1. NPR Music’s hip-hop channel, Microphone Check, is co-hosted by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and NPR’s Frannie Kelley. They got together to remember the year in hip-hop and share their favorites — the albums they had to have, the ones they loved with reservations and the performance they can’t stop talking about.
Photo: Adam Kissick for NPR

    NPR Music’s hip-hop channel, Microphone Check, is co-hosted by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and NPR’s Frannie Kelley. They got together to remember the year in hip-hop and share their favorites — the albums they had to have, the ones they loved with reservations and the performance they can’t stop talking about.

    Photo: Adam Kissick for NPR

  2. When you see 462 concerts in a single year, there’s a lot to choose from. The ones that stuck with Bob Boilen in 2012 all featured the element of surprise.

    When you see 462 concerts in a single year, there’s a lot to choose from. The ones that stuck with Bob Boilen in 2012 all featured the element of surprise.

  3. Here they are: All of our Best Music of 2012 lists in handy-dandy Spotify and Rdio playlist form!
100 Favorite Songs: Spotify | Rdio
Favorite 50 Albums: Spotify | Rdio
10 Artists You Should Have Known In 2012: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 Top 40: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 Folk & Americana Albums: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 World Music Albums: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 Electronic Dance Tracks: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 Jazz Albums: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 Classical Albums: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 Outer Sound Albums: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 Metal Albums: Spotify | Rdio
Top 10 Latin Alternative Albums: Spotify | Rdio
Bob Boilen’s Top 10 Albums Of 2012: Spotify | Rdio
Ann Powers’ Top 10 Albums Of 2012: Spotify | Rdio
Robin Hilton’s Top 10 Albums Of 2012: Spotify | Rdio
Stephen Thompson’s Top 10 Albums Of 2012: Spotify | Rdio

    Here they are: All of our Best Music of 2012 lists in handy-dandy Spotify and Rdio playlist form!

  4. All of our Best Music Of 2012 lists…in one spot.

    All of our Best Music Of 2012 lists…in one spot.

  5. While Miguel and Frank Ocean dominated most of 2012’s R&B press, there were many artists churning out great work that went mostly unnoticed by the mainstream. Hear five of the most slept-on R&B songs of 2012.
Photo: Robin Thicke, whose great song, “Another Life” leaked online this summer, but didn’t land on the charts. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

    While Miguel and Frank Ocean dominated most of 2012’s R&B press, there were many artists churning out great work that went mostly unnoticed by the mainstream. Hear five of the most slept-on R&B songs of 2012.

    Photo: Robin Thicke, whose great song, “Another Life” leaked online this summer, but didn’t land on the charts. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

  6. If you have the week off and a gift card to burn, download our top 10 music books of 2012 to your e-book reader. You’ll be bouncing between the page and the stereo.

  7. This year, a youthful strain of techno-Afropop musicians stepped into the spotlight. Banning Eyre picks his top 10 world music albums of 2012.
Photo: Mokoomba, a rising young band of Tonga musicians from Zimbabwe

    This year, a youthful strain of techno-Afropop musicians stepped into the spotlight. Banning Eyre picks his top 10 world music albums of 2012.

    Photo: Mokoomba, a rising young band of Tonga musicians from Zimbabwe

  8. To capture the year in pop, let’s think back to some of its most memorable songs:

    —A left-field hit sung almost entirely in a foreign language, whose throbbing dance beat masked lyrics that were more political than one might suspect.

    —A rock-pop crossover smash about holding onto youth into your thirties, even when your head is throbbing from self-reflection and encroaching decrepitude.

    —A fluttery, buttery pop classic about a girl fretting over — yet exulting in — not knowing where that boy’s head is at or where he thinks he’s going.

    —And the No. 1 record of the year — a rocker–ballad hybrid with egocentric yet self-lacerating lyrics, and an improbably catchy, minimal, skeletal sound.

    Quick, what year am I talking about?

    Why, 1984, of course — the year of Nena’s “99 Luftballons (Red Balloons),” Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” Madonna’s “Borderline” and Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” Widely agreed to be the greatest year for pop a generation ago, 1984 offered amazing variety on vinyl and represented a cultural peak for Top 40 radio.

    But of course, I’m also talking about 2012, the year of Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” fun.’s “We Are Young,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The last three of these songs were, according to Billboard magazine, the top three songs of the year. All four songs (especially Psy’s) commanded our conversation largely via YouTube and iTunes, more than the radio, which caught onto them late.

    At the risk of offending pop classicists, I’d call 2012, if not quite the equal of 1984, a year in pop that aspired to that classic year’s level of monocultural pleasure.

    — Chris Molanphy via The Year In Pop Charts: Return Of The Monoculture

  9. Few things tied together the wide umbrella of experimental music in 2012, but a spark unlocked a fractured groove that sent the noise kids dancing (or at least head-bobbing) and we went heavy on deconstructing the tape loop. NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich list his favorite drone, noise and ambient albums of 2012. 
Photo: Suzy Poling

    Few things tied together the wide umbrella of experimental music in 2012, but a spark unlocked a fractured groove that sent the noise kids dancing (or at least head-bobbing) and we went heavy on deconstructing the tape loop. NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich list his favorite drone, noise and ambient albums of 2012.

    Photo: Suzy Poling

  10. As we hurl ourselves ungracefully into the digital swill, we’re finding different ways to be heavy at a rate faster than Mick Barr shreds guitar strings. NPR’s Lars Gotrich lists his top 10 metal albums of the year, from straight-up death metal to a bluegrass ‘n’ black metal hybrid (really!).
Photo: Dario Dumancic

    As we hurl ourselves ungracefully into the digital swill, we’re finding different ways to be heavy at a rate faster than Mick Barr shreds guitar strings. NPR’s Lars Gotrich lists his top 10 metal albums of the year, from straight-up death metal to a bluegrass ‘n’ black metal hybrid (really!).

    Photo: Dario Dumancic