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.