50 Best Albums of 2012

Frank Ocean reimagined R&B; Dylan drenched us in blood; pop-punk vets, disco orchestras and Scottish oddballs made an election year bearable.

Dirty Projectors, 'Swing Lo Magellan'
50/50

50. Dirty Projectors, 'Swing Lo Magellan'

This album takes its name from the Portuguese mariner who was the first to circumnavigate the Earth, and why not? David Longstreth stuffs a whole lot of musical exploration into his three-minute songs. While nominally more "pop" than 2009's Bitte Orca, Swing Lo packs in wild twists and turns: power chords set against shifting meters; psychedelic dissonances that nod to Jimi Hendrix and Béla Bartók; loads of mind-bending harmony vocals. "I boogie down gargoyle streets," croons Longstreth. It's worth following him, wherever he goes.