In lieu of our regular monthly overview, this edition of “Listening Ahead” offers up an early 2013 preview with sneak peaks of some of the best and most intriguing albums that the coming months have to offer.
The year's best new and emerging artists range across the musical spectrum from forward thinking R&B to classic soul, from a bevy of exciting new hip-hop talent to great new hopes for indie rock and Americana. 2011 shows that music is always pushing forward even as it dips into the past.
If you ask a critic or music fan to define Americana, be prepared for an avalanche of diverse responses of opinion. Still, there remain some constant benchmarks, such as pedal steel, fiddle, acoustic guitars -- and good songwriting.