proved to be a breakthrough of a year in the world of pop.
Thanks to the power of viral phenomena and social networking, a new breed of relatively unknown alternative artists reformed the radio into their own playground with moving examples of full-length albums.


A year ago, acts like Gotye, Mumford & Sons, fun. and Frank Ocean would've had no place in the synth-driven economy of pop music. But as we all know, pop music is ever changing; so are we.

The thirty-four albums selected in 'HIFI's Top Albums' pool are shining examples of music. Of course, our team of contributing writers had dozens of choices that should've qualified for such a list. But in our annual round-up, we only have room for the best of the best. Luckily, you can still see the long list of favorite albums by each writer and how they rated them from great to greatest by checking out their mini-bio pages.

Since its inception, HIFI's main focus is to keep its eye on the happenings in pop. At the same time, we have a very good rear view mirror of avant-garde works that aren't exactly on our Top 40 radar. It is those contributions that really define the real evolution of tomorrow's pop. So if you've never heard of an artist or an album selected, get to know them. You may not know them now, but there's a good chance you'll know them tomorrow.

Be sure to take advantage of the player next to each listing to get into the groove.

So without further ado, we give you HIFI's Top Albums of 2012, from number 33 1/3 to number one.

Listen to our choices by using the embedded Spotify player.

At the bottom of each page, share your views and opinions with us. Tell us what you think.

Link up with your favorites by checking out their official websites and Facebook pages.

Purchase the music using the links to Amazon and iTunes.

Black Radio
(Blue Note)

For those who are eternally hip to hip-hop but impervious to the world of jazz needed to get a dose of Robert Glasper's latest experiment to experience a change of heart. Playing like a jazzed-up mixtape of black culture highlights, Black Radio brings on adult contemporary R&B and hip-hop all-stars to update Coltrane (“Afro Blue”) and Sade (“Cherish the Day”), while taking on The Roots urban soul (“Always Shine”). Above all, the risky robotic remake of Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit” tips the scale in the jazz pianist's favor. Glasper is clearly acting as an ambassador in 21 st century cutting-edge jazz, as if he's been ordained by Miles Davis himself. » J MATTHEW COBB

BUY: Amazon » iTunes
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Rocket Juice and the Moon
(Honest Jon's)

Damon Alban, Tony Allen, and Flea have tossed around the idea of forming a supergroup since 2008, but after years of talk and a 2011 concert, the seasoned artists have dropped an album as diverse and sprawling as the careers leading up to it. The album's content is largely instrumental, with contributions from a variety of musicians, including vocals by Erykah Badu and horn blasts by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Tracks bridge genres from hip-hop to electronica, to jazz and Allen's unique musical contribution of Afrofunk. Alban's own vocals lure in the listener while his keys take them on an interstellar trip. Flea's familiar bass is as groovy as ever, and Allen's drums tie the whole collaboration together. » THOMAS LITTLE

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(Zef Recordz)

While most people probably only think of Dave Matthews (the singer, not the whole group) when they think of South African musicians, Cape Town's strange rap-rave outfit Die Antwoord is certainly trying to change that with their amped up, 90's-era techno-infused beats, catchy hooks, and occasional Afrikaans thrown in for good measure, revealed on Ten$ion. Though the more upbeat, dancier numbers like “I Fink U Freeky” and “Fatty Boom Boom” are certainly the album's bread-and-butter, even more hip-hop tempo tracks like “U Make a Ninja Wanna F***” convey the group's intentionally ironic cheesy stylings, the sort that keep you smiling for the entire album. » RYAN BURRUSS

BUY: Amazon » iTunes
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The Truth About Love

Combining elements of pop, rock, and R&B, P!nk gives a masterclass of the ideal, balanced pop album on The Truth About Love. “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” solidifies the star with a gargantuan pop hit while “How Come You're Not Here” borrows cues from classic rock, intact with a signature, classic ending. She's even able to hang with the hip-hop crowd as well (Eminem) on “Here Comes The Weekend.” » BRENT FAULKNER

BUY: Amazon » iTunes
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