Yesterday you saw my picks for the albums that wheedled their way to the top of my playlist for 2012. The albums these songs came from didn’t quite make the cut, but these individual tracks are definitely worth a spin.
“Abandoned Love” from “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan,” Paul Rodgers and Nils Lofgren. I could have named any number of the covers from the 76-track tribute collection, including ones from Tom Morello, Natasha Bedingfield and (gasp!) Miley Cyrus. But these old pros keep it simple and stunning on this Dylan outtake.
“As Is” from “A Different Kind of Truth,” Van Halen. Oh, just because.
“Do It Anyway” from “The Sound of the Life of the Mind,” Ben Folds Five. A standout track driven by Folds’ trademark galloping piano, melodic arrangement and oddly endearing (if affectedly nerdy) vocals.
“Empty Threat” from “Voyageur,” Kathleen Edwards. Canadians get cranky, too, we learn on this track from the sublime Edwards’ latest disc of stirring folk-pop.
“I Am Following the Sound” from “No Separation,” Spirit Family Reunion. Down-home Americana for those of you who think Mumford & Sons sound too corporate.
“I Feel Better” from “Making Mirrors,” Gotye. You knew Gotye could channel Sting, but Steve Winwood? Neat blue-eyed soul from the “Somebody That I Used To Know” guy.
“Primitive Girl” from “A Wasteland Companion,” M. Ward. Atmospheric guitar pop from someone who happens to do it better than anyone.
“I Rose Up At The Dawn of Day” from “The Garden of Love,” Martha Redbone Roots Project. Redbone’s album sets William Blake’s poetry to rich, twangy Americana, and this gospel stomper shows just how effectively she does it.
“Kansas City” from “4th Street Feeling,” Melissa Etheridge. I admit it — I’m a sucker for any time Melissa sings about cars, dark Midwestern roads and relationships on the brink. A rocking return to form.
“Louie’s Luau,” from “New Deli,” TriBeCaStan. Because the world needs more funky horns, global rhythms, blues harmonica and jaw harp, not necessarily in that order.
“Oh Love” from “Uno!,” Green Day. Their political stuff is great, but every now and again a little straight-ahead power pop about girls and gumption is pretty good, too.
“Pow” from “Banshee,” Kendra Morris. Morris puts her hand up as a viable successor to Amy Winehouse, mixing a retro-soul delivery with hip-hop beats.
“Roller Derby Queen,” single, Leland Sundries. The boys from Brooklyn channel their inner rockabilly rebels on this boogie-woogie track, released as a 7-inch vinyl single.
“Some Nights (Intro)” from “Some Nights,” fun. The title track that made it onto the radio is great, too, but this prelude really showcase’s the group’s penchant for baroque frenzy.
“Dreamer” from “Beatrix Runs,” Elizaveta. The entire concept of “opera pop” is frightening, but the Russian-born, NYC-trained Elizaveta pulls it off on track after track of her debut LP. This soaring album-opener mixes chorally inspired vocals, classical piano and electronic beats to dizzying effect.
“Stay Sweet” from “Geronimo!,” Piney Gir. This track confirms your worst fears about what your ex is thinking (or not thinking) about you — and, like so many cuts on the record, is deeper than Piney’s ’60s girl-group sound and sunny production would seem to indicate.
“Television Sun” from “Western & Atlantic (EP),” Don DiLego. This track brings an alt-country sensibility to an urban landscape that recalls Dion and the Belmonts as much as it does Jackson Browne.
“That’s Why God Made the Radio,” from “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” The Beach Boys. They couldn’t quite sustain it for a whole album, but the reunited Beach Boys — again including, finally, Brian Wilson — capture the old magic on this wistful track.
“The Graveyard Shift” from “Unfinished Business,” Wanda Jackson. The original rockabilly filly continues to rock and roll — this is one of several standout tracks that recall the days when she held her own among early rock era bad boys.
“Turntable” from “The Lion, The Beast, The Beat,” Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. In a driving, sexy track, Potter uses putting a needle on a vinyl record as an analogy for … Well, you can guess what it’s an analogy for.
“Waiting Time,” single, Ariel Rubin. Building percussion provides the backbone for the track, but it’s the Somerville, Mass. resident’s vocals that make things soar. It bodes well for her new project coming in 2013, Ariel + the Undertow.
“What’s My Desire,” single, Sweet Soubrette. “All my love letters are forged,” sings Ellia Bisker, one of a series of biting admissions on a lovely, lush single awash with strings and horns. The ukulele is just a bonus.