We’re just a few days past the midway point for 2012, the year of our Lord. It has been a phenomenal year for new music so far and I thought I would take a moment and reflect on the best songs we’ve been given so far. This was a hard list to narrow down. I did rank them in order of greatness, but I spent a lot more time on narrowing it down to the best 25 new songs than I did on the specific order in the list. In order to include more deserving artists on the list, I chose to only include one song per album. Also songs such as “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men or “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey were disqualified, since they first appeared on EPs in 2011. Without any further ado, here is my list of the best songs of 2012 (so far). We hope you enjoy it and discover new great music.
I know I am a little late on this, but here are the albums that I am looking forward to hearing the most. Please understand this is not my guess at what will be the best albums of 2012, or my attempt at finding the pulse of what the general public is most excited about. These the 12 albums that I am personally the most excited about.
Also know that I have excluded several albums that have already been released that surely would have made this list, had I done a month ago, including the new ones by Sharon Van Etten and Dr. Dog, which were both released this week.
12. Fanfarlo – Room Filled with Light (2/28)
These guys put out of my favorites of 2009 with their debut Reservoir. They have such a fun and full sound, and I am in love with the way they incorporate horns into their music without making it ska or cheesy elevator music. Here is a live session of one of the songs from the new album.
11. Passion Pit – TBA (TBA)
Here is another band whose debut album, Manners, found a spot on my 2009 year end list. And I am in desperate need for some new good dance music. Lead singer, Michael Angelakos, announced in August of 2010 that they had already started work on the follow-up to Manners, and that they wanted to release it in the spring of 2011. Here is to hoping that the delay results in an album filled with tracks I can play at all the various parties and weddings I am scheduled to DJ this year.
10. Diamond Rugs – TBA (4/24)
After the last two Deer Tick albums, and the phenomenal Middle Brother album, I am a huge fan of John McCauley, who is fronting yet another super group album. This time he is teaming up with members of Los Lobos, Black Lips, Dead Confederate, and Six Finger Satellite. McCauley is a phenomenal songwriter and as he proved last year, with my favorite album of the year, he is a great team player. This could be a hell of a rock album.
This excellent singer/songwriter never seems to disappoint. This go around he has enlisted the help of several great female vocalists, including Ingrid Michaelson and Sia. Listen to this great live recording of one of my favorite songs of his that never made it on any of his full-length albums.
8. Phoenix – TBA (TBA)
Very little details are known about the forthcoming follow-up to one of the greatest pop albums of the last decade and yet another album off of my 2009 year-end list. It will be hard to top the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which is why I was glad to hear that this new album will be a more experimental departure from the pop sounds of their previous efforts.
7. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (3/6)
I can’t help but love The Boss. Even though I was disappointed with most of The Promise, and Working On A Dream, there is no way I will be able to resist going out and getting this album when it comes out this year. The first album since losing his long-time band-member and friend, Clarence Clemens, should be an emotional one, and I will be all ears.
6. Mumford & Sons – TBA (TBA)
The only reason this album isn’t higher is because I just don’t know how you follow up a debut album as good as Sigh No More. I just can’t allow myself to get as excited as I wanna be. As a huge folk fan, these guys are just right up my alley, and I have loved the spiritual nature of their lyrics.
This girl’s voice is absolutely phenomenal. If you haven’t heard her 2010 debut, Suburban Nature, you are seriously missing out. Got the chance to see her live shortly after releasing it back in the fall of 201 and I was just blown away by the power and control of her voice. A few of the songs on the upcoming record were included on last year’s CD/DVD combo release, The Way the Sound Leaves A Room. Take a listen to the title track from that short effort.
4. Grizzly Bear – TBA (TBA)
These guys released my favorite album of 2009, with the stellar Veckatimest, and then followed that up by scoring the soundtrack for fantastic Blue Valentine. But 2011 left me hanging, other than an announcemnt on their Facebook page in December promising a new album in 2012. That is the extent of my knowledge of the new release, but that should be enough to hold me over for now. Here is a song off of Daniel Rossen’s forthcoming solo EP.
3. Fun. – Some Nights (2/21)
Lead singer Nate Ruess is seriously one of the most fun and dynamic singers and songwriters in the game. I have literally loved everything he is done. His first album with The Format, is one of my absolute favorites, and since teaming up with Andrew Dost of Anathallo, he has been creating some of the most enjoyable pop music around.
2. The Shins – Port of Morrow (3/20)
Thank you Zach Braff for using Natalie Portman’s character in your excellent film, Garden State, to introduce me and the rest of the world to the wonderfulness that is The Shins. I absolutely loved 2007’s Wincing The Night Away, and it has been way too long since we’ve heard anything from them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Mercer’s Broken Bells projects, but I can’t wait to hear the new stuff from The Shins.
1. The Beach Boys – TBA (TBA)
I still have a hard time believing that it’s true. The Beach Boys have been my favorite band since I was just a wee lad, and I had just given up on the idea of ever getting to see “The Beach Boys” live, let alone get a new album will all new material. Sure most of the guys have been touring through the years, but Wilson and Love and the rest of the gang are actually back together writing and producing and then performing together. I can hardly contain my excitement.
I have been a fan of the site Daytrotter for several years now. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Daytrotter, it is a music site that has a little studio they call The Horseshack in downtown Rock Island, IL. They invite bands to stop by in between shows while they are on tour to record a short little session, which is then put up on the site for free download along with a cartoon drawing of the artist and a short essay on the band and their music. Often the sessions are nothing more than spontaneous re-workings of songs on their previous records. But every once and a while an artist will use this opportunity to unveil an unreleased song they’ve been working on or to give us a cover of somebody else’s tune. Either way, they are a fun way to get introduced to a new band or to gain some fresh and unique songs from an old favorite to add to your collection. Over the years they have become pretty popular and are now pumping out several sessions a week. So I decide to take the time to share with you some of my favorite sessions of the year (so far). You can listen to one song from each session that I chose to give you the feel for the artist, and if you like it, I encourage you to head over to Daytrotter so you can listen to and download the full session.
If you don’t recognize the name Junip, you may be more familiar with their frontman, Jose Gonzalez, as I have mentioned him on here in the past. This is a great session with two songs off of last year’s Fields and one from the Rope and Summit EP.
Surprisingly this is Yorn’s first Daytrotter session and it is a great one, with four songs off of last year’s Pete Yorn. He is starting to reach veteran status in the music world, and his songs are really showing it. I really like the maturity in his sound and songwriting. It is showcased reallly well in this session.
I am falling more and more in love with this group the more I listen to them. I shared with you last week their excellent single, “Losers.” There is a great stripped down version of that song in this session. These guys remind me of Simon and Garfunkel in the best of ways. The whole session is four songs from their self-titled debut.
Here’s another indie mainstay that is just now getting around to recording their first session and it’s a great one with 5 songs from 3 different albums. My three favorites all coming from last year’s Easy Wonderful.
These guys were actually back this year for their second Daytrotter session and I really wish I had taken the time to listen to them last year. I just recently found these guys via one of the last Paste Music Sampler CD’s. His voice is a little off-putting at first, but I have actually grown to love it and now find it very endearing.
I wouldn’t know this girl from Eve if it weren’t for my lovely wife putting her on continuous rotation in our house. I would’ve written her off as just another throwaway female pop singer, but that would’ve been a mistake. This girl can really sing and this session shows off how great she is live. I can’t wait to hear the follow up to her 2008 debut, The Drifter and the Gypsy.
If you haven’t gotten the chance to hear their new album, Smart Flesh, this is a great introduction to it. They play several songs from it, including the excellent “Dreams Can Chase You Down” which until now could only be heard on the deluxe edition of the album.
I bought these California rockers’ debut album about 8 years ago now based solely on the cover. Boy was that a great decision. Well fortunately for you, you don’t have to buy their new one based on the cover, you can just listen to their recent Daytrotter session and decide with your ears rather than your eyes.
These surf rockers actually recorded this session about a year and a half ago, before their debut album, Crazy For You, was even released. And for one reason or another it is just now being released for our listening pleasure. It is another large collection of songs, none of which ended up on Crazy For You, which makes this session even more fun.
I have already posted one song from this session as my second favorite song of the year (so far) and I’m wondering if I sold it short. I can’t say enough about how much I love this girl. The control she has over her voice is absolutely incredible. Her live show was completely enthralling. I can’t stop listening to Suburban Nature and am dying for her to give us something new. This session has definitely helped tide me over til that day.
So it’s time to bring you the final installment and my absolute favorite songs of the year so far. I hope you guys have enjoyed listening to this list as much as I enjoyed putting together. Again I want to remind you that if you enjoy these songs, please go and purchase some of these albums.
It’s no sea shanty or civil war folk-lore, but this R.E.M. influenced rock tune is pretty incredible. I just can’t get enough of this entire album. While most everyone seems to be going back to the 80’s for inspiration this year, these guys seem to have found the early 90’s early enough for them, and it really works.
This entire album is absolutely phenomenal, but I keep going back to this particular song over and over. If you just sample this song, you won’t get it. Just trust me. Download this song, let it get under your skin. Then go and buy the rest of the album.
This is a bit of an unorthadox choice for this list, especially to be this high, but I just couldn’t ignore it. I usually don’t take the time to listen to very many live recordings, but this is just an absolute masterpiece. The range and control she has over her voice is unbelievable and is showcased really well in this recording, not to mention the flawless and beautiful transition between the two songs. This whole session is worth checking out.
This girl’s on fire and there ain’t nothing able to put her out. Another album that could have had any number of songs on this list. As much of an affection I have for other songs on this album such as “Someone Like You” or “One and Only”, it had to be this song. It is just so unbelievably catchy but has so much depth and character at the same time. This is an absolutely epic song that will last for decades. It is the perfect opening track that sets the tone for one of the best records of the year. A testament to the strength and power of this song is the numerous amount of covers that have already popped up from the unknowns to the legends, John Legend that is (more to come on that matter in future posts).
So there it is. My personal favorites of the year. I am sure that I have missed some great ones. So please comment and let me know of the egregious errors in musical judgment that I have made. What song do you think deserves that #1 spot?