Another year is coming to a close, which means many best of lists are starting to take fruition. And just like last year, I have compiled the best songs of the year into one cohesive playlist now known as the HST…Mixtape! Just like last year, there are some rules that need to be followed to make a real 2012 playlist:
Alright, now that we have gotten those out of the way, let’s get into the songs!
“Some Nights” by fun.
Last year, I mentioned in this exact write up that fun.’s first single “We Are Young” from their newest album Some Nights, would be excluded from last years list. Sad to report, “We Are Young” also doesn’t make this year’s list. The only reason for that is because the title track is a MUCH BETTER SONG. Yeah some of the lyrics are a tad bit off-the-wall, and the auto-tune portion might seem annoying to some, but it just so happens that all of those factors combined makes this song on of, if not the best of the year.
“Little Talks” by Of Monsters And Men
This was a HUGE year for folk and alternative music, and Of Monsters And Men combinded both of those worlds together to bring us a nice, bouncy alt-duet. If it wasn’t for the vocal works by co-frontman/woman Ragnar Þórhallsson and Nanna Hilmarsdóttir, this song probably wouldn’t have taken off like it did. “Little Talks” catapulted the Iclandic sextet into alternative super stardom, having one of the best selling albums of that genre of the year. Personally, I wasn’t big on the album, but “Little Talks” always stood out as a catchy, multi-instrumental jig with some rather dark lyrics sprinkled on top.
“Ho Hey” by The Lumineers
There’s not a whole lot here to talk about. HO! The Lumineers came out this year with one incredibly catchy folk tune that is as digestible as any ripe fruit. HEY! It’s not overly complicated, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. HO! It is a perfect piece of folk pop that only seems to be growing in popularity by the day. HEY! Who knows if they are going to put out another song like it, but “Ho Hey” will definitely stick around in our heads for a couple more years – whether we’d want it or not.
“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” by Father John Misty
For coming out from the Fleet Foxes, it’s quite surprising that folk music fans AND indie music fans really haven’t gravitated towards J. Tillman, AKA Father John Misty. His album Fear Fun was one of the most solid folk-alternative albums of the year, and “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is the shining jewel placed in the middle. It’s distorted guitars and stompy beat makes it a bit of a stand out in the genre, and it’s melodic yet dark lyrics make it that much more for a different crowd entirely. Even the Aubrey Plaza assisted music video should’ve given this project the stage it deserved. So here’s another shot at a great song, music listener.
“Get Yours While You Can” by Anthony Green
It’s always a nice thing when an album comes out early in the year and STILL you love it as much as the first day you had it. This is the case with Circa Survive frontman’s Anthony Green and his substantially better sophomore release Beautiful Things. The first single “Get Yours While You Can” is one of many bright spots on the album; it doesn’t feel like an Anthony Green song, per say, but something friend and tour-mate Casey Cresenco would throw into his rainbow album known as The Color Spectrum. Then Anthony’s voice comes in, and you remember that even the lightest of chords and progression can feel exponentially unfeeling and twice as melodic – if there could be such a thing.
“I Like It” by Foxy Shazam
The most underrated band of the year (Yeah, I said it) seriously need some airtime. The first single off of The Church Of Rock And Roll, entitled “I Like It,” is as catchy as any other mainstream rock song and twice as fun to listen to. The lack of radio play MIGHT have to do with it’s almost taboo chorus, though singing along to it in your car is where this song needs to be. Foxy Shazam knows what a breath of fresh air they are, but it seems like they intentionally shut the window on casual listeners of music. So this is me, reopening said window to this incredibly flamboyant and batshit crazy band who knows what it likes and doesn’t give a eff to all those non-believers.
“Who” by David Byrne and St. Vincent
There was nothing more quirky and off-the-wall crazier than the combined works of Talking Heads’ David Byrne and Annie Clark AKA St. Vincent. Using every brass instrument under the sun, their album Love This Giant was a surprisingly entertaining album from front to back. Their first single, “Who,” is the best representation of the album, filled with a catchy hip-hop beat backed with some brass loops thrown into a pile of weird known as their verses. For real though, even the video is a tad bit weird. And by a tad bit, know that it’s me being kind.
“Womyn” by Heems
Hip-hop and humor aren’t exactly best friends. But when it works, it REALLY works. That’s what I got with Das Racist member Heems’ first mixtape Nehru Jackets – more specifically “Womyn.” Himanshu took the obvious rap topic of women and spun it on it’s head – and by that, I mean “told the truth” about women. Yeah, women like diamonds, and they aren’t big fans of violence. Heems made a rap song about women that isn’t completely misogynistic, but just a small character study of the opposite sex. So what if he only knows like seven, it still makes an incredibly fun and catchy parody song.
“Thrift Shop (feat. Wanz)” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore’s first couple of singles were some serious business; with topics such as gay marriage and old school sneaker culture being some big issues to rap about. So when “Thrift Shop” dropped earlier this year, I couldn’t believe that this was the same guy. But with multiple listenings, I found the song to be one of the catchiest rap songs of the year. The sleazy saxophone hook and Wanz’s deep voice helps keep the song fresh, fun, and even dancable. So grab your pee-smelling mink jacket and your best pair of moccasins and have yourself a good time.
“Backseat Freestyle” by Kendrick Lamar
Picking a favorite track from Kendrick Lamar’s fantastic Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is almost like picking a name from a hat. This time around, it’s his bragadocious, almost hilarious bell-ringer “Backseat Freestyle.” With what is almost out of character for him, Kendrick made a club banger that has this flow he rides like a pro and lyrics that are equally as hilarious as they are catchy. The blunted-sounding chorus which he wishes his unit was as big as the Eiffel Tower or the verse where he incorporates a hilarious growl to his lyrics makes this song one of the most memorable tracks on the sensational album; and happens to be an easy fit on this mixtape.
“Fuck Your Stuff” by P.O.S
Rap music doesn’t always have to be about the big chains you wear or what car you drive. In fact, Doomtree rapper P.O.S is getting big mocking that image with “Fuck Your Stuff.” Just like “Thrift Shop” earlier, “Fuck Your Stuff” is a celebration of not fitting the typical mold of hip-hop; the difference is the rebelious vibe P.O.S brings to the song. He will be scuffing your kicks and spitting on your whip before he confides to the stereotype, and he welcomes you to rock out with him and his crew if you feel the same way.
“Mourning In America” by Brother Ali
The most socially conscious song of the year, albino rapper Brother Ali spits fire in the face of race, war, corruption, and politics that happens to be happening right now. Although you might think of this song as the biggest middle finger to our country (“There’s a very thin line between a soldier and a terrorist”), “Mourning In America” is just trying to tell the truth about what’s happening. Ali still believes (or at least he says so in the song) about the American dream, but right now, it doesn’t seem like that is actually going to happen. Straight forward, aggressive, and agitated, “Mourning In America” should be the song that talking heads should become angry about, while also commenting on how right Ali actually is.
“ZZZ Top” by Aesop Rock
Rhymesayers is having one hell of a year. With P.O.S, Brother Ali, and Aesop Rock delivering some great hip-hop this year, they’re setting themselves up to be on a lot of peoples “Best Of” lists. Out of the three, I loved Aesop’s first go round in self producing with his album Skelathon, and it’s amazing lead single “ZZZ Top.” Each verse has so much word play that you have to read the lyrics to yourself to really capture everything that he says. Oh, and this is the most badass music video of the year, and that always helps.
“Get Got” by Death Grips
2012 is arguably The Year of Death Grips. The abrasive rap group got picked up and subsequently dropped from their label after the follicle-laden mixtape NO LOVE DEEP WEB dropped on their website, and put out one of the years most publicly praised rap albums, The Money Store, earlier this year. And “Get Got,” the opening to the latter of the two albums, happens to be one of their best – if not least abrasive – singles of the year. The hypnotic beat and calmed inflection (rather than screaming his face off) is matched by his nasty flow and awkwardly catchy hook – making one hell of an experimental hip-hop beat. Think of it as a tad bit more homicidal Frankenstein.
“Vava Voom (feat. Lupe Fiasco)” by Bassnectar
Bassnectar isn’t one for bringing in talent to his electric shockers, but the inclusion of Lupe Fiasco makes this song soar uncontrollably. Some of Lupe’s best verses of the year (YES, I am including everything off of Food and Liquor II), fitting extremely well with Bassnectar’s infusion of bass and 8-bit style beats. And when the beat drops (and everyone loves it when the beat drops…), it spazzes out into an uncontrollable dance frenzy of bees (mmhmm…bees). Regardless of that bad metaphor I tried making there, the song is still one of the better electric/dubstep/brostep/8-bit songs of the year.
“Professioinal Griefers (feat. Gerard Way)” by Deadmau5
I’m not a big Deadmau5 fan, but he really impressed me this year with “Proffesional Grievers.” This electro-stomp had this groove that just couldn’t let up, making this a perfect rave starter for the year. And the inclusion of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way makes the song that much more palpable. The on-beat sections of his delivery helps drive home the almost riot enducing production that makes this song that much more memorable. Here’s to more artist colaborations with Deadmau5 – especially if they sound a bit like this one.
“Constant Conversations” by Passion Pit
Passion Pit is known for their high energy shows, so who knew that the best song off of Gossamer would be a slow jam? Not this guy. “Constant Conversations” has this beat that anyone can just ride too, with Michael Angelakos high pitched vocals giving the perfect tone and mood throughout. Gossamer was a blast of happy to the face, and “Constant Conversations” was the water that helped bring the album down from it’s sugar high. Not only that, but it made the album that much better.
“Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean
Odd Future’s crooner Frank Ocean arguably gave us the best R&B album of the year with Channel ORANGE, a minimalistic experiment with captivating lyrics and fantastic beat selections. Of course, the hype was helped a lot from his incredibly open Tumblr post a week before its release, but it only made these songs feel that much more personal. Case in point – “Thinking Bout You.” This love song has Frank hitting the high notes – literally and figuratively – throughout, making it one of the most perfect love songs of the year…no matter who you love.
“Love Interruption” by Jack White
The White Stripes break-up was a sad day. Luckily for us, Jack White had enough sense to continue making music as a solo act. And with the first single off of his first solo album, “Love Interruption” was – and still is – a fantastic reunion with one of rock’s most recognized figures today. The hanging bassoon in the background (yeah, BASSOON) and the guest vocals of Ruby Amanfu’s makes this song incredibly memorable. Also, the lyrics here, including “And I want love to / Split my mouth wide open / And cover up my ears / And never let me hear a sound” are absolutely gorgeous.
“Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple
Just like Kendrick Lamar (well…kinda), picking a favorite song from The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw, And Whipping Chords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do [deep breath] is a rather hard thing to accomplish. But after much debate, nothing really encapsulated the album as a whole better than the first track “Every Single Night.” The song sounds nice, even sounding like the morning chimes while you play Minecraft for the umpteenth hour. And Fiona’s voice during these parts sound brittle and quiet, until she bellows out the chorus like the confident artist we’ve come to know, love, and expect her to be. This sets the album up for great heights, and it never disappointed.
“School Friends” by Now, Now
Now, Now’s “School Friends” tells a story that I believe we can all relate to in one way or another. The song tells the story of a girl who loves a guy, but doesn’t get treated like his girlfriend, but someone he can mess around with without any commitment. The perfect vocal work from Cacie Dalager (who reminds me of the combination young Joan Jett and Tegan Quin) makes you feel even worse for the girl in the story; her inflections on the ends of each line holds so much emotional weight that tugs at your heart strings – while Dalager almost seems numb to it. That’s the biggest kicker here; as much as you want to help out, it almost seems like the character doesn’t want you to – an even bigger kick to the gut.
“Hood” by Perfume Genius
A two minute song about keeping a dark secret away from your lover doesn’t sound like a home run. But Mike Hadreas’ incredible vocal performance pushes this minimalistic ballad to new heights – which ironically sound like lows. On much of his sophomore album Put Your Back N 2 It, Hadreas sounds like he is on the verge of tears, and “Hood” is no different. Without the emotion he portrays through his vocal styling and range, this would just be another ho-hum love song. But the emotion he projects into the majority of his album is what kept me coming back to it all year.
Some other’s that didn’t quite make the list: Silversun Pickups’ “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra’s “The Killing Type,” The Killers’ “Runaways,” Le1f’s “Wut,” Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Can Happen,” Kimbra’s “Settle Down,” and Gotye’s “State Of The Art.”
So how’d this year’s mixtape look? Anyone we missed – or any other song you’d change for something else? Also, is there anything coming out next year that you’re excited for? Leave your thoughts and comments down below.