The following are my favorite songs and albums of 2012, 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 2012
1. "Born To Die" by Lana Del Rey - Love her or hate her, Lana Del Rey has released an impressive record with a unique sound, with her debut "Born To Die." Boasting haunting melodies and dark lyrics wrapped in a beautiful dreamy voice, "Born To Die" is one of those rare albums that has a consistent point of view and a variety of amazing tracks. "Video Games," a song tinted with dreamy nostalgia, put her on the map, but it's hardly the best offering here. "Off To the Races" is a fantastic song unlike anything you've heard before, while "Summertime Sadness" has a chorus that's tough to get out of your head once you hear it. The more I listened to the tracks, the more I fell in love with the album, my favorites constantly rotating from one to another. This CD easily rises above the competition to claim the number one slot this year.
Key Tracks: Off To the Races, Blue Jeans, Radio, Carmen, Summertime Sadness, Lolita.
2. "Synthetica" by Metric - Metric is one of the coolest bands working right now, offering playful beats and dark themes in a seeming endless stream of amazing sounds. From the rock vibe of the first single off this CD, "Youth Without Youth," or the impossible-not-to-love fun of "The Void," there's something here for everyone, "Synthetica" is another work of art from a talented group of musicians who really know how to craft a tune.
Key Tracks: Speed the Collapse, Youth Without Youth, Breathing Underwater, The Void, Synthetica
3. "The Lion the Beast the Beat" by Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - Grace Potter sings her heart out in the latest offering from her band, belting out refrains from an array of top-notch rock songs. They manage to keep the album sounding fresh and relevant while referring to a more classic age of rock, speckling this album with great sounds. This CD is full of gems, and I would be surprised if they managed to top this album in the future, as this is bound to go down as a classic.
Key Tracks: The Lion the Beast the Beat, Never Go Back, Parachute Heart, Loneliest Soul, Runaway
4. "Felony Flats" by Anya Marina - Anya Marina has a sound that's instantly recognizable, a little rough and raw, with a husky voice that gives her songs an edge. On her latest effort, Marina produces a lineup that tops her previous works, with songs that demand you turn them up and rock out to them.
Key Tracks: Notice Me, Flinty, Heart Stops
5. "Red" by Taylor Swift - Song after song off of Taylor Swift's new album prove that she is an amazing songwriter, and that she's grown a lot in recent years from when her songs offered little variety. "Red" is full of hits, catchy numbers that speak to her audience with great hooks. Swift has also taken the time to experiment with her voice and different sounds, resulting in the interesting, yet undeniably lovely hits "We Are Never Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble." If her music is really fueled by famous ex-boyfriends, I hope she's jaded by plenty more men in the coming years.
Key Tracks: Red, I Knew You Were Trouble, We Are Never Getting Back Together
6. "Frank + Derol EP" by Frank + Derol - The duo Frank + Derol came out of nowhere with this EP of catchy songs that showcase their honey-sweet voices and great sound. Even now, I have trouble deciding what my favorite song from this EP is, but it has me salivating for a full-length album in the future.
Key Tracks: Lightning + Gold, Barely Love You Too, Let It Go
7. "My Stadium Electric" by Erin McCarley - Erin McCarley's latest album still has that feel-good vibe to it that her debut CD "Love, Save the Empty" had, and certainly retains a pop sensibility, but it's also a little more rock, and a little more rough around the edges, resulting in a sound that's more mature and more interesting, which seems a good fit for her, as she has created plenty of gems on "My Stadium Electric."
Key Tracks: Vertigo, Survey, Amber Waves, Just Another Day
8. "You & I" by The Pierces - The Pierces boast a more traditional sound than most of the artists on this list, but one thing that really sets them apart from the competition is that their songwriting is just so solid. The duo has created a CD full of simple, but beautiful songs with catchy sounds and spot-on lyrics. They may easily float under the radar, but given a listen, their sound will stay with you and have you tapping your feet.
Key Tracks: You'll Be Mine, It Will Not Be Forgotten, Love You More
9. "Night Visions" by Imagine Dragons - This debut album from quartet Imagine Dragons is one of the great rock albums of the year, boasting an impressive lead vocalist and an insane amount of talent. Many of the songs sound like classics, especially "Hear Me" and "Demons," which stick with you long after you've heard them.
Key Tracks: Radioactive, Demons, Hear Me
10. "The Night the Sun Came Up" by Dev - Dev has a funky sound, and is a lot of fun to listen to, from the hella-auto-tuned "In My Trunk" to the throbbing beat of "Lightspeed." She keeps up to the fast pace of her songs with a quick tongue, and captures listeners with her great sound (who knew coughing in a sound could be such a highlight?). My big gripe is that her amazing song "Take Her From You," was not included in the US release of the album (see it in my list of best songs below), but the rest of the tracks are still strong enough to lift this CD into my list of best albums of the year.
Key Tracks: In My Trunk, Lightspeed, In the Dark
30 Best Songs of 2012
1. "My Blood" by Ellie Goulding - This song is epic, reaching a fever pitch at its peak. It's dark, moody and simply beautiful. This is a stunning song that's completely immersive, and deserves to be at the top of this list of best songs of 2012.
2. "Give Your Heart a Break" by Demi Lovato - There were definitely plenty of pop songs that stood out this year, and this was the cream of the crop, with a great lead in to a fun, flashy refrain, provided by an artist with a voice that stands out among the competition.
3. "Want U Back" by Cher Lloyd - This flirty song is sung by Lloyd with a wink and a smile. She embraces the "bad girl" aspect of this song and just conquers it, nailing every beat, including those delicious grunts.
4. "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen - People are probably, and understandably, sick to death of this song, as it was everywhere this summer, but it was played over and over for a reason. It's the epitome of catchy pop songs - once you hear it, it's nearly impossible to get out of your head. I love the strings, the goofy lyrics and of course, that damn refrain.
5. "Blown Away" by Carrie Underwood - This broody country song is a dark song that you can't help but admire. Underwood sings about an abusive household being torn asunder, while showcasing her amazing vocal range, belting out the chorus with stunning results.
6. "We Are Never Getting Back Together" by Taylor Swift - This was perhaps Taylor Swift's year, as she dominated the charts with her spunky pop spirit. This song in particular showcases her songwriting sense, as she plays with her vocals to make for a unique-sounding number that's as catchy as anything she's released so far, if not more so.
7. "Hear Me" by Imagine Dragons - The highest spot to be graced by a male lead vocalist is from the band Imagine Dragons, who boast strong vocals, solid lyrics and a really well-constructed song. It's a fantastic rock song with a lot of energy.
8. "Disparate Youth" by Santigold - Santigold proved with her new CD that she's as innovative as ever, with more unique beats on her sophomore album, "Disparate Youth" being the stand-out song, with layered sounds for a great music experience.
9. "Proserpina" by Martha Wainwright - This song is filled with strings and piano, swelling into an operatic refrain. It's very atmospheric and it has the feeling of a classic with its mythological subject and well-chosen lyrics.
10. "Meant" by Elizaveta - Classically trained Elizaveta released a real gem with this song, with a unique chorus, utilizing both vocals and strings in lovely ways for a stunning product.
11. "To the End" by Florrie - This dance number has a great sound. I love dance songs that can really build toward a refrain and this one brings it to a frenzy.
12. "Sky's Still Blue" by Andrew Belle - More of a quiet song, Belle's song is elegantly constructed with beautiful lyrics and an achingly gorgeous sound that feels lovingly stitched from a myriad of emotions.
13. "All the Rowboats" by Regina Spektor - I love piano in a song, and this one sounds like it's chasing the vocals all the way through this song. It's playful yet moody, and I like a song that focuses on fine art like this one does.
14. "Take Her From You" by Dev - From the whistling, to the "whoo-whoo" of the refrain, this is a fantastic song that's all about playfulness. It makes you smile and want to listen to its easy beat over and over again.
15. "Timebomb" by Kylie Minogue - Kylie proves once more why she has such a fan base in the club scene. This ridiculously danceable song shows that Kylie has her music down to an art, with quiet lead-ins, explosive refrains and tons of fun injected into her beats.
16. "Better In a Black Dress" by Katie Armiger - The only traditional country song to grace this list is another flirty number, as Armiger turns in her wedding gown for a black dress, professing her love of youth and wanting to enjoy it. Great sound and hook.
17. "Tip Toes" by Jayme Dee - Listening to this song is like having your ears filled with sunshine and honey. It's bright and cheerful and just makes you feel happy and tapping your toes.
18. "Come Back Down" by Greg Laswell, featuring Sara Bareilles - This duet has the sound of a great anthem, with a great pairing of lyrics with the chorus that raises it into something much more than the sum of its parts.
19. "You Never Know" by Jon McLaughlin - Jon's voice is lovely and sexy, and he sings this love song flawlessly. It's not as flashy as some of the songs on this list, but it has this innate quality to it that you can't help but admire.
20. "My Oh My" by Tristan Prettyman - This is just a solid song from a very talented songwriter. It has a groove to it that's very melodic and just cool. I'm very glad that I came across this artist this year - she just has soul and I love what she's done, especially this song.
21. "I Can Love" by Vicci Martinez - This has an incredible chorus that just sort of sweeps you along with it. It's powerful and commands attention.
22. "Miriam" by Norah Jones - This slow beautiful song is hypnotic and just lovely, a nice contrast to the unexpectedly dark lyrics.
23. "Gold" by Neon Hitch, featuring Tyga - Another fantastic dance song, which Neon Hitch is no stranger to. Tyga's little cameo adds a nice little touch to a pretty perfect song, complete with sassy lyrics and an exciting delivery of vocals.
24. "Brokenhearted" by Karmin - There's no doubt that the lead singer of Karmin is a gifted singer. She keeps up with the fast pace of this song with little effort, and soars through the chorus with equal ease.
25. "Glorified High" by Sarah Jaffe - I love interesting sounds in music and Sarah Jaffe offers just that in a cool song with neat sounds that elevate the chorus, a contrast to the muffled quality of much of the song.
26. "Vampire Smile" by Kyla La Grange - A deliciously Gothic sound that goes hand in hand with the lyrics, sung by a deceptively sweet voice.
27. "Castles" by of Verona - This song has a lot going on in it, and those elements all add up to a very polished sound that can't help but feel a little epic.
28. "Gone Gone Gone" by Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke's song feels like a dance party, but it's also really hip and somehow organic sounding.
29. "I Hate Love" by Garbage - I'm a huge Garbage fan, and this is one of their best songs. It proves that they still have that edge that made them such a huge band in the 90's.
30. "Tenderest" by Val Emmich - A melancholy song, Val Emmich sings this in a rumbly sexy voice, oozing depression and heartache.