This is the first time in a long time I haven't concocted a year-end top 10 albums list. There certainly were swell LPs released in 2012: the Killers' Battle Born, the Avett Brothers' The Carpenter, Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel... to name a few. But maybe the singles-minded iTunes-ing of music finally caught up to me. My year was defined more by great songs, and there were a lot.
These aren't the hottest radio tracks; I liked Gangnam Style, but you already know about that one. Instead, this eclectic list (plus five bonus cuts at the end) drips in discovery, in cool, in robust shout-'em-out hooks. Maybe they're covers, maybe deep album cuts. Acts range from hip-hop (2 Chainz) to American Idol (Carrie Underwood), from quiet (Regina Spektor) to arena-sized (the Killers). At the very least, maybe they'll give you something to consider when spending that iTunes gift card you got from Aunt Shirley.
Jack White, I'm Shakin' (from Blunderbuss) "You got me noivous!" The Pale One's over-the-top cover of Little Willie John's classic come-on trembles with squawky, strutty guitar and J. Dub's hounddog pleading.
The Killers, Here With Me (from Battle Born) When I first heard this big, heartbreaking sweeper from Brandon Flowers and his Vegas glam-rock boys, I couldn't believe how good it was. So I listened again and again. Still listening, still not sick of it.
Frank Ocean, Forrest Gump (from Channel Orange) R&B newbie Ocean made headlines with musical admissions of his bisexuality, including this slow, '70s-smoldery nod to a youthful crush. "Running on my mind, boy." Hot stuff indeed.
Borgore and Miley Cyrus, Decisions (from Decisions) At first, I hated it. But this thrashing dubstep absurdity from Israeli DJ Borgore and the former Hannah Montana has grown on me with fungal charm. It's NSFW, or anywhere else for that matter, but it's sexy and stupid and fun.
Regina Spektor, How (from What We Saw From the Cheap Seats) Spektor is an ambitious singer, and yet this relatively stripped ballad is just as devastating as her acrobatic doozies. When she performed How at Ruth Eckerd Hall in November, it was my most transcendent concert moment of 2012.
Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball (from Wrecking Ball) The title track from the Boss' rousing state-of-disunion address was originally written as an ode for ill-fated Giants Stadium. But like all great Springsteen cuts, it's layered with meaning and uplift, and darn if this sucker doesn't work as a rallying cry in these recessionary times. "Come on and take your best shot / Let me see what you've got / Bring on your wrecking ball."
2 Chainz & Kanye West, Birthday Song (from Based on a T.R.U. Story) 2 Chainz, aka Tauheed Epps from College Park, Ga., is a blunt-force MC. When Kanye shows up to the dirrrty bash, this low-and-slow threat gets downright silly. "All I want for my birthday is..."
Van Halen, Stay Frosty (from A Different Kind of Truth) This sorta sequel to VH's Ice Cream Man proves that David Lee Roth, Eddie and the crew can still play loud, fast and ferocious. Welcome back, boys.
Taylor Swift, State of Grace (from Red) For half of new album Red — the faster half, that is — the pride of Wyomissing, Pa., ditches her country roots and branches out big time. On swirling, guitar-jacked opening track State of Grace, she seemingly kidnaps U2's Edge then makes like Bono with blond ringlets.
Carrie Underwood, Cupid's Got a Shotgun (from Blown Away) My two wee daughters and I don't always agree on music. We all like Elvis and Cee Lo and AC/DC, but they're still stubborn when it comes to the Beatles. In bittersweet news: They love ALL Carrie Underwood songs (sigh), but we bonded over this go-go-go pickin' party about outrunning the diapered cherub.
WAIT! HERE'S FIVE MORE: Knock Knock, Band of Horses (from Mirage Rock); Werewolf, Fiona Apple (from The Idler Wheel...); Shadow Days, John Mayer (from Born and Raised); Roll on John, Bob Dylan (from Tempest); Live and Die, the Avett Brothers (from The Carpenter)
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