Tuesday, December 18, 2012

11 in '12 (+3)

The time is finally upon us and even though I'm still piecing together my Top 40 Albums of 2012, putting together a mixtape of my favorite songs of the year is an easier task. I've always said that sequence is important when compiling a mixtape but as far as these songs go, the amount of times I've listened to them on repeat is what comes into play. It's a little poppy, a little dreamy, and in some instances, even a little stompy. Whatever the case may be, these were the most addictive sounds of 2012.


Let's count them down:
11 in '12 : Constant Cravings of 2012

11. "I'm Just Me" Diamond Rings
I've always been a sucker for a good pop song and that's what "I'm Just Me" is. Sparkly, glammed-up electro-pop complete with a huge chorus. John O'Reagan, the man behind Diamond Rings takes a giant leap forward from the scuffed-up lo-fi synthpop of his first album and reaches those great heights with this song. It's "Born This Way" as if it was sung with the same confidence and flamboyance as Lady GaGa but through the eyes of a boy.

10. "Youth Is Wasted On The Young" Young Galaxy
Canada is definitely not lacking in indie pop bands. Young Galaxy is part of a long line of them but don't let the fact that they're not a household name be a deterrent because despite the lack of wide-range recognition, the band continues to improve. "Youth Is Wasted On The Young" is the B-side to their lone release of 2012, the Shoreless Kid 7" single, but its infectious Johnny Marr-like guitars make it stand out. And who can resist such a great lyric like "I wouldn't mind dying at all, if it weren't for the songs I'd miss"?

9. "Only Child" Moon King
I knew nothing of this band when I first heard this song on Pitchfork. They were described as "Canadian dream rockers" and that alone had me at least a little intrigued. There's a bit of a gothy tinge to it almost feeling like an ecstatic Cocteau Twins. The rest of their 2012 EP, Obsession I, does an impressive balancing act between dreamy and shadowy but "Only Child" is still its highlight. Dark and hazy yet catchy enough to induce a sing-along.

8. "Shouts Of Joy" And One
Anyone who knows me knows that industrial music is my first love. It's what made me want to become a DJ. Lately, I've had a love/hate relationship with industrial but 2012 has been the year that saw the comeback of old-school EBM. Even indie/electronic bands like Light Asylum and Trust have been showing hints of electro-industrial. It's made it easier for the two worlds to collide which explains how this song makes it onto this list. Germany's And One have been bringing synthpop and EBM together for over two decades. With "Shouts Of Joy" they manage to recall the classic stompiness of Nitzer Ebb and combine it with an instantly catchy, fist-pumping chorus. This is one to strap on some Doc Martens to.

7. "Husbands" Savages
I get a little weary when bands get tagged as post-punk. But with just one single, UK's Savages earn their spot in the post-punk landscape. Nervy rhythms, spiky guitars, rumbling bass and a vocalist who sounds like a cross between Siouxsie Sioux and Patti Smith. It's a surefire combination and on "Husbands" they're not only capable of making blood rush, but they may cause actual excitement.

6. "Left Myself Behind" TOY
How is it that English bands have a way of combining psych, shoegaze, and Kraut rock while making it sound fresh and exciting? The Horrors did it last year to perfection with Skying (my #1 album of 2011) and this year TOY pulls of the same trick. Their self-titled debut album will definitely make it to the Top 40 of 2012 but its their standalone single, "Left Myself Behind," that served as an awesome introduction to the band. At nearly 8 minutes in length, it's a sonic journey that sets a dizzying yet worthwhile pace.

5. "Sixteen Saltines" Jack White
I'm such a huge fan of Jack White that even him working with Insane Clown Posse is forgivable. This year he put out an excellent solo album that only proved his badassery. "Sixteen Saltines" is exactly what you'd want from Jack White - a scorching rocker with the kind of riff that makes practicing air guitar moves in front of your mirror a necessity.

4. "I Love It" Icona Pop
Canada may have their share of indie rock bands but Sweden has the market cornered when it comes to the coolest pop music. "I Love It" is the rebirth of Girl Power. So it shouldn't be a big shock that it's the theme song to that Snooki and JWoww show on MTV. But even that can't stop the sheer force of that chorus. It won't be long before Icona Pop achieves world domination especially if they keep pumping out dancefloor smashes like this one.

3. "Man Made Machine" Motor feat. Martin L. Gore
The French/American duo of Motor are no strangers when it comes to making muscled-up electro. Their 2012 album, Man Made Machine, aimed to push those boundaries even further touching on dark synthpop, techno, and electro-industrial. And they even get some help along the way from  electronic music pioneers Gary Numan and Douglas J. McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb. But it's album's title track that grabs listeners by the throat thanks to the awesome guest vocals of Depeche Mode's Martin L. Gore. Stompy EBM perfection.

2. "You're The One" Charli XCX
A young English singer, not even old enough to drink, not even having a proper full-length album out yet, and here she is making not only her second appearance on an end-of-year mixtape (her 2011 debut single "Stay Away" was #10 on last year's 11:11 Mixtape) but also her second appearance on this very list (she penned Icona Pop's "I Love It.") Needless to say I have high hopes for Charli XCX and it has everything to do with her slight goth-leanings- hell, she does a great cover of Echo & The Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon" (!!??) If anyone was to ask me how to describe a term like "dark pop" I'd play them "You're The One."

1. "The House That Heaven Built" Japandroids
Sure, this song is an obvious choice. But when it comes to songs that I could not get enough of, this has to top this list. I've played this song at work so often that one of my coworkers has even noticed. Honestly, if any song deserves to be listened to on repeat, all day, it's "The House That Heaven Built." Japandroids are experts at writing catchy songs that recall youth gone by but none of them capture it as perfectly as this song. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I fell in love with this song twice upon my first listen: the first 20 seconds when those "oh-oh-oh-oh"s kick in and when Brian King sings the line "And if they try to slow you down, tell them all to go to hell." It's that song that makes you want to shout along with every lyric for the sole reason that it can turn into something life-affirming. Yes, it's that perfect.

*** Bonus Boston ***:
This was the year that I rediscovered how great local music is here in Boston. It's a fact that had gone forgotten for a while but in 2012, it was rekindled. I even posted my own love letter to this city I live in (Love, Boston). So in spite of the difficulty to share and or include these songs on Spotify, I figured I'd give them an extra special nod here.

"Dreaming Thru Your Eyes (André Obin Remix)" Avoxblue
It'll be a bit of a spoiler, but Avoxblue's A Place Without Time will easily be making my Top 40 Albums of 2012 list. But here, "Dreaming Thru Your Eyes" gets the remix treatment from another one of my favorite Boston electronic artists, André Obin. On this mix, he maintains the song's icy coolness but gives it enough swirling synths to make fit right in on any dark-lit dancefloor.

"Modern Girls" Boom Said Thunder
Full disclosure: I'm friends with Boom Said Thunder. But in all honesty, I checked their music out before  knowing that I was even friends with their lead singer and was kind of blown away and felt guilty confessing my love for their band. Truth is, "Modern Girls" is catchy-as-hell fuzz rock not too far removed from Death From Above 1979 (probably since it's all bass and drums) mixed with the raw nerved emotion of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs but with a singer that can wail her ass off. This song soundtracked a dream I had recently where "High School Brian" was having a makeout session with an old crush.

**** Bonus BONUS Track ****:
Okay, one last song to close out this Best Songs of 2012 post. This one just got released last week and I would feel wrong not including it here.

"Ice Age (The Soft Moon remix)" How to destroy angels_
Everyone knows that Trent Reznor is pretty much my favorite artist. And one of my current obsessions is the Bay Area band, The Soft Moon. Well, here it's pretty much two great tastes that taste great together. The Soft Moon's Luis Vasquez takes the bare, somberness of "Ice Age" (from HDTA's latest, An Omen_EP) and adds razor-wire guitars and dark, reverbed drums almost re-imagining the song as if it was Nine Inch Nails filtered through the ghosts of Joy Division.

So there you have it. The 11 Best Songs of 2012 expanded to 14. These songs were the reason that I kept my headphones on wherever I was. Until next time when we start up our Top 40 Albums of 2012. It's happening.

As always, listen loud and become immersed.

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