Jack White – Blunderbuss
I have already written about White’s first solo album here. The music lives up to expectations and constantly surprises the listener with its range of style and sound. White pairs clarinet, piano, a soulful duet, and a cover of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’” with the insistent drum beat and blistering guitar work for which he is known. Blunderbuss also tops my three year-old daughter’s list.
The Lumineers – The Lumineers
The debut album from this Colorado trio is a pleasure from start to finish. The folk rock sounds provide a sturdy base for simple yet clever lyrics, including one of my favorite rhymes: “I made her laugh / I made a pass” from the charmingly self-deprecating “Classy Girls.”
River Giant – River Giant
The second folk rock trio to appear on my list, River Giant is a relatively new band whose self-released debut will be re-released on CD and vinyl by Devil Duck Records in April 2013. I have already written about the powerful sonic alchemy created by the band. The album is built of freight train folk and sweet melody that promises a bright future for the Seattle trio.
Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
Another debut, this powerhouse album shows that soul music is alive and well. Brittany Howard’s vocals recall the gritty, sweet sound of Janis Joplin as she belts out lyrics about love and living atop the soul-influenced rock. And the first track, “Hold On,” is a sure cure for the winter blues.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – The Heist
Another self-released Seattle album, The Heist is the debut of rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis. The duo tackles a wide range of subjects, including the mundane—shopping for deals at the thrift shop and video games—to heavy hitters like addiction and marriage equality, creating an album that is both fun and emotionally affecting. And the infectious sax riff of “Thrift Shop” will stick with you well into 2013.
For a more comprehensive list of 2012 music, check out KEXP’s list of top albums as voted on by listeners.