It looks like the new desktop uploader available from https://photos.google.com/apps does what you hope.
I originally thought it was just the same app as Google+ Photos backup, but it appears to be a refresh. There's a lot of photos for it to go through, but I'm starting to see new albums that match my folder names.
If you use Picasa and the "Sync to Web" feature within a folder, an album will indeed be created using the name of the folder. (I've done it now for three or four and it seems to hold.)
It can take a little time for all the photos to be uploaded, and Picasa has not been updated for the new Google Photos yet, so it must be relying on the synchronization set up between Google+ Photos and Google Photos.
I tried several different methods of organizing the photos within Google Drive, but it just wouldn't create an album automatically (although the images are there).
The alternative it to drag-and-drop a folder onto the Google Photos main page. The contents of the folder will get uploaded and you'll be asked if you want to create an album and, if so, the name. (This may be a Google Chrome thing.)