Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times); Brian…
Happy New Year! If you're a Grammy voter, today marks the start of a brand new year. The Recording Academy's annual industry gala the Grammy Awards recognizes albums and singles released through Sept. 30, meaning any remaining 2012 releases will have to wait all the way to 2014 to get their Grammy spotlight.
Yet Pop fans know what this means. Grammy season has officially begun. To celebrate (excited, aren't you?) Pop & Hiss is offering an early look at those artists and releases likely to contend for a Grammy on Feb. 10, 2013.
First up is a look at 10 albums sure to be heavily considered for album of the year. To be split into two parts, part two in the series will run down five prime album of the year contenders. Earlier today Pop & Hiss forecasted the Grammy chances of the likes of Frank Ocean, Bruce Sprinsgteen, Drake and more.
This was already noted in Part 1, but here's a quick reminder: Adele's "21" won the prize in 2012, and she competed largely against pop representatives, as efforts from Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Rihanna were also nominated. Rounding out the field of contenders was rock act the Foo Fighters.
It was a major move toward the center after the orchestral indie rock of the Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" won the album of the year Grammy in 2011. While the Grammys of course lean mainstream in the major categories, don't be surprised if at least one artist long overdue for a trophy, as noted below, sneaks in this year.
What follows is a look at five potential album of the year contenders. The Grammy nominations will be unveiled on Dec. 5.
Mumford & Sons
The high-energy arena-folk act will debut at the top of the U.S. pop charts this week with "Babel," an album some are projecting can sell 600,000 copies. That would easily make it the year's highest-debut thus far.
While Mumford & Sons were a slow-building success story long before the band appeared on the Grammys as Bob Dylan's backing band in 2011, that award-show moment catapulted the band to grander, mainstream heights. In the first full sales week following the Grammys, Mumford & Sons' debut album experienced its best-ever sales week on the chart. Ultimately, the act missed out on winning best new artist, which went to Esperanza Spalding, but that was before Mumford & Sons were one of the most successful rock acts of the year.
This isn't as clear cut. Anyone who has seen this banjo-wielding band live set can attest to Mumford & Sons' sing-alone appeal. "Babel" has taken that aspect of the band and run with it. Consider it the rootsy life of the party.
The Beach Boys
The remaining members of the legendary SoCal sun-and-surf pop band reconvened for its first album in more than 15 years in “That's Why God Made the Radio.” It coincided with a 50th anniversary tour, the first live dates in years to feature core founding members Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine.
First, the Beach Boys have never won a Grammy, although Wilson picked up the rock instrumental award in 2004 for the track “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” from “Brian Wilson Presents Smile,” his latter-day completion of the Beach Boys project that was shelved in 1967. This is working in the Beach Boys' favor, as recognizing artists long past their time is a Grammy tradition (recent examples include Herbie Hancock, Santana, Steely Dan and Ray Charles). All that being said, the Beach Boys' chances are diminishing by the day, as goodwill from the reunion tour has been replaced by rumor, confusion and gossip regarding Love's decision to continue touring without Wilson and Jardine.
If reviews of the album weren't gangbusters, most critics were generally forgiving of the set, finding its twilight-years themes and Disney-like arrangements to be more fulfilling than not. Yet most reviews, including that of Pop & Hiss, focused primarily on Wilson's three-song suite near the end of the album as the highlight, which brought serious reflection to an album of borderline schmaltz.
The Black Keys
The Akron, Ohio, blues-rock duo worked closely with producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton for last year's "El Camino," which has sold 971,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"El Camino" reflects a decade or so of the Black Keys' move toward more melodic arrangements, a gradually organic progression that Grammy voters have recognized. The band's breakthrough 2010 album "Brothers," which has topped 1.1 million in sales, earned the band a pair of Grammys, including a best alternative music album trophy as well as a best rock performance by a duo or group with vocals Grammy for Danger Mouse-produced single "Tighten Up." The success of "El Camino" also won the Black Keys a headlining slot at this year's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.