2013 Grammy Predictions and Proclamations

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On Sunday night, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) will dole out honors at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. While the folks at CBS may be more concerned with enforcing its dress code, we’re here to provide all of our predictions and proclamations about this year’s ceremony, including who will win, who should win and who got snubbed.

Best Rock Album
The Black Keys, El Camino
Muse, The 2nd Law
Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
Jack White, Blunderbuss

Who Will Win: Bruce Springsteen 
The Springsteen Appeal with Baby Boomer Grammy voters will be enough to give him this victory over other NARAS favorites.

Who Should Win: Jack White 
It starts off with “Missing Pieces,” a jaunty, familiar tune that Stripes fans will warm to easily. Ditto for its follow-up, “Sixteen Saltines,” all echoing, distorted guitar riffs and White singing in a falsetto like he’s still fronting that duo with the color-coded attire. It’s not all a nostalgia trip, though. For instance, the schizophrenic, impossible-to-pin-down percussion of “Freedom at 21” is enough to make a sane man lose his patience. Which, of course, is countered immediately by the imminently listenable, gentle and melodic “Love Interruption” next, its acoustic guitar leaving the confused listener spinning and doubting himself, like when you lose your keys and feel positively insane. At the end of the day, White’s still an enigma, and so is Blunderbuss, its mysteries unfolding in odd ways when you least expect it.—Austin L. Ray

Who Got Snubbed: Titus Andronicus, Local Business
“I know the world’s a scary place/that’s why I hid behind a hairy face,” sings now beardless Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles in “My Eating Disorder.” The eight-minute song is the centerpiece to the Jersey five-piece’s third LP, Local Business, which trades in the eccentricity of 2010’s Civil War battle cry The Monitor for more unfiltered personal tales set to stein-swaying pub punk. Stickles has the ability to write meat-and-potatoes punk that is smart, unpretentious and fun—even when he’s taking on personal topics like… well, an actual eating disorder. This collection is the band’s tightest and most cohesive, and they do so without losing any of the grit. Titus Andronicus has emerged over the past seven years as a formidable punk rock unit—both live and on tape. And whether Stickles likes it or not, he’s become somewhat of a modern-day working-class hero. With Local Business, he again does us proud.—Mark Lore

Best Alternative Music Album
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Bjork, Biophilia
Gotye, Making Mirrors
M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Tom Waits, Bad As Me

Who Will Win: Bjork 
This is one of the categories that always causes the most confusion, as no one is exactly sure “alternative” is supposed to mean. Bjork is the artist most Grammy voters will think of as “alternative” here, as her notorious swan dress and all-around weirdness are the stuff of legend by now.

Who Should Win: Fiona Apple 
Ever since Fiona Apple began to comprehend the darkest realities of pop celebrity, she’s been on a tear, and all of her eccentricities seem to be intact on The Idler Wheel: the reliance on big words and jumbled phrasing, the delivery that’s somehow both intimate and operatic, the seemingly nonsensical poem-as-album-title. But musically, it’s gaunt and foreboding, with Apple’s voice and piano squarely at the forefront, while tour drummer Charley Drayton adds ambient flourishes of percussion rather than rhythmic propulsion. The fact that she can’t get out of her own head—can’t even begin to write a song that doesn’t build on layers of self-conscious self-absorption and gritty self-loathing—may in fact be one of her greatest and most distinguishing strengths as an artist. And for all her famed prolixity, Apple can also fire off a startlingly concise line that puts her entire life into a new perspective. “How can I ask anyone to love when all I do is beg to be left alone?” may be the most perfect lyric she’s ever written, neatly summing up both her neediness and her self-possession. To her immense credit, Apple never flinches at such uneasy insights and insoluble contradictions, which makes The Idler Wheel a tough but rewarding listen. She may work in a form that’s notorious for its introversion, but at heart Apple’s a pop extrovert: She makes it painfully and gloriously clear that her pain is our pain, that her horrors are universal.—Stephen M. Deusner

Who Got Snubbed: Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan
Dirty Projectors have a history of creating delightfully grandiose records full of complex, sprawling arrangements and bizarre concepts. For the group’s sixth album, Swing Lo Magellan, Longstreth decided to take an approach that focused primarily on songwriting. The album certainly features a good amount of the avant-garde stylings the band has become known for (intricate vocal melodies, peculiar guitar lines, skittering time signatures), but Magellan also contains what must be some of the band’s most straightforward material. The source of Swing Lo Magellan’s charm, for it truly is a charming collection, is that it’s a record that doesn’t try be anything other than exactly what it is. The album’s closer, “Irresponsible Tune,” is a haunting ballad that falls somewhere between a roots recording and a hymn. Longstreth sings like an evangelical preacher, but instead of crooning about “marching in the light of God,” he proselytizes about music, singing, “In my heart, there is music. / In my mind is a song. / But in my eyes, a world crooked, fucked up and wrong.” How’s that for unguarded? It’s not pretty, but it’s direct and honest and unafraid to stand naked for the world to see its scars.—Wyndham Wyeth

Best Rap Album
Drake, Take Care
Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1
The Roots, Undun
Nas, Life Is Good
Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don’t
2 Chainz, Based on a T.R.U. Story

Who Will Win: Drake 
A long way from his days bumming around Degrassi High in a wheelchair, Aubrey Graham has proven himself not only a more than capable MC but a pioneering figure in a new breed of rap—one where braggadocio often takes a backseat to melancholy and introspection. While the album is a bit too long and has its duds (that “YOLO” craze needs to die now), it’s the kind of hot property that Grammy voters love.—Mark Rozeman

Who Should Win: The Roots
One might think that The Roots’ steady day job performing as Jimmy Fallon’s house band might in some way stifle the quality of their music. Those people obviously don’t know nothin’ about The Roots. A perfect hybrid of cerebral rap and old-school soul, Undun continues The Roots’ streak as the crowning jewel of Philly (and, most of the country for that matter). The fact that they make the concept album format not sound trite or constraining is an achievement in itself. That it’s excellent? Well, that’s the sign of genius.—Mark Rozeman

Who Got Snubbed: Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
R.A.P. Music finds Mike on the offensive, taking an axe to the banks, the beltway and the history books. Like Occupy Wall Street, the movement that spawned more than a few signs reading some variation of “Ronald Reagan sucks balls,” R.A.P. Music is a synthesis of the confusion and rancid despair pervading every vacated storefront and foreclosed home in every corner of today’s economically bleeding America. Shoring up that ire is weirdo extraordinaire El-P, who elevates R.A.P. Music to a feral weapon of protest with beats that smoke like ether. The album is all go and no show: Southern-strategizing New York rap flush with the semblances of Cali groups like N.W.A. and Above the Law. Even putting aside his berserk, imagination-defying technical skill—he stays deep enough in the pocket to get lost there—there’s not a wasted breath on R.A.P. Music.—M.T. Richards

Best Americana Album
The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter
John Fullbright, From the Ground Up
The Lumineers, The Lumineers
Mumford & Sons, Babel
Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream

Who Will Win: The Lumineers 
They may wind up getting shut out of the bigger categories, but there’s no way Grammy voters are going to let The Lumineers walk away empty-handed. This category is one where they’re a lock.

Who Should Win: The Lumineers 
The Lumineers’ debut record is instantly gratifying—and not in the hasty, shallow way often found in pre-fab pop songs. While some records take days or months to properly digest, there’s an instant connection here, and that camaraderie is evident both onstage and on the record. Neyla Pekarek’s graceful strings, the steady roll of Jeremiah Fraites’ on the drums, and the charming twang of lead singer Wesley Schultz generate a sense of warmth and candor that the recent folk revival has been missing. The rustic trio marries uplifting jubilee and poetic earnestness with ease. The foot stomping single “Ho Hey” builds momentum with a tambourine and carries the melody with spirited chants and hand claps, a track so cheerful and exhilarating, it seems built for a live stage. The album is overflowing with upbeat, Americana gems, but the real power here is found in the more somber tunes. Schultz and Fraites formed the band after Fraites’ younger brother and Schultz’s best friend died of a drug overdose at a young age. The pair picked up the pieces, forged a friendship through their mutual loss, and later found Pekarek and the formula for The Lumineers. They found a way to channel those more dark and vulnerable moments in the heartfelt highlights of their debut record.—Alexandra Fletcher

Who Got Snubbed: First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar
Much in the same way the timbre of Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderbergmakes’ voices make them seem older than their years, the songs seem to be born out of lives lived much longer than their own. How is it possible that these young women have had the sort of life experience to write the stories they do? Their songs are filled with wisdom gained from memories that seem to stretch a thousand years or more into the past. These are the words of truly old souls. The Lion’s Roar continues much in the same fashion as the folk duo’s first record, but the material on the new LP feels a lot bigger due largely to the use of a full band featuring the girls’ father as well as producer Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes. While the girls hail from Sweden, they have never been shy about their American influences. Their affinity for American folk and country music is clearly evidenced in “Emmylou,” a beautiful track featuring swells of a pedal-steel and light taps of wire brushes on the drums. The song is of course named for legend Emmylou Harris and reveres her work along with that of others of her time and genre, including her duet partner, Gram Parsons, and June Carter and Johnny Cash. It’s the centerpiece of a gorgeous record.—Wyndham Wyeth

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