Sean’s Top 20 Songs of 2012 (So Far)
As we’re presented with more music than ever before here at TWJ, decisions like the ones needed to narrow our favorite songs of the year down to a definitive list become increasingly difficult. In the grand scheme of things, this is obviously a trivial issue, but when attempting to whittle a pool of 50 or 60 songs down to a list this size, cutting a track can feel like spurning a loved one: there is guilt involved, as strange as that sounds. But there’s a thrill to it all as well, as reviewing what we’ve listened to thus far in 2012 reveals that it has indeed been a great year for music already. Some noteworthy artists have released stellar records, and some unheard-of artists have become welcome surprise favorites.
While our albums list was a collective thing, it seems more appropriate for each of us to do our own individual song list. How well a 3-minute (give or take) sample of an artist’s particular flavor resonates can vary greatly depending on the aural palette, and the diversity of tastes among the TWJ staff will hopefully be apparent as you sample each of our lists. Here’s mine, which came with careful — and perhaps over-dramatic — deliberation.
The song titles with a play symbol next to them are downloadable with the right-click-save-as routine, and there are links provided for when we first posted on these songs, if they aren’t completely brand new to the blog. For those of you without Spotify, the playlist is available to stream at the bottom of the page as well. Enjoy!
(Original Photo: Alexi Hobbs)
20. Beach House: “Lazuli”
This song had me from the moment the first “ha ha, ha ha, ah ahhhhhh ah” chorus broke through the haze of keyboards and gentle percussion, and the breezy vocal harmonies are really lovely.
19. Haim: “Forever” (June 7)
This all-sister trio cooked up a distinctly 80’s vibe with this track, which features some excellent guitar riffs and drum loops in addition to being undeniably catchy.
18. Dana Buoy: “Call To Be” (February 24)
The Akron/Family frontman delivers a really cool vocal performance over some densely layered electronic effects.
17. Superhumanoids: “Geri” (February 2)
Before I ever saw what she looked like, I had a crush on Sarah Chernoff because of her vocals in this song.
16. Sleigh Bells: “Born To Lose” (January 19)
This served as a great introduction to the band’s new album — it’s cool, it’s catchy, and it’s filled to the brim with loud.
15. Tanlines: “Green Grass”
The drums, keyboards and singalong chorus all combine to make this song pretty irresistible.
14. Death Grips: “Hacker”
This is probably the best example I can present to someone unfamiliar of how Death Grips’ sound wobbles along that line between abrasive and impressive; the percussion and electronic layering are nearly overwhelming, but I somehow find myself shouting along to “I’m in your AREA” every time.
13. Electric Guest: “This Head I Hold” (January 25)
This is the kind of immediately likeable indie pop — doo-wop flavor, twinkling keys, killer bass line and awesome falsetto — that I can’t resist, and really don’t want to.
12. Now, Now: “School Friends” (March 25)
This Minnesota trio cut straight to my core with their brand of heart-on-sleeve indie — musically, this song about a man who is a user of women is simple and straightforward, but gosh does it tug at the heartstrings.
11. Eliza And The Bear: “Brother’s Boat” (May 31)
I have a soft spot for bands like this — the kind that use grand arrangements and an array of instruments to communicate some simple truth — and this song is a building, brooding beauty.
This strumming and singing man isn’t given nearly enough credit for how consistently good his music is, and “1904” is a great example of how easy he makes it look.
9. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: “That’s What’s Up” (April 5)
The spirit is as big a part of what makes this band’s music so enjoyable as their instruments, and the final 45 seconds make me sing along loudly and proudly every single time.
8. The Shins: “Simple Song” (January 9)
The great guitar harmonies, the touches of keyboard and James Mercer’s insightful lyrics and signature vocal style all make “Simple Song” a perfect example of why The Shins have evolved into such an indie-rock force over the years.
7. Perfume Genius: “Hood”
I’ve never wished for a song to be longer more than I did every time I listened to “Hood”: there’s such beauty and raw emotion in its achingly brief lifespan that it takes repeated listening to Mike Hadreas’ quivering vocals and killer piano playing to absorb how good 120 seconds can be.
6. TIE — Cruiser: “To California” and “Don’t Go Alone” (May 30)
The Cruiser EP is easily the most pleasant surprise of 2012 for me, and I couldn’t bear to choose between these two guitar-driven, hook-laden, superb beach rock tunes.
5. Jukebox The Ghost: “Oh, Emily” (April 14)
The fantastic drum playing of Jesse Kristin is what made me wanna repeat this song ad nauseum at first, but its boundless energy and super guitar work made it impossible for me not to fall in love.
4. Reptar: “Water Runs”
I didn’t expect a song this pretty and this dynamic from such a young band, but “Water Runs” rewarded patience and multiple listens like no other I’ve come across this year (so far).
I was already impressed with Thomas Calder’s songwriting ability, but his vocals on this track truly blew me away.
2. Bears: “I Don’t Have You On My Mind”
A heartfelt, no-frills song about that twinge of sadness after realizing you have to let go of someone you still love, even though it sucks.
It’s been awhile since I loved a tried-and-true rock song as much as I do “Marathon Runner.” But I think it resonates with me for personal reasons as much as musical ones. To me, the lyrics here — sung excellently by Alex Schaaf — are about those years in your mid-twenties, where it feels a bit like running a race where the destination isn’t quite clear and the terrain feels a bit uneven.