Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds of 2012

I’m always a little fascinated by end-of-year lists. First off, I love them. I love the manic rush behind them. There’s a strange sense that some kind of door is closing and we have a rapidly shrinking opportunity to backtrack and squeeze in everything that was good about the year into December’s remaining weeks. If you missed Jack White’s album Blunderbuss, get it now or don’t bother because it won’t exist in 2013.

In the middle of this frenzy, The Musically Inclined tries to keep it simple. The premise of this list is that you’ve already read all about Kendrick Lamar and whomever else, and the Shins are great but we’ve had them a while. There’s a lot of good stuff out there. These are songs carefully collected over the past twelve months that meet the following criteria:

1. Any artist or band TMI hadn't listened to before January '12.
2. Songs have to have a stick factor to survive the year. Catchy? Bouncy? Quirky? Sure, but mostly they just have to be solid. Doesn't hurt to be fun and mildly screwy, either.

Sound good? Hopefully there are some tunes in here you’ll enjoy or reconsider before... the end. Totally kidding. Here's the Spotify playlist. Scroll on.

1. This Girl : Punch Brothers

The first time I heard Who’s Feeling Young Now?, this was the song that brought me back for multiple subsequent listens. With quirky stringed flourishes and a clever story about a backslider praying to win the heart of a church-going girl, “This Girl” exemplifies the many reasons why bluegrass outfit the Punch Brothers breathes new life into an old genre. Few others play with the precision and zest necessitated by both the tradition of their genre and the spirit of their youth.

2. Everybody Knows : Vacationer

Summer came early this year, and even if the thermometers refused to wise up, Vacationer’s debut album Gone got us through the last throes of winter and straight into some Polaroid your dad took at the beach in 1970. Popping, crackling, looping, and dreamily drifting off, “Everybody Knows” should have shut down all other attempts to make summer music this year.

3. Something Good : Alt-J

A local disc jockey recently compared lead singer Joe Newman’s voice to Adam Sandler. He was right. And yet, with this uncomfortable detail in mind, we listen on. Alt-J generated a buzz storm circa CMJ for their strange can’t-look-away blend of folk and (what is it?). “Something Good” is dark and gorgeous, shifting and flowing to different places, teasing you to listen again to figure out what it is.

4. Generals : The Mynabirds

From the dirty guitars to the vocals both sultry and defiant, “Generals” channels great strength. This track roars.

5. The House That Heaven Built : Japandroids

Japandroids gave us one of the most energetic, flat out joyous records of the year. “The House That Heaven Built” best exemplifies their exuberance. Favorite lyric: “If they try to slow you down, tell ‘em all to go to hell.”

6. Jonti : Wild Cub

Keegan DeWitt is no stranger to the list, which might violate rule no.1, but I’m ignoring that because Wild Cub is DeWitt plus fellow Nashville musician Jeremy Bullock. And "Jonti" is awesome. The song retains all the cool sounds and spunk that landed “Say La La” on the list a few years back. Danceable and worth many listens.

7. Bright Whites : Kishi Bashi

You’ve probably heard this song on commercials pushing Windows 8 (surprisingly not an Apple product because it’s just that kind of song.) It’s upbeat, catchy and hand-clappy. Almost enough to make you consider buying a PC. Almost.

8. Time to Run : Lord Huron

For a while I made some kind of wrong assumption about Lord Huron, expecting their music to be inaccessible and meandering, like Bon Iver gone wrong. I couldn’t really tell you why. Instead what I found was a wonderfully rustic album, Lonesome Dreams. This song in particular moves and shuffles in the most appealing way.

9. Is Your Love Big Enough : Lianne La Havas

I love La Havas’s full sound. The song alternates between slinking and swelling. If you caught her on Letterman a week or two ago, she’s a pretty decent guitar player too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that some serious attention will come her way in 2013.

10. I Love It : Icona Pop

Trashy and I love it. You should too.

Well, that's it. See above for the Spotify playlist and happy listening. 

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