Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Playlist: 100 Most Excellent Songs of 2012, 81-100






We have finally reached the end of the line. The last twenty songs, the first chance for anyone who stumbles upon the blog to shrug and angrily dismiss the validity of the list based on something that's too absent or too present on it (I just wasn't in to that Fiona Apple album, I fear).  Of course, this is a personal list, a subjective arrangement ultimately more for keeping track of where I was in 2012 than where we were.  Still, many similar sounds have surfaced.  There are repeated trends and patterns that make it easy to note that our decade is developing a definitive set of sounds with which to define itself whether we wind up liking them or not.  These are the final 20, fire up the complaint engine:





81. Anna Meredith / "Nautilus"  Anna Meredith isn't a DJ and doesn't want to make you dance. She's a composer of electronic sound with a classical, experimental interest that aligns her with Steve Reich or Philip Glass more than anyone else on this list.  "Nautilus" is a little more John Adams, though, and blasts a clear, regal course that builds and announces its presence with undeniable aplomb, a blaring alarm of repeated 'horns'.

82. Grimes / "Oblivion"  One more Grimes track. If you've been counting, that makes four. "Oblivion" is the song most likely to be found at the tip-top of a 2012 critical wrap-up, for reasons I can't articulate.  It's a sort of  Emily Strange theme song, cute, chipper, and pitch black.
83. Niki and the Dove / "DJ Ease My Mind"  A face-painted, electro-clashing, melodic stomper of a dance anthem that begs as much as it commands.

84. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz / "Mercy" Say what you will about Kanye West ego, one thing is for certain: he's a brilliant, gracious collaborator who sets up and steps in to many a multi-artist opportunity with audible vigor. When it's team ego-mania, is it ego or aesthetic?

85. A$AP Rocky / "Goldie"  A flow that bounces out a melody mirroring the head-nodding instrumentals.

86. Pandr Eyez / "Physical Education"  Is it straight pop or something else?  "Physical Education" feels like an En Vogue or Salt-n-Pepa track that has been dismantled and reassembled with Frankenstein parts by a minimalist mad scientist.
87. Bear in Heaven / "Sinful Nature"  The other 'bear' band I tend to forget about! Technically, Bear in Heaven have always had a synth element, but somehow it swung darker than it does on the rather poppy "Sinful Nature," a track that sounds like New Wave B-side buried beneath a hazy cloud of ambient effect.

88. Beach House / "Wild"  I haven't managed to see Beach House live, but I hear they're a very, very different band on stage than they are in their recordings. They'd have to be, I suppose, if they wanted to put on a rock show.  Bloom is filled with songs for lazy, idle days, "Wild" prettier than the last.

89. Lana Del Rey / "National Anthem"  Whine if you must, but I love the artifice of LDR and I'd argue that all its posturing actually makes this song a sort of anthem to a very particular, very current mode of superficiality.  The lyrics are an absurd, faux-seductive commentary on excess while at once soaking in every lush, instagrammed and tumblr'd marker of consumption.

90. Jessie Ware / "Strangest Feeling"  Can we talk about how my parents used to have every radio in the house tuned to the local 'smooth jazz' station when I was younger and how every evening the programming gave way to this bleep bloopy ambient 'new age' that definitely included the Art of Noise song "Strangest Feeling" is built upon ("Moments in Love")? Because I feel like that should explain some of where I'm coming from on this...

91. Charli XCX / "You're the One"  This song is so adorably melodramatic.  Charli XCX is the New Romantic pseudo-goth chick of the next wave pop princesses, and the lilt that punctuates "dark" in the chorus shakily touches the darkness of the void in the midst of cheap and easy pop.

92. Pet Shop Boys / "Leaving"  I go through periods where I listen to "West End Girls" on a loop, I love it so, and while I wasn't a fan of the Elysium album, I came away with the blissfully understated, oddly soulful "Leaving."

93. Polica / "Lay Your Cards Out"  Poli├ža uses autotune in a subtle, economical way that seems to almost repurpose the tired mechanism.

94. Miguel / "Adorn"  I said I didn't think "Adorn" deserved the high high rankings its receiving on so many lists, yes, but I didn't say it didn't belong on those lists at all.  The vocals are impressive: flying high over a restrained, safety net of a song oddly punctuated with animalistic little cries.

95. Frank Ocean / "Bad Religion" A beautifully melancholy song that emotes through stretches of organ, falsetto, and serious Prince vibes (this similarity should be discussed more).

96. Kanye West, Pusha T & Ghostface Killah / "New God Flow"  Oh man, the braggadocio touches the damn sky on this one, doesn't it?  I'll allow it.

97. Philip Glass & Beck / "NYC: 73-78" I can't tell you how much I love the repeated piano patterns of Philip Glass. Official sounds of science, here made glassy and dimensional in a new and different way. 

98. Burial / "Loner" A grimy, dirty warning sign that feels like the drugged out after effects of a night spent poorly.

99. Frankie Rose / "Interstellar" Frankie Rose has been a member of Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, and Crystal Stilts - and you can tell. She's struck out on her own, now, but "Interstellar" is a sparkling, distorted sound that floats over the void suspended by a kick drum.

100.  Spiritualized / "Hey Jane" A repetitive, unceasing, meat and potatoes rock song that merrily keeps itself running through twists, turns, and reversals.


Honorable Mention:
 Adele / "Skyfall" For a second I wasn't going to put "Skyfall" on here, mostly because I have a history of being blindly tolerant of all the faults of your average 007 theme song.  But I love James Bond theme songs.  I love the credit sequences.  This is no exception.

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