If you’ve seen Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums of 2012, the following list will be pretty familiar. What can I say? I’m predictable. Here are the records and songs I most enjoyed in the past twelve months. (Handily collected into a Spotify playlist.)
This felt like a very strong year for music, or at least the music I listen to. I became borderline obsessed with new releases by Frank Ocean and Tennis, while others hummed along in my playlist for months and months.
In no particular order:
- Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
- Wild Nothing, Nocturne
- Hospitality, Hospitality
- The Vaccines, Come of Age
- Dean Deacon, America
- Twin Shadow, Confess
- The Walkmen, Heaven
- Tennis, Young & Old
- TNGHT, TNGHT
- Chromatics, Kill for Love
- Japandroids, Celebration Rock
- The Weeknd, Trilogy
Some of these are culled from the albums above, while others are standout tracks that will always remind me of 2012. Here’s a Soundcloud set of most of ’em:
Solange, “Losing You” – From the first ten seconds you know this is a classic. My only regret is hearing it in November–too late for Song of the Summer.
Hospitality, “Betty Wang” – A pure pop celebration of female friendship. Where Sleigh Bells’ “Rill Rill” is the girls who smoke in the bathroom, “Betty Wang” is the girls in debate club (and their Japanese exchange student).
The Dirty Projectors, “About to Die” – Weirdness pays off! I was always pretty ambivalent about this band, despite the critics’ hosannas. It took a beautiful twenty minute art film for me to finally pay attention:
Death Grips, “I’ve Seen Footage” – The Money Store is a bit of a mess, which some see as a virtue. I think it could use more editing. But everything comes together in “I’ve Seen Footage.” It sounds like an original composition remixing itself into an angry Möbius Strip.
TNGHT, “Higher Ground” – Ostensibly a track for artists to rap over, I can’t imagine anyone improving this club destroyer. Imagine Voltron in a dance off with a Brooklyn flex crew.
Chromatics, “Kill for Love” – These guys have been perfecting this sound for years; finally the world caught up with them. Perfect for night drives in your 1980s-era Porsche 911.
The Vaccines, “No Hope” – It’s amazing how the Brits can continually spit out great rock bands five decades on. Just the right amount of punk sneer and Blur-era wit.
The Walkmen, “Dreamboat” – The Walkmen, much like Spoon, keep stripping their albums down to find the sparest, cleanest music possible. Notice how the song fades in and fades out on the same guitar line? It’s as if Hamilton Leithauser is forever pining for the girl he’s wronged, and we’ve just gotten a (beautiful) glimpse of his regret.
Twin Shadow, “Run My Heart” – Prince lives in Williamsburg!
Tennis, “Origins” – Given the sleepy maritime sounds of Tennis’s first record, I was blown away by the 60s soul diva turn on Young & Old, nowhere more evident than in “Origins.”
Lana Del Rey, “Blue Jeans” – The hype around this album was a bit absurd and overshadowed the handful of great tunes. I don’t care if it’s all a put-on. This is a great song. (Also “Video Games.”)
The Magnetic Fields, “Andrew In Drag” – How many years has it been since 69 Love Songs? Stephin Merritt’s still got it.
Frank Ocean, “Lost” – Considering the song starts with “Double Ds/ Big, full breasts on my baby,” it’s a remarkably heartfelt song. I think this was my most-played track of 2012 in iTunes. (Also “Thinking About You.” Also “Pyramids.” Also “Sweet Life.”)
Jack White, “Sixteen Saltines” – You can almost imagine the narrator’s teenage crush hearing the funk/rock barnburner she’s inspired and thinking, sure, I’ll make out with him.
How to Dress Well, “& It Was U” – The song starts with fingersnapping in the alley, progresses to sidewalk crooning, some block-party shimmy, and climaxes in a city-wide boogie. Perfect.
Grimes, “Oblivion” – This is why art schools exist! A tiny Canadian lets her freak flag fly and manages to discover new corners of the dance/pop/electronic landscape.
Dan Deacon, “Lots” – While this record is best enjoyed as a whole, I might as well highlight this little Dan Deacon gem. It’s the sound of running through Times Square with all your friends. There’s confetti, too. Truckloads of confetti.
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built” – I was always thought “Eye of the Tiger” was jock rock bullshit. Now I get it, thanks to “The House That Heaven Built.” If this played in my helmet, every swing of the bat would be a grand slam.
Jens Lekman, “The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love” – “And it’s bigger than the stock market/ Than the loose change in your pocket/ And the Flatbush Avenue Target/ And their pharmacy department” Thanks for putting things in perspective, Jens.
METZ, “Headache” – Remember in the Wicker Man remake where Nic Cage yells “Not the Bees! Not the Bees! They’re in my eyes! Ahhhhh!“? This is the musical equivalent of that scene.
Danny Brown, “Grown Up” – Maybe it’s the great music video. Maybe it’s Brown’s charm and charisma. Whatever the reason, “Grown Up” is the sound of hip hop nostalgia, perfectly executed.