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.