Monday, December 31, 2012

The Playlist: 100 Most Excellent Songs of 2012, 21-40



On to Part two of our five part series. If you're following along with this little program I'd urge you not to get too used to the daily posts, as I have a feeling there will be a small break for New Year's recovery and general malaise in the coming days.  For now, though, we proceed undeterred on a long trek back through the heaps and heaps of interesting sounds that surfaced in 2012.    
21. El-P / "The Full Retard"  "The Full Retard" possesses a booming, driving dance rhythm that occasionally veers off into sleepy, Vangelis-style instrumentals beneath El-P's fierce verses.  As the man says, you should pump this shit.

22. Killer Mike / "Big Beast"  Probably the best thing to follow "The Full Retard" with, El-P provides the ferocious beat to collaborator Killer Mike's warning to anyone who tries to step up to his level.

23. White+ / "Red+"  White+ is an experimental Chinese punk band I happened to stumble upon on one music blog or another (Said the Gramophone, perhaps?), and "Red+" stuck although I couldn't tell you a damn thing about it apart from noting that I really like its bright, energetic garage sound.

24. Plan B / "Ill Manors" Plan B is angry at the government, and "Ill Manors" is a protest song worth hearing.

25. Father John Misty / "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings"  Fleet Foxes' drummer Josh Tillman began releasing solo work as Father John Misty this year, and it's like he suddenly allowed himself to actually make noise on occasion. WHO KNEW?

26. Chairlift / "Ghost Tonight" I was shocked by how much I wound up liking Chairlift's sophomore album. The twosome has expanded beyond the twee realm of "Bruises" and moved towards a deeper, wandering, worldly indie sound.

27. Andy Stott / "Numb"  A beautiful, dance-stasis cloud capable of engulfing a room.

28. Frank Ocean / "Thinkin Bout You"  Frank Ocean track number two! His performance on Saturday Night Live cracked the "best moments" list for a slew of television critics, and the song opens the possibility of Ocean as an R&B star who can successfully blend hip hop with Prince's more eccentric moments.

29. Beach House / "Lazuli"  Before "Lazuli" opens up to take a giant breath of fresh air, it traps you in with a toy-like synth tone that's so cute that it becomes skin crawlingly infuriating. Sometimes, I really hate it. Then I get 30 seconds in and forget that was ever a problem.

30. Wild Nothing / "Paradise" A pretty pretty bit of quiet, atmospheric pop.

31. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti / "Only In My Dreams" The idiosyncratic Ariel Pink may not have much of an interest in picking up a mainstream audience, but there are still a few tracks on Mature Themes that maintain the pleasant "wall of sound" quality of the wonderful "Round and Round." This is a lovely 60's hallucination, relish it.

32. Ellie Goulding / "Only You"  I'd sort of ignored Ellie Goulding's sophomore album Halcyon until a friend clued informed me that she couldn't stop listening to "Only You."  Curious, I checked it out, and immediately fell into the same trap. It's a great, dark fairy tale of a pop song that swells until it soars.

33. Sky Ferreira / "Everything is Embarrassing"  Pop singer Sky Ferreira has been 'on the rise' for a long time now, hunting for a big break outside of the occasional TV commercial.  "Everything is Embarrassing" marks a shift and emotional sophistication that suggests Ferreira may finally hit it big in 2013.

34. Chromatics / "Kill for Love"  The second appearance of Chromatics on this list, and another beautiful, lush, electronic take away.

35. Sunny Levine / "No Other Plans"  Sunny Levine is more of a producer than anything, or so says the literature, and this track appears to be some weird anomaly that exists only in Celeste and Jesse Forever. Levine has a meandering, warm, radio-friendly vibe that suggests a more indie friendly Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz (both of whom I absolutely do not care for), but sometimes you need something just this nice.

36. Alt-J / "Tessellate" Mathematical love. Tessellate is an interesting new colloquialism for doin' it, and apart from that, you just need to listen.

37. Lana Del Rey / "Burning Desire"  I know the Del Rey backlash happened almost as soon as she hit the mainstream, but I'd be a filthy, filthy liar if I didn't own up to listening to the Born to Die album constantly. "Burning Desire" is a lush track for dwelling on deserted beaches, and though it has no substance, I went through a period of listening to it over and over and over...

38. Crystal Castles / "Plague" Alice Glass screams and strains over shifting, pulsing, moody instrumentals that sound as diseased and infectious as the title suggests. 

39. Death Grips / "I've Seen Footage" Somewhere between the Beastie Boys and an angry Saul Williams, Death Grips is all piss, vinegar, and pure noise. "I've Seen Footage" is a slightly less discordant song ideal for jumping around, or cranking to the maximum volume.

40. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra / "Do It With a Rockstar" After a long period of just not understanding Amanda Palmer fans, I heard this song and suddenly felt as though maybe I got it. Turns out it was just a song or two, but the rock chick swagger on this track makes it the perfect song for singing out loud when no one's listening. The video is absolutely atrocious, of course, but we'll pretend that didn't happen.

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