Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best Songs of 2012

If you would have asked me in November how I felt about the current music scene, I would have said, "Honestly, I've been a little disappointed this year." I think it took me compiling a list of my 25 favorite tracks of the year to appreciate how many excellent songs were written these past 12 months. Without further ado, here's the 25 songs that inspired, affected, had me singing and kept me running in 2012.

As PING has been removed from iTunes, I guess I better hop on this Spotify bandwagon. Here's a link to the playlist. If you find a way to share a playlist for purchase, drop me a comment.
Andrew's Blog: Best of 2012

25) "Hey Jane" -- Spiritualized
Upon first listen, I thought this was such a fun summer tune...that was until I saw this music video and it pretty much gave me nightmares. Easily the best video of the year, it completely changed the way I associate music and its connection to images and memories.
'Hey Jane' / Client: Spiritualized / Director: AG Rojas / Label: Domino Records / Air Date: Apr 2012 from Somesuch & Co. on Vimeo.

24) "Cleanin' Out My Closet" -- Angel Haze
The most raw, visceral rap verse I have maybe ever heard. Angel Haze airs out her dirty laundry in a rap that deals with sexual abuse, self-mutilation, anorexia and just about every horrible thing that can happen to an adolescent girl. She puts this male dominated field to shame with her brave and cutting words. Definitely NSFW!

23) "Encyclopedia Of Classic Takedown" -- A. C. Newman
The front man of one of my favorite bands, The New Pornographers, A.C. Newman's solo album is full of tuneful, fun songs as well as some beautiful ballads. This track is especially upbeat and catchy.

22) "Fate" -- Young Man
The aptly named Young Man (a 23-year-old Brooklynite) was one of the most exciting, emerging players in the indie rock field this year. This arpeggio filled track quickly made its way into to my summer heavy shuffle.

21) "Hold That Thought" -- Ben Folds Five
Ben Folds Five was the reason I started listening to alternative music (i.e. non-musical theatre songs) when I was a teenager. The transition makes total sense as Ben Folds has always had a knack for lyric based, story songs. Naturally, I was thrilled to hear the band would be re-uniting this year. This is my favorite track off the album.

20) "Oblivion" -- Grimes
At least with my friends, Grimes was an artist that needed to be seen before getting into bed with. Already a major player in the electronic music world, the world followed once they saw what she was all about and what images accompany her music. Haven't gotten this song out of my head all year.

19) "Big Parade" -- The Lumineers
While Mumford and Sons undoubtedly dominated the folk genre on the pop charts, The Lumineers made a worthy candidate with their self-titled debut. A more stripped down sound, I love their poetic and imagery ladened lyric writing.

18) "Daredevil" -- Fiona Apple
Talk about a helluva comeback! I've been waiting to see how Fiona would (if ever?) follow up her two previous (stellar) albums. Top to bottom, I think this is her career best. Her raw contralto voice is pushed to its limits in this track, my just-barely-favorite track off of "The Idler Wheel..."

17) "Digging Shelters" -- Neil Halstead
I had never heard of Neil Halstead before downloading this track on a whim and was immediately haunted by its sparse beauty. He feels like the perfect mix of Bon Iver and Nick Drake.

16) "Radio" -- Lana Del Rey
What can be said about this girl that hasn't been said on every music blog, message board and tweet this year? What I will say is that I truly find her to be a great artist and despite her infamous SNL performance, she offers the music world a unique, pastiche, sultry sound that we haven't seen in a while. I love her look, I love her videos and I loved listening to this song on the beach.

15) "Marathon Runner" -- Yellow Ostrich
Quirky and unexpected, I can't pinpoint what exactly attracts me to this song. It's lyrics are simple and instrumentation clever. I remember getting a text from Celia after sending her one of my mixes that said Um, I can't stop listening to "Marathon Runner." I know exactly how you feel.

14) "Jumanji" -- Azealia Banks
As far as lady rappers go, last year was all about Nicki Minaj, but this year it was the more indie, streetwise Azealia Banks who claimed my top spot. Her infectious and innovative rap schemes were on my permanent shuffle at the gym. She really only has a few songs actually available for public purchase but it hasn't stopped from leaking a score of incredible tracks, including this one.

13) "Laura" -- Bat For Lashes

A triumphant and commercial return for Natasha Kahn (i.e. Bat For Lashes), I saw this video months before her single was even released. For a while it was the only way I had to listen to this song and have been thus haunted by its beautiful imagery and soaring music.

12) "Bad Girls" -- M.I.A.

YES! M.I.A. is back you guys! Count me as someone not exactly over-the-moon with her last album. I was so glad to see her return to songs that favored tune over cacophony. This bad ass track is her finest since "Paper Planes" and Roman Gavras's epically innovative and fiercly shot video is the perfect accompaniment.

11) "Same Love" -- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Few songs bring you to tears upon first listen. The first time I heard "Same Love" I was sucker punched. As far as gay anthems, this is the most palatable, least cloyingly preachy, best produced I've heard on the pop charts. And unlike many of Lady Gaga or Madonna's, there leaves no room for interpretation.

10) "Joke or a Lie" -- Sharon Van Etten
Celia introduced me to this song and it was one of my favorite finds of the year. I'm such a sap when it comes to effortless, beautifully crafted melodies and paired with Sharon's smooth voice it is exactly what I'm always searching for in a ballad. Her album "Tramp" is also in my top 3 favorite albums of the year.

9) "Swimming Pools (Drank)" -- Kendrick Lamar
Hands down the best discovery in the rap world this year, Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d city" is one of the great albums of the year. I implore you to download the whole thing. Rarely does a collection of songs work so well and thread a story so ingeniously. He's almost musical theatre-y in his storytelling. There's not a bad track on the whole thing and "Swimming Pools (Drank)" is damn good.

8) "Bad Religion" -- Frank Ocean
Perhaps no artist this year has grown in the spotlight so quickly as Frank Ocean. Whether or not the timing of his coming out as queer the week before his album dropped had anything to do with it is irrelevant. I think he has elevated the RB genre significantly with his stunning vocals and poetic, emotional lyrics. This tune of unrequited love with another man is so beautifully done that regardless of your sexuality, it sings a universal truth.

7) "Lost & Found" -- Lianna La Havas
My most recent addition to the list is this gorgeous song by a previously unheard of artist. I discovered this on NPR's best of 2012 lists in which multiple journalists chose it as a favorite song of the year. After about 30 seconds into the song it was easy to see why. Dealing with the regrets and pains of love, Lianna is heartbreaking, "Just look at who I've become. I'm so ashamed you were the one that made me feel the way I do."

6) "Disparate Youth" -- Santigold
My favorite mainstream pop song of the year. The incredible beat mixed with Santigold's lyrics about striving for artistic individuality as a young member of humanity solidifed this as an instant classic. Working on a show like NEWSIES, I couldn't help but find this to be 2012's answer to the children's crusade.

5) "Wildest Moments" -- Jessie Ware
A big year for UK transport artists, Jessie Ware was undoubtedly my favorite of the bunch. Her voice is both pure and soulfoul and has a timelessness that makes you believe this song could have been recorded in the 1960's, the 80's or last winter.

4) "Fog Of War" -- Young Dreams

The second I heard this song I knew I wanted to make one of my music videos to it. The lyrics felt so young and fresh and the orchestrations totally floored me. Then I saw Kristoffer Borgli's official music video for the song and realized I couldn't touch it. It has a feel similar to my #FallRoadTrip and 2UMMER012 videos in the reckless, free-spirited nature of youth (well minus the dead dog) so I'll gladly let him take this one.

3) "I Love It" -- Icona Pop
I cannot believe this song did not become HUGE this year. A party kid's anthem, it was without a doubt the song I wanted to be dancing to all year. It's been rare that I step foot in a club, but this song is enough to wanna get black out drunk and spill shit on people while jumping around to this song.

2) "Take A Walk" -- Passion Pit 
No Top Music list of 2012 was complete without the breakout single from Passion Pit's incredible commercial label debut, "Gossamer." Every year I wait for the song that I will measure all other songs against. "Take a Walk" was that song for me. The song covers the gamut, from immigrant life in New York to estranged family members to surviving the financial crisis. Not too bad for a pop hit. For the month of December, I toyed with switching my #1 and #2 songs and at the last second this was just short of being my favorite song of the year.

1) "1904" -- The Tallest Man On Earth

 I feel like there's some CLOUD ATLAS shit at work because the first time I heard this song it felt like I'd heard it in some past life. It instantly felt nostalgic andthe fact that this song tops my list after listening to it an upward of 200 times while compiling and editing my 2UMMER012 video is a testament to it's brilliance. Usually when I'm editing a music video I spend a lot of time plugging in songs that will match the tone and theme of the footage. This one was the other way around. The song inspired my very making of the video. I loved the idea that in 1904, the real life newsies would be twenty-somethings living in New York, probably trying to shake the world with their art and ideas. Song of the year. BAM!

Honorable Mentions: 
"Little Talks" -- Of Monsters And Men
"Bright Whites" -- Kishi Bashi
"Flashlight" -- The Amazing
"Myth" -- Beach House
"Fitzpleasure" -- Alt-J


Martin said...

I just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed your music recommendations these last couple months. Especially for introducing me to "Same love". Keep up sharing these, as I love to discover new artist (or at least artist I haven't heard about on this side of the world).


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Bram said...

Hi Andrew, I wanted to drop a note to thank you for sharing your playlists. For years now (has it been years!) your playlists have made a tortuous commute across London just a little bit brighter and introduced me to so many bands who I can now call my favorites.

Your continuing support for UK bands is great to see. I'm not sure if the Vaccines have made it across the pond yet, there worth checking out.


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