Top Ten Songs of 2012

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Bob Dylan by William Claxton 

Falling into the category of ‘Lists, for What They’re Worth’ this week: my top 10 songs of 2012.

In the past, I’ve listed my top ten albums — but digital music has gotten the best of me when it comes to adding new stuff to my collection. Full records on vinyl still spin at home regularly, but my iTunes panel is peppered with a slew of one, two, or three-year-old one-offs.

That said, I continue to find the majority of my new favorite jams through a handful of sources. Most often it’s WMVY, a terrestrial and online radio station based on Martha’s Vineyard*. I also find a lot of great music, and information about new music, on NPR … its journalists don’t get enough attention for being hip. Most recently, I’ve found great sounds via the Manchester, Vt.-based station WEQX, which is always playing new music and promoting indie musicians.

And so, in no particular order, the top 10 are:

Global Concepts, Robert DeLong. In perhaps the best defense of the one-song-at-time method of discovering and buying new music on this list, this tune isn’t attached to an album and is only available, as DeLong’s website says, at ‘fine digital retailers.’

Emmylou, First Aid Kit. From the album The Lion’s Roar, this song is almost too soothing to be played in the car. But it also seems appropriate in every season, unlike some songs; cozy in the winter, breezy in the summer.

That Wasn’t Me, Brandi Carlile. Unlike Emmylou, this song is best-played in the car because you’ll want to sing along — and you won’t be able to match Brandi Carlile’s range and it will sound awful. If you’re me, that is. That Wasn’t Me also only slightly edged out its Bear Creek album-mate Hard Way Home to make it onto this list. I think the tie-breakers were lyrics and structure – it’s hard to sing a great song with a wide range of notes, but it’s harder to write one.

Video Bonus: Kris Kristofferson.

The Tempest, Bob Dylan. The title song from Bob Dylan’s 35th studio album is 14-minutes long and chronicles the sinking of the Titanic in the style of an old sea shanty, alluding to both the actual event and the 1997 film. It’s weird and beautiful and signals a trend in this year’s list: new songs by seasoned singers.

Do It Anyway, Ben Folds Five. See? Didn’t I see there was a trend brewing? In the growing parade of veteran musicians releasing brand new tunes in 2012, Ben Folds Five reunited for the first time in 12 years with the album The Sound of the Life of the Mind. Do It Anyway urges: ‘It sucks… but do it anyway,’ seemingly directly to me. In addition, the title song is about writer and historian Sarah Vowell, and was written by writer Nick Hornby. Cool factor awesome.

Video Bonus: Fraggles.

One Lovely Day, Citizen Cope. The title song from CC’s latest album was my first introduction to his music, which has the Americana vibe that I like. It’s also a great song with which to ease into the day, and make it a lovely one.

Shake Your Hips, Joan Osbourne. Joan Osbourne is one of those artists who only seems to put music out into the ether once she’s satisfied that it rocks like a cradle in an earthquake. So far, I think she’s always been right. From the album Bring it on Home, Shake Your Hips makes you do just that.

Harder Before it Gets Easier, David Wax Museum. Boston-based band David Wax Museum is billed as Americana, but I think they’re more global than anything else. This song is on the 2012 album Knock Knock Get Up, which very quickly followed the 2011 album Everything is Saved. Songs from both recordings are playing concurrently on alt-radio stations everywhere right now.

Video Bonus: Bright Colors, Weird Faces.

We’re All Right Now, John Hiatt. Another veteran showing the world he’s got plenty of crunch left … John Hiatt’s latest has become one of my get-up-and-go anthems of the year.

Sexy and I Know It, Big Head Todd. Easily the best cover of the year if not the decade …currently unavailable for sale.

* – Learn more about what you can do to help this amazing music resource, currently raising funds to save its signal.

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