Best of 2012
Our Favorite Songs of the Year
By Matt Ashworth
All right. So how we rolled on this one is everyone sent me their favorite songs and I compiled them in a handy Spotify playlist and then listened the ones I wasn’t familiar wth incessantly for a few weeks. Now I get the pleasure of publishing them with some hyperbolic praise and snide, dismissive comments whenever I disagree.
Aimee Mann – “Labrador”
Remember when Aimee’s toe got cut off in The Big Lebowski? That was awesome! But did you know she also writes great songs, too? She does!
Alabama Shakes – “Hold On”
These guys were all the rage at SXSW last year. I certainly enjoy their 60s/70s American soul sound, but this song is totally boring.
Alt-J – “Breezeblocks”
Kicking myself that I couldn’t take Nada contributor Jay Gorham up on his invite to Alt-J’s KEXP performance at the triple door. This song is hypnotic and unique. I like it more every time I play it.
Annie and The Beekeepers – “Come On”
This one came in as a promo and I haven’t seen the band take off yet, but boy howdy is this a gorgeous song. Sounds like Annie’s a Cape Cod girl who’s relocated to New York City.
This is an incredibly gorgeous, soulful song that has me exploring both Dam Funk, who has been on my list since Ben previewed his 2010 Nectar show, and Ariel Pink, who I wasn’t to crazy about when I listened to his breakthrough album Before Today last year.
Baroness – “Take My Bones Away”[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V0N1x675FQ]
Beach House – “Myth”
In her review of Bloom, the album this song was taken from, Leah says Beach House’s music sounds “like dozing off next to a waterfall.” That’s a lovely description for some lovely music.
Black Breath – “Sentenced to Life”
It’s great that we have some cats watching the metal scene for us. Here’s what Aaron Semer says about these guys: “Black Breath continue to do what they do amazingly well; sound like Entombed in their mid-nineties heyday. This time, they bring a little more thrash to the mix. They aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they’re still the best straight-up metal band around these days.”
Black Moth Super Rainbow – “Psychic Love Damage” / “Windshield Smasher”
Bob Dylan – “Duquesne Whistle”
Bob Mould – “The Descent”
Mr. Mould is a long-time staff favorite. It’s cool that he’s still putting out good songs like this one, but I don’t really adore him like everyone else does.
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”
Can you tell that several of us have little girls (spoiler alert: there are two Taylor Swift songs on this list too…)? That’s increased our exposure to major label pop music, which, like any genre, has some fun songs.
Ceremony – “Hysteria”
Very tight Bay-area punk band with guitars that remind me of the Cult’s Electric.
Chromatics – “Kill For Love”
How is it possible that there is a band from the Northwest that’s this good and I wasn’t aware of them until now? I must be slipping. This track, from their excellent 2012 album of the same name,, is gorgeous, shimmery 4AD-style pop. If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favor and listen to it in sequence right after album-opener “My Hey,” a gorgeous rendition of the oft-covered Neil Young classic.
Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless” / “Wasted Days”
I think I held a grudge against this Cleveland band for too long after the performed at the Capitol Hill Block Party at a time that was not convenient with my schedule. And for the chorus of that song “Fall In” that sounds like Green Day. “Stay Useless” and “Wasted Days” are both great and their live set on KEXP was awesome. These guys could go either way.
Craig Finn – “Rented Room”
I’ve adored the Hold Steady since I lucked upon the promotional copy of their debut …Almost Killed Me in 2004 among a stack of other promotional CDs, so I was bummed that I didn’t connect more with this track from frontman Craig Finn’s solo record. Lindsey had good things to say about his live show in March though.
Daniel Kandi – “Change The World”
It’s great to have a couple contributors looking at the electronic scene for us too, and steering our old Indie rock asses in the right direction. Love the vocals from Sarah Russell on this one from Danish trance producer Daniel Kandi.
Death Grips – “Get Got”
Not sure I get the hype with this Sacramento hip-hop/punk/noise band yet.
Delta Spirit – “Empty House”
Loved these guys when I saw them on Ode to Sunshine with Adam. This is a good song and the fact that Dude’s vocals sometimes sound like Hedwig works for me. (Tell me I’m wrong.)
Diiv – “How Long Have You Known?”
This has kind of an 80s New Wave feel to it. Not bad, but it seems like someone paid too much attention to Pitchfork this year.
Dirty Projectors – “About to Die” / “Gun Has No Trigger”
Arty Dudes from Brooklyn. New album Swing Lo Magellan came out in July.
This seems like a pretty fun pop song and stuff.
Divine Fits – “Would That Not Be Nice”
Django Django – “Default” / “Life’s a Beach”
I love this quirky indie pop song from Sweden. RIYL fellow Swedes Peter, Bjorn & John.
Dropkick Murphys – “Rose Tattoo”
Nice to see this Celtic-influenced punk band from Boston is still around.
Ellie Goulding – “Anything Could Happen”
Gotta tell, ya this one is not my cup of tea. She sounds like she should be married to Thomas Dolby.
Father John Misty – “Nancy From Now On” / “Hollywood Cemetery Gates”
Gorgeous tracks from Seattle’s J Tillman, an amazing talent who put out several good solo albums before touring the world as the drummer for the Fleet Foxes.
FIDLAR – “Cheap Beer” /“No Waves”
“We drink. Cheap beer. So what? Fuck you!” is a great chorus to this LA band’s great punk song. “No Waves” is more new wave. Rough, Exploding Hearts style New Wave though. Definitely going to keep an eye on these guys.
Fiona Apple – “Anything We Want”
How great is it that Fiona Apple is cool again? I’m not a big fan of this song but I’m rooting for her crazy ass. And t’s great to hear that – after more than a decade after every living heterosexual male fondled himself to “Criminal” and Fiona issued a juvenile rant against Turkey-eaters at the MTV awards – Fiona still has that smokey, sexy voice.
First Aid Kit – “Emmylou”
What an absolutely gorgeous Americana song from these two Swedish sisters. “I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June/If you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny, too.” It’s one of those songs where I don’t want anyone to talk to me while it’s on because I don’t want to miss a single second.
When it comes to the R&B style pop jams on this list I prefer “Wild Ones” to the aforementioned “City of Dreams.” Please make note.
Frank Ocean – “Pyramids” / “Thinkin’ Bout You”
OK. I can see the hype. Will have to check out Frank’s album.
Future of the Left – “Beneath the Waves an Ocean” / “I am the Least of Your Problems” / “Notes on Achieving Orbit” /
“Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman”
My favorite band of 2012. Check out the interview I did with main man Andy Falkous.
Gotye – “Somebody that I Used to Know”
I’m pretty sure this song was played on a continuous loop in every retail store in the world for at least six months, and for good reason, it’s a gorgeous crossover hit and I’m not surprised its adored by people from all walks of life.
Grimes – “Genesis” / “Oblivion”
Sometimes Grimes sounds like the newest, most innovative thing I’ve heard in years. Sometimes she sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Sometimes in the same song. Captivating performer though.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhflnGpsvsQ]
Grizzled Mighty – “Wallflower”
I’m not tired of the two piece blues punk band yet. If acts like Seattle’s Grizzled Mighty keep popping up, I might never tire of it actually.
Guided by Voices – “The Unsinkable Fats Domino” / “Waving at Airplanes”
Hopefully I don’t get my Indie cred revoked for saying this, but everything I’ve heard from the three albums Guided By Voices albums released in 2012 was slightly above average and mostly just made me want to listen to Alien Lanes. I’m clearly in the minority on this point, given the great coverage Jensen did on the band’s big year, including this interview with guitarist Mitch Mitchell.
Heartless Bastards – “Got to Have Rock n’ Roll”
Great band. I haven’t gotten around to listening to their 2012 album Ohio, but this song is great. It’s got a T Rex feel to it.
Howler – “Back of Your Neck” / “Beach Sluts”
If the Strokes had paid more attention to the ‘60s this is what they would sound like.
Howlin Rain – “Strange Thunder”
An odd choice from one of the year’s first great albums, given its a slow jam, but O.K.
Icona Pop – “I Love It”
“I threw your shit in to a bag and threw it down the stairs.” This chick sounds like she could really put me in my place, which I can appreciate.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxxajLWwzqY]
Japandroids – “The House that Heaven Built”
This song is like one giant “fist pump moment.” It makes me want to drive around in my friend’s Dad’s mustang with the windows down.
Jeff the Brotherhood – “Sixpack”
The second best rock song about about getting loaded to be released in 2012 was from this Nashville duo.
Jens Lekman – “Become Someone Else’s”
Another staff favorite, Jens is a Swedish crooner signed to the same Canadian label that’s released music by Seattle acts David Bazan and Throw Me From the Statute. Dan previewed his Portland show in October.
More of our 2012 favorites: