As in the past, I'm listing the songs that resonated the most with me this past year. And as with Uncle Stevie over at Entertainment Weekly, they're not all songs that came out this year - just songs I discovered this year. Because I can do that. :) Enjoy!
Note: these are listed in random order.
1. "Dead in the Water," Ellie Goulding, Halcyon
You may have heard Goulding's previous hit single, "Lights," from her debut of the same name, but fortunately her second album explores a much wider range of moods, making possible this absolutely gorgeous album closer. I am actually one day going to hang up the lyrics to the first verse and the chorus on my wall, because like the best songwriters Goulding hits on ageless truths of human experience - and she does so to unapologetically beautiful melodies. That's simply a combination I am too weak to refuse.
2. "What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?" Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel
Some of you know how I feel about Hans Zimmer, dating all the way back to The Lion King. So I won't rehash here. But he's the best. Anyway, he got to score this summer's Superman reboot and did a fantastic job (of course). John William's original theme is one of the top pieces of movie music in history, but with the darker turn in comics these days (and every villain capable of causing an extinction-level event, apparently), this new theme fits a new day in our societal evolution. There's hope even amongst the most minor chords, though, and notice that the long tones evoke a sense of flying, of scaling new heights. I hope you got to hear this via a cinema sound system while you could.
3. "Birthday," Katy Perry, Prism
Someone, who shall remain nameless, noted that this song is a lot like "Teenage Dream" - but I say, who cares. It's a slice of "eighties Minneapolis funk" that is just too infectious not to like. Perry inhabits her own sphere of technicolored happy-rotica, and when compared to artists like Ellie Goulding it's evident how much Perry holds her own self back - but you have to admit that when she's good, she's really good, and I defy you not to at least think about getting up and boogeying when you hear this song.
4. "Rock 'N Roll," Avril Lavigne, Avril Lavigne
Don't forget how much we all loved Avril once upon a time! And don't say she's not relevant - the old guard are rarely ever contemporaneously relevant but that's not what the old guard are for. There's some reinvention in her fifth studio album, mostly thanks to her marriage to Chad Kroeger, and while I can't stand Nickleback, I do admit he's a pretty solid songwriter. His stamp is all over this song, and paired with Avril's delivery it really works. It helps her get back the old vivaciousness and audacity, and puts out an APB to not give up on her yet.
5. "Wake Me Up," Avicii with Aloe Blacc, True
We all know this song. And we all like parodying Aloe Blacc's earnest delivery. And we all know this is a freaking awesome song. Too bad Mr. Blacc couldn't have been on the whole album - now that would have really been something.
6. "Young Girls," Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
I really like Bruno Mars; I think he's got a great voice and makes some great songs. I belatedly saw his performance of this song on SNL and was totally hooked - it's really not like anything else out there right now, for which so many other 'artists' should be ashamed. Just take familiar subject matter, put it to a near-perfect melody, enrich it with multi-layered harmony, back it with a tight beat, and sing your heart out. Is that really so hard???
7. "V.S.O.P.," K. Michelle, Rebellious Soul
I don't really listen to R&B...but I love this song. As a child of the 80s who did listen to a lot of early rap with her brother, I'm always sucker for a great beat, and besides having that this song is just infectious and spirited, with a very cool old-school vibe. However, I have no idea what the title means.
8. "What Makes You Beautiful," One Direction, Up All Night
DON'T YOU JUDGE ME.
9. "Not With Haste," Mumford and Sons, Babel
I had obviously memorized the entire album less than a week after it was released in 2012 - but did not realize that this particular song was part of the Brave soundtrack until I watched it again earlier this year. (On the soundtrack version the lads play backing band to singer Birdie) I love that movie, man. And I had no idea going in that it was about a mother-daughter relationship, so of course I went with my mom to see it, and she was all, "Wait, are you crying?" Anyway, this is a beautiful and wistful song on its own, gently Celtic and such, and is as good a movie-ender as anything Celine ever did.
Well, that's it! Happy New Year!