With commentary from the best and brightest at SoH.
1. Unknown Mortal Orchestrta – I’ll Come Back 4 U
Showing incredible growth from an already fantastic debut album. Ruban Nielson layers hooks with a bassline behind it that sounds like it could have come from John Entwistle’s fingers. Great things coming from UMO in ’13
2. Ava Luna – Ice Level
Title track of Son of Hilljack’s Album of the Year. It’s really two songs. Nothing this year sounded like either of them.
3. High School Girls – I’m In Heaven, Major Sevens
On this standout track from High School Girls’ standout album, lead singer Eric Taylor stands up against the loss of his beloved breakfast years, lamenting the days of cereal and toast being traded in for coffee and “dirty jeans/holes in their knees.” Along the way, drummer Jeff Mather pounds out a dynamite rhythm while Taylor drops post-grad poetry (“Sow my seeds and fuck the earth on all fours) that belongs on a shelf alongside that collection of unread Dean Young work (get reading, you slacker!). – Natty Morrison
4. Frank Ocean – Pyramids
I’ll admit if there’s one song that deserves to seize that throne from Usher and “Climax” for Best Song by an R&B Singer it’s “Pyramids,” the 10-minute epic that feels like a long night. The hypnotic funk that’s lodged in every facet of the first half, from the distorted synth to the plodding bassline, is seedily enchanting. It’s the back half, though, that gets it going: Frank waxing tender, spitting about faux-opulent details about VCRs, top-floor motel suites, and cars with woodgrain but no gas tanks. The horns and a softer synth are a relief, and with the lyrics, make for a quieter intimacy. -Adam Lukach
5. El P – For My Upstairs Neighbor
The best song on one of 2012’s best hip-hop albums, seasoned vet El-P takes his slanted perception of lyricism to new narrative heights with a short but powerful tale of a battered woman living above him. In just two verses, El gives us a cinematic, powerful and emotional picture of a person pushed to the edge without ever speaking from her mouth. It also features this year’s best blow-off to pushy cops (“That’s the city/Good luck working it Columbo/I’m gonna bounce/ You got my info, but you’ll never get my pity/And I’m out…”). – NM
6. Flying Lotus – Between Friends
The voice modulation gives the feeling like you’re trapped in a room with a bunch of people way smarter than you. The flow is relentless and uniform with some throwback Flylo book-ending the track for no real reason other than because it’s awesome.
Flying Lotus and Earl Sweatshirt left the hip-hop world speechless when they released this head-snapping cut, featuring an unknown, fleet-tongued rapper named Capt. Murphy (who sounded suspiciously like Tyler, the Creator) trading verses with Earl. Then they upped the stakes when FlyLo announced that it was he behind the mask of Murphy. Hey, guess what? Flying Lotus can literally do fucking anything. – NM
*SEES FLY-LO + EARL DID A TRACK, FLIPS OUT* *FORGETS TO ACTUALLY LISTEN TO IT* – Drew Greaves
7. Usher – Climax
A demonstration in minimalism, compliments of Diplo. I saw somebody ask Four Tet had he been a part of any track this year what would it have been, and he answered “Climax”.
It’s sort of ironic that in the year that PBR&B finally ranneth over, the best song of the flavor was delivered by no other than Usher Raymond at the altar of Diplo. The orgasmic innuendo of its title actually alludes to fractured love, which the pair tackle with astonishing nuance: it’s an unrequited dubstep warble with spacious drums and Usher wailing away the whole time. The way it peels apart defines slow burner, strip club music taken outside the club to face the consequences. -AL
8. A$AP Rocky – Goldie
This Hit-Boy rumbler sounded a lot like another one of his beats this year, “Clique,” with the way the pair sounded, how they emitted opulence–call it the golden burp. But A$AP rides “Goldie” as well as any of GOOD did “Clique” with his ear for rhythm, then lacing high fashion brags with 40s-as-chasers real talk. -AL
9. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
This song is perfect. I wish I had written it. Even had I, I could have never nailed the ingenuity like Dino DNA.
11. Dirty Projectors – Gun Has No Trigger
I wish Dave Longstreth would always dumb down his songwriting for us. One of the better music videos from this year.
Possibly 2012’s first perfect pop song. There are no experiments here, just three minutes and 27 seconds of “Oooh” and “Ahhh” harmonies, a killer drum beat and David Longstreth’s wavering tenor, in which it becomes impossible to decipher if he’s singing of a torrid break-up or a blown murder attempt. It doesn’t really matter either way; this song kills. – NM
12. Kwes – Igoyh
An EP that deserved more buzz. This beat sounds like something I’d expect to find on an Atom’s For Peace release.
13. Charlift – Sidewalk Safari
14. Grizzly Bear – Yet Again
I judge all songs on how long it takes them to make me stop wishing I was just listening Dynamite Hack’s “Boys in the Hood” instead. “Yet Again” pulls that off with its first guitar note. It’s so fucking good. I listen to it and feel all sad and noble and I don’t wish I was listening to “Boys in the Hood” for even a second. -DG
15. Earl Sweatshirt – Home
Tell me it didn’t feel like Christmas fucking morning when this track dropped.
16. Sharon Van Etten – Give Out
17. Action Bronson – Steve Wynn
“Fellatio from three twins: Those are triplets. I’ve been wilding since the Rabbi snipped it.”
Last week I stared at a wall for 45 minutes trying to come up with a reasoned, logical explanation for liking Chief Keef’s “Kobe” so much. It was very important to me, in a moral sense, that my tastes didn’t stem from a sentiment of irony or exploitation. Then I went to Christmas dinner and hit on my cousin’s fiance. Whatever. Bronson has a line in here that goes “Mesothelioma money/Drive Mercedez Benz” and that’s the best way to describe a shit ton of money that I’ve ever heard. -DG
18. Beat Culture – Memory (Cassettes)
Incredible track. Incredible ALBUM from an artist so young.
19. MVSCLES – Sweet n Sour
20. Kendrick Lamar – Cartoon & Cereal
“Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” is great, I won’t even try to dispute. I will admit that I was lukewarm on it initially because none of it sounded as good as this single from Lamar back in February.
When a rapper’s origin story contains as much literal cartoons as this song does, it’s hard not to be endearing, even when Kendrick gets his alien flow on. The schizophrenia, both in the delivery and in the production, are perfect for insanity. Enter “human bathsalt” Gunplay, the man who waved a gun in his accountant’s face for no apparent reason while on probation earlier this year. But don’t judge Gunplay by that. Or his name. Judge him by the heavy-ass verse he drops in the middle of this song. -AL
21. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Swim & Sleep (Like a Shark)
22. Mister Lies – Dionysian
23. Mesita – Everything Is Burning
24. Tanlines – All of Me
I heard an acoustic version of this on XMU one day. It was bad. This version was my summer jam though.
25. St. Vincent – Krokodil
Even with an album that fell a little short of it’s hype (w. David Byrne), Annie still brought it in ’12. Here she’s at her most aggressive.
26. Active Child – Johnny Belinda (White Arrows RMX)
27. Alligator Indian – I Gave Myself A Science Lecture
28. The Intelligence – Hippy Provider
“Hey Man (Yeah?) Is that Freedom Rock? (Yeah) Turn it off.”
29. Nicolas Jaar – And I Say
30. Miike Snow – Black Tin Box
31. Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backward
Runaway winner of “Chorus that wouldn’t get out of my fucking brain”. Hypnotizing.
32. Carly Rae Jespen – Call Me Maybe
Without question, the 32nd best song to drop in 2012.
There is no wrong opinion about “Call Me Maybe”. It reminds me of holding a pitcher full of booze in a college-y bar, trying to make that significant/sexy/movie style eye contact with every attractive girl in a 200 foot radius. I pull that move like 9 times an hour when I’m in a bar. It hardly ever works but at least I don’t have to get up and try to make conversation. “Call Me Maybe” might remind you of the time you wanted to commit suicide when it came on for the second time since you walked into CVS. That’s cool, too. -DG
33. Toro y Moi – Dead Pontoon
34. Sleeping Bag – Allison Cole
35. Here We Go Magic – Make Up Your Mind
The never changing guitar strumming and inaudible lyrics suddenly explode in the chorus with the words “Make up your mind!” and is soon accompanied by an equally out of place synthesizer. There are many sounds that shouldn’t fit together on this song, but “Make Up Your Mind” defies conventionality and shoves this standout track in your face to great avail. It starts as a basic country-ish rock song that morphs into a futuristic synth blend, layering everything on top of each other for a complex and enjoyable listen. -RW
36. Dreampeter – Bluebeard
37. Power Animal – Exorcism
38. Alt J – Fitzpleasure
I wanted to dislike this band after I saw Radiohead comparisons pop up. This sounds more Tune-Yards than it does Radiohead.
“In your snatch fits pleasure / broom shaped pleasure.” Now THAT is an opening line I can get into. Fitzpleasure is the lead single from Alt-J’s debut studio album “An Awesome Wave.” Joe Newman’s distinct vocals that slur his cryptic lyrics over a heavy bass and changing tempos make Fitzpleasure into an extremely quirky, yet accessible song. Be sure to pair the music with the music video for maximum weirdness. -RW
39. Neneh Cherry + The Thing – Dream Baby Dream (Four Tet RMX)
The best material to come from Four Tet this year. Assembling all your previously released brilliance into an album doesn’t count.
40. Burial – Kindred
41. Santigold – Disparate Youth
Santigold’s ability to mix the rock/rap/pop genres into her own unique blend is unquestionably her greatest attribute as an artist. Disparate Youth follows this “formula” to become another gem for Santigold’s short, but stacked discography. Disparate Youth is about striving to become the greatest and achieving where others have failed. Santigold’s previous ambitions and dreams are plainly laid out as she proudly proclaims victory over anyone that doubted her. “And they all said I was misled, but now the odds all stand beneath me.” -RW
42. Spritualized – Hey Jane
This song sounds like it should’ve been made like 45 years ago but no one bothered to get around to it because they were too busy shooting heroin. I bet Spiritualized recorded it and then ran through all of the Television back catalogs to double check that it didn’t already exist. -DG
43. Menomena – Heavy Is As Heavy Does
44. Ty Segall Band – I Bought My Eyes
45. Foxygen – Shuggie
WTF is going on in this song? Even more surprising – it fits together nicely.
The best song from this year’s worst named band, the much-buzzed about single isn’t even from their heralded 2012 release, but instead from their upcoming, unheard record. But if this is any indication the album should be one of 2013’s best releases. Three completely unrelated sections glued together in an undeniable pop-format that draws as much from freak folk as much as it does from French pop. And yet, somehow, it all works. – NM
46. Miike Snow – Paddling Out
47. Odd Future – Oldie
“Boys in the Hood” is the genesis of all acoustic covers of rap songs (I realize that it itself is not a cover, also I have no way of proving this) and acoustic covers of rap songs are the genesis of white people feeling conflicted about liking hip hop. If you really like hip hop and are white, eventually you’ll be listening to Finally Rich or have Das Racist make fun of you on Twitter and you’ll examine your motivations for why you like certain music. It’s a weird problem. “Oldie” is amazing. -DG
48. Miguel – Do You…
Drug songs are generally the best type of songs, and Miguel cuts right to it on this shit. This song is so glamorous and trippy; it’s the ultimate pro-drug PSA. Do you like drugs? ME TOO I JUST ACID PROOFED MY ROOM NOW CANCEL THAT JOB INTERVIEW NEXT WEDNESDAY AND LET’S NEVER LEAVE. -DG
49. The Mynabirds – Body Of Work
“Yesterday happened just exactly as it did
You can’t go back and undo it
You’re not a knot you’re not a dead end
Don’t ever forget
You’re a living thing”
“Body of Work” has an extremely simple message. We’re humans and we make mistakes. What defines us as individuals is what we do after making them. “Freedom is what you do with what / With what’s been done to you.” Laura Burhenn sounds like she’s singing this to someone just about to go out and experience what life is like on their own for the first time. How beautiful life can be, but it also comes with its fair share of not so nice moments. “You can be the soldier / You can be the snow / Under the boots of an army with miles to go”
50. Young Heel – Falls
A spotify playlist with the top 50 + some. Enjoy.