70. I Found a Way---First Aid Kit***
First Aid Kit is a finalist for most purely pretty band of 2012, and I Found a Way shows you just why. Rather than overdosing on the song's golden chorus, the Söderberg sisters surround it with dreary verses filled with pining and reluctance. The mist of gloom only makes the repeated lines that much more captivating, like watching the clouds roll out, and reveal the sun.
69. 1904---The Tallest Man on Earth
Though 1904 might not be There's No Leaving Now's best track, it's likely it's most fun. Filling in the slot previously occupied by King of Spain, the tune serves as the sunny, exuberant lead single to one of 2012's finest LP's, exchanging Mattson's excitable yelps for lovely understatement.
68. Simple Song---The Shins***
The Shins' newest was lauded upon release, and is nowhere to be found on year-end lists almost anywhere. Me thinks some folks who just wanted to give them a pass brushed aside some obvious flaws on the first few listens, but Simple Song is just the gem we remember it being. Where Port of Morrow often sounded like generic Dad Rock, SS sounds like a Shins song, James Mercer returning to his trusty, adorably-strained head voice, his bandmates reminding us of past glories with each note.
67. Doms---Odd Future (Domo Genesis)
2012 featured no shortage of releases from members of the Odd Future collective, some ambitious, some electric, some sordid. And yet, when it's all said and done, my favorite non-Frank Ocean track is a modest, pint-sized afterthought. But that Doms beat is so cold that it's damn freezing, plodding bass rumbles providing both weight and space as Genesis sinks his teeth in with some of the most memorable lines of the year.
66. Silent Song---Daniel Rossen
Rossen's unique songwriting might best be described as blustery, an autumn wind rustling through each new track. SS is an excellent example, rat-tat-tat drum skips perfectly disrupting an itchy guitar line, all while Rossen's singular voice harmonizes with endless reiterations of itself.
Wildest Moments---Jessie Ware***
Ware doesn't have to bust out Beyonce-type vocal fireworks to make her songs work. Preferring smoothness and grace to eye-popping theatrics, the Devotion stand-out goes down like creamy dark chocolate, rich in production and vocals, one of the finest straight-faced ballads of the year.
64. Hatch the Plan---Andy Stott
At first, Hatch the Plan doesn't even sound like a song. It's all ambience and creaky, whining sounds, cleared entirely out in favor of a a domineering bass ripple. Then comes Alison Skidmore, Stott's former piano teacher (!?), voice feathery and weightless, an otherworldly presence on a disc that seldom spends time on Earth.
63. Tell Me What's Inside Your Heart---Ty Segall Band
Ty Segall's got some interesting ideas about hearts and love and all that kind of stuff. He reals off lines like, "Give me shelter in your heart/Let me wear it like a guard," not while softly serenading a lover, but rather while ripping another rock song apart with breakneck speed and trash-the-place ferocity.
62. Fitta Happier---Quakers feat. Guilty Simpson and MED***
If Radiohead's The National Anthem, as performed by a marching band, doesn't sound to you like an incredible beat for hip-hop song, I'm not sure that we can be friends. The instrumental alone is worth the price of admission, but that's not to say its MCs let it down, Simpson especially, whose assertive, militant flow fits like a glove.
61. Criminals---The Tallest Man on Earth
Baby steps, people; baby steps. Up to this point, The Tallest Man on Earth has only ventured away from his trusty acoustic guitar on a handful of occasions. While Criminals doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel (still just one man with one ax), it stands as Kristian Matsson's finest plugged-in work to date. His strings are tuned just so, certain notes hitting with more weight than others, all jumbled beautifully together inside of their creator's superior sense of melody.
60. Fighting is Futile---Matthew Dear***
The most purely fun track on Dear's latest twice over, Fighting bubbles and boils with a party-ready bounce, warped vocals riding playfully atop the surface. The repeated command of, "Take a trip on something else," is impossible to disobey, that insane electro pulse proving just about irrepressible.
59. Unto Caesar---Dirty Projectors
Though UC isn't actually Swing Lo Magellan's final track, there's no doubt that it's the disc's climax. The verses find beauty and tension in the very same place, Dave Longstreth's voice surrounded by other-worldly dissonant violins, all leading way to a call-and-response conclusion that plays like a much-deserved victory lap.
58. Golden Mile---Daniel Rossen
The towering conclusion to an EP that feels larger than it has any right, GM moves and flows with the weight of the world and mystery of a whisper, rattling snare drums breaking into stray, neon-tinged electric guitar plucks. The haunted backing vocals only serve to bolster the affair, adding depth and dynamic to a track that already had it in spades.
57. Sleepless---Andy Stott
Andy Stott isn't in any kind of hurry whatsoever. He makes dance music for ghosts, saving most of his, 'bass drop,' moments until his lengthy tracks are half way over. The central groove has already settled deep inside your limbs and is running circles around your head before the break, and when it comes, it hits with awesome, terrifying force.
56. Up on High---Daniel Rossen***
Amidst a collection of songs that have no problem reaching etherial places, Silent Hour/Golden Mile's opener is truly the track that most deserves the title Up on High. Rossen sings as though he's looking down on earth from miles and miles above, half-whispering, sailing a sea of billowing bass drums. Four minutes of pure majesty.
55. Video Games---Lana Del Rey
Maybe that music video is a little too ingrained in my mind, but nothing makes me think reverently of my past quite like those opening notes of Video Games. Del Rey sings with a voice dewy and dripping with nostalgia and regret, lending her love-song lyrics a sense of unease and desperation. Her croon slips in between gorgeous, varied instrumentation, a beatific, intoxicating concoction.
54. Candy---The Men
AKA, The Song Where Open Your Heart Becomes a Classic. The Men's 2012 heavy-hitter is a rush of hyper-speed rock, furious guitars and explosive percussion ripping though one track after another. Then there's Candy, a perfect pop-country ditty with sing-a-long lyrics and vintage flavor. It's entirely unexpected, and ingeniously rendered.
53. FromdaTomb$---Joey Bada$$ feat. Chuck Strangers
Writing expansively about Joey Bada$$ songs is hard. Their pleasures are simple; Joey flowing like the next big thing, his guests matching him every step of the way, and smooth, retro beats. FT just happens to be my favorite such track, two guys supremely gifted in the art of rapping.
Plumage is a little on the nose, but damn is all of Moms doesn't follow suit. Where the rest of the disc can occasionally slip into downright painful moments of over-sharing, the opener is a jaded love track that just makes sense. The lyrics prove deliciously over-zealous, surrounded by a cascade of drums, horns, and whatever-else-we've-got-to-throw-in, recklessly crashing down.
51. Cooking Up Something Good---Mac DeMarco
DeMarco on guitar is, simply put, an intoxicating entity, his strings awash in effects, his melodies primed and ready to sink down deep. Something Good even manages to attach a story, one of growing up amidst some questionable behavior ('cooking,' being the operative word here). Even if you're not interested in Mac's upbringing, this isn't one to miss.
50. Elephant---Tame Impala***
Amidst an album full of tracks designed to expand and fill out the rooms in which they're played, Elephant is marvelously self-contained, an economy of chugging guitars and tight-nit rhythms. It's a song that colors within the lines, not with pen or pencil, but a black Sharpie. Everything's contained, controlled, and down-right forceful.
49. Forrest Gump---Frank Ocean
Channel Orange's celebratory cry, its touchdown dance. Frank Ocean is entirely too serious an artist to wrap his novelistic LP in a pretty little bow. The character(s) that occupy his album, be they friends, fictions, or facets of Frank, are troubled in deep, complicated ways. Instead of telling you that everything ends up just perfect, FG is about taking the bad with the good, and being grateful for every moment of good we've got. Oh yeah, and it's really fun.
48. Ex-Dreams---The Men***
Rock much? The Men's closer is a positive explosion; you can almost taste the sweat pouring off these guys as they dig in with last-show-of-the-tour abandon. Wah pedals send chords skyrocketing across the track, pummeling drums cutting in and out, mania to spare.
47. Mercury Man---Animal Collective
Animal Collective, being the weirdos they are, have described Centipede Hz as being inspired by radio transmissions, and their speedy flights through distance and space. MM best encapsulates this notion, offering an unforeseeable poignancy with Avey Tare's lyrical longing atop a madcap instrumental that sounds something like Looney Tunes shooting across the cosmos.
46. In the Yard---Bowerbirds***
Hey, Phil Moore; take a load off, your girlfriend's got this. In the Yard is such a beauty, guitars churning out gold amidst a mid-afternoon calm, that one almost misses how Beth Tacular completely owns the track, confidently reeling off poetic lyrics with a voice soft, warm, and inviting.
Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2012:
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2012: