Tag Archives: Bruno Mars

2013: Year In Review

What a year.  Most of my favorite artists added some soul, some funk, some humanity to their usual cold and sad sounds.  It was the year of the big release, the unleashing of the hype monster.  Seemingly everyone and their grandmother released something new this year and it was just a glorious and embarrassing goldmine for us music-Smaugs.  Looking back on a great year as my ears already enjoy 2014.

My Favorite Albums of 2013:

1. Empire of the Sun: Ice On The Dune
Nothing catchier or more joyful blessed my life all year.

2. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
The most epic album of the year.

3. nine inch nails: Hesitation Marks
A return to form for Trent and a reaffirmation of rabid fandom for me.

4. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
The biggest grower of the year…just give it a chance.

5. Lady Gaga: ARTPOP
Most underrated “big” album of the year, absolute bangers from start to finish.

6. Queens of the Stone Age: …Like Clockwork
Cocksure (hee hee) swaggering sexy rock and fucking roll.

7. Lorde: Pure Heroine
Newbie of the year with an honest-to-goodness perfect set of tunes.

8. Kanye West: Yeezus
The biggest mindfuck, the biggest statement, and one of the hardest albums of 2013.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito
Possibly their worst album, but with such a discography, this rabid subterranean creepfest slays.

10. KT Tunstall: invisible empire // crescent moon
It’s about her late father and ex-hubby, so you know you’re in for some gorgeous heartbreak.

11. Bruno Mars: Unorthodox Jukebox
Perfect pop album.  Period.

12. how to destroy angels: welcome oblivion
Trent’s other release of the year, a quieter, more feminine affair.

13. Goldfrapp: Tales of Us
Sultry and languid, perfect for secret late night debauchery or a quiet come-down.

14. Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob
2013’s catchiest, prettiest pop-mindfuck dedicated to hearts and heartbreak.

15. Disclosure: Settle
The soundtrack to the permanent Uniqlo store in my heart.

16. Savages: Silence Yourself
Ferocious debut from a group of lasses with bigger, brasher thrash-balls than both Kanye and Trent.

17. The Strokes: Comedown Machine
A solid send-off(?) set from one of my favorite bands of the ’00s.

18. OneRepublic: Native
We liked “Counting Stars” a year ago…

19. Imagine Dragons: Night Visions
They don’t know who they want to be and every song sounds like another band, but they’re the best damn tribute band of the year.

20. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
Now that they’re singing about death and sad stuff, I can finally relate to these chaps.

21. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience, Part 1
This bloated album only receives placement because of “Mirrors”, its only reason for existing.

22. Austra: Olympia
I loved her from the moment she sang her first note in concert, so this set — however underwhelming or same-same — is still welcome.

Not Released in 2013 But Still Dominated My Life:

1. Ellie Goulding: Halcyon
Thank you, Skrillex, for breaking her heart, because this is a gigantic, emotional wubby ride.

2. Jessie Ware: Devotion
Pure, utter talent and class from this ’90s throwback queen.

Yeah, that’s right.  I only listed 24 albums.  Not 20.  Not 25.  I’m a rebel.  On to the songs…  These are the tracks that ruled my life for 12 months.  Ranking was tricky:  I based this purely on iTunes/iPod combined play count.  Not radio eargasms, not streaming on YouTube, not clicking “Back” to repeat a song and thus losing the extra count.  “Radioactive” should be higher.  Alas, it is a cruel world.  You all know how to use YouTube or whatever streaming-shit the kids are into these days, so I hope you don’t mind doing the leg work and searching for these yourself.  Embedding links?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My Favorite Songs of 2013:

1. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”
2. Coldplay, “Atlas”
3. how to destroy angels, “Strings and Attractors”
4. M83, “Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør)”
5. Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”
6. Lady Gaga, “Venus”
7. nine inch nails, “Came Back Haunted”
8. Linkin Park and Steve Aoki, “A Light That Never Comes”
9. Lorde, “Buzzcut Season”
10. Phoenix, “Entertainment”
11. Ylvis, “The Fox”
12. Empire of the Sun, “Celebrate”
13. Lady Gaga, “Applause”
14. Kylie Minogue, “Skirt”
15. Avicii, “Hey Brother”
16. Churchill, “Change”
17. Empire of the Sun, “Old Flavours”
18. Giorgio Moroder, “Racer”
19. KT Tunstall, “Made of Glass”
20. Naughty Boy, “LaLaLa (feat. Sam Smith)”
21. Tegan and Sara, “I Was A Fool”
22. Bruno Mars, “Moonshine”
23. Disclosure, “Latch (feat. Sam Smith)”
24. Queens of the Stone Age, “I Sat By The Ocean”
25. Bruno Mars, “Natalie”
26. Drake, “Hold On We’re Going Home”
27. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Thrift Shop”
28. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
29. OneRepublic, “Counting Stars”/”Preacher”/”Can’t Stop”
30. Kanye West, “I Am A God (feat. God)”/”Black Skinhead”
31. Katy Perry, “Roar”
32. Pitbull and Ke$ha, “Timber”
33. Sara Bareilles, “Brave”
34. Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”
35. Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive”
36. Sebastian Ingrosso & Tommy Trash, “Reload (feat. John Martin)”
37. Selena Gomez, “Come and Get It”
38. Frank Ocean, “Eyes Like Sky”
39. Lana Del Rey, “Summertime Sadness”

Year in Gigs:

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (with Har Mar Superstar), May 12, 2013, House of Blues
Smushed into the front row by a crowd of surprisingly aggressive and scary young people, I gave into the chaos for the first time in my life.  No panic attack.  No diving for safer waters.  No passive aggressive elbow jabs.  I lost my mind for over an hour, parts of me forever smeared onto my neighbors (and parts of them melded into me).  One of the best shows of my life.  And Karen O held my hand.  I mean, c’mon.  We’re done here.

Karen O is my halfie queen.

2. nine inch nails (with Godspeed You! Black Emperor), October 11, 2013, TD Garden
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of attending a “heavier” show with me, you know I get a little wild.  Whiplash-y, drool-y, oh-my-God-get-away-from-me NUTZ.  Well last time I saw NIN (in Beijing), I reached that peak of utter insanity and have yet to replicate it.  This night was close, but in a section where 99% of the fuckers sat down (SAT DOWN. AT A NIN CONCERT.) it was hard to completely lose it with a straight face.  Alas.  Trent titled the tour “Tension” — which he said refers to the bubbling tension seething underneath the surface of the newfound control that he’s putting on the group — whereas I saw it as “SEXUAL TENSION.”  Everything was funked up — he even has soul sistahs now! — and I wanted to just grind myself into the arena flap-chairs like a horny mongrel.  And they played rarities like “Even Deeper” and “Into The Void.“  Hunh… even deeper into the void…  MY VOID.

We’re so high up you can’t even see Trent. Just that blast of light.

3. Empire of the Sun, September 7, 2013, House of Blues
An utterly blissful experience of smiles and joy.  The crowd was one of the few that did not annoy me once (shocking, considering it was mostly EDM fuckface kids) — not a single time!  And the euphoria was capped off by show-closing “Alive” where we all jumped in unison, smiling at each other, and one guy stopped, turned around to me and gave me a high five.  Fuck yeah.

Empyreans Unite!

4. KT Tunstall, September 25, 2013, Somerville Theater
A girl and her guitar.  That’s all you really need with KT Tunstall.  Crowded into a small, intimate theater (playing Insidious 2 next door…), we enjoyed such a special evening with one of the most underrated, hilarious and embarrassingly talented singers in contemporary music.  I laughed, I cried, I made bird sounds (yes, there was a bird-call contest).

KT is my quarter-Canto goddess.

5. Queens of the Stone Age (with The Kills), December 13, 2013, Agganis Arena
You want a balls out rock and roll show?  Indeed.  There were whiplash guitars, soaring choruses and absolutely crushing riffs.  I’ve waited AGES to see these guys and it was perfect.  A smaller setting might have been nicer, but they’re too big now for little old me.

QOTSA Rocking Your Ass

6. how to destroy angels, April 27, 2013, House of Blues
Trent.  Twice in a year.  Is this real life?!!  For this experimental set — one of only a handful of shows that the band will perform, ever — it was all about the mood, the stage show and the experience of seeing Trent, his wife, and his creative team just bend your mind and melt your brain with ingenuity.  “NIN with female vox” as they are often described.  I was lucky just to be there.

Marital Bliss

7. Alt-J, March 3, 2013, Paradise
Glad I saw them when (and where) I did: they came back 5 months later and played the Bank of America Pavilion.  In this tiny space (one of my all-time faves), they brought their stunning debut to life.  Like how to destroy angels, this was for the experience.  You’ll never get to see them at such an intimate venue ever again.

8. Selena Gomez and Jason Derulo, June 30, 2013, City Hall Plaza
Happy birthday to me!  This was a radio show where we caught a bevy of pop hits in a short amount of (free!) time.  The day was most memorable NOT for Ms. Selenerrrrrr, but for a mid-set crowd panic-rush that brought back terrifying visions of the Marathon bombing.  It was just a giant brawl, but for a moment, we all thought it was something much, much worse.

See you again next year!

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NZY’s Best of 2013 (So Far)

And by “best” I just mean “my favorite” — since you and I both know that my tastes are eclectic and by no means the standard bearer for what is “best” of anything…  Disclaimer over, moving on…

2013 has been a year of massive releases (and massively underwhelming bombs).  Most of my favorite albums below have been accompanied by enough hype to drown them in outrageous expectations.  Most had to resort to very creative rollout campaigns to drum up interest.  And I’m happy to say that most managed to deliver on my crazy hopes.  For every album that really didn’t hit me like I wanted it to (see: Justin Timberlake, The Strokes), there was an album that I was so looking forward to that just rewarded me for being such a patient little fan (see: QOTSA, Daft Punk).  There’s some that have been overlooked in the glut of giant releases (see: The National, Vampire Weekend).  There’s still plenty I haven’t gotten around to (see: KT Tunstall) and one very big album coming in September that will likely shake-up the current Top 3 (see: NIN).  In any case, here are my favorite albums of the year, so far.  The top spot might surprise you.

 

10. DisclosureSettle
Key tracks: “Latch” — “White Noise” — “Simulation”
Sounds like: early ’90s techno; Bjork c. Debut; shopping at Uniqlo

 

09. Tegan and SaraHeartthrob
Key tracks: “I Was A Fool” — “Closer” — “Now I’m All Messed Up”
Sounds like: bopping your way through heartbreak with a Trapper Keeper; the ’80s, with better production values

 

08. how to destroy angelsWelcome Oblivion
Key tracks: “Strings and Attractors” — “How Long?” — “Welcome Oblivion”
Sounds like: nine inch nails — at its most atmospheric and experimental — with a female singer

 

07. Bruno MarsUnorthodox Jukebox
Key tracks:  “Natalie” — “Moonshine” — “Young Girls” — “When I Was Your Man” — “Treasure”
Sounds like: the best jukebox at the coolest diner that never existed

 

06. Ellie GouldingHalcyon
Key tracks: “Hanging On” — “Figure 8” — “Only You” — “Anything Could Happen” — “My Blood”
Sounds like: heartbreak on the dancefloor; ethereal dirges; something that should have been on my best of 2012 list… (because I’m aware this came out last year but I just got addicted to it this year, so whatever)

 

05. Yeah Yeah YeahsMosquito
Key tracks: “Buried Alive (Feat. Dr. Octagon)” — “Mosquito” — “Area 52” — “Under the Earth” — “Sacrilege” — “Despair”
Sounds like: creepy crawly subterranean glam punk

04. Kanye WestYeezus
Key tracks: “On Sight” — “New Slaves” — “I Am A God” — “Black Skinhead” — “Bound 2” — “Send It Up”
Sounds like: internal conflict; disgusting, violent and hateful shit set over amazing production; anger

 

03. Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork
Key tracks: every single song, except “Fairweather Friends”
Sounds like:  a dark, grimy joyride through a sexually depraved and gritty part of a dystopian downtown you pray you don’t break down in…

 

02. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
Key tracks: “Get Lucky” — “Giorgio By Moroder” — “Instant Crush” — “Touch” — “Fragments of Time” — “Contact” — “Lose Yourself to Dance”
Sounds like: the most sensually seductive robots creeping up on you after a long night out; interplanetary porn music

 

01. Empire of the SunIce on the Dune
Key tracks: “DNA” — “Awakening” — “Surround Sound” — “I’ll Be Around” — “Celebrate” — “Old Flavours” — “Disarm” — “Concert Pitch” — “Ice on the Dune”
Sounds like: the best dance record of the year; pure joy and elation

 

See you in January for the thrilling conclusion…

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Playlist: March 2013

Jeez, another month blew by.  ONE FISCAL QUARTER.  And now we’re a few days into April and I haven’t even updated you on my March listenings yet…  You — all one or two of you, bless your hearts — must have been so anxious to see what I’ve been feeding into my ear tubes.  Fear not, for I have risen.  Let’s go!

[Remember: we’re going for play count here….  No cheating!]

 

1. how to destroy angels – “Strings and Attractors
This song sounds like something off The Fragile (by way of Year Zero), which is alright in my book because The Fragile is secretly my favorite NIN album (sorry, Downward Spiral, you’re still technically the “best”).  I cannot wait to hear this in concert.  House of Blues, 4/27!  Gah!

2. Phoenix – “Entertainment
Argh, conflicted!  Why?  This is the chinkiest-sounding shit I’ve ever heard, and yet…. YET…. it’s so goddamned catchy!  Like, earworm-cannot-be-dislodged-from-brain catchy.  Bound to be in the Top 10 Songs of 2013.  And the video is a ridonkulous, high art homage (yes, I’m calling it an homage) to Korean dramas.  A+, you French bastards.

3. Rihanna – “Lost In Paradise
I know, I’m supposed to be punishing her for going back to Breezy, but no.  I love this song (thank you H&M in-store music, as always). Her “darker” tracks are always my favorites and I’m assuming this is the dark horse of Unapologetic.  Sounds like it’d fit nicely on Rated R (my favorite RiRi album).  Hum along.

4. Bruno Mars – “Moonshine
My favorite track off his latest album (if you remember, my album of February).  As my sister said, “This would be your favorite.”  Totally.  Funky beat, driving rhythm… reminds me of my favorite Alan Parsons Project shit (sorry for this obscure, embarrassing and problematically incorrect point of reference).  It’s cool, it’s catchy.

5. Fall Out Boy – “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)
They’re back!!!!  I didn’t realize how much I missed them (I’m really serious, sue me) or their pretentiously laughable song titles (are we still LiveJournaling, bros?).  This stadium-banger is wielding a killer chorus and it’s just…agh, I miss 2005!  I’m so surprised by my love for this song that I’ll just stop here.  I’m on fiiii-yaaaaaaaah!

6. Usher & Diplo – “Go Missin‘”
I’ve been sitting on this since February.  It’s a slow burner.  So smooth, so hypnotic.  He’s so into the electronic thing these days that it’s no surprise to hear this style song, but without him worrying about filling a dance floor with insane high energy shit, he can utilize that smooth-ass voice of his.  Mmmm mmm, smoove.

7. Alt-J – “Estocada” (aka “Something Good”)
Sorry, Alt-J.  They’re at the butt-end of my 2012 Albums list and, you know what, they should be in the Top 3 or 5, at least.  I saw them in March for the first show of their current US tour.  It was amazing.  This song in particular — already one of my faves off the album — was infused with so much ass-kickery in a live setting that I can’t stop listening to it.  They’re so good and so few people know about them… there’s still time to get into them before you’re accused of bandwagoning.  Get with it!

8. Junip – “Your Life, Your Call
In a year packed full with highly anticipated albums (Strokes, JT, NIN, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire, YYYs), I am so surprised that Junip just popped out of nowhere and into my life.  I cannot wait to hear the rest of this album.  Jose Gonzalez singing without his usual acoustic accompaniment + 2 guys who play instruments = this.  I’ll be damned, but I think I might be more into it that both the new Strokes and JT combined.  Great job, Junip boys.

9. Youngblood Hawke – “We Come Running
This song has been out forever, right?  I’ve heard it on the radio for months, but have just finally let it into my heart.  It’s happy, it’s catchy.  It’s like a lamer version of a fun. anthem mixed with some old pop-punk-emo aesthetic.  It makes me happy.

10. Demi Lovato – “Heart Attack
Damn, girl.  When I first heard it, I was like, “Ugh this is so generic and boring.”  And then I couldn’t get it out of my head (especially that “chorus”!)  So there you have it, I will just embrace this.  The lyrics are dumb, most of the song really is quite generic, but damn… that “ataaaAAAAAaaaAAAAAAK” is money.  Pure money.

And finarry, the latest from Stephen Frost.  This one’s a rocker and *might* be my favorite off his current album project.

Damn.  Looking back on this list — I’m listening to some pretty poppy shit these days!  And you know what?  It’s only going to get worse as the weather gets better.  Every year — without fail — my winters are filled with quiet, profound, introspective, and sometimes dark stuff.  But once the windows can roll down and my limbs can be freed from their fabric-layer prisons, it’s on.  But what about album of the month!?  Wrote about it already.  Yeah, it grew on me.  how to destroy angels.  Go tell your mom about it.

 

 

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Playlist: February 2013

February is a short month, but seriously, this year is pretty much almost over.  So while I prepare for April (at this rate, March is already done), here’s what I was blasting out of my boombox this month.

[Same note as last month: I’m going by iTunes play count, so I can’t be a weasel…]

<> on April 13, 2012 in Indio, California.

1. Frank Ocean – “Eyes Like Sky
Good Lord on high, this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.  These LYRICS.  The soft acoustic number reminds me of something from the early ’90s that would have fit nicely on the “grown up” stations (alongside Des’ree and Tracy Chapman or something).  Don’t let that fool you.  I tear up every time I hear this part:

I said I wish you could see the ocean/He said I wish you could see hope
I said have you ever seen a mountain?/He said no but my faith can move those
I said I wish you could see the stars/
He told me I should see love”

*Neil rips out heart strings* D:

He delivers it with such aching sincerity that I should just stop writing the rest of this list because I haven’t stopped listening to this song for about a week.

2. Taio Cruz – “Higher” (feat. Kylie Minogue)
Anything (ANYTHING) that “features” Kylie Minogue is guaranteed to be good.  Because Kylie Minogue.  (Editor’s note: for all of you hipsters scoffing and rolling your eyes, go listen to “Where the Wild Roses Grow“, her duet with Nick Cave.  And then shut the fuck up.)  It’s upbeat Euro-pop and, even though it came out in 2010, my sister just discovered it and we loves it, precious.  Like Usher, but less skeevy and trying-too-hard.  [Note: the US version has Travie McCoy… hahahahahahahahahaha, I don’t even know what to say to that….]

3. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Thrift Shop” (feat. Wanz)
Yeah, Neil finally joined 2013.  I was so resistant to this song for months but then I finally listened to it all the way through (it’s on the radio every few minutes).  The Nate Dogg-ripoff chorus hooked me.  Then I read the lyrics and, after LOL’ing for a while (FYI, R. Kelly’s sheets smell like “pissssssssssssssssssssssss”), I decided that I liked the message (This validates my unabashed love of secondhand shops).  In his defense, I love the throwback early ’90s vibe.  And his other songs are surprisingly thoughtful.  I’ve been schooled.  This is fucking AWWWWSUMMMMMMM.

4. Azealia Banks – “Harlem Shake
I know, I know… just like #3 above, this is racially divisive and played out.  Cry me a river.  Bauuer’s version is pretty boring (I still think that the best of the meme videos improve the song, i.e. the Matt & Kim BESTCONCERTEVERHOLYSHIT); Azealia’s rap gives it a ton of aggressive grit and, frankly, cred.

5. The Pierces – “You’ll Be Mine
This hot sister duo made of my favorite records of ’07, the catchy and witty-as-fuck Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge.  Coldplay’s hot bassist handles instrumentation on the 2011 album that spawned this track (You & I).  It’s not as immature, playful and sarcastic as Thirteen Tales, instead sounding like earnest adult stuff, much in the vein of recent KT Tunstall.

6. Stephen Frost – “All The Lovely Things
Playful.  Cabaret.  Whistling.  Tap-dancing.  FRENCH.  This is the song they played in the saloon from the MJ/McCartney video for “Say, Say, Sayafter Michael, Paul and Linda continued on their quack-journey.  My favorite track so far.  Good job, kid.

7. Justin Timberlake – “Suit and Tie” (feat. Jay-Z)
Hey, did you hear JT is back?  Of course you did.  This was in heavy rotation at the start of the month (I actually liked it!) but it’s getting so played out that I don’t really care anymore.  I’m not even getting tickets for the Legends of Summer throwdown at Fenway.  Whatever.  In regards to this song, I’ll let my mother handle my thoughts:

“Wow, this is so nice!  They need to bring back music like this….  Mmm, nice!”  Continues dancing.  Jay-Z abruptly jumps in.  “No.  Oh no.  Now it’s ruined.  Whyyyyy’d they have to do that?!???”  Stops dancing.

I love Jay, but his verse is so jarring and distracting that it loses me.  T.I. is a perfect compliment to JT.  He should be brought back.

8. Marina and the Diamonds – “E.V.O.L.”
Another clever kiss-off/fuck-you to love.  She is unstoppable.  This b-side would fit nicely on her first album, but it boasts the slick production from her latest.  I had this shit on repeat for days, so I’m not sure why it’s all the way at #8.  It should be at #5.  Blast this one, jilted guys and gals.

9. MS MR – “Bones
“OHMYGOD, IT’S THE GAME OF THRONES SONG!!!!!!”  Thank you, GoT s3 trailer.  This song is gloriously dark and grim.  Bits of Florence.  Bits of Bat for Lashes.  Flourishes of orchestral strings, gut-booming drums and spooky wailing.  So good.  Their EP is only $2.99 on iTunes.  Check it out.

10. Olly Murs – “Troublemaker” (feat. Flo Rida)
Yeah, this isn’t Maroon 5.  I know you thought it was Adam, but you are mistaken.  Being an Olly fan for a couple years now (Murs hipster!), this is a jarring shift from his fun, throwback British Pop (not Britpop) that ranged from Robbie Williams to One Direction to Estelle.  This is clearly THE big grab for the US market.  If you haven’t heard it on the radio yet, you will.  Oh you will.
Album of the Month

January belonged to Tegan and Sara.  Their pop breakthrough is untouchable and beloved by critics, ensuring you’ll be hearing about it until next January when all the 2013 lists come out (this one included).  My February record is from 2012, but I just got it (thanks HEG).  It’s so effortlessly good that it’s criminal.

Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox
My favorite tracks are “Moonshine,” “Natalie” and “Money Make Her Smile” (the bass line on that track is filthy good).  This album drips throwback, whether it’s of the Michael Jackson variety (“Natalie” is “Dirty Diana”/”Billy Jean” 2013.  The chorus reminds me of this, for some reason) or old fashioned ’50s doo-wop pop rock (“If I Knew“).  It’s all short too, clocking in at less than 40 minutes.  Way to leave us wanting more, Bruno.  It’s split into two personalities: the earnest, less bombastic tracks (“Young Girls“, “When I Was Your Man” and my aforementioned favorites) and then there’s the party-starting jams.  From the ridiculous lyrically-NSFW sexcapades of “Gorilla” and daft funk of “Treasure” to the ubiquitous “Locked Out of Heaven” and the reggae smoke track, “Show Me.”  Like the eponymous machine from the title, this album plays like a selection of greatest hits from decades long passed.  This little guy is awesome.

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2012 Mixtape: My Favorite Songs of the Year

2012 songs

2012 was an amazing year for music.  I haven’t had such a good year since 2009… and 2006 before that.  Is this some kind of Every-3-Years trend?!  There was just so much goodness to go around that compiling this list gave me such a glut of songs that I’ve decided — for your sake — to break it up into categories.  Let the ADD commence!

My 2012 Mixtape: The Best of the Best

What constitutes “the best of the best”?  Well since tastes differ, let’s just say this is not a list of songs I — his royal highness — deem to be the best musical output of 2012.  These are simply my personal favorites.  The ones that drove the play count on my iTunes and iPod through the roof (before my computer crashed and I lost everything).  The ones I never skip on random shuffle.  The ones that I’m still listening to with relish, however many months after they were released.  The ones that’ll remind me of 2012.

  1. Muse – “Madness” – perhaps their finest love song, took forever to grow on me, but it’s worth every single listen *just* to hear that final “I need your love” wail.  Shivers.
  2. No Doubt – “Push and Shove” – on an otherwise OK album, this clear standout is an epic jam that sounds like an old ND reggae-ska tune had a baby with some watered-down dubstep babydaddy.
  3. David Guetta feat. Lil’ Wayne and That-Piece-of-Shit – “I Can Only Imagine” – God help me, I do not allow anything with Chris Brown onto my personal devices, but this fucking song is just the best dance track of the year, morals be damned.  If you’re ever stuck in traffic next to me while this song is playing, bring protection from all the awesomeness. Breezy you win this round.
  4. The Killers – “Runaways” – this just reminds me of the 80s: bad leather, big chorused power pop, lame cowboy vibe.  Like “Madness,” this took a while to grow on me, but then it never let go.  So pretentious and grand.
  5. Frank Ocean – “Pyramids” – the most epic song of 2012.  Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, it’s basically 2 songs for 1.  The first half, a space-funk odyssey about Cleopatra, is the shiiiiiiiit.  Part Prince, part Gap Band.  The second half is a blissed-out jam about strippers at the Pyramid. This will go down as one of my favorite songs of all time.  Fuck, it’s good.
  6. Florence and the Machine – “No Light, No Light” – and now we’re at the 2nd most epic song of 2012.  Majestic and grand, the full gospel of Flo at max power.  Her sustained note at the end is enough to send me over the edge of fanatical bliss.
  7. Phillip Phillips – “Home” – who would have thought an American Idol winner would have one of the best songs of 2012?  It’s sweet, uplifting, heartfelt and perfectly plain.
  8. PSY – “Gangnam Style” – yeah, it’s in my top 10.  Suck it.  Inexplicably, against all laws of nature, I am not sick of this song yet.  Destined (doomed?) to go down in history as THE one-hit wonder of 2012 (sorry Carly Rae), it’s world’s better than previous title-holder, “Macarena.” God bless this chubby Korean hero: he broke K-Pop into the American masses.  Something Rain, Girls Generation, Wonder Girls and Super Junior failed to do.
  9. Metric – “Breathing Underwater” – blissed out indie-pop with one of my favorite choruses of 2012.  “Is this my life, or am I breathing underwater?”  What does it MEAN???  I couldn’t tell you, but all I know is that I feel the same way as Emily Haines.  Love. This. Song.
  10. Linkin Park – “Powerless” – this is basically the “Numb” or “In The End” of their recent album, Living Things.  In typical genius LP fashion, it’s catchy, brooding, full of despair, pianos and sound effects, and you can totally sing along to it.  I played the shit out of this track.
  11. Usher – “Scream” – I first heard this song on SNL.  I jumped off my sofa, turned the volume up and proceeded to have a midnight dance party in my pajamas.  This song gets my blood pumping in all kinds of nasty ways.  Dance pop perfection.
  12. Kelly Clarkson – “Dark Side” – in a year full of dark female pop songs, this was my queen.  Katy Perry, Pink and Rihanna had great ones too, but Kelly brings the catchy melody like no other.  I’ll boldly put this at #2 behind Breakaway for best KClark albums.
  13. Of Monsters and Men – “Little Talks” – what’s that?  You remember I told you about them back in February?  Yeah you did.  I first heard this gem on WFNX (RIP) and bought tickets to their first Boston concert about 1 minute after first listen.  It’s great to discover a new band.
  14. Joshua Ledet – “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” – this blew me the fuck away.  Just listen to it.  Those notes he hits at the end?  Yeah, I just came too.  What a force.  This is his song now.
  15. fun. – “Some Nights” – it took forever, but I finally succumbed to fun.  We all need an anthem.  This is grand post-emo goodness via Queen and hip-hop production.  I love fun.
  16. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” – in late December and early January, this was my JAM.  Over the year, it was relegated to the sidelines.  But a song this catchy and rollicking deserves a spot in my coveted list.  Try NOT shaking your ass to this song, you statue.
  17. Ellie Goulding – “Lights” – when the hell did this song come out?  Last year?  Two years ago?  First time I heard Ellie was in an H&M in Tokyo in 2010, when this album was out.  But it’s #1 in the US this year?  I’m so confused.  Whatever, it’s amazing.  The bridge between her debut and her 2012 dub-fluenced opus.
  18. Coldplay & Rihanna – “Princess of China” – you know how I feel about this song.  The collision of worlds results in a perfect song, full of yearning, pain and passion.
  19. The Rolling Stones – “Doom and Gloom” – these geriatric motherfuckers still rock harder than 99% of the younger dudes in the business right now.  They haven’t written a song this good in decades.  Welcome back, boys.
  20. Maroon 5 – “One More Night” – my pleas to Ryan Murphy for a Glee mash-up of this song and Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” have been heretofore ignored, but a boy can dream.  I hated this song at first, but hot damn, after a few listens, it’s revealed itself to be one of M5’s best songs.  Oh Adam, how you slay us.
  21. Alt-J – “Fitzpleasure” – thank you, iTunes free single of the week.  This Mercury Prize (i.e. the UK’s best album of the year) winner is a weird and funky number that fans of Hot Chip and Battles might enjoy.  One commenter said it sounds like Adam Sandler, because it’s total gobbledygook nonsense (seriously, that link above is to the lyric video.  WTF?!).  That ruined it for a couple seconds…then that deep dirty groove hooked me right back in.  Gloriously weird.
  22. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – “Dear Believer” – these freaknik hippie weirdos make music that bring me back to ’60s SoCal (because I was totally there).  Lush, warm and soothing. It’s the sound of love.  “Reaching for heaven is what I’m on earth to do.”  Amen.
  23. The Shins – “Simple Song” – like “Breathing Underwater,” this track bore to my core on the strength of a simple lyric: “I know that things can really get rough/when you go in alone. Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough/and bleed like a stone.”  Again, it just speaks to me.
  24. Pink – “Try” – hot damn, what power.  And did you see that video???  Pink’s artistic integrity can’t be fucked with now.  It’s tough.  It’s pretty.  It’s so…Pink.
  25. Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven” – I’m never a fan of such obvious sex reference, but hot damn, this Police +  MJ’s “Beat It” tune is a party starter.   Watch the live performance to add a little kick to your step.
  26. Ingrid Michaelson – “End of the World” – a love song for the zombie apocalypse.
  27. Karmin – “Brokenhearted” – I hated them at first.  Everything said “annoying poser fakes!”  Despite the fact that they live in Brookline.  Despite the fact that their music is really catchy.  Cred be damned, I Love This Song.  One of the few tracks that have survived the entire year.
  28. Ke$ha – “Die Young” – didn’t like it at first, and then I watched the AMA performance where – *gasp!* – I saw that she could really sing.  And banging on giant drums ALWAYS wins me over.  Less obnoxious than her previous output, I can actually see her growing as an *gasp!* artist.
  29. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe” – don’t fight it.  It’s one of the best pop songs ever.  Get over it.
  30.  Lana Del Rey – “Blue Jeans” – I’ll defend her to the end.  This song is pure audio sex.

Neil’s 2012 Playlists: The Best of the Rest

DANCE PARTY!:

  1. Nicki Minaj – Va Va Voom/Starships
  2. Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch – Sweet Nothing
  3. Rihanna – Where Have You Been?
  4. Havana Brown and Pitbull – We Run The Night

The P-Word (“Pop”):

  1. Katy Perry – Wide Awake
  2. One Direction – One Thing
  3. Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire
  4. Carrie Underwood – Blown Away

Played The Fuck Out (But I Still Like It):

  1. Gotye and Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know
  2. Maroon 5 – One More Night
  3. Rihanna – Diamonds
  4. Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time
  5. Ellie Goulding – Lights
  6. Neon Trees – Everybody Talks
  7. PSY – Gangnam Style
  8. Usher – Scream
  9. Taylor Swift – We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together
  10. fun. – Some Nights
  11. Phillip Phillips – Home
  12. Bruno Mars – Locked Out Of Heaven
  13. Flo Rida feat. Sia – Wild Ones

WUBWUBWUBWUBWUB: The Best Dubstep Infections of the Year

  1. Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble
  2. Ellie Goulding – Hanging On
  3. Justin Bieber – As Long As You Love Me
  4. Muse – Follow Me/Unsustainable
  5. Alex Clare – Too Close

Rock Isn’t Dead (Yet):

  1. The Black Keys – Gold On The Ceiling
  2. Linkin Park – Burn It Down
  3. Gary Clark Jr. – Numb/Ain’t Messin’ Around
  4. Beasto Blanco – Breakdown
  5. The Parlor Mob – Into the Sun
  6. Kaiser Chiefs – Little Shocks
  7. Frank Turner – I Still Believe
  8. Foxy Shazaam – I Like It
  9. Jack White – 16 Saltines

Rock Songs That Made Me Cry

  1. The Killers – Here With Me
  2. The Black Keys – Little Black Submarine
  3. Coldplay – Up In Flames
  4. Muse – Madness
  5. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Dear Believer
  6. The Shins – Simple Song

Alt/Indie/Whateverthefuck

  1. Bat for Lashes – Oh Yeah
  2. Connor Youngblood – The Warpath
  3. Keane – Silenced By The Night
  4. Snow Patrol – Called Out In The Dark
  5. Paul Banks (Interpol) – The Base
  6. Metric – Youth Without Youth
  7. Garbage – Sugar
  8. Charli XCX – Nuclear Seasons
  9. Santigold – Big Mouth

Songs That ALWAYS Make Me Change The Station

  1. Ed Sheeran – The A Team
  2. Chris Brown – Don’t Wake Me Up
  3. The Lumineers – Ho Hey
  4. Imagine Dragons – It’s Time

The Year In Disappointment (i.e. Albums I Should Have Loved But Didn’t)

  1. Garbage – Not Your Kind of People
  2. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
  3. Keane – Strangeland
  4. how to destroy angels – An Omen
  5. Scissor Sisters – Magic Hour
  6. Tori Amos – Gold Dust
  7. Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix
  8. Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval
  9. Madonna – MDNA
  10. The Cranberries – Roses
  11. G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer

Most Overrated (a.k.a. We Won’t Remember You In 2013)

  1. Sleigh Bells
  2. Azalea Banks
  3. Grimes

Favorite Remixes (That Made The Originals Better)

1. Gotye and KimbraSomebody That I Used To Know (DJ Mike D)

Add a deceptively simple beat and change the song entirely.  This is the one they play on the pop stations that you can’t find anywhere.

2. Rita OraR.I.P. (Delta Heavy remix)

Add screaming digital machine-gun blasts to bring a mediocre R&B-step song into Skrillex territory.  The drop is so spine-tingling on this one…I can’t even.

3. Lana Del ReyBlue Jeans (Penguin Prison remix)

Add a sexy New Wave synth beat to an already sexy track and you’ve got something so good it was added to the deluxe re-edition of the album.

4. Ellie GouldingFigure 8 (Alias Radio Edit)

Less dubstep, more house.  More untz-untz, less wubwubwub.  This old man prefers dancing the night away rather than getting mosh-raped to death by drugged-out bros.  Always.

Favorite Movie Tunes

1. Adele – “Skyfall” (Skyfall)

When’s the last time a song made a movie better, and vice versa?  A huge track.

2. Neil Finn and Howard Shore – “Song of the Lonely Mountain” (The Hobbit)

Chills.  Absolute chills.

3. Mary J. Blige and Julianne Hough – “Harden My Heart” (Rock of Ages)

In a movie filled with lots of Glee-style singalong karaoke, Mary J. comes in and pulls a Mercedes, absolutely destroying everyone else with her sheer power and depth.  The chills just shoot out of me when she steps on the scene at 1:24.

4. Linkin Park – “Powerless” (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)

Best part of the movie.  For many of you, that will make the perception of the movie that much worse.

5. AKB48 – “Sugar Rush” (Wreck-It Ralph)

Not only one of the best movies of the year, but also one of the best musical credit endings ever.  I was already on a nostalgia high from the film; this just kicked everything into overdrive.

6. Arcade Fire – “Abraham’s Daughter” (The Hunger Games)

If this brooding, intense song doesn’t put you in the right kind of fuzzy mood to kill kids weaker than you and slaughter for survival, then please, you can make a run for the cornucopia first.  Thanks.

 

Up next: Favorite videos, favorite moments and…. FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2012.

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