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.
On his 17th studio album, Springsteen offers bracing honesty to a broken nation.
Read the RS review: "Wrecking Ball is the most despairing, confrontational and musically turbulent album Bruce Springsteen has ever made . . . This is darkness gone way past the edge of town, to the heart of the republic."
Huge riffs, wild ideas, tunes for miles: White's solo debut is a classic.
Read the RS review: "Blunderbuss gets stranger and more fascinating the closer you listen. It doesn't give up any of the man's secrets. And make no mistake: That's exactly how Jack White wants it."
Neil finally calls Crazy Horse back into action, and torches the "kindergarten" folk canon.
Read the RS review: "There's an undeniable WTF factor in hearing these Cub Scout singalong ditties drowned in guitar feedback and off-key yelling. But that's the goofball charm."
Apple's first LP since 2005 is full of cold truths and her most raw music yet.
Read the RS review: "She pours out her distress on driving songs with lyrics that mix romantic poetry and therapy-speak – Byron by way of Oprah."
Soul-searching meets classic folk rock as Mayer takes on his recent past.
Read the RS review: "Mayer is confessional and a little chastened on Born and Raised . . . The stylistic change-up and unburdening tone make for some of the most convincing music of Mayer's career."
Over-the-top noise meets heavy-breathing romance on the duo's thrilling second album.
The long view on sex, love and God, from a 77-year-old master.
Read the RS review: "Dylan dreamed he saw St. Augustine. Cohen has walked the earth trying to be St. Augustine . . . The lyrics on Old Ideas reach for the stark power of prayers, hymns and religious riddles."
Read the RS review: "The album plays like another episode in the longtime struggle between Mike Love's fun-in-the-sun agenda and Brian Wilson's grander, darker themes. It's part class reunion, part Requiem for a Beach Boy."
• RS Live: Beach Boys Play Their Classics
• Brian Wilson: 'I Don't Think I Look or Act 70'
• Mike Love Books Beach Boys Shows Without Brian Wilson
• RS Playlist: The Beach Boys, 'Pacific Coast Highway'
The Cleveland garage crew hits ragged glory with a Nineties-style guitar assault.
Read the RS review: "Producer Steve Albini makes sure you feel every snare slap and guitar abrasion, and if Attack on Memory's eight songs only last about as long as an episode of Seinfeld, that's OK – it's as fun as one too."
Regular-gal-turned-star Bethany Cosentino amps up the drama and the sunny hooks.
Read the RS review: "[Producer Jon Brion] sweeps away the debut's low-fi fuzz, while Cosentino dramatically steps up her vocal presence on tunes like the tear-in-your-beer ballad 'No One Like You.'"
The Vancouver duo make distortion-soaked indie rock that's built to dominate stadiums.
Southern rap's top political theorist finds his voice.
Read the RS review: "This Dirty South fixture has evolved into the Noam Chomsky of the strip club, and his sixth LP is his best blast of down-home invective yet."
Smith follows her award-winning 2010 memoir, Just Kids, with more fierce word-slinging.
Read the RS review: "[Banga] has some sweet moments of song. But the real magic happens when words start flying off the grooves."
The hot-shit New York rapper sets off a housequake.
Read the RS review: "Four tracks – including her breakthrough single, '212,' and more shit talk than you'd get at a Friday night nail salon – that spin hip-hop backward and forward . . . More, please."
An indie-pop master comes back with a grander sound and sharper hooks.
Read the RS review: "On the first Shins record in five years, [James Mercer] nails a balance of economy and sweep, matching the studio lushness he craves with the secondhand melodicism that made [2004's] 'New Slang' resonate beyond the vegan cookouts of his base in Portlandia."
Elegant guitar jams meet avant-roots tunes as a blues-rock master returns.
Read the RS review: "['You Can't Fail Me Now'] is mood music with a razor edge, pain fronting as bliss, delivered by a vet who understands that the blues are often about just that."
The New Orleans master brings voodoo funk into the 21st century, with help from a Black Key.
Read the RS review: "Full of muscled, vintage R&B grooves, fevered soloing, psychedelic arrangements and oracular mumbo jumbo, it's the wildest record Rebennack has made in many years. And it announces [Dan] Auerbach's arrival alongside Danger Mouse as an A-list retro-modern studio scientist."
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."
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."
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."
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."