Sunday, December 30, 2012

22 Favorite Singles of 2012

Musically speaking, 2012 was one for the records - offering us stellar new outings from Dragonette, Madonna, Crystal Castles and - after much waiting - the first official albums from Tanlines and Niki and The Dove. It was also the year that Canadians rivaled the Swedes in pop excellence.

But many of us also seemed to mix up 'inspiration' with plain old plagiarism... people ate up Justin Bieber's note by note rendition of that other - much better - Justin; they turned Bruno Mars' Police rip-off into a number one hit...and yes, millions still praised Gaga's shameless Madonna karaoke act. What happened to new thinking? Do we really believe, as one young Youtuber recently posted, 'everything has been done already so it's ok to copy'? Does pop music have to equal recycled crap? The answer - clearly - is NO ...and the  proof is below.

So next time you are about to waste your $1.49 on a Demi Lovato song - consider any of these 22 singles. The best of the year in my opinion... in descending order for a little suspense. Happy New Year everyone!

22. ‘Golden Light’ – Twin Shadow

From the Dominican Republic. Yes, really. I dig people who break negative stereotypes (Pitbull and J-Lo– can you retire now and stop embarrassing an entire community with your artless, tacky crap?).  This guy writes music for film, has created awesome remixes for people way more famous than he is and – in my opinion – was the best male artist this year.  By the way.. is that the theme of 1987’s vampire flick ‘The Lost Boys’ buried in the chorus? I wouldn’t put it past him.

21. 'You Stood Me Up' - DWNTWN

Just because I'm a sucker for 80's style synth...

20. 'Paddling Out' - Miike Snow

Always fun. Always off beat.

19. ‘Put Me To Work’ – PAPA

What if Bruce Spingsteen had sprung from 2012 Brooklyn instead of early 80’s New Jersey?

18. ‘All Of Me’ – Tanlines

Timeless pop. Could have been a hit anytime between1981 and today.

17. 'Up All Night' - Oliver Tank

Let's get it on...

16. ‘We Are Young’ - Fun.

 Well done American radio listeners. I sort of forgive you for all of the other crap you request. Sort of.

15. 'Sweet Nothing' - Calvin Harris Feat. Florence Welch

This Brit does with Florence Welch what he did with Rihanna last year: he recruited a so-so lady and turned out a golden dance track. One of the best videos of the year.

14. ‘Ghosts’ – ON AND ON

Fresh out of the oven. No album yet. Band to watch in 2013.

13. ‘Time To Dance’ – The Shoes

Irresistible chant-along-indie-dance-track! Now, there’s a micro category for you. Plus, Jake Gylenhaal as a mass murderer in the video? Bring it

12.  ‘Catch My Breath’ – Kelly Clarkson

With 3 big radio hits, this was the year of Kelly Clarkson. What I still love about her – 11 years after I kept voting for her On American idol (TMI?) - is that she can rule the airwaves with unforgettable pop songs , with one of the best voices out there,  and manages to feel very much under the radar. Here’s to the constant underdog.

 11. ‘Days’ – The Drums

Any band that uses Amanda Lepore in their video deserves to be on the best of list. Plus, it’s a kick ass song.

10. ‘Plague’ – Crystal Castles

From the best album this year; it’s also the track with the best video this year. I couldn’t have picked a better film to complement the creepy vibe of this song than 1981’s “Possession” with Sam Neil and Isabelle Adjani.

 9) 'Summertime Sadness’ – Lana del Rey

Finally! A summer song for those who appreciate a little misery with our sunshine. Del Rey’s magic trick is to add gloss, allure and sex appeal to tragedy. Very Hollywood.

8) ‘Dj Ease My Mind’ – Niki and the Dove

Disco renaissance done right.

7) ‘Closer’ – Tegan and Sara

These twins came up with the catchiest , most awesome chorus this year. Canada strikes again!

6) ‘To You’ – Young Wonder

I was hooked with the Eastern Undertones on this one. A song of mourning that manages to uplift.  ‘See you, See you in the next life’…

5) ‘212’ – Azealia Banks

Is it fair to compare women just because they’re female rappers? Who cares? I’ll do it anyway. Ms Banks’ chops and gritty feel make Niki Minaj feel as vapid and gimmicky as Lady Gaga. Her EP was huge. Another one to watch next year.

4) ‘Dig Into the Waves’ – Freelance Whales

Yup, Hipster world circa 2008 is still very much alive in this nostalgic tune about relationships that are worth saving.

3) ‘Anything could happen’ – Ellie Goulding

Sonic Prozac.

2) ‘Steve McQueen’ – M83

The best track of 2011’s brilliant ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’. Like the album, it captures the thrill of being a nine year old: That mixture of awe and horror at your newfound powers.


My pick for best track of the year backs up this blog's premise: you can be unapologetically pop and mainstream and still have a soul and some originality. Here’s a love song that’s so well crafted that it makes me wish I wasn’t so damn single every time I hear it … at least for three and a half perfect minutes.

Happy 2013!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My 5 Favorite Albums of 2012

My 5 Favorite albums of 2012 (aka. O Canada!)

2012 was the best year in music since 2009 - The only disappointments: still no new stuff from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (hello??), LadyHawke's sophomore album was a huge letdown and Lady Gaga is still around. But - luckily - the great far outweighed the bad thanks in large part to the guys below.... the best of this year's crop...

5) ‘Bodyparts’ – Dragonnette

These Canadians’ last album, ‘Fixin’ To Thrill’ was my pick for 2009’s best album. It was impossible for them – and most artists - to match it. But they do come very close with the perfect harmony of ‘Lay Low’ - or when Martina brings on the sass on ‘Right Woman’. In an alternative universe where tween boys with vocodered voices and silly hairdos don’t rule radio with the same exact David Guetta-ish song, Dragonette would be pop kings. Until then, they remain our best kept secret.

4) ‘MDNA’ – Madonna

If you said - once again (yawn) - ‘crap album, she is over’ – then you surely missed some of her most personal, often progressive music ever  - like ‘Love Spent’, ‘Gang Bang’ and ‘I’m Addicted’.  MDNA is not her best album, nobody can put out a ‘Ray of Light’ or a ‘Like a Prayer’ or even ‘Confessions’ that often, even M. But it does stand proudly within her awesome-albums-with-filler-songs category (ie. ‘Erotica’, ‘Music’). The big difference here is that she inexplicably chose to promote MDNA with the filler songs themselves – she released the songs you skip yet forgive because the rest is so good - the songs she seems to have called in from her Learjet because she had to. Arguably, ‘Gimme all your lovin’, ‘Girl Gone Wild’ and ‘Turn Up the Radio’ are not only the worst songs on the album, but some of the worst songs she has ever put out. And, sadly, it’s the impression most people were left with of MDNA.  But take a look below at the live version of 'Love Spent' and say, again, 'it's crap.. she is over'.. go on, I dare you. 

3) ‘Halcyon’ - Ellie Goulding

While obtuse, corporate US radio is still stuck on 2010’s ‘Lights’, the fact that this woman has put out a new collection of pulsating, smart pop tunes may fall through the tracks. ‘Dead in the Water’ is mournful and haunting, and first single ‘Anything Could Happen’ should be burning the airwaves by now…Ellie Goulding can turn ‘dear diary' music into cool like nobody else.

2) ‘Instinct’ – Niki and The Dove

Mix Stevie Nicks with Kate Bush and add a touch of Scandinavian kookiness and you get close to what these guys are all about. Perfectly poppy and sing along, perfectly strange. Perfect.

1) III – Crystal castles

My Favorite album this year - hands down - belongs to this Canadian electronica duo. They took a slight departure from their earlier, dancier stuff and created a space that packs in the lovely, the exhilarating, the cinematic and yes – the creepy. Good move. Even if you don’t understand what lead singer Alice Glass is screaming about – you get it – you don’t need to have it all spelled out for you. And that – to me - is what great music is all about.  See 'Pale Flesh' below... one of the best tracks of the year also.