It was a pretty solid year for music. Nothing too extraordinary, but lots of consistent goodness. When it came time to compile my list of favorite songs from 2011, it felt as though I had to perhaps stretch it a bit in order to come up with ten tracks. With 2012, I'm leaving things on the cutting room floor. It is with great pleasure therefore that I present to you my favorite bits of music from the recently-departed 2012. Hope you find something you like!
10. The Marvelous Dream / Damon Albarn
The mastermind behind Gorillaz, and former lead singer of Blur, managed to craft a quirky little album for 2012 titled Dr. Dee. It's a bit of an acquired taste, and took a few listens for me to accept, but from the get-go, the brief Marvelous Dream track stuck out to me.
I'm still not sure exactly what it's about, but The Marvelous Dream manages to be one of those perfect blends of Albarn's voice, sparse yet building music, and interesting lyrics. It's stuck with me for most of the year, and so it rates being in the Top 10.
9. Everyone Says Hi / Claudia Brucken
Bavarian-born singer Claudia Brucken released an album of covers this year, helmed by possibly my absolute favorite music producer, Stephen Hague. While her rendition of Pet Shop Boys' Kings Cross was disappointing, her cover of David Bowie's Everyone Says Hi was excellent. Lush, strong and fragile, the track is definitely one of the year's best.
8. Night and Day / Hot Chip
Pop/dance band Hot Chip are good at two things: releasing albums on a pretty regular basis, and crafting at least a few songs per release that I dig very much. 2012's In Our Heads was no exception. From wistful ballads to uptempo tongue-in-cheek, Hot Chip produced another winner. My favorite of their newest offerings (although it was a tough choice) was Night and Day. This may have been bolstered a bit by the video, which features Terence "General Zod" Stamp.
7. Girl On Fire (Inferno version) / Alicia Keys & Nicki Minaj
Late in the year, I made the decision to push myself a bit in terms of the music I tended to dismiss out-of-hand. Included within this is much of the popular stuff that you might see on the Top 10 singles list on iTunes. Truth be told, I never really listen to the likes of Alicia Keys or Nicki Minaj. But in my quest to push some boundaries, I discovered their little gem of Girl on Fire. I quite like the juxtaposition of Keys' call-for-help vocals and Minaj's strong and edgy rap. Not too shabby.
6. Tonight / Saint Etienne
After two decades, the British synth-pop group Saint Etienne can still make some really good music. They haven't evolved much stylistically, but that's ok. When you do something well, best not to change much, eh? Their 2012 album (their first in seven years) was an ode to their love of music, and about growing older and still appreciating dance/pop, which is something I can relate to. Perhaps no other song from the album embodies this sentiment quite as well as Tonight.
5. Die In Your Arms / Justin Bieber
2012 was the year that I caught Bieber fever (apparently my flu shot didn't inoculate against it). His Believe album has actually had a number of pretty decent tracks, our # 5 entry included. I stumbled across it while seeing it ranked on iTunes, thinking it would be a crappy cover of Cutting Crews' '80s classic I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight. It wasn't a cover, and it wasn't crappy (although it does sample Michael Jackson's We've Got a Good Thing Going). This song contains a Matty-Matt favorite, that of the 'pathetic lyric.' The words and the way they are sung really pack a great deal of sadness and longing in them, and that kind of thing always grabs me.
4. Falling Free / Madonna
The best song off of Madonna's MDNA wasn't released as a single. The uneven album ends on a quiet, exquisite note with Falling Free. I've heard it said that, in her very best moments, Madonna's voice is reminiscent of Karen Carpenter's. This is notable in her classic song Rain, and in this one. Her voice is delicate, the lyrics poetic, the emphasis both sad and uplifting.
3. Memory of the Future / Pet Shop Boys
Have you ever met someone and either knew or felt something with them? You weren't sure exactly what it was, or if you even wanted it to be there, yet it existed? You are drawn to them, and they to you. And, when you begin to realize this, their involvement in your life becomes inevitable. That is what Memory of the Future is all about. And about it oh so well.
2. National Anthem / Lana Del Rey
I've mentioned this song before on the blog, and on my Facebook account. If you read both, then you no doubt know I really, really dig this tune. Ms. Del Rey is one of the best artists performing today, and this song deftly treads a fine balance between detached commentary and emotional fragility. I still love it when someone says we can party later on.
1. American / Lana Del Rey
National Anthem was pretty much set to be my song of the year, and then Ms. Del Rey up and releases a new mini-album a month or so ago, and darn it, we're treated to yet more awesomeness, including our # 1 song of the year.
It is difficult for me to put into words why I love American. The soaring chorus, the wonderful voice of Ms. Del Rey, the fragility intertwined with the pure, loving nature of the song. I still can't do it justice. But I play it over, and over, and over again.
2012 was, for me, a year full of love. Love for other people, love of country, love of life. I think this is why I like American so much.
And there you have it. My Top 10 favorite songs of 2012. It was a very good year.