Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 Songs: The Top Twenty

2012 Songs: 1-20 by David Scott on Grooveshark

20. "Fitzpleasure" by Alt+J (from An Awesome Wave)
"Wrap them around the necks / of all the feckless men that queue to be the next"

An Awesome Wave, which won the Mercury Prize, may well be our favorite album of the year. This spot could have just as easily been held by "Breezeblocks", "Something Good" or "Matilda", with "Dissolve Me" and "Intro" not far behind.  We'll give the nod to "Fitzpleasure" because it was the first track we heard, but we implore you not to research the lyrics, which are Last Exit to Brooklyn-inspired and seriously messed up. 

19. "Proceed to Memory" by Pinback (from Information Retrieved)
"And then you don't even have that memory"

The new Pinback album, their first since 2007, is like welcoming back an old friend, one that hasn't changed at all in the intervening years. Which makes for an easy reminder how you became friends in the first place. 

18. "Wildest Moments" by Jessie Ware (from Devotion)
"Everyone must be wondering why we try / why do we try?"

Pretty standard stuff on paper, elevated by a perfect execution of production, melody and vocals. 

17. "Song for Zula" by Phosphorescent (from Muchacho)
Oh but I know love / as a fading thing / just as fickle as a feather in a stream"

The only song in the top 20 added after mid-October, this is the pre-release single off of Phosphorescent's upcoming album and is unlike anything we have heard from him before. With a hat tip to Johnny Cash. 

16. "It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy" by Passion Pit (from Gossamer)
I know that is always something / I'm just working with what I've been given / It's not my fault I'm happy"

Two albums in, Passion Pit has now made the list twice despite not  really being a personal favorite. This track, however, is fantastic and plays like a mix between Jonsi and MGMT.

15. "Hood" by Perfume Genius (from Put Your Back N 2 It)
Underneath this hood you kiss / I tick like a bomb"

Also two albums in, it is now pretty obvious that Mike Hadreas needs a hug. But don't give it to him!  It's hard to know what direction his moody, piano-driven music would take if he wasn't so troubled.

14. "Sqworm" by Ramona Falls (from Prophet)
"It doesn't come natural"

Another candidate for top album of 2012 as well on the short list for favorite current artist/band.  Other excellent tracks include "Achimedes Plutonium", "Helium", "Proof" and "Fingerhold", the last of which has a 
Primer-esque video that was  both our favorite video of the year and the only one we watched. While Menomena misses Brent Knopf, the rest of us benefit from more of his time spent both recording as Ramona Falls and producing bands like Lost Lander (see below).   

13. "Your Name is a Fire" by Lost Lander (from Drrt)
Hurry up / put me out"

"Cold Feet", the advance single to Drrt snuck in at #79 last year. The full album, which has producer Brent Knopf's fingerprints all over the damned thing, delivered on that promise and then some.

12. "The Diaz Brothers" by The Mountain Goats (from Transcendental Youth)
Foretell worse things than such frightful nights as these"

Perhaps the poppiest, most immediate track Darnielle has ever recorded, the titular brothers are a reference the heads of the Colombian cartel in Scarface (that never appear on screen).  Unfortunately, if we were to update 
our ranking of Mountain Goats albums for Transcendental Youth, it would be somewhere in the middle of the back half.

11. "See Me Through" by Josh Ritter (from Bringing In The Darlings EP)
"And I have faith in your darling / even when I question our chances"

Wins this year's Vetiver award for the perfect lazy summer day barbecue song.  

10. "Yesterday's Fire" by Moonface (from with Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery)
"but I know you disagree / because you know that you're pretty when you lie"

Spencer Krug hooks up with some Finns (take that otherwise musically dominant Swedes) for his newest album under the Moonface moniker. This makes 10 top ten appearance for Krug in 8 years (as a member of Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake and Moonface).

9. "Default" by Django Django (from Django Django)
"We threw it in the fire / it's better than it not be made"

Math Rock meets Surf Rock and it works.

8. "So Long You Pretty Thing" by Spiritualized (from Sweet Heart Sweet Light)
"The music you played so hard ain't on your radio"

Great song that builds and builds, but we want to the talk about the album art. What the hell is going on here? And is that the point? Get out our head Spiritualized! This intereview about it sure didn't help, as his quotes read like they were translated through 5 languages before returning to English. 

7. "Nothing to Remember" by Neko Case (from The Hunger Games Soundtrack)
"And I'm ashamed that I don't have a heart you can break"

Yeah ... so... we didn't really think through the visual component of this ranking.  Nothing bolsters credibility like Young Adult film adaptations.  

6. "Gone Tomorrow" by Lambchop (from Mr. M)
"The wine tasted like sunshine in the basement"

A seven minute song where the final four minutes, while lovely, are completely unnecessary. And yet, those first three minutes...

5. "Victorinian" by Fang Island (from Major)
"What if I don't get my chance to hug the flame / or even know the spark"

"Victorinian" is the second of a pair of piano-driven tracks that bookend Major and represent a departure from their usual musical aesthetic of "everyone is high fiving everyone" (best exemplified on Major by "Sisterly").  While we were fascinated by this song from day one, it took a while to determine if it was one of the best songs of the year or one of the more ambitious failures. You have your answer. 

4. "Television" by You Won't (from Skeptic Goodbye)
"And when I'm finally old enough / to learn to play the game / oh, the dinosaurs will roam the earth / and resume their bloody reign"

The highlight from a highly underrated album of simple but winning folk tunes. 

3. "Ruin" by Cat Power (from Sun)
"All the way back home / to my town"

There is no single highlight in this song as it tumbles from one great element to the next: from the salsa piano loop, to Chan Marshall's seductive voice, to the rapid fire global name-checking, to "bitching ... complaining", to the funky and goofy guitar over the chorus.  And then an encore of it all. 

2. "Hallways" by Islands (from A Sleep & A Forgetting)
"She turns to you to say / always"

Completely at odds musically with the rest of the pensive and low key album, "Hallways" shuffles right out of gate and hits it doo-wop fueled-climax just past the two minute mark. Music at its most joyous. 

1. "The Fountain" by Future Islands (from Tomorrow single)
"He's wasting time / you gotta take it slow / may never get a chance like this / and she knows he's wasting time / and she loves the way he tries / even though she knows the lines / She's taking time / you gotta let things grow / may never get a chance like this / and he knows she takes her time / and he keeps along her side / all hopes to keep along her side"

The third and final stop of our island tour (Fang Island, Islands, Future Islands).  This is a track that started to grow on us well before we began to decipher the lyrics, and made a massive additional leap once we did. Not a song for a cynical mood, it is unabashedly romantic in its retelling of a first encounter and benefits from the shifting, but always very similar, perspectives of the two protagonists. As a B-side, it apparently wasn't even the band's favorite track on a 2-song single, and yet it improbably winds up as our #1 song of 2012. 

And after crushing it with 97 of the first 99 songs, Grooveshark craps the bed at the end. Instead stream via YouTube below:


  1. The ATHoM top 100 is always an end of year delight. Taking a little bit of a different tack with comments this year...

    Thanks to KAR, the ATHoM list was recreated on Spotify shortly after its release, allowing for easy access to nearly the full stream (94/100). Given Grooveshark's murky legal situation (, perhaps ATHoM will bite the bullet and transition in 2013. Or perhaps the quintile approach is an homage to a TV auteur's (un)acclaimed series which is itself an homage to the storytelling style of Victori(ni)an serials ( In any event creating the requisite Facebook account under some avatar/ pseudonym couldn't be all bad.

    Using a somewhat loose criteria of songs that "stuck" in my ear, I added stars to songs on the list over the course of several months of listening. A total of 51 songs ended up starred. While this group doesn't represent likes vs don't likes (eg, "Don't Save Me" by Haim: a song I like that didn't make the star cut) it does represent some combination of accessibility and quality that results in heavier rotation. There may be some "emotional fuel" bias in that I am cheap and only listen to Spotify on my computer, which usually happens while I'm working.

    A quintile breakdown is below (note 101 songs on the list as the Just Tell Me that You Want Me tracks were counted as two):

    81-101: 15
    61-80: 7
    41-60: 8
    21-40: 11
    1-20: 10

    Bottom 51: 25
    Top 50: 26

    Like Sandra Day O'Connor, somehow those tracks in the middle just sort themselves out for the good of us all.

    * Comment of the year: "The Ego" - any time a human being is mapped to Jabba the Hut I can't help but chuckle

    * Mashup/ sampling of the year: "Call Me on Broken Glass" - particular kudos to Rostam for not going a typical hip-hop mashup route. Beats and rhythm do exist elsewhere folks!

    * Comment Reference Mashup and Divine Intervention Mashup of the year (tie): "Like Ice Cream" - ATHoM noted that the Divine Fits' album was "perhaps the best musical surprise of the year." My personal best musical surprise of the year happened while I was trying to book a dinner reservation during my first listen through the Divine Fits album.

    Some greater power saw to it that the restaurant webmaster's terrible (wonderful) decision to include music on their reservation site would load Frankie Valli's "Who Loves You" at the exact moment "Like Ice Cream" would begin streaming. I was shocked and thrilled at the bold choice by Daniels and Boeckner, and disappointed - but not that much - upon listening a second time.

    I can only hope that Rostam reads this post and decides to work on "Who Loves Ice Cream" in time for a Summer 2013 release.

    * Sixteen Saltines...Love Interruption
    * Tesselate...Fitzpleasure
    * Swallows...Hallways (a close one)
    * Rhiannon…Silver Springs


      There was some hip hop released in 2012 that I particularly liked. In my understudied, over-extrapolating experience, a couple of groups are now putting out tracks that finally take some of the musicality and playfulness of the early 90s and package it in an updated sound.

      Joey Bada$$'$ mixtape was probably my favorite of the year in this regard (top tracks: World Domination, Survival Tactics). The sound references group cypher elements harkening back to the WTC while Joey's flow oscillates between something like Biggie Smalls and Ghostface Killah. All over top of beats that are bear some resemblance to Native Tongues/ ATCQ/ De La Soul.

      Other tracks that I liked that play on some of these themes include Kendrick Lamar - Swimming Pools, OFWGKTA - Oldie, and Macklemore - Thrift Shop.

      Also, a special mention for Aesop Rock's "Ruby 81" - which in Aesop's usual spare style tells a story of heroism and nonchalance that makes it the best dog song since the Extra Lens' "Dogs of Clinic 17" in 2010.

      In no particular order, other tracks that I liked from 2012 that didn't make the cut:
      * Project Trio - Semuta
      * Grass Giraffes - Backstories
      * Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - That's What's Up
      * Hurray for the Riff Raff - Born to Win
      * Simone White - Big Dreams and the Headlines
      * Patrick Wilson - Adventures in Your Own Backyard
      * Dirty Projectors - About to Die

      EPR'S TOP 5 OF DSS' TOP 101 OF 2012
      * 1904 - The Tallest Man on Earth
      * See Me Through - Josh Ritter
      * Default - Django Django
      * Victorinan - Fang Island
      * Hallways - Islands

      * The commentary referencing other enjoyable tracks on albums was appreciated this year - I didn't really compare with prior years but it seemed like there was more of it

      * Whether superfluous or not, the final minutes of "Gone Tomorrow" had such a pleasant Van Morrison-esque meandering quality to them

      * Maybe it's some sort of guilty pleasure apologist stance, but I don't understand the hate for the Ting Tings (not on this blog, but in general). Instead of "soulless", I would offer "irreverent", but with some dark, almost nihilistic qualities. Or it might just be the attraction of a name that sounds like Hello Kitty but has gaping skull-people on its album cover (nb: I like Sleigh Bells even more on this measure, both for their subtlety as well as their music)

      * Sometimes I listen to All Songs Considered on NPR. And more than sometimes I want to reach into the Internet and purposefully slap the preciousness out of the hosts