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Mid-Year Report: The Best Albums of 2012 So Far

From Bruce to Best Coast and beyond, 40 of our favorite albums from the last six months

best albums 2012

Halfway through 2012, we've already heard tons of great new music. Here's an unranked list of 40 of the year's best albums so far, as selected by Rolling Stone editors – from Bruce to Best Coast, Grimes to Garbage and much more.

UPDATE: Rolling Stone's Best Albums of 2012

50 Best Albums of 2011
50 Best Singles of 2011
Rob Sheffield's Top 25 Songs of 2011

Hospitality, ‘Hospitality’

Catchy cuteness meets ace young-urbanite vignettes on the New York band's debut.

Read the RS review: "Amber Papini's lyrics keep the merry-sounding tunes grounded in reality . . . The melodies are stickier than hot tar, but it's those vivid little scenes that lodge in your head the longest."

Escort, ‘Escort’

New York disco orchestra gives the mirror ball a spin on its debut LP.

Read the RS review: "Got lamé? If not, this 17-member New York collective are offering the aural equivalent: a wickedly catchy, note-perfect return to the heyday of disco, with every high-hat sizzle and string shiver glittering like spangled hot pants."

Escort Stage a Disco Revival
RS Playlist: Escort, 'Escort'
Free Download: Escort, 'Why Oh Why (Pound Sterling Remix)'

Garbage, ‘Not Your Kind of People’

Shirley Manson returns, still spitting fire amid hallucinatory rock thrills.

Read the RS review: "There are enough effects and musical fight sequences to make Michael Bay jealous, but trickery means nothing without a sympathetic star . . . So even at her most cynical, on 'I Hate Love,' [Manson] remains hopeful and hungry for more."

Garbage Make Their Big Comeback
#RSFans: The Year's Most Anticipated Reunions
Video: Garbage Rip Through 'I Think I'm Paranoid'

Norah Jones, ‘Little Broken Hearts’


A queen of chill brings in Danger Mouse for a groovier, more adventurous sound.

Read the RS review: "Norah Jones sometimes gets derided for being too downtempo – which, really, is like hating on peaches for being juicy. But her fifth album . . . both picks up her pace and pumps up her palette."


In the Studio: Norah Jones and Danger Mouse Craft 'Weird' LP
Video: Norah Jones Returns to 'Letterman'
Song Story: Norah Jones, 'Happy Pills' 

Alabama Shakes, ‘Boys and Girls’

One part Janis, one part Robert Plant: Brittany Howard says hello.

Read the RS review: "'Just let me be your ticket home,' [singer Brittany Howard] pleads on 'You Ain't Alone.' Home might be a one-room shack in the backwoods somewhere, so bring your own bottled water. This party might last a while."

Muscle Shoals Revival: Alabama Shakes Take Off
Video: Alabama Shakes Rock 'Letterman'
Alabama Shakes Lead the Charge at Bonnaroo

Django Django, ‘Django Django’

Scotsmen craft art pop full of hooks, wit and weirdness.

Read the RS review: "[Django Django] take a light, spry approach to their groove-centered music, which is experimental but never dour . . . Wherever they travel, Django Django sound relaxed and joyful."

Sharon Van Etten, ‘Tramp’

The singer-songwriter turns complicated love into slo-mo stunners.

Read the RS review: "Tramp plays like a female version of Beck's Sea Change, setting spacey guitar hum, tidal rhythms and pass-the-Xanax melodies against lyrics about silent love and bad timing . . . Your soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend will have this on blast."

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, ‘Here’

The L.A. collective stretches out, with folk fantasias, psychedelic jams, "Kumbaya" country.

Read the RS review: "Much of the LP has a post-Altamont, let's-be-mellow-around-the-campfire vibe (see gospel-soul tunes like 'That's What's Up') minus that era's sense of spiritual depletion. It's the kind of magical revisionism you can attempt 45 years down the line. And they damn near pull it off."

Big Easy Express Captures Mumford, Edward Sharpe Railroad Tour
Photos: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros Through the Years
Video: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, 'Man on Fire'

Justin Townes Earle, ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now’


A dusty-booted craftsman nods to Southern soul.

Read the RS review: "Thematically, [Earle] continues his chronicle of a life balanced (barely) on the edge. Love is elusive; the legacy of his father, Steve Earle, is a blessing and a curse, and the road exhausts and exhilarates."


Video: Justin Townes Earle on Letterman
RS Playlist: Justin Townes Earle, 'Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now'

M. Ward, ‘A Wasteland Companion’

She and Him's him mixes up folky beauty, rough-cut gems.

Read the RS review: "If Matt Ward tends to be overlooked among indie rock's greatest talents, it's because dude hangs back – behind Zooey Deschanel in She and Him, behind Conor Oberst and Jim James in Monsters of Folk, behind the scenes as collaborator . . . But his own LPs show why everyone wants to be his friend."

Video: M. Ward on New Album, the Blues and the Beatles
M. Ward Plays Private Show for KCRW

Allo Darlin’, ‘Europe’

The U.K. band makes old jangle-pop moves sound fresh, with sharp wit and tunes that don't quit.

Read the RS review: "What sets them apart are [singer Elizabeth Morris'] understated wit – 'They could name a star after you and you'd still be complaining,' she sings on 'Neil Armstrong' – and the clear enthusiasm of her bandmates, who hurtle through every jangly chord change like they're falling into a new romance."

Bobby Womack, ‘The Bravest Man in the Universe’

The soul great and Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn roll into the future.

Read the RS review: "He's at home testifying over coolly throbbing beats, and on the anti-war title track Womack pleads for brotherly forgiveness over an ominous, jazz-tinged creeping – a classic sentiment updated for the era of drone attacks and wiretaps."

Bobby Womack Declared Cancer-Free
Song Story: Bobby Womack, 'Please Forgive My Heart'
Song Review: Bobby Womack, 'Please Forgive My Heart'

Rufus Wainwright, ‘Out of the Game’

The songwriting heir makes a big, friendly L.A.-pop album.

Read the RS review: "[Wainwright's] formal mastery is so complete it's hilarious, like Albert Pujols playing stickball . . . 'Barbara' (featuring Wilco guitarist Nels Cline) is an ace take on Michael McDonald yacht-rock fluff, while the title track disses mainstream 'suckers' in lush harmony over a Steely Dan-ish strut."

Rufus Wainwright Hits the Road and the Silver Screen
Rufus Wainwright Shines in Brooklyn
RS Playlist: Rufus Wainwright, 'Montauk'

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