*Second note: This will apply to all "of the year" posts going forward. My criteria for these selections were my favorites + what I feel truly resembled the best. I say that because there is NO WAY that I could get to all the music that was released in the year so chances are your favorite song/album/artist might be left out (unless we have the same music tastes, then that should be covered).
And with that, let's get to the songs:
#1. Jack White - Sixteen Saltines
I’ll admit - this one even surprises me. But after the soft “Love Interruption” I began to become disinterested in Jack White’s solo effort. Then I heard "Sixteen Saltines." Then proceeded to hear it about 200 more times throughout the year. It was a big radio single on the station I listen to and an instant volume pusher in the “up” direction. Why did it get the top spot? Because at the end of the day, I have a rock and roll heart and this is a damn good rock and roll song.
#2. Sleigh Bells - "Demons"
You know those songs that you instantly fall in love with the first time you hear them? That happened for me the first time I clicked play on “Demons.” It takes everything about the over-popular electronic sound of today and combines it with the blistering jean-jacket-metal sound of the 80s. It’s loud. And it’s great.
#3. fun. featuring Janelle Monae - "We Are Young"
I’m sure this gets some scoffs as it traded places with “Call Me Maybe” and “Somebody That I Used to Know” as one of the most played songs in 2012, but I’ll be damned if that doesn’t make it any less of a good song. The drumming buildup combined with the anthemic chorus is topped off by a guest appearance by Janelle Monae. And it was a track that definitely helped fun. set the world on fire.
#4. Alabama Shakes - "Be Mine"
Alabama Shakes burst onto the scene in 2012, with a sound that most resembled a tamer, female-fronted Black Keys (or a throwback to Led Zeppelin if that’s a better comparison for you). Nestled toward the end of their debut album, Boys and Girls, sits “Be Mine,” a roaring track that features frontwoman Brittany Howard stand for her man (and drop an F bomb in the process).
#5. Mumford and Sons - "Ghosts That We Knew"
#6. The Gaslight Anthem - "Mulholland Drive"
#7. Yellowcard - "Ten"
Yellowcard have come back strong, releasing albums in both 2011 and 2012. Among the violin-driven frenzy stood the acoustic ballad “Ten.” If you’ve heard it, you know why it’s good. If you haven’t, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Just press play and listen to the story unfold but be warned - it’s kind of a tear-jerker.
#8a. Green Day - "Let Yourself Go"
#8b. Green Day - "Amy"
#8c. Green Day - "Dirty Rotten Bastards"
It was hard to escape Green Day in the latter part of 2012 as they released three separate studio albums (which were discussed at length here here and here). Even as a fan, wading through all those songs was admittedly daunting but well worth it to find some treasures. There were a lot of standout tracks, but these were my favorites from each respective release. “Let Yourself Go” is full of energy and in-your-face appeal; “Amy” is a tearjerker ballad that rivals “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”; and “Dirty Rotten Bastards” is a return to the rock-opera-in-a-bottle that was found sprinkled into American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown.
Listen here and here and here
#9. Silversun Pickups - "The Pit"
For their third album, Silversun Pickups went a bit more experimental, even more so than gazy rockers found in previous releases. On "The Pit," an electro-beat with a modified drum-pattern help set the background for this trippy track. Lead vocalist Brian Aubert takes front stage, but Nikki Monninger's background coos add to the feel of a standout track on a fantastic album.
#10. Of Monsters and Men - "Little Talks"
First making listeners take notice in 2011, the debut effort from Icelandic guys and gals Of Monsters and Men had a stateside release in 2012. Their "foreign folk" sound is one that is at times soothing and others haunting. "Little Talks," the lead-single off of My Head is An Animal is an example of the former, and is just one example of intricate storytelling found on the album.
After some underground releases, Kendrick Lamar burst onto the main scene in 2012 to much (deserved) applause. Backed by a heavyweight such as Dr. Dre and it was clear that Lamar meant business. One of the first songs to introduce him to the world was "Swimming Pools," a standout track if for anything else that it's bait-and-switch use of party feel but lyrics that aren't saying what you think they are based on first listen.
#12. Pink featuring Nate Ruess of fun. - Just Give Me a Reason
Amidst the girls who are waiting on guys to call them (maybe) or letting them know that they are never (ever) getting back together, Pink quietly came out with the best pop album of the year. There was so much diversity and the shining spots included guest vocals from Eminem and Lily Allen. But fun. frontman Nate Ruess shows up here to complete a back-and-forth full of piano and full of heart.
#13. Bad Books - "It Never Stops"
The hybrid of Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra released a second effort in 2012, one that you will definitely hear more about in a separate post. After "Forest Whitaker" was released that showed Bad Books go in a different direction, "It Never Stops" was the follow up that showed the group is still good at getting down to the basics. The tracks shows the harmony between Devine and Andy Hull at its best and helped propel II to one of the best albums of the year.
#14. The Black Keys - "Little Black Submarines"
The Black Keys have added more tools to their musical belt in recent years, but their talent really shines when it’s just two guys and the bare basics. “Little Black Submarines” works for that reason. This song (featured on a Dec 2011 release but gaining momentum throughout 2012) starts off with Auerbach’s acoustic wailing and features Carney coming in softly before the song explodes. It’s a perfect example of all things Black Keys.
#15. My Chemical Romance - "Tomorrow's Money"
“Tomorrow’s Money” was one of two songs first released in the Conventional Weapons EP set, featuring songs that were scrapped prior to the release of Danger Days. So far, these are head scratchers as to why they weren’t released on a studio album because they could have been massive. "Tomorrow’s Money" in particular shows that when MCR is firing on all cylinders they can be one of the best in the business.
#16. Pierce the Veil featuring Kellin Quinn - "King for a Day"
PTV has been one of my favorite bands for a while and it's always been surprising because they aren't in a genre I normally listen to. Even more surprising is this song's placement in my 2012 reflection. But I can't help it - it's that good. It's hard, it's fast, it's well-written. If this song doesn't get you ready to conquer the day, you don't have a pulse.
#17. Linkin Park - Victimized
Linkin Park is in a weird stage in their career. They can't really go "back" but some of the forward progressing songs they have just aren't working. So Living Things was not only a breath of fresh air, but "Victimized" was a nostalgic blast. It was reminiscent of all things early LP, not by style but with energy and gave the new album a nice upside.
#18. The xx - "Angels"
Call it a change of heart, but I was never a huge fan of The xx until I heard this song. There's something about the hauntingly dramatic mood of this track that starts off their sophomore effort, Angels. It blends all of the elements that make this band what they are known for and made people like me take notice in 2012.
#19. Frank Ocean - "Thinking About You"
When you have opportunities you make the most of them and Frank Ocean did just that in 2012. Add me to the list who had heard the name but never the music; that is until back-to-back national performances at the VMAs and SNL. Afterward, I became an immediate fan of this song (and seriously, who doesn’t love to sing falsetto to match Ocean’s delivery).
#20. Band of Skulls - "Lay My Head Down"
A band flying under the alternative radar, Band of Skulls can rock with the best of them. But as most good bands can do, they know when to slow it down. Take “Lay My Head Down” for example. A slow, Civil Wars-esque buildup leads to a fantastic, yet simple guitar solo for one of the more underrated songs of the year.
#21. The Avett Brothers - "Live and Die"
If there is a charge of mainstream-folk coming to the airwaves, the leaders have got to be Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers. On “Live and Die,” the Bros. show why the sound is taking over. Yes, it was on a GAP commercial. But yes, it’s still a good song.
#22. Rick Ross featuring Andre 3000 - "Sixteen"
The more records Rick Ross puts out, the more legitimate Rick Ross becomes. And it doesn't get much more legitimate than Andre 3000. The two hooked up for this track that displays the best of rap and the worst of radio - mainly that this 8-minute masterpiece could never be turned into a single. And it doesn't need to be. Just press play and enjoy.
#23. Neon Trees - "Trust"
Neon Trees came out with a great sophomore effort in 2012, though not as full of singles as 2010's Habits. "Trust" is an example of that - not exactly radio friendly but still easily the best song on Picture Show. It shows the group can give a nod to the past while moving forward to the future.
#24. Muse - "Panic Station"
After a sort-of concept album in 2009, Muse came back in 2012 throwing pretty much everything at the wall for The 2nd Law. Found within the grandest arena rock and dubstep influenced throwdowns sits this Prince meets Michael Jackson meets Muse jam session. It's also one of the few times a Muse track comes with a Parental Advisory warning, but it helps take the song up just a notch.
#25. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz - "Mercy"
As great as Kanye West's solo albums have been throughout his entire career, I truly feel Yeezy shines best on guest appearances. So on this track, released on the G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer, shows him at his strongest. The beat changes when West gets on the track, an affect to give his spot even more of a presence. Though this write-up is about West, the other three on the track hold their own and make this one of the better rap songs of 2012 (and try, TRY to listen to this multiple times and not want to yell out "2 CHAINZ")