by Lisa Hresko, Christine Werthman and Dan Jackson
As promised, we are back today with the full list of CMJ’s top 30 albums of 2012, completing the list trifecta of top videos and top songs of the year. Click through to see the final 15.

30. Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Epic)

“I just want to feel everything.” That’s a tough goal, and in an era when the internet pathologically trains us to feel (and think) less, it sounds like a death wish. But when delivered in the delicate yet defiant voice of Fiona Apple, it sounds like a holy vow, a total commitment to self-refinement and living in the present delivered by someone who’s just about had enough of the world’s bullshit. While balancing ongoing personal dramas (“Jonathan”) with more existential concerns (“Left Alone”), Apple and producer/percussionist Charley Drayton give every track its own crackling musical identity, merging jazz, folk-pop, lounge music and spoken word into an aching portrait of neurosis as the bravest form of empathy. –DJ

29. TanlinesMixed Emotions (True Panther)

Making darkly melodic, beat-heavy, dancefloor-ready songs using only a guitar-percussion combo, Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm came into their own this year with their debut full-length album. They fall into the synth-pop realm, but these guys write music that’s got weight. It’s shadowy and driving, stuff you can brood to while you dance. –LH

28. Peaking LightsLucifer (Mexican Summer/Weird World)

Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes, the duo behind Peaking Lights, just had a kid last year, and maybe that’s what inspired them to make an album wrapped in the soothing qualities of a lullaby. Everything floats gently through these songs: Coyes’s synths, Dunis’s ethereal vocals, even baby Mikko’s gurgling, which makes a cameo on “LO HI.” They do alter the ambient mood with pinging melodies or a scratchy electric guitar, and while those changes are never jarring, the music is never boring either. This is the prettiest, coolest family project you’ll ever hear. –CW

27. Matthew E. WhiteBig Inner (Hometapes/Spacebomb)

Like a teddy bear wearing a Snuggie, there’s something both undeniably cute and unmistakably eerie about Matthew E. White’s Big Inner. It raises some tough questions: What made this large, bearded, 30-year-old man decide to write a sun-flecked collection of country-soul pop pastiches? Why does his voice sound so fragile? Is he serious about all this religion stuff? What’s a Spacebomb? Is the title a shitty pun or profound or both? To all these questions, White poses his own: “Will you love me?” Sigh. Fine, Matthew. We will. –DJ

26. Taylor SwiftRed (Big Machine)

Who knew Taylor Swift would write the most violent album of the year? When she wasn’t drawing poptimist battle lines in the sand (the beardo-skewering “22”), country’s Grammy-gobbling sweetheart was busy tossing sugar-coated grenades at loser ex-boyfriends (“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”), dropping dubstep breakdowns on unsuspecting purists (“I Knew You Were Trouble.”), waging a turf-war on U2’s sacred land (“Holy Ground”) and storming the Etsy-enshrined gates of Mumford-loving twee-ville (“Stay Stay Stay”). A 16-track epic obsessed with memories both tactile and ephemeral, Red gives a pizza-sauce-stained middle finger to rock’s boring concepts of maturity, telling outdated “serious album” ideas like cohesiveness, restraint and tastefulness to get fucked. But, you know, with a smile! –DJ

Next page: Top 30 Albums Of 2012: 21-25

1 2 3 4 5 6