The consensus seems to be that Frank Ocean took the best album prize for 2012.
Who will be the contenders in 2013?
The hunt begins with a new release from the Dropkick Murphys, and the first quarter brings new albums from such veterans as Yo La Tengo, Bad Religion, Camper Van Beethoven and the Eels.
Other anticipated releases include solo albums from My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Girls' Christopher Owens and The Smiths' Johnny Marr; supergroup Atoms for Peace; indie faves Ra Ra Riot, The Joy Formidable and Frightened Rabbit; and, on the more commercial end, 50 Cent, Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw, Paramore and "new" tracks from Jimi Hendrix.
Here's what's been announced so far. As always, dates are subject to change.
Dropkick Murphys, "Signed And Sealed in Blood": The Celtic punks from Boston gave us a preview of the new album at Stage AE this summer, and it sounded great. Singer-bassist Ken Casey has said of it: "Where 'Going Out in Style' was a concept album -- kind of intricate and difficult -- this one is catchy, fun, and as sing-along as can be."
Twenty One Pilots, "Vessel": Debut album by the Fueled by Ramen duo from Columbus promises a "distinctive fusion of piano-driven schizoid pop and lyrical uplift."
Black Veil Brides, "Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones": Third release from the LA glam-metal band is a 19-song concept album recorded with acclaimed producer and Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann.
Solange, "True": New album from Beyonce's younger sister Solange Knowles is a New Wave-influenced dance record.
Thorcraftcobra, "Count it in": Debut album from the LA pop-rock duo of Billy Zimmer and Tammy Glover features help from friends including Ron and Russell Mael from Sparks and Steve McDonald of Redd Kross.
A$AP Rocky, "LongLiveA$AP": Debut album from the New York rapper sprung from the hip-hop collective A$AP Mob features help from Schoolboy Q, Santigold, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Florence Welch and more. Like most rap projects, it's already leaked online.
Yo La Tengo, "Fade": Thirteenth album from the seminal New Jersey indie band, the first since 2009's "Popular Songs," was recorded in Chicago with Tortoise's John McIntire.
Christopher Owens, "Lysandre": The quirky singer-songwriter who made his name in Girls calls his debut solo album "a coming of age story, a road trip story, a love story."
Various Artists. "West of Memphis: Voices for Justice": Companion piece to the new documentary, which chronicles the case of the West Memphis Three, features Bob Dylan, Band of Horses, Natalie Maines, Marilyn Manson, Henry Rollins, Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder and more.
Dawn Richard, "Goldenheart": Solo debut from the former Danity Kane member last seen with Diddy in Diddy-Dirty Money.
Erin McKeown, "Manifestra": New album from folky singer-songwriter-activist Erin McKeown aims to "bring together her political and musical selves."
Criminal Hygiene, "CRMNL HYGNE": Debut album from LA garage rock band described as "scuzzy."
Free Energy, "Love Sign": Second album from Philly power-pop band formerly on DFA Records.
Half Hearted Hero, "Whatever": New album from Massachusetts pop-punk band.
Holopaw, "Academy Songs, Volume I": Fourth album from Florida indie-pop band, whose frontman, John Orth, worked with Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock as Ugly Casanova.
Jamie Woolford, "A Framed Life in Charming Light": Power-pop debut from the frontman of The Stereo and Let Go.
Midnight Spin, "Don't Let Me Sleep": Debut album from Brooklyn band produced by Justin Gerrish (Vampire Weekend, the Strokes, Weezer) "combines '90s alternative and punk energy with modern indie elements."
Bad Religion, "True North": Brett Gurewitz, co-songwriter and guitarist, says of the 16th album from the storied LA punk band, "We went back to our original mission statement of short concise bursts of melody and message. The intent was to record stripped down punk songs without sacrificing any conceptual density."
Camper Van Beethoven, "La Costa Perdida": First album in nine years from the genre-mashing indie band "depicts untamed characters and bizarre experiences on northern California's coastline, where the band began its musical adventures."
Darius Rucker, "True Believers": Third country album from the former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman, who called it "an album that I'm so proud of because my fans really have been the true believers since I released my first single to country radio."
Ra Ra Riot, "Beta Love": Third album from the Syracuse indie-pop band produced by Dennis Herring (The Hives, Elvis Costello, Counting Crows).
The Joy Formidable, "Wolf's Law": Follow-up to the Welsh indie-rock band's breakthrough debut "The Big Roar" was recorded in a log cabin in the middle of a forest.
Gary Allan, "Set You Free": The multi-platinum Nashville star co-wrote five songs on the album, which leads with the single "Every Storm (Runs out of Rain)."
Foxygen, "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic": Second album from the LA indie-rock duo on JagJaguwar is described as "a precocious and cocksure joyride across California psychedelia with a burning, bursting punk rock engine."
Hilly Eye, "Reasons to Live": Former Titus Andronicus member Amy Klein breaks away for solo album.
Nightlands, "Oak Island": Sophomore album from Dave Hartley, bassist of The War on Drugs, who also appeared on a Sharon Van Etten album.
Say Anything, "All My Friends Are Enemies: The Early Rarities": Three-disc collection from the LA emo band.
Toro y Moi, "Anything in Return": Third album from the Chillwave producer.
Pogues, "The Very Best of the Pogues": A new collection of 18 stellar tracks by the Irish-English punk band.
Billy Joel, "She's Got a Way: Love Songs": Collection of 18 essential love songs just in time for Valentine's Day.
J. Cole, "Born Sinner": Sophomore album from the Roc Nation rapper who topped the charts in 2011 is expected on this date, but could likely be pushed back.
Ashanti, "BraveHeart": Fifth album and first in five years from the R&B singer features the singles "The Woman You Love" (with Busta Rhymes), "No One Greater" (with Meek Mill and French Montana) and "That's What We Do" (with R. Kelly).
Tegan and Sara, "Heartthrob": Seventh album from the Quin twins leans on programmed beats and synths.
Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite, "Get Up!": Pedal steel guitarist Harper teams up with the blues harmonica great.
Kris Kristofferson, "Feeling Mortal": The 76-year-old country legend said of his first album of new material in four years (produced by Don Was) "... what I'm finding, to my pleasant surprise at this age, is that I'm more inclined to laughter than tears."
Hatebreed, "The Divinity of Purpose": Sixth album from the Bridgeport, Conn., metalcore band was co-produced by Hatebreed, Zeuss (Suicide Silence, All That Remains, Shadows Fall) and Josh Wilbur (Lamb of God, Avenged Sevenfold).
Charlie Wilson, "Love, Charlie": New album former Gap Band singer.
Ducktails, "The Flower Lane": Side project from Real Estate member Matt Mondanile.
Local Natives, "Hummingbird": Second album from the LA psych folk band.
Jim James, "Regions of Light and Sound of God": Golden-voiced My Morning Jacket singer recorded nearly all the instruments on his debut solo album.
Eels, "Wonderful, Glorious": Tenth album from the brilliant Mark Oliver Everett tells of "the trials of a man fighting for his life, his sanity, and the search for meaning."
Richard Thompson, "Electric": Eleven new songs from the British folk-rock legend and guitar hero produced by fellow guitar great Buddy Miller. He told Rolling Stone, "I thought it would be good to have [the album] sound fairly garage, if you like it slightly trashed out. I think it is, in a good way."
Josh Groban, "All That Echoes": The operatic pop singer worked with producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Paramore) on his sixth studio album, which includes covers of Stevie Wonder's "I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will Be Forever"), Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's "Falling Slowly" and Jimmy Webb's "The Moon's a Harsh Mistress." Special guests include trumpet player Arturo Sandoval and Italian vocalist Laura Pausini.
Tim McGraw, "Two Lanes of Freedom": Country star's new album includes the single "Truck Yeah and "Highway Don't Care" with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban.
Coheed and Cambria, "The Afterman: Descension": The prog band's seventh album is the second part of a double set.
Frightened Rabbit, "Pedestrian Verse": The followup to its 2010 breakthrough, "The Winter of Mixed Drinks," is the Scottish band's major label full-length debut for Atlantic/Canvasback.
Lisa Loeb, "No Fairy Tale": Seventh album finds the singer teaming with co-producer Chad Gilbert (of New Found Glory) for "poppy-punky-rock album," featuring guest spots by Tegan and Sara, Hello Goodbye and Maia Sharp.
Darkstar, "News From Nowhere": Follow-up to the electronic trio's acclaimed 2010 debut "North."
Matt Pond, "The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand Out": First official solo album from the moody Philadelphia indie rocker.
Night Beds, "Country Sleep": Debut from Nashville band touring with Sharon Van Etten.
Jenny O, "Automechanic": New Yorker's debut was produced by Jonathan Wilson (Dawes) and features James Gadson (Bill Withers) and Jake Blanton (The Killers).
The Bronx, "IV": First album in five years from the LA punk band.
Feeding People, "Island Universe": Second album from teen band that takes its cues from the 13th Floor Elevators and Jefferson Airplane.
Bullet for My Valentine, "Temper Temper": Fourth album from the Welsh metal band was produced by Don Gilmore (Linkin Park/Pearl Jam).
Lisa Germano, "No Elephants": Ninth album from the singer-songwriter-violinist who came of age in John Mellencamp's band and veered into more indie-rock territory.
LL Cool J, "Authentic Hip Hop": Thirteenth album and first in five years from the rap legend features the single "Take It" with Joe.
Azealia Banks, "Broke With Expensive Taste": Debut album from Harlem rapper who broke out with "212."
Pissed Jeans, "Honeys": Fourth album from the Allentown, Pa., noise-rock band on Sub Pop is described as "an ode to the misery and shackles of being a responsible adult, and the shame of one's own narcissism."
The March Divide, "Music for Film": Debut album from San Antonio-based musician Jared Putnam, formerly of The Conversation.
Hollerado, "White Paint": Second album from the Canadian power pop band.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, "Push the Sky Away": Fifteenth album from the dark Australian art-rock band is the first to not feature founding member Mick Harvey. The frontman has said, "I don't know, this record just seems new, you know, but new in an old school kind of way."
Major Lazer, "Major Lazer Frees the Universe": Project from DJ/producer Diplo features collaborations with Bruno Mars, Flux Pavillion, Tyga, Wyclef Jean, Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend) and more.
Buckcherry, "Confessions": Sixth studio album from the LA hard rock band is a loose concept album about the seven deadly sins.
Iceage, "You're Nothing": Sophomore album from Danish post-punk band on Matador.
The Slide Brothers, "Robert Randolph Presents: The Slide Brothers": First studio album from group called "the standard bearers of the sacred steel tradition."
Atlas Genius, "When It Was Now": Debut album from Australian band that has been touring with Silversun Pickups.
Beach Fossils, "Clash the Truth": Sophomore album from Brooklyn dream-pop act.
Jamie Lidell, "Jamie Lidell": New album from British soul singer now working out of Nashville.
Mark Kozelek, "Like Rats": The singer-songwriter from Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon issues an album of covers by Bad Brains, Misfits, Josh Turner, Sonny and Cher and more.
STRFKR, "Miracle Mile": Third full-length from the Portland electronica band.
Various Artists, "Son of Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys": Second compilation from Johnny Depp features work by Shane MacGowan, Tom Waits, Beth Orton, Patti Smith and more.
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, "Untamed Beast": Indie rockers has been described as a "cross between Ella Fitzgerald and Tom Waits."
Atoms for Peace, "Amok": Debut from supergroup consisting of Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich (Radiohead), Joey Waronker (R.E.M.), Mauro Refosco and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers). Mr. Godrich told NME, "It's supposed to blur the line between what's generated electronically and what's generated by a human being ..."
Johnny Marr, "The Messenger": The Smiths guitarist told Rolling Stone of his solo debut, "This record is a little more rooted in the New Wave shows I used to sneak in to see when I left school -- not directly, but in terms of the energy, the shadow of the memory of that."
50 Cent, "Street King Immortal": The rapper's long-delayed fifth album is expected to include guest spots from Eminem, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Chris Brown, Dr. Dre, Lloyd Banks, Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Wiz Khalifa and Young Jeezy.
Sally Shapiro, "Somewhere Else": Swedish disco queen issues followup to 2009's "My Guilty Pleasure."
Metal Mother, "Ionika": Avant-dance album from Oakland, Calif.'s Tara Tati.
Shout Out Louds, "OPTICA": Fourth album from Swedish indie-pop band.
Jimi Hendrix, "People, Hell & Angels": Twelve previously unreleased studio recordings by the legendary guitarist working outside of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience trio.
They Might Be Giants, "Nanobots": Sixteenth album from the beloved indie-rock band was produced by Patrick Dillett (David Byrne, Mary J. Blige, Tegan and Sara) and features the single "Call You Mom."
Robyn Hitchcock, "Love From London": The British psych-pop rocker says the album "celebrates life in a culture imperiled by economic and environmental collapse."
Brooke Waggoner, "Originator": Haunting singer-pianist who's been hiding out in Jack White's band releases her first album in three years.
Autechre, "Exai": 11th album from the British electronic duo.
Low, "The Invisible Way": Tenth album from the Duluth, Minn., slowcore trio was produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.
Bon Jovi, "What About Now": First album since 2009's "The Circle" will be featured on band's new tour.
Sevendust, "Black Out of the Sun": Guitarist John Connolly has said the metal band's ninth album has "a darker vibe ... but there's still plenty of melody."
Paramore, "Paramore": Fourth album from Hayley Williams and company was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnson (Beck, Nine Inch Nails) and leads with the single "Now."
Olly Murs, "Right Place, Right Time": Third album from the British pop singer and "X Factor" runner-up features the single "Troublemaker" with Flo Rida.
The Knife, "Shaking the Habitual": Swedish brother-sister electronic duo's follow-up to "Silent Shout," the breakout that was named Pitchfork's Best Album of 2006.
Also coming early 2013:
Black Sabbath, Mariah Carey, Pusha T, Sky Ferreira, Ghost.music
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg. First Published January 3, 2013 5:00 AM