I told myself all year that I wouldn’t create a “Top Songs” list for 2012. In years past, I’ve invested massive amounts of time to create what had over the years turned into a list of the Top 100 (!) songs, a list that pretty much no one every read or cared about (here’s last year’s list!). I decided this year that my time was better spent focusing solely on my albums list. Then again, as the month of January has crept forward, I kept getting the itchy typing finger to still throw a list of songs together. I’m not quite sure why I ever made a song list considering I’ve always been an “album” kind of guy. Then again, there are always those tracks that stand out and get revisited when I’m not listening to an album in its entirety. Most commonly my favorite songs from the year are found on mediocre albums that I’m not interested in revisiting in their entirety, but you will also find familiar tracks that can be found on my definitive “Top 40 Albums of 2012” list. What you read below is far from definitive. Simply put – it’s a collection of songs that you may enjoy as sweet little morsels of dessert to follow my 40-course meal of albums.
20. Alt-J “Breezeblocks”
I’ve seen Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave on several year end albums list, and I’ve even seen it mentioned in my comments section. I couldn’t disagree more. I do find many of the tracks adventurous and unpredictable, but Patrick Stickle’s grating Dave Matthew’s impersonation takes me out of almost all of the tracks – except “Breezeblocks” that is. My only theory is that an army of harmonizing Sickle’s is far more enjoyable than one whiney dude singing through his nasal cavity.
19. Schoolboy Q “There He Go”
This song briefly fooled me into thinking I liked Schoolboy Q when in fact, I just liked a hip-hop song that samples a Menomena song.
18. Jens Lekman “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name”
FACT: any song that utilizes the chord progression in said song as a metaphor for love is a damn good song.
17. Chromatics “Into the Black”
This song shouldn’t even count. It’s a cover of Neil Young’s “Into the Black” and is featured on an album that did nothing for me despite its critical acclaim. Then again, The Chromatics haunting take on the Young classic somehow got replayed again and again on my i-Pod as 2012 progressed. It may be “better to burn out than to fade away,” but this cover still hasn’t lost its luster.
16. Marissa Nadler “Love Again, There is a Fire”
Four albums in, Marissa Nadler remains grounded in her unique brand of goth-folk melodies, yet despite how her albums all sound very similar, a song like “Love Again, There is a Fire” is a reminder that every album has its own unique songs that you’ll love again, and again, and again.
15. El-P (Featuring Killer Mike and Nick Diamonds) “Stay Down”
My favorite guest appearance on a song this year had to be Nick Diamonds (The Unicorns, Islands, Mister Heavenly) lending his vocals to the chorus of this ominous track. The addition of Killer Mike only sweetens the deal.
14. Dan Deacon “True Thrush”
Dan Deacon’s America made my “Top 40 Albums of 2012” list primarily because of the epic three song suite found on the latter half of the album, but the first half of the album is no slouch. The song “True Thrush” is easily the best song on the album, an upbeat celebration of the beast in your brain. It will have you smiling and singing “let the nightmare unfold” before you know it!
13. Alex Winston “Host”
If my “Top Albums” list says anything about me, it may be that I’m not much of a fan of overtly pop music. An exception to this rule would be Alex Winston and her album King Con. While her album didn’t make my final list, the song “Host” is an instantly memorable melody that compares a relationship to a bacterial host. How romantic!
12. Brother Ali “Mourning in America”
In a year marked with gun violence in America, a song like “Mourning in America” has takes on an even more dire significance with each passing day.
11. Lotus Plaza “White Galactic One”
While I love Lotus Plaza’s Spooky Action At a Distance for its ethereal, atmospheric guitar layers, my favorite song on the album, “White Galactic One,” is everything that the album isn’t – a straight up pop song with a distorted attitude. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a squealing guitar string bend.
10. Grizzly Bear “Yet Again”
Grizzly Bear’s Shields was solid proof that I’m just not a fan of the band. I’ve purchased all of their albums up to this date, and I’m not sure why considering I’ve never enjoyed their music. It just kind of sits there. Then of course there’s a song like “Yet Again” that makes me rethink my whole view on the band.
9. Menomena “Plumage”
Another year passes and another great Menomena album goes virtually unnoticed by critics. Despite this lack of respect, a song like “Plumage” is one of the best songs to come out of the band in ten years with lyrics that are both insightful and clever, a chorus that builds and explodes by the end, and a nervous energy that heightens with each passing second. Yes Menomena, you once were “tragically hip and beautifully fine” and maybe it’s true that now your “beautiful hips are tragically wide,” but I still love your songs just the same.
8. Django Django “Default”
One of the best new bands I discovered in 2012 was Django Django, and the song that drew me to them was “Default,” a rumpus combination of Devo’s quirky mix of synths and The Meat Puppets strangely serene harmonizing. The result is as weird (and fantastic) as you’d imagine.
7. Twin Shadow “Five Seconds From Your Heart”
While Twin Shadow’s biggest flaw may be its unabashed reliance on the 80s, a song like “Five Seconds From Your Heart” shows that it may also be the band’s biggest strength. By the middle of the song you’ll be imagining John Cusack holding a stereo above his head, Kevin Bacon angry dancing his way through a barn, and Judd Nelson pumping his fist in the air.
6. Zammuto “Yay”
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anything quite like the song “Yay.” Zammato’s vocals come at you in machine gun fire, slices of melody being chopped into bits. It reminds me of when I was a kid playing with the volume knob on the radio until mom got mad. The organs come in halfway through, a reminder that this is indeed music from this planet and that this is a real experience.
5. Magnetic Fields “Andrew In Drag”
I’ve not been much of a fan of Stephen Merritt’s work for the past decade, and his 2012 release Love At the Bottom of the Sea only cemented this feeling. Despite my dissatisfaction with his latest batch of songs, “Andrew In Drag” is reassurance that Merritt can still craft a catchy, witty song about falling in love with a drag queen.
4. Future of the Left “Notes On Achieving Orbit”
“Going bald is the new Nirvana.” Nuff said.
3. Wymond Miles “Run Like the Hunted”
Under the Pale Moon was certainly a promising album, and there is no better sign of Wymond Mile’s potential than the song “Run Like the Hunted.” With its mix of Blue Oyster Cult riffs and gothic undertones of The Cure, this song is such a well-crafted piece of pop music that I probably listened to it more than any other track in 2012.
2. Killer Mike “Reagan”
Since Ronald Regan’s death in 2004, his eight years in office have been glorified (mostly by Fox News) when in fact Reagan tripled our countries national debt all while raising taxes on the middle class and rewarding the wealthiest Americans (don’t even get me started on the Iran/Contra situation). While rappers like Tyler the Creator and Kanye West try to shock with adolescent tomfoolery, Killer Mike shocks with the truth (a concept Reagan knew little about).
1. Titus Andronicus “My Eating Disorder”
How good is “My Eating Disorder”? If not for this one 8-minute expose of singer Patrick Stickle’s struggles with his own eating disorder, the album Local Business probably wouldn’t have even made my “Top Albums of 2012” list. “My Eating Disorder” is the finest song Titus Andronicus has written to this date, and it also happens to be the best song released in 2012.