Some of those songs are truly great, and you’ll find more than a few of them on our official Year End Top 10 list in the upcoming Best and Worst issue of EW on stands Dec. 17.
But this is a separate list: One that our staff put together to celebrate the dozens of other artists — from Japandroids and Jessie Ware to Meek Mill and Avett Brothers (and yes, some Taylor and Ke$ha and Kanye, too) — who stayed on repeat in our offices and on our iPods these past 12 months.
MELISSA MAERZ (SENIOR WRITER)
As EW’s music critic, I listen to a lot of pop music, so in my downtime I’m always looking for hip-hop, indie rock, and R&B that falls outside the Top 40 radar. Also, I’m a sucker for anything that you can tell will sound amazing live, cranked up way too loud. (See also: Japandroids, Howler, etc.)
Ellie Goulding, “Anything Could Happen”
Schoolboy Q (feat A$AP Rocky), “Hands on the Wheel”
Chiddy Bang, “Handclaps and Guitars”
Fidlar, “Got No Money”
Howler, “Back of Your Neck”
Best Coast, “The Only Place”
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”
Django Django, “Default”
Gary Clark Jr, “Ain’t Messin Around”
Meek Mill, “Amen”
Icona Pop, “I Love It”
Elle Varner, “So Fly”
Lianne La Havas, “Is Your Love Big Enough?”
Jeff the Brotherhood, “Sixpack”
The Amazing, “Flashlight”
LEAH GREENBLATT (MUSIC EDITOR)
Like Melissa, I listen to nearly everything we write about in the magazine, because that’s my job. But on my own time, I’m like one of those little lab mice that keeps hitting the button to get the same treat over and over — I habitually play my favorite songs until my neighbors hate me and my office mates apply to Human Resources for relocation permits.
I played Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream so much these past two months that you would think I would never want to hear again, but you would be wrong, because just writing this sentence has made me decide to go play it right now.
I definitely got stuck on the Sad Pretty Lady Playlist for a while, which was basically Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing,” Solange’s “Losing You,” Bat for Lashes’ “Laura,” Cat Power’s “Manhattan” and “Cherokee,” Jessie Ware’s “Wildest Moments,” Best Coast’s “How They Want Me to Be,” Emeli Sande’s “Next to Me” and Purity Ring’s “Fineshrine.” (I know it sounds like a CD comp you could buy at Urban Outfitters next to an awful pair of shaman-feather earrings and a pop-up book about Jagermeister. I know! But they are all so good.)
The other time I listen to music uninterrupted is when I’m running — not very far and not very fast, but Kendrick Lamar, Killer Mike, Action Bronson, Chiddy Bang, Big Boi, and an old classic hip-hop playlist from XXL magazine that my coworker Kyle Anderson gave me pretty much pushed me across the three-mile finish line every time (barely).
I also did that thing where I discovered songs that British people were on top of like two years ago: This King Charles song “Love Lust” is fantastic, and his hair fascinates me. I feel like there are hummingbirds in there, whispering secrets to him.
And after ignoring the Tanlines record for months, other than the first single “Brothers,” which I medium-liked, I made up for it by playing Mixed Emotions about a thousand times in November, especially “Not the Same.” You’re welcome, neighbors! I bet you can’t wait till 2013.
KYLE ANDERSON (STAFF WRITER)
Not shockingly, I played A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie” way, way, way more times than anything else this year. (It has been the first thing I’ve listened to at the office every day since it dropped.) Behind that, my iTunes reveals that I was really into the reissue of Archers of Loaf’s Icky Mettle (and why not, considering “Web in Front” is 93,000,000 times better than any other rock song put out in 2012),
B.o.B and Andre 3000′s “Play the Guitar” (a triumphant return for both of them that somehow didn’t become a smash), Childish Gambino’s “Backpackers” (a hilariously angry rant that kept getting better with time), and Beastie Boys’ “Make Some Noise” (which still sounds phenomenally sad in the wake of MCA’s passing). I also read Fresh at Twenty: The Oral History of Mint Records earlier this year, which is why Cub’s “Isabelle” rounds out my most-played list. Hooray for ’90s wimp-core!
DARREN FRANICH (STAFF WRITER, EW.COM)
Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder, ”Together In Electric Dreams”: I thought that I had basically heard every great ’80s pop single. Then this popped up on the ’80s playlist at my friend’s wedding. It was like discovering a Dead Sea Scroll. Definitely the song I want to play over the PowerPoint montage of photographs at my funeral.
The Raveonettes, ”Young and Cold”: I have an embarrassing confession to make: I think the Raveonettes might be my favorite band. Or anyhow, they’re a band I’ve had a remarkably relationship with ever since I saw them at Coachella in 2005: Every year or so, they put out an album that sounds almost identical to the last one, and every year or so, I listen to that album relentlessly. “Young and Cold” is the perfect song to play really loud with the windows down on the freeway.
Austra, ”Darken Her Horse”: I tend to listen to music while I write, and there was a period where I was playing this song on repeat on my computer speakers for about three months. At one point, my next-door office neighbor Adam Markovitz complained. So I bought earphones and played it a couple hundred more times. EAT IT MARKOVITZ.
Metric, “Dreams So Real”: I have no idea who these people are, but they popped up onto my Spotify one day, and now I’m addicted to them. Pretty much any song on Synethetica could be in this space, but “Dreams So Real” is a hat-trick song for me: It can relax me, it can totally get me pumped up to go out, and it is perfect background music for writing.
Dragonette, ”Live in this City”: Totally kick-ass head-exploding rock. Apparently, Dragonette, Austra, and Metric are all from Canada. So Spotify turned me Canadian this year.
Asia, ”Bury Me in Willow”: Will Harris at the AV Club mentioned that Asia had a new album. I didn’t know Asia was even still a thing. “XXX” is filled with ridiculously over-the-top arena-rock stompers, and this one is the best. I think it’s about dying or something. Overstuffed old-man rock, kind of thing that makes me wish “Guitar Hero” was still around.
Jesper Kyd, ”The Corruption”: There are two main kind of songs I listen to when I write. The first kind is soundtrack music. This is a track from the soundtrack for a videogame called “Darksiders II,” and it builds to this awesome climax that gets my heart racing every time.
Demi Lovato, ”Give Your Heart a Break”: The other kind of song I listen to when I write is ridiculously mawkish pop music, ideally created by a team of Swede-bots and sung by a teenybopper in an angelic voice. See also: “Call me Maybe,” anything One Direction did this year, “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry, Bieber, Rihanna. But “Give Your Heart a Break” is the current soundtrack of my brain. I listen to it constantly while I’m writing “Walking Dead” recaps.
The Naked & Famous, ”Girls Like You”: This was a legitimate record-store find for me. I was driving around LA on vacation, needed something to listen to that wasn’t the Drive soundtrack, walked into Amoeba Music, and found the album “Passive Me, Aggressive You” one one of their counters. This is one of the best closing songs of any album I can remember. Apparently, the band is from New Zealand. I’m like the worst music fan ever.
Kanye West ft. R. Kelly, ”To the World”: I love Kanye West, but I find it weirdly difficult to get into his side projects/collaborations (didn’t really like Watch the Throne.) But this kickoff on “Cruel Summer” is freaking awesome.