Monday, December 31, 2012

My 80 Favorite Songs of 2012

Last year, I decided to do a month-long list on this blog of the 100 best songs of 2011, in my modest, sometimes extreme opinion. I had a post dedicated to each song, including a writeup of four or five paragraphs and an embed of the song on YouTube, Soundcloud or otherwise.

That took waaaay too long.

That said, I still have this undying love of end-of-the-year lists, so I knew that, for 2012, I wanted to do something, even if was just a list of songs that I really liked.

So, here -- have one of those.

Note that I'm not calling these the "best" of 2012. In many cases, yeah, that's what I believe. But with others, I get that they might not be as inherently good as, say, Springsteen's new material (which you won't see on this list -- dealwithit.jpg). So if I call them my favorites, that absolves me from having to defend them. Right? Probably not. Whatever.

As I did last year, I kept a Spotify playlist of all my favorites in 2012. If you have the service, check it out. You'll notice that certain bands or artists are featured more than once on the playlist but not here. To avoid bogging down a list with too many songs from the same artist, I limit an artist's appearance to one on my list, unless they were a featured performer on another song, which is OK. This is my gift to all of you who have heard too much about "Channel Orange" in 2012.

80. "Ohio" - Lake Forest
79. "Swimming Pools" - Kendrick Lamar
78. "In the Beginning" - Todd Snider
77. "No. 1 Against the Rush" - Liars
76. "Overture" - Patrick Wolf
75. "Breath of Life" - Florence + the Machine
74. "Perfect World" - Gossip
73. "Cosmic Queries" - Willis Earl Beal
72. "Refill" - Elle Varner
71. "The Bravest Man in the Universe" - Bobby Womack
70. "Carry Me Back" - Old Crow Medicine Show
69. "Gangnam Style" - Psy
68. "Read 'Em John" - Carolina Chocolate Drops
67. "Sad Eyes" - Crystal Castles
66. "Roman Holiday" - Nicki Minaj
65. "One Engine" - The Decemberists
64. "State of the Art" - Gotye
63. "Lovers" - Brothertiger
62. "Eros and Apollo" - Studio Killers
61. "Let Yourself Go" - Green Day
60. "Easy Come, Easy Go" - Great Lake Swimmers
59. "Revolution" - Dr. John
58. "Ho Hey" - The Lumineers
57. "Some Nights" - fun.
56. "The Brightest Lights" - King Charles feat. Mumford and Sons
55. "DIY2K" - Pujol
54. "Hot Cheetos and Takis" - Y.N. Rich Kids
53. "Down the Road" - C2C
52. "Radioactive" - Imagine Dragons
51. "45" - The Gaslight Anthem
50. "Better Dig Two" - The Band Perry
49. "Morning Sun" - The Wilderness of Manitoba
48. "Frozen Fields" - Jerry Douglas feat. Alison Krauss
47. "Hero" - Family of the Year
46. "Funtimes in Babylon" - Father John Misty
45. "The Wind" - Zac Brown Band
44. "Country Song" - Jake Bugg
43. "Myth" - Beach House
42. "Comeback Kid" - Sleigh Bells
41. "Myintrotoletuknow" - Danny!
40. "Run Daddy Run" - Pistol Annies
39. "Rock of Ages" - Black Prairie
38. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" - Taylor Swift
37. "The Only Place" - Best Coast
36. "Kingdom Come" - The Civil Wars
35. "Gangs in the Garden" - Black Moth Super Rainbow
34. "Live and Die" - The Avett Brothers
33. "Adorn" - Miguel
32. "Madness" - Muse
31. "The Stranger" - Lord Huron
30. "Esmeralda" - Ben Howard
29. "1904" - The Tallest Man on Earth
28. "Old Oak Tree" - Southeast Engine
27. "Penitentiary" - Houndmouth
26. "I Like It" - Foxy Shazam
25. "The Fold" - Wickerbird
24. "Movement and Location" - Punch Brothers
23. "Silver Lining" - Guards
22. "Show Me Your Eyes" - Royal Canoe
21. "Neither Here Nor There" - Lost in the Trees
20. "Darkness" - Leonard Cohen
19. "Below My Feet" - Mumford & Sons
18. "Sod in the Seed - Why?
17. "Climax" - Usher
16. "Man on Fire" - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
15. "Valerie" - The Weeknd
14. "Heaven" - Emeli Sande
13. "Bel Air" - Lana Del Rey
12. "Thrift Shop" - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz
11. "Alone" - Trampled by Turtles
10. "Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns" - A.C. Newman
9. "Varuo" - Sigur Ros
8. "Simmer" - Silversun Pickups
7. "Sixteen Saltines" - Jack White
6. "Hole in the Ocean Floor" - Andrew Bird
5. "When I Write My Master's Thesis" - John K. Samson
4. "Emmylou" - First Aid Kit
3. "Simple Song" - The Shins
2. "Bad Religion" - Frank Ocean
1. "The House That Heaven Built" - Japandroids

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 GRAMMY Predictions

Instead of doing the millions of other things I should be doing right now, I decided to sound off on a few of the bigger awards at tonight's GRAMMYs. I'm going with the oft-used setup of who I think should win and who I think will win each category, with some potential added bonuses in certain categories.

The awards show is tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS. Follow me on Twitter at @surfwax83 for my up-to-the-minute thoughts on the evening.

Album of the Year

The nominees: Adele's "21" ; Foo Fighters' "Wasting Light" ; Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" ; Bruno Mars' "Doo-Wops and Hooligans" ; Rihanna's "Loud"

The winner: Adele

Should win: Adele

Had better not win or else I will hurt something: Foo Fighters

It's an easy prediction, I know, but it's tough to be provocative here. Adele had the biggest album of the year, there's no disputing it -- hell, the album's STILL at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and has been for 19 non-consecutive weeks. Think of it this way: "21" came out almost a year ago in the US. Yes, it's been that long. How could we possibly give the award to anyone else?

That's not to say that "21" was my favorite of those nominated. Though the record is quite honestly one of the most astounding pop releases of the last decade, one more outshined it in my eyes in terms of being even more of a classic pop record. "Born This Way" turned off a lot of Gaga fans, and I'll admit her schtick can run dry at times, but no other album on this list was simply as much fun to listen to. When I think back to 2011, I'll think glitzy, dance-y pop, and that's what Gaga represented. I love both albums, but Gaga's was the one I couldn't stop playing.

Oh, and the Foo Fighters? Great band, good album. But compared to the others? C'mon. The GRAMMYs needed a rock record to throw in there, and instead of going with Bon Iver (which amazes me, honestly), they went with the general sure bet. Mr. Grohl, you're great, but "Wasting Light" should not be mentioned alongside these other albums. Come at me, rockist bros.

Record of the Year

The nominees: Adele, "Rolling in the Deep" ; Bon Iver, "Holocene" ; Bruno Mars, "Grenade" ; Mumford & Sons, "The Cave" ; Katy Perry, "Firework"

The winner: Adele

Should win: Adele

I swear to god, guys: Katy Perry

Again, it's hard to argue against Adele here, though I want to. "Rolling in the Deep" was everywhere -- EVERYWHERE. What's more, it embodies everything many would love for the current sound of pop music to be. It's the backlash from the overproduced club bangers that surfaced in America in 2010. Adele didn't change her music for the pop world, and in time, it may so be that the pop world will change for her. Should she win as many awards tonight as many are predicting, that may finally happen.

But really, these are all great songs. I'd love to see Bon Iver win, because "Holocene" is simply some of the best that the indie folk scene has offered us in the past few years -- and wouldn't it be nice to see a man who dissed the show for not allowing him to perform sans collaborations get a victory? Bruno's "Grenade" is still by far his best, and showcases the unique and powerful voice he possesses. And I LOVE Mumford & Sons. That song? Definitely in my lower half in terms of favorites from "Sigh No More," but I'm happy to see them nominated. Hell, I even think "Firework" is the strongest song off "Teenage Dream." I just don't want to see Katy Perry win something. Sorry I'm not sorry.

Song of the Year

The nominees: Adele, "Rolling in the Deep" ; Bon Iver, "Holocene" ; Bruno Mars, "Grenade" ; Mumford & Sons, "The Cave" ; Kanye West, "All of the Lights"

The winner: Adele

Should win: Kanye West  

I'm going outside the generally-held opinion on this one. Again, Adele's song is great for all the reasons I've already listed. But Kanye's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"? There's an album that should have been nominated for Album of the Year -- simple as that. As for "All of the Lights," part of me just wants to see if all of the artists involve go onstage if it wins. But really, I do think this is a better song than "Rolling in the Deep." Whereas Adele can grate on me after a few listens, Kanye's song has not and will probably never get old. He's the best beatmaker in hip hop today, and this song is his shining moment on the album. It's a song that deserves a lot more recognition than it's received.

I'm already prepared for disappointment, because I really don't think anyone's going to defeat Adele this year -- and, you know, rightfully so, because she does deserve all the praise she receives. But this accolade? Please, pleeeeaase someone recognize something from this album for the genius that it is. Here's your best chance.

Best New Artist

The nominees: The Band Perry, Skrillex, Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, J. Cole

The winner: Skrillex

Should win: Nicki Minaj
The "Seriously?!" award presented by J.Cole: J. Cole

I just have this bad feeling, guys. Skrillex's music is mostly hit-or-miss (mainly miss) for me, but I also think the GRAMMYs will attempt to act cool this year, as they tend to in certain categories, and this will be their stab in 2012. For whatever reason, the rave crowd ate Sonny Moore up this year, and he's basically the ringleader of a whole new generation of electronic music enthusiasts. As a fan of electronic music, I'm glad he's brought some new fans to the genre. As a person who finds a lot of American dubstep and other similar genres fairly unlistenable and a far cry from the glories of European's takes, I'm tired of the guy. But again, I just have this bad feeling.

Frankly, I'd love for Bon Iver to emerge victorious, but it's tough for me to consider Justin Vernon a new artist. And even so, I don't think he deserves it more than Nicki. For the first time in what seems like a long while, we have a female rapper worth a damn. She's smart, her music's often kind of funny, and her voice has a certain quality that makes her hard to avoid, whether or not you like the tone of it. Plus, I simply can't see any of these other artists on the level she was on this year on the charts. The Band Perry had a great year and I see them as a healthy alternative to T-Swift, but "If I Die Young" wasn't nearly as big as "Super Bass." 

And J. Cole? I'll let this GIF speak for me.

In the honor of timeliness, I'm going to provide my other thoughts in wonderful bullet point form. 

  • Adele should win the pop categories for which she's nominated. I'm hoping for a victory from either Coldplay or Foster the People for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
  • If you hear a primal scream across the Midwest tonight, it's because The Decemberists won for either Best Rock Performance or Best Rock Song -- or both. They won't, but I can't even imagine what would happen if they did.
  • In reality, Foo Fighters will win the rock awards, and I will begrudgingly accept this. I'm pulling for "White Limo," though, because that's the best song off "Wasting Light."
  • Cee Lo Green for Best R&B Performance and Song, PLEASE.
  • If "Otis" doesn't win Best Rap Performance, I riot. 
  • If Wiz Khalifa wins anything, I riot. 
  • Taylor Swift's "Mean" is her worst song and I am currently rioting just thinking about it.
  • Barton. Fucking. Hollow.
  • I am really pissed about Foo Fighters being included in the dance/electronic performance segment with Chris Brown, deadmau5, David Guetta and Lil Wayne. Basically, they're going to get to play "Rope," but with deadmau5 backing them because he remixed the song -- or so I'm guessing. Oh well, at least they apparently get to play by themselves, too.
  • I will probably enjoy the Beach Boys/Maroon 5/Foster the People segment more than I'm supposed to.
  • Jay-Z and Kanye not performing together (or at all)? Ya dun goof'd, GRAMMYs.
  • Cannot WAIT for the Glen Campbell performance.
  • Adele will probably have the best performance of the evening to go along with ALL THE AWARDS she's about to win.
  • It will be a somber affair tonight. I hope J-Hud and the producers were able to do Whitney justice in the small amount of time they had to whip up a tribute.
I'll probably be back later with my thoughts on the actual winners. Til then, stay classy and enjoy the show.