With little over a week left to 2012, I figured it’s about time I post Part II to what I started back in July with My Favourite Songs of 2012… so far.
After writing that post, I thought there’s no way the second half of the year is going to be as good as the first, but I’ve been (quite happily) proven wrong. Tune after tune, album after album, month after month, this has just been an incredible year for discovering new music.
As with the 33 tracks that made up Part I, I had trouble restraining myself again. I managed to cull this list down to 42, so, coupled with the others, I have a nice round number of my favourite 75 songs for 2012.
Once again, presented alphabetically because I hate to offend, here’s what stood out from July to December:
All I Want - Kodaline: A beautiful pop ballad with the type of slow-building crescendo that I typically love. (The accompanying video is the type MuchMusic would’ve ran for days… back when they actually aired them. That dog gets me every time. Right in the feels.)
Animal Mask - Tom Fun Orchestra: The first of a few tunes on this list that I had the good fortune of @pbclarke introducing me to. A crazy frenetic tempo with a riotous chorus, I defy you to sit silently while listening.
Birmingham - Shovels & Rope: Another @pbclarke recommendation, I had originally passed on this LP because I didn’t like the band’s name. Dumbest. Reason. Ever. Boy was I wrong. This track is one of a number of standouts on an LP that just missed my top 10 of the year. (Just announced to play Edmonton in April and I can’t wait to hear this live!)
Boozophilia - Low Cut Connie: A retro piano-rock track with rollicking, sing-along lyrics. Perfectly written for those times when a happy hour kind of gets away from you and you don’t want to go home.
Bow And Arrow - Reuben And The Dark: Calgary native Reuben Bullock (no relation to Seth that I know of) leads his folk quartet on this enchanting melody that ebbs and flows through the verses like an ocean swell.
Carry Me Home - Hey Rosetta!: Debated whether a Christmas song could make my list. Well, this isn’t really a traditional Christmas tune, and honestly, it’s too good to pass up anyway. (Plus, I actually like Christmas music, so there’s that.)
Cold Winter Song - Jay Sparrow: Catchy. As. Hell. If Edmonton ever gets around to having its own anthem, this’ll get my vote. Love the synths and the back-up harmony on this – if I can only figure out who she is.
Counter Charm - She Keeps Bees: A bluesy garage-rock number from this Brooklyn duo that reminds me of two of my favourites, The Kills and The Pack a.d. A voice low and sultry, distorted guitar hooks, and crashing drums – what’s not to like?
Drinkin’ - Holly Williams: A classic country tune of hurtin’ and woe – Holly Williams certainly has the pedigree for it. This sneak peek off her next LP has me counting down the days till its February release.
Easy Money - Bruce Springsteen: A fantastic album with so many great tunes to chooses from. Love the Celtic influences throughout, but fell in love with this particular track because it reminded me of something Steve Earle could conceivably write. (Don’t worry; that makes no sense to me either.)
Faithful Man - Lee Fields: This particular live version outshines the entire album, and that’s not an easy thing to do given how good the LP is. Recording since before I was born, this track has enjoyed regular airplay lately as I try to make up for lost time.
Flower Bomb - Ryan Bingham: There are other tracks on Bingham’s latest that may be more popular (Guess Who’s Knocking comes to mind), but I kept being drawn back to this Americana tune over and over. The gravel-voiced roots rocker keeps it simple here, and it shines.
Friends Of Friends - Hospitality: Yet another Brooklyn group on my list. Delightful horn and guitar riffs meld together nicely on this indie pop number that marries a curiously ‘sounds old, but feels new’ vibe.
Funeral Song - Fast Romantics: Another group of Calgary natives behind this catchy indie rock number. The guitar work and keys harmonize perfectly on an uplifting melody that’s probably more suited for a wake instead of a funeral.
Hear Them Fear Them - The Indecent: So many great EPs this year, and this one definitely ranks near the top. Alternating at times it seems between Hole and Cranberry influences, the sisters Brout from NYC still know how to deliver their own rock goods. Hear them fear them indeed.
Hurricane - Owls By Nature: Local guys that managed to get some radio airplay with this track, and it’s easy to see why. Catchy folk-rock that can make you wonder why you bought Babel.
It’s Real - Wild Ones: Mix a little Imaginary Cities with a little Weepies, and you may get Wild Ones – bursting with pop whimsy. They call their sound funeral pop, and if this particular hymn is any indication, I can’t wait to hear their album next year.
Live And Die - Avett Brothers: The biggest standout for me on what was a somewhat disappointing album release. Saw this performed live at ACL – albeit streaming on YouTube – and they just crushed it.
Mean To Me - Ben Kweller: Opening with a blown-out guitar riff reminiscent of CCR’s “Up Around the Bend”, this is classic power-pop at its finest. If Sloan still wrote songs like this, I’d probably still be listening to them.
Medicine Shows - Wool On Wolves: Their first LP made my best-of list back in 2010, and with tunes like this one, they made another very strong run at my 2012 list. It’s quite something to hear the ending chorus being sung live.
Modern Times - RNDM: Jeff Ament took a break from his full-time job to go off and record some Pearl Jam rejects… and after listening to this track, you’re left wondering why Eddie and the boys didn’t want to play them. Their loss obviously.
Mystic Portal II - JEFF the Brotherhood: Brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall form this garage rock two-piece, and their latest – produced by the indefatigable Dan Auerbach – has received some heavy acclaim. Rightfully so, and I’ve enjoyed this fuzzy guitar-driven number in particular.
Nancy Lee - Vintage Trouble: This tune’s been around for a couple of years, but was finally released in North America in 2012. What have we been waiting for? Love the retro soul sound here, but it still manages to feel charmingly fresh.
New Tattoo - Brad Fillatre: Very hard not to like this song by a fellow Newfoundlander. Bryan Byrne should be worried about his ‘favourite son’ status on the west coast if Fillatre keeps releasing tunes this good.
No Tell - Smoke & Jackal: Jeff Ament wasn’t the only bass player to form a side band to play cast-offs in 2012. Jared Followill kept busy while his brothers took a break from Kings Of Leon, and well, didn’t stray far from his roots. Surprised this didn’t get more attention from modern radio actually.
Old Friend - Sea Wolf: I can hear a little Hey Rosetta! in this one – particularly in the opening – and when has that ever been a bad thing?
Oscillation - The Men: Sometimes great songs don’t need lyrics… like this one. That’s not entirely true, but by the time they get around to singing them on this instrumental, it doesn’t matter – you’re already enthralled. So much goodness coming out of New York recently, this is one of my favourite albums of 2012.
Pioneers - The Lighthouse and the Whaler: Independent folk-pop rockers from Cleveland garnered attention with this upbeat melody. Perfect summer patio music to get your feet tapping and head nodding.
Ramona - Night Beds: Written in June and Johnny’s old home, this up-tempo guitar pop number by Winston Yellen soars wonderfully between sorrow and despair. I think The Man in Black himself would approve.
Runaways - The Killers: If the Boss wrote a pretty decent Steve Earle song with Easy Money, then The Killers managed to finally pull off the quintessential Springsteen tune with Runaways. Can’t listen to this without hearing Bruce singing it.
Skipping Stone - Good for Grapes: Mixed-tempo folk rock with a rousing chorus, I thought these guys were from the other coast of Canada when I first heard this tune. They would absolutely kill there if they ever made the trip.
Spitting Image - Freelance Whales: First heard these guys at Lolla in August – again via YouTube unfortunately – but was impressed, and intrigued to hear their new album. It didn’t disappoint. This baroque pop melody found its way onto my most played tracks of the Fall.
Teenage Icon - The Vaccines: They released my favourite album of 2011, so this was easily one of my most anticipated LPs of 2012. Yes, they’ve come of age, but this song reminds me why my choice 12 months ago still feels right today.
That Old Black Hole - Dr. Dog: “I don’t know how to say it but I know that I can show you.” Just watch and see.
The House That Heaven Built - Japandroids: Mildly disappointed that their garage-rock sound picked up more polish with Celebration Rock, it’s hard to stay upset with these guys when this tune comes on. Hands-down the best track on the LP.
Throwdown - Nuela Charles: Local soul songstress Nuela Charles croons her way through this trippy R&B number. The accelerated piano playing almost reminds me of fast-forwarding though the Eyes Wide Open score. It’s ominously foreboding, yet the only thing to worry about here is how quickly this silky number will end.
Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus - Titus Andronicus: High expectations on these New Jersey punk rockers after their last release, The Monitor. This is not The Monitor. It’s different… and it may be even better. Front man Patrick Stickles yells ‘Built to last ‘ repeatedly on the first chorus; rather apt regarding this song and LP.
Walking Home - Rain Over St. Ambrose: Easily one of the best rock n’ roll bands in the Maritimes these days. A fantastic album full of mainstream rock tracks, I really enjoyed this anthemic number with its beefy guitars and booming vocals.
Watch The Corners - Dinosaur Jr.: A lot of reunions don’t work out so well, but these alt-rock dinosaurs from the ’90s show they still haven’t lost their distinctive guitar sound. Word is they tried to release this track a few times on previous albums, but it never worked out. Happy to hear they persevered.
When I Write My Master’s Thesis - John K Samson: Likely more well-known for his band work with The Weakerthans, that’s been changing quickly with his latest solo release, Provincial. This lively pop-rock melody with a driving guitar riff shows why he was so deserving of his long-listing for this year’s Polaris Music Prize.
Years - Amelia Curran: This Juno award winner from Newfoundland continues to show her singer-songwriting chops with her latest release, Spectators. As she talks her way through much of the lyrics and finally sings, “Baby, we got years”, I imagine she’s answering my question of how long she plans to be around. Swoon.
And that’s it. Once again hopefully there’s something in there for everyone, but if not, go ahead and berate me on Twitter.
Happy holidays to you and yours, and here’s to a prosperous new year filled with even more great music. I know I’m excited!