As I looked over my playlists from the year 2012, I have tried to only add the songs that either charge me up or songs that seem to find a way to my heart and soul. Here are my favorites for 2012. I couldn’t possibly rank them, so they are simply listed in the order that they were released.
Editor’s Note: The majority of the songs are in a playlist at the bottom of the post page.
Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless”
This song reminds me of that awkward wonky time in my youth, where it just seemed like it was an effort to accomplish anything. A little angsty, but somehow it seems to work even today when I just don’t want to go with the flow and maybe even yell a little and want to remain quietly useless.
Trampled by Turtles – “Keys to Paradise”
This song has all of the ingredients of that follow the recent resurgence in folk/Americana music. The bluegrass banjo sound makes me listen again and again because it has the perfect instrumental sections and follows with the lyrical inference of a fractured relationship trying to find a fix.
Sharon Van Etten – “Serpents”
The girl with the guitar and the ethereal voice gets me every time. I appreciate her pouty and hurt lyrics and find them to match my mood on occasion. Throughout this song, her music remains stronger than her discontent and I can find a certain human power in the vibe.
Jack White – “Love Interrupted”
I find Jack White to be a bold genius. There is something so incredibly fresh and solid in his music and his fascinating and sometimes incredibly harsh lyrics. His songs make me feel the force of deep pain and love interchangeably. How is that possible? The lyrics in “Love Interrupted” clearly express this idea, “I want love, to roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around.” The changes in the tempo and the kick-ass orchestration make Blunderbuss one of my favorite albums of the year.
Cat Power – “Cherokee”
Cat Power has a great mix of punk, folk, and blues. Because she is an Atlanta native, I liked her immediately. I haven’t seen her here, but I feel we, southerners who rock a bit, should stick together. Cherokee is a sad, sullen song of pain and love lost. What is it about this kind of song that hooks me in from the beginning? Okay, I guess I can relate to this kind of emotional pain and yes, I have been a little pouty, too.
The Lumineers – “Stubborn Love”
I was really excited about The Lumineers when they released, “Ho Hey.” They are an Americana folk rock band based in Denver, Colorado. As much as I liked “Ho Hey,” the song “Stubborn Love” became my all-time favorite when I saw them live in concert. To me, it is a beautiful lyrical expression of a familiar love story that seems to be on again and off again. Somehow, through the vocals there is a joyous message, “So, keep your head up, my love.” Live in concert, I was blown away with their amazing vocals and incredible musicianship.
Best Coast – “The Only Place”
Oh my gosh, who doesn’t dream of being in a convertible, riding fast with sun streaming on your face, and wind swirling in your hair? This is what this song represents for me. When this song was released, I was ready for summer, but I am landlocked and the closest coast is five hours away. I constantly yearn for that place and the freedom of being forever young. A be-boppy summer tune for sure, but who can resist this happy reminder of beach time vacations where the possibility of wishes and dreams come true.
Fiona Apple – “Werewolf”
Who titles their album with such a long name that it is difficult to remember? The name of her album is The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. This album has an overly elaborate title that is completely supported by a wild array of elaborate songs within. Every time I listen to and appreciate this beautiful song, “Werewolf,” I feel as if I am peeking into a very private and personal journal entry. I want to close it and respect the privacy, but then I can’t help myself and have to listen again and again.
Dirty Projectors – “Gun Has No Trigger”
This tune is chock full of interesting language and melody but lacking in the complex arrangements that have been a classic fingerprint of David Longstreth, the songwriter, musician, and lead vocalist of Dirty Projectors. With lyrics like “they watch you sleeping, you watch their garbage cook, you’d weep a bowl of tears, if you had looked,” I am totally intrigued. The entire Dirty Projectors album is another one of my favorite albums for 2012.
Passion Pit – “Take a Walk”
Interestingly, Passion Pit’s name originated from the slang for a drive-in movie theater, and “Take a Walk”‘s clever, poppy, sound explosion clearly has taken on many admirers. I am no exception. I believe the song to be a happy breezy sound, but the lyrics tell a much deeper story of struggling to make ends meet and trying to work out this harsh reality. A relatable story that many feel personally.
Yeasayer – “Henrietta”
This psychedelic pop band’s music lightens my mood and gives me a chill vibe that is so satisfying. I love listening and never seem to tire of the tune. When a song can pass the test of time and you still find it to be all that was to you the first few times you heard it, then you know that song is a winner. Seeing them live in concert, only rooted that vibe even deeper.
David Byrne and St. Vincent – “Who”
An amazing collaboration from two very accomplished musicians with very distinctive voices. It seems like such an odd pair, but I think that is what makes it work. I sense that David Byrne and Annie Clark (St. Vincent) are experimenting with lyrics, sounds, and a whole lot of brass, and it just works for me. I have to also admit that seeing them perform it live, sealed the deal for me. They are both so musically adventurous and I can’t wait to see what might come from their solo careers next.
Grizzly Bear – “Sleeping Ute”
Yes, this was love at first listen. “Sleeping Ute” has a beautiful haunting quality that resembles a dream-like state. The musical arrangement is dense and mysterious. Just when you are connected to the instrumental sections, the vocals kick in and enhance the listening experience, and as the lyrics suggest, “I can’t help myself.” The entire album, Shields, has been named one of the best albums of 2012 by Spin and Rolling Stone.
Alt-J – “Breezeblocks”
The music from Alt-J speaks to me with its originality and creative experimental combination of sounds. “Breezeblocks” is full of compelling lyrics that beg me to discern their meaning. Even after the hundreds of times I have listened to this song, I still wonder about it. I choose to think of it as a longing love story that has grown too possessive and dangerous. The power of the banging drums and piano seems to emulate a deepening fearful feeling, but the soft chanting of love offsets it completely. Fascinating.
Tame Impala – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
This psychedelic rock band shows their more marketable side, to the general public, in this song, and I am strangely reminded of The Beatles and their tune “I am the Walrus.” “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is avant-garde and built on many layers of sound. It took me a few listens to hear all of the intricate parts that make the entire song, and I appreciate the master of that wholeheartedly. They are so distinctly experimental and yet they can create a tune that plays in my head all day.