Welcome to the beginning of the big list! Click the Spotify link below to listen to the first 15 songs on Spotify, and subscribe to keep tabs until the entire top 50 is compiled. Hope you enjoy!
50. Lifehouse – “Only You’re the One”
A very different band today than when they started over a decade ago, Lifehouse continues to churn out solid music. On their newest album, Almeria, the best track is “Only You’re the One”, building out of lusher instrumentation than we’re used to, but with the rousing chorus Lifehouse fans have long loved.
49. DIIV – “Doused”
Sit back and enjoy the rush of this fast-paced track, featuring some of the best guitar work of the year. Somewhere in the background are hazy, dark vocals. It all sets a unique mood unlike anything else in 2012.
48. Jack White – “Love Interruption”
The White Stripes may be no more, but Jack White’s unique style still hits our ears on tracks like “Love Interruption”. Drawing from older Americana and modern rock, yet featuring what sounds to be a clarinet of all things, this track brings together everything we already love about Jack.
47. Grimes – “Oblivion”
In a year dominated by moody electronics and bedroom synth experimentation, artists like Grimes received a lot of attention. The style won’t dominate my Top 50 like it might around the rest of the interweb, but I was thrilled to find Grimes’ “Oblivion”, which brings a touch of melody to the genre.
46. Regina Spektor – “All the Rowboats”
Buried within Regina Spektor’s highly disappointing 2012 album is “All the Rowboats”, a true diamond in the rough. Regina, forever quirky, piano-based, and lyrically wonderful, amps up her artistry to another level here: the piano is still present but it’s dark and ominous, and it’s joined by chamber vocals and a booming drum kit. Typical Regina Spektor lyrical content—in this case pity for museum artifacts—has never sounded quite like this.
45. Craig Finn – “Rented Room”
The first solo album from personal hero and Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn played a little slow and uneven, but towards the backend of the album you’ll find “Rented Room”. This is a song that showcases Finn’s mastery as a storyteller of the down-on-their-luck or even the typical. The scenes: bars, cheap hotel rooms, front lawns, and heartbreaking breakups. Finn’s brand of American rock has always been underappreciated, and “Rented Room” gives you another reason to know and love his work.
44. The Antlers – “Crest”
You can probably accuse me of believing The Antlers can do no wrong. I gushed about their debut album gushed about their second album , and now I give you a song from their little 2012 EP. “Crest” sounds much like other Antlers songs, putting impassioned vocals of hazy electronics. But “Crest” also takes us back a few decades with an ever-present horn section, harkening back to some kind of old school detective show.
43. Animal Kingdom – “Get Away With It”
British alt rockers Animal Kingdom put out an album heavy on influences from British predecessors, which might make them unoriginal, but it certainly doesn’t make them bad. “Get Away With It” makes some great use of guitar, synth, and reverb-y vocals to put together a track that will stick in your head for days.
42. The xx – “Angels”
No one makes moody night-driving music quite like The xx do. “Angels”, the best track on The xx’s 2012 album, is minimalist in the best of ways, striking a chord of emotion over an unimposing electronic backdrop.
41. Beach House – “Wild”
Beach House’s heralded new album features some outstanding tracks, but no moment grabs me more than when the amazing and simple guitar kicks in at the beginning of “Wild”. The guitar and beat alone are enough to make an amazing song, but there’s more here than just that.
40. Purity Ring – “Odebear”
I was slow to like Purity Ring, which is probably a weblog favorite to get awarded album of the year. Purity Ring, like Grimes, is highly electronic and experimental. It might not hit you at first, but if you’re like me it takes a good pair of headphones, some darkness, and a couple listens, then you won’t be able to get “Odebear” out of your mind.
39. Patrick Watson – “Lighthouse”
If you’re in the right mood, Patrick Watson can strike you right to the core. His voice is packed full of feeling despite his hushed nature, and his music can be entrancing. “Lighthouse” makes me want to help make a movie just so I can find the critical scene to feature it in.
38. Matchbox Twenty – “Sleeping at the Wheel”
Probably not the typical entry into a blog that focuses on indie and alternative rock, but I’ve always pledged to try and show you songs that you will like, not just songs that have “cred”. Rob Thomas and his band came back with a new album this year that won’t blow your socks off, but with plenty of very good songs. The best of these is “Sleeping at the Wheel” that features all the things Thomas is best at: heartfelt vocals and pure melody. It might take you back to 1999, but you’ll still enjoy it today.
37. POP ETC – “Speak Up”
The band formerly known as The Morning Benders lend their talents to once-again-surprisingly-amazing Twilight Soundtrack. This is the kind of track I love in indie rock. It has all the elements of catchiness and pleasantness that you might like, but it is also distinctly different thanks to some interesting instrumentation.
36. Lana Del Rey – “Off to the Races”
No doubt the debut album from Lana Del Rey set the blogosphere on fire, as the haters and lovers converged on each other. Part of this is because some indie critics felt duped, having already declared their love of lead single “Video Games”, there was then extensive backtracking when Lana’s past, persona, and studio production were a whole lot closer to Katy Perry-style pop than anything else. In the end her album was decidedly average, neither as bad or as good as anyone claimed. But within the album is “Off to the Races”, a driving track that showcases her glammed-up bad girl vibe better than any other. Alternating between deeper, sultry verses and high voiced faked innocence in the chorus, Lana shows some serious skills.