1. Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day - Stevie Wonder
A Wonder song I was unfamiliar with, instantly liked. This song fits into a genre that was new in 2012: songs I'd love to have been able to play as part of the Robinson Caruso Organization. The RCO played its last gig at our trobonist's wedding in March, but every now and then I hear a song that would be right in our wheelhouse in terms of style and instrumentation.
2. Heartaches And Pain - Charles Bradley
Another song I want to play the trumpet part for. Like Sharon Jones, Bradley is one of the throwback R&B singers who's still knocking out amazing late 60s/early 70s style songs decades later.
3. Nightcall - Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx
Ridiculous and fantastic 80s soundtrack throwback from the opening credits of "Drive," following by far the best scene in that film, the tense robbery getaway drive through a downtown LA evening.
4. Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye ft. Kimbra
I know, ok. But despite being run into the ground by top 40 radio, this is a really-well crafted pop song, and a rare example of an unreliable narrator in current pop music: listen to Kimbra's response in the back half, and it becomes apparent that Gotye's protagonist is full of shit. Also, xylophone.
5. DoYaThing - Gorillaz ft. Andre3000 & James Murphy
You got Outkast in my Gorillaz. Something about the wordless lines in James Murphy's choruses reminds me of the song Jabba the Hutt's band plays (Lapti Nek) in the original version of Return of the Jedi.
6. Truth - Alexander The only pop song I know of with a bass clarinet solo. FYI, Alexander [Ebert] is the lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. This was featured at the end of "Box Cutter," the 4th season premiere of Breaking Bad.
7. To Love Somebody - Nina Simone
Heard this in "I Love You, Philip Morris," the decent Jim Carrey / Ewan McGregor vehicle. Much better than the original.
8. The Police & The Private - Metric
I'd heard a bit of Metric before Ta-Nehisi Coates' enthusiasm really spurred me to pay more attention when he linked to an interesting live version of this one on his blog. The restless cymbal and noodling keyboard lick throughout sold me on the band.
9. The Killing Moon - Echo & The Bunnymen
First heard it in the opening scene of "Donnie Darko" years ago. Noticed it with more enthusiasm during my seemingly annual Rock Band 3 kick. The opening guitar line and echoing piano figures creep me out in a good way.
10. Surgeon - St. Vincent
Liked this song on the radio, though my first impression was that it was another song swiping the melody of "You Only Live Twice." St. Vincent's AV Club interview about the song was interesting: the titular line comes from Marilyn Monroe's diary, which referred to acting teacher (/Hyman Roth) Lee Strasberg as the "best, finest surgeon to come cut me open."
11. Night & Day - Hot Chip
A goofily menacing dance pop tune with a goofily menacing dance pop video, the style of which reminds me somehow of The Handmaid's Tale. You know, without all the forced birth.
12. Stop the Press - Brother Ali
I had the privilege of improvising scenes to go with Brother Ali's stories in Show X last year. Around the same time, I heard this on the radio during one of Max's lunch times (Max enjoyed dancing to it). It's an autobiographical rhyme about the previous few years of Ali's life, and the crap that's gone down while his career blew up.
13. Till the End of the Day - The Kinks
I read someone recently saying that although they love every Kinks song they know, they wouldn't consider the Kinks a favorite band. Let's let the Kinks into our hearts, people. Wes Anderson's been doing too much of the Kinks-loving heavy lifting.
14. For Tomorrow - Blur
Damon Albarn makes another appearance with a song brought to my attention by an AV Club piece about "Songs we want to live inside." Claire Zulkey picked this one for its romantic optimism in a cold, gray world.
15. Crystal Blue Persuasion - Tommy James & The Shondells
That Vince Gilligan and his Breaking Bad crew managed to hold off on using this on-the-nose musical cue until their last mid-season-finale is a pretty impressive show of restraint. The montage they used it in was great, but also made me notice the song's greatness. I tend to lump the Shondells with The Association and The Turtles as popular 60s bands who I don't think get enough credit for their musical excellence.
16. Michael Praytor, Five Years Later - Ben Folds Five
Having been mixed on the last few Ben Folds solo albums, I was happy that the band's return sounded like it could have come out 2 years after 1999's "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner," instead of 13.
17. The Horror - RJD2
Someone (Huge Theater tech Josh Kuehn, I think) included this in the pre-show music for "Creature Feature," the improved monster movie, which was in its 9th year in 2012. Apt. Lot of creepy songs on this year's mix. In my mind the guys in the white masks at the end of the video are a bunch of off-season Edgar Allen Poe toasters.
18. Weep Themselves to Sleep - Jack White
My favorite song off of White's first solo album.
19. Tell Me A Tale - Michael Kiwanuka
I love it when songs play with time signature, and this one keeps a steady 4/4 beat throughout, but the emphasis in the verses sounds like a compound 3/8-5/8 signature. So I'll call this the Brahms' 4th Symphony of 2010s soul songs.
20. Americanarama - Hollerado
Kid in the Hall Dave Foley did a "Theft of the Dial" segment on the Current in November, with lots of interesting tidbits: Foley realized he needed to get divorced when he heard the Barenaked Ladies' song "Break Your Heart," and Aimee Mann's Oscar-nominated "Save Me" was written about him. But this song, the video of which stars Foley as a take on American Apparel's sleazebag founder Dov Charney, is way more fun.
Coming soon to this space: 2013