It’s the time of year where enthusiasts in all sorts of fields think back to the highlights of 2012 and make Best Of lists. And why should we in music be any different? So let’s get to it.

Now let me be clear: this isn’t an Album Of The Year list. I’ve decided to limit myself to the 120 or so releases that I’ve reviewed here on Glasswerk over the course of the last twelve months. That means some good albums might miss out, but not too many to be honest. Anyway, it serves them right for not sending me free music to write about.

This year I’ve been lucky enough to hear some very fine debut albums. In fact half of my top ten comes from bands releasing their first album – which just goes to show how much great new talent there is out there. In alphabetical order these are:

Alabama Shakes – Boys And Girls. I first heard of Brittany Howard and co through a stream on a US site a few weeks before this album came out and was hooked from the first listen. A high intensity rock sound built on a soul and blues foundation backs that great voice, making this one of the most highly rated debuts in a long time. With tracks like Hold On and You Ain’t Alone, Boys And Girls is a great album. And there is so much more yet to come from Alabama Shakes.

Bleech – Nude. Bleech have a big rock sound with a real new wave feel to it. The London three piece band is made up of sisters Jen and Katherine O’Neill and drummer Matt Bick and they have a tremendous energy on stage that is captured well on the album. There are a couple of excellent slower tracks in there too, with the wonderful Flowerhands being my favourite. The good news is that Bleech are already working on their second album.

Crowns – Stitches In The Flag. The Cornish boys take traditional music and fuse it with wild punk to create something unique. They call it fishpunk and I love it. Fast and furious, this album is only 30 minutes long but is filled with quality tracks like Four Walls and Little Eyes. I’m really looking forward to seeing Crowns live for the first time in January.

Damn Vandals – Done For Desire. A great rock sound filled with meaty guitars and a commanding lead vocal make Damn Vandals a highly rated young band. The bluesy King Of Never and Trouble With Jesus are amongst the best from a debut album that is dark and passionate yet also varied and lively. The Londoners have a big future ahead of them.

We Are Augustines – Rise Ye Sunken Ships. One of my favourite discoveries of the year, the Brooklyn based three piece indie band combines wonderfully heartfelt songwriting with a massive anthemic sound. Their lyrics are often dark, the stories at times traumatic. But the sheer power and energy of their music makes this a fine album and they are quite superb live too. Philadelphia and Book Of James are the standouts on a superb album.

But this year has not all been about debuts and a fair few established acts have released some great new material too. Again I’ve chosen my favourite five and list them in alphabetical order.

Acres Of Lions – Collections. The Canadian indie band has a big sound with driving guitars and subtle keyboards. This is their second album, although the first to be released in the UK. With clever lyrics and radio friendly choruses, this is a band you will hear a lot more about next year. The best of a very good album are Kids and the title track.

Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball. What can you say about Mr Springsteen? Still producing great music and phenomenal three hour plus live shows well into his sixties, he just gets better with age. Wrecking Ball draws from many strands of American music and its message of anger against the ruling elite for the current economic mess is clear. We Take Care Of Our Own and the wonderful Land Of Hope And Dreams stand out in a great album.

Laurie Levine – Six Winters. South African singer songwriter Laurie Levine’s third album could just be the most gorgeous release of the year. She has a beautiful voice, plaintive and melancholy yet also strong and powerful. Her music is emotional and delivered with real feeling. The defiant title track and a heartbreaking slow version of Ring Of Fire are among the many highlights on an album full of lovely songs.

Phantom Limb – The Pines. Four years after their debut, Bristol based Phantom Limb have produced a quite superb second album. Built around the spectacular voice of lead singer Yolanda Quartey, their mix of country, gospel, blues and soul is delivered by some very fine musicians. Tumbling Down’s blues and the exceptional seven minute epic High And Dry are perhaps the best here. If you don’t know Phantom Limb’s music then you are missing out on a very special talent.

The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten. The fourth album from the New Jersey rockers is their best yet. Combining Jersey Shore rock with punk attitude and energy, Handwritten is full of big, anthemic tracks that sound great on stage. Two emotional songs, Keepsake and Too Much Blood are the heart of a fine album full of big guitars and pounding drums. The Gaslights bring power aplenty and a touch of subtlety too.

So there you have it. Ten fine albums from bands in different musical styles and at varying stages of their careers. The USA, Canada, South Africa and England are all represented here – but not Scotland unfortunately. I hope that some of the very good young bands I know from the local scene can put that right for the 2013 list. The likes of The Imagineers, SOS and Blindfolds have all released excellent EPs over the last few months so here’s hoping …