Another year is coming to an end. I've found the 25 songs that I've dug the most this year. There are plenty of gaps in my listening experience, I acknowledge this freely. I like what I like. There have been some disappointments, some pleasant enough records that did not make the cut (Sorry Aimee Mann) and some dull as dishwater material - and I'm looking at you in that case Mumford & Sons. I've put in a few direct links and embedded some of the songs I really like. Most of these you can find on YouTube, as I have.
1) Andrew Bird - Eyeoneye. Something about this guy makes him lead off my year end lists, I do not know what it is. What I do know is the man does not see the same color of the sky that we do, and that's ok.
2) The Shins - Simple Song. There are about two good songs on Port of Morrow. This is one of them. Listen to the rest at your own risk. This song though, full of great hooks. Not sure what happened with the other ten songs on the record.
3) Carole King - Pleasant Valley Sunday. One of the best records of the year is a collection of demos that are over forty years old. She's a legend, and this collection of songs she wrote hammer that point home.
4) Katzenjammer - I Will Dance (When I Walk Away) A lovely Norwegian quartet of ladies who play their own instruments and often switch in the middle of performances. Super tight harmonies. See for yourself here!
5) Los ZappinG - Cine Mudo. I like the aggressiveness of this song. First heard via The Music Alliance Pact. They're from Lima, Peru. You can see a video here.
6) The Hives - Come On! Best lyrics of the year. And the song is perfect in length.
7) P.S. I Love You - Sentimental Dishes. I love this song. Starts out with a riff straight out of Quadrophenia. The drummer tries really, really hard to play like Keith Moon. Then the lead is nicked from an Altered Images song. This duo from Kingston, Ontario is having a lot of fun in the darkness. You can watch them play this live here.
8) The Bombay Royale - You Me Bullets Love. Bollywood surf punk by way of Melbourne, Australia. This record gets a bit tiring but is great to hear in small, diverse doses.
9) M.I.A. - Bad Girls. It has a great riff and a video with a random Alfa Romeo. I'm sold on this one.
10) Rufus Wainwright - Jericho. He swung for the fences here, bringing in Mark Ronson as producer to try and achieve some mainstream success. Did not quite work. Had one cute video with Helena Bonham Carter as a sexy as hell librarian but it never caught on. I'm partial this song because his voice is sexy as hell. I like a planet that has this man on it, making music that more people should be hearing. He does it on The Artists' Den here.
11) Beach House - Myth. Yes, I bought into the dream pop here. It's a nice song. Really. Hate on her for calling her Nico with no pitch, but that ain't true!
12) French Wives - Younger. This Glasgow band might make some waves in the coming years. (Oh, and look out for Frightened Rabbit in 2013) Tight musicianship and some sweeping arrangements give them an edge over a bunch of Arcade Fire soundalikes.
13) First Aid Kit - Bill got me on to this group early this year and it's been interesting seeing them start to blow up. They're Swedish teenage sisters and they write and play like they're from West Virginia. I'm not sure their songwriting skills are close to par yet, but they have plenty of time to improve their craft. This song is devastatingly good.
14) Emile Sande - Next to Me. Hanif turned me on to this Scottish singer/songwriter early this year and I was stunned. She's got the goods. A look, great voice and she writes her own stuff. Pretty major in the UK, she played the Olympics but not much of a factor in this part of the world yet. She's a heck of a lot better than Janelle Monae, and I really liked her record. She did this song on Jools Holland.
15) Jack White - Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy. I was no fan of the White Stripes, was put out by the mystique and image they projected. Yet, they did have a few epic tunes, one that's become a soccer chant. I was very impressed with White's solo work. Very complete. Very respectful to his influences. His image as a control freak is eccentric. I do not think he's hurting anyone. He can keep doing his own thing.
16) Vintage Trouble - Blues Hand Me Down. My Facebook friend Sarah linked to this song last week and I became an instant fan. Really, bought the music off iTunes and everything. Otis Redding backed by Cream or something. The energy is amazing. The lead singer, Ty Taylor, has the motts. What's really cool is that they're opening for The Who, and we were already going in February. Can't. Wait.
17) Jimmy Cliff - Outsider. Never been much of a reggae person, but when I saw Cliff was working with the band Rancid on this record I had to give it a try. This may be my favorite record of the year. At 64, Cliff's been recharged by his new collaborators and it shows in the performances I've seen him do on YouTube. Highly recommended.
18) Tom Jones - Hit or Miss. He's still going. I call him the King of Pop. The voice is still holding on. The man is 72. You try doing what he does. He's kicking the asses of performers half his age. Slowing down to him is being able to service two women a night instead of five.
19) Susanna Hoffs - Raining. Wearing one of my shirts, not much else. Sitting on my bed, or in my kitchen, or on the living room floor - playing this song. Hey, she finally covered Go All the Way after years of my pleadings, anything can happen. She has already played it on some lucky bastard's patio.
20) Bill Fay - This World. I do not know much about this guy other than he is sixty nine years old, has worked with Wilco and has a cult following. Life is People is his first record in over 40 years. It's one of the most honest and life affirming records I've heard in a long time. It's tone is rather positive in the midst of some rather bleak songs. He's dueling with Jeff Tweedy on this song. Here's the official video.
21) Sinead O'Connor - Queen of Danmark. It's a damn shame her health and personal issues have been more prominent than her voice over the course of her career because she is mega-talented. Always has been. If you blinked after reading about her marriage, you probably missed her latest record. It's very good, and this song is both powerful and darkly funny. Reminiscent of Last Day of Our Acquaintance, this song was written by John Grant and is a fantastic cover.
22) Meursault - Lament for a Teenage Millionaire. I keep getting pulled in by Neil Pennycook's vocals. They haunt the shit out of me. The song arrangement by this Edinburgh band are a bit odd, but they put real emotions into them. Sometimes I am reminded of David Byrne, sometimes I'm weirded out, but never enough to shut the record off. LaBlogotheque got this excellent performance out of them.
23) Cait Brennan - (link to video, embed) Madame Pompadour - One of my favorite songs this year comes from my friend Cait. I've known her for about ten years through Live Journal when she and I shared many comments in the wee hours back in the day when my son never slept. We've never met. Cait's been working on her music in Phoenix and has worked very hard. She put this song out there on Valentine's Day, her birthday, and it is such a wonderful gift from her. It's a lovely poppy little jangle tune than will leave you smiling and in this case me putting some of her lyrics into the subject heading of this blog post. Here's the video. Enjoy.
24) Beach Boys - Pacific Coast Highway. I'm glad the guys could keep it together for one record before Mike fired the band just as the tour was ending. It did not suck, they still sing beautifully. The songs were a bit weak, save this one, which is quite honest and reflective.
24) Bruce Springsteen - Land of Hope and Dreams. Yes, I broke up with Bruce right after the horrid Magic. But you got to give the man another chance and he stepped up his game with Wrecking Ball. He wrote this one because he wanted to, not to spec the way The Rising was. And Bruce has things to talk about. Things in this country he is seeing that he does not like, and he nails people to the wall. On this song he completely freaked me out. I gasped when Clarence Clemons' last recorded sax solo came up. I do not gasp much for anything these days. Damn, I needed that.
If you're interested in a hard copy, hit me up via email. The DCMA blocked me for a few hours last year and I have no intention of letting that happen again.