So. If you noticed in the title, there aren’t 100 songs on here like most other lists you’ll find. There’s 102. Why, you might ask? Well because I just couldn’t bring myself to round off the list at just 100. It bore too much on my musical soul. There were just so many good songs this year I didn’t have the heart to leave some of them out. I had a list of about 130 songs that I simply adored, but I whittled it down to 102 while ranking 50 of them as my Top 50. I know there’s something about quality over quantity, but THIS IS QUALITY. All of these songs are some of the best I’ve ever heard. Believe it.
So, in the first 52, it’s just songs that I immensely enjoyed, all of them place in the same position in terms of rank. None of them should rank last or first in the first 52. Just alphabetically. There aren’t any songs anywhere on this list that in your mind should rank as “bad” or “worst” or whatever. They’re great!
In the TOP 50, the songs will be “ranked” in some fashion. They’ve all moved around several times, so the number it’s listed as doesn’t mean much. It mostly depends on what I was feeling at the time. Besides the Top 5, which has been pretty much stable throughout the entire year. So check it out, y’all. You can click the song names to direct you to a Youtube video of the song. Have a good time!
- Ab-Soul – Terrorist Threats (ft. Danny Brown & Jhene Aiko)
- Andrew Bird – Orpheo Looks Back
- Animal Collective – Today’s Supernatural
- The Antlers – Drift Drive
- BADBADNOTGOOD – Earl (ft. Leland Whitty)
- Baroness – March to the Sea
- Bear in Heaven – Sinful Nature
- Billy Woods – Bill Cosby
- Black Moth Super Rainbow – Windshield Smasher
- Bondax – Only You Know (ft. Dee)
- Captain Murphy – Mighty Morphin Foreskin
- Charli XCX – You’re the One
- Daniel Rossen – Silent Song
- Danny Brown – Grown Up
- Dinosaur Jr. – Watch the Corners
- Flying Lotus – Heave(n)
- Holy Ghost! – It Gets Dark
- Hop Along – Laments
- iamamiwhoami – Drops
- Jacques Greene – Ready
- Jessie Ware – Running (Disclosure Remix)
- Joey BadASS – Survival Tactics (ft. Captain STEEZ)
- Kindness – House
- Les Sins – Fetch
- Lone – Crystal Caverns 1991
- M.I.A. – Bad Girls
- The Mars Volta – Zed & Two Naughts
- Memory Tapes – Sheila
- METZ – Wasted
- Miguel – Do You…
- Mirrorring – Fell Sound
- Moonface – Heartbreaking Bravery
- Niki & the Dove – Tomorrow
- Ondatrópica – Suena
- Parquet Courts – Stoned & Starving
- Philip Glass – NYC: 73-78 (Beck Remix)
- Poolside – Slow Down
- Punch Brothers – Don’t Get Married Without Me
- Royal Headache – Really In Love
- Rudi Zygadlo – Melpomene
- Savages – Husbands
- Scott Walker – Epizootics!
- Sky Ferreria – Everything Is Embarrassing
- Sleigh Bells – Leader of the Pack
- Spiritualized – Hey Jane
- Susanne Sundfør – White Foxes
- Taken By Trees – Only You
- TNGHT – Higher Ground
- Trailer Trash Tracys – Candy Girl
- Trust – Sulk
- When Saints Go Machine – Hos Mig Igen (ft. Coco)
- Yeasayer – Henrietta
Alright, now here’s a rough estimate to my Top 50 favorite songs of 2012! It was an insane year alright, a few of these songs came into the list within the last few days! They’re super good!
50. Chromatics – Back From the Grave
– Perfect for night drives and cool, 80’s themed escapades through the city.
49. Oneohtrix Point Never – I Only Have Eyes For You
– A beautiful, warped version of the classic song.
48. Allo Darlin’ – Europe
– Some of the finest twee pop I’ve ever heard. Cutesy and fun.
47. Dan Deacon – True Thrush
– Catchy melody, some of Deacon’s finest hyper pop work.
46. The Men – Please Don’t Go Away
– Surf rock-esque song, very simple, fun, hard-hitting and catchy
45. The Gaslamp Killer – Flange Face (ft. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson)
– Wonderfully demented electronic music, features great strings.
44. Submerse – Tears
– Sweet future garage with a sweet vocal sample and Burial influences
43. Alunageorge – Your Drums, Your Love
– Pop song with great vocals and glitchy instrumentals, band better be HUGE soon.
42. Liar – Bruised Knee (ft. Borealis)
– Another great future garage/house hybrid with skittering claps and beats.
41. Mac DeMarco – My Kind of Woman
– Lazy, romantic, charming, and warm love song from this young slacker.
40. Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)
– Party rap song that deals with alcoholism and family issues. Great beat.
39. Andy Stott – Numb
– Dark, oppressive, ominous, features ghostly female vocal sample. Beat will destroy you.
38. Schoolboy Q – Hands on the Wheel (ft. A$AP Rocky)
– Shameless party rap song about weed n brews and is CRAZY CATCHY
37. Moon Duo – I Can See
– Psych rock gem with repetitive, churning guitars and crazy solos.
36. Clams Casino – Swervin (remix)
– Chilled out hip hop instrumental with a riding beat, classic Clams Casino.
35. El-P – The Full Retard
– El-P at some of his finest production work and lyrical ability: hard and fun.
34. Menomena – Plumage
– Strong indie rock song with horns, self-deprecating lyrics, hard-hitting piano and guitar, and anthemic choruses.
33. Korallreven – Sa Sa Samoa (Elite Gymnastics Remix)
– Tribute to 90’s rave culture plus a great Whitney Houston sample.
32. Dean Blunt – The Narcissist (ft. Inga Copeland)
– Perfect 3am song. Feels like someone lonely in the city, strangely soulful.
31. Tomas Barfod – November Skies (ft. Nina Kinert)
– Very unique, clicking, twitchy beats with great, flying vocals
30. Julia Holter – In the Same Room
– Baroque synth pop with porcelain vocals and very calming synths and harpsichord(?).
29. Hundred Waters – Visitor
– Fantastic blend of organic and artificial textures under gorgeous vocals
28. Hot Chip – How Do You Do
– Danceable, fun, 80’s worshiping, electronic pop song. Super catchy, too.
27. Bat For Lashes – Laura
– Very minimal arrangement of piano & strings, showcases singer’s great voice
26. Wild Nothing – Midnight Song
– Dream pop song with an absolutely KILLER hook. SUPER catchy.
25. DIIV – Doused
Driving, unrelenting, lo-fi dream pop with jangling guitars, mumbled vocals and DAT BASSLINE WOAH
24. John Talabot – Oro Y Sangre
Dance music that’s super simple and gets to the point. Ultra dense and sweaty, it sounds like a running through a dark rainforest with fireflies buzzing around.
23. Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built
Borderline cheesy/awesome, this rock song is powerful enough to launch you out of your chair and go high five your bros to start a great adventure.
22. Father John Misty – Funtimes in Babylon
The ex-Fleet Foxes member shows that he can make some killer, heartfelt indie folk songs on this one. Does the sound better than most of FF’s discography.
21. Laurel Halo – Thaw
Sterile, unsettling, and creepy, but very addicting. Obtuse vocals paired with oscillating, lifeless synths makes a deadly combination. Ann Arbor native, too!
20. Ty Segall Band – Wave Goodbye
Sludgy, crusty garage rock with hints of doom metal influence. Crushes anything in it’s path with huge guitar riffs and sarcastic, sneering, and sometimes screaming vocal delivery.
19. Chairlift – Amanaemonesia
One of the finest pop songs I’ve heard all year: the vocals are great, the melody is catchy, it’s unique (who’s ever heard of ‘Amanaemonesia?’) and the synth work is fantastic too.
18. Perfume Genius – Hood
An extremely heavy and heartfelt personal account of struggling with gay identity and estranged love. Purely piano, voice and percussion can conjure up deep amounts of emotion.
17. Beck – I Only Have Eyes For You
Beck’s rendition of the classic doo-wop song keeps the doo-wops intact unlike Oneohtrix Point Never’s version, but adds screens of reverb over it giving a dreamy, nostalgic feeling to the vocals and melody. Super romantic.
16. Merchandise – In Nightmare Room
One of the best post-punk/new wave combinations I’ve ever heard, the singer’s voice is dripping with Smiths-like romanticism, the drum machine adds industrial flair and the guitar just shreds in the background with killer, washed out riffs.
15. Mister Lies – I Walk
Spaced out RnB with strains of Burial influence in the instrumental. Feels like you’re floating in space watching planets pulsate with light and galaxies collide billions of miles away. The smooth vocals are reverbed like crazy so the whole thing turns into a sensual echo chamber where spiraling, smoking synth trails weave in and out of the soundscape, leaving some sort of star system of soul.
14. Lemonade – Neptune
A great example of a pop/RnB hybrid that’s been missing from radio play for the a while now. Infectious, water-influenced beat, yearning vocals, and a sense of class in terms of pop sensibilities. An expertly crafted pop song.
13. Jai Paul – Jasmine
On Jai Paul’s second song released in two years, he’s proven to us that he is the master of teasing. This song is ripe with sleek synths and echoing handclaps, held together by crushing bass and Paul’s processed vocals. Please, Jai Paul. Give us some more material to feed on.
12. Purity Ring – Fineshrine
On this song Purity Ring is at some of their finest, in terms of dark warped beats and disturbing lyrical content. James’ innocent voice singing about gutting herself to house her lover while glowing, black-lit beats pulsate around the vocals which really gives off an aura of unsettling darkness, but also a feeling of naive and passionate love. If this song were a fantasy landscape, it would be a dark, colorful lake surrounded by spooky trees leaking glowing sap into it.
11. Tame Impala – Apocalypse Dreams This was the first experience of new Tame Impala material after repeatedly listening to their previous album, Innerspeaker, and I was VERY pleased after I listened to this. It’s a total psychedelic epic, with great buildups and overall flow that is completely unhinged at the end, letting all of the guitars and effects loose to create a cacophonous, swirling nest of psychedelic magic.
10. Grizzly Bear – Sleeping Ute
I think Grizzly Bear was the first “indie rock” band I ever got into, which was after they released their album Veckatimest in 2009. I loved the vocal harmonies and that I hadn’t heard any music that sounded like that up until that point. Now, you listen around and tons of bands are producing that same Grizzly Bear sound to some extent. Sure it isn’t that unique of a practice or that unique of a sound, but still. So when I first heard this song, the first single off of Shields, I was elated.
The raucous energy that this song holds is infectious, I’ve never heard anything out of Grizzly Bear’s catalog that sounded like this. The guitars are great, the percussion is complex as ever, but the smallest detail in this song is what hooked me. Around the 2:30 mark, after Rossen stops singing there’s a moment where they could have just played the constant riff, but instead they put some weird sound effects in background while the riff is going on, like rapid percussion and something sliding down a zipline and smacking into a wall. I don’t know, this little detail in the song really put it on the “great” scale, I guess it just keeps up the feeling of chaos within the song, it’s not just another song in their book. All these things are happening around them, including this song. I love the whole album, but that little detail in the background put this song above many others this year.
9. Frank Ocean – Pyramids
I was obsessed with this almost 10 minute epic of a song for the better half of the summer when it first came out. It was the first taste of material the public was offered dealing with Ocean’s newest album, the fantastic Channel Orange. It was totally different from the stuff on his previous effort, Nostalgia, Ultra in the way that he’s matured in many senses. For one, this song has multiple movements and features some of the best vocals and instrumentals on the album. The narrative of starting in the time of ancient Egyptians and then going to the present to a strip club kept me interested the entire length of the song. There are just so many creative ideas on this one song, it’s incredible that the rest of the album is great as well, that all of Ocean’s creativity wasn’t all used on this one song. I read somewhere that Ocean isn’t planning on putting out any more albums. To that, I’m pretty sad. I wanted to see if he had anymore tricks like this up his sleeve. Hopefully that was just a passing feeling.
8. Cloud Nothings – Wasted Days
Talk about Cloud Nothings reinventing their sound; this band went from churning out fuzzy, lo-fi pop songs to crafting giant, emo rock epics like this one where about six minutes of the almost nine minute length devoted to instrumental solos and wrecking ball style percussion. This song absolutely bleeds with angsty passion, as portrayed through the guitars and the final, screamed lyrics of “I THOUGHT/I WOULD/BE MORE/THAN THIS!!!” This is the second song off of the album, so it really sets the stage for what’s to come later. It’s an extremely well put together song and really impressed me after hearing their previous material, which is still good, but the progression is what got me the most.
7. Elite Gymnastics – Here, In Heaven 4 & 5 (CFCF Remix)
The original version of “Here, In Heaven” by Elite Gymnastics that was released last year placed relatively high in my Favorite Songs of 2011 list. I loved the breakbeat and heavily processed vocals and it was unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Elite Gymnastics then remixed their own song and released it as “Here, In Heaven 2” which placed even higher. It was slower, more spaced out, eerier, and left tons of room for vocals and sound effects to echo in the cavern of a soundscape. This version, “Here, In Heaven 4 & 5,” however, is something special. It starts off with a light, echoing piano line that sounds like it was cut straight out of a Hayao Miyazaki film. The piano holds some kind of fleeting, dreamy nostalgia, such like the movie “Spirited Away,” which I love. The rest of the song keeps this calm, dreamy nostalgia alive with synth strings and piano until the end, where it builds up then goes into silence, only to have it resolve after about 15 seconds of silence. Bottom line, if you enjoy Miyazaki films, you’ll love this song. If you don’t enjoy Miyazaki films, you’ll probably still enjoy this song.
6. Fiona Apple – Every Single Night
This song marked the triumphant return of Fiona Apple after her long disappearance from the public and musical eye and boy, I don’t think she could have outdone herself on this one. This song really fit everything she was planning on going for in her album this year, The Idler Wheel…: minimal, radio hookless songs that showcase Apple’s voice and unsettling yet beautiful instrumentals backing it up. After putting out albums where the production has been immaculate and there were tons of jazzy, pop flourishes on the whole thing, this really signaled the new change of pace this artist was going for after her absence. The lyrics are some of her best and the vocals are complex and wonderful, as is the rest of the album. This song came out first and it really left the most lasting impact on my taste this year. Thanks for coming back, Fiona.
5. Beach House – Wild
Beach House effectively melted my heart when I first heard this stellar song. It starts off with a cheesy retro drum machine that was actually featured on the keyboard I had when I was a kid, then goes into that signature woozy guitar lead that sets the stage for the rest of the song. Victoria Legrand’s hazy vocals on this track are great per usual and the lyrics evoke a sense of childlike wonder and dreamy nostalgia. The whole thing feels like it is blowing in a flurry of romantic energy, much like the rest of Beach House’s discography. It’s a purely enjoyable experience full of swooning guitars, breathy vocals and calming, organ-driven synth textures.
4. Killer Mike – Big Beast (ft. Bun B, T.I. & Trouble)
In my mind, this is the epitome of huge, southern, trap style hip hop that has come out in recent years. Everything is perfect in this song. The El-P produced beat is nuts and matches the ultra-aggressive attitude through the expertly delivered verses of Killer Mike, T.I. & Bun B. The main chorus of this song sums the theme up pretty well: “POW MOTHERFUCKER POW” isn’t really “subtle.” It’s explosive, unrelenting, banging and a FUN time. To quote Killer Mike, this really is the opposite of the sucker shit they play on TV. This is HIP HOP. This is RAP MUSIC.
3. Grimes – Oblivion
I’m pretty sure this song is my most played song in my iTunes library. That’s saying something. I have a lot of music on there. Sure this song really came out last year but the official release came this year with Grimes’ futuristic pop masterpiece Visions, so I think it’s fair to put it on this year’s list as well. What makes this song so infinitely listenable? Well it’s a combination of things. The first thing that hits you is the squelching, 80’s pop song worshiping beat that is bubblegum-pop catchy and stays constant throughout the song, minus part of the bridge. What comes next are Grimes’ unique, airy vocals floating over the beat with a simple drum machine beat basically only providing a metronome to the song. The lyrics are ambiguous yet catchy and every added synth layer fits in perfectly. It’s simplistic pop at it’s finest, taking strains of pop songs from the 80’s to the distant future and combining them altogether into some hyper-catchy pop masterpiece. Unbelievable.
2. Death Grips – The Fever (Aye Aye)
There are many reasons why The Money Store was my number one album of the year. One of those reasons was that the songs on it are SO FREAKIN GOOD that every single song could have placed on this list. Actually, many did. As you can see, I try and feature only one song per artist on this list, so at one point the song that represented Death Grips on this list included pumped-up “I’ve Seen Footage,” the rambling “Hacker,” and even the album opener “Get Got.” But after looking at the play counts of the individual songs on the album, “The Fever” had the highest amount and I concluded that this song most accurately represented my interpretation of this album. Like most other Death Grips songs, this song includes a blasting, chaotic beat; frantic, powerful drumming a la Zach Hill; extremely violent lyrical imagery (electrocution, ankles tied to cinder blocks, bubonic plague, getting thrown from a moving car, etc) being told by the brutal flow of MC Ride. If you don’t enjoy the song, I can understand. The lyrics are hard to discern, the vocals are grating, it’s obtuse at all levels, but I don’t think anyone can deny the hook in this song, along with how well the instrumentals fit with Ride’s blasting flow. I love this song and this album. You should check it out if you haven’t.
1. Burial – Rough Sleeper
Woohoo! Number one! Burial’s “Rough Sleeper!” Well wait, wait a second… Woah woah woah. Hold up. So, what I’m telling you here is that a song that came out not even a week ago is my NUMBER ONE SONG of the ENTIRE YEAR? What about ALL of the other songs from the year? Didn’t I say that the Top 5 has been pretty clear for MOST of the year? Well folks, you gotta believe it. My favorite song of 2012 came out on December 14th, 2012. Wow. But lemme back up this statement with a few facts.
The first being my number one song of 2012 has been charting as a Burial song for the whole year. For about 90% of 2012, my number one song was either “Kindred” or “Ashtray Wasp,” both off of Burial’s Kindred EP he released earlier this year. Burial is my favorite electronic producer and that EP floored me, in my mind it vamped his signature sound up to whole new levels while incorporating more dark, beat driven elements into the songs that upped the atmosphere and catchiness to the songs. All of the songs were pretty long, allowing the songs to have a lengthy narrative arc packed with transitions, recurring melodies or samples and keeping a constant theme. These songs are fantastic still and I was all ready to publish this list with “Ashtray Wasp” as the number one. Until this two song EP came out.
Second, this new EP may only have two songs on it, but it accounts for over 25 minutes of material. “Truant,” the first song, is 11:45, while “Rough Sleeper” is 13:47, one of Burial’s longest tracks to date. They both feature multiple parts and at times feel like they’re comprised of completely different songs stitched together to make a whole piece, but they work together pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, “Truant” is fantastic as well but “Rough Sleeper” manages to take some of the best moments from his entire discography and blend them altogether into one, magnificent, multiple parted piece of music.
It starts off signature Burial style: a light, dusty, crackling sound to emulate the sound of rain along with light organ in the background. A deep, pulsing beat finally comes in with warped, RnB vocal samples floating over the instrumental like a ghost, much like other Burial songs, everything seems pretty standard Burial at this point. So many other things are in this massive song after the first few minutes: a foggy saxophone sample, bells and chimes that sound like they were also sampled on Burial’s 2011 Street Halo EP, clattering pieces of metal, reverbed-out organ, a heightened sense of urgency portrayed through the instrumentals, and a melodic arc I’ve never heard in a Burial song before.
A decent portion of this song doesn’t sound totally depressing and devoid of hope. Most Burial tracks ride on the sound of despair, sounds associated with being broken up with, a family member or friend dying, and urban loneliness in general. These emotions are paired with gritty, mechanical beats that are a staple part of the style of music he is usually characterized in, which goes by many names: UK dubstep, grime, garage, 2-step, whatever you’d like to call it. It’s dark, grimy and unforgiving. However, in this song, the tone not only elevates from dreary to uplifting, it actually makes me feel good listening to it. Burial’s works are usually pretty daunting listens due to the amount of melancholy woven throughout the songs, but in this song it actually features a portion where you can see the sun shining through the rainclouds, which I’ve never heard before in a Burial song. The main driving sample during this portion is one of shimmering bells, that sound much like the ones that were at a playground that I visited frequently as a kid. There’s other elements to this part that bring up the mood as well, like unoppressive beats and warm synth drones flowing in and out. It’s a beautiful movement and it’s great to hear something different from the producer.
This addition of serenity is great, but Burial takes no time to break that small wall of hope down, by ramping up the tempo and piling on one choppy beat after another. The amount of distorting fuzz is piled on as well, creating an air of confusion while these jittery beats come at you from all angles, along with muffled vocal samples and other disorienting sound effects popping out from the twisting, metal nightmare. Then, just like nothing happened, it ends. In the middle of a barrage of beats, it crumples up and ducks out, leaving the listener more confused as the next song starts to play (in my case it’s “The Fever (Aye Aye)” and smacks the listener in the face.
So, if that massive explanation didn’t win you over to listen to at least SOME of Burial’s discography, I’m not sure what will. If you have listened to this and you’re familiar with his past discography, what did you think of it? If you weren’t familiar with him and you still listened, what did YOU think of it? I want your opinions, people! Also your opinions on the list in general! Did it please you? Confuse you? Anger you? Arouse you? Let me know! I enjoy the feedback, people!
And that’s that. I tried my best to encapsulate my version of music in 2012, but if you happen to disagree with my own tastes, be my guest. Maybe I’m living a lie. Who knows!? Have a great holiday season, everyone!