10. Miguel-Kaleidoscope Dream
The act I wouldn’t have predicted to be one of my favorite albums of the year is Miguel. I assumed the 26 year old artist’s sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream would be more weak dance fodder (see Trey Songz, Chris Brown), but Miguel takes funk, rock and electronic influences and crafted an expansive album. It’s easily to say KD is a direct result of Frank Ocean/The Weeknd, but Miguel nearly removes all hip-hop elements (besides an 808) and leans more toward Prince. Sexually charge cuts like “The Thrill” and “Do You..” mix Miguel’s astute pop songwriting ability with multi-faceted vocals and driving guitar.
9. Alabama Shakes-Boys and Girls
Brittany Howard and the Alabama Shakes truly took the world by storm with their four track EP in 2011. Unfortunately for them, the four tracks that first appeared on the band’s debut EP are some of Boys and Girls best efforts. The proper blues rock debut still impressed on cuts like beach-ready “Hang Loose” and eccentric toe tapper “Goin’ To The Party”, but “Hold On” and “I Found You” may have set the bar too high. Howard’s howling vocals continue to elevate to new heights though on “Heartbreaker”.
8. Jack White-Blunderbuss
While it seems impossible that Blunderbuss was Jack White’s first solo album, it’s clear he exercises a lot of demons on the release. “Missing Pieces” subtly opens the album with the low hum of guitar and electric organ, before “Sixteen Saltines” kicks in with blistering rhythm and White’s unique howl. Many of the album’s greatest cuts including “Freedom at 21”, “Love Interruption”, “Hypocritical Kiss” and “Weep Themselves To Sleep”, relate to relationships in some fashion. If White needs to work out any more issues, hopefully it equates into another solo effort sooner than later.
7. Cody Chesnutt-Landing On A Hundred
While the likes of Frank Ocean, Miguel and The Weeknd lead the charge of new R&B, Cody Chesnutt is perfectly content with showing why old school soul is still potent. The throwback album is carried by Chesnutt’s soul drenched pipes, with a traditional R&B sound that is like being transported to ‘70’s Motown era. “Til I Met Thee” sunnily expresses jubilation of love, while “Everybody’s Brother” speaks of redemption from addiction with a funky bassline and organ sound. Throughout Landing On A Hundred, Chesnutt isn’t afraid to ask honest questions of society and current affairs. The fiscal cliff appropriate “Where Is All The Money Going” picks up the pace with handclaps and rhythmic guitar and the horn and guitar-filled swing comes with a political statement on “Under The Spell Of The Handout”. Now if we could just get Chesnutt to put out an album more often than every 10 years. Also, where can I get one of those helmets?
6. Twin Shadow-Confess
Confess is so ‘80’s inspired that repeated listens might make you forget what year it is. The synthesizer overload (“Be Mine Tonight”), driving rhythms (“Five Seconds”) and George Lewis Jr.’s unrelenting passion (“Run My Heart”) sound straight out of Top Gun or Blade Runner (I can’t decide). “Golden Light” could be the best album opener of the year as Lewis Jr. triumphantly chases love. The album artwork furthers the nostalgia with Lewis Jr. outfitted in a black leather jacket and slicked back hair.