To my ears, 2012 was a year of great new individual songs, but not so strong for new and original albums. I spent more time discovering and buying up terrific reissued/remastered albums (by the likes of Blur, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M., etc.) than new releases. That said, there were enough eclectic releases that enjoyed many rounds of play on my CD system/mp3 player to make up a Top 10 list. Here they are, in alphabetical order (because I am not a strong proponent of rankings).
Bat for Lashes - The Haunted Man
Natasha Khan's Bat for Lashes is the lone female-fronted group in my list. She is a one-of-a-kind talent with The Cure/Siouxsie Sioux/Bjork/Kate Bush style recordings that are nothing short of enchanting, dark, and oftentimes dreamy. This third album of hers (following the excellent Fur and Gold and Two Suns) is no less so.
"Laura" is as stripped down as she is on the album cover, with its delicate approach of a single piano and light orchestral touches. As on previous releases, she also creates some danceable tunes like "A Wall" and "Rest Your Head," and Kate Bush-esque ethereal audio magic ("Marilyn"). It all adds up to yet another treasure of an album for Khan.
Black Keys - El Camino
This album came out in December 2011 and took off last year with a few successful singles that were heard everywhere on FM radio and even on TV (during the 2012 "Final Four" basketball tournament). So I couldn't ignore it even if I wanted to.
Indie purists may frown upon this one-time two-member band that has fully expanded into a full band. However, "Lonely Boy," "Money Maker" and "Gold on the Ceiling" are irresistibly catchy, badass rockers. And the album is full of more like them, which is why it belongs on my list.
Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory