Either I enjoy music more than ever or 2012 is off to a great start. Either way, here are four recent albums that you should, at the very least, consider sampling:
- Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls ($5). If musical eras are in fact overactions to previous eras, then Alabama Shakes might have just ushered in the new sound of rock n’ roll. Boys & Girls is raw, imperfect, and features crooning more impressive than Adele, all of which helps to counter the processed, overproduced, and immaculate sounds of recent years. It’s like a mix of Aretha Franklin, Credence Clearwater Revival, Marvin Gaye, with a hint of Janis Joplin performing country, making it a front runner for album of the year. Favorite tracks: Hold On, Hang Loose, I Found You, Be Mine, and Heartbreaker.
- Keane, Strangeland ($5). Although not as breakthrough as the band’s first album or Alabama Shakes debut, it’s probably the most cohesive album on this list. By that I mean I wasn’t tempted to hit skip a single time, whereas I was tempted to do so on one or two occasions with the others on my list. As is, Strangeland is pound for pound a great value, even if it explores familiar sonic ground. To keep things fresh, it also features some of the most accessible lyrics and catchy hooks. No wonder they scored their fifth consecutive number one album, the only group with more being the Beatles. Favorite tracks: Starting Line, Neon River, In Your Own Time, Disconnected, and Silenced by the Night.
- Jack White, Blunderbuss ($11). As a group of songs, I think this is White’s best work to date. Similar to Keane, no song is as iconic as some of his past singles, but I enjoy the entire album from start to finish. Not as memorable as either Boys & Girls or Strangeland, but groovy and rockin’ at times. Standout tracks: Sixteen Saltines, I’m Shaking, Missing Pieces, Freedom at 21, and Lover Interruption.
- St. Lucia, Self Titled ($6). Clocking in at just 25 minutes, this EP is “speedy” as my two-year old would say to describe something fleeting. But it backs an electronic pop punch, like a good modern Depeche Mode clone. When I need a quick, dance friendly pickup, this has been my go-to album. Best tracks: All Eyes on You (awesome), This Old House is Gone, Before the Dive, and Paper Heart.
HONORABLE MENTION: Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal, which my lovely wife discovered
Readers: What albums have you most enjoyed this year?