DisclosureSettle (PMR)

Experimentation of reckless youth, onerous repetition and an expertly-edited guestlist propelled Disclosure into the scattered light of an after-hours disco ball. A series of slow-burn singles that double as a seamless album have the brothers Lawrence crashing the gates of big-tent dance music and starting their own exciting party with a fresh dose U.K. garage. – LH

Kanye WestYeezus (Def Jam)

Kanye. Ye. Yeezy. Yeezus. How did we arrive here? To listen to Kanye West is to follow his evolution as an artist and a human, and the line between those two entities has never been more dangerously blurred than on his latest record, the harsh, visceral Yeezus. Drawing inspiration from noise, dancehall, psych-rock, Chicago’s drill scene and probably 20 other things we haven’t sourced yet, it’s an intimate and occasionally ugly examination of class, race, sex and the one topic Kanye (and we) never tire of: What it means to be Kanye West. Popping a wheelie on the zeitgeist never felt so perilous. – DJ

Kurt VileWakin On A Pretty Daze (Matador)

Ever since his debut LP, Constant Hitmaker, was released, I’ve thought I would like to put my head inside Kurt Vile’s mouth. But I never really felt like I would be able to—until now. This is a way pluckier, more down-home and less Philly-haze Kurt, but it’s also a polished Kurt, with shiny white teeth and a fat tongue. And with 7 of the 11 tracks clocking in past the 5-minute mark, there’s no way to avoid being entirely, coma-like, wrapped in a Kurt Vile sleeping bag, which is great for when you’re out of Quaaludes. Not to mention that faint, celebratory “Woo!”
on “KV Crimes” that slips out like a spelling bee competitor celebrating prematurely only to be buzzed off stage because he spelled “asinine” with a “y”. Adorable. – LP

Majical CloudzImpersonator (Matador)

There’s a scene in Twin Peaks where evil mastermind (and fantastic chess player) Windom Earle is talking to the perpetually lumberjacked Leo Johnson about 13th century samurais in Japan. He mentions how the samurais realized their bamboo flutes could be used as weapons, and proceeds to use his own flute to make a dent in Leo’s skull. When he’s done, Earle asks, “This flute is truly an instrument of pleasure, don’t you think?” Majical Cloudz’s Devon Welsh was born to Kenneth Welsh, otherwise known as the actor who played Windom Earle in Twin Peaks. Coincidentally, Impersonator is a lot like that flute scene, because it hits you over the head in a way that’s so startling it’s painful, while still managing to be inarguably, aggressively, beautiful. – LP

Marnie SternChronicles Of Marnia (Kill Rock Stars)

Marnie Stern is a champion. Her records, with their ferocious guitar-playing, explosive percussion and inspirational lyrics, have always embodied the qualities that make a champion, but her latest album is the first that fully conveys the daily struggle and lived-in experience of being a champion on a moment by moment basis. “You won’t need a sledgehammer to walk in my shoes,” she sings on the album’s blistering “Nothing Is Easy.” She’s right: turns out all you need is some empathy and some speakers. – DJ

Next page: Top 20 Albums Of 2012 (So Far…): Continued