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musicforants.com’s Best Songs of 2012

Date December 18, 2012

(photo by cubagallery)

These are 50 tracks that delighted, inspired and fascinated us in 2012 and that we think are worthy of remembering long after the year is over. We present them here in highly unscientific ordered list form, with Matt’s songs marked with a “-MG” and my choices with a “-TJ” next to them. To better spread the love, we’ve stuck with the one song per artist rule. Click here to download all the tracks in a zip and subscribe to our Spotify Playlist to stream them all. Enjoy y’all!

50. Porcelain Raft – Unless You Speak From Your Heart MP3

Porcelain Raft’s Strange Weekend is one of my favorite debut albums of the year, and this swelling synth-pop anthem is the shining moment. -TJ

49. Sharon Van Etten – Give Out MP3

“Give Out” is Sharon Van Etten exploring the tension of exciting possibilities that she knows will inevitably lead to resentment. It exists in this weird space of breakups that haven’t actually happened yet. -MG

48. Moonface – Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips MP3

One of our generations’s most gifted songwriters delivers this soaring new-wave guitar anthem that sits as one of the best (and most explosive) tracks in Spencer Krug’s extensive catalog. -TJ

47. The xx – Chained [stream]

Even if “Chained” wasn’t really indicative of the rest of The xx’s new album, it proved that their first round wasn’t a fluke. They sound even more sure of themselves here, stripping away their sound until we’re left with something simple and pure. -MG

46. Hundred Waters – Me & Anodyne MP3

Hundred Waters have proved to be one of the most promising new bands of the year with tracks like this otherworldly gem, filled with layers of  vocals, synth textures and bubbling electronica. -TJ

45. Dirty Projectors – About To Die MP3

The best part of any Dirty Projectors song is trying to figure out why they put these particular sounds together, and “About to Die” provides plenty of puzzlers. It’s simultaneously weird and accessible, a combination few pull off as well.  -MG

44. Bobby Womack – Please Forgive My Heart MP3

Soul legend Bobby Womack delivers a passionate, heartfelt vocal performance in this electro-soul confessional produced with gorgeous sonic flourishes by Damon Albarn. -TJ

43. Nite Jewel – One Second Of Love MP3

“One Second of Love” sounds homemade, but not lo-fi. It’s intimate, but still gives off the vibe that it could pour out of speakers if it needed to. -MG

42. Eternal Summers – Millions MP3

The Virginian indie pop duo, Eternal Summers captivate with this dreamy, sunkissed power-pop tune that captures the very essence of summer in a brisk 2 minutes and thirty seconds. -TJ

41. Death Grips – I’ve Seen Footage MP3

“I’ve Seen Footage” was Death Grips’ shot across the bow of 2012, and by the end of the year the band had courted more than their share of controversy. It’s a reminder of a simpler time, when they were just assaulting eardrums instead of offending eyeballs. -MG

Follow the jump below to see the rest of the list!

40. Two Door Cinema Club – Sleep Alone MP3

With “Sleep Alone”, Two Door Cinema Club made one of the most polished and exciting pop songs of the year, thanks to its propulsive beat, jaunty guitars and a grab bag of infectious hooks. -TJ

39. Kendrick Lamar – Backseat Freestyle [stream]

Good kid, m.A.A.d city might have had better songs, but “Backseat Freestyle” was the showcase for Lamar’s skills that forced you to pay attention. -MG

38. Father John Misty – Nancy From Now On MP3

“Nancy From Now On” immediately hooks you with it’s vintage acoustic guitar and J. Tillman’s swooning falsetto so that by the time the lush rhythm section joins in, you’re already helplessly smitten. -TJ

37. Passion Pit – I’ll Be Alright MP3

Passion Pit managed to make a fun, boisterous song laced with self-delusion. “I’ll Be Alright” isn’t a statement, it’s attempted reassurance you can dance to.  -MG

36. Why? – Sod In The Seed MP3

With its infectious strummed hook, ultra-clever lyrics and laid-back flow, “Sod In The Seed” is a brilliant embodiment of Why’s hip-hop / avant-garde hybrid style. -TJ

35. Cloud Nothings – Wasted Days MP3

“Wasted Days” hits its sentiment so squarely on the head that I don’t actually recommend listening to it if you’re between the ages of 24 and 27. The breakdown in the middle only drives the (literal and metaphorical) point home even further. -MG

34. Tanlines – All Of Me MP3

This sound was supposed to have died out a few years ago, but apparently nobody told Tanlines. The upside is that we got this quality jam from a band making music they love, instead of trend-hopping. -MG

33. Lord Huron – Time To Run MP3

“Time To Run” transports the listener on an exhilarating journey filled with exuberant bursts of tropical instrumentation, galloping rhythm and soaring harmonies. -TJ

32. Alabama Shakes – Be Mine [stream]

Rising star Brittany Howard delivers a magical vocal performance on Boys & Girls highlight, “Be Mine”, bolstered by her band’s potent bluesy guitar licks and topped off with one of the most cathartic, rousing climaxes on record in 2012.-TJ

31. Solange – Losing You MP3

Solange has always shown promise, but she finally comes into her own on “Losing You”. It’s really more singularity than song, existing in a space where the divide between indie and mainstream is no longer relevant. -MG

29. The Tallest Man On Earth – 1904 MP3

With his third LP, Swedish troubador Kristian Matsson is still making beautiful, sparse folk with little more than an acoustic guitar and his voice. As long as we continue to receive invigorating, masterful works like “1904″, I hope he never stops. -TJ

30. How To Dress Well – & It Was U MP3

On “& It Was U”, Tom Krell stripped away his former lo-fi trappings and actually came out the better for it. It’s still minimal, but proves there is far more to How to Dress Well than fidelity. Of one kind, at least. -MG

28. Titus Andronicus – Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter MP3

Although there’s no Civil War-like arc tying Local Business together, Patrick Stickles proves he’s still committed to waxing philosophical by way of loud, sprawling guitar solos and beer-raising sing-a-long choruses with this gritty and exhilarating anthem. -TJ

27. Purity Ring – Fineshrine MP3

“Fineshrine” is all about the juxtaposition of saccharine and surreal. It’s suspenseful, visceral, pop-y, and just the right amount of weird. -MG

26. Shearwater – You As You Were MP3

Jonathon Meisburg dramatically expresses his desire for wild abandon on this powerful, uplifting anthem from Animal Joy that does an excellent job of embodying that album title. -TJ

25. Dum Dum Girls – Lord Knows MP3

Dum Dum Girls continue their string of excellent singles with “Lord Knows”, smoldering at first before flaring up for the chorus. It’s a song that sounds oddly carefree, considering its heavy subject. -MG

24. Andrew Bird – Danse Carribe MP3

“Danse Carribe” begins like many lovely Andrew Bird folk tunes with a fetching melody and clever turns of phrases. What really springs the song to the next level though is its lively whistling and fiddle bridge, one of the most delightful musical passages of the year. -TJ

23. Perfume Genius – Dark Parts MP3

The brilliance of Perfume Genius is that he has a knack for hiding weighty subjects under gorgeous melodies, and “Dark Parts” is maybe the best example of his talent. -MG

22. Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards MP3

Everything from the trippy echo-chamber vocals, roaming bassline, splashes of vibrant organ, rolling drum fills and unforgettably catchy melody work together to make this track a beautifully executed ode to late-60′s psychedelic rock.  -TJ

21. Icona Pop – I Love It MP3

“I Love It” is pop by submission; the whole thing is so over-the-top-in-your-face that it’s impossible to ignore. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it has one of the best hooks of the year. -MG

20. Sigur Rós - Varúð [stream]

Sigur Rós have written so many achingly gorgeous songs by now that it seems absolutely effortless. As with many of their best compositions, the hymn-like “Varúð” is deceptively simple, combining exquisite sounds of piano, strings and angelic vocals and building to a triumphant, blissful climax. -TJ

19. El-P – The Full Retard MP3

El-P hits “The Full Retard” like a hungry MC with something to prove, folding rhymes in on themselves until you can’t even follow along with the lyrics in front of you. When he switches flows in the last 30 seconds, it’s game over. -MG

18. Hot Chip – Don’t Deny Your Heart MP3

Perhaps more than any other Hot Chip song, “Don’t Deny Your Heart” sounds like it was transported straight out of a 80′s teenage flick, what with its amazingly peppy disco beat and ecstatic bursts of synth and funk guitar. Also, like any good John Hughes film it’s impossible to experience without a big, cheesy grin on your face. -TJ

17. Usher – Climax (ft. Diplo) [stream]

It’s almost shocking that a song with this much restraint came from Usher. But the irony of the title seems to be the point, so that once he finally cuts loose it hits you that much harder. -MG

16. Grimes – Oblivion MP3

Claire Boucher pulls off a brilliant trick with “Oblivion” of sounding strange and otherworldly while still being one of the most perfectly satisfying pop songs of the year.  It’s a testament to her unique talent that she can appeal to bubblegum pop and avant-garde sensibilities at the same time. -TJ

15. Jessie Ware – Wildest Moments MP3

Jessie Ware has no shortage of great singles this year, but none resonated for me like “Wildest Moments”. It’s emotionally complex in a way you don’t often find in pop, and it’s just a great song to boot. -MG

14. Bowerbirds – Tuck The Darkness In MP3

“Tuck The Darkness In” rides the line between intmate folk ballad and triumphant anthem better than any other song this year, pairing a lovely acoustic arrangement and delicate melodies with a rousing climatic swell that rivals some of the best Arcade Fire songs. -TJ

13. Allo, Darlin’ – Capricornia MP3

“Capricornia” seems unassuming enough at first, but once the chorus sneaks up on you it turns into one of the best pop songs of the year. It seeps into your mindgrapes until you don’t even realize you’ve had it on repeat for 20 minutes. -MG

12. DIIV – How Long Have You Known MP3

It’s incredibly easy to get lost in the ebbing and flowing guitar riffs and reverb-soaked melodies of “How Long Have You Known” from 2012′s best new band DIIV. The song is an engrossing, addictive listen that demands repeated plays as it immerses your eardrums in a whirlpool of dream-pop hooks. -TJ

11. Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t MP3

“I Know What Love Isn’t” tells a personal anecdote about Jens considering the simplicity of a green-card marriage, and it does it in a way only Jens Lekman can, with lyrical dashes of whimsy, melancholy and humor elevated even further by of his most lovely and memorable arrangements yet. -TJ

10. Twin Shadow – Five Seconds MP3

The isn’t much I can say about “Five Seconds” that the video doesn’t make obvious. It’s like the song that plays over the credits of some great, lost Betamax tape. -MG

9. Bat For Lashes – Laura MP3

The brilliance of “Laura” is that it manages to paint an entire portrait in under five minutes, making you feel empathy for a falling star. There may not have been another song in 2012 that did so much with so little. -MG

8. Beach House – Lazuli MP3

It’s extremely rare that a band can continue to outdo themselves like Beach House has, and “Lazuli” is the apex of the band’s otherwordly powers, a blissful track that slowly reveals itself until it completely overwhelms your senses. I’m looking forward to seeing if they can ever possibly top it. -TJ

7. Grizzly Bear – Speak In Rounds MP3

There just isn’t anyone making songs like Grizzly Bear; they’re confident yet casual, the songs seemingly labored over but unfussy. “Speak in Rounds” rides that line as well as anything on Shields, and better than any other song this year. -MG

6. Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built MP3

Japandroids have always been great at the shout-along chorus, but they reached their apex here with a song made to scream with the whole way through. Lozenge up, people. -MG

5. First Aid Kit – Emmylou MP3

Some songs have the power to make your eyes well up with just a few notes, and the gorgeous pedal steel guitar and poignant harmonies of “EmmyLou” has that effect on me. The exquisite, intimate love song pays tribute to country duos of the past in a unforgettable chorus that will resonate with anyone with two ears and heart. -TJ

4. Chromatics – Kill For Love MP3

Chromatics like to posit their albums as if they were feature films, and if so, “Kill For Love” would be conflicted hero’s soaring anthem. The irresistably compelling track seems to tell an entire dramatic character arc of romance, tragedy, mystery and triumph in four minutes of dreamy vocals, shimmering retro synths, rushing guitar and ebullient crescendos. -TJ

3. Chairlift – I Belong In Your Arms MP3

There has to be a plane of existence somewhere in the multiverse where this is the biggest song on the planet. It’s just so unabashedly wonderful that there has to be place where it’s blasting from every stereo. -MG

2. Spiritualized – So Long You Pretty Thing [stream]

J. Spaceman begins this song as a broken man, pleading to God with his dying breaths and saying farewell to his rock and roll dreams. Although that may sound terribly depressing, backed by a full gospel choir, strings and horn section it becomes an uplifiting and transcendent anthem, climaxing with an exhilarating refrain that makes the track feel less like a simple (albeit brilliant) pop song than a triumph of the human spirit. -TJ

1. Frank Ocean – Pyramids MP3

There was no logical reason for Def Jam to release this 10-minute opus to promote a relatively unknown artist, but maybe the fact that it’s at the top of this list proves they knew exactly what they were doing. “Pyramids” proved Ocean was 2012′s singular talent; it had an eye on tradition, but both feet firmly in the future. -MG

This year our choice for #1 song of the year was unanimous. Frank Ocean’s music defined 2012 for me and the freakishly ambitious space-funk epic “Pyramids” is his masterpiece, cementing Ocean’s place as one of the most exciting and visionary pop artists of the millennium. -TJ

Download all the songs in a zip by clicking here

Spotify Playlist: musicforants.com’s Best Songs of 2012

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7 Responses to “musicforants.com’s Best Songs of 2012”

  1. Steve said:

    And today gets even better!

  2. Anonymous said:

    I love these lists thank you very much !

  3. Betty said:

    Thank you! Look forward to this every year! Plus ‘mindgrapes’ is a great word, definitely gonna be getting that into day to day conversation from now on.

  4. Ty said:

    Great list, but I’d argue “The Nights of Wine and Roses” is the far superior Japandroids track

  5. Phrippers said:

    Great list – I want more though. When does your great “Albums for 2013″ list come out? Loved it last year, and the year before, and the year before that ……. Sourced some of my favourite listening from these lists and can’t wait for the 2013′s selections.

  6. Phrippers said:

    Whooops – that’s meant to be “Albums for 2012″ – got ahead of myself.

  7. Taylor said:

    @Phrippers tomorrow!