2011 was a good year. The sun shone a bit, flowers bloomed to appropriate levels, Marshawn Lynch liberated a dozen Arab countries with a single stiff-arm. I mean, it's a little hazy now, but I have fond half-memories. 2012, though, kicked even more ass. The sky was blue for an unnaturally long time, and flowers grew so tall and healthy that they learned to play instruments, form bands, break up, and play reunion gigs. Oh, and pot's legal, and everyone can marry whomever they want. Most important, though, I discovered a ton of new awesome music, thanks in no small part to the DJs at KEXP. So for the second year running, I've kept track (with the help of their handy iPhone app) of as much of it as I could, and am turning the results over to you. Here are 36 highlights, with the DJ who played them and when—plus my two cents (natch) about each:
The Drums, "I Can't Save Your Life" (12:26 a.m. Jan. 8 by Michele Myers): The most grabbing dynamic of this song is the low/high exchange where the bendy guitar and reassuring bass line trade off carrying the melody, then the (fake?) horn goes up the scale.
Little Barrie, "Dub It Over" (4:55 p.m. Feb. 9 by John Richards): Bouncy UK funk groove with pseudo-boy-band lyrics and a nice little effects-aided freak-out at the end.
Arctic Monkeys, "R U Mine?" (10:59 a.m. April 9 by Cheryl Waters): Arctic Monkeys consistently refresh their classic-Brit-rock-with-a-drizzle-of-punk sound with new heavy guitar licks like this one, which always go down pop-smooth.
Blue Sky Black Death & Nacho Picasso, "I'm a Greek God" (2:01 p.m. April 16 by Waters): One of the most "cloud"-y Nacho x BSBD jams, NP weaves some mythology into his tall smoker's tales. "Shouda been a minotaur 'cause the boy's a beast."
Alcoholic Faith Mission, "Alaska" (2:42 p.m May 3 by Kevin Cole): Not nearly as contrived as many stomping, harmony-based songs; the Danish band uses a slow tempo and layering techniques to build the charge.
The Antlers, "No Windows" (1 p.m. May 21 by Waters): The repetitive melody wears a bit thin by the song's end, but the basic atmospherics and watery whisper vocals make for great headphone music.
Absolute Monarchs, "Bled Out" (11:07 a.m. May 24 by Waters): Joel Schneider's yelled lyrics are the perfect complement to the dissonant guitar threads and super-basic drum pattern. Great rock track.
Bobby Womack, "The Bravest Man in the Universe" (9:58 a.m. June 13 by Richards): Womack's comeback album wasn't all gravy, but its title track made great use of rhythm and his weathered croon.
Friendly Fires, "Jump in the Pool" (8:55 a.m. June 15 by Richards): Euphoric electronic/rock jam with frantic percussive elements and placid vocals that would play perfectly on New Year's Eve.
T-Fire, "Will of the People" (6:12 p.m. July 10 by Darek Mazzone): Wah-pedal-and-horn funk to keep you moving.
Mônica da Silva, "Walk on the Wild Side" (6:14 p.m. July 10 by Mazzone): Lou Reed's happy little ditty was prime for bossa nova interpretation, and the Brazilian-American beauty makes it sing.
Peaking Lights, "Dream Beat" (2:34 p.m. July 23 by Stevie Zoom): Wavy funk jam with sharp electronic interjections and delightful studio effects.
Future of the Left, "Sorry Dad, I Was Late for the Riots" (11:54 a.m. July 30 by Waters): A jagged, lyric-driven song with unhinged social commentary. Sounds like I was in a strange mood.
Hounds of the Wild Hunt, "All the Men's Kings" (3:02 p.m. Aug. 2 by Cole): Rarely done listenably, rock with string accompaniment is delivered properly here, with a killer vocal performance to boot.
Autolux, "Subzero Fun" (11:25 a.m. Aug. 9 by Waters): Noise-pop with a winning light (vocals)/heavy (guitars, drums) dynamic.
Santigold, "Disparate Youth" (4:14 p.m. Aug. 13 by Myers): One of the most accomplished melodies of the year. Santigold and producer Ricky Blaze crafted a hit through and through.
Dan Deacon, "True Thrush" (5:11 Aug. 14 by Cole): Baltimore electronic artist Deacon has a charming song here, complete with complex rhythmic breakdowns and quirky audio drops.
Poliça, "Amongster" (10:25 a.m. Aug. 23 by Waters): Channy Leaneagh's Auto-Tuned vocals shimmer atop skittish drum sequences and a mounting ocean of sound until the song's primal finale.
Cocteau Twins, "Wax and Wane" (4 p.m. Aug. 26 by Quilty 3000): The old-school alt-Scots' rough melody as catchy as it is creepy.
Radiation City, "Find It of Use" (11 a.m. Sept. 10 by DJ Shannon): Radiation City's vintage recording techniques make their warm sound even more inviting. Their intricate songwriting is on full display here.
Four Tet, "Pinnacles" (1:06 a.m. Sept. 22 by Alex): Bell-bottoms and moon boots—a savvy dance track from the mind of British producer Kieran Hebden.
Zuco 103, "Brief Passions" (10:18 p.m. Oct. 12 by Myers): A hectic pop number that's part '90s R&B jam, part tropicália.
Pupajim, "Signs" (10:58 a.m. Oct. 13 by Kid Hops): A heavy dub beat garnished with hypnotic falsetto chants that tie it together.
Port St. Willow, "Amawalk" (9:21 a.m. Oct. 15 by Larry Rose): Bare in its presentation, "Amawalk" has the heart of a stripped-down "Ornament/The Last Wrongs" (Oceansize) that swells and becomes its own statement.
David Wax Museum, "Will You Be Sleeping?" (10:29 a.m. Oct. 15 by Waters): A whistling, cute, guitar-driven track played in a high register to ensure a feel-good spirit.
Washed Out, "New Theory" (12:07 a.m. Oct. 17 by Rose): Echoey electro-haze that kind of makes you want to speed down the Coast in a sexy little Miata with a mountain of cocaine riding shotgun. Kind of.
Efterklang, "Sedna" (12:09 a.m. Oct. 17 by Rose): Ambient synths held in place expertly by the soft bass line and drum pats. Vocals fit in nicely as pleasant afterthought.
Iamamiwhoami, "good worker" (4:33 p.m. Oct. 27 by a guest DJ): Contemporary '80s-style synthesizer-and-drum-machine pop with a great build-up by a band with one of the hardest-to-pronounce names in existence.
Point Juncture, WA, "Pearl of the Quarter" (5:20 p.m. Nov. 4 by Quilty 3000): This clever spin on Steely Dan's original fits a somber-to-rocking instrumental around the melancholy narrative.
Night Moves, "Country Queen" (5:35 p.m. Nov. 4 by Quilty 3000): The change-up at 1:17 might be the best heard this year, and it leads to some brilliant progressions.
ILLFIGHTYOU, "92" (8:39 p.m. Nov. 4 by Larry Mizell, Jr.): Concrete-tough raps to fit the extra-hard piano cadence that fits the Tacoma trio's state of mind.
Cat Power, "Silent Machine" (2:30 p.m. Nov. 13 by Cole): I'm a relative Cat Power newb, so this is as good a place as any to begin to appreciate CP's raw energy.
The Joy Formidable, "Austere" (12:59 p.m. Nov. 13 by Waters): They get it rocking here in a fulfilling but not overly derivative
kind of way, thanks in part to the use of unorthodox time signatures.
Cody Chesnutt, "What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next)" (4:05 p.m. Nov. 26 by Zoom): A smooth take on classic soul (I know, but he does it well). Thoughtful lyrics.
Neneh Cherry and the Thing, "Golden Heart (Nymph remix)" (9:47 p.m. Nov. 26 by DJ Riz): Wavering left/right channels and far-out beat-poetry-style percussion make for a fun listen in your car/headphones.
Porcelain Raft, "Drifting In and Out" (9:25 a.m. Dec. 4 by Richards): The drunken synth lead and overall down-tempo approach feel surreal and unsteady, but Mauro Remiddi's impressive soprano keeps it more in than out.