5 Oblivion – Grimes
Just in case you thought synth pop had disappeared, fear not. Grimes to the rescue. The girl who has taken over the airwaves, Grimes’ undeniably catchy hit Oblivion takes all the best aspects of synth pop, dubstep, psychedelic-electronica, and mixes it with her unique super-feminine vocal style. There is nothing deep about the lyrics, but they are memorable. And if there’s anything a song needs to be in 2012 to withstand the test of time (and YouTube), it’s memorable.
4 Boozophilia – Low Cut Connie
Speaking of fun, Low Cut Connie’s Boozophilia sounds like a bourbon-soaked, classic-rock, jazz-infused, barroom staple fresh out of the gate. Low Cut Connie remains relatively obscure (they don’t even have a Wikipedia page), but their sound is unbelievably refreshing. The duo is half-American/half-British, and bring both of their own musical influences into Boozophilia. You can’t help but want to “get down with the Boozophilia” as soon as the song starts.
3 I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons
Already proving their weight with their 2008 album Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons’ 2012 release I Will Wait is just as strong as their breakthrough hit Little Lion Man. I Will Wait features their distinctively English hard-folk sound combined perfectly with their unique vocal harmony. I Will Wait is more than just a chart-topping folk song. It is indicative of a style of music that is here to stay—one that is heartfelt and powerful, yet still exceedingly fun to listen to.
2 Emmylou – First Aid Kit
Sweden seems to promote quite an Americana-folk sound (see Best Albums of 2008 for more) and First Aid Kit is a prime example of that sound. With an infusion of pop into their sound, Emmylou is a beautiful, heartfelt plea of a song. The harmony of sister-duo Johanna and Klara Söderberg is simultaneously ethereal and earthy, giving the song a dreamy quality without being too esoteric. The lyrics are bittersweet, and even if you’re not quite sure who Emmylou is, you know they mean by “I’m not asking much of you/just sing a little darling, sing with me.”
1 Ho Hey – The Lumineers
Hailing from Denver, Colorado, The Lumineers are a folk rock band that blasted through the radio waves to make it to Rolling Stone’s top 50 songs of this year list. With a communal folk sound (made up by Wesley Schultz on guitar/vocals, Jeremiah Fraites on drums, and Neyla Pekarek on cello/vocals) and a great sensibility for harmony, The Lumineer’s Hey Ho is at once sweet, sensitive, and energizing, even if it’s slight melancholy.