Comeback of the Year: The Primitives Best known for having an album on the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack - that song being the very catchy "Crash" (which was seven years old when the movie was released in 1995) - this group, led by the charismatic and initially platinum blonde Tracy Tracy, flashed and then flamed out.
Fast forward eighteen years. The Primitives come back with a new EP - Never Kill a Secret. And it's really good. Tracy's voice aged really well.
This was the easiest choice on this list. The rest - not so clear.
Album of the Year: Cars, by Kris Delmhorst. I love covers. So, clearly, an album full of them is going to catch my attention. A classically trained cellist, Kris did an album of covers of songs originally done by The Cars. Many of their big hits are represented. And done really really well. But here - judge for yourself.
She keeps the originally optimism of the songs, while adding her own soulful quality. And none of them are boring.
OK, I Admin It: Guilty Pleasure of the Year: Price Tag, by Jessie J. I don't want to like this song. I don't want to like it at all. But it's not about the money, money, money. It's a damned happy song, and I'm not ashamed to say I enjoy it. Jessie J, a songwriter by trade, wrote this song and performed it herself. And she really can sing. I have posted a live performance of the song, so you can enjoy it, too.
I Had NEVER Heard of Them Until This Year, Which Is Hard To Believe, And I Love Everything They Do: Spain. One of Josh Haden's many projects, this one has at times featured his sister Petra. They did release material this year - available on their Bandcamp page - so if you are looking for a Christmas gift for me, this would be a good one - so I guess it's OK to put them on this list.
More importantly, I had never heard of them until this year, and they are fantastic. Seek them out. Here is a live performance from 2011 of their 2006 song It's So True, rereleased this year.
Not everything they do is so quiet, but the guitar/bass sound in this song is definitely their signature. And I love this song - it's so mournful, but so heartfelt.
I Had NEVER Heard of Them Until This Year, Which Is Hard To Believe, And I Love Everything They Do, Honourable Mention: The Like. This band, who I discovered while watching music television channel TheCoolTV, also gets the Thanks for Blowing My Daughter's Mind award. For this 2005 video.
From what I can see, they released no material in 2011, hence the honourable mention. Still, their two albums, while very different and with different lineups, are both worth a listen.
I Missed This in 2010, But The Party Lives on This Year: Phantogram. I mean, they're from Saratoga Springs, NY! Upstaters are not bands I should be missing. And yet, I missed this exciting two-piece. They released an EP in 2011 (Nightlife), but what I was listening to this year was not that, but their 2010 release, Eyelid Movies. They also toured in 2011. So here's a live performance of one of their 2010 singles, from the 2011 Coachella festival - this is another one of my favorite songs of the moment.
Song of the Year (and you know I'm right): Friday. Love it or hate it, it was everywhere. And let's not slag too hard on the vocalist - Rebecca Black isn't a bad singer at all. She's not. The song was terribly written, but her performance of the song was admirable, and the combination of the terrible-but-accessible lyrics and her earnest rendition made for a catchy tune.
Song of the Year (runner-up): Lluvia al Corazón. Maná has for years been one of the biggest selling bands to come out of Mexico, and yet, you've never heard of them. Something of a Latin version of U2, but they're so much more than that.
Movie of the Year (or, who my Oscar Vote is going to): The Descendants. It's a drama, a three-hanky tearjerker. And yet, it's still really funny and touching. George Clooney (Best Actor) gives what I think is the best performance of his career since E/R - the old sitcom starring Eliott Gould, not the NBC drama - in a movie that should take home a lot of hardware during this awards season.
And for those who did not get my E/R reference or forgot that George Clooney did a lot of forgettable television early in his career, here is a montage of clips from the classic 1984 series, which also featured a cameo by Martha Quinn:
Best Actress: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants. The depth of emotion that this woman had to tap into for this role, which will get Supporting nominations but was really a lead in this movie, is jarring from such a young actress.
By the way, if you can't tell, I really liked the movie.
Best Book I Read This Year: Rat Girl. Kristin Hersh's chronicle of her early songwriting days, when mental illness was starting to creep in. A fascinating read, especially if you are a fan of her band, Throwing Muses (as I am).
News Story of The Year: Osama Bin Laden is dead. Really, are you surprised? There was no bigger story, no matter how many Kardashians got married and divorced.
Television Show of the Year: Outsourced. It's a shame that this touching comedy set in India was cancelled too soon. It even looks like it was a last-minute cancellation, paving the way for the far-inferior Whitney. However, we'll always have that complete first season.
Blog of the Year: American Curler. Shameless self-promotion.
I guess that's enough stuff to list for now. Let the debate begin.