In no particular order…
Snow by Sleeping at Last. My taste in music is most satisfied when I am stopped in my tracks, cease what I am doing, and listen closely to the lyrics and melody of a song. That is as best as I can describe the phenomenon of experiencing beauty in music. This one has that effect on me, and I would never have guessed that something like this could found a Christmas mix. Thanks Paste Magazine!
Digging Shelters in the Snow by Neil Halstead. Related to the same effect noted above, this one takes the cake. The nostalgic lyrics make me think of childhood memories of making snow forts and my current habit of listening to music for endless hours studying in the library. I say this Halstead’s best, and that is saying a lot (the piano near the end gets me every time).
Atlas Hands by Benjamin Francis Leftwich. While not the most original sound I’ve heard (think Elliot Smith), there is a sweetness to the melody of his guitar that cannot duplicated. Thoughtful lyrics too.
Bellow My Feet by Mumford & Sons. I don’t normally rave about this band, because many of their songs seem to fit a category of music one should listen to only if one is going through a divorce. But seriously, this one get’s the underlying anger and the swelling, hopeful melodies right.
Breathing Underwater by Metric. The best band with a female lead hits yet another homerun. It’s hard to describe how well they top themselves again and again, and this one, in my opinion, is their best.
Orpheo Looks Back by Andrew Bird. This guy has produced the most original sound I’ve heard all year, and I look forward to hearing more and more gorgeous fiddling from him for years to come.
Carelessly (Dosh Mix) by Haley Bonar. One of the best from my favorite female artist. Since you can’t find this one online, you will have to listen to Candy Machine Gun, which is a close second.
Ho Hey by the Lumineers. Many a toe-tapping beats on their album and this is one of the better ones that can make even the most painful experiences of unrequited love feel good.
Love Love Love by Of Monsters and Men. If I were the director of the next Hunger Games movie, this would be the song I’d use to capture the Peeta & Katniss love connection. Pouty longing sells, but that doesn’t meant has to be expressed badly. Best love song of the year.
Pinwheels by the Smashing Pumpkins. They are still able to pull it off after all these years (unlike Pearl Jam).
Forgiveness by Toby Mac. Same comments made in 10 (sorry Pearl Jam).