It was a year dominated by the fusion of electronic elements into traditional folk storytelling. This year’s crop of lyricists delivered song after song of honest, emotionally challenging, beautiful material. These are just twelve albums on a greater list of stellar contributions to the industry. You can see though, through the widening array of influences, that the folk spectrum is widening. More and more artists are blending the authenticity of acoustic-based songwriting with the synthetic components that are historically fundamental to house music; two seemingly opposing forces that proved symbiotic in 2012.
Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
This is a surprising album, full of interesting changes and innovations to the tradition folk recipe, most notably the heavy synthetics woven into the narrative. (Still not going to use the word ‘Folktronica.) Winner of the Barclay’s Mercury Prize, 2012.
Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls
Representing the bluesy side of folk, Alabama Shakes, and Brittney Howard in particular, have reminded us just how important the voice is. Musicianship is not a quality that this album is lacking, but let’s face it, Brittney’s voice is outstanding. Hold On? I think I just might.
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, Here
This sophomore effort, from everyone’s favourite self-professed messiah, is everything we could have expected from Alex Ebert’s alternate personality. Catchy tunes, light hearted lyrics, and the unmistakable reliance on the tambourine, Here, is good fun.
Diamond Rugs, Diamond Rugs
I stumbled on this album in my quest to stalk John McCauley. As noted in a previous article, I think this is the most refreshing album of 2012. There seems to be so many identifiable motifs within it. Ironically though, once you try to pinpoint them down fully they disappear into the ether. What happened? I just heard them? They were there…This album is what happens when you hear the proverbial tree fall in the woods even though you weren’t there to see it. Your mind clears completely and you’re left with a perfectly cleansed musical palette.
Mumford & Sons, Babel
Arguably the most commercially successful on the list, Babel delivers huge energy, and more importantly for this girl, more banjo. I tip my hat to M&S for staying true to themselves on their sophomore effort. In today’s music scene we immediately gift the obscure with integrity. The entire hipster movement is built on this knowledge hierarchy. The more you know about things that nobody has ever heard of, the more credible you are. So here are Mumford & Sons, still reeling from the success of their first album, giving up a finely tuned, more amped up, greater, purer version of what made us love them in the first place.
Choir of Young Believers, Rhine Gold
This album is straddling the proverbial electronic fence. Rhine Gold, in my humble opinion, maintains its folk handle solely with the accepted belief that if one was hiking beside a huge hanging moon their experience would be enhanced by such an album. A genre that was once defined by the grassroots approach of the artists is now literally getting turned on its head as the baser feelings of the individual become the greatest inspiration for the music. You’ll feel it ethereal nature, pun intended, no matter where you choose to listen to these tracks.