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.

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Gary Clark Jr., 'Blak and Blu'

27. Gary Clark Jr., 'Blak and Blu'

The major-label debut by the 28-year-old Austin bluesman lives up to his head-turning 2011 EP and then some. Clark plays to the Chicago-Texas blues tradition and even covers Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun." But he's no simple throwback. "The Life" and the title track have modern R&B flow; "Travis County" is punkish roots rock, "Glitter Ain't Gold" matches Duane Allman slide with a glam-metal undertow. Best of all, Clark's brain-frying guitar solos are more about noise nuance and phrasing than speed-trial note-spitting.

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