45. Revelation Blues---The Tallest Man on Earth***
*Gasp* Is that Kristian Matsson multi-tracking?! RB sees the troubadour taking a big step forward into broad new horizons, exchanging his normative one-man-one-guitar rhetoric for a handsome layering that hampers his emotional impact not at all.
44. Open Your Heart---The Men
It might sound like a few dudes just rocking out, but underneath the exuberant clutter lies a sense of desperation. "Even if she says no/I won't let go," is yelped like a deranged battle cry, expressing a love both deep and dangerous.
43. Three White Horses---Andrew Bird
Where many of Bird's 2012 offerings felt hollowed out for no reason in particular, TWH uses its immense space to build to a towering conclusion. Hushed notes, both sung and played, slowly escalate as the track unfolds, ending at a place of beauty, power, and enormity.
Oblivion is a head-spinning myriad of mixed emotions. Its glitchy beat and sing-song-y vocals convey an odd innocence, all while the pace and varied production say party, and the eerie lyrics allude to paranoia and night stalkers. A curious marvel.
41. Default---Django Django
Locking perfectly together like pieces of a puzzle, Default's many parts click into one another with exacting precision. Vincent Neff's voice shares a razor-sharp harmony with itself as chugging guitars propel this tight-knit pop-rocker ever-forward.
40. Leading Me Now---The Tallest Man on Earth
...and back to basics. There's No Leaving Now might see Matsson developing new tricks as an artist, but its best track is still a throwback, a resonant acoustic ditty full of nuance and feeling.
39. Sunset---The XX***
The XX don't hide much of anything from their listeners, bring each element to the forefront of their spacious sound. Fingers sail down frets in moody fashion as Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim trade verses, their voices floating in a mist of nocturnal longings.
38. Asunder---Fang Island
Where the first half of Major attempts to cram all of Fang Island's manic energy into basic pop song structures, Asunder sees it burst at the seams. A rowdy celebration sound, energy, and rock 'n' roll fun.
37. Ode to Viceroy---Mac DeMarco***
Who knew a ballad about a cigarette could be this beautiful? DeMarco's strings reverberate endlessly across the track, noodling outward and onward in slow motion like a thick cloud of tobacco smoke.
36. Only Son of a Ladies' Man---Father John Misty
The Fear Fun tune most likely to prompt comparisons to Josh Tillman's old outfit, Fleet Foxes. Misty weaves beautiful harmonies on top of an ever-expanding backdrop, relaying his odd story with whimsy, sincerity, and reverence.
35. Luxury Problems---Andy Stott
Where most of Stott's 2012 LP makes you wait for it, Luxury Problems steps right up and delivers the goods. Its groove is as creepy as it is immediate, a spinning, revolving banshee of a dance track that haunts and delights in ways that prove impossible to iterate.
34. Getaway---Dr. John***
Locked Down is a rush, a dense swirl of varied instrumentation focused on rhythm and kinetic energy. Getaway is a surging dose of southern rock, redlining all the way to its face-melting guitar solo climax.
33. Other People---Beach House
No one marries etherial wonderments with lo-fi intimacy quite like Beach House. Other People sees Alex Scally create another gorgeous tapestry, Victoria Legrand's voice sending mellow bliss and nostalgic longings sailing through the air.
32. Emmylou---First Aid Kit
An unapologetically folky yarn, filled to the brim with the slide guitars and twang that send shivers of discomfort down some spines. Those without the aversion, however, will be treated to handsome harmonies, expert song craft, and a transportive sense of beautiful hurt.
31. Earthforms---Matthew Dear
There's an inherent sense of naughtiness attached to Matthew Dear's best songs, like you're doing something you're not supposed to, and loving every minute of it. Earthforms is just such a sordid celebration, that commanding, propulsive bass line leading us from one gritty, dance-y movement to the next.
30. We Are Young---fun. feat. Janelle Monáe***
Am I the only one who still likes this song? Sure, some of the track's power has been lost in endless radio replays, but the maximalist pop pleasures of fun.'s breakthrough track are truly massive, and impossible to ignore. The, 'sing-a-long,' song of the year.
29. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings---Father John Misty***
A grimy lament afforded a sense of desperate urgency by power chords that hit like punches to the gut. Josh Tillman's twisted pining is both resonant and nightmarish, revealing glaring faults and addiction, offering himself up for solace, mercy, and judgement.
28. Poetic Justice---Kendrick Lamar feat. Drake
Lamar is a lot of things: a poet laureate of seedy city streets, an unrelenting self-examiner, and a rapper with a varied, dexterous flow. PJ features almost all of these angles, an intricate study of affection and self-valuation, "Love is not just a verb/It's you looking in the mirror," serving as Good Kid M.A.A.D. City's earnest mission statement.
27. This Year---Bowerbirds
The Clearing is a disc primarily occupied with beauty, seldom employing force to get its point across. This Year runs counter-current to this notion, building from a place of luminous smallness to an eye-popping, gravel-y climax.
26. The America Suite---Dan Deacon***
After all these months, my hypothesis remains; in my heart of hearts, I still think that the America suite was originally intended to be an entire EP unto itself. While the first half of Deacon's 2012 LP struggles to find consistent thematics, the disc's last four tracks congeal into a remarkably contained whole, each movement tuned into the same sense of oddity and hugeness that made Bromst such an indescribable, enchanting beast.
Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2012:
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2012: