Yowzers, it’s been a good year for music. Music so good it made us want to lick the packaging it came in. Music so bad we had a bonfire piled high with it. Music so weird it made us question whether it was even music. After countless hours of in-office arguing, we’ve boiled the lot of it down to the 50 choicest cuts of 2012. Mouse over the images if you want to read our full reviews.

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‘Shrines’ is a euphoric treat in its own right, made all the more thrilling by its heady potential

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Ultimately, this album is the sound of the future

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‘Be Strong’ is one of the smartest and funniest dance records you’ve heard in a long while

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Transcending perfectly from lounge to disco, John Talabot’s blend of electro-soul-house has been an unsung achievement of the year

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Damon Albarn dusts off a heroic grizzler for Bobby Womack’s first original recordings since 1994

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Del Rey’s ballads pull deftly at a strain of American gothic that runs through performers like Roy Orbison and Bobbie Gentry

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Lamar’s flow is versatile, his storytelling honest and asphalt-tough. You don’t always need to shout the loudest to be heard

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Ratking are the rawest, most exciting new rap collective to come out of NYC this year

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‘Sonik Kicks’ is the sound of Weller growing old the only way he could – not gracefully, but with no small amount of style

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‘Twins’ is an incredible album and one that makes complete sense in the context of now

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A fascinating struggle provides the pivot on which this beautifully poignant record turns

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Liars no sooner establish the parameters of a sound than they’re crashing through them

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TEED is a strange beast, for sure – but the good news is that ‘Trouble’ is a quite remarkable specimen

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Like the story of Pandora’s box, this fearsome record still concludes with hope

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A damn fine specimen of a band on the way to something great

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Music far more ferocious than you’d expect from men who look like a bunch of dropout chemistry students

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From start to finish, it has an educated and intense eye on the dancefloor, and it sounds fantastic

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Coxon has made one of the best albums of his career – a pop record with dangerously anti-social tendencies

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While ‘The Haunted Man’ deals in less trinkets than its predecessor, it’s not scant in splendour

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It’s safe to assume that his time on Planet Kardashian hasn’t blunted his perspective at all

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Their brittle, bouncy soundscapes were much more fun than they’d any right to be

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Suburban, slacker, bratty but charmingly so… Ferris Bueller with a guitar, basically

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This record is, as you’d expect, by turns breathtaking, entrancing, deafening and challenging, and Spiritualized are still the Vatican of bands

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‘Devotion’ combines the present and the past to make a record that sounds both contemporary and timeless

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A more than enjoyable collection of old-school indie gems. Which, after all, is what they were shooting for

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It’s a hardcore record from a top-shelf kind of a guy, but the work of a unique mind

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Rhythmic, expansive and powered by seething dark energies, 2013 will be theirs

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Richard Hawley – Bard Of Steel City – has come to gaze down upon the degradation below

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The band are increasingly clever at turning a melody inside out to evoke those moments of dizzy-making clarity

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It’s empowering. Life-affirming. And just some of many words of wisdom on ‘Sun’ to come from the mouth of wise auntie Chan

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All 11 songs are full of energy, wit, fun, fuzz, fizz, sugar, spice and all things nice

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It’s weird and wonderful and you’ll want to listen again as soon as it’s over

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With ‘Baby’, their long-awaited album, Tribes have roared back fiercer than ever

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‘Shields’, appropriately, is an album that often feels like aural heat-rash – itchy and in search of relief

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‘Melody’s Echo Chamber’ manages to create something just as dark as it is light

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One of early 2012’s best. She won’t remain under the radar much longer

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Listen after listen it reveals just as many treasures beneath its layers of shimmering sadness

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Blissed-out bringers of woozy rock’n’roll who aren’t into the everyday, the mundane, the normal, but are into “dreams of aliens, affection, spirits and the distant natural world”

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Collaborations often result in two busy stars recording their vocals in separate parts of the world… but on ‘Love This Giant’ the pair worked together for two years, and it shows

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This is the side of Jack White III he’s happy to show the world right now, and it’s absolutely fascinating to behold

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Django Django show off a blinding array of colours, and their debut album takes flight bound for somewhere new

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There’s a wry, Turner-worthy lyric here. Not for nothing he’s won the approval of Noel Gallagher

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‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’ – their fifth record – is the clearest summation of everything the trio are about

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Pond sound like a big bowl of fun, and have had the decency to write at least seven amazing pop songs

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The Maccabees have made an album so astounding that you feel it can’t help but draw the wider world to them

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It’s hardly a knicker-dropping missive, but good god, they make geometry sound sexy

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The message, still, is that the world is a cruel and fucked-up place. But being doomed seldom sounded so beautiful

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Frank is king of the slow reveal, using his mastery of verse and music to divulge just as much as he chooses

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‘Visions’ has it all, and seems to resonate with all who hear it. Yet Boucher made it look like she didn’t even have to try

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‘Lonerism’ is escapism from a desperate place. Is this feat – and this brilliant album – what the term ‘splendid isolation’ means?

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How many of our 50 albums of 2012 have you heard? Take our quiz and share your score with your friends

Check out NME’s best albums and tracks over the years, going all the way back to 1975

You can read all about these albums, plus loads more on the best of 2012, in the new issue.

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