Welcome to the second iteration of my favorite tracks of the year. To summarize my way to long of an intro to last years list, I call this my “favorite” twenty-five tracks as opposed to “the best” or “top” because truly all these lists are just opinion. I would like for that to go without saying, but really I feel it has to be said because too often someone will write something saying the entire list is garbage because I left off ______ or less frequently someone actually thinks their list is the correct “best of” list. These things are just fun and we read them because it’s cool to see what other people thought and to see some great things that we could have missed.
After a while it became difficult to resist simply writing “this tracks good,” or “I really like this song,” as I think I have a sinus infection and am currently on a plane and if you’ve never had a sinus infection on a plane, trust me, it’s awful. Even more awful than the movie The Words, which is currently playing on the screen in front of me. Zing! However, with Sudafed down my throat and Afrin up my nose, some relief is imminent.
Method: Like I do every year, I keep a running log of songs I like in two places. Spotify (previously Grooveshark) and Soundcloud. If it’s only available on Bandcamp then I make sure to note it, but that’s rare. Then at the end of the year I comb through them and make a list of my favorite songs. This year the list expands by a whopping five songs. Now with 5% more beef.
Annoying Stuff: If you would like to subscribe my long spotify list of 2011 click here. For the favorite twenty of last year jump here. If you would like to subscribe to the long 2012 version bang it here. And for the below favorite twenty-five of 2012 as a playlist you’ll kindly be directed here. If you want to get ahead of the curve, and get on the 2013 running log, you’ll want to go to this link. But if you’re to click on only one of those links click this one – the all encompassing Swill Merchants post playlist.
Whew. Thought that house cleaning would never end. On to the list.
– All Tracks Streaming at the bottom –
25 – Delicate Steve – “Ramona Reborn”
I mentioned to a friend a while back I don’t particularly like parentheticals as a part of song titles. A stupid nitpicky thing I know, but I feel if you want your song title to be lengthened then just make that your title. Now, an artist to my knowledge has never have a parenthetical in their name but when it comes to Delicate Steve, I would be in support of, Delicate Steve (and his lyrical guitar) because starting on last years Wondervisions and carrying over to this years Positive Force Mr. Steve says all he needs to with six strings. To nail this point home, in case you don’t believe me, listen carefully to opening of “Ramona Reborn.” Before a single instrument is played Mr. Steve audibly inhales, then a moments pause, and exhales my 25th favorite track of the year, “Ramona Reborn.”
24 – Stars – “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Get It”
Clearly a band that agrees with me when it comes to leaving out parentheticals in song titles. Like many, I’ve been a big fan of Stars for a long time and while it’s no “Your Ex-Lover is Dead,” “Hold on when you get love and let go when you get it” is pretty great unto itself. So now that we’ve already established that I’m a homer for this band get off my back and just enjoy it. I’m a big fan of the lyric: “Take the weakest thing in you, and beat the bastards with it.”
23 – MS MR – “Dark Doo Wop”
If you’re a reoccurring reader of the blog you know I like me some MS MR. I missed seeing them live a few months back and am pretty upset about it. They didn’t make Kari’s favorite EP’s last year, but maybe Candy Bar Creep Show is on the 2012 list. Alas, this is a different list and it’s all mine, and MS MR have a place on it dammit. The duo is popping up on a lot of these 2012 lists but most favor “Hurricane” and while I enjoy that track, it’s the larger scale “Dark Doo Wop” that ratchets up the element of destruction to support the tracks opening words: “This world is gonna’ burn, burn, burn, burn,” and with this band, I prefer that side of them.
22 – Gemini Club – “By Surprise”
Fun little tidbit, I find myself writing this as I sit in their hometown airport. If you read my article on them a while back or are familiar with these guys you know that’s Chicago. I got on the Gemini Club bandwagon a little late this year and would have loved to catch them live as word of mouth says they play a killer show. This song is probably helped; as all songs that do are, but it’s probably helped onto this list because it was on repeat during a time of the year that has formed a particularly strong memory for me. What is that memory? Please, does this look like a xanga page circa 2004 or a music blog?
21 – Alt-J – “Taro”
The first artist on this list that has two tracks appearing on it. Who’s the other? In due time reader. It was either “Taro” or “Dissolve Me” here at number 22 and the East Indian flavored chorus along with the chant at the 2:59 mark sealed the deal. When you’re making a list like this it gets difficult to choose the final twenty-five and so often it comes down to small details like this and “Taro” is one of the best songs off an album full of good ones.
20 – Fun – “Some Nights”
By far and away the largest commercial success of my list, “Some Nights” is a much better track than any other song on what I found to be an uneven album. One of the albums I most looked forward to in 2012 Fun delivered for the most part but just not quite to the level I expected. Save for “Some Nights” which absolutely crushes it. It’s Paul Simon meets Kanye meets, well, Fun. If you wanted to tell me it belongs closer to number 1 I wouldn’t argue with you much for I was screaming “This is it boy, this is war!” as much as the next teenage girl and I think we can all agree it’s better that 2012’s teenagers were screaming to this than the ones in 2005 screaming “Number one with a bullet!”
19 – Ja’Rahn Leveston – “When They Ask…”
I’ve been following Mr. Leveston for quite a while now and have been able to see him grow over the years. With “When They Ask…” along with “Hello” and “Extra Ordinary Me” off his most recent release the fruits of his labor pay off. I would love to see this song performed with a live band, space for a guitar solo and a giant choir.
18 – Luke Sital-Singh – “I Have Been a Fire”
I still feel the same about this song as when I posted it. I think he channels the best of Rufus Wainwright, while avoiding all direct comparisons, and absolutely owns the vocals. I hope 2013 brings about a great full-length debut, but please, take your time and don’t rush it.
17 – Kendrick Lamar – “The Art Of Peer Pressure”
And here we are, the second artist that has two songs on this list but the only artist that has songs on both this list and 2011’s. Probably the most hyped debut release of the year (it has to be right?) Kendrick absolutely delivered. The entire album is ridiculous and is my second favorite album of the year. I could go on and on about how “The Art Of Peer Pressure” is a great bit of storytelling and how g.o.o.d. kid, m.A.A.d city is the best hip-hop album in years but l’ll just pilfer what Kendrick says, “everybody, sit your bitch ass down and listen to this true motha fuckin story told by Kendrick Lamar on Rosecrans ya’ bitch.”
16 – Polarsets – “Tropics”
With all my love for Mausi’s, “Sol” it was actually “Tropics” that was my track of the summer. I found myself listening to it in all manner of moods and scenarios: first thing in the morning, when I was driving at night with the windows down, when I was at a party, I found it just so damn incredibly versatile and versatility is perhaps the most underrated aspect of a good song and impossible to consciously manufacture.
15 – HAIM – “Don’t Save Me”
For many who know me this may come as a surprise and you may scream at me for being hypocritical. Let me explain myself. First off, this song, is undoubtedly 80’s influenced. (as is the Stars track above) I’ve also gone on record a few times in thinking that the 80’s are the most artistically overrated decade if a decade can be overrated.
But I’m not living in a world of absolutes, as not everything from the 80’s is awful. For example, Prince and Michael Jackson are fantastic. Amadeus and Ghostbusters are good movies. But as a whole, I’ll take pretty much any other decade.
So here comes Haim, with their fantastic cheesy dances, a snarl on their lips as they perform and catchy as hell tune and there I am listening to it, dismissing it at first, but by songs end completely on board. Haim, you’ve made me love the 80’s in 2012.
14 – George Ezra – “Over The Creek”
I don’t know how the UK keeps turning out men who look like boys with voices that sound like grandfathers but between the likes of Jake Bugg, Jamie N’ Commons and my preference of the three George Ezra, something’s in the water over there and that something is probably whiskey. I’m imagining those crazy parents who want to live their dreams through their children and force them to train like a maniac in some sport or drag them from audition to audition trying to get them famous but in this case Ezra’s parents were having him smoke in the crib and filling his bottle with some No.7 while “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” was his lullaby.
13 – Electric Guest – “This Head I Hold”
Little did I know the band I saw open with the energetic lead singer who possessed the expressive hand gestures at an Echo show a while back would go on to release one of my favorites of 2012. At the time I knew I liked what I heard but as it turns out I should have paid more attention much sooner.
12 – Passion Pit – “Cry Like A Ghost”
I was looking forward to this album and while hopeful I was also hesitant to get my hopes too high. For some reason, Passion Pit struck me as a band that would disappoint with their second full length. I’m very glad I was wrong as Gossamer nearly had two songs in my favorite twenty-five.
11– Flight Facilities – “Clair De Lune”
Let’s start with a bit of a worthless sentence; “Clair De Lune” is the longest track of my favorite twenty-five checking in at 7:52. However, I promise you this Flight Facilities release is well worth the time. I gather this information because chances are if you’re reading this, you trust my opinions somewhat because you came to the blog in the first place and kept reading after fourteen previous musings. (Don’t stop now. You’re so close.) That and on three separate occasions this song was on in my car and the person next to me grabbed my phone and sent it to themselves.
10 – Torches – “I Want Something”
I can’t remember exactly when I first listened to “I Want Something” which is a rarity among my favorite tracks of the year. These are the tracks that I played the most, the ones that stuck with me, the ones I kept going back to and yet I have nothing when it comes to how and where I first stumbled across this song. So while I may not remember where or how I came across this gem by Torches, I know it’s here sitting at number ten. The first impression may not have been what some of these others were but the lasting impression was the one made by our local Los Angeles band.
9 – Cold Specks – “Winter Solstice”
Doom Soul strikes again. Funny how one of the popular descriptors dropped in 2011 that really caught on in 2012 was a drunken bit of text used in jest by Al Spx. But is does feel appropriate for Cold Specks in addition to sounding rather intriguing. I remember reading a little BBC column on her back when she released her first two tracks. The author seemed to question her authenticity and talent for writing actual songs. He took the stance of, “yeah she has a good voice but so what.” Well, it’s a year later, I’ve seen her live, interviewed her and now have a full album of songs to listen to and I can comfortably say my gut was right, Cold Specks is for real. She’s authentic. She can write a good song.
8 – Titus Andronicus – “Ecce Homo”
“Okay, I think we’ve established/Everything’s inherently worthless!” That’s how you open an album folks. Those are the very first words uttered on Titus Andronicus’ follow up to their breakthrough The Monitor. That’s badass. I’m a big fan of Local Business as a whole but the true strength of the album resides in its first three tracks. Writer tidbit: If the site were around in 2010 “A More Perfect Union” would probably be the number 1 song of the year. That song is fucking flawless.
7 – Chvrches – “The Mother We Share”
This is a track that made me realize I need to share more with my blog cohort. That and probably post more because a bit ago Kari sent me this song with a little note attached, “this is good and right up your alley.” She was right, it is good and it is right up my alley as I was digging on it for a while previous to her sending it but like she said when she wrote up Alt-J the first time, sometimes you get so caught up in listening you just forget about the ancillary stuff.
6 – On An On – “Ghosts”
I first got word of these guys off the track that checks in with us now, “Ghosts.” That was pretty much hook, line, and sinker for me. It immediately was added to my soundcloud list and would have been posted but I was holding off to hopefully post it with an interview, which may actually be coming in 2013 along with some other stellar tracks I hope.
5 – Brolin – “NYC”
I could go on a bit about Brolin but since I posted him a couple of months back I’ll just paraphrase what I wrote last time and tell you his latest track, “Another Year” deserves your attention as well.
“NYC” is a song that’s broken up by small, precise moments along a string of continuity provided by a percussive drum machine. It’s this quiet song that screams just because all the worlds sounds are a click away, it doesn’t mean you have to use them.
4 – Daughter – “Medicine”
So officially it was 2011 but it was a very late 2011 and I didn’t get word of it until early 2012 so I’m cheating a little bit. With that out of the way this was the show I’m most upset I missed in 2012. But this isn’t a list of regrets. If it were you would have stopped reading long ago. 2011 found me liking Daughter, 2012 had me loving her. I adore “Medicine.” The atmosphere it creates. How it takes its time. How it builds. The story it tells. A wonderful piece of songwriting.
3 – Kishi Bashi – “Manchester”
This is one skilled man. Everything you hear is from a single person as he and his looping machine are solely responsible for every note and sound on 151A. Dropping out of Cornell’s engineering department this man did what many parents fear for their children, he followed his passion in music. However, it probably helped put their anxiety at ease knowing their son was ridiculously talented. Did they know he was this talented? I have no idea but one would have to think it was too hard to hide.
2 – Kendrick Lamar – “Backseat Freestyle”
Everyone seems to have Kendrick somewhere on their lists, and rightfully so, but something I noticed is that different outlets have different songs and that’s just part of the brilliance of g.o.o.d. kid, m.A.A.d city.
Backseat Freestyle is not the albums biggest artistic achievement (“Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst”) but it checks in as my second favorite song of 2012 for a few of different reasons. The beat is absolutely killer, (hat tip to Hit Boy), the way Kendrick takes it into overdrive at the 2:17 mark and then how he and Hit Boy find a way to both step it up yet it again a mere twenty-five seconds later.
1 – Alt J – Fitzpleasure
Let’s start with that An Awesome Wave is my favorite album of the year. Yes, I think there are a few other contenders but as a whole, track-to-track, An Awesome Wave is my favorite. Even the interludes are fantastic. “Fitzpleasure” is probably the most complete song on the album moving seamlessly between bombast and charming. It knows when to stop, it knows when to go and it’s a genre-blending ride that’s the most ass-kicking indie-rock track you’ll hear in 2012. Because of that it’s my favorite track of the year. Put your headphones on. Turn the volume up. Enjoy.
I’m definitely doing next years list “presented without comment.”
Note: The order gets a little off because George Ezra isn’t available on Spotify.