Let's be honest—it's a hellish time to pick "the best" of anything. In a year crammed with hipster hits and commercial masterpieces, summertime bangers and sulky personal jams, trying to put together our annual year-end best-of list was like an exercise combining operatic screaming and political machinations. For a brief, scary moment, it was like the Real Housewives of Fuse Music up in here.
So, we tried another approach: we listed all the 2012 albums on heavy iPod rotation. From Fiona Apple to Solange, Gaslight Anthem to Miguel, we listened to it all and we agreed on very little. But once we shut up and listened to each other, why someone liked an album (for instance, totally randomly, Marilyn Manson) became pretty interesting in its own right.
Sure, we agreed on some albums. But we couldn't stand to cut the rest. So without further ado, here are the 40 albums we liked the best in 2012, arranged according to increasing popularity. Guess who gets crowned prom king or queen at the end? Click through to find out, and join us in the bleachers (aka comment section) when you're done!