Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 25 Musical Happenings of 2012

It's that time again.  Every year I pick out my most favorite moments from the previous year.  It isn't necessarily a song or an album but something that has happened in the world of music that I feel has a quantifiable effect on the world in one way or another.  There has been a tremendous amount of news this year from the passing away of many beloved artists to formations of new groups and winners all across the board in various musical competitions.  This list is my way of wrapping up the year and giving a nod to everyone that made a difference in my life musically. Without further fanfare, here are the top 25 events in the music industry that have left an indelible mark on my life forever.

25. M.I.A – Bad Girls
An absolute blistering track with an incredibly insane video to match. M.I.A. does indeed show that ‘Bad Girls do it well’. We just need her to go ahead and release her next album because if this is any indication, it’s going to just be incredible.

24. Snoop Dogg & Tupac - Hail Mary & 2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted
Innovation and music are two sides of the same coin. Without innovation in music, there wouldn’t be experimental artists or genres being tried. Without music there would be a distinct lack of creativity which fuels innovation. At Coachella this year, when Snoop took the stage with a solid light hologram of Tupac Shakur, the level of innovation was furthered without trying.

23. Hurricane Love – Only Human
Everyone knows I love Sweden. The music that is pumped out of that country is bar none some of the best from around the world. Hurricane Love showed us this year that they are going to be a band to watch in 2013.

22. Marina and the Diamonds – Electra Heart
I described her as petulant and I stick with that decision. Electra Heart, the second release from Marina is full of brilliant songs that generally break the mold of how a pop star should sound. Most of that revolves around her voice and her delivery.

21. PSY & Hammer on the AMAs
It takes a helluva performance to make me include it in a year end list but when PSY and Hammer came together on the American Music Awards to do a mash up of Too Legit To Quit and Gagnam Style, there was electricity in the air.

20. Mike & Cody – Monster Soul
One of the biggest releases for me from an independent artist this year. Mike and Cody are one of the fasting rising groups and when you have tracks like this, there isn’t any question as to why. They release amazing original works and then they turn around and release brilliant cover songs. You will never be disappointed with them because they are never disappointed in themselves.

19. City Rain – Montage
Ben Runyon and Jarrett Zerrer created incredible music this year and even though they decided to part ways creatively, Montage was one of the coolest albums to be released this year and like Mike and Cody, they did it on their own with no help from a record label, proving this was a great year for independent artists. Go and get Montage from their bandcamp and don’t stop listening to it. It’s half a step away from sheer genius.

18. Azealia Banks – 1991
Harlem native, Azealia Banks took the world by storm this year. Not so much the world but critics and audiophiles alike. She didn’t get much radio play but for those that heard her and got the opportunity to get to know her musically, she was an unstoppable force. 1991, her 4 tack EP is just blistering. There isn’t a track that doesn’t just leave you feeling something.

17. Jhameel – Are You Free Series
Jhameel is probably one of my most favorite independent artists of all time. He released the five tracks from this current series one at a time every week for five weeks. Each song tackles a different feeling or emotion and they are just full of everything that makes him a brilliant lyricist and artist. Easily one of the best EPs released in the past 10 years.

16. Charli XCX – Heartbreaks and Earthquakes – The Mixtape
17 year old sensation from the UK, Charli XCX released my second favorite mixtape only second to Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia/Ultra. The tracks are great, the placement of each one is great and the interstitials between some of the tracks just take it to another level. She has a brilliant head on her shoulders and makes even better music.

15. Scissor Sisters – Let’s Have a Kiki
Anthem. Plain and simple. Most people consider it to be the most authentic Scissor Sister track off Magic Hour. Don’t get me wrong, I love this song. But for a fan of the group for almost a decade, this is not all they are. They are more than this and it’s a disservice for this to be the song to pigeonhole them into.

14. No Doubt – Settle Down
The first single from one of my favorite bands in over 10 years. I love this song. It was just like No Doubt had ever stopped recording music. Sadly, for me though – it was the strongest song off Push and Shove. The rest of the album seemed more like Gwen’s third release not a No Doubt album.

13. Psy – Gagnam Style
The song that had Americans looking at Korea for something other than the potential for war. This song just took over everything this year. I was even in a Gagnam Style video filmed at DragonCon. It was played on American radio stations and for the most part, we just went with it.  It also made Americans take notice of K-Pop as a viable genre.

12. Lauren Ray – Say Goodbye
A rising star from the UK with a gorgeous voice and stage presence to match. She received much love and support from the London Club scene and her producer, Stormby. Her voice just has so much power and control. She is going to be another artist to watch in 2013.

11. Kylie Minogue – Timebomb
As part of her K25 celebration, Kylie released this track and accompanying video to much fanfare from her fans. One of my most favorite Kylie tracks of all time. It made me want a new album from her more and more.

10. Jane Badler – Mistaken Identity
Smoky, smouldering, sexy, sultry. I don’t know many other adjectives that can express just how much this album sizzles. Jane proves that it’s not just a game for the 20-somethings to seduce and make you flush from desire. Simply a gorgeous EP that leaves you wanting a snuggle and a cigarette but not necessarily in that order.

09. Katharine McPhee – Touch Me (NBC’s Smash)
This should have been released as a single because it is that good. Ryan Tedder produced this track for the show and was even in the episode it was in. The progression of the chorus and the way that it just ratchets itself up to a higher level leave you with your mouth agape. Katharine is so great in Smash and this song is a reflection of how talented she is.

08. Gossip – A Joyful Noise
“Where Beth Ditto goes, I follow” I read online the other day. I totally agree with that statement. She is more woman than the majority of the music industry. She has class and gumption and balls and sexuality and smarts. She just says, “Like me or not – I don’t care” and it’s that attitude that makes her a superstar. This album was by far the most commercial of Gossip’s releases and I think that’s smart. It’s going with the flow and changing as it needs too.

07. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Same Love
There isn't much I can say about this song that they don't say for themselves in the song.  A powerful alley in the hip hop community rose this year in the form of Ben Haggerty from Seattle.  This song won accolades from all across the globe and has helped open doors and communication lines everywhere.

06. P!nk – Try
There are only a handful of artists that have the power to evoke as much emotion that P!nk can. The Truth About Love had so many incredible tracks that were just powerful but none more than the combination of the song and video for Try.

05. Alphabeat – Express Non-Stop
I don’t care what mood you’re in, there is no way that listening to Alphabeat can’t make your mood brighter, more energetic and all in all better. Express Non-Stop is an album that simply sends you into the stratosphere and keeps you there until you want to come down.

04. Bright Light Bright Light – Make Me Believe In Hope
Rod Thomas created an album that was not only thoughtfully written but also creatively driven. Each song has a way of taking you exactly where you need to go. When you first hear the album, you have to listen a few times. You have to hear the music and then when you are done with that, you can go back and listen to the words and participate with where he is taking you.

03. Walk the Moon
This album and group just came out of nowhere and has not left heavy rotation in my library since I got the album. I cannot find a fault in this album at all. Each and every song is carefully crafted so that it in fact stands on its own but when combined with the other tracks, it becomes something much larger than itself.

02. Justin Utley (Camp Pride)
No surprise that Justin made my list. He invited me to his performance in July as part of the Camp Pride program at Vanderbilt University. Aside from getting to meet him in person and getting to hang out with him, I got to hear stories about his songs and got to see just how much the music means to him. I want everyone to have the opportunity to see him live because he is so magnanimous and draws you in and makes you part of his experience. He is truly an inspiration and an incredible human being.

01. Delta Rae – Carry the Fire
This six piece group from Durham, North Carolina has become one of my top 5 groups of all time. Getting to hang out with them after their show cemented my love for them. They are honest, humble, thankful, and full of so much integrity it’s not funny. In a short six months, these people have changed my life through their music more than they will know. This album is one of the most important albums I own. As a matter of fact, I have purchased it 3 times because I keep giving it away to new fans. From start to finish, if this album doesn’t make you feel something then you are a robot. What they do on an album is shadowed by what they can do live. I get to go see them again in March and I am counting the days.

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