Thursday, April 24, 2014 · 3:38 p.m.
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The National's latest album, "Trouble Will Find Me," is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album. (Photo: Dierdre O'Callaghan)

Well, it's that time of the year again: a time when charts are inspected, sales are tallied and pointless discussions about pop culture abound. Yes, it's the Grammys.

But before you shrug off the awkward award presentation duos and scripted speeches, you should know that when the nominations for the 56th annual Grammy Awards were released late last week, there were as many unexpected smiles as there were quickly rolled eyes. With artists like Disclosure, Vampire Weekend, The National and Kendrick Lamar collecting nods, the field seemed far more eclectic than in past years. There were still major nominations for Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Macklemore, but those were to be expected.

The big winner of the announcements was Jay-Z, who scored an impressive nine nominations—including nods for Best Rap Song, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Rap Album.

Artists like Daft Punk, Lorde and Taylor Swift landed a handful of nominations each.

Album of the Year nominations went to Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories"; Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City"; Sara Bareilles' "The Blessed Unrest"; Taylor Swift's "Red"; and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "The Heist." Noticeable absentees included "Yeezus" by Kanye West and "Unorthodox Jukebox" by Bruno Mars.

Nominees for Song of the Year are:

Pink, "Just Give Me a Reason" 

Katy Perry, "Roar"

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, "Same Love" 

Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"

Lorde, "Royals"

It's nice to see James Blake nominated for Best New Artist alongside Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Kasey Musgraves, and Ed Sheeran—even though his latest album, "Overgrown," is technically his sophomore record. Curiously, Lorde, a high-profile contender for this category, is conspicuously absent.

Also full of surprises is the category of Best Alternative Music Album, which includes albums from Vampire Weekend, The National, Neko Case, Nine Inch Nails and Tame Impala. A veritable who's-who of indie rock royalty (excluding Nine Inch Nails, of course), the list displays a wide array of artistic vision and scope—attributes that have been sorely lacking in past years.

There is also fierce competition among the artists in the Best Rap Album category. Kanye West and Jay-Z will go toe-to-toe with Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for the award.

The Grammy Awards will be televised on CBS Jan. 26. You can see the full list of nominations at the Grammy Awards website

Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on FacebookTwitter or by email

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