It’s that time of year again kiddos. I know you’ve been waiting all year for the 2012 incarnation of this list and now the time is upon us. Before we get to it though, you can still check out my top songs from 2011, 2010, and 2009. I’m not gonna lie, that 2011 list is epically good and those songs still got really heavy airplay on my iTunes in 2012. So you should check that out.
2012 was a down year for music for me. I organize songs according to seasons so if you hijacked my iTunes you’d find a bunch of playlists named Fall 2011, Spring 2010, and so on and so forth. I then curate my top songs list from these playlists, as these are all the songs that I’ll remember from the year. A good season will have 15-20 songs in it and an epic one can have up to 40. This year, I topped out at 15 in the Spring and Summer 2012 only has 3 songs in it. I have no idea why this was such a down year for me, but I still feel like I managed to put together a decent end of the year list. And as always, while most of these songs were released in the past year, there may be some that aren’t but the point of this list is to put together the songs that I’ll remember 2012 by.
I decided to do something a little different with the song samples this year and included a live version of the song for your listening/view pleasure. Obviously these live versions have varying degrees of sound and visual quality, but I like the variety they bring. You should check out the studio versions of all these songs since those were the ones that caught my attention this year, but hopefully this preview gives you a good idea of what to look for.
So without any further ado, here we go:
1. Ho Hey by The Lumineers
Easily the band that went from virtual unknowns to absolutely everywhere this year. If you haven’t heard this song, I’m not sure you’ve been awake. It’s got all of my favorite elements including a slow build, some handclaps, a fun community-like feel and a great hook. Seriously, there is little not to like about this whole album. But as for what makes this song stand out is the folksy rhythm that drives it along and brings it home.
2. I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons
I’m a huge fan of bands that are as good live as they are on a record and bring energy to a live set. There’s something refreshing about seeing musicians genuinely enjoying playing with one another and for their fans. This song is fantastic as it has all my favorite elements like a great hook, builds and breaks, and a good beat, but the above video really makes me like it all the more. People doing things that they love and showing it on their faces are always great to see.
3. I Saw You First by Givers
If you’re seeing a theme here, you are correct. Folksy and dancey, this song is so much fun and again brings out a fantastic hook, a fun build in the middle of the song, and a ton of energy. I love seeing bands play on small stages like this where you’re afraid they’ll injure themselves in the set. Really, the comments on these top 3 songs could all just sort of meld into one.
4.(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing by Field Music
We take a turn out of the folksy genre into something a little more electronic, but the principles stay the same. The meandering guitar riffs that drive this song are so good and the hook that sets the tone is one that will stick with you for some time. I’ve really liked Field Music for some time and this recent release has done nothing to dim my enthusiasm.
5. Let Us All In by Damien Jurado
This song has probably gotten the most plays in the last month as I’ve worked on this list. The hook is absolutely SICK but I couldn’t figure out what I loved so much about it until I watched this video. Clearly this man loves this song and loves playing it and I think that passion shows through. It’s so much fun to watch him rock back and forth as he belts out the lyrics and I always have trouble not taping my toe when this song comes on.
6. I Ain’t the Same by The Alabama Shakes
This song typifies all of the great things about this band, namely a strong melody, catchy hooks, and the lead singer Brittany, absolutely killing it on vocals. I haven’t had the chance to see them live as of yet, but I’m hoping 2013 will offer that opportunity. And it’s always nice to see a local band make good and go national. So check out the rest of their stuff and enjoy.
7. Trojans by Atlas Genius
I’m not sure that dance pop alternative is a genre, but it ought to be. And songs like this are why. A fantastic hook, such a contagious beat, and at about the 2:50 mark they hit this funky dance vibe that just tops things off. What a catchy song. Bonus points for the stellar guitar work that really pushes the song along and makes everything flow. Just an all around good song that should bring a smile to your face.
8. Don’t Know You At All by Blood Feathers
Another entry in the dance pop alternative genre with all the characteristics that I love. (Hey, I’m nothing if not consistent right?) Bouncy and energetic with a building entry, this song is another toe tapper that always makes me feel like moving. I feel like I should write more here but quite frankly I’ve been writing the same thing for each song for 8 songs now, so just dub what I’ve said previously.
9. Waiting by The Whigs
Finally a song that is a little different from all the rest. The Whigs are straight Rock n’ Roll and this song is just the latest in a long string of great ones by them throughout the years. Such a great hard driving beat that builds and then explodes into a frenzy of noise and delicousness. And the fake endings. Man I love fake endings on songs. So yeah, if you need to get pumped up for something you should definitely listen to this song.
10. Quarantine by Mute Math
I have no idea how you describe Mute Math except to use words like awesome, amazing, brilliant, and fantastic. Hands down, these guys put on the greatest live shows you’ll ever see. This song is off of their album that came out in 2011 but I kept coming back to it over and over this past year. I love the guitar work on it, as it reminds me a little of a Rage Against the Machine rift. And then of course they end up jamming out the end of the song and just doing the usual ridiculous kind of stuff that they always do with their shows. Unreal.
11. Caught Me Thinking by Bahamas
Not sure how I missed this guy, but I’ll tell you this, if not for Jack Johnson personally giving his CD away, I wouldn’t have heard this song this year. So yeah, thanks Jack. But for sure, Bahamas definitely has that laid back, super cool surf rock thing going and this song is so good. Such a great melody and hook to it it just makes you want to be somewhere tropical in a hammock between two trees listening to waves crash on the shore.
12. Santa Ana Wind by Everclear
I probably lose all music reviewing hipster indie cred for liking Everclear but it’s one of those things I can’t explain. Something about mowing my neighbor’s lawn to Santa Monica when I was 13 made them stick with me and I’ve always liked them. This track showcases all of things that make them so appealing to me, which I’ve already discussed ad naseum here, but again, those hooks and melodic guitars just pull me in and then all of the builds and stops take it over the top. It’s just how my musical mind works and even though Everclear might not be cool, I’m ok with still liking them. (Also, I couldn’t find a live version of this so you can just listen to it while staring at the album cover)
13. Come Home by Chappo
And we close out with another one of the songs that fits in my made up genre. It’s got all the elements that I love and is such a fun song that you can’t help but smile when it comes on. This acoustic version does a really good job of giving you the full experience, but I’d also definitely recommend that you take a listen to the plugged-in version as well.
So there you have it. Sorry that some of the descriptions were so short, but I had written about half of the list out and then the draft that I thought was saved wasn’t and I lost it all and it just took the wind out of my sails so to speak. But anyway, hope you enjoyed it. Love and sweatpants.