Some of those songs are truly great, and you’ll find more than a few of them on our official Year End Top 10 list in the upcoming Best and Worst issue of EW on stands Dec. 17.
But this is a separate list: One that our staff put together to celebrate the dozens of other artists — from Japandroids and Jessie Ware to Meek Mill and Avett Brothers (and yes, some Taylor and Ke$ha and Kanye, too) — who stayed on repeat in our offices and on our iPods these past 12 months.
Read on, and[spotify id="spotify%3Auser%3Aew.com%3Aplaylist%3A0E3KHdPUQSCaS1U7qjqaCQ%26amp%3Btheme%3Dwhite" /]
MELISSA MAERZ (SENIOR WRITER)
As EW’s music critic, I listen to a lot of pop music, so in my downtime I’m always looking for hip-hop, indie rock, and R&B that falls outside the Top 40 radar. Also, I’m a sucker for anything that you can tell will sound amazing live, cranked up way too loud. (See also: Japandroids, Howler, etc.)
Ellie Goulding, “Anything Could Happen”
Schoolboy Q (feat A$AP Rocky), “Hands on the Wheel”
Chiddy Bang, “Handclaps and Guitars”
Fidlar, “Got No Money”
Howler, “Back of Your Neck”
Best Coast, “The Only Place”
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”
Django Django, “Default”
Gary Clark Jr, “Ain’t Messin Around”
Meek Mill, “Amen”
Icona Pop, “I Love It”
Elle Varner, “So Fly”
Lianne La Havas, “Is Your Love Big Enough?”
Jeff the Brotherhood, “Sixpack”
The Amazing, “Flashlight”
LEAH GREENBLATT (MUSIC EDITOR)
Like Melissa, I listen to nearly everything we write about in the magazine, because that’s my job. But on my own time, I’m like one of those little lab mice that keeps hitting the button to get the same treat over and over — I habitually play my favorite songs until my neighbors hate me and my office mates apply to Human Resources for relocation permits.
I played Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream so much these past two months that you would think I would never want to hear again, but you would be wrong, because just writing this sentence has made me decide to go play it right now.
I definitely got stuck on the Sad Pretty Lady Playlist for a while, which was basically Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing,” Solange’s “Losing You,” Bat for Lashes’ “Laura,” Cat Power’s “Manhattan” and “Cherokee,” Jessie Ware’s “Wildest Moments,” Best Coast’s “How They Want Me to Be,” Emeli Sande’s “Next to Me” and Purity Ring’s “Fineshrine.” (I know it sounds like a CD comp you could buy at Urban Outfitters next to an awful pair of shaman-feather earrings and a pop-up book about Jagermeister. I know! But they are all so good.)
The other time I listen to music uninterrupted is when I’m running — not very far and not very fast, but Kendrick Lamar, Killer Mike, Action Bronson, Chiddy Bang, Big Boi, and an old classic hip-hop playlist from XXL magazine that my coworker Kyle Anderson gave me pretty much pushed me across the three-mile finish line every time (barely).
I also did that thing where I discovered songs that British people were on top of like two years ago: This King Charles song “Love Lust” is fantastic, and his hair fascinates me. I feel like there are hummingbirds in there, whispering secrets to him.
And after ignoring the Tanlines record for months, other than the first single “Brothers,” which I medium-liked, I made up for it by playing Mixed Emotions about a thousand times in November, especially “Not the Same.” You’re welcome, neighbors! I bet you can’t wait till 2013.
KYLE ANDERSON (STAFF WRITER)
Not shockingly, I played A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie” way, way, way more times than anything else this year. (It has been the first thing I’ve listened to at the office every day since it dropped.) Behind that, my iTunes reveals that I was really into the reissue of Archers of Loaf’s Icky Mettle (and why not, considering “Web in Front” is 93,000,000 times better than any other rock song put out in 2012),
B.o.B and Andre 3000’s “Play the Guitar” (a triumphant return for both of them that somehow didn’t become a smash), Childish Gambino’s “Backpackers” (a hilariously angry rant that kept getting better with time), and Beastie Boys’ “Make Some Noise” (which still sounds phenomenally sad in the wake of MCA’s passing). I also read Fresh at Twenty: The Oral History of Mint Records earlier this year, which is why Cub’s “Isabelle” rounds out my most-played list. Hooray for ’90s wimp-core!
DARREN FRANICH (STAFF WRITER, EW.COM)
Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder, “Together In Electric Dreams”: I thought that I had basically heard every great ’80s pop single. Then this popped up on the ’80s playlist at my friend’s wedding. It was like discovering a Dead Sea Scroll. Definitely the song I want to play over the PowerPoint montage of photographs at my funeral.
The Raveonettes, “Young and Cold”: I have an embarrassing confession to make: I think the Raveonettes might be my favorite band. Or anyhow, they’re a band I’ve had a remarkably relationship with ever since I saw them at Coachella in 2005: Every year or so, they put out an album that sounds almost identical to the last one, and every year or so, I listen to that album relentlessly. “Young and Cold” is the perfect song to play really loud with the windows down on the freeway.
Austra, “Darken Her Horse”: I tend to listen to music while I write, and there was a period where I was playing this song on repeat on my computer speakers for about three months. At one point, my next-door office neighbor Adam Markovitz complained. So I bought earphones and played it a couple hundred more times. EAT IT MARKOVITZ.
Metric, “Dreams So Real”: I have no idea who these people are, but they popped up onto my Spotify one day, and now I’m addicted to them. Pretty much any song on Synethetica could be in this space, but “Dreams So Real” is a hat-trick song for me: It can relax me, it can totally get me pumped up to go out, and it is perfect background music for writing.
Dragonette, “Live in this City”: Totally kick-ass head-exploding rock. Apparently, Dragonette, Austra, and Metric are all from Canada. So Spotify turned me Canadian this year.
Asia, “Bury Me in Willow”: Will Harris at the AV Club mentioned that Asia had a new album. I didn’t know Asia was even still a thing. “XXX” is filled with ridiculously over-the-top arena-rock stompers, and this one is the best. I think it’s about dying or something. Overstuffed old-man rock, kind of thing that makes me wish “Guitar Hero” was still around.
Jesper Kyd, “The Corruption”: There are two main kind of songs I listen to when I write. The first kind is soundtrack music. This is a track from the soundtrack for a videogame called “Darksiders II,” and it builds to this awesome climax that gets my heart racing every time.
Demi Lovato, “Give Your Heart a Break”: The other kind of song I listen to when I write is ridiculously mawkish pop music, ideally created by a team of Swede-bots and sung by a teenybopper in an angelic voice. See also: “Call me Maybe,” anything One Direction did this year, “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry, Bieber, Rihanna. But “Give Your Heart a Break” is the current soundtrack of my brain. I listen to it constantly while I’m writing “Walking Dead” recaps.
The Naked & Famous, “Girls Like You”: This was a legitimate record-store find for me. I was driving around LA on vacation, needed something to listen to that wasn’t the Drive soundtrack, walked into Amoeba Music, and found the album “Passive Me, Aggressive You” one one of their counters. This is one of the best closing songs of any album I can remember. Apparently, the band is from New Zealand. I’m like the worst music fan ever.
Kanye West ft. R. Kelly, “To the World”: I love Kanye West, but I find it weirdly difficult to get into his side projects/collaborations (didn’t really like Watch the Throne.) But this kickoff on “Cruel Summer” is freaking awesome.
TANNER STRANSKY (SENIOR EDITOR)
Best Coast, “How They Want Me to Be”: The melancholy of this song was perfect for those moments when I was feeling a bit sad.
Ke$ha, “Die Young”: Really great lyrics, catchy, trashy—just pure fun.
Zac Brown Band, “Whatever It Is”: Possibly one of the best, most underrated country songs that found its way back into my 2012 playlist.
Tanlines, “All of Me”: Feels like summer when I hear this song.
Alyssa Reid, “Along Again”: Who knew a weird, poppy riff on the Heart standard would be so enrapturing?
Karmin, “Brokenhearted”: Love Jessie J, especially when she’s named Karmin.
Jennifer Lopez, “Dance Again”: Better than “On the Floor,” but didn’t get the love because it’s almost exactly the same as “On the Floor.”
Loreen, “Euphoria”: The perfect spin jam.
Frank Ocean, “Lost”: I first heard “Lost” when the Berlin-based electronic producer Dixon played it during his live set at New York’s Electric Zoo in August. The song felt like the antidote to the festival’s deluge of trance anthems (tranthems?) and dubstep – a sparse, understated tale of misguided materialism that quotes Hunter S. Thompson. And yet it’s still a killer dance tune. Frank Ocean deserves every ounce of praise he’s received.
TNGHT, “Goooo”: We may long remember 2012 as the year that birthed “future-trap,” a hip-hop/electronic hybrid with enough bass and snare to rattle the rims off your whip. TNGHT, comprised of producers Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, are among the forerunners of the fledgling genre, and a recent show in Williamsburg made enough commotion to attract the attention of none other than Kanye West. Just listen to “Goooo” once and you’ll understand how the duo was able to make the “hipster” capital party like a frat house.
Lovelife, “I’m No More”: I had the great pleasure of seeing these London transplants at CMJ, and their debut EP El Regreso has continued to grow on me ever since. The first song, “I’m No More,” perfectly captures their synth-heavy R&B sound: yearning, harmonized voices sing of despair overtop a seductive beat that could melt a glacier. Forgive the expression, but it’s the kind of baby-making music that only a group of white guys from England could produce.
The Neighbourhood, “Sweater Weather”: “Sweater Weather” is one of the few songs I can genuinely describe as “irresistible.” Deftly played, impeccably produced, with clever, evocative lyrics and silver-tongued vocal delivery from lead singer Jesse Rutherford. This precocious young group from California has crafted a flawless pop gem on their very first EP. Mark my words: The Neighbourhood won’t be unknown for long.
Zion I, “Human – Bassnectar Remixxx”: “Human” is what happens when an immensely talented electronic producer remixes an equally talented Bay Area rap group. It’s even better when you’ve been a fan of both, as I have, for years. Bassnectar gives the heady duo some additional low-end heft and even throws in a few drum ‘n bass breaks for good measure. Lean back, relish that persistent groove, and…bounce.
All of the above were released in 2012, but I’d say my two most-played songs of the year are “Pony” by Ginuwine and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” by the Smiths
JASON ADAMS (ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR)
Django Django, “Default”: The thing that puts this track above the others on their stellar self-titled debut is the guitar riff that serves as the song’s toe-tapping.
Cat Power, “Cherokee”: The opening riff could have been something Sleater-Kinney did, but then the moody production kicks in and the song is haunting — would have been a good track on a movie like ‘Sexy Beast.’
Judith Hill, “Love”: This song, which opens Spike Lee’s ‘Red Hook Summer,’ is the exact opposite of the confusing, muddled film: Light, clean and clear, and hopeful. A perfect song in a less than perfect movie.
Solange, “Losing You”: I love everything about this song and video; it sounds (and looks) like something Madonna may have cooked up with Musical Youth in the ’80s. And I mean that in the best way possible. It’s new and nostalgic.
Thunderclap Newman,”Something in the Air”: Speaking of perfect movie tunes (hi, Cameron Crowe!), I rediscovered this late-’60s gem while reading Pete Townshend’s bio; he produced it and played bass on it. Nothing else they did was very good, but this is as lovely as ever, and maybe the best thing to come out of reading that doorstop of a book.
ADAM MARKOVITZ (SENIOR WRITER)
Jessie Ware, “Wildest Moments”: Listen to this; listen to the acoustic version; ponder love’s effervescence; repeat as desired.
One Direction, “Up All Night”: Namechecks Katy Perry and then gives her a run for her money in the big-fat-hook department.
The Wanted, “Gold Forever”: Great cheesy melody, and there’s this amazing gritty underlay in the vocal production that’s basically ear crack.
B.o.B. Featuring Taylor Swift, “Both of Us”: A little too sugary and sentimental and whoops I just listened to it 86 times on repeat.
Taylor Swift, “All Too Well”: The maple latte-soaked legacy of Swiftenhaal might be the pinnacle of Swift’s you-know-who-you-are songs. So far. (You’re on deck, Harry Styles.)
Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Getting Back Together”: I have this theory that Swift is on the brink of quitting music for politics or vintage swimwear designing because writing a perfect pop song is apparently not even a challenge for her anymore.
Ed Sheeran, “Lego House”: That guy in your dorm room who spent a lot of time writing sensitive, freshman-lit-inspired journal entries, if that guy happened to be a world-class songwriter.
Gotye, “I Feel Better”: Such an authentic golden-oldies charmer that I think people assumed it was a cover.
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”: Worth buying a car just so you can roll the windows down and drive around listening to this song.
Kelly Clarkson, “I Know You Won’t (Live)”: A Carrie Underwood song that Clarkson whipped out for some live shows. Usually covers are a compliment to the original artist. But when it’s Kelly, you’re screwed. That song is hers from now on.
ROB BRUNNER (EDITOR-AT-LARGE)
Paul Buchanan, “Half the World”: The Blue Nile frontman’s first solo album is a start-to-finish gorgeous collection of late-night bourbon-drinking ballads. This is the one I went back to the most, for some reason, but it’s an impossible album to turn off once you start playing it.
Swans, “The Seer Returns”: Michael Gira and co.’s head-rearranging double-album epic should be experienced as a whole, but this hypnotic stomp is a good entry point.
Kendrick Lamar, “Backseat Freestyle”: The year’s most outrageous hook (unprintable here) matched with an almost-unbearably propulsive beat.
Bill Fay, “There is a Valley”: The cult ’70s songsmith returns with a collection of hazy mediations that sounds like they’ve been sitting in a box somewhere for the last 40 years (in a good way).
RAY RAHMAN (EDITORIAL ASSISTANT)
Japandroids, “Younger Us”: The whole Japandroids album is stuffed with explosive guitar anthems, but this is the rare song that can make me feel nostalgic, excited, irrelevant, invincible, old, and young all at once — and make me like it.
Frank Ocean, “Forrest Gump”: Channel Orange in general has been on repeat all year, and this track doubly so. That’s right: this song’s been running on my mind, boy.
Cloud Nothings, “No Future/No Past”: Sometimes a breakup song needs to be angry and spittle-y, not sad and sappy. Like this time.
Nicki Minaj, “Beez in the Trap”: She really is so cold. Beware of anyone ratchet enough to s— on not just some of your life, but the whole thing.
Sleigh Bells, “Comeback Kid”: Melissa’s review of Reign of Terror pretty much nailed it; it’s like a dreamy cheerleader chewing on a gob of metallic bubblegum, and she saved an extra stick just for you.
Ke$ha, “Die Young”: Because I have ears.
Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Big Sean, “Clique”: Big Sean sounds like he’s having a bouncy blast, Jay reiterates his untouchable flow for those who might’ve forgotten, and Kanye somehow balances blaring braggadocio with a tender confession of his own suicidal tendencies. All without losing a beat.
Ellie Goulding, “Anything Could Happen”: It took me a while to get into it, but now I can’t stop. There’s something Robyn-y about it to me, which is always a plus.
GRADY SMITH (EDITORIAL ASSISTANT)
One Direction, “Up All Night”: There’s no song I played more while on the treadmill this year.
Taylor Swift, “All Too Well”: Markovitz knows my tastes all too well! [See Adam’s picks above.]
Imagine Dragons, “It’s Time”: I fell for the plucky mandolin in The Perks of Being a Wallflower trailer (and because I loved the stompy live version), but stayed because Night Visions was a nifty pop-rock fusion.
Mumford & Sons, “Hopeless Wanderer”: Maybe I’m a product of millennial aimlessness, or maybe I just really love driving drumbeats, but Mumford is their rockiest — and most engaging — on this track from Babel.
Florida Georgia Line, “Cruise”: This was the most irresistible country hook of the year.
Haley Reinhart, “Hit the Ground Runnin'”: Because I wanted this to be her single so, so bad.
The Avett Brothers, “February Seven”: I know this prob won’t make the list, because it’s a random track off this album, but I just love it. “There’s no fortune at the end of the road that has no end” is one of my fave lyrics of the year!
Nicole Westbrook, “It’s Thanksgiving”: Yep, I love it. Legitimately. I even know the entire rap.
Neon Trees, “Everybody Talks”: Cool shimmery rock song that was actually a pop song. Hence, I loved it!
Phillip Phillips, “Home”: The Americana movement went mainstream (yay!), and American Idol got a big credibility boost (yay!).
Kip Moore, “Where You Are Tonight”: The country star that I think should have won Best New Artist at the CMAs (yet wasn’t even nominated) released a great album in the Spiring. This Springsteeny slow-burner deserves a national audience.
Flo Rida ft. Sia, “Wild Ones”: I can’t help it! I love an upbeat Flo Rida jam. Plus, this introduced to the strange, belty goose-lady that is Sia.
TIM STACK (SENIOR WRITER)
I listened to/watched the video to “Call Me Maybe” potentially 100 times, mostly because I was obsessed with Ashley Tisdale’s lip-synching and cheerleader dance moves.
I also can’t stop watching/listening to the Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta duet because the raw chemistry and natural aging occurring between them is just so charming.
CLARK COLLIS (SENIOR WRITER)
This year I spent a disturbingly large amount of time listening to Jack White ask love to murder his own mother on “Love Interruption” from Blunderbuss. And I spent an equally worrying duration listening to Drive By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood ask how a lover could leave him “after the damage I’ve done” on “After the Damage” from his excellent solo album Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. In summation: Who has the number of a good therapist?