Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Taking On 2012: Top Tracks

After wrapping up the year in video games yesterday, it's time to start turning attention to all of the great music that came out this year. While there were many great albums, I actually found myself listening to more playlists and individual tracks this year. I'm not sure if that says that, ultimately, it wasn't a great year for albums or if it was just a great year for songs. Read in to it what you will. What I do know is that there have been some changes to the list since we last checked in during October's Quarterly Review. So what has arrived? What disappeared? Well, we can have a look, and a listen if you click on the titles. Additionally, check out my Top 20 songs in order over here on Spotify!

10. "Hey Jane" - Spiritualized (-3)

Look, any song that kind of takes on the atrocity that is "Hey Jude" and turns it in to one of the year's most sprawling songs probably means it deserves my top spot. That it barely made the top ten speaks to the strength of 2012.

9. "Honeycomb" - Animal Collective (-6)

Strange that the most compelling Animal Collective track this year is not one from their impressive Centipede Hz, but rather one half of a short EP that seems to have mostly slipped through the cracks. On "Honeycomb" there's this kind of joy that seems to be associated with Merriweather Post Pavilion which I never latched on to outside of a few songs. This song is a certified heater.

8. "Hacker" - Death Grips (NE)

I go back and forth in regards to my favorite Death Grips song of 2012 (and I still haven't given the proper attention to No Love Deep Web so there's probably more I have yet to love), but I think I'm finally ready to acknowledge both the lyrical and aural qualities that put "Hacker" over the top. There's this beautifully schizophrenic quality to the sounds that is mirrored in the abrasive lyrics. GaGa truly can't handle this shit.

7. "Terrorist Threats" - Ab-Soul ft. Danny Brown and Jhene Aiko (+1)

Last year was pretty huge for Ab-Soul, the most lyrically gifted of the Black Hippy crew. Though I feel like there's any number of songs that I could put on here, the collaboration with Danny Brown pairs this collected presence with one of the most intense and then having each sort of switch personas in terms of how they approach their lyrics is likely the greatest hip-hop stroke of genius in a year marked by a lot of genius rap.

6. "Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst" - Kendrick Lamar (NE)

While I was tempted to name "Backseat Freestyle" the best song on Kendrick's latest album (certainly it's the most lyrically intense), it's near impossible to deny the audacity and talent on display in this 12 minute musing is truly staggering. Hip-hop is an artform about projection and persona, but rarely do artists actually give voices to and inhabit other bodies. Kendrick does so while basically breaking down the barrier between poem and song.

5. "Survival Tactics" - Joey Bada$$ ft. Captial STEEZ (NE)

I can't really write about this song without mentioning the loss of Capital STEEZ only about a week ago. Joey Bada$$'s verse here is brimming with energy, but what earns this song a spot on the list is the raw power on display in Capital STEEZ's verse. A device that isn't used enough (or effectively enough) is completely stripping away a beat at certain points and letting the lyrics carry a track. This happens twice and both times it's magical.

4. "Periphery" - Fiona Apple (NE)

No artist this year caused me a tougher time than Fiona Apple when it came to making this list. There's a legitimate case to be made that each song on her latest album could occupy this spot, but what stands out to me about "Periphery" is all the smaller cues happening in the background, both lyrically and instrumentally, that work in conjunction with the title to create a complete experience.

3. "Hands On The Wheel" - ScHoolboy Q ft. A$AP Rocky (+2)

What is probably the longest lasting song of 2012, there are little feelings that actually rival the sheer energy that "Hands On The Wheel" brings to the table. A celebration of debauchery that kind of encapsulates this sense of freedom and rebellion even on a personal level. It's just sort of this feeling of liberation.

2. "New God Flow" - Pusha T and Kanye West (-1)

I didn't expect this song to be dethroned. If "Hands On The Wheel" is the most energetic song hip-hop offered in 2012 that must make "New God Flow" the most forceful. Yeah Pusha T's verse is great, but as expected it's not really until Kanye comes on that the song goes from really good to one of the best. The song constantly builds to this climax of the last few bars on Kanye's verse, a sense of release that is also the most iconic of the year.

1. "Evening's Kiss" - Willis Earl Beal (+1)

Coming apparently from The X Factor Willis Earl Beal deals with a manner of soulful music that feels out of place just about every where these days. Yet in each line of "Evening's Kiss" one can find a moment of magic and splendor that taps in to the emotional core of every feeling one can imagine. There's joy, tragedy, even a bit of humor. I didn't actually realize until I started typing this, as was the case last year when I settled on "Huzzah (Remix)" as my best song, just how highly I think of this song. That, even against 2012's greatest anthem, even stacked up against an unflinching verse from hip-hop's greatest artist, "Evening's Kiss" is the best song from 2012 is a surprise to me, but at the same time isn't much of a surprise at all.

For the next ten tracks that barely missed the cut check out the Spotify playlist and feel free to subscribe to my channel there as I'll be shortly starting up a 2013 master list that I constantly update throughout the year of all the best songs.

What songs did I miss? What would you change? Let me know below in comments, and see you shortly for the best albums of 2012!


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© 2013 Richard James Thorne

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