Grimes — Visions
We’ve been wracking our brain for weeks to figure out who Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) reminds us of — and guess what? It’s Stacey Q, of “Two of Hearts” fame. That may sound like a dig, but we’ve always loved that song, and we’re into this unconventional pop singer, too. Grimes is all about sugary vocals and playful, layered beats, all interspersed with unexpected moments of darkness and deconstruction. Too weird for MTV but catchy enough for the dance floor, Visions earns its place as one of 2012’s most anticipated debuts. Stream the album at NPR.
Perfume Genius — Put Your Back N 2 It
Perfume Genius made mainstream news a few weeks ago, when YouTube censored his PG-rated video for “Hood” and Michael Stipe sprung to his defense. But that controversy seems downright beside the point when you listen to Put Your Back N 2 It, singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas’ lovely sophomore album, full of whispered piano ballads with sad, vivid lyrics. Those who aren’t particularly looking forward to Valentine’s Day will definitely want to give this one a listen, at the Guardian.
Sinead O’Connor — How About I Be Me (And You Be You)
Considering all her bizarre behavior in the past year, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Sinead O’Connor is more relevant as tabloid fodder than musician these days. But critics are already buzzing about her tenth album, with Ann Powers going so far as to write that it “isn’t just a return to form; it’s a full-on revival.” On first listen, we’re struck by both the range of styles O’Connor explores and moods she strikes, as well as the knockout power of her voice. Hear it for yourself at NPR.
Tennis — Young & Old
One of last year’s most hyped bands is back with its second full-length, Young & Old. As Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney’s production credit and the fact that the record was made in Nashville suggest, this is both a fuller and a more country-flavored album than Cape Dory, and as a result feels more substantial than its predecessor. Even if you felt underwhelmed by the husband-and-wife duo’s first outing, you owe it to yourself to at least give Young & Old a shot. Try before you buy at Pitchfork.
Cursive — I Am Gemini
And finally, a wild card of sorts: Saddle Creek indie-rock stalwarts Cursive have made another dramatic concept album. I Am Gemini is about twin brothers Cassius and Pollack — no, not Castor and Pollux — who are separated at birth. Of course, one is good and the other is evil and they reunite and it’s all pretty dramatic. Fans of bombastic, ’70s-style rock ‘n’ roll will be all over this — so it’s fitting that you can stream it at Rolling Stone.