As the year winds down and everyone compiles their best and worst lists from 2012 we thought we’d introduce some (relatively) new music. Whether you’ve heard their song on the radio this year for the first time or they just got nominated as Best New Artist at the GRAMMY nominations concert, here’s 12 albums you should give a listen to. Thank us later.
Having skyrocketed to popularity in the U.S. after her feature on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” 22-year-old Kimbra found herself on her first U.S. headlining tour earlier this year. Her latest release, Vows, showcases the singer’s prowess and versatility. The ever catchy album opener “Settle Down” impresses with hand-clapped rhythms, wavering falsetto and a beat that you just can’t help but tap your feet along to.
Whether it’s her more upbeat numbers or slowed ballads like the hushed “Two Way Street,” her soulful vocals are memorable. The now GRAMMY nominated artist has a lot more talent than her Gotye feature showcases.
For fans of: Janelle Monae, Gotye, fun.
Artist: Hunter Hayes
Album: Hunter Hayes
Though he’s only in his early 20s, this GRAMMY nominated Best New Artist has already shared the stage with country legends Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr., not to mention has written for Rascal Flatts. If you’ve found yourself single or struggling with a bad breakup any part of 2012 this release hits close to home with songs like “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me” and “Storm Warning.”
Though the album itself was released in 2011, Hunter’s ever popular single “Wanted” has made him a crossover artist this year and this album is one to put on your radar. Written, produced and recorded himself Hunter played every instrument featured on this LP and it’s nothing short of impressive.
Artist: Alabama Shakes
Album: Boys & Girls
Alabama Shakes were a much buzzed about band during 2011’s CMJ Music Marathon in New York. One radio station manager praised them as being the one band that has a shot of bringing rock & roll back. With a Best New Artist GRAMMY nomination this Alabama-based band is well on their way.
From the moment Brittany Howard belts her first lyric on album opener “Hold On,” she captivates. Her voice brings to mind Amy Winehouse with the power of Aretha Franklin. A distinct ’60s Motown vibe is heard throughout much of Boys & Girls. On “You Ain’t Alone” she growls, “If you’re gonna cry, cry with me” while the rest of the band adds to the mix. With bombastic guitar riffs, soulful keyboard interludes and a heart pounding drumbeat, Alabama Shakes prove they’re a force to reckon with.
For fans of: Amy Winehouse, Adele, Aretha Franklin
Artist: The Gaslight Anthem
Their major label debut, Handwritten oozes with rock & roll spirit and intensity as Gaslight Anthem wear their hearts on their sleeves. The New Jersey-based band got their start playing basements and have since gravitated to sold-out shows with a dedicated and enthusiastic fan base who know every word to each song and scream along during their live sets.
“Have you seen my heart, have you seen how it bleeds/And the nights are so long, baby/Out here in the deep,” frontman Brian Fallon belts on their first single “45.” His gritty vocals are prevalent throughout Handwritten as is his sense of urgency.” Meanwhile, the bluesy “Biloxi Parish” brings to mind notable acts like Bruce Springsteen, The Clash and Social Distortion. Clearly inspired by the greats who preceded them, Fallon sings, “And all of our heroes with failures of ghosts/Burn down in brilliant explosions alone/And all of the blood and the sweat that they gave/Well we took it all and we threw it away.” With memorable guitar licks and a radio friendly feel, this is just a glimpse into the future for Gaslight Anthem.
For fans of: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, The Clash, Social Distortion
Artist: Tristan Prettyman
Album: Cedar + Gold
Tristan Prettyman has had a rough few years. Her fiancé (Jason Mraz) called off their engagement and she was left heartbroken and questioning if she wanted to continue pursuing music. Lucky for us she did. Her album is nothing short of a heartfelt breakup album so keep the tissues close by. While she’s laying it all out for the world to see like on the poignant “I Was Gonna Marry You” and “Say Anything” it’s songs like the quirky “The Rebound” that show her versatility and ability to move on past the headache.
For fans of: Adele, Colbie Caillat, Christina Perri
Artist: Matthew Perryman Jones
Album: Land of the Living
You’ve surely heard his music on television. Most likely showcased at a pivotal scene on Grey’s Anatomy or Pretty Little Liars, Matthew Perryman Jones whispered vocals soothe and strike a chord.
“I Won’t Let You Down Again” recalls sentimental Coldplay frontman Chris Martin but with more sincerity while the impassioned “Cancion De La Noche” and “O Theo” leaves a mark with echoed vocals that rise and fall alongside delicate finger-picked acoustic guitar.
For fans of: Coldplay, Muse, U2, Mat Kearney
-Annie Reuter, CBS Local