Song obsessions are those songs that your brain picks for you, those ear worms that get stuck in your head and have you singing them to yourself or going back to hit repeat on your ipod. I like the idea of reporting what my brain got stuck on each year, rather than picking a list of song I think are the ‘best’. Here’s the list of the songs that were stuck in my head the most in 2012.
- The Lumineers – Ho Hey (mp3) (buy)
The Lumineers – Slow It Down (mp3) (download it with subscription)
The Lumineers hit me with a double shot this year. Early on Natalie’s obsession with “Slow It Down” got me turned onto this video, which was one I watched dozens of times; later, I got into the rest of the album and the obvious ear-catcher is “Ho Hey”. Both songs employ great dynamics and melodies, but there’s also something honest and straight-forward about them. (Funny enough I’ve been singing “I belong with you// You belong with me// In my sweet home” to myself for months only to just find that those aren’t the right lyrics at all).
- Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks (mp3) (buy)
Of Monsters and Men took a long time for me to get into. I gave them a listen in March and thought they were sort of a more Icelandic version of the Stars. This song struck me a bit in May but this album really hit me in August/ September when I was spent five days driving around Iceland. These songs really go well with landscapes like this. We probably listened to the album a dozen times in those five days, each time settling into the songs more, ratcheting up my enthusiasm for the band, driving the musical hooks deeper into my brain.
- Tyler Lyle – I’ll Sing You a Song (mp3) (buy)
There’s something very sincere and earnest about Tyler Lyle that takes some getting used to, I think. He writes songs that come to you already familiar, like something your songwriter friend wrote, that he played for you as he worked on it during evenings of hanging out. This is particularly true of “I’ll Sing You a Song”. I searched for hours trying to figure out why it sounds familiar, but I couldn’t find any source. Maybe that’s just it: a good melody will always sound familiar.
- Kishi Bashi – Bright Whites (mp3) (buy)
I got introduced to Kishi Bashi through Dave’s song obsession in July. He had good, good reason for being obsessed with this song. Have you heard it? I want to Godzilla dance–I made this up–to the beginning and then attempt to sing along to the rest. It’s a few minutes of layered pop genius that plays like a less frenetic, more accessible Shugo Tokumaru.
- Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe (mp3) (buy)
I’ve always said my song obsessions aren’t about me picking songs but about which songs get stuck in my head. It’s not really me picking songs, but reporting which songs I’m already obsessed with. That said, here’s this song. It’s not exactly my type of music at all, so it’s hard to say why I got obsessed with it. Maybe it was all the cute sing-along videos that popped up over the summer. Maybe it was the catchy melody and that silly-but-amazing line “Before you came into my life// I missed you so bad.” Or maybe it was that the song is not an assertive command (“Call Me.”) but has some doubt or indifference in it (depending on your reading) that has some charm to it.
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – My Oh My (mp3) (buy)
Easily my most obsessive artist over the last month has been Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. This entry could have easily been their Tiny Desk Concert, theirs being among the best of those I’ve seen, but this song really rings true to me. I have no special love for the Mariners, but I still get goosebumps listening to this song. I grew up listening to the Pirates on the radio, quite often falling asleep to the sounds of Lanny Frattare and people like Bob Walk calling games on KDKA. Today I could watch every game online if I wanted, but I often still choose to listen to some of the same broadcasters (streaming online, of course), because, and I think this is part of the pull of the song for me, there’s something magical about listening to a game, imagining a game in your head based on the calls of those announcers.
- Father John Misty – Son of the Ladies Man (live) (mp3) (buy the album version)
Despite being a big J. Tillman fan, I’d only listened to the Father John Misty album a couple times and found it a bit disappointing. Then a friend sent this video of him performing on Letterman. It’s a performance that is both weird and wonderful. Awkward dancing and a fantastic song–I found myself singing this one in my head many times throughout the year.
- Damien Jurado – Let Us All In (mp3) (came with per-order, buy the album)
I saw Damien Jurado for maybe the tenth time at the Davis Square Theatre in May. It was a strange show–it was the first tour that Jurado has apparently played standing up, instead of his normal somber guitar playing in a chair. It was far more animated and cathartic than the other Jurado shows I’d been to and nothing was more animated or cathartic than this song, which closed out the show. Shortly after 1am, and already with a bit of the feel of midnight mass, he launched into this song, crescendoing with howling vocals, on his knees, bent over with his elbows on the ground. The recorded version doesn’t quite do it justice, but each time I listen to it reminds me of that night.
- Sigur Ros – Eg Anda (mp3) (buy)
Besides Riceboy Sleeps (by Jonsi + Alex) Valtari is my favorite Sigur Ros/ Jonsi output since at least Takk. It takes some of that more ambient feeling of Riceboy and mixes with Sigur Ros’ hyper-melodic post-rock sound. I listened to the entire album quite obsessively but this song got stuck in my head a bit more than the rest.
- Charles Bradley – Why Is It So Hard? (mp3) (buy)
Holy cow, Charles Bradley is so good, especially live. He seems like a man who’s finally gotten his chance at making music and he’s just thrilled to have that chance. He puts a ton of energy and love into his performances, which you can see in the video above, but his recordings are also great as reminders back to that night you saw him live and belting out this and a dozen other songs.
- Lee Fields & the Expressions – Faithful Man (mp3) (buy)
- The Black Keys – Lonely Boy (mp3) (buy)
It’s a great song and the video of the guy dancing and lip-syncing at a motel is fantastic. And much like the narrator, I (who has some German-style punctuality in my blood) “got a love who keeps me waiting”, which might have kept that line in my head for a few months.
- Caleb Stine – Red Rocking Chair (demo) (mp3) (demo, buy other music by the artist)
Maybe you hear about a song in some random way. Maybe a friend links to a banjo ad on Craigslist and you’re a bit bored so you click on it and maybe you listen to that song and maybe it just has the best banjo part and the vocals are lovely and yearning and the lyrics are damaged and beautiful. Maybe I think serendipity plays a part in our lives.
- Neil Halstead – Full Moon Rising (mp3) (buy)
Neil Halstead is so good and so consistent–I’ve liked every one of his solo albums and here’s another gem of a song that has been going in and out of my head for much of this half of the year.
- The Very Best – We OK (ft. K’naan) (mp3) (buy)
I’ve liked the Very Best for a while and anyone who was in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup probably has a soft spot for K’naan, put them together for a bouncy pan-African song and you’ve got me hooked.
So there you have it. What songs were stuck in your head most this year?