By Séamus Smyth

 20. Myth – Beach House

Angel sirens race down Beach House Road like slow-motion fire trucks arriving to save the day. Victoria LeGrand sounds like MGMT’s reflective younger sister, a woman with the insight of one of Greek’s mythological legends who with every song shares a passage of brilliance.

19. Breakers – Local Natives

A guitar walks a precarious tight rope descending into a blanket of “oo’s” held open by a local band of do-gooders. Local Natives know how to treat thy neighbour, and that’s by pouring them a hot chocolate of musical goodness before the cold introduction of the 2012 winter.

18. Northern Lights – Kate Boy

One of the funkiest grooves of 2012 didn’t come from any of the leading women of the pop world i.e. Ke$ha, Lady Gaga or ‘train wreck’ Britney Spears, but was Kate Boy, who smashes keyboard keys while the Northern Lights perform an array of dances in the beautiful darkness.

17. I Will Wait– Mumford and Sons

It’s romantic-comedy music at its best, which isn’t saying a lot. Mumford and Sons play a number of instruments that unfortunately at times includes the cheese grader, but “I Will Wait,” is sheer sincerity. It’s make-out music for the Irish pubs, a worthy guest to accompany U2 in the late hours of Guinness pints and Jameson whiskey shooters.

16. Creepers – Cruel Summer (Kid Cudi)

Kid Cudi may be the most approachable rapper in the game today. His problems expand beyond the ones that have typically weighed heavily on the shoulders of rhyme-slingers, and the honesty makes the rest of rap music sound stuck in 2005. Cudi is leading the 2012 hip-hop makeover because musical boundaries, and more importantly, cultural boundaries, continue to go the way of the Berlin wall.

15. The Only Place – Best Coast

They are as endearing as any band that waves the California flag proudly as they once again rub it in our faces that California is the best place on the planet. It has Disneyland, Hollywood and it should probably start bragging about a little duo by the name of Best Coast. “We’ve got the oceans, we’ve got the waves” sounds like a million places, but for some reason the California coast is the only image that appears in the listener’s peripheral.

14. Diamonds remix – Rihanna feat. Kanye West

Kanye West proves why he is the worst guest to possibly bring to a party as he once again hogs all of the attention at a friend’s fiesta. Rihanna carves out a pretty song, but Yeezy makes this diamond shine. “Whips with the drop off outside of the Louvre,” shows that Yeezy only gets richer, vainer, and impossibly, better.

13. Hold on when you get Love – STARS

The juxtaposition between male and female voices that STARS provides is one of the sweetest constant transitions of any emerging group. The only feature frustrating about STARS is that they are criminally under-rated.

12. Breathing Underwater – Metric

“Breathing Water” solidifies the call for Emily Haines to be knighted as the Queen of synth. The showers of fluorescent keyboards spray down like the perfect-pressure of streaming water. Although the H2O isn’t overwhelming for us, Haines is struggling to catch air. They are no longer just Canadian darlings, but Metric are leaders of the entire modern-rock sound.

11. All Your Gold – Bat for Lashes

Natasha Khan is definitely not a pirate, but she reports having a treasure chest of gold stolen in 2012’s most entertaining victim report. She is literally robbed naked, (she is in the buck on the album cover) and yet this vulnerability doesn’t serve as a distraction but instead as one of the most artistic expressions of freedom of any genre of 2012.

10. Hold On – The Alabama Shakes

Jack White went down to Alabama and drank so much that the next morning he had the alcoholic shakes. It has a “Down on the Corner,” feel to it, but these Southern pan-handlers are ten times more aggressive. It’s bluesy, but of the North Carolina shade; it’s heart-moving, but at a safe and pleasurable pace.

9. Locked out of Heaven – Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars hasn’t just been listening to the Police, but sounds as though he was locked in Sting’s paddy wagon while given a tour of the 80’s megastars’ greatest hits. Mars exudes shameless pop, but every now and then he delivers riveting inspiration for the masses. Mars might be a tad hyperbolic when he claims to be locked out of heaven, but when you are primarily catering to people who strictly want to have fun, sometimes the grander the statement the better.

8. The House that Heaven Built – Japandroids

Never have the gates of heaven been rattled so violently. No genre has sold their soul to the devil more often than punk rockers and it was about time that a punk-sounding group finally veered towards the sky rather than buying property in hell. It may not be quite their cup of tea, but rumour has it that Moses and Jesus have both been caught whistling this ditty on more than one occasion.

7. Ho Hey – The Lumineers

It’s a little too Timon and Pumba for my liking, but the Lumineers version of “Hakuna Matata” was an inescapable wall of sound in the pseudo-apocalyptic year of 2012. It has the lyrics that any drunkard could sing along to, making it a solid acquisition to the campfire soundtrack.

6. Runaways – The Killers

The world didn’t need a memo to remember why the Killers were so important the moment Dave Kneuning strums the first chords of the boldest rock anthem of 2012 in “Runaways.” It’s a wild ambition that many in the world have forgotten can still exist, as the Killers soar for greatness and hope their loyal fan base will catch them if they fall. So much focus is placed on lead singer Brandon Flowers’ religion and past conflicts with other groups and yet such little is actually written about the magnitude of power that his voice carries. There is simply no lead singer in the world at this moment that would challenge Flowers to a sing-off as his voice could power the western hemisphere for a day without a volt of electricity required.

5. Steve McQueen – M83

M83 magic explodes like wild confetti as they appease almost every natural human sense in “Steve McQueen.”  The tribute title to the past icon produces wild colours of fantasy, and a taste of unrestrained ambition that just wasn’t heard enough in 2012.

4. Little Black Submarines – The Black Keys

“A broken heart is blind” – A classic metaphor revamped for this decade’s jaded and disillusioned was a true rock fan’s song that managed to seduce the radio like a red dress at a dive bar.

3. Madness – Muse

Bono must have been “numb” with flattery when he first heard Muse’s ode to the mentally insane. “Madness” sounds like a bonus track off of U2’s classic “Achtung Baby,” until the guitar solo/scream of a lifetime makes this sound like a modern—day smash and not a 90’s rip-off. Muse are desperate to play in space, a feat no other band has even acknowledged as appealing, so if anyone knows about madness, it’s definitely these Brits.

2. Five Seconds – Twin Shadow

Twin Shadow was 2012’s most impressive locksmith, unlocking doorways, passages and sacred hearts and all in the matter of seconds; five seconds to be exact. He doesn’t cut corners, but aims for the main artery, “straight for the heart”, and does our beating love-thermometers justice.

1. Take A Walk – Passion Pit

Who would have thought Passion Pit would write one of the most reflective and candid songs about the harsh economic times that defined the USA of 2012? A band whose prior topics of choice were twinkly stars and exchanging phone numbers, Passion Pit loaded up on growth hormone and in turn delivered a shot of inspiration to the country that matters most to them.  “Take a Walk” could be interpreted as taking a stand against the corruption that has infiltrated the American Dream and is a suggestion that we all take a walk to relieve the anguish of what has been undoubtedly one of the most collectively stressful years in recent memory.