Friday, February 28, 2014

Top 20 Comics of 2013

These are my favorite comics of 2013, including manga, superheroes, graphic novels, reprints, etc. I try to be as true to how I feel about a book as possible when ranking them, which is why it may seem odd for some to see a superhero title hardly anyone read rank over an acclaimed graphic novel. If I enjoyed my experience of reading it more, it was placed higher on my list. Anyways, these are my favorite twenty comics of the year. I hope you enjoy my list, and hopefully check out some books that may have eluded you.

Honorable Mentions
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Andrew Chambliss, Georges Jeanty, Jane Espenson & Various)
Courtney Crumrin (Ted Naifeh)
Gold Pollen and Other Stories (Seiichi Hayashi)
Marble Season (Gilbert Hernandez)
Soulless (Gail Carriger & REM)

20. Mouse Guard: The Black Axe (David Petersen) - Petersen takes us back in history to tell the tale of the mouse who wields the black axe, and his confrontation with the sinister weasels.  The fantasy feel and cute designs of the mice make this title irresistible, but it's really Petersen's consistently amazing pencils that make this series such a stunning read.

19. Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang & Tony Akins) - Wonder Woman is the only DC Comic that remotely stands out from the others currently.  Azzarello has breathed new life into the title with his unique pantheon of gods, and Wonder Woman's place among them.  Meanwhile, the art is top-notch and not the cookie cutter 90's art that seems to plague DC's other 51 titles, keeping this title fresh and relevant, while the rest of DC flags.

18. All New X-Men (Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen) - Time travel has been a staple to the X-Men titles for a long time now, so when Bendis decided to bring the original five X-Men into the current timeline, it seemed like a no-brainer, but it made for a really interesting dynamic.  I love the interactions between the originals and the new X-Men, particularly when it comes to a young Scott Summers and the long-dead Jean Grey.  It will be interesting to see where this title goes now, with the X-Men so fractured, but it seems that Bendis' creativity knows no bounds, so I'm not worried in the least.

17. Young Miss Holmes (Kaoru Shintani) - The final volume of Shintani's fun manga following Sherlock's smart and proper niece, and the mysteries that she helps him solve, ends the series with a bang, tying in to her family and raising the stakes substantially.  Mysteries abound in this thrilling book, illustrated beautifully, and packed full of action and intrigue.

16. Attack On Titan (Hajime Isayama) - The twists keep coming in this post-apocalyptic story about the remnants of humanity surviving behind walls that keep out man-eating giants.  This series is bloody and action-packed, and utterly nail-biting as things really go awry.  There is plenty of mystery in this series to keep readers coming back for more, between some pretty amazing action sequences.

15. Smurfs (Peyo) - The Smurfs continue to get into mischief in these ridiculously cheap Papercutz editions of Peyo's Smurfs stories.  With Christmas specials and new smurfs coming into the mix, the stories continue to feel fresh, while the all-ages tales keep consistently entertaining.

14. The Strange Tale of Panorama Island (Suehiro Maruo) - This story is a little odd, but I like that.  Hitomi is a misunderstood novelist who fakes his death to take the place of an heir who recently died.  Using the heir's fortune, he makes his wildest dreams come to life on a pleasure island, where people can take strolls under the sea, frolic with beautiful women, and enjoy some breathtaking scenery.  A lot of this book is just a tour through the island at the end, but there's quite a bit of tension leading up to that as well, and frankly, Maruo's art is the major draw here, as it is phenomenal.  Very realistic and lush.

13. Vinland Saga (Makoto Yukimura) - This truly is a saga, featuring castles being stormed by waves of Viking warriors, ambushed ships at sea, and challenges of one-on-one combat.  Vinland Saga tells the story of Vikings as they wage war and make merry, but also a look at their everyday lives, and tragic, bloody history.  Yukimura's artwork is clear and well-suited for this historical action story, moving the events along cinematically, and sweeping readers up in its grandeur.

12. Gunnerkrigg Court (Volume 4): Materia (Thomas Siddell) - While this is the weakest entry in the Gunnerkrigg Court series of all-ages fantasy comics, it's still an imaginative, entertaining read.  Thomas Siddell's pencils continues to grow as do his characters, who seem much more mature than when we started out with them.  Siddell continues to build on the mythology he's created in a  spectacular series with characters that are hard to forget.

11. East of West (Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta) - This is the four horsemen as you've never seen them before.  Hickman creates a wild, steampunk world full of unique characters with conflicting agendas, making for great action scenes that Dragotta draws the hell out of.

10. Love & Rockets: New Stories #6 (Jaime Hernandez & Gilbert Hernandez) - While Gilbert continues to offer a fascinating look into characters from his Palomar universe (and a weird short about a big-breasted furry monster and some magic boots), Jaime takes a look at a family dealing with a husband-killing mother, and flushes out some characters that usually don't get much of the spotlight.  Terrific art, great character studies.

9. Hawkeye (Matt Fraction, David Aja & Various) - This smart, street level superhero comic has a great cast of characters in what have come to be witty, thrilling stories.  David Aja offers amazing artwork on this title, often with clever panel arrangements, while Fraction breathes life into Hawkeye and his fascinating supporting cast.

8. The Heart of Thomas (Mato Hagio) - We saw a collection of work released from Shojo master Mato Hagio a few years ago in Drunken Dreams and Other Stories, thanks to Fantagraphics, and now they've released perhaps her best known works.  The Heart of Thomas is a mystery that takes place at a boys' board school in Germany, beginning with a suicide, and the beautiful boy who looks uncannily like the deceased.  It's a haunting story, brimming with emotion and complex relationships between the boys, but it's Hagio's delicate breathtaking beautiful line work that really brings this story to another level altogether.

7. Pompeii (Frank Santoro) - Santoro can draw the hell out of a comic when he wants, but he seems more interested in experimenting with art and setting atmosphere and mood, something that makes Pompeii resonate so much.  Revolving around the lives of an artist and his apprentice leading up to the catastrophic volcanic eruption that destroys a lively city, Pompeii paints a picture of very real characters caught up in their own lives before nature crushes them, and leaves quite an impression in its wake.

6. Benny Breakiron (Peyo) - From the creator of Smurfs comes the story of a boy with superpowers, if anyone would believe him!  Thwarting thieves, and helping those in need, Benny Breakiron is a mischievous kid who is a magnet for trouble, so it's a good things that he's strong and fast (except when he has a cold, that is).  This is a funny all-ages title with captivating stories that anyone can fall in love with.

5. Hilda and the Bird Parade (Luke Pearson) - The blue-haired Hilda moves to the city with her mother and finds herself depressed, given that she's used to the nature spirits and magical creatures of the countryside.  But Hilda finds her own magic in the city in the latest graphic novel from Luke Pearson, whose all-ages comic is drawn beautifully, with great designs and lush backgrounds and panels.

4. Wolverine & the X-Men (Jason Aaron, Nick Bradshaw, Chris Bachalo & Various) - This wacky series featuring Wolverine's school for mutants is a highlight for me every time it comes out.  I never know what to expect, aside from quality.  I love the vast cast of characters, particularly the students created especially for this series.  It really is one of the most unique superhero comics to come along in awhile, and it's going to be sad to see Jason Aaron leave the title next year.

3. Angel & Faith (Christos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs) - Overshadowing the main book in the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine universe, this shockingly high quality title features great art from Isaacs, who make the characters we know and love her own, and stories that flush out the best of the characters, delving into the pasts of these conflicted, layered characters, on their path to redemption.

2. The Twin Knights (Osamu Tezuka) - This sequel to Tezuka's groundbreaking Princess Knight offers readers a sweeping epic story of love, betrayal and another princess pretending to be a prince for the sake of her kingdom!  Magic and assassins conspire to keep Princess Violetta from her twin brother, and threaten to destroy her family, in this romantic, action-packed story.

1. Kitaro (Shigeru Mizuki) - Shieru Mizuki is known for specializing in stories about yokai, and this collection really showcases his strength in that area.  A Japanese pop culture figure, Kataro is a one-eyed monster boy with special powers, and a knack for dealing with pesky yokai.  Mizuki weaves wonderful stories here, full of monsters and demons, some genuinely creepy with images that will stay with you, and others more light-hearted and funny.  This impressive omnibus edition that Drawn & Quarterly has released is the perfect introduction to this rambunctious character and the crazy life he leads, earning the title of my favorite comic of the year.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Best Manga of 2013

2013 saw a lot of great manga, from beautifully packaged products featuring classic manga masters, to excellent volumes of new ongoing titles.  It's always hard to narrow down my favorites to just ten books, but I've done just that in the following list.  The top books on this list will also be featured in my forthcoming overall best comics of 2013 list. 

So, in my opinion, these are the best manga that the year had to offer...

1.  Kitaro (Shigeru Mizuki) - Shieru Mizuki is known for specializing in stories about yokai, and this collection really showcases his strength in that area.  A Japanese pop culture figure, Kataro is a one-eyed monster boy with special powers, and a knack for dealing with pesky yokai.  Mizuki weaves wonderful stories here, full of monsters and demons, some genuinely creepy with images that will stay with you, and others more light-hearted and funny.  This impressive omnibus edition that Drawn & Quarterly has released is the perfect introduction to this rambunctious character and the crazy life he leads, and easily fits the bill for best manga of the year.

2.  The Twin Knights (Osamu Tezuka) - A follow up to the classic Princess Knight, Tezuka once again forces a heroine into men's clothing as two twins are separated at birth and a kingdom is at stake.  Like Princess Knight, this story is epic, and takes readers on a magical journey through different landscapes, meeting all sorts of strange people, before culminating in a breath-taking climax.

3.  The Heart of Thomas (Mato Hagio) - We saw a collection of work released from Shojo master Mato Hagio a few years ago in Drunken Dreams and Other Stories, thanks to Fantagraphics, and now they've released perhaps her best known works.  The Heart of Thomas is a mystery that takes place at a boys' board school in Germany, beginning with a suicide, and the beautiful boy who looks uncannily like the deceased.  It's a haunting story, brimming with emotion and complex relationships between the boys, but it's Hagio's delicate breathtaking beautiful line work that really brings this story to another level altogether.

4.  Vinland Saga (Makoto Yukimura) - This truly is a saga, featuring castles being stormed by waves of Viking warriors, ambushed ships at sea, and challenges of one-on-one combat.  Vinland Saga tells the story of Vikings as they wage war and make merry, but also a look at their everyday lives, and tragic, bloody history.  Yukimura's artwork is clear and well-suited for this historical action story, moving the events along cinematically, and sweeping readers up in its grandeur.

5.  The Strange Tale of Panorama Island (Suehiro Maruo) - This story is a little odd, but I like that.  Hitomi is a misunderstood novelist who fakes his death to take the place of an heir who recently died.  Using the heir's fortune, he makes his wildest dreams come to life on a pleasure island, where people can take strolls under the sea, frolic with beautiful women, and enjoy some breathtaking scenery.  A lot of this book is just a tour through the island at the end, but there's quite a bit of tension leading up to that as well, and frankly, Maruo's art is the major draw here, as it is phenomenal.  Very realistic and lush.

6.  Attack On Titan (Hajime Isayama) - The twists keep coming in this post-apocalyptic story about the remnants of humanity surviving behind walls that keep out man-eating giants.  This series is bloody and action-packed, and utterly nail-biting as things really go awry.  There is plenty of mystery in this series to keep readers coming back for more, between some pretty amazing action sequences.

7.  Young Miss Holmes (Kaoru Shintani) - In Victorian London, Christie continues to help her uncle Sherlock Holmes crack some difficult cases, while balancing her hobby with becoming a real lady.  Often very witty, and illustrated beautifully, this is a great mystery series that features plenty of action and unforgettable characters.

8.  Gold Pollen and Other Stories (Seiichi Hayashi) - This release from PictureBox showcases some lovely work from alternative manga artist Seiichi Hayashi, whose work we've seen previously in Drawn & Quarterly's release, Red Colored Elegy.  There are four stories collected here, with Hayashi experimenting with his style for different experiences with each.  I love Hayashi's use of color, especially when it's used sparsely in the later stories, although my favorite of the four offerings is the one full-color story, "Dwelling in Flowers," examining a relationship between mother and son.  I didn't really care for "Yamanba Lullaby," but otherwise, even the short "Red Dragonfly" was a moving short work.  Hayashi is very subtle about things, which I like, and the stories feel more real because of it.

9.  Soulless (Gail Carriger & Rem) - Continuing the adaptation of Gail Carriger's novels, Rem illustrates the lush environments of Victorian England in this steampunk series, transporting readers to this world with stunning, detailed illustrations.  Alexia keeps getting into trouble with supernaturals in this book full of conspiracies and the politics of vampires and werewolves in a very proper society.

10. Atomcat (Osamu Tezuka) - This all-ages title from master Osamu Tezuka brings his most famous creation to the limelight again, in an unusual way.  Tsugio, who is bullied at school, takes refuge in the Astro Boy stories he reads with his father, and when he takes in a kitten with a slight resemblance to Astro Boy, circumstances lead to the cat's alteration into a super kitten, protecting Tsugio from bullies on all sorts of adventures.  This book is lots of fun.  Cute and heartfelt, and perfect for manga fans of any age.

Honorable Mentions
The Mysterious Underground Men (Osamu Tezuka)
Sunny (Taiyo Matsumoto)
Triton of the Sea (Osamu Tezuka)
Wandering Son (Shimura Takako)
Yotsuba&! (Kiyohiko Azuma)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best Covers of 2013

I'm sure that I'm missing some great comic book covers, but these are some of the best that I recall seeing throughout the year.  Feel free to leave a comment if you know of any that I missed!





















 



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Superhero Comics of 2013

It's that time of year again to look back at the best that the year has brought us.  Of course there are titles that I didn't get a chance to check out that may have been included if I had, but that's how it goes.  I can't read everything (sorry, Spectacular Spider-Man).  These are my ten favorite superhero comics from 2013, the top of which will also be featured on my forthcoming best comics of the year list.  This is purely my opinion, so obviously people will not agree with me on all of these titles, and that's cool.  Many lists I find out there certainly make me scratch my head.  Anyways, this is meant to point you toward enjoyable material that you may have missed this year, and I hope you enjoy it.  If you've read some superhero comics that you think others may enjoy as well, please feel free to mention them in the comments!!

1. Angel & Faith (Christos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer was overshadowed during season nine by this consistently entertaining comic book featuring Buffy's former flame Angel, and bad-slayer-gone-good Faith.  The two have a great dynamic, with plenty of things to haunt them from their pasts as they attempt to resurrect Rupert Giles, who was killed at the end of Buffy's Season Eight, by Angel's hands.  Their is a lot of atoning for these character to do in this series, and storyarc after storyarc has been shockingly high quality, culminating in a fight that brought all of the plotlines to an epic finale.  Isaacs really managed to make the characters her own without seeming to reference the actors overly much, while Gage played to the more interesting demons in the characters' lives.  This was one hell of a run, and one that will be sorely missed.

2. Wolverine & the X-Men (Jason Aaron, Nick Bradshaw, Chris Bachalo & Various) - This wacky series featuring Wolverine's school for mutants is a highlight for me every time it comes out.  I never know what to expect, aside from quality.  I love the vast cast of characters, particularly the students created especially for this series.  It really is one of the most unique superhero comics to come along in awhile, and I can't get enough of it.

3. Hawkeye (Matt Fraction, David Aja & Various) - This smart, street level superhero comic has a great cast of characters in what have come to be witty, thrilling stories.  David Aja offers amazing artwork on this title, often with clever panel arrangements, while Fraction breathes life into Hawkeye and his fascinating supporting cast.

4. All New X-Men (Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen) - Time travel has been a staple to the X-Men titles for a long time now, so when Bendis decided to bring the original five X-Men into the current timeline, it seemed like a no-brainer, but it made for a really interesting dynamic.  I love the interactions between the originals and the new X-Men, particularly when it comes to a young Scott Summers and the long-dead Jean Grey.  It will be interesting to see where this title goes now, given the ending of Battle of the Atom, but it seems that Bendis' creativity knows no bounds, so I'm not worried in the least.

5. Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang & Tony Akins) - Wonder Woman is the only DC Comic that remotely stands out from the others currently.  Azzarello has breathed new life into the title with his unique pantheon of gods, and Wonder Woman's place among them.  Meanwhile, the art is top-notch and not the cookie cutter 90's art that seems to plague DC's other 51 titles, keeping this title fresh and relevant, while the rest of DC flags.

6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine (Andrew Chambliss, Georges Jeanty, Jane Espenson & Various) - Joss Whedon's season nine of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was much more successful than season eight, which relied heavily on fan-favorite character appearances and an awkward transition into the new status quo.  In season nine, Buffy gets into situations that really show off what a great character she is, from her stint with Kennedy as a bodyguard, to saving the world by fighting demons alongside other demons, such as Illyria.  It all culminates into an epic battle that sees repercussions from the season eight finale, offering a satisfying conclusion to quite a roller coaster ride of emotions.

7. My So-Called Secret Identity (Will Brooker, Sarah Zaidan & Susan Shore) - This on-line superhero comic is a lot of fun.  It's very down-to-earth, with plenty of humor injected into the story, poking fun at tropes from mainstream superhero comics, as well as offering up its own social commentary.  This is a smart book with a lot of heart, and a fantastic female protagonist in Cat.  She has an interesting supporting cast in what is a very fresh series.  Check it out here.

8. Avengers (Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena & Various) - Hickman's Avengers is very epic in scope, and feels very majestic.  I love how so many different characters, of varying power sets, are featured in this title, which saw a culmination of events in the mega crossover event Infinity.

9. X-Men: Battle of the Atom (Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood, Jason Aaron, Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen & Various) - This is a crossover event that exploded across the pages of various X-Men titles, in which a group of X-Men from the future come back to the present day to force the original X-Men back to their original timeline.  There are all sorts of fun battles between various X-Men, with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting.

10. Captain America (Rick Remender & John Romita Jr.) - Rick Remender definitely brought new flavor to Cap when he trapped him in Dimension Z, where he built a life in a hard world.  Full of strange creatures and post-apocalyptic landscapes, this is a dark chapter in the life of Steve Rogers, but it is utterly inventive and exciting, rendered all the more beautiful by Romita's pencils.

Honorable Mentions
Glory (Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell)
Uncanny Avengers (Rick Remender, John Cassaday & Various)
Uncanny X-Men (Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Bachalo & Various)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Best in Music 2013

The following are my favorite songs and albums of 2013, another great year in music. For songs, I kept it to one song per artist to feature the most talent, and overall, it makes for one hell of a mixed CD if anyone's looking for some great tunes. I do tend to gravitate toward female singers, but there are some guys in there to mix it up. Enjoy!

10 Best Albums of 2013


1. "Water in a Whale" by Jillette Johnson - Jillette Johnson is an amazing talent.  She has a fantastic voice, which is showcased beautifully in songs like "Heathen," where she can really let it out.  But just as impressive as her powerful vocals is her songwriting.  She has very insightful, clever lyrics and composes stunning melodies.  And she's bold enough to have created a song such as "Cameron" for her debut album, about a transgendered person, bringing to question themes of identity.  Johnson shows a lot of different sides of herself in this CD, and even though it's her debut album, I can honestly say that I've enjoyed this more than any other CD this year.

Key Tracks: Flood the Ocean, Peter Pan, Basset Hound, Heathen, 17


2. "Back To Forever" by Lissie - Lissie blew people away with her debut album "Catching a Tiger," featuring "Record Collector," but she's really outdone herself with her new CD, "Back To Forever," in which she crafts a stunning album of fantastic rock tracks.  When you listen to this album, it feels like an instant classic, with Lissie belting out the choruses of songs like the fantastic "The Habit," daring you to sing along at the top of your lungs.  On the other hand, she can break your soul with heartfelt lyrics that speak of truth.  Lissie is on top of her game here.

Key Tracks: The Habit, Further Away (Romance Police), They All Want You, I Bet One You, Can't Take It Back


3. "Gravel & Wine" by Gin Wigmore - And speaking of great rock albums, Gin Wigmore has created a real winner in "Gravel & Wine," where she belts out her gravelly voice to classic-sounding tunes that speak of vices and strength.  This is an album that more people should know about, because I think Wigmore could find a real audience with her empowering rock songs that are just shockingly well-constructed.

Key Tracks: Black Sheep, Man Like That, Kill of the Night, Devil In Me


4. "Stars Dance" by Selena Gomez - This is a stunning pop album.  Great dance songs abound on this CD, while ballads showcase Gomez' surprisingly strong voice.  There isn't a song on here that isn't catchy, and most will be near impossible to get out of your head.

Key Tracks: Slow Down, Stars Dance, Come & Get It


5. "Modern Romantics" by Adaline - Adaline has created a sophisticated pop album here, with dark imagery and wonderfully unique sounds.  Many of the tracks are haunting, with thoughtful lyrics, while others will get you tapping your feet happily.  Great range is demonstrated here, and I'm excited to see what Adaline comes up with next, if she can manage to top this grade A album.

Key Tracks: Keep Me High, Lovers Collide, Stereo


6. "ARTPOP" by Lady Gaga - Lady Gaga is a true artist.  She's experimenting with the medium here, to varying levels of success, but what she ends up with is a unique record full of songs that are ten times more interesting than most anything you hear on the radio.  She uses some great sounds in songs like "ARTPOP" for futuristic beats, and even makes a great rap song in "Jewels N' Drugs."  She's trying to say something about art, pushing herself to grow in the process.  This is entertaining, and it's artpop.

Key Tracks: MANiCURE, Do What You Want (featuring R. Kelly), ARTPOP


7. "Black Bear" by Andrew Belle - Andrew Belle is a master of mood.  He uses his voice and a great layering of sounds that often build toward an epic finale, that just get under your skin and make you feel what he's trying to get across.  Sometimes I can't even tell what he's saying, but it doesn't really matter with the beautiful music he's making here.

Key Tracks: Pieces, Sister, The Enemy


8. "Arrows" by Polly Scattergood - Polly has a very distinct sound, ethereal and breathy.  It makes you feel like you're in a dream or Alice down the rabbit hole, lost in a beautiful fog.  Scattergood's lyrics can borderline cheesy sometimes, but her unique sound more than makes up for any shortcomings.

Key Tracks: Falling, Subsequently Lost, Silver Lining


9. "Bangerz" by Miley Cyrus - Publicity stunts aside, good girl gone bad Miley Cyrus knows how to craft an amazing pop album.  Her songs are catchy as hell, and she speaks to her audience with power anthems about independence and partying, as well as showing a more vulnerable side of herself when she sets aside the bass.

Key Tracks: We Can't Stop, Wrecking Ball, Someone Else


10. "Push Play EP" by Miriam Bryant - Miriam Bryant commands attention on her EP with a strong voice and a sound that's reminiscent of Adele.  She's not afraid to show off her range in dance songs with unique beats to moving soaring ballads.  This is definitely an artist to watch. 

Key Tracks: Finders Keepers, Push Play, Raised In Rain

Honorable Mentions
"The Bones of What You Believe" by CHVRCHES
"Wake Me Up" by Mattanja Joy Bradley
"Natalie Stovall and the Drive EP" by Natalie Stovall and the Drive
"Guilty Pleas EP" by Night Terrors of 1927
"Monochrome EP" by Parisa Louvel

30 Best Songs of 2013


1. "Recover" by CHVRCHES - The electronic beat of this song leads into a breathless chorus that's unforgettable.  It's hard as hell to get this song out of your head once you've heard it.  It's a great synthetic sound that sets a new standard, and is easily my favorite song of the year.
 
2. "Attracting Flies" by AlunaGeorge - Clever lyrics and a danceable sound make this a winner.  I love the unique sounds that give this song that extra flair, hitting the song at just the right moments.

3. "Sister" by Andrew Belle - This atmospheric single is a great showcase for Belle's crooning voice.  I love how it builds toward the end, where the song kind of comes to a head.

4. "Young and Beautiful" by Lana Del Rey - A haunting sound set to Lana's beautiful voice makes this a song hard to forget.  The strings and drums accent this song perfectly.

5. "Looking Around" by Kate Tucker & The Sons of Sweden - I've been waiting for a new song from this band for awhile, and they sure didn't disappoint.  The simple lyrics bring honest truths to the surface, with a beautiful melody that Kate Tucker croons through with her lovely voice.

6. "Hold On" by Lewis Watson - I love the organic sound of this single, and that sound like wooden blocks being struck that adds an extra interesting layer to the song.

7. "Wild Country" by Wake Owl - I love this folksy song.  It reminds me of Joey Ryan's sound that I fell in love with a few years back.  Great refrain.

8. "Man Like That" by Gin Wigmore - Wigmore belts out this rollicking song with enthusiasm with her smoky voice.  It sounds like a classic rock song, and Wigmore's attitude comes through loud and clear.

9. "Please" by Kate Turner - I love the strings in this song that add the perfect amount of pluck to this subtle performance.

10. "Stompa" by Serena Ryder - This anthem demands that you stomp your feet to it, and with its danceable melody, it's nearly impossible to ignore.

11. "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars - With a beat that makes you want to shake your hips, and an epic chorus, this was one of the biggest songs of the year, and for a good reason.

12. "Falling" by Polly Scattergood - I love Scattergood's breathy vocals, and they've never sounded better than they do on this song, coupled with a fantastic dream-like song.

13. "Samson" by V.V. Brown - V.V. Brown follows up her pop hit "Shark In the Water" with a strange, experimental album, but I kind of dig it.  "Samson" is very moody, with muffled lyrics, but it has a great sound, telling the story of Samson.

14. "Wings" by Birdy - This song feels bittersweet, a little forlorn and sad, but also hopeful.  It's beautiful and haunting.

15. "Forget Me Knots" by Heathers - This is a perfectly constructed song.  Great chorus, with a great build.

16. "When the Darkness Comes" by Colbie Caillat - There's something very classic about this song.  It's elegant, with beautiful strings and a lovely refrain that feels sort of epic.

17. Dark Horse by Katy Perry (featuring Juicy J.) - I really like how this song keeps building toward the chorus.  It's very intense, and a really unique sound for Perry.

18. "Out of My League" by Fitz & The Tantrums - This song definitely has an 80's vice, but that chorus is fresh and just awesome.

19. "Team" by Lorde - While "Royals" was everywhere this year, I prefer this song.  I love the odd opening, and the lyrics make me smile.

20. "All Night" by Icona Pop - A great dance song with throbbing bass, this is just a ton of fun.

21. "Slowly Freaking Out" by Skylar Grey - I love the industrial sounds in this unconventional song.  Despite the kind of ugly sounds, it's somehow very beautiful.

22. "17" by Jillette Johnson - This "B-side" song is a lovely song that seems to come straight from Johnson's diary, simple and elegant.

23. "Keep Me High" by Adaline - This moody song with haunting strings and dark lyrics is melodic and beautiful, very atmospheric.

24. "Love Me Again" by John Newman - This song is great.  John Newman really belts it out.  It's a little rough around the edges and rocking.

25. "The Star That Guides You Home" by Emma Stevens - This is a pretty simple song, but the chorus and guitar just work together to make the perfect little dittie.

26. "Cool Kids" by Echosmith - This is just a cool song that feels nostalgic.

27. "Forget You" by Cady Groves - Probably the best thing to ever come out of a "Smurfs" movie is this great pop song from Cady Groves.  Catchy, sugary bubblegum pop that just makes you happy.

28. "Fall Into You" by Night Terrors of 1927 - This sensitive, lovely song from the band Night Terrors of 1927 has a fantastic chorus with guys' voices rising in harmony, and has a vaguely 80's vibe that's somehow still modern.

29. "Without You" by Natalie Maines - The first solo outing from Natalie Maines, formerly of the Dixie Chicks, sees some great rock tracks, and this one stands out as the best of the bunch, with a great hook.

30. "Hot Damn" by Ivy Levan - This cheeky song from "The Dame" Ivy Levan is blunt and really fun.  Levan has adopted a persona as a performer that really works, and will probably attract a lot of fans.

Honorable Mentions
"Me & My Girls" by Fifth Harmony
"The Habit" by Lissie
"The Way It Used To Be" by Mike Posner
"Push Play" by Miriam Bryant
"Wear Me Out" by Skylar Grey