Locals, legends among top album releases of 2012

Francie Johnson

Without a doubt, 2012 has been an amazing year in music. Although we’re over a week into 2013 and there are enough “Best Albums of 2012” countdowns floating around to make your head spin, and I figured I’d add my own 2 cents. I’ve included just a few of my favorite albums of this past year, in no particular order, that are definitely worth checking out.

First Aid Kit, “The Lion’s Roar”

Released Jan. 18, 2012, “The Lion’s Roar” is First Aid Kit’s second album. I only recently started listening to this band, but with their breathtakingly honest lyrics and hauntingly beautiful harmonies, Swedish sisters Johana and Klara Söderberg have quickly woven their way into my heart. Listening to this record, I couldn’t help but think of Joni Mitchell – a connection made even more apparent by a track titled “Blue,” possibly alluding to Mitchell’s album of the same name. “The Lion’s Roar” conveys a certain sadness that is hard to put into words — a sadness so completely pure it’s intoxicating — and I constantly find myself pressing the “repeat” button.

Alabama Shakes, “Boys & Girls”

From the very first note of “Boys & Girls,” it’s obvious there is something different about Athens, Ala., based Alabama Shakes. I haven’t heard a female voice as gritty and soulful as vocalist Brittany Howard’s since Janis Joplin. “Boys & Girls,” released April 9, 2012, is the band’s first full-length album. It has earned them three Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist. From their popular hit, “Hold On,” to my personal favorite track, “You Ain’t Alone,” there is not a single song on this entire album that isn’t incredible.

Jack White, “Blunderbuss”

I reviewed this album not long after its release in April 2012, and over six months later, I still consider it to be one of the best – if not the best – album of 2012. It has all of the groove and funk of a White Stripes album, complete with the lyrical slap in the face that could only come from the hand of Jack White himself. Of course, I was disappointed to see the White Stripes break up in early 2011, but the release of “Blunderbuss” reassured me that although the White Stripes are no more, Jack White’s solo career has a life of its own.

Bob Dylan, “Tempest”

Admittedly, I’m a little biased when it comes to Bob Dylan; there is almost nothing he can do that would disappoint me or make me question his talent. That being said, “Tempest” is no exception. Dylan’s raspy, sandpaper-and-glue voice sings of love and death in an album that is, at times, cheerful, but at others, dark and morbid. Something about “Tempest” draws me in. Listening to it is almost like entering another world, filled with darkness and mystery, but through it all, a single ray of light shines through. This album is a stunning addition to Bob Dylan’s already flawless catalogue, and although he’s getting older, something tells me there’s even more to come.

The Lumineers, “The Lumineers”

Last May, I somehow found myself front row at a Lumineers concert, despite the fact I had never even heard of them. From the moment they started playing, though, I immediately knew they were something special. Soon after, I started hearing them on the radio, and it has been incredible to watch them earn the recognition and popularity they truly deserve. Their self-titled debut album, released April 3, 2012, is poignant, raw and beautifully straightforward. The Lumineers have embarked on the indie-folk path originally paved by groups such as Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers, but they breathe new life into the genre, relying on honesty and simplicity to connect to their audience.