Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #5-1

I want to thank everyone so much for tuning in over the course of the past ten days - your oh-so-kind feedback and mutual appreciation for these songs has made my little heart sing. As always, it's been just a blast for me to revisit some of the most incredible, thought-provoking and timeless songs of this past year - and I hope that you, like me, can use this countdown as a helpful reference in years to come when you're looking to remember the melodies that encapsulated such a fabulous year. Without further adieu - but with plenty of thoughtful calculation and surveying - here are, without a doubt, what I believe were the most incredible five songs of this past year.

Happy New Year! Wishing you all the happiness (and good tunes) that 2013 has to offer.

#5. "Fitzpleasure" - ∆ (alt-J)
After listening to alt-j's debut release An Awesome Wave, it quickly becomes obvious that not much was able to top the experimental alt-rock band's coolness in the past year - despite the fact the album was only released to North America in late September. Their dynamic blend of dub-pop, grungy guitars and unprecedentedly quirky vocals was astounding; immediately raking in critical acclaim in the form of the 2012 British Mercury Prize and BBC Radio 6's Album of the Year title. On this track, there's no way the choirboy vocal introduction can prepare you for the wild ride that begins after the drop of the first heavy, stage-rattling beat. Watch out for what this band will do.



#4. "You Ain't Alone" - Alabama Shakes
The above band crafted something almost entirely new and unparalleled, while this group of Alabaman high school pals almost accidentally built upon a golden sound from decades ago - making their Southern-caked, real blues-rock equally as intriguing and worthy of the year's spotlight. 23 year-old leading lady Brittany Howard, ingeniously channeling the vocal love child of a Janis Joplin, Robert Plant and Otis Redding ménage à trois, came out of nowhere along with her modest, old soul band mates - spitting whining guitar lines, tales of hope and an already legendary, guttural howl that will inevitably appear on every "best of" list from here until after the day she's left us.




#3. We Can't Be Beat - The Walkmen
Returning with their seventh album since 2000, the old boys of Manhattan's indie-rock scene are audibly at peace with maturing, and melodically managing to reach new heights. From the first upbeat chord of Heaven's title track rock ballad, their piano, pretty chord and croon-infused post-punk sound still exists - but with an inspiring dose of perspective as men who've been rockin' and rollin' for over a decade and are now incredibly accomplished family men who've laughed in the face of their music technically being "Dad-rock." If it is that, it's the best possible kind. As arguably one of the best albums of 2012, any one of Heaven's tracks could have made this list - but it's the waltzy, moonlight sway of "We Can't Be Beat" that stands alone. Hamilton Leithauser's expertly belted wise words of tested, monogamous love and the band's harmonic build-up before swooping into that unforgettable jangly finale are veteran talents that could put many of this year's young rockers right to shame.



#2. "Bad Religion" - Frank Ocean
As the breakout superstar of 2012, and one who hasn't gone without strife and suffering, 25 year-old Frank Ocean stopped the world in its tracks for a number of reasons. Whether it was coming out of nowhere to release Channel Orange - that striking compilation of eclectic R&B songs after his early career spent ghostwriting for some of the industry's biggest names - or announcing (from within a sometimes homophobic industry) that he'd fallen in love with someone of the same sex before, Christopher Breaux deserves all the glory this year's music calendar has to offer. On "Bad Religion," the piercing church organ drone under Ocean's candid and conversational confession ("Taxi driver, be my shrink for an hour/ Just outrun the demons, could you?") is an immediate snag on each listener's heartstrings - because Ocean successfully did with one song what so many artists, and human beings in general, struggle to actually do. Over the course of the 5-minute song, he tells the whole truth. On this chilling story of "unrequited love"- whether about the man he loved or God himself - Ocean brings us all to our knees.




#1. "Myth" - Beach House
The fact that any single song off dream-pop duo Beach House's best work to date could easily have made the top ten list was a signifier to me that this start-to-finish arresting album possessed the song fit for the highest spot. Baltimore's Victoria Legrand is undoubtedly the most underrated front woman of recent years; her haunting contralto vocals (the deep pitch usually convinces listeners her male band mate, Alex Scully, is in fact the lead singer) paired with the ethereal and dramatic instrumental hooks heard on Bloom, is like a psychedelic time warp. Bloom starts with "Myth," the sonic welcome mat for the rest of the album's atmospheric and soaring tracks - two handfuls of starry, multi-faceted anthems that explode with more colours, light and meaning than any of the band's previous releases. On "Myth," Legrand's dark howl floats over glowing piano chords and the eventual orchestral climax to the song, drawing you in as she convincingly aches, "What comes after this momentary bliss? The consequence of what you do to me." Bloom is exactly what the track listing does from one song to the next, and if this gorgeous album is a representation of the duo's musical progression, than Beach House is on their way to solidifying themselves as one of the greatest rock bands of their time.



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #10-6

#10. "Radio" - Lana Del Rey
Although the self-proclaimed "gangster Nancy Sinatra" released her breakout YouTube singles in the late days of 2011, the long-awaited debut full-length dropped in early 2012 - adding two handfuls of equally sassy and eclectic new age pop to the mix. This particular jazz-infused ditty, with its equally breathy and brave vocals, hip-hop percussion and now famous chorus line ("Now my life's sweet like cinnamon/ Like a f**kin' dream I'm livin' in") is like an edgy and twisted Broadway finale - and this year's indie poster girl is just the ticket to making it sound so heroic.



#9. "Goldie" - A$AP Rocky
After rapper Rakim Meyers' busy year - one that included collaborations with his "dream girl" (see #10), huge festival spots and the release of his own LongLiveA$AP - the young gun has enough street cred to do just about whatever he wants in the new year. On "Goldie", the beat-heavy foundation, distorted chorus and explicit rhyming worked wonders in reviving a classic and grimy rap bounce - not one for the faint-of-heart, but one that reminds us of how fun a menacing chirp fest can sound.

 


#8. "Emmylou" - First Aid Kit
"I'll be your Emmylou and I'll be your June/ If you'll be my Gram and my Johnny too," the Swedish songbird's harmonies soar on this gorgeously upbeat folk ballad - making it hard to believe the vocally advanced sisters and their knowledge of great musical unions past are something of the 1990s. The fluttering country strings, swaying violin and layers upon layers of soft yodels are exactly what is meant by 'music to the ears.'



#7. "Ho Hey" - The Lumineers
Much to my initial surprise, this romantic folk jig truly ended up stealing the show in 2012. Above a foot stomp and some jangly chords, dreamy Jeremiah Fraite's simple preaching about meeting his soulmate in Chinatown, despite all of life's insecurities, might be the most melodically and lyrically simple concept of 2012. But sure enough, against many odds, the mainstream loved it - and it became just the littlest bit game, and life, changing for all of us.

 


#6. "Swimming Pools (Drank)" - Kendrick Lamar
Aside from a handful of other mind-altering rap tracks this year, Lamar catchily nailed down the ins and outs of drinking on this smash single - rapidly rhyming off the reasons he parties against one of the darkest and hookiest background loops of the year. The thing about Kendrick, is that his clever community and upbringing commentary is woven so slyly into captivating production touches and good beats, you don't realize you're being told something meaningful while two-stepping along.

 


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #15-11

#15. "It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" - Tame Impala
This swaying anthem from Australian psychedelic rock band Tame Impala is like stepping into a 1970s time machine.The fuzzy guitars and hypnotic melody, paired with trippy layered vocals and long hair, is wise beyond its years - and magically manages to sound like the musical equivalent of a rainbow kaleidoscope.



#14. "I Will Wait" - Mumford and Sons
One criticism of Mumford and Sons is that their sound might be formulaic; not varying much from one anthemic banjo solo and romantic ode to the next. Some praise I have for Mumford and Sons is that their music doesn't vary much from one anthemic banjo solo and romantic ode to the next. On this triumphant Billboard-topping folk ballad from the Americana Londoners, the same great ingredients are offered - and surely no one's complaining.

 


#13. "Oblivion" - Grimes
Straight out of Montreal, this tapping keyboard beat and Grimes' tinkerbell vocals are simple and unadorned - truly hitting the spot as one of the year's most addictive and quirky electro-indie hits.There isn't much to be said about Grimes' breathy vocals and eerie keyboard effects, but whatever she nailed down on her runaway debut, I hope she reignites on her sophomore.

 


#12. "My Blood" - Ellie Goulding
As the Brit singer's admitted favourite track off her overwhelmingly stellar collection of new songs bundled into Halcyon, "My Blood" has more pop power, vocal exuberance and chorus magic than any of the singer's other infectious songs. The combination of the chorus thump, her piercing howl and confident lyrics is moving - and has solidified Skrillex's lady love as this year's top female contender in the industry.




#11. "Do You?" - Miguel
A Marvin Gaye-reminiscent, sex-laden groove is always welcome on mainstream radio, as far as I'm concerned. Adding quite a bit of spice and flavour to the airwaves this year, breakout R&B crooner Miguel did good work in reviving this sultry and honest kind of balladry ("Do you like drugs? Do you like love? Me too.") on what I would consider to be an instant contemporary slow jam classic. With this tasty treat as foreplay, the rest of Kaleidoscope Dreams is equally explicit and never dull.

 


Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #20-16

#20. "King and Lionheart" - Of Monsters and Men
This Icelandic folk-rock collective and 2013 European Border Breakers Award winners stepped onto the North American scene with chords and keys a blazin' in 2012 on their My Head Is An Animal release. After releasing a handful of singles and drawing comparisons to the likes of Mumford and Sons and The Cranberries, the tour-crazy clan went on to grace international stages with their diverse instrument-packed sound and 23 year-old Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir's limitless falsetto yodel. This cheery song is a flawless representation of the band's choral team effort and explosive folk build-ups, and acts as the most infectious greeting tune to their debut release.

 


#19. "Wildest Moments" - Jessie Ware
On "Wildest Moments," the slow jam kickdrum, gorgeous piano balladry and Ware's natural R&B ability sound like a combination pulled from mid-90s Billboard charts. But with Ware's indie-diva flare, it works oh-so-well. The Brit singer's sultry, reflective croon aching about rollercoaster relationship woes ("Baby in our wildest moments/ We could be the greatest/ We could be the worst of all") overtop the throb of the soulful piano are enough to tug on any lovelorn heartstrings - and the four minutes of Ware staring longingly into the camera during the music video really help in twisting the song's knife.

 


#18. "Breakers" - Local Natives

On the long-awaited first single from the L.A. indie-rockers' 2013 release, it's pretty obvious their touring with The National, Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe has contributed to a more swelling, expansive rock sound; one that's much more developed and full-bodied in comparison with their Americana-infused rock debut which hit the scene in 2009. The soaring chorus, when each band member chips in harmonically to paint the vocal backdrop for lead singer Kelcey Ayer's chant, is without a doubt the high point throughout the song. With his, "Breathing out hoping to breathe in" shining through the melodic ruckus, syllabolically and symbolically the words couldn't be better.



#17. "Lasan" - Michael Kiwanuka
Featuring Dan Auerbach's (of the Black Keys) golden production touch, Kiwanuka's soulful, yesteryear vocals and bluesy homesick story quickly became one of the most endearing releases of the year - and an introduction to the kind of revivalist blues-rock the British musician would ooze on his debut album Home Again. Hailed as BBC's sound of 2012, Kiwanuka's standstill, gospel voice is like a wholesome guiding light throughout this swaying blues ballad - so much so that Auerbach's involvement suddenly isn't the most newsworthy part of the single.

 


#16. "Nothin' But Time" - Cat Power
Chan Marshall has had quite the ride. As one of her biggest fans, it's easy to always hope she's on the upswing from self-doubt and oddball behaviour, but then again - one can never know with this particular sneaky Cat. So, on this breathtaking 12-minute ode to her former flame Giovanni Ribisi's teenage daughter, it's sort of heartbreaking to hear the troubled indie goddess take time out of her own self-discovery to reassure the young girl that everything is going to be just fine. Featuring an anthemic piano melody and wacky interjection from elder rock vet Iggy Pop, "Nothin' But Time" has the same appeal and intrigue of so many of Chan Marshall's best songs - they're often bits of advice and wisdom the singer couldn't hurt from ingesting herself. "Never give away your body/ Never give away your friends/ Never give away what you always wanted/ Never, never ever give in," she urges against the ticking beat and swelling piano - and for 11 minutes, you really do think she believes it herself.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #25-21

#25. "Unless You Speak From Your Heart" - Porcelain Raft
Taking a woozily romantic page out of The Flaming Lips or Moby's electro-rock handbook, Italian musician Mauro Remiddi (aka Porcelain Raft) let his own vocals and melodic touch shine front and centre on this uplifting anthem released in the early days of 2012. Chanting, "I don't want to listen, unless you speak from your heart" - Remiddi's sparkling stomp beat, buzzing guitars and pulsing piano keys are seamless touches in crafting a heartwarming but triumphant-sounding plea.

 


#24. "All I Can" - Sharon Van Etten
New York City-based singer/songwriter Van Etten had a stellar year with the help of her acclaimed indie rock and folk blended album Tramp - one that was co-assembled alongside The National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Zach Condon, otherwise known as Beirut. The obviously self-therapeutic swell of this standout song peaks when Van Etten's layered vocals have piled sky-high and the explosive guitar has nearly knocked the wind out of the speakers, while her melancholy howl climaxes with: "I do all I can/ We all make mistakes."

 


#23. "The House That Heaven Built" - Japandroids
Loud. Punchy. Young. Short and sweet. Canadian. Those are really the hot button words that come to mind when describing the breakout drums-guitar duo who took the charts, festivals and critic's hearts by storm in 2012 - in and outside of their native land. Nailing top spots on all of the year's "best of" lists, the Vancouver punk pals reverted back to tales of debauchery and youth, coupled with heart attack guitar chords and broken drum kits on their 35-minute Celebration Rock - proving that back-to-basics is often just what the community ordered.

 


#22. "Endless Ladder" - The Antlers
Nabbing the title of the most zen song of the year, The Antlers achieved sleepy boulevard perfection with this hauntingly dizzy collection of echoey percussion, The Album Leaf-style lonely synth and Peter Silberman's aching whisper. Oddly enough, even after 8 drowsy minutes of slinky instruments and the front man's metaphorical, hypnotic drone - it's total bliss. If you're not listening at a particularly lucid time, 8-minutes of submersion imagery easily turns into 16, 24 and 30 - making this so-called ladder just as endless as you want.



#21."Lord Knows" - Dum Dum Girls
Sub Pop Records' low-fi lady rockers have gradually been roping in the attention their brooding, early-90s-reminiscent ballads deserve - beginning with the release of a garage-infused Only In Dreams and continuing up until this highly-anticipated EP, End of Daze in 2012. On "Lord Knows," simple "Crimson and Clover"-sounding chords and haunting girl group harmonies - all led by the exquisite leading lady Dee Dee (yes, just Dee Dee) - are stunning and minimalistic, a balance that these talented chicks long-ago perfected. Dee Dee's swooping vibrato belting, "Oh boy, I can't hurt you anymore/ Lord knows I hurt my love," are downhearted and honest - but also painstakingly beautiful.

 


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #30-26

#30. "Live and Die" - The Avett Brothers
Known for their caravan rambling bluegrass and family folk, The Avett Brothers took a break from being festival favourites following I And Love And You to drop this adorable ditty off their latest album The Carpenter. Featuring a healthy mix of bouncy acoustic chords and their notoriously synced brotherly harmonies, the country twang of this goofily happy ballad is enough to lift any unwavering mood. Seth Avett being a total dreamboat doesn't hurt either.



#29. "Yet Again" - Grizzly Bear
Following the sickeningly contagious hits "Two Weeks" and "Knife" from one of Brooklyn's finest indie rock band's early releases, Grizzly Bear entered slightly new territory on this September's chilly and intriguing "Yet Again." Ed Droste's romantic vocals, dynamic songwriting and experimental rock elements already had laid the foundation as proof the quartet was capable of churning a likable but thought provoking dark flavour of rock 'n roll, and "Yet Again," an edgier blend of that, has only further solidified their force to be reckoned with.

 


#28. "Sweet" - Dave Matthews Band
A week shy of his 46th birthday - eight studio albums, handfuls of live ones, wife and kids - Davey J. Matthews has wholeheartedly embraced his mid-life musings and scripted them into refreshingly retrospective pieces of art on Away from the World. Taking musical bits and pieces from his arms-length discography of classics - including the same brilliant acoustics and his bellowing, instrument-like vocals - on "Sweet," Matthews daintily whispers about his young son's first swimming experience above music box chords; but a few seconds spent reading between the notes will reveal the coming-of-age wisdom is what Dad has inevitably realized himself.

 


#27. "New God Flow" - Kanye West and Pusha T.
Some may have wondered exactly where some of the year's hottest hip-hop singles even came from; "Mercy", "Clique" and this particular track seemed to have dropped with the help of the game's biggest personas but without any real forewarning. They were all a product of this year's popular crew album Cruel Summer, curated by Mr. West and featuring plenty of his own stylish rants; also the perfect chance to showcase the cocky spark plug's roster of rhymesters signed to his G.O.O.D. Music label. Like any deceiving movie trailer, the compilation's best songs made it onto the airwaves,  while the rest were mediocre. On this track, however, the label founder did anything but disappoint - unleashing a nasty beat, taste of gospel and his cleverly relentless growls to kick off the anticipated release. Only West would attempt "I believe there's a God above me/ I'm just the God of everything else." Only Him.



#26. "All Wash Out" - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Whoever was lucky enough to catch the Big Easy Express documentary - narrating the cross-country rail travels of this hippie clan, Mumford & Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show - surfaced from their theatre seat desperate to claim half the soundtrack, especially unheard new tracks like this one. Unveiled through a scene in which scruffy front man Alex Ebert and his flower child collective are swaying, instruments in hand, in a roadside reed-filled field - the song and it's mellow, sunsetting whistle became an instant summer necessity.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Pinned Image

The Top 50 Best Songs of 2012 will return tomorrow! Have a truly wonderful holiday with friends, family and yourself.



Monday, December 24, 2012

The Top Best Songs of 2012: #35-31

#35. "Small Town Moon" - Regina Spektor
Rightfully heralded as our generation's Joni Mitchell, Russian-born/Bronx-raised Spektor has grown into one of the wisest and most mesmerizing artists contributing to the contemporary anti-folk scene. Anti-folk, a genre characteristic of Manhattan's villages and known for its near mocking of mainstream trends, is something Spektor's quirky ditties could be classified as - but more so, it becomes (especially on the latest What We Heard from the Cheap Seats in the Back) clear her songwriting style and musical preferences come much more from within than from part of a movement. On "Small Town Moon," her wordy rambles flow in between melodic moments of sincerity ("How can I leave without hurting everyone that made me?", she asks) and instrumental jams - showing that like anything great, her music really does get better with age.

 


#34. "The Don" - Nas
Home to one of the most addictive beats and the last of the late Heavy D's sought-after production touches, "The Don" made up for what it lost in chart-topping status with critical acclaim and praise. Like the rest of Life is Good, Nas paints a clear look back with honest rhymes following loss, parenthood, divorce and nearly 20 years as a hip-hop mastermind. A crackling monologue accurately introduces the track, stating: "He's the heartbeat of the people/ People from the projects, street people/ Hortical ghetto youth who know what it is to sing about suffering and reality."

 



#33. "Every Single Night" - Fiona Apple
Definitely one of the most interesting and acclaimed albums of this year, with hands-down the most cumbersome title on the charts (The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do), Apple notably stunned with this fourth release and delayed dip back into the music game after seven years away from the limelight. The peculiar collection of tricky tunes includes everything from eccentric jazz flare to dark folk remnants, but it's her feminine croon heard cooing "I just want to feel everything" on this track that perfectly encapsulates why it shone as the first bizarrely beautiful single.

 


#32. "Blunderbuss" - Jack White
On his first eclectic solo album, White hops all over the musical map; stopping at grungy, electric anthems, funky Little Willie covers and this swaying, twang-filled country ballad. A slight departure from the angsty thump anthems his unparalleled guitar skills are very good for, the title track of the April release is both candid and a mystery - behind the swelling guitar, shaky vocals and bawling violin, we don't know who or what he's speaking about when he cries: "Doing what two people need is never on the menu." It's better that way, I think.



#31. "Some Nights" - fun.
Formerly of The Format, front man Nate Ruess (re)emerged this year as one of the most exceptional front men on the scene. Equipped with a Freddie Mercury-style, octave-shattering shout and a knack for penning dynamic indie-pop chart toppers, Ruess' latest project is a welcome interruption amidst the formulaic sounds of some of the weekly countdowns we flipped through in 2012. On this title track, a wild journey through the psyche of the modern-day rock star with glitzy Broadway vocal flare and a verse, moment or word that will appeal to just about any listener - fun. hit their second home run of the year, solidifying they were a catchy and unique force to be reckoned with. Specifically, one that doesn't believe in just releasing more noise.



Sunday, December 23, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #40-36

#40. "Crew Love" - Drake featuring The Weeknd
After 2011's critically acclaimed Take Care, there was no doubt Toronto and October's Very Own young hip-hop superstars were only getting started in their gradual takeover. While 22 year-old camera shy The Weeknd went on to produce and release his own highly praised The Trilogy this year, and Drake continued to dip his pen in every industry ink jar, rap collaborations such as this popular slow jam (featuring one of the year's most distinctive opening beats) are a chart topping recipe they've perfected.

 


#39. "I Love It" - Icona Pop ft. Charli XCX

Whether The Ting Tings, The Knife or Icona Pop - sometimes we all just need a shamelessly uplifting dose of bubblegum dance anthem in our lives. "I drove my car into the bridge and I don't care," might not be the wisest words to come from the Swedish girl duos sassy mouths, but paired with an adrenaline stomp and electronica melody - I really do love it.

 


#38. "Golden Light" - Twin Shadow
Rising star hipster George Lewis Jr., AKA Twin Shadow, began crafting his own brand of melodic synthpop in 2010 after a church choir upbringing in Florida, Boston and New York. Tapping into the popular resurgence of flashy, retro-caked new wave beats  - Lewis' addition to the game is best heard through his mature, confident vocals and ability to snag a pretty hook for his downtown jams. When his high howl repeats "I'll follow you" before transitioning into sparkling keyboard - you expect John Hughes movie credits to roll before you.



#37. "Angels" - The xx
From first pang of the Brit-rockers coined echoey guitar, the world was ready for xx round two. The first single off the quartet's sophomore release, "Angels" immediately captures the same ethereal, emotional effect their acclaimed debut initiated with profound minimalist chords; something that haters would argue demonstrates their lacking departure from a tried and tested sound. Fans would argue it's not really something that knows any limits.

 


#36. "O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me" - Father John Misty
Former Fleet Foxes drummer and scruffy solo artist J. Tillman adopted this new musical moniker in late 2012, releasing Fear Fun, his debut under the pseudonym and a refreshingly sunny Americana collection of wandering tales, harvesting harmonies and infectious instrumentation. On putting together the hippie stories, Tillman pretty perfectly explained how the departure from Fleet Foxes and solo territory into his own flavour of experimental folk came to be: "I got into my van with enough mushrooms to choke a horse and started driving down the coast with nowhere to go. After a few weeks, I was writing a novel, which is where I finally found my narrative voice." Special.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #45-41

45. "Born and Raised" - John Mayer
Katy Perry's newest boyfriend, and all of Hollywood's favourite ex-boyfriend, in many eyes is undeserving of a pity party following his playboy behaviour - but upon first listen to this honest title track tale, as well as the rest of the singer-songwriter's latest release, it becomes clear that a little limelight hibernation did good things for Johnny. Featuring reflective harmonica and classic country-rock chords, Mayer opens this ballad with confessions of losing his way - before spending the rest of the album beginning his journey back.

 


44. "Wild Ones" - Flo Rida featuring Sia
This overplayed club track might seem like an odd choice - but there's no denying that the infectious chorus sung by British sparkplug Sia and rivaled by Flo Rida's typical rapid-fire rhymes (if you want to call them that), didn't have the world up and out of seat at first piano key. There's something to be said about dance floor anthems like this one, several of Rihanna's and the majority of David Guetta's, that pump you up amidst short glimmers of melodic sweetness.

 
 

43. "Between Friends" - Flying Lotus featuring Earl Sweatshirt and Captain Murphy
Experimental producer FlyLo has more street cred than he knows what to do with after this year - releasing multi-genre-boasting album Until The Quiet Comes that was woven together with the help of Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Erykah Badu and this track's dueling raspy rhymesmiths Earl Sweatshirt of Odd Future, and someone going by Captain Murphy (take one listen and you'll be reassured it's most definitely Tyler, The Creator). The acid-jazz-meets-funk-meets-soul-meets-street-beats collection is a smooth and flawless trip from first song to the 18th, oozing an unparalleled coolness as it transports you through the stylish dreamscape anthems.

 


42. "Bad Girls" - M.I.A.
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, also known as M.I.A., triumphantly reappeared this year with one of the most bad ass songs in the biz and a controversially incredible music video to boot. "My chain hits my chest as I'm banging on the dashboard," the Brit-rapper utters as she hangs off a donuting vehicle in the middle of the desert - proving that years after her "Paper Planes" rise to mainstream stardom, there's still no one in the corner who has swagger like her.

 


41. "White Foxes" - Susanne Sundfør
The first time critics heard Dolores O'Riordan or Bjork's unprecedented vocal howl, the world sort of stopped and stared. Sundfør, a Norwegian songstress with an equally piercing set of pipes, is still flying mildly under the North American radar, however - proving that her debut album The Silicone Veil and her mind-blowing vocal abilities combine to be some of 2012's most overlooked diamonds in the rough. On "White Foxes," Sundfør's vocal acrobatics pull in every which direction alongside a ticking clock-beat and twirling piano keys and haunting lyricism ("I've wept and I've stumbled, I fought and I craved for the gravy of your soul"), rightfully adding the ingredients of her inevitable takeover to the forefront of this year.






Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 50 Best Songs of 2012: #50-46

Here we go! With the end of the year just a short ten days away (irrelevant - considering the world is supposedly ending today), it's the perfect chance to count down some of the most interesting, newsworthy, revolutionary and beautiful songs of 2012. This year will inevitably close out with an overwhelming amount of "best of" lists, all which are worth taking a peak at, but if you've visited In The Round before and heard even a taste or millisecond of something that caught your ear or tickled your musical fancy, I highly encourage you to stop back in over the course of the next ten days - I can promise there will be something from this music-packed, incredibly creative year that will appeal to everybody.

Last year, I looked into the best 2011 albums - but this year, I figured we'd specify some of the tracks and tunes that really brought the new releases into fruition, ignited the masses, received too much airtime or not enough. Since the beginning of radio and music mania, it's been proven that it can only take one song to grow a new album, or a new superstar. So let's deep dive into what, and who, some of those are.


50: "Kill for Love" - Chromatics
The sparkling but lonely new age title track from the synth-savvy Chromatics was the cherry on top of their continued climb to dreamy dance floor fame; after having their music cast alongside Ryan Gosling in Drive and releasing a sonically stunning sophomore album in March. The song's crystallized keyboards and breathy vocals throw back to the days of New Order, but are only a few of the many elements that help mold the band's own spin on rock noir. 


 

49. "Higher Ground" - TNGHT (Lunice x Hudson Mowhawke)
It's hard for me think coherently about a song when it's giving me a kiniption. Based out of Montreal (Lunice) and Glasgow (HudMo's Ross Birchard), these two have created a beautiful hybrid of chaotic hip-hop and ruthless beats on this EP, mashing it with a Diplo style of attention-deficit EDM effects and a nasty street edge. Whatever it is, it's music for the people - rousing movement in the stiffest of listeners and leading to questions of what kind of mayhem an LP will hold.



48. "Blank Maps" - Cold Specks
Straight from our very own Etobicoke, Ontario, Al Spyx is now a London-based, Polaris Prize-nominated singer songwriter with a soulfulness that stands out from any global residency. The gospel croon and innovative composition heard on the debut I Predict A Graceful Expulsion and this particularly deep track is all-too impressive - but still not enough for the young artist to depart from behind her pseudonym, which was created to thwart a devout and unsupportive family. Amidst her hardships and rise to notoriety, once you hear her assuredly howl "I am a goddamn believer" on "Blank Maps" - you'll find you are as well.



47. "& It Was U" - How To Dress Well
Tom Krell, experimental producer - or better known lately as the brilliantly R&B-infused white guy - came out of nowhere. Looking like your typical hipster, the educated Colorado-based newbie blew critics away on his second release upon first listen to his effortlessly falsetto verses, layered Blackstreet-style harmonies and early-90s two stepping beats ready for a shouldered-boombox. Lesson learned: don't judge a skinny white guy by his first album and his dark-rimmed glasses. Or a book by its cover.



46. "For A Fool" - The Shins
As part of a collection of new songs that emerged from James Mercer's veteran rock collective after over 11 years together, this one had a particularly wistful and Shins-y (most definitely a musical descriptive word) feel to it, rubbed with a refreshingly mature perspective. The first time I heard this soft-rock ballad off Port of Morrow, I remarked at how the indie-rock godfather's have really grown up; still magical, still quirky (as heard on the characteristic single "Simple Song"), but possessing a beautiful kind of calmness I look forward to hearing more of on album number five.


 



 


 


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Throwback Thursday: Mackintosh Braun


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Before I hit the train tracks and heave home for the holidays, and especially before I begin a ten day countdown of the 50 best songs of 2012, I'm going to need a simple, unadorned throwback to get me in the vacation mindset. I need a little feel-good, shiny and not necessarily Christmas-themed tune for the holiday trek home; as well as something to wake me out of my already oh-so-present festive food coma.

This 2010 staple popped on the ol' iPhone this morning, and got me beyond pumped for the weekend ahead. Bring on the journey.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The XX's Last Christmas



Nothing says Happy Hump Day before the holidays like a fun little Wham! ditty, spun into a trendy BBC lounge cover by The XX.

Although one of the more pesky mainstream Christmas singles of the past three decades - as well as an inexplicable music video - The XX miraculously manage to make the revamped single chic-sounding and worthy of several repeats, with its pulsing keys and typically breathy vocals. Enjoy.




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Party Groove: Little Dragon


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This past weekend I had my annual work holiday party - otherwise known as an excuse to get dolled up, eat delicious food and shut your coworkers up when they try to raise items from the office. As the gala wound down, I hopped a taxi to get to a hip watering hole in the heart of Toronto's trendy West end, where my friends were waiting. I was far out to begin, and as the taxi rolled along (despite my knowing it's probably not wise to plug in earphones when in a stranger's vehicle), I couldn't resist opting out of the Top 40 dubstep remixes blaring in the cab and choosing my own music for the lengthy trek back into the city. While some people make sure they have bandaids for destructive high heels in their purse, I make sure to ball up my earbuds for these unexpectedly long commutes.

The scenery buzzed by the frosted windows, and as we cruised through the bright traffic lights and into the chaotic downtown strip, this soulful beat slid on seamlessly. I hadn't heard it in forever, but man, did this cool groove hit the spot; as if the ticking beat and wonky keyboard effects, paired with her jazzy croon, were a match made for holiday soirees.





Friday, December 14, 2012

TGIF: Soulful Christmas




After another week away from home, last night I was so happy to land in the big city, step onto the deck of the Island Airport ferry into the mild Toronto "winter" and take in the downtown I've missed so much lately. The CN Tower was alight with holiday colours, nestled into the sparkling skyline across the water, and my favourite Christmas playlist was blaring to fit the bill impeccably. Holiday parties, cocktail dresses, red nails, red wine and overeating are in my near future and this is the only thing I want to hear during it all.

As my very favourite version of any Christmas song, I always have this song on loop beginning mid-December of every year, and I don't think I could possibly ever tire of it. I feel Otis' soulful plea this year, too - hoping we get a little powder to top it all off. Have a beautiful holiday weekend!




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Night Beds: My Favourite Everything Right Now

So, I almost forgot to breathe the first time I watched this. One of my very favourite songs this year, courtesy of Nashville's newest, Night Beds, morphed into an incredible acoustic church peformance that I hadn't seen until this week. This version is nothing less than moving.

Look for the debut LP on February 5th. Have a lovely week!





Here's the equally as perfect, but more full-bodied, original:

WALL: Magazine


The always breathtaking view from (way) above Toronto

The past two weeks have been a complete and total blur. I've been back and forth between cities, running holiday errands, weaving through the crowds of Toronto and hardly sleeping. But, like I always say, such is life. Even if everything is in overdrive, you only live once, and everything can always be looked at as an experience. That's what I'm telling myself, at least.

With all of this bopping around and travel, you could also note that I've spent a particularly large chunk of my time...in the sky. Something that I never mind. There are some fairly hilarious comedy routines about silly people who take advantage of the fact that, for years now, we've ingeniously been enabled to sit in the air while going from point A to B - something which is still, actually, truly extroardinary. If you have a short flight and a window seat - yet you choose to sleep or read, my mind is boggled. Despite countless flights and the realization that there's always work I can be doing or emails I can be reading - I can't not paste my forehead to the window and peer over the world below. It's just too fascinating not to.

This perfectly hushed ditty from British producer and vocalist WALL is the sweetest and most intimate display of minimalist pop that I've heard in some time - and an absolute shoe-in song to crank while gliding through the clouds. The near whisper of her voice, sleepy melody and entrancing lyrics were just meant for a morning or evening up in the sky. Enjoy!





Friday, December 7, 2012

TGIF: Django Django

Photo: home
What I came home to last night. Perfection.

I am completely drained after being away all week for work and feel my eyelids sliding down with each typed word. These two particularly uptempo, unusual but totally infectious songs, however, are giving me the little burst of life that I need to make it to the end of the day.

Then... my bed. Forever.

Enjoy two winter weekend days to yourself!