Well, after a short Holiday hiatus, we are back! And our end of year coverage continues with the most difficult list to assemble: our favorite songs of 2012. Why is a songs list so difficult to construct you say? Because there is so friggin’ many of them, it’s very hard to reach a consensus. For example we may absolutely love two songs on an album fairly equally, like First Aid Kit’s “Lions Roar” and “EmmyLou”, but we might split our vote causing neither to make the list. But even with the challenging aspects of making this list, it was a blast to make and look back at all the songs that colored our year. Here are our favorites:
20. AlunaGeorge – “Your Drums, Your Love”
New London electronic duo AlunaGeorge, consisting of singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid (naturally), hit the electronic field by storm in 2012 with an EP and hopes of a full-length to come in the upcoming year. “Your Drums, Your Love” wrings of the slick, wry, and pretty production that Lilly Allen brings to the table, but with an added dimension of electronic touches and an unshakable chime of voices repeating “your drums” to take it over the top.
George Lewis Jr. aka Twin Shadow has a flair for the dramatic, especially when it comes to the stylings of 80’s pop music. “Run My Heart” sweeps you away with its larger-than-life chorus and its very palpable emotional core – the song would make for the perfect centerpiece montage to a gloriously cheesy 80’s dramedy.
18. Meek Mill – “Dreams & Nightmares”
Meek Mill released a sneaky good debut in Dreams & Nightmares, showing the promise the young Philly rapper holds. The title track is just Meek Mill doing work for the first minute and a half over a swirl of strings before it just gets straight nasty, with some of the hardest hitting lyrics and beats of 2012.
The way “Dreams and Nightmares” showcases Meek Mill’s rap persona fully fleshed out is the same way Cancer 4 Cure closer “$ Vic/FTL (Me and You)” sums up the record and what El-P brings to the table better than any other: production from some rock ‘n’ roll space nightmare and a flow that simply demands authority and your attention.
16. Major Lazer – “Get Free (feat. Amber Coffman)”
World-renowned producer Diplo’s dancehall project, Major Lazer, was always a riot on stage, but didn’t reach its true musical height until this year’s single, “Get Free”. It never hurts to bring the vocal talents of Amber Coffman of the Dirty Projectors to the table but the song blends reggae, electronic, and pop music in a seamless and constantly mesmerizing fashion.
Speaking of Dirty Projectors, this song simply shot us down (forgive the terrible gun pun). Borrowing from the “Helter Skelter” playbook, Dave Longstreth and the crew built eerily beautiful harmonies over strolling drums and psychedelic bass before reaching the cliff for one of the best exhales of a chorus we can remember.
14. Schoolboy Q – “Hands On the Wheel (feat. A$AP Rocky)”
This year, the Black Hippy Crew, including young guns Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and ScHoolboy Q, dethroned Kanye’s GOOD Music crew for the time as the group to beat in the hip hop game. “Hands On The Wheel” was one of the few big-time bangers of the year highlighted by the cinematic chorus deserving to be heart of a Bond Theme song.
Including Aubrey Plaza aka April Ludgate of Parks and Recreation fame in your first music video is our sure fire way to get our attention. Former Fleet Fox drummer J. Tillman sings with unwavering direction capturing the glitz and gloom of the Hollywood lifestyle.
12. Cat Power – “Ruin”
Of all the artists who made bold moves in 2012, Chan Marshall better known as Cat Power likely tops our list going from her smoky folk sound to a chameleon-like, globe-trotting, and constantly flourishing electronic record in Sun. “Ruin” shows that fire that lit under Marshall’s bones with a bright calypso piano and a spiky guitar powering this trip around the world.
We’ve said it once we will say it a thousand times: Big Boi makes the homeless people dance. “Mama Told Me” is the sort of thing that makes a mime ditch its gig and just break out in any number of dance moves with Kelly Rowland bubbly vocals, the fat and funky rhythm, and the bouncing rhymes of Big Boi.
Dame Jones and his fellow snack-loving crew prove that age does not necessarily need to waiver the quality of the song … or video. Kids or not, this song is remarkable.
Beach House pulls off one of their most beautiful tracks to date with Blooms opening track, “Myth”. This beautifully done, light and airy melody is more suited to be the perfect soundtrack to a dream, but listening to it almost anytime the day will also give you an instant “Corona effect” … find your beach.
Enter the poppy piano fusion of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis via guitar-god Jack White. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard this good of a carnival-esque, ol’ timey piano, but I’ll be damned if Jack didn’t it pull it off as good as the fellas who invented the sound. Of course he blended it nicely with his own unique brand of blues -rock and quirky lyrics that makes for one of the most fun, most danceable rock tunes of the year.
Surprise, surprise, our favorite rap song of the year belongs to Kanye and his GOOD Music team. To quickly dissect the song, Kanye managed to pull one the better members of Wu (Ghostface) in for one helluva sick verse, also used Wu (again Ghostface) for the hook, Pusha T kills the first third of the song with some of his sickest flows/lyrics to date, and Kanye goes OFF with his most grandiose moment of the year with his champion God flow … f*ck everything else!
6. Frank Ocean – “Thinkin Bout You”
Oh hello R&B, it’s nice to see you again. We began getting glimpses of the return of this genre last year in a big way with the Weeknd, but Frank Ocean seems to take the cake for the most dominate stamp on R&B in quite sometime. The minimalism on this as well as his range in this track gives me chills. If there was one song to swoon the ladies with this year, this would be that song.
5. Grimes – “Oblivion”
For me, Grimes was my favorite surprise of 2012. I had not listened to her previous works before, but from the moment I heard her sweet voice come in over the top of her deeply booming synth beats and cross industrial-gothic key tunes, I was in love. “Oblivion” is her most endearing song, emphasizing her slight lisp in a way the makes my heart melt. I’ve taken many late night walk-abouts while blasting this song at full volume, hoping to run into Claire so that I could be the one to take her by the hand, look her in the eyes and tell her she’s got to watch her health.
In 2012, Fiona reminded us once again that she is one of the most talented female musicians of our generation. “Werewolf” is a song that unfolds and transforms in a way that is almost scary. From the first note, the song progresses in a chilling way that builds up into this beautiful beast of a track. Her unique voice and he awareness of song are both astonishing to me. She knows her craft very well.
Daughn’s deep, distant, and haunting voice proved to be one of the most comforting voices of the year. And even though his voice is seemingly familiar, I still have never settled on a specific vocal comparison to throw out there. Matt Berninger from The National? Brad Roberts from The Crash Test Dummies? Whichever guy from Cut Copy has the baritone voice? No. None of these comparisons work because Daughn’s voice, while sounding somehow similar, is also somehow more unique than any of them. His blend of acoustic, and almost hip-hop production on “Tiffany Lou” really complements this voice in the greatest way.
There is nothing like telling someone you have a crush on them by shredding their face off. And nobody does that better than Alexis Krauss’ voice and Derek Miller’s guitar/insanely sick back beats. This song is so simple at its core, while still managing to be extremely in your face and very catchy. Moshing to this song live was one of my favorite concert moments of the year.
Thirty seconds into this song and you are immediately transported to the 1970’s. Tame Impala’s first album was solid gold, and this year’s follow-up only proved their stature as one of the better indie bands around. “Apocalypse Dreams” is a bouncy, psychedelic trip of a tune that sums up the band perfectly. Just as their band name suggests, it gracefully zips along the plain, up and down, almost as if floating on top of the land like a tame impala. The final build up is a great balance of drama and fun. It is all in all, a perfect song.
The “just missed our list” list:
Austin: Niki & the Dove – “DJ Ease My Mind”
Austin loves himself some 80’s inspired acts this year with Twin Shadow, Chromatics, and Bat for Lashes all releasing strong albums, but the one pulling from Austin’s favorite source material, the one and only Prince, would be Niki & the Dove. The Stockholm duo reached their peak in their debut Instinct on the feverish howl of “DJ Ease My Mind”, a hauntingly unforgettable song for the dance floor.
Celebration Rock is an album that faded on Wes over the span of the year, but the divine gift of the rock gods packaged in “The House That Heaven Built” never did. A forever defiant punk vocal, thunderous drums, and a guitar roar that refuses to die make this song the perfect 2012 song to turn up to 11.
Arguably, the most soulful track of the year. We have had our agreements and disagreements with the Alabama Shakes’ stirring debut album this year, but it’s hard to deny how classically soulful they sound. It’s an album I feel like I’ve known my entire life. For many reason, I wish I would have known it my entire life. “Rise to the Sun” may seem like a bit of a random one to pick from the album, but I resonate with this track in particular more than any other. Looking back on 2012, two of my most favorite moments were soundtracked by this very song. The build-up from the beginning of the song until Brittany Howard unleashes the epic power of her voice while singing the word, AWAYYYY” is just too good to go unnoticed.
You can listen to all of our favorite songs of 2012 on this spoitify playlist.
More 2012 End-of-Year Coverage: