We are deep in the 2012 “holiday season,” most of the AOTY lists have been complied, and tours are winding down. The music scene overall seems to slow a bit around this time every year, which is funny because I would imagine most other industries are working overtime. Regardless, we still have some good releases this week and maybe some early gift ideas for the ones you love.

Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire

Girl On Fire is the fifth LP from the NYC native and her first since the 2009 release of The Element of Freedom. The title song features Nicki Minaj, and Alicia shares a duet with Maxwell on “Fire We Make.” Frank Ocean and Bruno Mars are amongst the many notable artists with writing credits, and Dr. Dre and Swizz Beatz produced the single “New Day.” If you love overdramatic pop arrangements and crisp, angle-like vocals, this is the album for you this week.

Wu-Block – Wu-Block (Wu-Tang Clan and D-Block)

Now we move as far away from angles and crisp pop music as we can. Wu-Block is a collaboration between Ghostface Killah from Wu-Tang Clan and Sheek Louch from D-Block. The collaboration was originally meant to be between various members of Wu-Tang and all three members of D-Block, but it ended up being narrowed down to just Ghost and Louch with guest appearances from Raekwon, Jadakiss, Cappadonna, Method Man, Styles P, Masta Killa, GZA, Erykah Badu, and Inspectah Deck. If you like lo-fi, paper-thin hip-hop beats and that NYC stylized flow from the Wu-Tang Clan, then this should be a no brainer for you.

Rance Allen Group – Amazing Grace

I first heard the Rance Allen Group on a little musical documentary called Wattstax. If you haven’t seen this documentary by Mel Stuart, please do yourself and everyone around you a favor and watch it. Wattstax was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 20, 1972 and organized by Stax Records to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots. Many, many great musicians were a part of this documentary, but not all of them are still putting out music. The Rance Allen Group has gotten less funky since their Wattstax days, but the soul is still there. This two-disc release contains 11 newly recorded songs that include guest appearances by Kirk Franklin, Dorinda Clark Cole, James Fortune, and Isaac Carree, as well as a DVD called Music Majors that is filled with  historical footage from the 1972 Wattstax concert along with interviews and commentary from the group.

The Platters – A Classic Christmas

If you really have to buy one more Christmas album that you will only listen to for one week every year, then you should probably make it this one. The Platters, known for such soul-shaking classics as “Only You” and “The Great Pretender,” also did Christmas music (as was a pretty customary thing back then). The album features classic Christmas hits such as “Silent Night,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Joy To The World,” and 12 others. So why not swing your Christmas nights away with the Platters? I know I will be.

Breathless – Green to Blue

Breathless is an English rock group led by Dominic Appleton that has been signed with Tenor Vossa since 1984. Green to Blue is their eighth studio album and their first release since 2003’s Behind the Light. I like to say they are/were post rock before post rock was cool. If you like gradual layering and atmosphere building with psychedelic undertones, you will probably dig this.

Other amazing releases this week!

Lone Ninja – Rogue Agent

Big Dipper – Big Dipper Crashes on the Platinum Planet

Last Call – Dog Years

Junkie XL – Synthesized

The Winter Sounds – Runner

Rage Against The Machine – XX

Asia – Resonance

Mestís – Basal Ganglia

Moacir Santos – Saudade (Limited Edition Import)

100dBs & Ryan-O’Neil – Tea & Spliffs