...and without further ado, #10 through #1!
10. Hurting - Friendly Fires
You know I never really believed that Disco "died" when the 80's rolled around and everyone was smashing disco balls and records, acting foolish. Naw. Disco just got a brand new pair of shoes and has been secretly sneaking around in various forms over the decades. Not to say that Friendly Fires is a disco band (that'd be going against the Indie Pop code, and how dare I! *clutches pearl necklace*), but the spirit of the boogie resides in a lot of what occurred on Fires' Pala. One such glory moment happens throughout "Hurting", which was my favorite from jump. From the squishy opening, to the sample that I just cannot place right now, to the shuffleboard middle groove, there is a lot to hear and digest on this supple funk machine. But don't think too hard, because, (and quote a wise trio of hip cats): "You should be dancing...yeah!!"
9. Heaven - Emeli Sandé
Blink and you might have missed Emeli Sandé give it her all on her debut single, "Heaven". I don't know how anyone would have kept this under rug swept because with a voice that transcends over the heaviest of string-styled synths and a frantic drum beat is something that should be lauded---and often. "Heaven" is a four-minute wonder that is a surprising blend of Gospel and searing dance-pop (think a sort of a glossier Massive Attack). While more electronic-pop in tone than what her voice leads you to believe (she'd blow a lot R&B starlets out of the water and off dry land with that range), Emeli is going to fit nicely into a market that is hungry for those days where Martha Wash was wailing about "gonna make you sweat", and for those itching to bring the Soul back into Dance music. Here's looking at you in 2012, Emeli.
8. I Follow Rivers - Lykke Li
With her weird, but charming little voice, and a ping-pong beat that feels like a traditional waltz one minute and a tribal throw-down the next, Lykke captivates with the blistering bustle of "I Follow Rivers". Clearly it was the shake-up that pop music needs. It's sorta Santigold-ish, but that's just the "Haughty-Music-Journalist-Phrase-Aggregator" talking.
7. Why Even Try (feat. Sara Quinn) - Theophilus London
For the 80's babies out there, "Why Even Try" gives us a window to imagine. Imagine what went down in the decade where we were crawling on all fours and missing out on the neon n' coke party. Okay, it wasn't all that glamorous, but the music and movies of that era have you believe otherwise, and Theophilus has his ear to that fact. With the track he doesn't try to just emulate, he's knee-deep in the style and it's is an expertly drawn out homage to that era, proving Theophilus' penchant for producing. The bassline is every.single.thing and Sara Quin (from Tegan & Sara fame) adds that fleeting moment of quirk that pushes the song into being more "artsy" than your regular pop-hop track.
6. Make My - The Roots (feat. Big K.R.I.T.)
While we coin the term "singles artists" for those special ones who can never seem to get an album right, but knock out home runs with each single released, The Roots are the opposite of that. They are the "album artist", the ones whose singles aren't really singles, but entities of a full project. I'm well aware that "Make My" works as a part of undun's glorious surroundings, but stand-alone it does (especially as that middle-to-end part instrumental is concerned). Never one to disappoint, The Roots give a silky sound fury of brutal honesty that make this one of the best songs of their career.
5. Don't Pass Me By - Spree Wilson (feat. Esthero)
It always seems that my favorite Canadian trip-hopster, Esthero, pops up in the most unsuspecting places---and as a featured artist no less. If I had my way, Esthero would have that third album out, but alas, I have to take what I can get. This time she finds a guest spot that is much more her speed, and much more sublime, and in short, is just gorgeous. Spree Wilson was gracious enough to have his debut album, The Neverending Now, as a free grab bag of treats, so it's no struggle to get or even get into "Don't Pass Me By", and he's wise to have Esthero join him in melodic matrimony. In less than three minutes, Spree and Esthero get their point across in such a subtle way that you'll be wanting them to do this more often.
4. Big - Sneaky Sound System
Massive. Whopper. Copious. Colossal. Monster. Gigantic.....Many a way you can say the word "Big", but how does 'big' sound? It sounds like this. Sneaky Sound System doesn't hold back for a second as lead vocalist, Connie Mitchell bulldozes her way through this shimmering and expertly arranged pop trap. Every bit of it should be licked off of the fork and plate and euphorically savored---it's really the only way.
3. Supernatural - KING
A pure love letter to Mr. Wonder-ful himself. Stevie Wonder that is. KING no doubt had Wonder on the brain when recording this stunner, and thankfully, that adoration doesn't overshadow what these trio of ladies can do when they scrawl out their own blueprint and let their creativity roam free. Treading softly and with a tepid march that mirrors the budding realization of finding "the one", the track builds up into a masterful climax complete with a fanfare of horns and space age-y synths that is really divine. While "The Story" was the single of choice off of the similarly titled surprise hit EP, "Supernatural" displayed that KING really do deserve to sit atop a throne.
2. Alone Together - Daley (feat. Marsha Ambrosius)
Like I've said, Marsha Ambrosius works best when she's at the hip of someone else, and well, I haven't heard her sound quite like this since "Say Yes". In a surprise move, Daley and Marsha get their Marvin and Tammi on, but this isn't your parents/grandparents duet of soulful portions, oh, no, this is sizzling, sauteed yearn right here that hits a deeper chord, making you believe in the power of two.
1. Cameo Lover - Kimbra
Surprised? I am. This song kind of crept up on me. I wasn't too sure if this was THE song for me this year as you can tell there were many I loved (and many that didn't make this list), but it all boils down to what's in the heart, and like the song refrains "open my heart" I did and 100MPH it went straight into it. There were days where this song stayed stuck in my head long after it was over, and right now it's doing a marathon in my head and I don't even have it playing. For other songs, it's maddening, for this number it's welcomed. It's not the most polished song, nor does it ooze with some political/social importance. It's a simple song about allowing love to flow that is a soda jerking 60's girl group-ish pop with a driving tambourine beat that is hard to resist. Yet something happens when it hits the 2:22 mark going onward---and that's when things really get wild. While Pop music usually gets prodded, jabbed, over-analyzed, and jeered at, it's songs like this that make me believe that life is too short to be pretentious, and that I'll always champion music that is as half as fun and as unique as "Cameo Lover" is.