Best Songs of 2012, Tracks 50-41
The time has finally come to post my list of last year’s best songs. I know I’m a tad late on this, but it takes quite a bit of time to write up 50 songs, friends. This year, I’m still posting the tracks with download links in each piece. However, I’ve also decided to create a Spotify playlist for you - to be published once all 50 songs have been unveiled. I know I have had a bad habit in years past of banishing pop songs to the bottom ten tracks, and it’s certainly true for this year, as well. Luckily, there are plenty more to come. Here are the first ten songs of 2012:
50. “The Feeling” - The Knocks
There’s such a sense of boisterousness in this delightful track from New York duo The Knocks. Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “JPatt” Patterson craft a song instantly ready for your next dance party or work out mix. The song bursts out of the gate from its first few beats with engaging synths and looped vocals that somehow build to several crescendos throughout the piece. In lesser hands, the song could easily come across as repetitive, but due to the work of Ruttner and Patterson, it’s nothing but fresh and exciting.
49. “Born to Die” - Lana Del Rey
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone mocked as much in indie music as Lana Del Rey was in 2012. Her infamous SNL gig certainly made her seem like a zombie, but her music really wasn’t awful - especially this sliver of brilliance from her full-length album of the same name. The deliberately slow and soulful delivery help you soak up lyrics like “Feet don’t fail me now/Help me to the finish line” - lines that resonate particularly well in bouts of loneliness. There’s a romantic and wild side to this song that belies the audience at first, with Del Rey intentionally toying with us. Hearing this elicits the panicky feeling of a full-blown crush, and it’s hard not to fall prey to her lush voice and sensuous lyrics.
48. “Anna Sun” - Walk the Moon
Regardless of what you think about Kenyon College - or liberal arts colleges in general - this song is nothing short of exuberant in its depiction of collegiate joy. Walk the Moon was founded in 2010 by Kenyon alumnus Nicholas Petricca, who wrote the track with his friend Nick Lerangis about a particular inspiring professor they shared in undergrad. The sunny, guitar-driven pop is absolutely infectious, making it practically impossible to not get caught up in the swirling notes and boisterous chorus. I might have found myself bouncing uncontrollably while listening to this at work.
47. “Parachute Heart” - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Indie darling and multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter continues to seduce us with her velvet-tinged voice and effortless bluesy pop. This song could easily have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt in the early 90s, and I mean that like the compliment that it is. The vocals that glide all over her range, the chorus that belts and coos over some serious guitar action, and the amazing metaphor of brushing off heart break by floating safely away. This is the kind of song that could resonate with someone who is 16 or 68, and fit into countless films’ soundtracks…or your local dive bar’s juke box. I, for one, plan on spreading it to the masses whenever I have a spare buck.
46. “On’n’On - Ruined by Rick Rubin” - Justice
There’s something that keeps drawing me back to the layered perfection that is this song. Though the remix claims to be ruined by uber-producer Rick Rubin, it’s actually anything but, as this version is significantly stronger than the original. The percussion, the guitar riffs, the seductive vocals: they all work with each other to construct something that has to be heard to be believed. Released in late January 2012, it was a song that reminded me how much there is to Justice’s work. The only thing better than rediscovering them was seeing it performed live this summer; for now, though, you’ll probably have to settle for the mp3.
45. “Maybe You” - Saint Lou Lou
21-year-old Swedish twins Miranda and Elektra Kilbey have a vocal restraint on this song that is perfectly matched with the atmospheric backing on this track. The name of the duo is taken from their great aunt, and the song was actually their debut single. Everything about this is contradictory; it’s otherworldly yet familiar, aggressively meek, and absolutely haunting. There’s almost an eerie quality to it, as they harmonize effortlessly over hazy, 80’s-inspired acoustic guitar chords that evoke an afternoon nap with your lover - or your favorite warm blanket.
44. “I Belong In Your Arms” - Chairlift
What is there to say about this duo that hasn’t already been published in the dark corners of the internet? The charm on this track oozes out of every note, throwback electronica reminiscent of Molly Ringwald dancing in The Breakfast Club looped with - could it be African tribal chanting on the bridge? On their first album since 2008 (and first since shedding third member Aaron Pfenning), Chairlift continues with their impressive ability to shift their sound from song to song. Luckily for all of us, this gem stands out above all the rest.
43. “Primadonna” - Marina and the Diamonds
Any pop princess releasing songs in 2012 - Rihanna, Taylor, whoever - couldn’t come close to the attitude and verve on display in this flawless single from Marina Diamandis. Aggressive beats back her throaty vocal that sounds almost like a talented version of Katy Perry. The lyrics are literally pop perfection as her character lives for other people’s adoration. Marina has no qualms telling us that “all [she] ever wanted was the world,” explaining that she has us all wrapped around her finger. The uptempo and addicting track was, not surprisingly, produced by Dr. Luke, but the talent on display here is all in the starlet. I only hope she continues to deliver in the years to come.
42. “Don’t Leave Me [Ne Me Quitte Pas]” - Regina Spektor
I had heard this song several times before it really attached itself to me. I’ll admit it… it was a random episode of Weeds last year that reminded me of the genius of Regina Spektor. Besides dropping casual French in a piano pop ballad, the ubiquitous horns really sealed the deal for me. The entire song is beautifully arranged as the notes basically bounce along throughout. I can imagine a white ball hopping from word to word in an amazingly cheesy music video; one I’m only too sure Spektor would love to make. The sheer merriment of the tune is hard to shake, though I’m not sure why anyone would want to forget this piece any time soon.
41. “If I Didn’t Know Better” - Claire Bowen and Sam Palladio
Nashville isn’t exactly a massive hit in the ratings so far this season, but the closing track from the pilot made a huge impact on music fans across the country back in October. Though the show takes place in the delightfully soapy backdrop of Nashville pop and politics, the two singers covering this Civil Wars song aren’t exactly from Down South. Claire Bowen’s silky voice hails from Australia, and that glorious falsetto in Sam Palladio actually fronts a band in his native England. There is a smoky haze to this song - it feels lived in, and the sexual chemistry is only surpassed by the vocal harmonies at display over the course of these three minutes. It’s hard not to let this song blow you away with its understated excellence.