One of my favorite mixes of 2011 was our “Top Songs of 2011″ mix. Why? Because we rule. No, but it’s because it’s a bunch of different writers with different music tastes (some overlapping) sharing their top 5 releases from that year with the rest of the blogosphere. That’s why. The beauty of Sunset writers is the diversity in tastes we have, and collectively as a whole, you get a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. 2012 had its ups and downs, but this mix clearly highlights the ups.
Similar to last year, I asked each writer to send me their top 5 songs of 2012 with a brief paragraph describing their choices. The results? Gold. Enjoy it!
^^Once on Sendspace, click “download file from Sendspace”
(Below contains most of the songs. Mixtape songs aren’t on Spotify, thus not on this player.)
Hit the jump to read all of our picks and sample MP3s from each.
Lydia’s Picks: @SunsetRearview
5. Three Shining Suns – Reptar
4. Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe – Kendrick Lamar
2. Flapper Girl – The Lumineers
1. Forrest Gump – Frank Ocean
That organ, that beautiful voice, that whistling…all contributed to my love of Frank Ocean’s song “Forrest Gump.” But more than any of that, the strength Frank Ocean showed by singing about a straight man he fell in love with, very shortly after coming out to the public. He croons, “If this is love, I know it’s true, I won’t forget you.” Second on the list: “Flapper Girl” by The Lumineers. This song is so simple and real; I can’t help but listen to it on repeat. The lyrics tell such an interesting story, too. Listen again. And before you know it, you’ll be listening again…and again. Regarding the next pick: had you asked me last year about who I would expect to make my top 5 list, I never would have imagined a high school rapper named Chance. But alas, this young star came along and stole my heart with the opening track of his mixtape that he wrote and recorded during his 10-day suspension from school. “14,400 Minutes” is about getting suspended and what came of his time away from school. Fourth, “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Kendrick Lamar. The entire album was one of the best I listened to all year, but this song really stuck out to me. The chorus gets to me every time: “I’m a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again/ Lord forgive me, Lord forgive me/ Things I don’t understand/ Sometimes I need to be alone.” Isn’t that the case for all of us? My fifth pick, “Three Shining Suns” by Reptar, was a song I listened to over and over again in 2012. Again, it’s more than just a beautiful song; it reminds me of someone, and that’s got a lot of weight. This year brought a lot to music, but these five songs will be with more forever.
Jordan’s Picks: @JDimerrr
5. Sirens – Skizzy Mars
3. Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood
2. 14,400 Minutes – Chance The Rapper
1. Thinkin’ Bout You – Frank Ocean
Still one of the most challenge tasks I go through each year. No doubt about it. Being a blogger, you’re exposed to so much music, more than you can even handle at times, but I wouldn’t ask for it any other way. I love what I do, just like these guys that are in my top 5 for the year. They love what they do. Is there any question that Frank Ocean is the man of the year? With six Grammy nominations (if he doesn’t win all six then the Grammy’s are rigged), he arguably had the best year in music, at least in my eyes. Honestly, my top 5 could have all been Frank Ocean songs. That’s how good Channel ORANGE was. The re-release of Thinkin’ Bout You has just enough changes to make it still legit even after it’s initial leak in July of 2011. Now, onto Chance. Chance? The Rapper? Breakthrough rapper of the year. During a ten day suspension from school. this guy creates the best mixtape of the year. Again, Chance is one of those “could’ve filled my whole top 5 himself,” but in all fairness to others I picked my favorite which is 14,400 Minutes. I’m not sure why I choose it. Might be the gritty beat, the change of flow, or the fact that it gets me jacked up for no reason, who knows. “Sweater Weather” was an easy one for me as it was our first introduction to the awesome band that is, The Neighbourhood. One of the catchiest songs of the year. It makes me want to cuddle up with that special girl and embrace the moment. Wait…but I’m a guy! I should be acting manly. Johnny Rain came out of nowhere. Seriously, came out of nowhere to drop this bombshell which had me hooked at first listen. “LLWH” reminds me of a combination of Drake & The Weeknd. That OOVOO XO shit. The darkness, and the realness behind this love story is incredible. Last, but not least, Skizzy Mars. His second year in a row appearing in my top 5 without dropping his debut project, Phases. What does that tell you about Skiz? “Sirens” was actually an older release of his, but this year he remade it and it’s probably my favorite drop from Skiz this year. I think I broke the replay button with “Sirens.” Special shout out to Macklemore, though. If I could have 6 spots, he’d be on there somewhere.
Arjun’s Picks: @THEArjunGrover
5. Made In China – Antonio Paul
3. Seven – Mikey Mike
2. Thinkin’ Bout You – Frank Ocean
1. Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood
I think every music blogger has the fantasy of being the person that compiles soundtracks for movies. I know I do. Well, these songs played crucial roles in the soundtrack of my 2012, which involved life, which some would argue is the greatest movie (SAYS NO ONE EVER AMIRITE?). When I first heard “Sweater Weather,” I downloaded it, but I wasn’t immediately infatuated. And then I listened to the words more carefully (and often), and by the time it entered my Top 25 Most Played on iTunes, I was in love. Like, real, devastating, life-ruining love. The lyrics are just so relatable, and the melody is so catchy. I did a school project on the song, and it didn’t even ruin it a bit for me. That’s true love. Now, I’m not even going to discuss Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You” aside from the fact that Frank’s falsetto on the track can literally impregnate 20 women AND men, and that’s not even a scientific possibility for MANY reasons. For me listening to Mikey Mike’s “Seven” is like some Back to the Future ish where Doc Brown is like “Arjun, you have to go back in time with me. Something terrible has happened!” And I’m like “Whoa, Doc! Slow down. What’s happened? Am I okay?” and he says, “No,
Marty Arjun, you were caught daydreaming in your first grade class!” And then, he takes me back to my first grade class, and I see myself daydreaming and then going to the pool and doing fun shit with my friends. Samuel’s “Brooklyn” in a way is the antithesis to that. “Brooklyn” takes me to the climax of every romantic comedy ever made. Just listening to it now, I feel the sadness and build-up and ultimate resolution. To end my 2012 soundtrack, we have “Made in China,” a delightfully naïve and phony love song. Put this on one day when you’re alone in your car, and you won’t be able to stop smiling. Antonio Paul truly made one of the most infectious indie songs of the year.
Andy’s Picks: @avolosk
4. Same Love – Macklemore
3. Long Time II – Chance The Rapper
2. Thinkin’ Bout You – Frank Ocean
1. White Dress – Kanye West
I love this stuff. Looking back at everything that’s been released this past year, and picking out just a few of the inordinate awesome tracks. It’s far from easy, but there’s something satisfying about looking back at it all. But now that it’s over, it seems like it should have been a lot easier than it was. Seemingly out of nowhere, Kanye comes in and takes the cake for my favorite song of the year BY FAR with “White Dress.” Created for the soundtrack for the RZA’s directorial debut The Man with the Iron Fists, Kanye paints a picture of a fantastic love story on top of one of my favorite beats of the year. In the second spot I have 2011’s best song back from the dead in Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You.” Frank’s voice, that track… if you haven’t tried to hit that falsetto at least once, we can’t be friends. Third is my favorite track from Chance the Rapper’s fantastic 10 Day mixtape. “Long Time Part II” is a tale of regret and temptation, mixed with beautiful wordplay and emotion from Chance. Next I have “Same Love” by Macklemore, who also released a stellar debut this year. The track beautifully talks about the stereotypes and bigotry running rampant throughout today’s world, and hopes to offer an olive branch. Rounding out my top 5 is “My Cabana” from Ratchet’n’B crooner Ty Dolla $ign. I’ll let you check it out, but it really begs the question: how many girls CAN I fit in my cabana?
Dusty’s Picks: @dcbui
5. Fitzpleasure – Alt-J
4. Wing$ – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
3. Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood
2. Money Trees ft. Jay Rock – Kendrick Lamar
1. Pink Matter ft. Andre 3000 – Frank Ocean
Choosing my favorite songs of the year is a lot like…choosing my favorite songs of the year. It’s hard. But, I guess as somebody who has the opportunity of filtering music for others, I’m giving my best effort to supply a list of five that could easily include dozens. I’ll begin with the man who, in my mind, has easily been the most impressive artist of the year: Frank Ocean. With so many standouts on his debut studio album, Channel Orange, I could fill my entire fav five with the N’awlins crooner. But the eerie, minimalist guitar-twanged “Pink Matter” featuring Andre 3000 tops my Ocean playlist. Frank flexes his lyricism, delving deep into his grey matter, questioning the purpose of (and simultaneously revealing his addiction for) women. His silky and seemless falsetto gives me the chills. Kendrick Lamar’s year in music has been equally as impressive. The Jay Rock-assited “Money Trees” takes us to the crime-infested corners of Compton in such gripping and vivid detail that it’s scary. The catch? Lamar isn’t glorifying the life of a gangster. Instead, he proposes: what’s a good kid supposed to do in a mad city? The mischievesly dark and mysterious image seemed to be a popular look for a lot of musicians this year, including California natives The Neighbourhood. At its roots, “Sweater Weather” is just another love ballad, but excels in its ability to slow down poppy surf rock and transform it into a stark and menacing style. Juxtaposing that and the image of hand holding makes for a great jam. Although Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s protest song against American consumerism really came out last year, I’m including it here since The Heist only came out a few months ago. “Wing$” is a hip-hop antithesis in the form of hip-hop. Mr. Haggerty spits bars refuting the sensationalism of shoes and clothes that is all too common in today’s rap scene. The emotion is dripping on this cinematic-quality track. Last but not least is the most novel band of this year, Alt-J. It’s a challenge to really define their sound, which makes them so appealing. They are able to meld folk, hip-hop, rock and even electronic synths to construct some truly unique waves. “Fitzpleasure” embodies this to a T, shifting from soft to hard without breaking a sweat. Somehow, vocalist Joe Newman stretches his voice from almost-annoying, nasally croak to beautiful belt in stellar fashion.
Ann’s Picks: @asarnak
5. This Head I Hold – Electric Guest
4. Jungle – Emma Louise
2. Taro – Alt-J
1. Pink Matter ft. Andre 3000 – Frank Ocean
Like my Sunset compadres, I’ve got Frank Ocean and alt-J at the top of my list for 2012. “Pink Matter” requires little explanation, a gem of a track, and after some intense deliberation on my favorite song off of An Awesome Wave, I went with “Taro” because of the beyond-brilliant instrumentation and the way it’s at once raw and complex, devastating and hopeful. And then what can I say about Azealia? She’s the friggin woman, seamlessly working her seductive vocals onto a ridiculously dance-able track. “Luxury” is definitely the best work off her mixtape Fantasea. This year’s had its share of sirens, with Lana Del Rey and Florence at the head of the pack, but Emma Louise’s “Jungle,” with its beautifully simple accompaniment, is a perfect showcase for this girl’s stunning vocals. I have a feeling 2013’s going to be a big year for her in the US. Finally, relative newcomers Electric Guest really impressed me with Mondo, and the piano riff on “This Head I Hold” is the catchiest damn thing I’ve heard in a while. Whenever it appears on my shuffle playlist, I feel literally obligated to get up and flail my legs in a pathetic attempt at dancing. Good music doesn’t always make a good dancer, is what I’ve learned, but doesn’t make this track any less enjoyable.
Tom’s Picks: @TomMartin4
5. Yet Again – Grizzly Bear
4. Poetic Justice ft. Drake – Kendrick Lamar
3. Softkiss – Lemonade
2. Younger Us – Japandroids
1. Remember Our Days – Lotus Plaza
Interesting year for music, or perhaps for singles, as there just weren’t very many standouts. Come to think of it, I didn’t come across any out-of-the-ordinary albums, either. But there was a LOT in between, in terms of sound. Put it this way: If 2010 and 2011 traced the lines and shapes for this decade’s musical statement, 2012 started the slow process of coloring inside those lines and inside those shapes. It’s not pretty, but it’s useful, and perhaps I’ll look back and treasure many songs that I might have overlooked for now. In the meantime, to explain my choices: 1) Lotus Plaza put out one of the strongest records of the year back in February, and for what turned out to be an album full of perfectly harnessed imagination, “Remember Our Days” turned out to be the most magical song. The shimmering guitars are to die for, you guys. 2) Japandroids might come off as a little intense for some, but Celebration Rock featured some strong singles that were just down-to-earth enough for the average listener to swing for. “Younger Us” and “The House That Heaven Built” go back-to-back on the album and I LOVED each one of them, but the first gets the nod for the devastating bridge that cuts the track in two. Kudos for giving me a reason to say, “Hey, I actually LIKE when he’s yelling!” 3) Lemonade garnered a ton of hype with a few singles prior to releasing its album ‘Diver’ this year, and because of that, I think a lot of people dismissed it right away because it wasn’t pure gold. But I hope they didn’t forget about the album’s gem, “Softkiss,” a genre-molding song with enough pop to take what normally could be filed as an “electronic” song to a whole new level. It’s a little long, but it lasts. 4) It’s tough to pick out individual songs from ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city,’ but “Poetic Justice” has a sort of 90s, Bone Thugs feel to it, with the candle-in-the-dark sense of self-reassurance. Kendrick, keep preaching, my friend. 5) I think placing Grizzly Bear on this list might make me lazy or something, but okay, fine, that’s how good Grizzly Bear has become, I suppose. It took me about 20 listens of “Yet Again” to fully respect how much work the group put into such a simple-sounding song. There is unparalleled texture and depth, and that alone takes an otherwise normal approach up the elevator to that space in your head that won’t let you forget about it.
D Prep’s Picks: @DJDPrep
5. Luckiest Man – The Wood Brothers
4. Music Found Me – Nico Segal
3. Pyramids – Frank Ocean
1. Slow It Down – The Lumineers
Enjoy our picks, and put this on repeat for the next 12 months until we do this again.
Seems like Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, The Lumineers, Alt-J, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis led the way for 2012. Solid year in music, but there’s always room for improvement.