Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ten Best Songs of the First Half of 2012

AviciiLevels

A choice list of some bands yet to release albums in 2012: Muse, The Killers, Passion Pit, Yeasayer. And plenty more. Not to mention the occasional thing that I’ve never heard of that will change my world (hello War on Drugs and Gotye, thanks for the 2011 memories).

These lists are always difficult to handle, and I’ll give you an example why. How do I deal with Young the Giant’s “Apartment”, one of my personal favorites of 2012 only because I didn’t discover the 2011 awesomeness till this January? What about Walk the Moon? They’re 2011 album is being practically re-released in 2012, meaning I can probably get away with it. Then there’s the aforementioned Gotye, who I was ahead of the game on, putting them on my 2011 list based on their New Zealand release, although technically their US release was 2012. Do I get a free pass there?

The result is a very selfish list. When you only have 30 true readers and the occasional random outsider (hello outsiders! you are welcome here!) you get to be a little selfish. This is MY top 10 of the first half of 2012, late discoveries and all. Yes to Young the Giant, yes to Walk the Moon, no to Gotye (but, seriously, Gotye, you are amazing, and you’re my favorite pop success story in the last decade).

The list! The list! Here goes the list!

#10) Avicii – “Levels”

Heard this one in a commercial the other day, so it may be leaking into the national consciousness. Primarily electronic, the music itself packs quite the punch. But it’s the impeccable sped up Etta James sample (and fantastic image above) that makes this song a surprise winner in the first half of 2012.

#9) Nerves Junior – “Champagne & Peaches”

Discovered first in a winter lodge in Ohio’s Amish country (aside: how far away does that seem from the Arizona desert I live in now?"), Nerves Junior at their best compare favorably to a slightly more out-there version of The Verve. “Champagne & Peaches” is them at their best, combining psychadelic guitars and pensive vocals into a fantastic track.

Listen and download at: http://prettygoeswithpretty.typepad.com/pgwp/2011/12/a-list-of-noteworthy-lists.html

#8) Snow Patrol – “New York”

Soft-spot for Snow Patrol be darned. I’ve always liked them. At this point I just give in to the pseudo-schmaltz. It’s a line they tread so well. But when “New York” starts building, first the drum then that horn, it dazzles. It doesn’t have the staying power I hoped for (at first it gave me chills), but it’s a wonderful track worth listening to.

#7) Perfume Genius – “Take Me Home”

Perfume Genius is the master of raw emotion. Sometimes raw to the point of uncomfortability (I truly hated a couple tracks on the critically acclaimed album). But on songs like “Take Me Home” and other stunners, when lines like “for I have grown weary on my own” are sung with trembled over such simple instrumentation, it’s very moving.

#6) Bear in Heaven – “Reflection of You”

It took me a little while to realize I loved this song. Bear in Heaven had a couple great tracks a while back, but I never gave them a whole lot of attention. Now with “Reflection of You” they have a top track of the year so far. “Reflection of You” is smothered in synths but also heart: “I want to run to you but my legs won’t respond” starts up an excellent chorus.

#5) Active Child – “Hanging On”

I recently posted about this track, questioning my own affinity for it. I simply don’t usually like music like this. But frankly I can, and have, gotten lost in “Hanging On” repeatedly over the last few weeks. If I can get just one of you to try playing this song in the car, at night, by yourself, I’ll have won.

#4) Walk the Moon – “I Can Lift a Car”

These guys are gonna be big. I think. Maybe they won’t. If they end up being small you’ll forget I predicted that anyhow. I saw these guys in Cincinnati (technically Newport, KY, but Cincinnati just pretends that belongs to them) for a hometown show, and they were amazing. Such potential and a loyal following. And with songs like “I Can Lift a Car” they are destined for big things as they blend indie and pop.

#3) Passion Pit – “Take a Walk”

Welcome back, Passion Pit! A couple years after thrilling me with the likes of “Sleepyhead”, “Moth’s Wings”, and “The Reeling”, Passion Pit finally return, and they do so in full force with “Take a Walk”, one of their very best. It’s fun, it’s energetic, it’s anthemic, it’s thoughtful, and it’s a story. It’s a true gem and I’m stoked about the new album.

#2) Young the Giant – “Apartment”

Some songs excel at creating a mood. When Young the Giant’s raspy vocals announce “I feel this cooooold inside me”, you can feel the chill he sings of. “Apartment” sets the stage for an amazing album, and I’ve been singing it intently for months now.

#1) The Shins – “Simple Song”

At this point, I don’t think it’s possible to dethrone “Simple Song” by year’s end. If it is dethroned, I’ll be the happiest music critic alive, because I want to here that song badly. Already a huge Shins fan, “Simple Song” hit me hard, combining all my favorite elements of everything I loved from them into pure perfection. It’s enough to make my choosy five-star song list, and it did so about as quick as any song since “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem did. In other words, it’s not just my favorite song of the year, we’re getting into personal favorite of all time territory here. And now that bar is set so high, you can be let down by listening to it! :-)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Lower Dens – “Brains” and “Propagation”
  • Imagine Dragons – “It’s Time” and “Radioactive”
  • Alex Clare – “Too Close”
  • Yeasayer – “Henrietta”
  • Craig Finn – “Rented Room”
  • Radiohead – “Staircase”
  • Grimes – “Genesis”
  • Lana Del Rey – “Off to the Races”
  • fun. – “Some Nights” and “Why Am I the One”
  • Regina Spektor – “All the Rowboats”
  • The Shins – “The Rifle’s Spiral” and practically the whole album
  • Opus Orange – “Crystal Clear

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