Dec 2, 2013

2012 Year In Review Part III: The Songs

I can't even begin to explain why it took me nearly six months to follow up on part II, but let me just say that 2013 will be a year I'm glad to see the back of. Before I start my 2013 lists, better get these lists from 2012 posted. Here are the 100 songs that made my 2012.

100. "Ode to Viceroy" - Mac DeMarco
99. "Little Talks" - Of Monsters and Men
98. "Comeback Kid" - Sleigh Bells
97. "Take A Walk" - Passion Pit
96. "Ride" - Lana Del Rey
95. "Bad Thing" - King Tuff
94. "Daughters" - Nas
93. "All of Me" - Tanlines
92. "We Can't Be Beat" - The Walkmen
91. "Gangnam Style" - PSY
90. "Oldie" - Odd Future
89. "No. 1 Against the Rush" - Liars
88. "When A Man Lies" - R. Kelly
87. "This Summer" - Superchunk
86. "Life's A Beach" - Django Django
85. "Baby" - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
84. "Luxury Problems" - Andy Stott
83. "Kiss Me Dudely" - Torche
82. "Pyramids" - Four Tet
81. "Love Interruption" - Jack White
80. "773-LOVE" - Jeremih
79. "Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)" - Allah-Las
78. "Destiny" - John Talabot f. Pional
77. "That's Why God Made the Radio" - The Beach Boys
76. "Turn on the Lights" - Future
75. "Open Your Heart" - The Men
74. "Sleeping Ute" - Grizzly Bear
73. "Breezeblocks" - Alt-J
72. "Wave Goodbye" - Ty Segall Band
71. "Losing You" - Solange
70. "The Descent" - Bob Mould
69. "My Love is Real" - Divine Fits
68. "Doom and Gloom" - The Rolling Stones
67. "Sixteen Saltines" - Jack White
66. "Size Meets the Sound" - Woods
65. "In A Big City" - Titus Andronicus
64. "Lord Knows" - Dum Dum Girls
63. "Oblivion" - Grimes
62 "Ramada Inn" - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
61. "Monoliths" - Lotus Plaza
60. "Interstellar" - Frankie Rose
59. "Cherokee (Nicolas Jaar Remix)" - Cat Power
58. "Beautiful Son" - Peaking Lights
57. "Werkin' Girls" - Angel Haze
56. "Thinking About You" - Frank Ocean
55. "Brains" - Lower Dens
54. "Would That Not Be Nice" - Divine Fits
53. "Untouchable" - Anathema
52. "Hey Jane" - Spiritualized
51. "Locked Out of Heaven" - Bruno Mars
50. "Every Single Night" - Fiona Apple
49. "Under the Westway" - Blur
48. "Bandz A Make Her Dance" - Juicy J f. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne
47. "Elephant" - Tame Impala
46. "Genesis" - Grimes
45. "Cry For Judas" - The Mountain Goats
44. "Disparate Youth" - Santigold
43. "Do You" - Miguel
42. "Hot Knife" - Fiona Apple
41. "The Full Retard" - El-P
40. "I Don't Like" - Chief Keef f. Lil Reese
39. "Cleaning Out My Closet" - Angel Haze
38. "Goldie" - A$AP Rocky
37. "Swimming Pools (Drank)" - Kendrick Lamar
36. "Angels" - The xx
35. "All Gold Everything" - Trinidad James
34. "Kill For Love" - Chromatics
33. "Big Beast" - Killer Mike f. Bun B, T.I. & Trouble
32. "Everything is Embarrassing" - Sky Ferreira
31. "New God Flow" - Pusha T f. Kanye West & Ghostface Killah
30. "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" - Father John Misty
29. "Aaliyah" - Katy B f. Geeneus & Jessie Ware
28. "I Knew You Were Trouble" - Taylor Swift
27. "Laura" - Bat For Lashes
26. "Myth" - Beach House
25. "Pyramids" - Frank Ocean
24. "I've Seen Footage" - Death Grips
23. "Stay Useless" - Cloud Nothings
22. "110%"/"If You're Never Gonna Move Me" - Jessie Ware
21. "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" - Tame Impala
20. "Same Damn Time" - Future
19. "Lupine Dominus" - Thee Oh Sees
18. "212" - Azelia Banks
17. "Skyfall" - Adele
16. "Beez in the Trap" - Nicki Minaj f. 2 Chainz
15. "Simple Song" - The Shins
14. "Reagan" - Killer Mike
13. "Wildest Moments" - Jessie Ware
12. "Hold On" - Alabama Shakes
11. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" - Taylor Swift

10. "Bad Girls" - M.I.A.
Unfortunately this song was quickly overshadowed by the stupid "controversy" surrounding M.I.A.'s Super Bowl appearance by Madonna, something that killed the momentum for a song that deserved to be as omnipresent and inescapable as "Paper Planes" was a few years prior. This proved a few things to the world - 1) no, Maya was not creatively bankrupt in the least and, more importantly, 2) she is worth more attention than the aging star she upstaged during halftime. Oh, and the video is supremely badass.

9. "Five Seconds" - Twin Shadow
I typically don't have a whole lot of patience for hispter'n'b or whatever the genre is called this month, but this song had the kind of huge, insistent hook that is impossible to ignore and even more difficult to hate. In a perfect world, this would have been just as much a staple of summer 2012 as Carly Rae and PSY were.

8. "Inspector Norse" - Todd Terje
Todd Terje has been quietly (or not so quietly, depending on how close you are to the dance music scene in general) excellent tracks over the past decade, but this one is the first to really give me fits, in the best possible way. It's a hypnotic slice of space disco noir, as if such a genre wasn't already perfect for Terje's work. My only regret is that I'm not more of a club going guy, this would have been fantastic to hear on a night out.

7. "I Love It" - Icona Pop
Yeah, I'll admit it, I absolutely hated this song when I first heard it. It felt like the worst kind of flash-in-the-pan pop hit, anchoring an earworm hook to "edgy" lyrics and an insistent beat. Except, well, it was definitely all of that, but also great. I started to not mind it, but I was finally won over during a night out dancing with friends. Sometimes it just takes that kind of venue change to make a song click. I'm glad it did, but I'll also be just fine if I don't hear it again.

6. "The House That Heaven Built" - Japandroids
This was a no brainer, really. I had this pegged for some sort of year-end list from the moment I first heard it, one of the most immediate and joyful anthems on an album full of immediate and joyful anthems. Like the Husker Du song that it cribs its title from, this is a sprightly rock song that relies as much on classic rock tradition as it does punk spirit. If the joy of discovering rock music could be distilled into a single song, this would be pretty damn close.

5. "Some Nights" - fun.
This is another song that I wasn't entirely sold on at first, but slowly won me over anyway. It wasn't an immediate change of heart like "I Love It" was, instead I slowly eased my grip on hating it and realized it was actually kind of great. The whole thing of fun. becoming a hugely popular band was weird for me, since I'd already knew them from their first album, Aim and Ignite, and, more meaningfully to me, from Nate Ruess' previous band, The Format. I never would've have pegged these guys for Top 10 success, but I'm glad they found it. I liked how this song took the insular navel-gazing of emo and turned it on its head, this became a backwards anthem of sorts, made more meaningful if you bothered to read into the lyrics at all.

4. "Mercy" - Kanye West f. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz
While the whole G.O.O.D. Music compilation album thing pretty much tanked (why, oh why did he feel the need to completely destroy "I Don't Like"???), I'm glad there was some gold to be salvaged from the mess. This was easily the highlight of not only the album, but of a year that was sorely lacking in the huge hip-hop anthem department. It certainly helps that everyone involved brought their A game, not just the rappers but the production team as well (Lifted, Kanye, Mike Will, Mike Dean, Hudson Mohawke).

3. "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen
This one was kind of inevitable too, I unabashedly loved this from the first time I heard it. There was just something about the unabashed pop heights it was aiming for that made it easy for me to root for. Carly's delivery was perfectly suited to the mood of the song, coy and playful, and the sprightly production was absolutely pitch perfect. This song is up there with "Toxic", "Since U Been Gone", and "Sugar, We're Going Down" as essential pop tunes that I will never tire of.

2. "Adorn" - Miguel
I was a latecomer to Miguel, there was little I heard about his first album that inspired me to want to check it out, but I was certainly aware of all the buzz. But then I started hearing the buzz intensify around the lead single to his second album, Kaleidoscope Dream, and read the comparisons to lofty icons like Prince and Marvin Gaye. Come on. But, yeah, totally accurate. This is one of the all-time slow jams and I can't see how anyone was able to withstand it's charms. I just hope Miguel can continue to live up to the high watermark he set for himself.

1. "Bad Religion" - Frank Ocean
Picking my number one this year was really tough. At any given time, I could have legitimately made a case for any of the songs appearing in my top four. But when it all came down to it, I had to go with the song that moved me the most and connected on a fairly deep level. Coming as it does three-quarters of the way through his stellar album, Channel Orange, Frank Ocean already had me won over and I was simply not expecting this moving of a track to disarm me as it did. But, wow. Even if we hadn't had the coming-out story to lift the narrative into real life meaning, it was still one hell of a song. The backseat taxicab confession not only had the ring of truth, but the tenor of pain that pop songs aren't always able to express - no matter how eloquently they may be worded. If you look up the lyrics to this song, there are deceptively few words used, but Ocean injects them with so much feeling that you can't help but empathize. No other song this year brought literal tears to my eyes.