12 For '12: A Dozen Songs From This Year That You Should Hear Right Now

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Evans The Death.
In this week's Voice I offered up a midseason report of sorts, listing 12 particularly outstanding tracks from this year. Here, for your listening pleasure, are the 12 songs in streamable form (via a combination of YouTube and Soundcloud so as to not lock anyone—or any songs—out). Happy listening, and if you'd like to share a 2012 song that's particularly tickled your ears, by all means do so in the comments.

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How Not To Write About Female Musicians: A Handy Guide

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Maybe it's all that misguided Year of the Woman chatter that dominated year-end roundups, or the slow, agonizing creep of Fashion Week, or the coming apocalypse, but hoo boy has there been a lot of terrible writing about female musicians in the past few weeks. The latest offender is the New York Times style magazine T's cover-worthy profile of Lana Del Rey, which manages to be offensive from its first sentence and somehow gets worse from there. (There are even photos by the terminally icky Terry Richardson.) This piece inspired me to put forth four questions that writers, whether they're male or female, whether they're people with Tumblrs or those important enough to score offices at the New York Times building, should ask themselves before hitting "send" on their next piece about a woman making music.

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Is It Time To Re-Reconsider The Guilty Pleasure?

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Yes, Ke$ha's involved in this.

In general conversation, the guilty pleasure is a simple enough concept: it describes something you might like but, well, feel guilty about liking, presumably because it isn't otherwise up to your standards of taste. Over the past ten or so years, with pop critics taking traditional guilty-pleasure strongholds like teenpop and Southern rap more seriously, the concept itself was put to closer scrutiny. To summarize a decade of articles, blog posts and message board debates, the term "guilty pleasure" was revealed to conceal biases running along the lines of class, race, gender and age. Why should someone enjoy [choose your personal white/male/middle class fave] as a "serious" work of art, but listen to, say, the new Rick Ross or Britney Spears record only after using guilt to create some distance? And if pop music exists to bring you pleasure, why feel guilty about taking it?

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Top 5 Music Videos Featuring Mythical Creatures


In her new clip for the [ahem] Madonna-inspired "Born This Way," Lady Gaga includes a unicorn in the opening shot. While the video only gets weirder (and grosser) from there, that mythical beast captivated our attention so much that we decided to search out the best videos featuring such imaginary/otherworldly/just plain weird creatures. Here are our findings:


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The Ballad of 2010: A Journey Through the Insipid Year That Was

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As previously noted, the pop-house that dominated the charts in 2010 was really fucking insipid. So to see this boneheaded year off, here's an anti-poetic tribute comprised of over 30 hits, misses, and album cuts that came out (or flourished) this year about going to the club, taking shots, dancing, and generally being as mindless as possible. If things continue on like this, you may not have to use your brain whatsoever in 2011. Fingers crossed! (Click on the line for its source track.)

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Was 2010 The Best Year For Music Ever? American Idol Wobbles, R&B Thrives, And The '90s Rise Again

Welcome to Sound of the City's year-in-review rock-critic roundtable, an amiable ongoing conversation between five prominent Voice critics: Rob Harvilla, Zach Baron, Sean Fennessey, Maura Johnston, and Rich Juzwiak. We'll be here all week!

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At least one song on this record is really good!
Gentlemen,

If I had to pick one example of hashtag rap that I liked more than any other, it would probably be Nicki Minaj's "And I just be coming off the top -- asbestos," from Young Money's "Bedrock," if only because of its somewhat feminist implications. The song reached No. 2 on the Hot 100! Surely that must represent some strike in favor of female sexual empowerment. (Or maybe radio listeners finally realized the charms of Lloyd, whose silky come-ons were also available on "Lay It Down," one of the many r&b songs from this year with which I had passionate, intense flings.)

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Was 2010 The Best Year For Music Ever? House Music vs. Hashtag Rap

Welcome to Sound of the City's year-in-review rock-critic roundtable, an amiable ongoing conversation between five prominent Voice critics: Rob Harvilla, Zach Baron, Sean Fennessey, Maura Johnston, and Rich Juzwiak. We'll be here all week!

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The most important artist of 2010.
Hi everybody!

To completely gloss over the Taylor Swift effect (I listened to 30 seconds of Speak Now and thought, "Uh, no," and never looked back), and get to what actually matters: despite Sean's prediction, I don't even care enough about Dr. Luke to defile him. His is the sound of now, and that means so much more than what's actually going on within most of his producing. I think most of Teenage Dream is ingenious, though. It's an album of power ballads with house beats and rave sounds and blood-curdling yelping. We know the ingredients of this frothy girly drink well, but they've never quite been blended like this. Objectively, it rocks and knocks harder than Robyn's output this year, which may be precisely why those people who enjoy Body Talk would avoid it. Wimps.

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Was 2010 The Best Year For Music Ever? Throw Taylor Swift In A Well

Welcome to Sound of the City's year-in-review rock-critic roundtable, an amiable ongoing conversation between five prominent Voice critics: Rob Harvilla, Zach Baron, Sean Fennessey, Maura Johnston, and Rich Juzwiak. We'll be here all week!

Pay Rich Juzwiak what you owe him, Jay Leno. Twitpic by Dave Itzkoff.
Pals,

I spent this year trying to be a more empathetic and broad-minded critic, so it hurts me to open with acrimony. But since Zach teed it up so delicately, let's look back by looking to the future: In 2011, someone needs to put Taylor Swift, and her guitar, in a well and seal it shut. Because while the case that 2010 was The Greatest Year For Music Ever is a fun one to make, it cannot be denied that even as others were more acclaimed, no one was more popular or more present than Swift. How quickly she beat back Kanye West's surge to chart glory, by leapfrogging him just a week after his epically anticipated and then slobbered-over My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's debut. I spent some time in these wintry days trying again with Speak Now, seeking her precocious wisdom, her plaintive but pretty way with melody, her winsome charm. Turns out, she still sings out of key, tramples you with cliché, and grossly overplays the sympathy card. I came away thinking that Swift's "Not her, pick me" brand of songwriting is its own worst enemy. If all these silly boys keep making the wrong decision, at what point do we think maybe something is actually wrong with the girl? (Look dear, you quest for John Mayer, you get John Mayer.) I know, I know, why I gotta be so mean?

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The 10 Biggest Music Stories of 2010

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Ah M.I.A., it just wasn't your year, was it? Photo by Rebecca Smeyne.
In 2010, Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire both had #1 records. LCD Soundsystem, Spoon, MGMT, the National, M.I.A, and Sufjan Stevens all had albums debut in the top ten. Kanye West joined Twitter. Drake started a riot in New York. Converse opened a recording studio in Brooklyn. M.I.A. went to war with the New York Times. Pavement reunited. Juggalos went mainstream. From our vantage point, this year in music was one of the most lawlessly entertaining--purely ridiculous, even--in a long, long while. So in the spirit of the deluge of year-end lists even now beginning to rain down upon us (don't forget to vote in Pazz & Jop!), we figured we'd look back on our ten favorite storylines of 2010. They weren't necessary the biggest, but they were the ones that SOTC had the most fun with, and the ones we cared most about.

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Live: Rye Rye And Ke$ha Elate And Confuse (Respectively) At Roseland Ballroom

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It makes total sense to her, probably. Photo by Palika.
Honestly, I'm not quite sure where to begin with last night's Paper magazine event at the Roseland Ballroom, featuring Rye Rye and Ke$ha -- before I get into how immeasurably pissed off I get about having to substitute the "s" in Ke$ha with a dollar sign, I figure I should begin with some positives.


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