Some alright songs were released in 2012. I've made a list of ten of them, including some that I think are a little bit better than I give them credit for.
AWOLNATION - 'Kill Your Heroes' (from: 'Megalithic Symphony')
AWOLNATION are an odd band. One minute they're happy enough screaming out erratic, borderline psychologically-damaged odes to pyromania and suffering as on 'Burn It Down' and 'Soul Wars' and the next they're plodding along to pop-lite melodies like 'Jump On My Shoulders', complete with la-la-la-ing post-choruses. 'Kill Your Heroes' is a brief reprieve with the extremities of their apparent dissociative identity, happily straddling the fence between throat-shredding wailing and infectious melodic catchiness. The lyrics may come across as too eager to scan as modern-age poetry ("Never let your fear decide your fate/I say you kill your heroes and fly") but the aloof references to carving your own path in life and breaking free from the shadows of idols doesn't stop 'Kill Your Heroes' becoming an easy entry point into the rest of their music. Whilst it's not out and out their best track, it's in this list because it whets the appetite to try out some of their other, better tracks.
Other songs worth listening to: 'Wake Up', 'Soul Wars', 'Sail'.
The Sound of Arrows - 'Conquest' (from: 'Voyage')
It's never easy to write about this duo, but in short, they're Swedish; they do pop music, and they're ****ing brilliant at it. Ambition and wide-eyed wonder illuminate the red velvet layers of synth-brass on ‘Conquest’, a song focusing on the age-old theme of achieving the impossible and rising against the odds. There's a timeless feel to Storm's lyrics and his featherweight voice; something ardent for accomplishment and celebration that suitably fills every available space it can reach. The song's production is flawless, packed with ideas and subliminal layers but never once feeling over-bearing. Though poppier and nowhere near a 'smooth'-sounding as the majority of the rest of the stunning album 'Voyage' , 'Conquest's tones and textures are rendered beautifully and almost feel alive, billowing gently as the pastel-coloured, metallic melodies translate as softly appealing and commanding at the same time.
Other songs worth listening to: 'Nova', 'Wonders', 'There Is Still Hope'.
Imagine Dragons - 'It's Time' (from: 'Night Visions')
'It's Time' is the flagship song for Las Vegas-born Imagine Dragons, effortlessly encapsulating everything their music is. Despite being active since 2008 and releasing an EP every year since 2009 (with full LP 'Night Visions' released earlier this year), they've only very recently had some recognition in the UK with 'Radioactive' and 'Hear Me', two songs which barely hit the Top 40 and exist in two different genres that themselves are wildly different from the chiming, stomping, sonic celebration of 'It's Time'. But don’t think that means they’re the type of band who require an Apple product or a low-budget film about coming of age to provide the soundtrack for in order to surface to popular consciousness. Much of 'It's Time's success as a song can be attributed to the band’s ear for a killer hook and lead singer Dan Reynolds’ grounded poetic lyricism, the result being that even though they sing into unpredictable, shifting abysses, the opulence of their music still burns with the expanse and intimacy of a candlelit dinner in the Nevada desert.
Other songs worth listening to: 'Tiptoe', 'Working Man', 'Hear Me'.
St. Lucia - 'All Eyes On You' (from: 'St. Lucia')
This one's an interesting one. It sounds like something whipped off a B-side released by an off-the-radar artist in the 80's. It's also been used in Hollister & Co. advertising and probably soundtracks the wet dreams of the type of people who eat lentil soup and Instagram packets of fig rolls. St. Lucia aren't ever going to take off and the hipsters will like that, as will I because a lot of everything else that St. Lucia have put their name to could pass as lullabies for the indie market. However, as a momentary blip of redemption, the reserved tone and almost blase delivery to the lyrics on 'All Eyes On You' turn what could otherwise pail as a slow-dancing borefest into a certifiably palatable mix of indie dweebness and knitwear-clad passion.
Other songs worth listening to: 'September', 'We Got It Wrong'.
The Killers - 'The Way It Was' (from: 'Battle Born')
Let's be brutally honest: this isn't really a Killers song. It's the closest you'll get to a Killers song on new album 'Battle Born' though (unless you consider 'Day & Age' as the pinnacle of The Killers' trademark indie-quirk fanfare, in which case 'Flesh and Bone' has a good chance of buoying the rest of a poor album for you). But whilst the lukewarm 'Runaways' and sleeper-hit 'Miss Atomic Bomb's only distinctions as Killers songs is Brandon's voice, 'Deadlines and Commitments' carries on the theme of family issues and personal identity crises as heard on 'Sam's Town' as vividly as ever.
The song's gentle guitar canter and minor key gloominess serve to establish hackneyed lyrics as an empathetic plea for mutual understanding, supported by a side-helping of wishful thinking, which brings a genuine warmth to the song. The gentle motif at the end of every line marries perfectly with some of the best lyrics on the album.
Other songs worth listening to (from 'Battle Born'): 'Deadlines and Commitments', 'Flesh & Bone', 'Miss Atomic Bomb'.
King Charles - 'Lady Percy' (from: 'LoveBlood')
Round about 2010, popular chart music shifted into two very different gravitational fields. One has, sadly, prevailed till this day and involved barely-talented label puppets diving headlong into the latest musical technologies and the other, which has dwindled of late, involved returning to rootsier, acoustic sounds. Among the acts to have been picked up on this wave were Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Damien Rice, and Noah And The Whale. Birth-child of Prince and Adam Ant, King Charles, was nowhere to be seen though, but that's probably a good thing because after the promising 'Lady Percy' and 'The Brightest Lights', the rest of début album 'LoveBlood' ran like a hipster's paradise, even including comparisons of a loved one to the wax in his mustache.
'Lady Percy' runs dangerously close to making such declarations of devotion to make Ed Sheeran blush, but the pacing, the bluegrass influences and the rustic overtones from the breezy instrumentation of guitars, banjos, steel drums and gospel choirs are combined in a rare stroke of breezy and summery genius for the bequiffed hipster.
Other songs worth listening to: 'The Brightest Lights' (featuring Mumford & Sons), 'Mississippi Isabel'.
Aiden Grimshaw - 'This Island' (from: 'Misty Eye')
Imagine Moby and Gary Jules had a musical offspring and you'll land right on the money with the sound of 'This Island'. A lot of sulky X Factor runner-up Aiden Grimshaw's music revolves around the same effortless groove and smouldering intensity. After X Factor, Grimshaw disappeared and came back a year and a half later with 'Misty Eye', which serves as just about the gloomiest, lest conventional post-X Factor release ever. 'This Island' is a swirling, hi-fi journey through suicidal thoughts and psychotic murmurs backed by the monochromatic of a Jarrad Rodgers production. Throughout the thematically lead-heavy track about being isolated and cut off from everyone, Grimshaw demands attention and empathy to the point listening to a whole album of such tracks can become one hell of a challenge. But here, Aiden provides a relatable understanding and a fearful reverence of the maddening loneliness that we all strive to evade.
Other songs worth listening to: 'Hold On', 'Is This Love?'.
Ed Sheeran - 'Give Me Love' (from: '+')
Another soppy one, and from someone who fervently speaks about his hatred for Ed Sheeran's acoustic guitar-wielding bellendery, 'Give Me Love' does something completely unprecedented. Whilst the usual Sheeran simpering is still as prevalent as ever, he's stripped back the awkward metaphors and overly acute observations about love's little trivialities; the cups of tea, the strawberries and the tweeting birds aren't mentioned here; things may get a bit grisly when in the chorus he rolls out the lyrics "We'll play hide and seek to turn this around", but it's worth learning to love it as the song's climax displays the maturer prowess that seems all too rare in Sheeran since the release of '+'. The song slowly transforms from just another Ed Sheeran ballad with improved lyrics into a borderline euphoric flood of passion; the intensity cranked up and Sheeran's vocals impressively pulling off desperation without feeling as cringe-worthy as the thought of him screaming "Love me" might first seem.
Other songs worth listening to: 'You Need Me, I Don't Need You' (version from the 'Small Change EP').
M83 - 'Wait' (from: 'Hurry Up, We're Dreaming')
If you've not heard M83's 'Midnight City' by now then you've been living in a cave. Most only know it by it's effervescent synths and that hook, but it's use on advertising campaigns and throughout the 2012 Olympic Games coverage should be enough for you to have had it ingrained by now. Follow-up singles 'Reunion' and 'Wait' haven't enjoyed the low-key success of 'Midnight City', but it's not big surprise. 'Wait' is an ambient track, slowly moving through it's duration and occasionally interrupted by Anthony Gonzalez's vocals, at first softly accompanying the delicate strumming until the chorus approaches and he cries with tangible emotion over the spaciousness of the precision-formed production. This song's final two minutes are like musical gold dust.
Other songs worth listening to: 'We Own The Sky', 'Midnight City', ''Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun'.
There's plenty of other contenders to be fair, and these are by no means the best 2012 had to offer, so don't be boring and complain about chart music be uninteresting. Go find your own music and put Capital FM out of a job.