Best Songs of 2012, Tracks 30-21
The list is pretty diverse this year, with the next ten songs representing soul, rap, psychedelic folk, pop - they’re basically all over the map. Dance and heartbreak can go hand in hand, and this year’s list exemplifies this concept almost as well as a Robyn single.
30. “All I Want” - Kodaline
Dublin-based quartet Kodaline makes music that is basically tailor-made for a montage on Grey’s Anatomy (there - I said it). Turns out, it’s apparently already happened. This doesn’t take away from the fact that this song will stay with you for days. The melancholy that seeps through these notes is difficult to shake, with the line “But if you loved me, why’d you leave me?” acting as dagger to the heart for anyone experiencing heartache or doubt. This is an indie band that has every intention of creating music that is soaring or even epic, and it’s quite obvious they want to be the next Coldplay. The good thing is, with decisions like the incredible drums halfway through, they sound like the “Yellow”-era Coldplay. Let’s just hope they can keep it that way.
29. “Safe and Sound” - Capital Cities
Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, based in LA like apparently most people on this list, continue the emerging trend of daytime disco with this exuberant track from last summer. Boisterous horns back an electronic beat that would get anyone out of their seat to dance, as it is practically impossible to not move when you hear this. It’s perfect for any summer dance party, with the protagonist pledging to protect his love regardless of the obstacles they may encounter. The message, though, is quickly lost on the audience when the music surrounds them. It’s difficult to care what the lyrics mean when you hear a beat so outrageously fun as this.
28. “Sound Proof Room” - Elle Varner
There’s something that borders on raspy with Elle Varner’s voice here - she starts the song like honey and ends it growling. The vibe is retro, with a soulful pop bouncing behind her gorgeous vocals. Tempo here is key, as it begins playful and slow, just as Varner tempts us with her flirtatious, winking lyrics. All pretense is out the window by the time the first chorus comes along, however, with the knowledge of why exactly she’s gonna need that titular room coming to light as the tempo becomes intense and rapid-fire. It’s this schizophrenia between the playful and aggressive that makes the song so fun and memorable; it makes you wonder what you could to someone with this playing in the background.
27. “Ruin” - Cat Power
Chan Marshall has an ax to grind with this one, and I love that. There’s a core of drums and piano propelling this track forward, as Marshall sings with an odd mix of buoyancy and bitterness. Plenty of the song features a can-do attitude of sorts, with an almost Latin beat backing a list of places she’s visited in her life, noting that there’s always somewhere else you can go. However, there’s also a piece featuring Marshall deploring anyone content to complain when there are starving, dying people everywhere. For someone who hasn’t hidden his disappointment over the past few year, it served as a real wake-up call.
26. “Three Car Garage” - You Won’t
I feel like the easiest way to describe local boys You Won’t is to mix the sound of Vampire Weekend with the middle class disillusionment of Paul Simon. Lofty sentiment? Of course, but they’re eccentric enough to pull it off. Both members of this duo were born in Lexington, and with the support of the likes of NPR and the Boston Globe, have big plans for 2013. Riding the lovably retro sound of this guitar-driven ditty, Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri just may be going places. I only hope I can see them live again before they leave Boston for good.
25. “Yellow Light (Cillo Remix)” - Of Monsters and Men
Of Monsters and Men is almost like the Icelandic answer to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Most people know them for their song “Little Talks,” which helped them break into the North American market in early 2012. They were booked for the Osheaga music festival in Montreal, so I started listening to more of their music to familiarize myself and found the album closer “Yellow Light” to be particularly enthralling. This remix from internet icon Cillo strengthened a song I already loved, highlighting the song’s sense of wonder. The lyrics paint a picture reminiscent of a Bjork video (fitting for a band from Iceland), but Cillo’s emphasis on percussion and beat, looping a slow building chant for the last two minutes of the song, elevates the entire piece. The original is meek and quiet, but Cillo gives the track real heart, and helps it serve as an anthem for anyone who struggled to make it through 2012.
24. “Don’t Wake Me Up” - Lianne La Havas
There’s something about Lianne La Havas that is almost indescribable. Her voice is flawless. It’s an effortless instrument. You can easily imagine her singing a Bond theme in five years time - and I mean that in the nicest way possible. She has a timeless quality to her music and her sound that is absolutely endearing. There is serious soul present here; folk-tinged soul that easily brings to mind some of the best voices of the 20th century. The restraint present here on a song of lost love and grief is fascinating, as you ache to hear her truly wail in despair. Producer Matt Hales, better known as Aqualung, knows exactly how to deploy her voice, though. Her melancholy is just as obvious on this low-key record as it would be were she screaming…this version is, however, infinitely more pleasant to hear.
23. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” – Tame Impala
Lamenting the stagnation of a relationship is nothing new in music, but Tame Impala’s psychedelic approach is certainly a breath of fresh air when it comes to complaining about a romantic road block. Hailing from Australia, this band sets out to utilize dream-like melodies in their music. The image that comes to mind when I hear this lush arrangement of reverbed guitars and layered synths is laying out on a miraculously empty beach in Santa Monica, storing up sunlight for the long night ahead. If heartbreaking setback occurs in life, I can only hope the message is delivered this well every time.
22. “Once There Was a Hushpuppy” - Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin
It’s pretty obvious to any of my good friends that my favorite film from 2012 was Beasts of the Southern Wild. As a result, it won’t be a surprise to most that I’m featuring the theme from the film on this year’s list. The film itself features joy, defeat, ecstasy, and wonder…as does this standout from the soundtrack. Showcasing the unique vibe of southern Louisiana, there are bursts of jazz horns, playful strings, and outright warmth on this record that will thaw the coldest winter day. Elsewhere in the six and a half minutes, though, are hints at the despair and loneliness seen in the film. It’s almost as if Zeitlin - the film’s Oscar-nominated Director and Screenwriter - worked with Romer to condense the entire movie into one song. If that was the intent, they succeeded wildly.
21. “Jumanji” - Azealia Banks
Azealia Banks dominated the indie scene with “212” at the end of 2011 and forced the internet to implode with her infamous Twitter feuds - especially the one involving the loathsome Perez Hilton - throughout 2012. Unfortunately, a lot of the attention paid to her last year seemed to overshadow her actual talent. It was phenomenally depressing to me that so little attention was paid to this Caribbean-infused slice of brilliance. The beat is mind-boggling and erratic, with tropical steel drums backing an impressively bratty and tongue-twisting flow from Banks. Lines like “Real bitch, all day/Uptown, Broadway” and “These bitches and they banter/Fuck is up with they grammar?” are instant classics that stay in your head for days. I can only imagine that her debut album Broke with Expensive Taste will blow us all away.