50 Best Albums of 2012

Frank Ocean reimagined R&B; Dylan drenched us in blood; pop-punk vets, disco orchestras and Scottish oddballs made an election year bearable.

34

Alabama Shakes, 'Boys & Girls'

Fronted by ex-mail carrier Brittany Howard – a slow-boil belter shaped by punk and roots rock as much as the Stax-Volt/Muscle Shoals sound she so mightily channels – the Alabama-based Shakes sprang from Southern soul's cradle. Their debut is a set of lean, hooky originals about the big stuff: love ("Be Mine"), death ("On Your Way"), human struggle ("Hold On") and getting crunk ("Goin' to the Party"). It earned them a fan base that includes Robert Plant and My Morning Jacket, and it suggests that even greater things lie ahead.

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