4. Brandy Clark, '12 Stories'
The best songs on Clark's debut involve drugs ("Get High," "Take A Little Pill") and that new genre staple, vengeful ladies with guns ("Stripes," "Crazy Women"). And her tearjerkers are remarkably nuanced – see "Hold My Hand," which interrogates jealousy, and "What Will Keep Me Out Of Heaven," which does the same for adulterous guilt. It's all airtight craftsmanship, sly wit and precise detailing that treats mainstream style like artisanal fast food. Part of the young Nashville songwriting cabal that includes Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally, Clark's the kind of talent who makes the term "alt-country" unnecessary.