This turned out to be a better than average year for music. There were strong releases in a variety of genres, form metal to indie to electronic. There is also some good music that was recently released and will likely show up on my Faves of 2013 list, chief among them the new Memory Tapes. So, here we go, my favorite songs of 2012:
- Alexx Calise – “Cry” – Dynamic singer-songwriter and rocker. One to watch out for.
- Bruce Springsteen – “Wrecking Ball” – Bruce singing about Giants Stadium. Jersey pride!
- Saint Etienne – “Tonight” – English dance vets and one of the best straight pop songs this year.
- Malynda Hale – “City Lights” – Up-and coming R&B star. Excellent debut.
- St. Lucia – “Before the Dive” – Outstanding synth pop epic.
- Eluveitie – “A Rose for Epona” - Celtic folk metallers keeping cheesiness at bay.
- Tiesto – “Chasing Summers” – The “I wish I was in Ibiza” song of summer 2012.
- Kate Rogers Band – “Anger Management” – Kate can do no wrong. Looking forward to her new album in 2013.
- Gotye – “Someone That I Used to Know” – A welcome addition to the routinely moribund pop charts, even if overplayed.
The top 15:
15. Rush – “The Garden” – Easily Rush’s most emotional song, carried off with a sense of confidence and introspection. “A measure of a life/Is a measure of love and respect/So hard to earn/So easily burned”
14. Dirty Projectors – “Gun Has No Trigger” – The song begins with a snappy, crackling drum beat. Then David Longstreth starts singing and you’re hooked. The bass line is simple, yet dynamic.
13. Nite Jewel – “In the Dark” – I downloaded this after hearing just a few second snippet. This song is evocative as all hell. Nite Jewel delivers sultry nighttime vocals over a smoldering mid-tempo beat.
12. Todd Terje – “Inspector Norse” – Shades of New Order, this synth –pop/chillwave instrumental is epic in scope and length. An unexpected and oft-listened to surprise of the year.
11. John Talabot, feat. Pional – “Destiny” – John Talabot composes fantastic pastiches of electronic and indie music. “Destiny” is a broad sonic soundscape anchored by effortless beats and laconic vocals.
10. The Killers – “Runaways” – The best unreleased Bruce Springsteen song, back by The Hooters, circa 1985.
9. Testament – “Dark Roots of the Earth” – When I saw Testament with Anthrax in February I was pleasantly surprised to see a band I had not listened to in many years was still as powerful live. With “Dark Roots”, they show they can still compose relevant metal. It’s a blistering song with Chuck Billy at his vocal best and dynamic guitar work by the vastly underrated Alex Skolnick
8. Of Monsters and Men – “Little Talks”/The Lumineers – “Ho Hey” – Two songs that were EVERYWHERE in 2012 from radio to a Blue Moon commercial. Both took elements of folk and indie and made it their own. While the Lumineers went for a more Americana angle, Iceland’s Of Monsters veered towards jangly power pop.
7. Band of Horses – “Electric Music” – I was not initially impressed with BOH’s Mirage Rock. But after repeat listens a few of the songs started standing on their own, and up there with Horses’ best. “Electric Music” has a lilting, Eagles feel to it, with touches of deep country. Ben Bridwell remains one of my favorite indie vocalists.
6. Ben Folds Five – “On Being Frank” – Ben Folds channels his inner Burt Bacharach. The songs name-drops New Jersey, Frank Sinatra, and the Mafia. How could I not like it?
5. Gojira – “L’enfant Sauvage” – Technical perfection, crushing vocals, crystalline production, and layers of subtle elegance- “L’Enfant” has it in spades. Gojira continue to be one of the more exciting progressive metal bands around.
4. The Shins – “Fall of ‘82” – James Mercer, the driving creative force behind The Shins, came off his Broken Bells detour with a super strong album. It’s more straightforward than some of his earlier efforts, but with a stronger melodic sensibility. The muted trumpet solo adds an out-of-left-field AM Gold dimension to the song.
3. Oddisee – “Let It Go” – The song starts off like “Shaft” with hints of “Across 110th St.” But this is no sample; it’s real live musicians. “Let it Go” sits in a tight groove before heading into a radio-friendly chorus. Since this is not the overproduced crapola that passes for radio-ready rap music, you won’t find it there. Seek Oddisee out.
2. Wild Nothing – “Shadow” – Anchored by a jangly guitar riff, “Shadow” bounces along with a sharp bass line and shoegaze vocals. The lyrics fit in nicely with the forlorn feel of the song. (I don’t see you often/I try to feel something for you/But that’s all I can do).
1. Rush – “The Wreckers” – Nearly 40 years into their recording career, the holy trinity released Clockwork Angels, a concept album that has become one of their most critically acclaimed records. And the acclaim is deserved. It’s flawless from beginning to end. “The Wreckers” is, for me, the standout track, eschewing the usual time signature changes for a straight-ahead narrative inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn. And that chorus: “All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary/Of a miracle too good to be true.” With Rush, that’s never a concern.