¡Uno!
GREEN DAY
(Reprise)

Despite the irregularities of Billie Joe Armstrong's onstage meltdown damaging the opportunity of a Green Day/Justin Bieber collaboration, the punk rock band marched onward with reclaiming the sound of their youth while obviously dodging the political protest of their American Idiot/21 st Century Breakdown sessions. ¡Uno!, the first album in their Van Halen-inspired triad, is loaded with power pop, pottymouth punk disco (“Kill the DJ”) and lightning-fast rock (“Let Yourself Go,” “Rusty James”). Inside Armstrong and the fellas act like rebels without a cause, testing their midlife crisis with more adrenaline-rushing, amp-bleeding jams. Need proof of their awkward craving for high school nostalgia? Hear them rush through the Buddy Holly innocence of “Sweet 16.” » JMC

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Apocalyptic Love
SLASH
(Dik Hayd International)

After a successful tour with Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy, hard rock veteran Slash chose to bring his traveling companion into the studio for a full LP. Myles' lyrics draw from his personal experiences, and paint a pretty rough picture at times. The focus of the album however, has to be Slash's celebrated guitar chops. He's kept a Les Paul in hand since his GN'R days, and has picked up a few new licks along the way. “Anastasia” showcases his classical influences while still melting faces like the old days. Song by song, the album rocks a good deal harder than Slash's last solo venture, which is fine by everybody. » TL

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Devotion
JESSIE WARE
(Island)

Acting as a new breed of pop art, Devotion – the debut disc from English singer Jessie Ware – sounds unlike anything prevailing in our world of Top 40, yet it sounds like it honestly belongs there. “Night Light” sounds like broody r&b, while the title track walks on the banks of Drake love play, but gleams with the remnants of The Art of Noise's “Moments in Love.” Song after song, Ware's palette of romance hardly weakens, even when she's recklessly chanting “who says no to love” over and over again over retro hip-hop beats (“No to Love”). » JMC

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The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than
the Driver of the Screw and
Whipping Cords Will Serve You More
Than Ropes Will Ever Do
FIONA APPLE
(Epic)

While Fiona Apple went maximal at times on 2005's Extraordinary Machine, 2012's The Idler Wheel Is Wiser… serves as the antithesis, stripping things down in more minimalist fashion. The piano and Apple's voice are always the feature, accompanied by bass, percussion, and drums. Shrugging off commercial aspirations for eclectic sensibility, The Idler Wheel... finds Apple showcasing her knack for lyricism and nonconformity, whether it be the druggy nature of opener “Every Single Night” or the twisted jazziness of “Left Alone.” » BF

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Battle Born
THE KILLERS
(Island/Vertigo)

It is quite possible that the short time apart led the Killers to pull off one of the best alt-rock albums of our time. Decked out with Springsteen-like anthems, radio-ready melodies and succulent odes to Eighties rock, Battle Born – produced by heavyweight producers who knows a thing or two about rock royalty – improved on the band's punk features while exposing more of Brandon Flowers's soaring tenor and balancing the loud volume with gripping tunes that stretches across all aisles. » JMC

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Fragrant World
YEASAYER
(Secretly Canadian)

Arguably one of the most sonically creative (yet instantly catchy) albums of the year is Brooklyn's Yeasayer's third album, Fragrant World, with its innovative synthesizer work, unique vocal stylings, and quirky song structures. Highlights include the almost-Michael-Jackson-like slow burner “Longevity,” the world-music-influenced “Demon Road” (which is in a strange 3/4) and the ambient introspection of “Glass Of The Microscope.” For those that like their music both ground-breaking and accessible, there might not be a better place to look in 2012. » RB

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Kaleidscope Dream
MIGUEL
(RCA)

While Frank Ocean's Channel Orange was the initiation point in the newfound alt-R&B, its genesis was cemented and confirmed by another brilliant R&B affair in its own right, Kaleidoscope Dream. Sporting a classic-sounding, crossover hit in “Adorn,” the album combines the influences of soul, pop, hip-hop, and rock throughout its track list. Every cut yields another memorable gem whether it is the hallucinatory title track, the irresponsible drunken endeavors of “How Many Drinks?” or the sensual, suggestive “Arch and Point.” » BF

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Escort
ESCORT
(Escort Records)

With LCD Soundsystem in retirement, where else could we go to get a case of disco inferno? Thankfully, the Brooklyn-based 17-piece orchestra and their leading lady Adeline Michèle showed us what Studio 54 glamour felt like in its heyday, thanks to their thrilling eleven-track self-titled disc. The stuff's here more aggressive than Salsoul and Philadelphia International, more in the vein of Cerrone. “Starlight” pulls our 21 st century Chic jams, while “All Through the Night” dances flirts with the finer elements of post-disco. It's almost impossible to fight the night fever of “Cocaine Blues” after it kicks out a familiar People's Choice melody and a new mantra for New York nightlife: “A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork/That's the way we spell New York." » JMC

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Locked Down
DR. JOHN
(Nonesuch)

Turning a Hall of Famer so misunderstood as Dr. John into a piece of 21 st century relevance seemed like an impossible feat until the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach stepped up to the plate. Locked Down is certainly John's best album since God knows when. When hearing tunes like the super-cool “Kingdom of Izzness," the psychedelic oddball of “Ice Age” (showcasing delicious guitar lines by Auerbach) or the delicious title track, it seems as if the Bayou soul brother has discovered the fountain of youth. » JMC

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The Mess We've Made
BAD VEINS
(Modern Outsider)

Amounting to what might be the most sing-along-worthy indie record of the year, Cincinnati's Bad Veins' The Mess We've Made is the kind of fun (but intelligent) romp that you can put on repeat in your car indefinitely without feeling too guilty about doing so. While the band certainly excels at making upbeat songs (perhaps the best of which is the opener “Don't Run”), their strong suit is unquestionably in crafting slow, heavy-hearted ballads like the string/horn-section-filled “Chasing,” “I Turn Around” (with its cute ukulele intro) and the synth-laden “Kindness.” » RB

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