New blog series idea designed for the "12 Days of Christmas" and the fact it's 2012. I'm getting to this on the 13th of December going into the 14th of December and probably stopping before or on Christmas Eve and probably not making 12 blogs out of these lists. Why? Because, why not?
I might do worst lists to coincide with the bests, but for now, here are my 12 favorite songs of 2012.
Context and Why I Like It tend to run together, sorry about that. Also, I'm usually into hard rock/metal more but the only release I knew came out this year (and a bunch came out I didn't know about) was Long Live Heavy Metal by 3 Inches of Blood and I have yet to pick that up.
Foxy Shazam - Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll (album)
Context: Got this CD to review at the radio station I was at and when it came time to write my review, all I could say was "this sounds like Queen with a modern day twist, and every song on here is great." Well, there was a word requirement for me to get the extra cred, so I said more, but that's the gist.
Why I Like It: It's silly, it's over the top, it's hooky, it's got an 80s quality about it, it's funny, it's the jolt of fun that rock music desperately needs and this band should be doing a lot better than it is. Please check them out.
Cage the Elephant - Aberdeen
This one I like because of its bass line mostly, and it's just a catchy damn song. Know it's a 2011 release, heard it more this year.
Black Keys - Little Black Submarine
Love the build up, payoff, and in general the Black Keys.
12. Foster the People - I Would Do Anything For You
Context: So more than anything else you'll notice on my list is female singers (we'll get to that) and alternative music. Notice I did not say alternative rock, which especially as it was in the 90s, and seems to be for all people around my age that progressed through puberty maintaining some form of pallor, is probably my favorite type of music.
Alternative rock, contrary to popular belief, for the most part always remained alternative with few exceptions even in its prime decade (i.e. it cracked Billboard more often than usual in previous decades, but there are fewer #1 hits from the genre than people like me want to admit), but it still defined a large part of my youth. Honestly, from Green Day, to No Doubt, to Everclear, to Smashing Pumpkins, to Bush, to Harvey Danger to RHCP-post-funk-metal etc. etc. I can't think of a single, widely broadcast 90s alt song I don't still love or at least have fond memories of.
Which is why it was such a shame the 2000s were so sparse for alt lovers in comparison. Don't get me wrong, we had great stuff like Muse, Killers, Strokes, Interpol etc. but it just didn't feel like alternative shined on the radio the way it had in the 90s; a lot of those had managed to deal with serious subject matter while maintaining an upbeat tune or at least a sense of irony a la Everclear's "Father of Mine" or Nirvana's "I'm On a Plain," whereas if Three Days Grace or Linkin Park tackled dark subjects, the instrumentation sounded just as dark. Also, while I fully admit contributing to this at the time, Nickelback was incredibly popular. I don't hate them as much as everyone else and even listen to their old stuff as guilty pleasure material now and then, but they are a far fucking cry from Nirvana (both the band and in the spiritual sense).
Skip ahead to Summer 2012, when Gotye and fun. were switching up the #1 spot for weeks, and Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" was also a huge hit and declared by several critics as the "song of the summer" ... unfortunately, considering its subject matter. Alternative music made a comeback this year in a big way, arguably by taking what's working in pop as far as incorporating synthetic production, and putting a spin on the monotonous verse-chorus club songs; like the 90s alt stuff, this music knew to have a hook of some sort, but inserted more subversive lyrics, slower tempos, and time shifts into their songs to set themselves apart from the pop milieu while still managing to break into the market.
Why I Like the Song: While I've been loving the hell out of this alternative revival, Foster the People's Torches was the first thing I actually purchased from this radio onslaught of awesomess. As with Mumford and Son's debut last year, literally about half the ten song album has been turned into singles, and I absolutely love all of them.
This one I actually don't think was made a single, but it's my favorite song on the CD. It's a slow, atmospheric song about, from what I can tell, just love in general. I bought this album at a time when I had just parted ways in what I consider one of my most memorable romantic relationships, and shit was hitting the crunch-time fan at work and school, my college senioritis helping nothing.
This is one of those "happy" songs that doesn't make me jealous of the singer's good times, but rather hopeful things will work out. It's a relaxing and beautiful song that managed to calm me down in a time of need, is probably a favorite song of all time for me, and is only at #12 cause I thought to put that alternative music rambling in the first part and this song/band most coincides with why I'm excited about the new alternative in music.
11. Pink - Blow Me (One Last Kiss)
Context: Saw her perform it on Jon Stewart and liked it a hell of a lot more than I thought. It's pretty much the same thing as "You and Your Hand Tonight" in that it's a catchy song bitching out some guy, and I liked that song too; this is just more universally relatable.
Why It's Here: I saw her perform this around when I was sending five applications a day (which I'm still doing, but I've calemed down since finding freelance), going to job fairs and pre-interview interviews an hour from my house and getting absolute jack for my efforts; this was compounded by the fact I had graduated Magna Cum Laude in a relevant field to most jobs I applied to, the jobs outside my field weren't interested, and I'm still living with my parents as some friends or acquaintances with mere G.E.D.s get married or at least have apartments on their own, making my efforts seem both futile and almost dumb considering the loan debt I accrued.
Meanwhile, at home, my parents fought about appliances etc., I felt distant from old friends, and just when things couldn't get worse, everyone would be cranky from a shit day, which it just so happens is an occurrence mentioned in this song.
This catchy song declaring basically "I've had it up to here" was exactly what I needed to hear on too many days this year, and I'm glad it exists.
10. One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful
Context: Look, in third grade, Hanson was a big fad in my class. I wasn't the only one who liked them, but as the kid that got the t-shirt from an Eggo Waffle contest, and the quiet weird one, I may as well have been the only one according to other people's memory. It was catchy, ok? Also, best thing I've heard at a party to this day: when at another kid's house for his birthday I brought up Hanson and one kid said "Hanson's gay, we listen to Backstreet Boys now."
Why I Like It: It's catchy and it reminds me of a simpler time. Mostly the catchy part, though.
9. fun. - Some Nights
Context: Basically, what I said in #12, but this one's also in tons of Wreck It Ralph promos. What's not to like... except that god-awful autotune interlude they should cut out?
Why I Like It: Like "We Are Young," it has a very cinematic quality to it. Unlike WAY, it didn't become mind numbingly dull after three listens. The lyrics tell a story of someone down on their luck ready to keep fighting, and it's both fun (get it?!) to listen to and inspiring as a song. And I need that sometimes.
Sadly, it suffers from "Boulevard of Broken Dreams/Somebody That I Used to Know" syndrome in that while I like it, I will shoot a puppy if it gets played on the radio one more damn time. Also, I hate that stupid autotune thing in the middle. Yes, that deserved mentioning twice. Overall though, still a great song.
8. AWOLNATION - Soul Wars
Context: So take everything I said in #12, and take it with the grain of salt that in late 2011, "Sail" hinted at the coming rise in alternative music coming back. I could not go anywhere without hearing it for a month, and as a college DJ, I was partly to blame cause it was requested a million damn times and I usually honored those without question if I could.
I got tired of that song but after discovering what an amazing album Torches was, a coworker said all he listened to were Foster the People and AWOLNATION's CDs, and I bought AWOLNATION, knowing I at least liked their other single, "Not Your Fault" quite a bit.
Why I Like It: Again, I was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly good this CD was and immediately took to is non-singles, in this case most loving the uptempo "Soul Wars."
The lyrics don't mean much to me, but the song in tandem with its chant prompting lyrics makes me feel like I'm at a great live show, and not many songs can give me that feeling and get me pumped quite the way this tune can.
7. Rihanna - We Found Love
Context: This is another "wish I was the singer" songs, but also one that speaks to a truth in my life. Where "I Would Do Anything For You" sounds like someone in a purely blissfull, peaceful state, this song acknowledges the intense feeling that comes from finding a "diamond" of a person in a rough life. I don't live in a ghetto by any means, but a lot of the people I've dated and I have come from less-than-ideal backgrounds, and at least on my part I've been glad to have them around as at least one thing going right in my life.
Why I Like It: It's the most repetitive song of 2012, it's incredibly vague, and to me that's what provides a lot of its atomsphere. It's dark, but hopeful, and that's what the juxtaposition between how my life is and what art makes me feel has been.
6. Grouplove - Tongue Tied
Context: I heard it on the radio when my life was going pretty well, and it just caught on with me.
Why I Like It: Great bass line (a big reason I liked "Aberdeen" by Cage the Elephant), catchy, upbeat, just puts me in a good mood.
5. Colpday - Paradise
Context: Heard this the first time when working in the station. We were all pissed at the girl that got to review it when the CD came in, cause most of us were Coldplay fans. I once was on duty at work and called in to request it from my friend Kyle, and he told me it was up next anyway cause he'd put it in. If "Sail" was the most requested song I got, this was the one I put in the most myself during shifts, especially late ones.
Why I Like It: Has a huge atmosphere, a cinematic quality to it, it's relaxing and inspiring simultaneously. It just expertly manages to be a massive uplifting song, and one you can nod off to in a good mood, like the ending of a great movie before you go home to relax.
4. Adele - Someone Like You
Context: The fear of an old crush or relationship you don't quite feel has been given proper closure finding the person of their dreams while you are still nowhere near where you want to be? One of the most soul crushing fears I have.
Why I Like It: It represents one of my greatest fears in life in a beatufil, haunting way. The simple piano and voice with no production trickery add to that beautiful quality of just one person with an amazing voice lamenting a tragic event in finding someone's moved on and done well without you. It makes me feel like I'm not alone in that fear and chokes me up whenever I hear it. It just nails the feeling it's going for.
3. Ellie Goulding - Lights
Context: This one's an amalgamation of everything I liked this year: female artist, catchy pop tune, but with an alternative flavor that sets it apart from other shallow dance/club songs. Every time it comes on in the car I feel like I'm in a badass 80s style movie like Drive and I amigine the helicopter shots of a major city (in my case, Dallas) being set with the music
Why I Like It: As I said, just has a cinematic quality while also being a dance song that makes me feel like a badass for some odd reason. It just takes me to a different place when I hear it.
2. Passion Pit - Take a Walk
Context: Ever since I learned of my family's not-great economic standing and the continued struggles we have with it, I've been obsessed with how money affects status, life quality, etc. and this song seems to be about a guy in tough economic times dealing with his crisis by reminding himself it could be worse, and it'll get better, as I often have to.
Why I Like It: It recaptures what I was talking about with 90s songs having depressing lyrics but setting them to more upbeat and catchy music; the way "Jeremy" is more a poem about loss set to music, this is kind of like a poem set to music about the real effects job and market losses can have on someone, but it's memorable because there's an element of hope and joy in the music and its catchiness to offset the situation of its subject matter. This one came as a very late pleasant surprise to me this year.
1. Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks
Context: I fell in love first time I heard it on the radio
Why I Like It: One of my favorite genres of music is ska-punk, to which horn instruments are incredibly important. This Icelandic band took what Mumford and Sons was doing last year with having more folksy, traditional instruments, added some horns, and I automatically like it. I'm still not sure exactly what it was about, I just know I have to sing along every time I hear it.