Top Song Picks for 2012

I tried to listen to a lot of new albums this year. But in truth there was just too much music for me to get a good grasp on everything. Thus take this list not as all the best music, but as some of the stuff that I really liked over the year. Some artists might not be on the list, but came out with pretty good albums (Beth Orton comes to mind) because I did not have enough time to really listen to the album and choose a favorite. In any case, here’s ten songs that I loved this year, and I think that you might like too (in no particular order).

1. Japandroids’ “The House that Heaven Built

I love the big, anthemic, heart-on-your-sleeve, screaming with a sense of urgency, drive of the song. It’s got a simple, catchy riff that sticks and an energy that contends with lyrics that problematize life and aging. There are also these great vocal hooks that I now cannot get out of my head.

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2. The Gaslight Anthem’s “Handwritten”

This album got a lot of play on my iPod this year, and for good reason. The Gaslight Anthem, and I guess I risk sacrilege here with albums by Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins coming out too, may have put out the best straight up rock record. It’s got big guitars, mad riffs, great guitar solos, and that Springsteen-like sensibility for rock themes. It’s sweet on the ears without being light or thematically vacuous, which is much more than one can say about most music that gets radio play.

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3. Best Coast’s “The Only Place”

This is just an incredibly catchy little gem. Have to admit to affinity for the place they are singing for, LA kid and all, but then the song also makes me think of the Philippines too. It’s got a beautiful, crisp guitar jangle throughout, simple, sing-along lyrics, and a skip and a beat to it whenever you put it on.

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4. Jack White’s “Missing Pieces”

The song’s initial appeal was, well, coming from a pretty bad break-up the fiendishly dark lyricism reflected a lot of the negativity I was feeling. But god, it’s got this great groove, and this live version here has some extra rocking. Jack White delivers something rocking and raunchy and groovy and dark. Whole album is damn good too.

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5. Beach House’s “Wishes”

I think the proper word is entrancing. This song washes over you and you kind of just get lost swimming in it.

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6. Cody ChesnuTT

I heard the opening guitar riff and I was hooked. Then Cody ChesnuTT came in crooning and I was sold. Damn if this isn’t one of the catchiest, grooviest songs I haven’t heard in a while. I can’t dance, not at all, and yet this has me wanting to hit the dancefloor. It’s lush and classic, got these great horns that pipe in perfectly. Give it a listen, as I find it difficult to describe how it all comes together.

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7. Kishi Bashi’s “Bright Whites”

There’s a great arrangement and an irresistible melody driving this piece of pop. You hear all kinds of musical influences at play, but what comes out strongest is just a solid, beautiful song.

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8. Ladyhawke’s “Cellophane”

I have a hard time putting my finger on what exactly I love about this song. There’s this droning guitar riff that gets my head banging. Ladyhawke’s voice is beautiful. But I think, more than anything, it’s the vocal melodies. The contrast between the melodies in the verses and choruses and the bridges between get stuck in my head. And the swooping, large melodies of the chorus are enthralling.

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9. Norah Jones’s “Happy Pills”

Sure Jones can be boring. And it’s hard to get excited about her stuff. But this was definitely something fun and something to really get excited about. Her collaboration with Danger Mouse provides us with some of the peppiest, trippiest, sounds, and again, the lyrics hit an emotional note.

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10. Passion Pit’s “Love is Greed”

It’s dance-y and fun. They lyrics are ironically biting though. So there’s all kinds of fun and tension going on here together.

11. Metric’s “Clone”

Another song that I like for its vocal melodies. There’s a point later in the song where the vocals push really high and I think it’s a sublime turning point for a very good song.

12. Benjamin Gibbard’s and Aimee Mann’s “Bigger than Love”

Leave it to Ben Gibbard and Aimee Mann to break your heart in a massive way. And yet, it’s couched in lush melodies and there’s a kind of attempt at redemption too.

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Right so, those are some of my picks. I realized, as I was making the list, that there was so much more that I wanted to put on there. But hey, it’s a start. Post comments and suggestions for me or tag me in your posts!

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