So the year 2012 went just as quickly as it arrived. It feels like just yesterday that I was ringing this year in with champagne and the lips of lightskinned trade, but it’s just about over now and it was quite an interesting time for music.
We lost the legendary Whitney Houston and gained Trinidad James. Kreayshawn flopped harder that Wendy Williams’ chin and Frank Ocean’s debut snatched rave reviews. Rihanna is still cranking out hits and Ciara is…still trying.
Mainstream music in 2012 hasn’t wavered too far from the norm — Bieber, Taylor Swift and tons of dance/pop regulars are still monopolizing radio and television. They’ve just been joined by a few new faces, like Carly Rae Jepsen and One Wanted Direction (or whatever their names are).
I don’t give a shit about all that and I don’t feel like doing one of those “year in review” posts, since I’m assuming you all were here. Instead I’ve created a list of 12 songs you may not have heard that have been constantly surging through my iTunes library.
This isn’t about unknown artists or the best records of the year. These are just songs that I love from 2012 that I’d like your ears to play with, in case they haven’t already.
1. Lana Del Rey – Off To The Races
Elizabeth “Lizzy” Grant made some pretty big waves in the industry this year in the form of a 1960′s Americana pop starlet named Lana Del Rey. Not everyone was in favor of the singer and her vintage appearance — most people said her music was too somber or just boring. However, I appreciate the cinematic direction and classic take she creates in her records. Sure Lana is a character, but that’s part of her appeal. This song, “Off To The Races”, is one of the more upbeat tracks on her Born To Die album from January.
2. Marina & The Diamonds – Primadonna
Marina Diamandis is an adorable Welsh singer-songwriter whose second studio album, Electra Heart, dropped this spring. She’s a super electronic punk chick who often rocks a tiny heart on her left cheek. Sonically, she reminds of Katy Perry’s evil twin who electrocuted her and ran underground…that’s a compliment. The lead single to Electra Heart is the bitchy “Primadonna” which I love.
3. Jhené Aiko – 2 Seconds
Rising singer-songwriter, Jhené Aiko, isn’t due to drop her Def Jam/Artium debut until next year, but after I pestered her for new music on Twitter she leaked the incomplete ballad, “2 Seconds.” No word on whether the K. Roosevelt-produced record will appear on her Souled Out album, but it was a quiet R&B gem this year. Those runs are everything.
4. India Shawn – All I Have (feat. Hit-Boy & James Fauntleroy)
This was the year that I was introduced to the musical treasure that is India Shawn. The LA-born and ATL-based singer-songwriter has been crafting melodies for everyone from Chris Brown to Monica. However this year she released her own EP, Origin. The lead single, “All I Have”, is a powerful record with flawless production and appearances by industry heavyweights Hit-Boy and James Fauntleroy.
5. Kendrick Lamar – m.A.A.d. city (feat. MC Eiht)
If you ask me, Kendrick Lamar dropped the best hip-hop album of 2012 and probably the last four or five years. The Compton rapper’s album title track “m.A.A.d. city” starts as a trappy number and swiftly hops into an aggressively drum-heavy West Coast anthem that has me craving a house party with nothing but red cups and THC monopolizing the air.
6. Ellie Goulding – Bittersweet
You may or may not have heard of England’s budding indie-pop lady, Ellie Goulding, but her 2010 album, Lights, is brilliant. Although she dropped another dope project this year (Halcyon), it was her appearance on the Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 soundtrack that put a spell on me. Of course I hate everything about that vampire franchise, but this song is mesmerizing.
7. Lianne La Havas – Lost & Found
Another amazing new English singer is Lianna La Havas, who released her debut studio album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, in the UK this year. Miss Lianne strums the hell out of her guitar on the heart-breaking ballad “Lost & Found” and my tears still haven’t ended. This one is for the feelings.
8. Wish – What’s Her Face
Baltimore-singer, Wish received all tens from me when she dropped the ultra-cunt tune, “Feel Ur Beat”, but this year she released an album with a more traditional R&B sound and you can’t deny this chick can sing! My favorite track from Wish’s Me Against Her project is “What’s Her Face”, when our girl tries to warn her ex-boo that his new girl is trash.
9. Sheila D Yeah – Polly Pocket
Also hailing from Baltimore is bubbling new rapper Sheila D Yeah, who dropped her EP, Simply Said, in August. The cute yet vicious, “Polly Pocket”, is a lyrical madhouse produced by Murder Mark. I’ve been trying to work this into a mix somehow just based on its insane bounce appeal. If Sheila keeps dropping tracks like this, you won’t miss her in 2013.
10. Azealia Banks – Succubi
It took me a while to warm up to Miss Azealia Banks and that’s no secret, but the Harlem rapper/singer has a wild and impressive taste in music and an indefinable sound. Typically she creates raps with a barrage of syllables creating a long line of rhythmic prizes. However after a small quarrel this year with fellow-Harlemite, Jim Jones, Azealia released a more crawling track called “Succubi”. Listeners were able to follow the lyrics that remained impressive and overall the the diss, produced by AraabMuzik, is pretty spine-chilling.
11. Grimes – Genesis
Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, is a singer-songwriter, producer, artist and director from Vancouver. The 24-year old released her album Visions this year through British label, 4AD. The fantastic LP was recorded and produced by Grimes herself on GarageBand. It’s filled with airy vocals and various sounds from rock to synth-pop and dark wave. The lead single “Genesis” makes me want to pillow fight with a bunch of elves, which probably makes no sense to you. Either way, this track is gold and the video reminds me of Sailor Moon.
12. Major Lazer – Get Free (feat. Amber Coffman)
Last on the list is my favorite song of the year — Major Lazer’s “Get Free”. Diplo’s dancehall/reggae alter-ego has never failed my ears. I’m used to him creating fast-paced daggering tunes, but this song was much more of a traditional reggae vibe and the mourning vocals from Dirty Projector’s Amber Coffman create pure audio crack. I’ll never forget when Solange requested this song at the Everyday People brunch and danced right by me. Magic.
That’s my list of 12 amazing songs that you may have missed this year. Below are a few extra additions for your iTunes collection.
The xx – Angels
Dom Kennedy – My Type Of Party
Charli XCX – You’re The One
Natalia Kills – Controversy
Icona Pop – I Love It (f. Charli XCX)
Mykki Blanco – Wavvy
TNGHT – Higher Ground
Nyemiah Supreme – Bitch You
Santigold – Look At These Hoes
Solange – Locked In Closets
Kalenna – Matte Black Truck