2012 offered opportunity to discover older music

By Sarah Contreras

I always look forward to December. Is it because of Christmas? Presents? Snow days? The fact that December is part of The Decemberists and they are my favorite band? Is it because I can finally justifiably utter the words “Winter is coming”?


I mean, okay, I do enjoy these aspects of the month of December. But the real reason I like the twelfth month is this: the end of the year Best Of lists.

You know these lists. The Best Songs of 2012, 2012’s Most Memorable Pop Culture Quotes, Worst Movies of 2012, etc. I live for these lists. As a pop culture connoisseur, the highlight of my year is being able to take a microscope to the music, movies and shows that made the entertainment world tick (Also, it’s really fun to say, “Yeah, I was totes right about that movie. It was awful,” or even, “That critic is a moron—that album was transcendent!” But I digress).

In honor of the most wonderful time of the pop culture year, I set out to make my own Best Music of 2012 list. But as I scoured my music collection/the Internet, I realized something: 2012 produced very few albums I enjoyed. I’m not big on Top 40 music; Bruno Mars, Flo Rida, Pink, Rihanna, The Wanted—their purpose on this earth is entirely lost on me.

And so, I decided to take my list in a different direction. Instead of only focusing on music released this past year, I made a list of music that made an impact on me personally. Let’s call it Music That Entered My Life in 2012 and Will Stay Forever, or something like that.

Music That Entered My Life in 2012 and Will Stay Forever!

1. Arcade Fire

I think it’s safe to say that the first 24.3 years of my life were musically incomplete, because I had no Arcade Fire. I at least have an excuse for the first 17 years—the band didn’t put out its first album until 2004. But from 2004 to early 2012? For shame!

It took a long time for me to sit down and listen to Arcade Fire on my own. Once I did, I was hooked. Their music is astounding to a degree I didn’t know existed. I could go on and on about their ability to both echo and diverge from the conventions of modern alternative music, but you might get bored. Just do yourself a favor and go listen to Suburban War and The Well and the Lighthouse, okay?

2. In the Aeroplane Over The Sea: Neutral Milk Hotel

As explained above, it can sometimes take awhile for me to catch on to canonical music. And so, I was late to the Neutral Milk Hotel ballgame. But over the summer, I listened to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea almost every day. It fit perfectly with the heavy heat and firefly-filled dusks, with my search for something unblemished and restful. That is what this song is: three or so minutes of absolute perfection. It’s sweet and just a bit sad, and I’ve decided that I want it played at my wedding. Or at someone else’s wedding, whatever.

3. Codes and Keys: Death Cab For Cutie

The day this album was released in 2011, I immediately downloaded it. Twenty-four hours later, I had forgotten about it completely. To me, it lacked the gravitational pull of DCFC’s previous albums. I wrote it off, only to come back to it almost a year later. I still think it is far from perfect, but the handful of gems on the album are truly something. In all honesty, I think enjoying songs like Some Boys and Underneath the Sycamore just required a bit more growing up on my part.

4. I’m Always in Love: Wilco

In preparation for FINALLY attending a Wilco concert, I was determined to mine the band’s catalogue for all the songs I didn’t know. While exploring their album Summerteeth, I stumbled across this song. Damn, that is a good song, I thought to myself. Then I saw them in concert. And this song will forever be known as the most fun three minutes I’ve ever experienced at a live concert.

And yes, I was a little annoyed when the song was featured on that HTC Evo commercial.

5. Cold Roses: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Ryan Adams has put out a ton of music, and I’ve spent the past couple of years playing a frantic game of catch up. After firmly establishing that I would love his non-Cardinal albums and all of his albums with Whiskeytown for the rest of my life, I finally set about getting to know Cold Roses. I was rewarded for my perseverance; it has earned a firm spot in my top five favorite albums of all time. It has everything I love: Adams’ well-trained, country-esque vocals, harmonicas, laid-back slow dances…It’s pretty much perfection.

What did 2012 give you? Did you find something great, old or new?