As a music year, 2012 was incredibly impressive. I feel like I haven’t actually felt that way about the past few years, so I’m excited to share some of my favorite tracks from this year. As a preface, my favorite songs are the ones that stick. They’re either catchy, unique, meaningful, or a combination of all three. These may not be the “best” tracks, but they’re certainly my favorites. Here are numbers 20-11.
20. The Way We Move by Langhorne Slim and the Law
Langhorne Slim has been running with the right folks, like the Avett Brothers, for long enough to reach my radar earlier than 2012, but contributed an undeniable album this year with The Way We Move. The leadoff track of the same title is a straight-forward example of what Langhorne has to offer. Gritty, real, honest.
19. Running for Cover by Ivan & Alyosha
My first exposure to new Seattle music upon arrival in fall of 2011 was a pop-folk band with absolutely stunning harmonies. Ivan & Alyosha have continued to mesmerize and, in late 2012, provided a little taste of the heaven to come in 2013 with “Running for Cover”; their first single from the forthcoming debut full-length album, “All the Times We Had”. Brace yourself, folk world, you’ve got a new serenade coming your way.
18. Old Pine by Ben Howard
If you’re into remarkable acoustic finger-picking and sultry vocals, Ben Howard is your man. This 25-year-young Brit bused onto the scene with Every Kingdom and leads it off with “Old Pine”. His musical influences of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell are present, especially on this tune, which has a mix of old school organic folk and new age indie complexities. “Old Pine” sings about growth and learning, which I expect to benefit Howard even more as he begins working on his next offering.
17. Breathing Underwater by Metric
It took far too long, but in 2012 I finally jumped on the Metric bandwagon. This song about struggling to survive and experiencing a perpetual lack of clarity is a piece we can all relate to. Meaning aside, though, the song adds a chorus that is impossible to avoid singing along to. A great parallel to their album released this year that is building upon the legacy they’ve been creating for years.
16. Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men
“Little Talks” put Of Monsters and Men on the map in 2012 after their YouTube performance for KEXP. They continued to blow up in popularity as the genre of folk saw a shift focusing on vocal harmonic beauty. This track was the biggest catalyst in their meteoric rise into the realm of coffee shop and department store playlists.
15. Take a Walk by Passion Pit
It took a while for Cambridge preps Passion Pit’s breakthrough release, Gossamer, to grow on me, but after a hearing the lead track and single, “Take a Walk”, all over the place, I needed to give it a shot. Angelekos’ engaging vocals lead this track to go with the can’t-get-out-of-your-head synth hook and driving drums.
14. Lovers’ Eyes by Mumford and Sons
Picking one track from Babel was one of the most difficult tasks in creating this list. In the end, “Lovers’ Eyes” is the best representation of the songwriting we’ve come to expect from Mumford. This track ebbs and flows with explosions of kick drum and horn combos, dropping into a captivating bridge; “I walk slow, take my hand, help me on my way”. It continues with the old Mumford crescendo, full of banjo and emotion, before concluding with horns fading.
13. Quesadilla by Walk the Moon
This may not be a better song than its predecessors on this list, but “Quesadilla” has been stuck in my head more since this summer than almost any other track. Walk the Moon have emerged as one of the most fun and action-packed bands around today and the leadoff to their self-title debut is a fine example of what the band offers as a whole. It is impossible to not echo the “Ho!” chant during the verses and move your feet on every chorus.
12. Wind and Walls by The Tallest Man on Earth
Death, taxes, and stunning tunes from the Tallest Man on Earth are the only guarantees in life. The best track from There’s No Leaving Now, “Wind and Walls” is another example of the absolute depth Kristian Matsson creates music with. A Swede, Matsson’s seeming mastery of the English language puts to shame those of us who know it alone.
11. Simple Song by the Shins
I think that living in Seattle tripled my exposure to this track by The Shins, but “Simple Song” has been a song that’s stood out no matter how many times I’ve heard it. James Mercer’s vocals are incredibly unique in an increasingly-vanilla indie scene. He has a unique way of using his voice as an instrument, which stands out on this exemplary single.