Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Top 10 Songs of 2012

Well, it's that time of year again. The rule is the same as last year: songs on the list have to have been released in 2012. It was harder for me to make the list this year because I didn't listen to very much new music in 2012. Not that I'm complaining about the quality of 2012 music - I just wasn't paying real close attention. Anyway, in no particular order, these are the songs released this year that had the most impact on me:

10. Whispers in the Dark by Mumford & Sons

I've heard murmurings that, for some inexplicable reason, it is no longer cool to like Mumford & Sons. Whatever. These guys dodged the sophomore slump for sure. Babel is wonderful, and Whispers in the Dark is foot-stomping catharsis at its best. It's hard to explain how I feel every time I listen to 2:15 through the end, but whatever that feeling is it's why I listen to music.

9. After All (Holy) by David Crowder Band

This was the one I kept going back to on David Crowder Band's sprawling swan-song, along with the track that follows it ("I Am a Seed"). I remember when I returned from a week in Haiti (my last Spring Break trip as a Cru employee) this was the first song I really wanted to play on my guitar. I especially like the bridge.

8. Yerfeet by Neil Halstead

I discovered Neil Halstead thanks to a free noisetrade download and was immediately captivated by this song. Neil was part of the 90s shoegaze band, Slowdive, but his solo stuff doesn't bear much resemblance. It's gorgeous, melancholic folk. There are a lot of breakup songs out there, but you'd be hard pressed to find one better than this.   

7. Learn Me Right from the Brave Soundtrack

The music on this one is by Mumford & Sons, but unlike the album version on Babel this one features British singer Birdy and has more Celtic-sounding instrumentation. I liked the movie Brave so it has positive associations because of that, but with or without the movie I think the song just works better with the more epic, cinematic sound.

6. It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy by Passion Pit

When I heard the first single off of Passion Pit's new album, Take a Walk, I was a little disappointed. I didn't think it was bad, but I was hoping for more of the wacky, mad-scientist creativeness of something like Little Secrets. Instead, Michael Angelakos hardly even broke out his falsetto. Thankfully, though, the single was not indicative of the tone of the entire album. I'll Be Alright, the second track on Gossamer, has that same nutty brilliance. My favorite track, though, is this one. It's definitely the one I've replayed the most, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's generally overlooked. Great chorus.

5. Ain't Much More to Say by Matthew Mayfield

My favorite Matthew Mayfield song is the first one I heard, Come Back Home. But that was released in 2011, so I'm obligated to pick something off his most recent album instead - which is not a problem because it's excellent. I downloaded Banquet for Ghosts for free off of noisetrade, and I think it's still available there. It's definitely more than worth a few button clicks and the hard drive space. Ain't Much More to Say, the first track, is one of my favorites. It's simple and heartfelt, and Mayfield's gritty voice is perfect. "Ohhhh" is probably the most common lyric in music, so it should mean something when I say that this song ends with some pretty darn good ohhhs.

4. Run by Josh Garrels

Josh Garrels made my list last year, too. He didn't release a new album this year but he did put out a couple b-sides, and this one was my favorite. This is a good driving-in-the-car-on-a-hot-summer-afternoon song. The glory of the Lord is a man who is completely alive. Yes, Josh. And when you are making music, that is what you are.

3. Some Nights by Fun.

I barely listen to the radio at all, but one day this Spring I turned it on and this is what I heard. I immediately wanted to hear it again (and again, and again, etc.). How could anyone not love this? The harmonies, the drums, the completely shameless display of auto-tune in the bridge - this is top 40 at its most glorious.

2. Come Back Soon by Andrew Peterson

This song is amazing. AMAZING. Good grief, just listen to it, will you? And please, REALLY listen to it. The music here is good but it is primarily a vehicle for the lyrics, which are truly phenomenal. I keep trying to write a summary of the song and I keep erasing it, because everything I write just seems to dumb down the thing itself. My favorite part:

Cause every death is a question mark
At the end of the book of a beating heart
And the answer is scrawled in the silent dark
On the dome of the sky in a billion stars
But we cannot read these angel tongues
And we cannot stare at the burning sun
And we cannot sing with these broken lungs
So we kick in the womb and we beg to be born
Deliverance! Deliverance, O Lord!

1. Varuo by Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros released a new album this year - their first in almost four years. Sigur Ros is one of my favorite bands, so this was a big deal to me. Overall, I like Valtari but I don't think it's their strongest work. That's hardly a complaint, though, considering that Sigur Ros pretty much has to open the gates of heaven to meet expectations. They succeed in doing this on at least one track: Varuo, which is my pick for best song of 2012. Like most of Sigur Ros's best songs, it starts minimally and builds to a spine-tingling crescendo. I don't know how anyone can listen to something like this and come away thinking that the universe is an accident - a product from nothing for nothing that will eventually become nothing. For me, a song like this is the best apologetic there is against that kind of thinking. Others may not experience it that way, but in my case, that is what it does.


  1. And heeeeere you go! 10. Mumford disappoints me now. I feel like it all sounds the same. It sounds good, but it just runs together. I probably need to go back and listen to this album a couple of times more . . . 9. I'm impressed. I'm not a worship music fan so I don't generally go to David Crowder, but this song is really good. Nice pick. 8 and 5. I like these but need to listen more to get a real feel I suppose. I've checked them both out on Myspace, but have more listening to do . . . 7. Just listened to this song, and definitely has a good Celtic feel. 6. I'm a fan of Gossamer for sure, but my tracks of choice are "Carried Away" and "Love Is Greed". Good stuff all around though! 4. I really like Josh Garrels these days . . . great pick last year, and still a great pick now. I still love last year's song the most though, and my new favorite on that album is "Ulysses". 3. Great album . . . Probably love the first album more, but this one was still great. Shocked they got so popular when they/the Format have/has been around for so long. Very exciting though. Great song choice too . . . 2. I like Andrew Peterson, but am still trying to really get into him (I feel this is a trend for me with EVERYTHING right now). More feedback on this and #1 tomorrow since my lunchbreak is done . . . Here are some lists for me:

    1. Keep Your Head Up – Ben Howard
    2. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
    3. Foxbeard – Monsters Calling Home/Run River North
    4. This Isn’t Everything You Are – Snow Patrol
    5. Landline – Greg Laswell (feat. Ingrid Michaelson)
    6. Hurry, Hurry – Air Traffic Controller
    7. Fight to Keep – Monsters Calling Home/Run River North
    8. The River – Imagine Dragons
    9. Ghost – Ingrid Michaelson
    10. You Know Me – Air Traffic Controller
    11. Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye
    12. Tightrope – Walk the Moon
    13. Intentions – Anberlin
    14. All Alone – fun.
    15. Carried Away – Passion Pit

    Top Albums 2012
    1. Ben Howard – Every Kingdom
    2. fun. – Some Nights
    3. Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
    4. Nordo – Air Traffic Controller
    5. Walk the Moon – Walk the Moon

    1. Hey Tim - thanks very much for all your recommendations. I've been checking them out on Spotify (most of them are unfamiliar to me).