While I listen to a lot of music, these albums have been played quite a bit in the last three weeks or so...
Alabama Shakes/Boys & Girls - The band was on SNL a few weeks back and not only ripped into "Hold On," the first and best song on this debut album, but also played a great new song. That's all it takes to send me back to an album and it's not like I hadn't already liked this last year - it just got a little lost in some of the other 2012 releases. These are good blues rock songs and Brittany Howard has a great voice. I do think their next album has a chance to be even better but this is well worth repeated listens, even beyond "Hold On."
Atoms For Peace/Amok - This is the new band that features Thom Yorke (from Radiohead), Nigel Godrich (producer of Radiohead and other bands), Flea (bassist for Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Joey Waronker (drummer for a bunch of artists) but the sound is not much different than what you would expect a Yorke solo album to sound like. I used to be suspicious of electronic-based music but I've come to appreciate it over the last few years and this is a catchy album. The songs tend to get in a groove and stay there with the changes coming in small ways through the instrumentation. I also get more out of the album each time I listen to it and I'm certainly not done listening to it this year.
Belle & Sebastian/If You're Feeling Sinister - Pitchfork recently posted a documentary on the making of this album, which was enough to push it into my rotation. I wasn't tuned into Belle & Sebastian when this album came out, though I did know a couple of songs thanks to a mix made by a friend (I did eventually become a fan after The Life Pursuit came out). It has plenty of qualities that I love - jangly pop, active bass, literate lyrics, and plenty of melody. I recommend that documentary as well.
Ben Folds Five/The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind - Sometimes albums fall through the cracks. I've faded on Ben Folds over the last half decade or so because I perceived his music was getting too over-produced or bombastic maybe. Perceived is the key word. I thought it was cool that BFF was reuniting - their three 90s albums are favorites, particularly their last one in '99, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner - but I didn't feel an urgency to grab this new album when it came out. I did get a digital copy for Christmas then listened to it once and forgot about it. Recently, I've come back to it and it turns out I like it. A lot. The galloping "Do It Anyway" might be my theme song as I turn 42 in a couple weeks and the rest of the album just clicks. I think the magic between Folds, Robert Sledge, and Darren Jessee still exists. "Hold That Thought" is a case in point. Sledge just kills it on the bass throughout and Jessee puts the perfect accents on the percussion while Folds sings the melody over-top. I love it.
Josh Ritter/The Beast in Its Tracks - I've become a fan of Ritter's tuneful, literate songs over the past few years so his new album was an automatic purchase. The press around the album is about how it was written in the wake of his dissolved marriage and the lyrics certainly reflect that period of loss but also what was gained in a new relationship. It's a largely acoustic affair but that adds to its intimacy. The songs feed off of one another and while the lyrics have some archaic tendencies (lots of talk of lovers and a song about an appleblossom rag, for instance), they are also honest and direct. "Joy To You Baby" is one of the best songs of the year and "A Certain Light" and "Hopeful" are right behind it. I'm still absorbing the album but I'm definitely into it.
The White Stripes/The White Stripes - I'm about six months behind on listening to Sound Opinions, so I only recently got to the Jack White interview from early August. I wanted to go on a White Stripes tear after hearing it but I never got past the debut. Why? It makes me play air guitar and air drums every time I hear it. Oh, the riffs. Songs like "Cannon," "Astro," and "I Fought Piranhas" are what rock is about. Turn it up!