14. District Attorneys-Slowburner
GA-based The District Attorneys enlisted producer/engineer Drew Vandenberg to rework a handful of demos from their Waiting on the Calm Down EP that were filled with precise hooks and reverb-filled guitar tracks that balanced accessibility with creativity. Those songs and a few make up the eclectic make-up of Slowburner, an album that hints past familiar Southern rock tropes. Lessons in garage rock (“California Fire”), Americana (“I Can’t Make The Distance…”, “Far Past the Point of Resolve”) and indie rock (“Confusion of Trust”, “Cherry Glow”) all showcase melodic hooks and prove the DA’s are worth national attention. The shared vocal duties of Drew Beskin and T.J. Mimbs complement each other throughout the release and make for a balanced effort. Highlight track “Worry About Your Health” expertly employs a grimy rock sound that haunts with plenty of reverb and heavy guitar growl, as the narrator reluctantly bemoans “I’m just playing the hand thats dealt.”
13. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis-The Heist
What makes Macklemore’s raps so engaging is the passion exuding from his breathy rhymes. Paired with Ryan Lewis’ diverse production, Macklemore tackles serious and silly topics that aren’t often discussed in hip-hop from same-sex marriage (“Same Love”) to Goodwill fashions (“Thrift Shop”). “Wing$” is quite possibly the most intense song about shoes ever written, while “Jimmy Iovine” truthfully details the duo’s decision to stay independent after being wooed by hip-hop royalty. While there are a lot of emcees that preach honestly, Macklemore makes you feel like you’re in his confession booth. If Macklemore is too exhausting, guest appearances by Ray Dalton, Mary Lambert and Ben Bridwell provide perfect balance throughout The Heist.
12. Yeasayer-Fragrant World
If Odd Blood was Yeasayer’s attempt to dip their musical toe into ‘90s R&B/pop, Fragrant World was the eccentric act’s swan dive. Tracks like “Fingers Never Bleed” and “The Devil and the Deed” carry an almost ‘90s R&B edge with amped up drums and spacey synth. Anand Wilder and Chris Keating once again share vocals on the record and work to each other’s strengths. Lead single “Henrietta” and “Reagan’s Skeleton” hint at some of Odd Blood’s better elements as the dulcet hooks glide with a mix of pulsing rhythms and keys. For a band that leaned on tribal and word influences, Yeasayer’s 5 year progression continues to surprise.
11. Jessie Ware-Devotion
Young English act Jessie Ware left a strong impression in the music world in 2012 with Devotion. Ware’s harmonious vocals soar throughout her debut album amidst assorted production and engaging songwriting. The title track, “Running”, and “No to Love” employ smooth chillwave/quiet storm techniques that could be mistaken for Sade or Aaliyah. Elsewhere, “110%” elegantly dips into electro-pop with a slowed Big Punisher sample in a track about the pursuit of impatient love. The honesty of “Wildest Moments” and “Night Light” enchanted and showcased Ware’s true pop potential.