From the resilient folk of Bhi Bhiman to the poignant rap of Brother Ali and Oddisee, from Bob Dylan’s continuing lyrical excursion to the catchiness of The Dig and The Mowgli’s, here are my 20 favorite albums of 2012.
This debut album from Alabama Shakes, a quartet led by Brittany Howard, is full of guitar-based music with flares of classic rock, blues, and R&B. There’s a palpable energy to the tracks, but it is Howard’s soulful vocals that guide the songs.
On Barchords, the second album by Bahamas, the music continues the effervescently mellow sound of Pink Strat (a TWSIS favorite) with a crisper production quality. These 12 songs are incredibly catchy and remarkably addictive.
This album is a batch of saccharine soaked songs. Bethany Cosentino’s voice and jangly guitars give the album a clear and precise sound.
This album has palpable lyrics that share varying perspectives, from a forlorn lover to an optomistic retiree, a redneck to a North Korean prisoner, and a train riding vagabond. The music has a dense, acoustic sound with the perfect combination of resounding low tones and tender descants.
The album is full of solid beats and political and socially conscious raps. He highlights things that aren’t right with a pang of hope.
The Dig – Midnight Flowers | MP3
This album of diverse rock has a deceptively dense and dynamic sound. The songs have layers of atmospheric keyboards and driving guitar riffs.
The 71-year-old music legend sounds more weathered and heavier with his age, but with a no holds barred conviction. The music, which continues the musical themes that were started with Time Out of Mind, is damn good, but the lyrics are incredible.
A dream team of alt country singer-songwriters and some of Woody Guthrie’s previously unreleased lyrics. Each song creates a different atmosphere that is a combination of Woody and the singer’s style.
The latest album from Erika Wennerstrom’s Heartless Bastards is a solid and precise set of classic rockers. The album has the tight, locked sound, but with the palpability of Erika Wennerstrom’s voice.
There is a rustic quality to Joshua James’s songwriting. These natural songs have rich and appealing qualities.
A raucous energy is caught on every track with an infrangible combination of the distorted guitar, clean but aggressive drums, and exulting yowl of vocals.
Meursault – Something for the Weakened | MP3
With lush arrangements and multifold production, the band’s third album is full of engaging music.
This band is a seven-piece collective where the lead microphone is passed from member to member. Layered instrumentation, energy and sensibility make every song an aural treat.
The beats are tight and utilize unique samples. And the album is full intelligent lyrics that skewer stand lines and themes in place of original thoughts and ideas. Oddisee keeps the beats and the lyrical topics from being repetitive on this solid debut album.
This album is a crazy mixture of multiple genres, with surf and psychedelic rock mixed with elecrtonica and jazz, to create a catchy combination of unique power pop.
A garage rock album, these songs are about Jim Jones, Willie Mays, Emperor Norton and the myths, lore and history of San Francisco.
Kelli Scarr’s voice has an obliging drawl that can sound either sweet or gutsy. The music is filled out with honky tonking telecasters, swelling steel guitars, steady bass, and shuffling drums.
Most of these songs were played on nylon string guitar, and like most of Mark Kozelek’s projects, there is a deeply engaging quality here.
The evolving sound of this duo shows Adam Stephens’ raspy voice and fluid guitar and Tyson Vogel’s wildly contained drums combine with a bit more angst and aggression than the band’s previous releases.
The band has a lush sound while maintaining an emphasis on songwriting. The catchy music volleys between quieter moments of acoustic guitar and strings to forays of the full, electric band.