Music of 2012 [F]

Colorful Dream
They’re not a real band, but I think you get the idea.

The biggest change in 2012 for me was the rise of Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Sure, I still bought plenty of music from Amazon or Google, but an increasing amount of the stuff I picked up came from the individual himself. I mean, why would I expect the Fez soundtrack to occupy a spot in Amazon’s mp3 store? Thanks to Bandcamp, I can just pick it up almost directly from the artist.

2012 also marked the year that genre walls were officially smashed for me. I think the only stuff I can’t really tolerate is noise metal. Just about everything else can penetrate my cold, black heart and move me to sing and dance.

I certainly never would have guessed that I’d be listening to so much hip hop and R&B back when I started this blog in 2008. It was all punk, rock, and ska, but now I cast a much wider net.

Top Artists of 2012

1. The Beatles (409)

This has been a mainstay of every list since the catalog re-release back in 2009. There’s not really much more to say about how incredible this band is so I’ll instead comment on the fact that I listened to them ~1,100 fewer times this year than last. I really spread out my music time this year…

2. The Weeknd (333)

I can’t remember what month it was when I discovered the trio of mixtapes just waiting for me online, but I will say that The Weeknd opened my eyes to R&B in a way I would have thought impossible. Without him I guarantee you that Frank Ocean would not be on this list. Everything about his music is simultaneously sleazy and sexy and so wrong it almost feels right. “High For This”, “Wicked Games”, and “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” are all stunners.

3. Sambomaster (サンボマスター) (326)

Another mainstay ever since my Japan trip. My understanding of the lyrics approaches zero, but I feel like I understand everything Takeshi Yamaguchi is trying to say with that heartfelt, almost mournful, sandpapery voice. As cheesy as it sounds, it speaks to my soul, man.

4. Frank Ocean (270)

Think about this: I didn’t get channel ORANGE until November. Everybody’s talking about this record, I know, but allow me to say that Ocean penned and crooned the best album of the year. Nothing tops this in 2012, guys. Nothing.

5. Jonathan Coulton (269)

Some people would have you believe that Coulton is a novelty singer best enjoyed in small doses. Some people are wrong. Coulton’s earlier work may lean on a geeky, nerdy motif, but, like I said last year, Artificial Heart really takes him to a new level.

6. Disasterpiece (240)

I listened to a lot of game sountracks this year thanks to the ubiquity and ease of Bandcamp. Disasterpiece’s moody, quasi-ambient work on Fez proved spooky, lonely, and mournful while also igniting that spark for adventure. It’s all synth-y, but the notes never feel quite right, which is pretty much what Fez is all about.

7. Yoko Kanno (202)

I bet you’re thinking that this is all Cowboy Bebop music. You’d be wrong. Kanno’s work on the jazz tunes in Kids on the Slope opened my eyes to a genre I’d ignored for most of my life. That medley in the culture festival? Pure. Magic.

8. George & Jonathan (184)

One of their tunes was the theme to Polygon’s podcast, The Besties, and the album, Beautiful Lifestyle, struck just the right balance of playful and fun without getting obnoxious.

9. Regina Spektor (152)

I fell for What We Saw from the Cheap Seats as hard as a person could for an album. “All the Rowboats”, “Firewood”, and “How” are all so stunningly beautiful that I want to be listening to them right now…In fact, I think I’ll go put them on.

10. Rodrigo y Gabriela (151)

The first entry that confuses me about being on this list. I still dig their stuff, but I don’t really remember listening to it that much this year.

11. The Civil Wars (136)

I’m really worried about the state of this band now that they’ve canceled their tours. What will I do without Joy Williams’ beautiful voice? I hope they figure it out.

12. Kanye West (129)

The current king of hip hop, as far as I’m concerned. Yeezy goes big. Even though I haven’t loved his collab stuff as much as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I can’t help but come back to this guy time and time again.

13. Fall Out Boy (126)

So few bands know how to craft a tune as instantly catchy as these guys. Too bad they broke up.

14. Eirik Suhrke (119)

You may be wondering who this guy is. He did the music for Spelunky, a genius take on the Mega Drive soundchip that gives me that extra push to hit retry on the off chance that I get that sweet sax tune in the Ice Caves.

15. Tsunku (つんく♂) (114)

If I had properly tagged my Rhythm Heaven Fever music earlier in the year this number would be much higher. Academically I understand why other people might not love all the music in Rhythm Heaven, but in my heart I can’t understand why any awesome person would hate it.

16. Childish Gambino (113)

Part of that hip hop kick this year. Donald Glover is pretty awesome.

17. Nintendo (98)

You know what? I think that this 98 is supposed to be added to the Tsunku tally above. Hear that, Tsunku? You should be 7th.

17. Jim Guthrie (98)

The composer to the Superbrothers soundtrack knows how to make a sweet groove. Seriously, go check it out.

19. OK Go (97)

“Needing/Getting” will always be a favorite of mine because I’m a hopeless romantic (emphasis on hopeless).

20. Jasper Byrne (95)

The Lone Survivor soundtrack is responsible for this play count. It was equal parts creepy and beautiful and I couldn’t stay away last winter/spring.

21. Alex Cuba (91)

Man, that afro is cool, isn’t it? There’s a clarity and richness to his voice that soothes me and makes me feel funky.

22. Hannibal Buress (88)

Is your name really Hannibal? These plays are thanks to two of my favorite stand-up albums that I got this year. That Buress dude is pretty funny, y’all.

22. Ana Tijoux (88)

Saw her live this year. That was awesome. Her ability to spit rhymes in Spanish is mind boggling to me.

24. Juan Luis Guerra (85)

I wonder what percentage of these come from “Niagara en bicicleta”? (Answer: ~26%)

25. Kendrick Lamar (84)

I picked up good kid, m.A.A.d city at the same time (or close to it) as channel ORANGE and figured that it would definitely win, play-wise. Didn’t quite go like that, but trust that Kendrick Lamar’s rhymes are equally awesome. Definitely check out that disc.

Top 10 Tracks of 2012

1. The Weeknd – “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” (23)

It all sounds so drug-addled and sexy, but in a dirty way. This was the first track I heard by The Weeknd and the rest is history.

2. Juan Luis Guerra – “El Niagara en bicicleta” (22)

Quite possibly my favorite song ever? I honestly have no idea how it didn’t make the list last year.

3. George & Jonathan – “Little Marcus” (21)

The aforementioned former theme to The Besties. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it’s super pleasant. A great little tune.

4. Carla Morrison – “Compartir” (20)

I would have expected “Una salida” to have this spot, but this is also a fantastic love song by a beautiful vocalist. Carla Morrison has this sweet, delicate voice that just breaks your heart while you listen to her. I absolutely love her and this song.

4. Neon Indian – “Polish Girl” (20)

I think I own two Neon Indian songs, but this chillwave track puts me in a spaced out place where I can’t not love it. Put a gun to my head and I wouldn’t be able to describe what makes this song so special, but I think it really does speak for itself.

6. Regina Spektor – “Small Town Moon” (19)

It probably ended up with the most plays by virtue of being the first track on her new album, but “Small Town Moon” is no slouch. It perfectly sets the mood for a thoughtful, beautiful album.

6. George & Jonathan – “Street Monsters” (19)

There’s really no good explanation for how this track got up here. It’s funky and it’s quick and I guess it got lucky compared to the rest of the album.

6. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”, “Pilot Jones”, & “Pyramids” (19)

And the list closes out with my three favorite tracks from channel ORANGE. All three of these are perfect in their own way. Be it the soulful poetry of “Bad Religion”, the simple hook of “Pilot Jones”, or that sexy electrofunk of the first half of the epic “Pyramids”, they all land so unbelievably perfectly on my ears that I’m shocked they’re not higher up on the list.


18 responses to “Music of 2012 [F]”

  1. Steve Avatar

    One advantage to being a machine is that we never make mistakes when counting numbers. Watch:

    System.out.format(“Top Artists of 2012\n”);
    for (int i = 1; i <= 25; i++){

    System.out.format("Top 10 Tracks of 2012\n");
    for (int i = 1; i <= 10; i++){

    Humans are so weak.

    1. Dan Avatar

      My comment system got so confused by the different name associated with the email and the IP address…

      Well there are 25 artists and there are 25 songs, but the last three songs are all by the same artist so I combined them. I did legitimately forget to put a space between Ana Tijoux and Juan Luis Guerra though, so thanks for the heads up.

      1. Steve Avatar

        I can’t comprehend you humans` fascination with observing matter compression in repetitive patterns. I believe the expression you use is “It’s like watching paint dry.”

        1. Dan Avatar

          Maybe if you let the music move your cold, steel heart you might one day learn how to love.

  2. daniela Avatar

    dan your top 2012 song.. el niagara… salio en el 1999…but im glad its still in your top list so many years later jajaja its like lucha de gigantes and to travel back in time… hechizo de luna… this has been on my top 10 since like 1992 and hasta el sol de hoy. so I guess i do understand how el niagara en bicicleta is still present

    1. daniela Avatar

      ps sweet that alex cuba made it

      1. Dan Avatar

        Yeah, he’s awesome.

    2. Dan Avatar

      It’s the top music I listened to in 2012, not necessarily stuff that came out in 2012. That’s my favorite song.

      1. daniela Avatar

        not knocking it down… :)

  3. Eric Mesa Avatar

    Min’s replies are so great….


    *It’s interesting that The Weeknd led to the R&B/neo-R&B kick. The sleaze is just too much for me. I can listen to Fran Ocean all the time, but I can’t take The Weeknd. Although some of the songs are pretty awesome, especially the “Dirty Diana Cover”
    *Frank Ocean – I forgot to mention it in my blog, but since I listened to the album the first time while playing Team Fortress 2, that’s what I always see in my head when I’m listening to it.
    *Coulton – I think you need to play that album you keep mentioning next time we’re together
    *Kanye West is the voice of our generation
    *Just relistened to Folie au Deux – it’s really too bad that FOB broke up
    *Tsunku – dunno about the entire Rhythm Heaven soundtrack, but I do really like the wrestler one – I could listen to that one forever
    *I need to listen to some more OK GO. I love the songs I have.
    *Ana Tijoux – I want to hear this album
    *It’s pretty awesome that 1/4 of your JLG listens were “Niagra en Bicicleta” – that song is probably my #1 or #2 favorite spanish song.
    *Kendrik Lamar – that guy sounds familiar

    *Channel ORANGE is one of those albums where I didn’t mind buying the entire album because I like nearly ever song. There are some albums where I like a higher percentage of the songs, but this is one of the top ones.

    1. Dan Avatar

      * The sleaze is what makes it so special, I think. It’s just dirty and I when I get around to listening to lyrics I’m usually like, “whoa…”. “High For This” is one of the most reckless, sleazy songs I’ve ever heard, but I can’t not love it. I dunno.

      * That’s a really weird association to have with channel ORANGE. Doesn’t quite fit, I think.

      * Or any of the other multitude of Coulton songs that are not “RE: Your Brains” or “Skullcrusher Mountain” or “The Future Soon”

      * I’m gonna stop you right there and make an obvious Kanye joke.

      * They were relentlessly catchy, but I wonder how well that stuff will age.


      * Of the Blue Colour of the Sky is one of my favorite albums

      * La Bala is great

      * Dude makes good music, but I love that song above all others. I think I’ve listened to it around 3 times already this year.

      * That he does.

      1. Eric Mesa Avatar

        Unfortunately, by the time I got home from work earlier in the week, that Kendrick Lamarr vid I send you via Google Reader had been taken offline for copyright issues. I think Rolling Stone needs to do like I do and post stuff on its own servers rather than hoping that others will keep stuff online.

        1. Dan Avatar

          Are you sure it wasn’t just a clickthrough to watch it on its Youtube page?

          I’m pretty sure Rolling Stone does things the way they do for a reason because the people who put up music videos are very controlling about where/how they’re up for monetization reasons. I don’t think RS can just start hosting their own music videos without some kind of obnoxious deal.

          1. Eric Mesa Avatar

            I’m sure you’re right, but it’s just annoying for them to link to ephemeral stuff. Surely as one of the oldest (and most respected?) music magazines they could do some kind of deal. After all, they already have some kind of sweet deal where they’re giving away promotional MP3s daily.

            1. Dan Avatar

              They’re not like giving away Adele mp3s daily. I’m sure their deal is something like, “Hey, we’re really marginal/up-and-coming bands. Please can you give away our work?”

              A lot of the internet is fairly permanent, but enough of it is changing and ephemeral enough that I don’t think that expectation can exist past a few weeks (although a day is pretty ridiculous).

  4. Eric Mesa Avatar

    One thing I forgot to say is that “Bad Religion” is an awesome song. I love the misunderstanding between the narrator and the cabie. I love the music. And I LOVE the lyrics. Frank Ocean is just as clever as Childish Gambino (but not as densely so – at least based on the Childish EPs I’ve heard). The turns of phrase are so awesome. I know you prefer music to lyrics, but I think you’ll appreciate the songs even more when knowing the lyrics.

    1. Dan Avatar

      I think it’s apples to oranges when it comes to comparing wordplay in R&B and hip hop…or maybe apples to something that’s almost an apple, but not quite.

      That being said, I like the lyrics in a given Ocean song more than a lot of Gambino stuff because I feel like they’re more vulnerable/honest.

      1. Eric Mesa Avatar

        I think you’re right on vulnerability. As far as R&B/rap – it’s not a negative that Frank Ocean’s wordplay isn’t as dense. Really, my true comparison/contrasting is that they’re both on the same level of wit. But (at least on the EPs) Childish Gambino is essentially doing hashtag rap. He’s almost just bouncing from wordplay to wordplay and while there’s a theme to the song, each of the lyrics is unrelated. But Frank Ocean is more like telling a story and just so happens to tell it in a witty way.

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