Bruce Springsteen, ‘Wrecking Ball’
In a time when, and industry where, many classic artists are struggling to remain relevant, Bruce Springsteen continues to break the mold as he has been doing since the 2000s. A classic Springsteen cut, his 17th studio album is perhaps also 2012’s sharpest and most poignant album. Released on March 5, it brings back the Boss’s trademark energy, spirit, and humanity, showcased in some of the tightest traditional songwriting this decade has produced thus far. The single “We Take Care of Our Own” is a supremely catchy political statement in line with “Born in the U.S.A.,” spreading a message of unity that is sorely needed in a bitterly divided political landscape.
Live in New York: Friday, April 6, Madison Square Garden
Miike Snow, ‘Happy To You’
With its first album in 2009, band Miike Snow–the brainchild of superstar Swedish duo Bloodshy & Avant and American singer Andrew Wyatt–emerged on the scene with a set of perfectly crafted indie pop that balanced the Swedes’ slick electronic derring-do with Wyatt’s vulnerable vocals, and made some tracks shine on the dance floor. This year’s “Happy to You” has the guys taking things a bit further and deeper. The lush arrangements on songs like “Paddling Out” resonate on a more personal level, but dancing is still a strong possibility, as their sophomore effort is full of remixes tailored to clubs. Ear candy’s an understatement. This is earphone magic.
Live in New York: Tuesday-Thursday, April 24 - 26, Terminal 5
‘The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond’
“The Hunger Games,” the film version of the extremely popular young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, proved everyone wrong by delivering a polished movie that manages to balance the novel’s dystopian vision with a crowd-pleasing adventure. The soundtrack, however, is even more surprising. The list of artists alone is commendable. Aside from Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and Miranda Lambert, most of the names are squarely in the “indie” category. Arcade Fire, Kid Cudi, the Decemberists, and Punch Brothers, among others, provide strong, ambient tracks that taken together not only complement the film’s narrative, but also function surprisingly well as a stand-alone album.
Live in New York: Punch Brothers, April 14, The Town Hall
Kid Cudi, April 21, SUNY Geneseo
Breton, ‘Other People’s Problems’
Music trends in 2012 so far seem to signal that the genre-bending noticed in 2011 albums from artists like Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and even Paul Simon will continue. Take “Other People’s Problems,” the debut album from the UK’s Breton. An “art collective” of independent filmmakers who came together as a band only after performing live soundtracks to screenings of their movies, the group, named after “father of surrealism” Andre Breton, offers electronic soundscapes with a distinctly hip-hop bent. Some tracks like “The Well” could easily host a guest rapper, but Breton keeps the atmosphere tense and emotive, painting impressionistic landscapes with synthesizers and just the slightest hint of vocals. It’s admirably fresh, and surprisingly fun.
Live in New York: May 3, The Bowery Ballroom; May 4, Music Hall of Williamsburg