Saturday, January 5, 2013

Favorite Songs of 2012

Well ok, kids! Here are my favorite nuggets of music this past 2012. Twas an exceptional year for some decent songs, with quite a wide range of genres. That's about all I need to say. Click the song title for a link to the song on Youtube. I attached the official video where appropriate, unless the video was crappy and distracts from the actual tune (ahem...the top two.) Most people only care about the top ten, so we'll brush through 30-11 lightly. You're welcome. But be sure to read my blurbs, cuz I spent time on those, damnit. 

ENJOY.

30. AFFECTION
by Crystal Castles

29. WHO
by David Byrne & St. Vincent

by School of Seven Bells

27. PARADISE
by Wild Nothing

by Japandroids

by Animal Collective

by Solange

by Floex

by Chairlift

by Smashing Pumpkins

by Symmetry

by Gorillaz featuring Andre 3000 and James Murphy

by Daniel Rossen

17. LADY
by Chromatics

16. INKLESS
by Smashing Pumpkins

by Stars

by Grizzly Bear

by Deftones

by Flying Lotus

by Delta Spirit



10. ROSEMARY 
by Deftones

It's too bad including Deftones on a list like this still seems to require a disclaimer. But, if you know me well, you know I have shamelessly enjoyed this band for a good 15 years or so (the elder classmen of this top ten by a good margin). They are one of only a handful of bands that survived beyond my adolescent 90's tastes and pushed through the great cleansing brought on by Radiohead's Kid A. In fact, I probably enjoy them more now then I ever have. With monstrous, sexy epics such as Rosemary, is it any wonder? I don't think it's even fair to consider songs like this as "metal," especially if you insist on tagging a horribly misused "nu" in front of it. These guys don't bother trying to melt your face with a 12 minute solo. And they certainly don't tempt your inner douchebag with backwards-cap frat raps. They simply pull you in with the gravity of their gigantic soundscapes. The deep and driving riff drudges on over hypnotic synth atmospherics while Chino Moreno's quietly loud voice box beautifies what's left. No, this isn't metal. This is aggressive dream-pop bliss. 


by Sleigh Bells

Alexis Krauss is the singer, but Derek Edward Miller is the star of this track. To be honest, I couldn't even recite a majority of the tune's lyrics, because I am too busy absorbing the layers of somewhat-gently weeping guitar. Deliciously melancholy and incredibly Monster Ballad-ish. The late 80's/early 90's would be so proud. And yet, it's very much a modern sound all their own. I'm not kidding, I start forgetting that there is a vocal track on it. Don't get me wrong, Alexis is struttin' her stuff to adequate perfection. It wouldn't be the same without her low-key melody riding the wave. But sometimes, no matter how good a surfer is, all you can do is stare at the force of nature beneath them in awe. Such a great, sexy track. I was pretty sad they didn't play it live when I saw them.  


8. VARUD 
by Sigur Rós

Immediately the standout track on what I initially considered a somewhat bland Sigur Ros album, it wasn't until I saw one of the video submissions for their Valtari video project that I was truly mesmerized (see linked clip). Knowing that the title translates to "warning" or "caution," the clip sent chills down my spine (in a good way). It's like looking at old photographs of people long deceased, with the added dread of an unseen terror on the horizon (no, seriously, in a good way). Oddly enough, it's somehow an audio-visual equivalent to the nightmares I had as a child. Rarely was it a monster or ghost that haunted my dreams back then, but the tangible fear of a yet unseen sadness or doom. And for some reason, all these subjectively "unpleasant" attributes have made me love the track even more. It's the kind of intense emotional response that separates the "great" from the "just ok." Evoking epic beauty from nostalgic fear like only Sigur Ros can. 


7. WISHES 
by Beach House

Ok, I'm gonna let you know right here that this is the first of three Beach House tracks to wiggle their way amongst this top ten. They obviously aren't worried about giving other artists some room with songs like this, so why should I be? Listening to Wishes is like witnessing a master pastry chef building the ultimate sugar puff, layer upon layer, until it has formed into one sweet morsel of delicious perfection. And just as the grandiosity of its creation dawns upon you, POOF! It's gone. Devoured. The abruptness of its ending made all the more painful by the sheer joy leading up to it. All that remains is the desire to experience it all over again. And again. And again. 


by Frank Ocean

Some raw emotion going on here. So very refreshing for the genre. Songs like this are the reason this guy is everywhere this year. It perfectly embodies what nearly everyone seems to be loving. There is the emotional honesty, but just when it starts to get real, he offsets it with some oddball humor. "No, I don't like you/ I just thought you were cool enough to kick it/Got a beach house I could sell you in Idaho," he sings, as if he can't quite bring himself to pour his heart out without diffusing the tension just a little bit. "Since you think I don't love you/I just thought you were cute, that's why I kissed you/Got a fighter jet I don't get to fly it though/I'm lying down thinkin' bout you." It's a defense mechanism I relate to all too well. And then there's that gorgeous minimalist beat, backed by some soft string and synth arrangements. Oh yeah, and that heavenly chorus, of course. Here's hoping this one wins them Grammy's. Good job, Frank.  


5. WAVES 
by Jhameel

It was a back-and-forth battle deciding which melancholy, minimalist R&B jam deserved the five spot. They're both pretty similar, actually. Frank's definitely has a little more substance to it, musically and thematically. But when I first stumbled upon this gem, (I found it on H&M's youtube channel while looking for something I heard in their store...) I was somewhat floored. I couldn't get it out of my head. The stripped bare production creates a brilliant intimacy with its contemplative sadness. The lyrics speak about the end of the world, the end of life, the end of youth. Those are fairly universal fears, but it all struck home pretty deeply as I rounded 30 this year...the year the world was supposed to end. I just found it to be very appropriate. And I'll be damned if the kid doesn't sing like a bird on it. Like an Asian Michael Jackson bird. 


4. 绿の少女 (Midori no Shoujo) 
by indigo la End

Finally, I have stumbled upon a phenomenal track from my (not-so) native land of the Rising Sun that is worthy of my top ten. It's been a good decade or so since such a feat has been accomplished. That's probably more to do with my laziness in searching out such quality from yonder than it is an actual lack of the goods. Regardless, here we are. And what a find! The title translates to "Green Girl", and it's a wonderfully unpretentious love song. (Slightly-inaccurate-but-good-enough lyrics tanslation here.) I'd use the word cute, except I don't use the word cute. It was first shown to me by a friend on Facebook fairy recently (ども, Sean Blake) , but despite starting the race late has caught up to the frontrunners.  That rolling bass line, those jangle-happy guitars, that soaring voice! Soon as I heard this guy put his voice to the ceiling in the blissful chorus, I was a believer. It's as if all of a sudden Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny peaked around the corner and with a wink and a nod slyly confirmed that anything is possible. Their debut LP is officially one of the most anticipated albums of the coming year for this guy.  Two bad their cute bassist isn't in the band anymore... (Did I just say "cute" again?) 


3. MYTH
by Beach House

Here they go again. This was the first taste I got of the ridiculously wonderful Bloom. It's all...>tsh-tsh-DING-tsh-tsh-tsh-DING-tsh< and then angels massage my soul with one of the most beautiful guitar lines I've ever heard. Simple, elegant, and incredible. You may think I'm bustin' your chops with hyperbole, but I ain't.  Most songs wish they had at least that goin' for them, but Beach House adds another secret weapon: Victoria Legrand. I imagine a few people may be off-put  by her psychedelic Joni Mitchell impressions (in fact, my kid brother listened to this album a few times before realizing it was actually a girl singing). I happen to find it irresistibly bewitching. One of my favorite voices in modern music. When she enters that chorus, I feel like I understand what all them ladies were feeling when Frank Sinatra croons.  And there's something about the way she let's out the line "...or let the ashes fly" towards the end that gives me goosebumps. A perfect way to start off a perfect album. 



2. GENESIS
by Grimes

First impressions are important. If I had looked up Grimes by watching interviews of her running her mouth or maybe started by seeing the somewhat wretched video for this very song, I probably would've moved on. Fortunately, what I did see first was a pretty decent live version, which intrigued me enough to look up the studio version from soon-to-be-released Visions. And when my ears finally got a hold of that, it was over. I took the bait soon as that synth-tastic intro rolled by. Not a whole lot was going to convince me this girl wasn't someone I needed to pay attention to after that. I got a little nervous when I did eventually listen to her being interviewed. It made me worry, like, Visions would have a track called "Like, The Song" in which she, like, sang "like" every other word. She is adorably obnoxious. Obnoxious, but extremely talented. So, she gets a pass. And it's called Genesis. 



1. WILD
by Beach House

Ok, let me tell you what it was about this'n. On first listen, I knew I didn't have time to sit and take in the whole album, but I wanted a taste. Maybe a song or two. I had just finished Myth, which I already knew and loved. Then without missing a beat, track two rushes in and explodes. And then it happened. What sealed the deal was that three note lick just after the first line. You know what I'm talking about...

"My mother said to me, that I would get in trouble," >durn DURN durn<

Oh...oh my goodness.  
I was in a hurry to go somewhere and had to leave right then, barely a minute into it. I don't even remember now what I left to do, but I fully recall my mind swirling with that first minute of gloriousness. I kept hearing the pure sound of what I would eventually call "The Karate Kid Lick." I can't tell you what about it made me think of The Karate Kid. I just kept seeing this image of Daniel Larusso bouncing his soccer ball on the beach. I eventually got back home and went back to the song. The Karate Kid Lick would resurface a couple times in the second verse as well, and the glory just kept on rolling. This was the best song I had heard in a long time. I didn't think a song could hit me that hard these days. I thought I'd become old and jaded and that my days of being completely floored were over. Victoria and Alex proved me wrong. Oh so very wrong. I couldn't finish the album right there. I listened to Wild again, and promptly decided this was going to be a magical album that needed a proper setting. So, with that, I decided to take my listening party elsewhere. And off to my parents trampoline with headphones and a blanket I went. Soaking it all in under the stars of a cool spring night. 

THE END.

Favorite albums and movies coming soon. I have a new outlet for such things that shall be announced shortly, so stay tuned if ya' give a damn. 

1 comment:

Mark Kirkham said...

David Byrn sounds like Talking Heads from 80s