their Indie roots. Best tracks: “War of Change” and “All I Need to Know.” Read our full review
8. The Wallflowers, Glad All Over – Jacob Dylan continues to evolve as a musician and has never sounded better than he does now. Excellent music with soulful vocals on a selection of tracks guaranteed to grow on you with each listen. Best tracks: “It’s a Dream” and “Reboot the Mission.”
7. The Drowning Men, All of the Unknown - They’re back with their second full-length album release, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label, which builds on the success of their fantastic debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow. These Indie rockers remind me a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent. Best Tracks: “A Fool’s Campaign” and “Lost in a Lullaby.” Read our full review
6. Green Day, ‘¡Uno!‘ – Billie Joe Armstrong needs to be recognized as the prolific rock songwriter he is. He and his longtime band mates never fail to put out good music and this is another prime example. A great fresh punk/pop sound from our favorite So Cal trio. They released three good albums this year, this one was the best of the bunch. Best tracks: “Oh Love” and “Let Yourself Go.”
5. Fun., Some Nights – So much more than “We Are Young.” This masterfully produced album is a great vehicle for the talented vocal stylings of Nate Ruess and is packed with memorable addicting ditties. Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost round out the trio and lend their voices to create impressive harmonies throughout. On Some Nights, Fun. has developed a unique sound and carved a nice niche in today’s Alt-Rock landscape. Best tracks: Why Am I the One” and “Carry On.” Read our full review
4. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal. This talented Icelandic band has taken advantage of the revitalized interest in folksy rock courtesy of Mumford and Sons, but have kicked it up a notch. Great, fun rock songs with amazing boy/girl vocals and meaningful lyrics; as well as a few tracks that are strictly fantasy adventures like the addictive “From Finner.” Best tracks: “Mountain Sound” and “Little Talks,”
3. River City Extension, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger – The second release from this talented octet out of New Jersey is a musical and lyrical journey well worth a listen. It’s a folk rock/Americana album packed with original sounds and with each listen a different track stands out. Joe Michelini, the band’s singer and guitarist is the primary songwriter and he takes us through a varied collection of memories. He offers: “Half of this record is love songs, and the other half is ‘I’m sorry that I fucked up’ songs,” and he writes about both in a compelling way. Best tracks: “Glastonbury” and “Ballad of Oregon.” Read our full review
2. Shinedown, Amaryllis – I loved “Bully” the moment I heard it and was pleasantly surprised to hear the excellent diversity on the rest of the album. It’s aggressive, powerful, passionate rock that’s impossible to put down. The Jacksonville based band has only put out four albums in their decade plus together, and each one has gotten just a little bit better. Rolling Stone hated the album, which in itself is proof that it’s mainstream rock for the masses. Amaryllis is one of the best hard rock albums in years and it’s packed with great songs. Best tracks: “Unity” and “I’m Not Alright.”
1. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball – I had just about written off the sage of the Garden State, but this is one of Springsteen’s best efforts in years. The music is superb, and the lyrics even better. It’s a bitter, but honest look at what Corporate Greed and idiot politicians have done to his country, and Springsteen pulls it off by surrounded the words with excellent music At times, he evokes memories of the E Street Band’s greatest anthems, at other times he has us heading down an entirely new path, such as the Celtic rock feel in the fantastic “Death of My Hometown.” Best other tracks: “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball.”
There you have it – the best rock albums of 2012, according to me. Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.