Monday, July 9, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Tracks (Q2 Quarterly Review)

With June now completely passed we have reached the halfway point of the year, and as has become one of my favorite traditions it is time once again to track how all forms of culture have been this year. When March drew to a close it was already shaping up to be a great year for music (both individual tracks and albums), but it wasn't until I sat down to compose this list that I realized just how loaded 2012 has been...and it's only half finished!

Obviously this means there have been a number of tracks that have completely fallen off the list in favor of new entries, and when we meet again in October I reckon there may even be an entirely new batch of songs that have overtaken these based on some upcoming releases and past albums I haven't had a chance to get to yet. Part of that has to do with my stipulation that only one track from an artist is eligible, but even without that there's plenty of great music to discover.

So what's say we cut the chit chat and get in to the heft of the list? As usual, click the song titles to listen to them.

10. "Breakfast (Syrup)" - Kreayshawn ft. 2 Chainz (NE)

Undeniably, 2012 has been a huge year for the artist formerly known as Tity Boi; however, there are few tracks that encapsulate all the best aspects about Mr. Chainz than the latest Kreayshawn track. Realistically whenever you start a verse (or a barely verse since it seems like it only takes up 40 seconds or so) with a fake yawn and the words "I'm up now" you know you're on to gold. And, to be fair, this is also the Kreayshawn show. There's a level of absurdity to both the song and the video that far exceeds "Gucci Gucci" and has me excited for some more Kreay baby.

9. "You're The One" - Charli XCX (NE)

The past few years have been incredible for pop, but 2012 has been slacking most of the year with a few exceptions. All changed when Charli XCX released her You're The One EP. Though Charli is a relatively new artist, her follow up to "Nuclear Seasons" showcases a range of sound that has me beyond excited for her debut album in a few months. Certainly a name to look out for if her limited output so far is any indication. Charli XCX can do great things.

8. "Reagan" - Killer Mike (NE)

Though it would be easy to construe Killer Mike's stand out track from his latest R.A.P Music as some kind of statement lambasting the Republican party (and don't get me wrong, Killer Mike definitely hates Ronald Reagan), it would kind of sell short the brilliance of the song. Killer Mike's hard hitting lyrics break apart the corrupt dynamics of the one party system that has all but doomed modern America. In an album filled with lyrical mastery, and accompanied by some excellent production from El-P, "Reagan" is a moment of harrowing truth demonstrates the versatility of hip-hop.

7. "Survival Tactics" - Joey Bada$$ ft. Capital STEEZ (NE)

Just as 2012 has been a huge year for 2 Chainz, it has also been a relatively big year for the return of dollar signs in names. I'm not entirely sure if there's a purpose for the dollar signs in the A$AP Mob, but the way Joey Bada$$ channels the sounds of the 90's on his 1999 it kind of makes perfect sense for him. The seventeen year old rapper puts on a technical showcase, but what really puts the song over the top is Capital STEEZ's verse. STEEZ puts on a clinic, carving up each and every line with precision and perfection. If these are the future faces of rap, the future looks bright.

6. "Evening's Kiss" - Willis Earl Beal (NE)

 I've always had a soft spot for the quiet, poet~esque songwriter, so a lot of Willis Earl Beal's music on his debut album plays directly to my sensibilities, but "Evening's Kiss" distinguishes itself because of the simplicity mixed with the raw emotion behind the lyrics. The instruments are slightly chilling, but when paired with lyrics like "Ask my how I am / Well I'm full of shit and doubt / Ask me who I'm with / And I'll tell you I'm without" act as only a fraction of the beauty that can be found on this song.

5. "Terrorist Threats" - Ab-Soul ft. Danny Brown and Jhene Aiko (NE)

When adhering to my one track per artist rule, the most difficult decisions revolved around the Ab-Soul songs. The most complete member of Black Hippy, Ab-Soul plays on public fears and conspiracy concerns with brilliant blend that is then paired with the harsh realities found in Danny Brown's verse. Since this list has been highlighting 2012 trends in hip-hop, it would be silly to leave out Danny Brown's dominance as a featured artist this year. Showing up everywhere and with everyone this may not be his best verse as a guest on a track, but it's still a great one.

4. "The House That Heaven Built" - Japandroids (-2)

Technically the best song on Japandroid's latest album is "Younger Us" but that made my Top Tracks list in 2010 so I'm going to disqualify it here because that seems fair or something. That said, "The House That Heaven Built" is still disgustingly beautiful because of the energy and anthem-like qualities that it oozes, so really it's not that big of a loss. Japandroids just capture a mood that simultaneously makes me hopeful yet also breaks my heart, and "Younger Us" aside this may be the best example of why.

3. "Hey Jane" - Spiritualized (NE)

Every list needs its epic, right? Thankfully Spiritualized's response to "Hey Jude" (or I like to imagine if it's not) fills that role perfectly. There's a beautiful juxtaposition in the sound and lyrics that gets me each time I hear the song. Even the instrumental parts and chants (this has to be a response to "Hey Jude" in all of its annoying bombast, right?) are fantastic. What a song. This will probably be number one at the end of the year.

2. "Hands On The Wheel" - Schoolboy Q ft. A$AP Rocky (-1)

Though I am not usually one for songs that celebrate the unbridled feeling of existence, there's no way I can't love this team up from two of hip-hop's rising stars. I think about it and I kind of feel like maybe we're taking a step back, not actively fighting all of the negative stereotypes that get associated with rap, but then I remember that it ultimately doesn't matter. Because, ultimately, what is life if not weed and brews?

1. "Honeycomb" - Animal Collective (NE)

Alright, maybe I am one for silly life-affirming songs. Perhaps I've gone soft in my old age. My relationship with Animal Collective is described best as turbulent, mostly because I didn't fall in love with the majority of MPP like the majority of the world. Yeah it had some excellent songs, but as a whole I wasn't captivated. The Honeycomb/Gotham EP is actually the perfect microcosm for my feelings about Animal Collective because you have one song that I think is clearly the year's best track so far matched with some oddly experimental effort that does little to nothing for me. That's the mystery though, and in mystery there is artistry, and damn if Animal Collective aren't fascinating.

On The Bubble

"Cartoon and Cereal" - Kendrick Lamaar ft. Gunplay

"Way Too Cold"/"Theraflu" - Kanye West

"Werewolf" - Fiona Apple

"Praying Man" - Big K.R.I.T

"Hustle Bones" - Death Grips

There you have it, friends. Agree? Disagree? Did I miss anything? Let me know below in comments!

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

Also, I am on the old Twitter thing so I guess you can follow me at

And if you want to know what I'm watching, listening to, playing , and reading you can follow my tumblr account!
© 2012 Richard James Thorne


  1. Happy to see "Survival Tactics," "Terrorist Threats," "Hands On The Wheel," "Way Too Cold," and "Werewolf." Surprised there's no El-P on here. I'd say either "Tougher Colder Killer" or "Stay Down" deserves a mention. (And this from someone who is no El-P fan.)

    1. Fear not, El-P will be getting his due soon enough. Actually he was on the short list for on the bubble stuff, though I was torn between "Oh Hail No" and "Tougher Colder Killer".

      That's a great album.

    2. I should have known "Oh Hail No" would be one of your favorite tracks, considering that it features both Mr. Motherfucking Exquire and Danny Brown.