Everyone and their mother has a music list out there right now from 2012. And, honestly, it’s kind of fun to look back on the last year and see it through the lens of music. For me, 2012 was filled with ups and downs, new jobs and old jobs, freelancing and traffic, publishing and rejection, and I wanted to share with you the songs that provided a soundtrack — the songs that inspired me or just brought some joy — from last year. Unlike my book list, I’m going to focus on songs that were popular during the year. But it’s also an homage to the music being made today. I hear so many people saying they would rather live in the 60s or 50s for great music, but we need to recognize that right now, this generation, is filled with unforgettable music. So here they are. My favorite songs from 2012.
10. Alabama Shakes — Heartbreaker
I was lucky enough to see Alabama Shakes at the Fox Theater in Pomona with my buddy, Ross. The show was incredible, and the lead singer and guitar player, Brittany Howard, proved that she is one of the freshest voices in the game right now. She’s the closest thing we’ve had to Janis Joplin. I just love hearing that true old-time rock ‘n’ roll sound. Alabama Shakes’ big hit from 2012 was “Hold On,” but “Heartbreaker” was my favorite.
9. Michael Kiwanuka — I’m Getting Ready
For my money, Michael Kiwanuka is one of the best new musicians I heard this year. His song is inspirational, and anyone out there trying to accomplish a dream — whether it’s studying for med school, kicking an addiction, trying to publish a book — can understand what it’s like to be “getting ready to believe.” I can’t help but think of Van Morrison when I listen to this song. I’m sure this is the beginning of a long career for Kiwanuka.
8. Mayer Hawthorne — The Walk
Okay, okay, “The Walk” didn’t technically come out in 2012, but in my mind, it was a huge part of music for me this year. Hawthorne has real soul, and it feels like a throwback to Motown with a hint of indie rock. And everybody loves a good ex-girlfriend trashing. This is a song that you can’t help but dance to, and I’m not going to lie, when I was driving my car this year, yeah, I was singing this song. Don’t judge me…”Anyway you slice it, you’re doing me wrong.”
7. The Avett Brothers — Live and Die
The Avett Brothers, like Alabama Shakes, seem to be turning into that “it” southern band on the verge of exploding. I first started listening to them this year when I heard their album, “I and Love and You.” Actually, I first heard The Avett Brothers on XM Radio’s The Spectrum. They play such great music. I love this line from this song: “Can’t you tell that I’m alive. Let me prove it to you.” I love songs with vitality — songs that reawaken your spirit, and this North Carolina band surely knows how to play to the heart-strings.
6. Gary Clark Jr. — Bright Lights
If you haven’t heard this song directly from the source, then you have probably heard it unknowingly in commercials. And yes, you got me again; this song wasn’t technically released in 2012, but it sure feels to be a part of last year. It seems to be right in the same vein — just feel that heavy guitar and hook — with bands like The Black Keys — a reunion of rock ‘n’ roll with soul! Gary Clark Jr. seems to be another one of these rockers that we’ll be hearing a lot from in 2013. I’m loving that guitar sound. He’s right: we’re going to know his name.
5. Mumford and Sons — I Will Wait
Mumford and Sons followed up their amazing 2009 album, “Sigh no More,” with “Babel” this year, and they sure as hell didn’t disappoint. “I Will Wait,” the single from the new album, is infused with that same rolling-thunder energy that made Mumford and Sons famous in the first place. Honestly, I don’t think there is much to say about this band. They’re becoming legendary, and their songs will speak for themselves for years to come.
4. Dawes — Time Spent in Los Angeles
Now that I live in L.A. County, learned to navigate these super highways and the neon-blue siren emergencies, “Time Spent in Los Angeles” takes on a whole new meaning. I just love the idea of this song. When you live in L.A. county, mostly as a transplant, you come here searching for something huge, and whatever you’re looking for doesn’t just jump right out at you when you get here. So, it’s a beautiful and amazing place, but you also develop that “special kind of sadness.” And if you’re a traveler, someone who loves to discover new places, then you’ll understand this line: “I thought people would love for the places I’ve been” or “my friends don’t seem to know me without my suitcase in my hand.” I think this is brilliant song writing.
3. The Lumineers — Ho Hey
The Lumineers’ “Hey Ho” is not only one of my favorite songs in 2012, but it’s also on one of my favorite albums in 2012. Their self-titled album has earned them a Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist,” and they seem to fit in well with other artists on this list — like the Avett Brothers — who are reawakening American folk. The Spectrum voted “Ho Hey” as the number one song of 2012, and it’s a really close one for me. Heron and I love this song so much, we almost made it our wedding song — but then we listened to the words a bit closer. Decided it was a no.
2. Edward Sharpe — Man on Fire
Over the last two years, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has become one of my favorite bands, and their track, “Home,” was another song heron and I were thinking about for our wedding song. I loved their first album, “Up From Below,” and I wondered if they could top it with their 2012 release, “Here.” The answer is yes! They seem to be growing musically, spiritually, and lyrically, and mark my words, Alex Ebert, lead singer, is becoming a cultural icon of epic proportions. I love “Man on Fire” for many reason — the harmonies, the fullness of the band, the transitions — but what really struck me was the idea of being a man on fire, being someone who didn’t need security, didn’t need answers, and thrived in this existence. I wish I could be like that.
1. The Head and the Heart — Lost in My mind
“Put your dreams away for now, I won’t see you for some time. I get lost in my mind,” begins The Head and the Heart’s most famous song. “Oh my brother, don’t you worry about me.” There is something about this song, these lyrics, that just hits home so profoundly I can see my brother all the way in New York City, playing music in the subways. It’s just one of those songs that feels it was written for me. Obviously, that isn’t true, but it’s intimate; it’s real; and it’s beautiful. This was my favorite song of 2012, because I know how easy it is to get lost in the mind, to get lost in the self, to find yourself wandering the tunnels of the unconscious, hoping someone will say “there are stars up above. We can start moving forward.”