At the halfway mark, 2012 seems to be less a transitional year than one during which trends that reared their heads in the past few years have begun to settle in. Electronic music, dance-based or otherwise, has solidified its hold on the mainstream, with barely a “real” instrument to be found inside the pop top 10 during most weeks. There are plenty of bands playing guitars and beating real drums, though, if you care to look on the alternative side of the street, where the ease of creating clear, crisp sounds using digital technology seems to have bred a conscious lo-fi response.

For my money, Emilie Sande appears to be the most interesting new artist of the year so far, or at least the one who has released the best debut record. There were two or three songs from that set which could have made my list; but even though I included just one, I encourage you to check out the entire album.

For those wondering why I left off Gotye’s sure “Record Of the Year” contender “Somebody That I Used To Know,” please note that I included it on my 2011 best-of list, rendering it ineligible this year by my own self-generated rules. But it is great. As is Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” which should fall into the “guilty pleasure” category, yet somehow transcends it to achieve true pop brilliance. Finally, I’m vaguely embarrassed to include Pitbull’s theme from “Men In Black 3″ on my list, but I just love it, and I hope someone in Oscar-land has the guts to get it a nomination, because it’s the best song from a motion picture so far this year.

Also, I continue to include Youtube links so you can hear the songs on my list–unbelievably, it remains the only place where someone in the U.S. can find ALL 20 of these records. While Spotify, et. al. are great services, let’s no make the mistake of confusing having lots and lots of songs with having every song. And let’s not limit ourselves to music that can be found on these services. Back in the days when we made mixtapes on cassettes or CDs, the real fun was sharing with your friend a great song he or she couldn’t find anywhere else. While most new music and a lot of old music is on iTunes, Spotify, et. al., it would be shame for those songs that are not there, for whatever reason, to fall away from our consciousness.

Feel The Love – Rudimental (feat. John Newman)

Hold On – Alabama Shakes

Daddy – Emeli Sandé (feat. Naughty Boy)

Mama Do The Hump – Rizzle Kicks

Levels – Avicii (Radio Edit)

The Only Place – Best Coast

Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen

Don’t Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas) – Regina Spektor

Titanium – David Guetta (feat. Sia)

My Mistakes – Eleanor Friedberger

Tongue Tied- Grouplove

Love Interruption – Jack White

Simple Song – The Shins

Is There Anybody Out There – K’Naan (ft. Nelly Furtado)

Stress Away (4D Riddim)[2012 Trinidad Soca] – Kes The Band

Earthquake – Labrinth (feat.Tinie Tempah)

Primadonna – Marina And The Diamonds

Happy Pills – Norah Jones

Stay Sweet – Piney Gir

Back in Time – Pitbull (featured in “Men In Black 3″)