Friday, December 21, 2012

BS Top 20 Songs of 2012

Every year is such a gift in music appreciation and this year was no different. There are new bands that hit the scene, bands that I’ve heard for the first time even though they’ve been toiling for years and new sounds infecting the Big Sexy lexicon of songs. This year’s Top 20 songs are littered with songs featuring horns. There are trumpets, trombones, clarinets and even kazoos played in my favorite songs of the year. Everyone’s blowing something. Another big hit this year was a fuzzed out guitar. Not sure if I love that, but a few of my favorite songs of the year feature it.

I’m sure you, the loyal readers of this annual column and those of you who simply Googled “big + sexy + kazoo” will have your eyes opened to an excellent song or two along the way. Here are the top 20 songs of 2012. For you first time internet users, click on the highlighted song title to watch the video of the song in a new window.

1. Down with the Trumpets - Rizzle Kicks

Fave Lyric: Umm, how much sound from the brass to the air would it take to get your bras in the air? (Pardon me there)

Not sure what this is? Is it dub step? Is it Brit Hop? I don’t know. I know I love it.  It’s happy, bouncy and cool. These two English kids are just talking about having fun, “Dag nab it”. I think what makes it for me is the deep bass line, the British accents in such a fun way and, of course, the trumpets! It’s a rare song that can make me feel cool and geeky at the same time. “Whaaaat?”

2. Run Right Back - The Black Keys

Fave Lyric: She don’t read too much, but there’s no doubt, she’s written about.

I have already praised this band, album and song in a previous post. This song was atop the list from wire to wire. Not an easy trick with my fickle ears. This is my favorite song off one of the top albums of the year. Great guitar and drums. This is a pretty positive song from these blues rockers. From what I can tell, he just really thinks this gal is something special and he cannot get enough of her. Sadly, there is no video for this song yet as the Keys are modern masters of the music video.

3. Sixteen Saltines – Jack White

Fave Lyric: I eat sixteen saltine crackers, then I lick my fingers.

Does this song actually mean anything? Who knows? Probably about some woman who has broken his heart. Jack White’s solo album is full of songs from a man who has been burnt by love. What I can tell you is that this song is 2 and a half minutes of Jack White kicking ass White Stripes style. That is an awesome guitar lick. The video is just weird and creepy, don't watch it.

4. Leeds United - Amanda Palmer

Fave Lyric: Who needs love when there’s Law & Order? And who needs love when there’s Southern Comfort? And who needs love at all?!?

This is a unique song. I found it from a story about Kickstarter, the internet sight where you can donate money to get artist projects funded. Amanda Palmer is a singer in the Dresden Dolls and raised over a million dollars to make a solo album. Those are some dedicated fans! This song is not even from that album. It’s a couple of years old, but I love it. The singer is holding on to a relationship where the only passion is for the local soccer team, “Leeds United”.  She’s getting by on tv reruns and alcohol. I love how the song builds. The breaking voice of the singer and her emotionally strained voice grows as her desperation is further communicated. The jangley piano (this album was produced by Ben Folds) and blaring trombones and trumpets (again with the trumpets?) and wonderful. Without really digging into the meaning, it is hard to tell this isn’t just a happy song about the team.

5. Let Yourself Go - Green Day

Fave Lyric: Always fuck, fuck, fucking with my head now.

Oh, how I was looking forward to seeing Green Day at the Memorial Auditorium! It would be a small(ish) venue for the best live band in the world. I was counting on this song being the lead song and setting the tempo for the whole night. I'll have to settle for this live clip. The song kicks ass from the opening chords. It is a throwback to the 90’s punk rock band version of Green Day. The trio of albums released by Green Day this fall show that they can excel in a wide variety of musical genres. But this is their roots. This isn’t a deep, political allegory. It is just three guys wailing on instruments, screaming and bouncing around for three minutes,  getting their yayas out.

6. Love Interruption - Jack White

Fave Lyric: I love all of the ways he wants love to mistreat him. If I had to pick one, I’ll pick the first one as
it is the surprise. You start off thinking love is going to be sweet, but “I want love to roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me and twist it all around.”

Is that a clarinet being featured prominently in this song? Best clarinet since Electric Six on Showtime. This is the bluesier side of Jack White. This man has been hurt by someone so deeply he doesn’t ever want to be tempted by that emotion again. I love the creativity in the lyrics. It is a stand out song about hating love. Not a unique topic, but uniquely done.

7. Demons – Sleigh Bells

Fave Lyric: They’re gonna bury you, they’re gonna finish. They’re gonna stand ‘em up six by six by six.

Sleigh Bells is heavy metal with a cheerleader. They are just a two person band, with a dude who loves to slay a guitar and a girl who sounds like she should be saying “Here we go Raiders, here we go”. Not only in tone but in cadence. The drum machine is particularly kicking it in this song. When I was DJ’ing the Rio Raiders last football game, I thought of having the team take the field to this, but I thought it might be a little left field since the old guard was asking for AC/DC. (I settled on Nirvana – Love Buzz, which was pretty cool). This song has a very hard driving guitar and is a great pump up song. I usually like to dig into the meanings of songs but hellifino.

8. Strange Arithmatic  - The Coup

Fave Lyric: Teacher, my hand’s up. Please don’t make me a victim.

The Coup is a finalist for Big Sexy new band of the year and the album, Sorry to Bother You is a top album candidate. This album has been described as a “party in a can”. However, The Coup is a VERY political band. Boots Riley, the main guy in the band, was speaking all over the Occupy Oakland scene. The best I can tell, they are mix between Rage Against the Machine and Parliament Funkadelic. This particular song is extra funky. (Is that a kazoo break?) I love that they go through each subject and tell the listener how the way the subject is being taught is keeping us down.

9. Gold on the Ceiling – The Black Keys

Fave Lyric: They wanna get my….

Back again to the Black Keys. This is just another excellent song of El Camino that has received many listens on my ipod. Great blues guitar that just begs to be played on my custom made air guitar. I don’t care much about the words in the one. Just rock out, bob my head and clap my hands.

10. The Plot – White Rabbits

Fave Lyric: I’m so whoa-o-o-o-o

This song is a couple years old, but was a wonderful discovery. Nice driving drum line. The repeating of the lyric above is fun to sing. I like the pace changes in the song. I also like to think that it is a song from a dog’s point of view as he is watching an unhappy couple. Is the whoa-o-o-o-o a howl? It’s probably not, but if it is, how playa is that?

11. The House that Heaven Built - Japandroids

Fave Lyric: When they try to slow you down. Tell them all to go to hell.

Japandroids is a finalist for best new artist with their new album Celebration Rock. The album title does not lie. This is harder rock that really seems upbeat and fun. Japandroids is a fun name for a fun band. This song has the fuzz guitar that has become more prevalent in college rock. I don’t know if the singer wants to party or kick someone’s butt. Maybe both.

12. 45 – The Gaslight Anthem

Fave Lyric: Turn the record over. See you on the flipside.

The Gaslight Anthem had a couple of good songs this year. These Jersey Boys have always had a bit of a Bruce Springsteen meets John Mellancamp for a rock band, that I’ve never been able to fully embrace. But this song crosses over even a little more into alternative rock. This songs kicks it and dude is getting on with his life after a break-up with a reference to 45’s that their target audience has no idea exists. Maybe she thought he was too old.

13. Stay Useless - Cloud Nothings

Fave Lyric: I need Dom to stop moving. I need Dom to stay useless.

Cloud Nothings is another band that favors a fuzzy guitar sound. The actual lyric is "I need time to stop moving. I need time to stay useless.” I thought it was a song about needing a guy to stop getting in the way. It’s more about a guy who is too busy. I can relate to that, but I like thinking it’s about a guy wanting his friend to stay useless.

14. Star Machine – Bob Mould

Fave Lyric: You say you want it. You say you need it. You say it’s everything you ever want to be, yeah.

I missed the Husker Du wave in the 80’s. I never knew they were so rocking! Some thirty years on, the lead singer puts out his 10th or so solo album and I finally get a taste. This old guy kicks ass. This sounds a lot like the Foo Fighters to me with a different singer. My first taste of Husker Du was see the Foos cover a Husker Du song in concert. I can see why Dave Grohl is a big fan.

15. Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men

Fave Lyric: Don’t listen to a word I say. The screams all sound the same. Hey!

Of Monsters and Men reminds me of one of those bands with a bunch of people. The male and female lead singers take turns signing in their cool Icelandic accents. The trombone blasts with the sing-a-long-able “Hey” really add the party to the song.

16. Sixpack – Jeff the Brotherhood

Fave Lyric: Let’s load the car up. I got a bag of ice. I got a six-pack. And I don’t wanna go back.

That’s how this song starts off. Sounds like a good start of a summer evening to me. This band also likes the fuzzy guitar. I also like the line “It’s so hot in this tiny room. So so so so so so so so so so so so so so so-o hot”. This song makes me thirsty.

17. The Only Place – Best Coast

Fave Lyric: Why would you live any where else? We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun. We’ve got the waves. This is the only place for me.

What a happy song! It’s all about how blessed the singer is about leaving at the beach in California. I’m going to assume she means the sunny and warm part. It really is just a simple happy song about being just where you want to be. You just don’t hear much of that.

18. Too Close – Alex Clare

Fave Lyric: I can’t lie no more. I can’t hide no more. I got to be true to myself…. So I’ll be on my way.

I may be getting a bit tired of this song already, but I really liked it for most of the year. It sounds kinda like a funkier Maroon 5 until they break into distorted tempo of the heavy bass line.

19. Trojans – Atlas Genius

This is the safest song on the list. And no, it’s not about condoms. It’s about a breakup of a relationship and the singer is changing everything in his life but the Trojan horse that she parked in his head is still there. I don’t think this song will have the longevity of many of the other songs on this list, but I really liked this song in 2012.

20. Tongue Tied – Grouplove

Fave Lyric: One, two, three, four (before the change in vocal)

This is another very happy song. It’s been a little too played, but similar to Too Close, I really liked this for most of the year, so don’t hate on it now. This is another group that sounds like they have a bunch of people. This song mixes some female vocals in with the lead singer. It’s just another song that you can’t help but feel happy when you hear it.

21. Wet Hair – Japandroids

Fave Lyric: Let’s go the France so we can French kiss some French girls.

Another song from Japandroids, but this song is actually from their previous album. The lyrics here are repeated over and over throughout the song. Each minute repeats a different verse of no more than 15 words that repeat a similar flow. I originally thought they might be haiku, but haikan’t.

Just missing this list, but worth the effort to check out...

Disparate Youth – Santigold

Handwritten – The Gaslight Anthem

Hello – Karmin

Do It Anyway – Ben Folds Five

Youth Without Youth – Metric

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