In a time where genres are bending and the concept of a physical album and liner notes are irrelevant to many, the music scene still has much promise and sustains itself as a prominent force in art and entertainment.
With many trends occurring in the past year, there were several choice releases not only on the national level, but locally as well.
The past year was one that was marked by a strong female presence.
From seasoned artists like Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams to others like Nashville’s Tristen, the siren sounds were all over the place crossing genres in pop, rock and Americana.
On the rise this year were hip-hop and electronic music.
Both have gained momentum in the past couple of years, due to the notoriety from Tyler the Creator and Big K.R.I.T., who are fresh faces in an up-and-coming sea of hip-hop artists.
In the same manner, you can name your preference – electronic, trance or dub-step – the dance revolution is at hand and musical snippets from this genre are now popular in several forms of music.
Online music services such as Spotify and Grooveshark have proved to be considerable options, along with Pandora, adding more alternatives in ways to listen to music.
In other industry news, there was a ray of hope within album sales this year.
According to Billboard, music sales have maintained some stability, as they should show an increase by year’s end.
Digital sales lead the way and are the main form of consumption, but physical formats haven’t decreased at the same rate as past years which is a positive sign.
Ryan Adams, Ashes & Fire
Ryan Adams makes a triumphant return on Ashes & Fire with one of his most complete and mature albums to date. If this album is a pensive look into Adam’s future recordings, then it’s going in a great place.
Key Tracks: “Lucky Now,” “Dirty Rain”
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
Washington’s Fleet Foxes released their first album since 2008’s self-titled work this spring with a quiet tour that stopped at Ryman Auditorium in May. If you’re a fan of front man Robin Pecknold’s perfect voice, woodsy harmonies and songs about orchards, then you’re in luck.
Key Tracks: “Helplessness Blues,” “The Shrine/An Argument”
Big K.R.I.T, Return of 4Eva
Hailing from the state of the M-I-crooked letter, K.R.I.T. has become one of the breakthrough rappers of the year. With prose about hard work, country life and the occasional tire rotation, this one is reminiscent of older Outkast albums.
Key Tracks: “R4 Theme Song,” “Dreamin’”
If “Rolling in the Deep” wasn’t one of the top songs of the summer, then there’s not too much that could top blasting it with the windows down.
Key Tracks: “Rumour Has It,” “Rolling in the Deep”
TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light
Quite possibly one of the tightest albums of the year – laced with smooth grooves and rhythms, this one was well overdue.
Key Tracks: “Second Song,” “Will Do”
Hayes Carll, KMAG YOYO
With a title drawing from a military acronym, Carll provides some of the finest country music mixed with a little Texas stomp on this effort.
Key Tracks: “Stomp and Holler,” “KMAG YOYO”
Gillian Welch, The Harrow & The Harvest
Truly one of the best Southern writers, Welch enlists the help of longtime collaborator David Rawlings on her first album in eight years. The album was recorded in Nashville’s Woodland Sound Studios.
Key Tracks: “The Way It Goes,” “Tennessee”
Lucinda Williams, Blessed
There is no doubt Williams is one of the best modern day songwriters. With Blessed, she strengthens her rank on a solid effort with producer Don Was steering the ship.
Key Tracks: “Buttercup,” “Blessed”
Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots
Released in February, the DBT’s end product is one that focuses on more of a country and soul sound than their more rocking efforts of the past. But when painting a picture of the gothic South, there aren’t any groups who could better tell the story.
Key Tracks: “Everybody Needs Love,” “Pulaski,” “Used To Be A Cop”
Charles Bradley, No Time For Dreaming
Once a cook, now turned soul-singer, Bradley has paid his dues and is a true descendant of the James Brown style – by far one of the top soul/R & B albums of the year.
Key Tracks: “This World is Going Up in Flames,” “Heartaches and Pain”
Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
Sweden’s Lykke Li has been a hot mover on several lists throughout the year and Wounded Rhymes is one of the reasons for this.
Key Tracks: “Love Out of Lust,” “Sadness Is A Blessing”
The Features, Wilderness
On their third, full-length album, The Features have provided another gem to add to their catalog. With more grown-up insightfulness into life, they have been making waves with appearances on late night shows and various music publications.
Key Tracks: “Content,” “Golden Comb,” “Rambo”
Mogwai, Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
Scottish, noise-rockers Mogwai delivered one top-notch product with the highly anticipated Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, as they found a way to keep to the middle ground with what they do best.
Key Tracks: “San Pedro,” “How to Be a Werewolf”
Glossary, Long Live All Of Us
Murfreesboro staples, Glossary, showed audiences of the bright spots that can be found during the gloom of modern times as they focused on the positive traits of individuals on the subject matter of their latest album.
Key Tracks: “The Flood,” “Cheap Wooden Cross”
Iron and Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean
Sam Beam and company steered away from the typical Iron and Wine standards of the older days, but provided a collection of songs with heartfelt lyrics and full-bodied arrangements.
Key Tracks: “Walking Far From Home,” “Tree By The River”
The Decemberists, The King Is Dead
Another group going in a new direction is The Decemberists on The King is Dead. Gaining help from Gillian Welch and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on “Calamity Song,” the group explores new topics of matter and themes.
Key Tracks: “Don’t Carry It All,” “Down By The Water”
Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
Crossing over three decades, Mike D, Ad Rock and MCA proved they still have what it takes to make a great hip-hop album, and one that will keep the head-bobbing constant from start to finish.
Key Tracks: “Make Some Noise,” “Too Many Rappers”
My Morning Jacket, Circuital
Recorded in Lousville and Nashville, Circuital finds the band back to their beginnings and explore several different styles and themes, all the while, making them trendsetters of their craft.
Key Tracks: “Holdin On To Black Metal,” “Victory Dance”
Tristen, Charlatans At The Garden Gate
Nashville’s Tristen Gaspadarek showcases her talent in songwriting over vintage arrangements in her release from the early part of the year.
Key Tracks: “Eager For Your Love,” “Baby Drugs”
Sam & Tre, Sam & Tre
Masters of electro, hip-hop, Middle Tennessee’s Sam and Tre have been on the circuit for the majority of the year showing Nashville how to party.
Key Tracks: “We Do,” “Fly Away”
Alison Krauss & Union Station, Paper Airplane
One of the most angelic voices in country music, Alison Krauss & Union Station returned to the forefront this year with Paper Airplane. And when you have players like Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski, then it’s hard to go wrong.
Key Tracks: “Paper Airplane,” “Lay My Burden Down”
The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow
The duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White grabbed their success the old-fashioned way with hard work and dedication to their songs. On Barton Hollow, The Civil Wars have a mix of eerie and emotional tunes that transcend very well into the live setting also.
Key Tracks: “Poison & Wine,” “My Father’s Father”