Back in 2012, the world was a much simpler place. We had never heard the word “coronavirus,” Kanye West wasn’t Ye yet, and the only TikTok we knew of was the Ke$ha song. But those times have changed and music has changed with it. Today’s music is dominated by EDM and pop/R&B hits, but back in 2012 it was about folk rock, indie pop and bringing up a new roster of artists who would come to define the decade.
Some albums have been excluded from this list to make it safe for all ears — our apologies to Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean fans!
Ellie Goulding: Halcyon
Halcyon was the album that took Goulding from rising star to established force in the club pop sphere, and space she’s been inhabiting ever since.
Lana Del Rey: Born to Die
The world was still reeling from A Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy when Lana introduced us to her beautiful, dark, twisted reality.
Hip-hop had no idea how upside down everything was about to flip.
The Lumineers: The Lumineers
Ho! Hey! The slap your thigh and stomp your boots prohibition-era folk bubble was at the peak of its considerable size in this era, and no band understood the appeal better than the Lumineers. Well, almost no band…
Mumford and Sons: Babel
Mumford and Sons were as inescapable as Levis and Big Macs in this era, and Babel is as close as the band ever got to a mission statement.
Purity Ring: Shrines
On the other side of the inescapable spectrum, Purity Ring dropped a slippery trove of cryptic pop tunes with an energy that indie bands have chasing ever since.
Of Monsters and Men: My Head Is an Animal
Of Monsters and Men split the difference between Mumford’s duty folk rock and the icier, weirder sounds of bands like Sigur Ros and Björk.
Tame Impala: Lonerism
Every generation gets one band tasked with not just keeping guitar rock alive, but shepherding it to the next generation with fresh, new energy. With Lonerism, Tame Impala claimed the millennial mantle.
The xx: coexist
At a time when many bands were trying to rebottle the sound of the past, the xx was creating the future. Turn on any modern pop song from Ariana Grande to the Weeknd and the xx’s influence is unmistakeable.
Young Oceans: Young Oceans
Worship music’s domination of CCM charts was well underway at this point but Young Oceans was part of a new generation that proved not all church music has to sound like Joshua Tree.