Continuing with the tradition set in place two years ago, the first few editions of the 3 Of The Week column in 2013 are going to take a focus on some of my favorite music from 2012. Looking over my list, I’m struck by how few of these acts might’ve been predicted before the year began. There were a lot of things I anticipated, but it seems that a lot of what struck me most came from where I least expected it. Great new music’s always a good thing, and 2012 was a great year for new music. If you haven’t heard these songs, you’re in for a treat. They made my year that much better, and truly dominated my headspace for quite some time, up to this very day. I hope they do the same for you.
10. “Clique” – Big Sean, Jay-Z, & Kanye West, from Cruel Summer
This is what I’d consider to be the theme song of my first semester at law school, and it’s pretty easily my favorite rap song of the year. What could easily be really boringly repetitive if done incorrectly is an insidious hook, setting up the last line so well that the last word isn’t even needed when the beat takes over. This was the first track I’d ever heard Big Sean on, and I’m glad I heard this one, because he absolutely kills it. I’m not usually a huge fan of Jay-Z, but I love his verse on this song. Kanye’s work here is great, as it almost always is. Cruel Summer was one of my favorite rap records of 2012, even if it was a little front loaded, but this song comes out on top by sheer bravado, flow, and structure. I don’t think anyone has as much fun as the roster of G.O.O.D. Music, and “Clique” embodies the spirit of the group perfectly, while still keeping the focus on actually making good music.
11. “Frayed In Doubt” – The Early November, from In Currents
That guitar part. Really, do I have to say anything else? Maybe “I really, really love that guitar part”? I’d listened to a decent amount of The Early November after the release of The Mother, The Mechanic, And The Path, but this record caught me completely off guard in terms of dynamic, energy, and emotion. “Frayed In Doubt” wears those adjectives on its sleeve. From that shout near the beginning of the song to the grittiness of the vocals in the chorus, Ace Enders is on point, and the drums propel everything forward perfectly, with plenty of well-placed accents throughout. The bridge brings the energy down just enough to let Ace’s scream stand out as the track builds back up into the chorus, expanding over a considerable amount of the song and doing so beautifully. All in all, this is a fantastic piece of songwriting, and it proves that the band’s reunion came at just the right time. Oh, did I mention that guitar part? Yeah? Good.
12. “Be Your Everything” – Boys Like Girls, from Crazy World
You smell that? Smells like Boys Like Girls is back. I hate that they included that line in “Life Of The Party,” but it’s really just too true. It might not be the Boys Like Girls from their debut or the Boys Like Girls from their sophomore (slump) record, but Crazy World is undoubtedly the Boys Like Girls of right now. They aren’t trying to be anything, and they aren’t pandering to what their fans want. What they’re doing is just writing songs that fit who they are today. When I first heard “Be Your Everything” over the summer, I fell in love immediately. Martin Johnson’s voice is as good as it’s ever been (which means it’s really, really good), and this song is constructed to be a three-and-a-half minute exhibition of that. Starting slowly and building to a huge chorus, this track is pop perfection. The bridge does a great job of building energy before it gives way to a bare presentation of the chorus, and key change into the last chorus is executed flawlessly. It might not sound exactly like the Boys Like Girls I was hoping for, but I can’t deny that I love it. Listen to the rest of this record.