(2012) Best of Last Year

Hear “(2012) Best of Last Year” on Spotify.

  1. Gangnam Style — PSY
    • It’s no surprise to anyone that this song made the list. It took the entire world by storm. Unknown in the US before this song, PSY skyrocketed to super-stardom with this K-Pop dance hit. Not only is the song catchy, but I’ve read that it’s somewhat satirical, too, taking sarcastic aim at the Gangnam District in Seoul, South Korea. A poppy dance hit with a message? That’s a recipe for a hit (with me).
  2. Tainted Love — Scorpions
    • This was a surprise for me. I’ve never been particularly enthusiastic about the Scorpions. Nor have I been that in love with Tainted Love and the myriad covers that exist out there. For some reason this year, the stars aligned enough that I actually came to enjoy this track. In fact, so much so that it made the list. Rock out, minions of Satan!
  3. I Will Wait — Mumford & Sons
    • Shame on me for not owning this full album, but I’ve at least purchased this track. I love the lofty refrain, how it pitches itself into the air carried upward by the driving banjo. From the first listen, this song refused to leave my head. After I’d sung it a handful of times around Ian, he, too, was singing, “I will wait, I will wait, for you.”
  4. Bill Murray — Sweatshop Union (NSFW)
    • YES. This is a rap song about Bill Murray, the storied comedic actor. How could I resist? I discovered Sweatshop Union’s EP on Spotify, but I’m not overly familiar with them beyond that. This track, for its subject matter and solid production, definitely caught my ear. Any song that can work Steve Zissou and Peter Venkman into its lyrics gets a spot on the list.
  5. The Base — Paul Banks
    • Paul Banks is the vocalist for Interpol, a band I dearly enjoy. This track came across the Interpol email list (yes, I subscribe to email lists for my favorite musicians), and I decided to give it a listen. In a couple weeks, it became my most listened to song of all time at 125 plays (as of this writing). Do I like this song? Um, yes. Yes, I do. One of the things I love most in this track is the imagery in the lyrics; we don’t get a full sense of time or place, but we do get scant, tantalizing hints at dozens of possibilities. The track feels conflictingly Interpolic and not, flitting between driving, monotonous rock and soaring melody. It’s catchy, yet nuanced, which encapsulates everything I love about Interpol while giving me something more—something I didn’t even know I longed for.
  6. First Of The Year (Equinox) — Skrillex
    • My dubstep love affair didn’t end with 2011, although Skrillex didn’t dominate the music world of 2012 with the same force he did previously. This track has more musicality to it than some of his others, but it still has plenty of robot screams to keep dubsteppers happy. If you get a chance, check out the music video, too.
  7. All The Rowboats — Regina Spektor
    • I think I keep waiting for Regina Spektor to capture my imagination the same way she did with Begin to Hope. I bought What We Saw From The Cheap Seats with that wish in my heart, but the album had few tracks that really drew me in. That said, this is a fantastic track, and Regina is a brilliant musician and song writer. She bring such personality to her music that it’s hard not to enjoy every piece. I guess I’m just looking to fall in love again.
  8. Gucci Gucci — Kreayshawn (NSFW)
    • When I first heard of Kreayshawn, I thought it was a joke or publicity stunt. The first thing that you think when you see Kreayshawn is how tiny she is. Then you think, “This girl is a hip-hop artist? And she’s a lesbian?” That said, she’s certainly risen quickly. “Gucci Gucci” makes the comment that girls chase well-known clothing labels to compensate for being too simple. Kreayshawn, of course, doesn’t have to do that. It speaks as much to the self image of these “basic” girls as it does for Kreayshawn’s crazy self-confidence. I mean, look at how she chose to spell her name. Also, I give props to any musician who works “ovaries” into their lyrics.
  9. Somebody That I Used To Know — Walk Off the Earth
    • I missed the whole Gotye obsession. The song was well on its way to passe when I’d first heard it. Notice, however, that this track isn’t the Gotye version; it’s a cover by a band called Walk Off the Earth. This is like an acoustic version of the original version, minus some whining. The music video is a must-watch, which is Holli introduced this track to me.
  10. Real Vs Imaginary — Amos Slade
    • If you’ve listened to my podcast, Man, I Love This Show!, then you’ve heard a bit of this song. Amos Slade is a local band gradually making their way to national fame (mark my words). The drummer’s wife used to work with me at L&S, and my first introduction to them was when she was passing around their EP for others to listen to. This track immediately stood out for me: it’s a solid rock anthem with a catchy melody, evocative lyrics, and a great hook. They release their first full length album this year, so keep your eyes on AmosSlade.com for details.
  11. Stubborn Love — The Lumineers
    • No, this isn’t that song by The Lumineers. This one is better. It has all the moody atmospherics of their other songs, but this one makes your toes tap. It feels like square dancing music with indie rock sentimentality. Why is that? And why do I like it? That’s for smarter music critics to decide. I just know that when Wesley Schultz belts out “head up / love” in his soaring tenor I can’t help but sing along.
  12. okay cupid — Kitty
    • I don’t know why, but my stomach twists a little whenever I hear this song. It’s a relatively straightforward hip-hop song. The backing sample is ephemeral, a comfortable landscape of sound over which comes Kitty (formerly Kitty Pride) and her beat-poetry lyrics. Every step along the way, Kitty zags when I assume she’ll zig, even down to her use of the word “simping.”
  13. Hospital — Counting Crows
    • This is a cover song, but it falls perfectly inline with the other Counting Crows songs I’ve come to love. I love the stripped down nature of this song, which bounces from pensive acoustic to raucous electric. The guitar buzzes into the song like a heart monitor, regularly throwing off your concentration. There are a lot of beautiful, natural sounds in this song assaulted by the harsh squelch of the distortion. Lifting above is Adam Duritz’s tortured cry for help. “There’s some pills that you shouldn’t take” he cautions, and the emotion in his performance makes it clear that he speaks from experience.
  14. We Are Young — Fun.
    • Yeah, I got swept up in this song, too. It’s catchy, evocative, and, well… fun. It’s the epitome of Triumphant White People Music, and I am therefore genetically predisposed to celebrating it.
  15. We Are Young — Fun.
    • Yeah, I got swept up in this song, too. It’s catchy, evocative, and, well… fun. It’s the epitome of Triumphant White People Music, and I am therefore genetically predisposed to celebrating it.
  16. Riot Rhythm — Sleigh Bells
    • It’s probably their album art, but I always imagine this song being sung by a gaggle of bad-ass cheerleaders who may or may not be armed. The song even features a moment where the group yells, “You gotta march!” Seems pretty cheerleadery to me. While this song may conjure some unsettling visuals, it personifies that with a wonderfully off-putting guitar wail. The sound this electric guitar makes assaults your ears in the best way possible.
  17. Hurt Feelings — Flight of the Conchords
    • Rapping Kiwis? Yes, please! The Conchords are brilliant as a musical group and as a television show, and this is one of my favorites by them. Why do rappers need to use harsh language to explain the sensitive feelings they have inside? They don’t, and FotC perform this restrained list of slights by friends and family alike. We’ve all been there, but Flight takes us there again and makes it street.
  18. Once in a While — Don’t Stop or We’ll Die
    • Don’t Stop or We’ll Die is a band made up of comedians. You’d think that they’d suck, but you’re wrong. While they don’t really focus on their music career, this track off one of their several EPs puts us in the head of a wistful housewife. The song is hilarious in its sincerity, and its that same sincerity that makes it a great song to get caught in your head.
  19. I Am the Doctor — Murray Gold
    • The British TV show, Doctor Who, made a large impression on me in 2012, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t include one of the most thrilling orchestral themes in the series. This song has great legs, a great crescendo, and a lot of whimsy. There’s no better anthem for one of my favorite television characters.