20. Tennis, “Origins”
It’s anyone’s guess as to how a band that’s made a living off melodic, simple surf-pop tunes’ best song is loaded with Biblical references and centers on the origins of humanity. Nevertheless, it’s Alaina Moore’s shouts on calloused lives where the band sounds at it’s peak and I suppose we can thank Patrick Carney (of the Black Keys) for the heavier & much more mature production.
19. Screaming Females, “High”
You’ll have to excuse the live links I’m using…Marissa Paternoster doesn’t sound nearly as good or commanding live in this song as she does on the recorded version. Still, of all the dirty, wretched and clearly out for blood tracks on “Ugly,” no song brings out Marissa’s voice nearly as well as “High.” And to be frank, despite my love for her guitar work, there’s nothing I love more than Marissa’s voice.
18. Wild Nothing, “Disappear Always”
And this house is now a grave,
I’ve been sleeping here for days,
I’m too hidden to awake
so I disappear always
I can happily say that Jack Tatum has blown me away more often any other musician in the last 3 years. For all these bands trying to stroke at nostalgia and love and emotions, no one paints it nearly as well as Tatum on a consistent basis. “Disappear Always,” is just another example of Tatum making it look easy.
17. Filastine, “Colony Collapse” feat. Nova
World music dubstep producer Filastine strikes nothing short of gold by featuring Indonesia-born singer Nova on the lead single to his debut LP. Though I’m still holding out for my Filastine-Nova collaboration LP, I’ll gladly take the two tracks on Filastine’s “L00T.” Nova’s eerie vocals are the perfect combination for the urgent worldwide production of Filastine. Also, the music video = one of the best this year.
16. Sharon Van Etten, “In Line”
When I first heard this song, I’m pretty sure I played it until every word was ingrained in my head. According to my last.fm, it’s amongst my highest played songs of the year and it may just be my annual “sad song,” of the year. I really like sad songs, if you couldn’t tell so I may actually give this award out later in this list. More on that later…
15. Mac DeMarco, “Freaking Out The Neighborhood”
It’s not what Mac does, but rather what he doesn’t do. For years, “cool,” has been defined with a less is more attitude, and for most of “2,” Mac is the definition of cool, crooning through gee-tar tracks with the same swagger as a young Donald Byrd. In an indie culture where being cool is frowned upon, Mac has been (cue bad pun/cue awkward hand clap/cue bad-um-tish) “freaking out the neighborhood,” for some time.
14. Melody’s Echo Chamber, “You Won’t Be Missing That Part Of Me”
Melody’s brand of psychedelic dream pop is done no better than on the toy soldier drumming of “You Won’t Be Missing That Part Of Me.” Here, the usual altered synths and walls of sound take heed as Melody almost happily (and at times, a bit sarcastically) explains her nature as a heart breaker.
13. Icky Blossoms, “Deep In The Throes”
And I don’t know where else to go,
Just don’t go back to what you know…
Let your instincts flow
Sarah Bohling has a way with conveying words and mixing so many themes into a common one. While “Deep In The Throes,” is primarily a track about being everything for your mate, Bohling finds a way to talk about being baptized, salt water in her eyes, washing herself in a river, stars, and a bunch of other shit that seems irrelevant. All over a bass line that’s tailor made for 5 a.m. pub grinding. Fantastic combination.
12. Purity Ring, “Fineshrine”
Purity Ring’s done everything from remixes with Danny Brown to appearances at SXSW, but in the midst of their breakout year, they released the retro-dubstep-futuristic-pop-see-I-can-just-put-sub-genres-together track, “Fineshrine”….easily one of the most infectious singles of the year.
11. Grizzly Bear, “Yet Again”
Yet again, we’re the only ones….
No surprise, this is often how it’s done
Though I’ve never been a big Grizzly Bear fan, I constantly pick up their latest albums for the select few standout tracks, often among the best of the year. Lead single “Yet Again,” regains the same level of awesome that songs like “While You Wait For the Others,” and “Lullabye,” did on their previous LPs.
10. Jack White, “Sixteen Saltines,”
Jack White’s relationships have beta male written all over them, so it’s no wonder that his come back single is the hard hitting “Sixteen Saltines,” a track that depicts his helplessness and dissatisfaction in both of his failed marriages. It’s just a real shame that the rest of the album couldn’t maintain this same energy.
9. Fiona Apple, “Daredevil,”
Fiona has no problem defining her worst enemy on “The Idler Wheel…” (namely, herself.) On “Daredevil,” (one of many songs that could have ended up on this list) we get an insight on Apple’s masochistic tendencies (“I guess, I just must be a daredevil/I don’t feel anything until I smash it up.”)
8. Woods, “Bend Beyond”
If Woods planned on bending beyond anything, the title track is certainly a nice start. It’s taken seven albums, but it finally seems like Woods is done making mediocre freak folk albums.
7. The Men, “Open Your Heart,”
The song title shouldn’t fool anyone — The Men are still as drum slapping & vocal screeching as ever on the punk anthem “Open Your Heart.” A stark contrast from the 80s pop, lust filled, dream-y lo-fi beta male songs that have overtaken most indie music of today.
6. Porcelain Raft, “Shapeless & Gone”
I’ve never seen the desert before,
so close to nothing
If you asked me before writing this list I’d have told you there isn’t 20 different ways to talk about love, but thus far it’s arguable that near every song I’ve mentioned has been on that very topic. Still, musicians have been talking about love since vocals were accepted as necessary expressions of music, and Porcelain Raft’s “Shapeless & Gone,” does a lovely job in putting that “I just woke up with butterflies…and I thought I was too old for this,” feeling to music.
5. Lace Curtains, “Bedroom Honesty,”
When you take off your clothes…and realize you have no more secrets,
I hope it’s a surprise…that this is as intimate as it gets
I’d like to say in my own defense that while I love that bands like The Men and Cloud Nothings are a big FUCK YOU to beta-male, pussyfoot, fuck boy indie music, that I still get giddy like a homosexual for a Lady Gaga concert when songs like “Bedroom Honesty,” are written. Those Elliott Smith-esque cords, squealing vocals and heartbroken story telling *cue indie hard on*
4. Port St. Willow, “Amawalk”
Some people enjoy wallowing in their own sorrow and have no problem making sadness sound more beautiful than anything imaginable. These are the people who talk about how refreshing the rain is at night, or those that couldn’t imagine seasonal depression as anything more than a made up phenomena by surrealist yuppies.
Enter Port St. Willow’s “Amawalk,” the type of song that will bring you back to your “Hospice,” era Antlers and then some….and this is before you start to decipher the lyrics. I should also mention that this song has been co-signed by the legendary Brian Eno.
3. Holograms, “Orpheo,”
I’m a huge believer in bands that don’t try to re-invent the wheel, but rather perfect styles that have already been done. For every band creating a new sound well, there’s a million Death Grips out there making the worst music humanly possible.
In that respect, Holograms’ “Orpheo,” will bring you back to the post-punk revival of the early 00s. The internet helped break a lot of indie bands (and created many indie fans) around this time so I imagine this will appeal to a lot of people.
2. Rick Ross, “Ten Jesus Pieces,”
Rick Ross is bigger than his body gives him credit for and that’s quite the compliment considering he’s a big man. On his songs, I like to think of him in mink coats with pet tigers, Cuban cigars, jewels that only a God would wear, and his black aviators — an unworldly figure whose been placed on earth as the king of every square inch my mangled feet manage to step on.
While his album was underwhelming in giving this feeling, “Ten Jesus Pieces,” manages to paint Ross as nothing short of a deity among thieves.
1. Grimes, “Oblivion”
And now the empathy, empowers me
First, let me address the P4k readers who will be quick to parallel this decision with P4k naming “Oblivion,” their song of the year. I have for the entire year maintained that “Oblivion,” is 2012’s best pop song. I’ve raved about the song more obnoxiously than your friend that spams your Facebook newsfeed with pictures of their newborn. I’ve listened to the song more than I’ve listened to the culmination of listens for songs wrapped into a full length album.
There’s a lot to like about this song, but to start “Oblivion,” is a pop song. In fact, it’s (along with most of Grimes’ latest LP) the rare dream pop song that maintains the genres most pleasing aesthetic — being a pop song. This is important because many pioneers of dream pop were so focused on being ethereal that they dropped the ball on the toughest part of their genres make up. Being accessible.
Still, a lot of people have their doubts about “Oblivion.” Most still point to “Genesis,” as the superior single, but I will quickly disagree. While it’s a phenomenal single, there’s a sincerity about “Oblivion,” that leaves the song in another stratosphere — for longtime fans of Grimes, for those that see her roots in dream pop and Cocteau Twins esque fame and for those that know how ecstatic she must be to be releasing her magnum opus on the legendary 4AD record label.
These people understand that the popularity of dream pop is indebted in this song. What Grimes’ means to this sub genres future is indebted to this song. To the “Visions,” LP. She’s the D’Angelo of Neo-Soul. The My Bloody Valentine of Shoegaze. The Dave Chappelle of African-American comedy. The talent is clear and for this small sub genre, she holds the torch for what will surely be an array of copycats mimicking her style to achieve mainstay success. The only question that remains is how do you follow up?