An atypical year. But aren’t they all?
Musically speaking, this has been one of the hardest Tracks Of The Year list to do, simply because I didn’t both organising as much as I went along. I’m involved in a shared playlist between friends, and since most of my fave stuff pops up on there, I haven’t bothered filing stuff separately. That’s meant I had to go through all the shared playlists – about 300 tracks for the year – to see if there’s anything I’ve forgotten.
(There’s a good argument that has a “If you’ve forgot it, it’s probably not worth including.” This is true for most people, but off-base for someone as scatty as I am. Half the stuff I love I don’t even know the name of. I was loving the new Cat Power for weeks before I realised it was her.)
Doing all that got me down to 90 or so, which I’ve swiftly edited. When you get out of the Top 20, there’s lots of things I could have swapped in and out. That said, that’s true of every year. Cutting it down to 40 was painful. I’ve ended up losing my cheaty-Daughter and my less-cheaty-but-still-cheaty Polica, as well as The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation and the new Godspeed. 20 minute tracks tend to stand out on a playlist, y’know?
Anyway – because of the extra work, I suspect this is going to have relatively pithier entries to get it all done today. Though obviously I say that now, before actually writing it. You know what I’m like. It could be a monstrous, ill-spell-checked beast by the time I’ve done.
The rules remain the same. Tracks of the Year, so can be album tracks (though usually not). One track per artist. If multiple tracks are making me hot! Hot! HOT!, I normally mention it and push the representative track up a few. Abstractly stuff that’s been released this year, but there’s a bunch of cheats. Singles from albums released last year, for example – especially when it’s an album I didn’t actually get into until that latter single.
Here’s the spotify playlist.
I’ll edit in a youtube playlist if/when I/someone-else does on.
Edit: Here it is, courtesy of Philip T.
40) Kishi Bashi – It All Began With a Burst
Let’s start with this, because this nursery-rhyme optimism, all sun-bleached and skip-provoking, is the sort of attitude I’d like to take from 2012 into 2013. Also, the first first (and one of the most aggressive) appearances of handclaps in the Top 40. It won’t be the last. It never is.
39) Crocodiles – Sunday – Psychic Conversation #9
It seems I’m never going to grow out of bedsit feedback romance and the audible sound of a fringe hanging over a guitarist’s eyes.
38) Prince Rama – Blade of Austerity (Channelling Guns of Dubai)
I could have chosen anything from the album. This one would have got in on concept alone. To quote from the press page: “Conceived as a pseudo-compilation album, the Brooklyn duo invented ten different pop bands that died during the apocalypse, channeling the ghosts of each one to perform the various songs.” No, you’re not surprised at that “Brooklyn”, but fuck yeah.
37) Deap Vally – Gonna Make My Own Money
Honestly, this just sounded awesome in its practised, measured rawness when I was compiling. I’m not even going to hold them supporting the Vaccines on tour against them, because I LIKE IT WHEN LADIES HOWL AT ME.
36) Scraps – 1982
I also like it when Ladies explain things very carefully, via the medium of music-boxes, repeated fragments of sense and pretty much do everything short of travelling back in time to 1998 to swap their fanzine with me. They have fanzinitis of the soul.
35) Lemonade – Lifted
Hand-claps in the first second. They know how to lure me in. Oh, you and your tempting high-velocity palms.
34) Quiet Company – You, Me, & the Boatman (Truth Is, I’ve Been Thirsty My Whole Life)
Listening to this american-indie-with-horns-and-sentimentalism makes me feel like I suspect Marc Ellerby feels like every day of his life. It turns out being Marc Ellerby is fine.
33) White Denim – Darlene
Gosh, there’s a lot of Indie here.
32) Micachu and the Shapes – Easy
Clever, angular with an awkward, irresistable momentum, like MODOK being pushed down the stairs.
31) Swans – The Seer Returns
I direct you at the list of things that the Swans Album reminds Tom Ewing Of.
30) Big Black Delta – IFUCKINGLOVEYOU
Records that start with a half-second gasp before hitting you with everything it can manage are my favourites. It’s the equivalent of Calvin arriving home and getting Hobbes in the face, except Hobbes with a couple of rockets tied to his hips that somehow fire a big synth laser the way he came. And Susie has formed into some kind of crowd of angels and are SHOUTING AT CALVIN! SHOUTING AT HIM! SHOUTING!
29) Au – Get Alive
The sort of intricate chamber indie pop I file next to Parenthetical Girls, and not just because they’re all from fucking Portland.
28) The Twilight Sad – Another Bed
That sort of melodramatic synthy scale that makes me want to put on my Overcoat and refuse to remove it, even if the central heating is on or I need to have a bath.
27) Silversun Pickups – Busy Bees
Oh god. I was filing it with dream-pop, but I’ve just realised they sound like the Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve changed. I’ve fucking changed. No going back.
26) Allo Darlin’ – Still Young
Allo Darlin’ sure have nailed down the knack of nailing down records that sounds like Allo Darlin’.
25) xxyyxx – Breeze
This circular instrumental with its big, clear bass noises has just obsessed me, like some kind of vaguely credible Frog Chorus.
24) Dexys – She Got a Wiggle
Always good to have Dexy back, and the just-there torment in the lead single was great. Lots more to love in the album too, not least the utter NO! YOU UTTER COCK! I AM SWALLOWING MY FIST IN EMBARASSMENT of I’m Always Going To Love You.
23) Django Django – Default
Django! Django! Django! Django! Django! Django!
22) DZ Deathrays – Gebbie Street
I’m a big fan of bands with names that sound like they could be teams in Speedball 2. Gebbie Street manages to summon the measured, precise threat that would do Brutal Deluxe proud.
21) Zebra Katz feat. Reddd Foxxx – Ima Read
Not much rap on this list, is there? Even less than usual. Been odd that way. Anyway – this is an incredibly sparse beat which leaves a vaulting space for the two voices to fill with their hypnotic circling lines. Mainly swearing.
20) Frankie Rose – Know Me
More bedroom-80s-pop with elaborations.
19) Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
I can’t be the only person who was listening to the latest Bruce? Well, I know I wasn’t. Sarah Jaffe was. But she listens to Springsteen every second of her life in a special implant in her head.
18) Blur – Under the Westway
I really liked this. Blur in barely-giving-a-fuck barely-there barely-barely-barely mode, which captures that particular British mode of melancholia that permeated the vast majority of their great songs.
17) Best Coast – The Only Place
I didn’t like the album as much as the first, because I have a special sexy organ that only responds to feedback, but it’s still pretty glorious stuff ray-of-sun-piercing-skull stuff. Also, I realise the Lindstrom Remix of Boyfriend came out this year, which was totally glorious. Listen to that too.
16) First Aid Kit – Emmylou
It appears that all you needed to do to get me to love the Fleet Foxes was to lose all the blokes.
15) Electric Guest – This Head I Hold
Of all the songs on the list, this is the one that’s been played most while I’m showering. Don’t let the thought of daubing my naked ageing frame in soap ruin its cheery, light-touch pastiche.
14) Cat Power – Ruin
I really did not realise it was Cat Power for weeks. I am the worst of all the music listeners.
13) Turing Machine – Lazy Afternoon Of The Jaguar
Turing Machine were my favourite discovery of this year’s ATP. Imagine if a group of Geography teachers had a pact to summon a beast of lolloping groove in the school basement, and then it was unleashed, and it ended up running down the streets of New York, at midnight, not hurting anyone, just enjoying the sensation of one foot falling and the next and the next…
12) Chairlift – I Belong In Your Arms
For the first five seconds, you’re thinking “what’s going on? What kind of song is this?” And then the voice and the beat hit and you realise that – oh yeah! – it’s a pop song! It’s a pop song! I LOVE POP SONGS.
11) Justice – New Lands
I only came to the album this year, via this, which sounds like the theme tune to the greatest sci-fi sports film that was never in existence. Clearly understanding the need, that’s exactly what they did with the video. And that whole middle-section makes me want to dress in spandex and punch dudes in the dude-parts, before winking at the camera to the applause of millions of people in silver jumpsuits.
10) Sharon Van Etten – Serpents
I dig it, but I’m not the biggest fan of Serpents specifically. However, this was the year I discovered Van Etten so it gets the credit from them all. Whenever I’ve been particularly sad this year, I’ve reached for One Day when I needed to truly wallow.
9) Saint Etienne – Over The Border
I turned 37 this year. For that, and other reasons I’ve been thinking about age almost constantly this year. Life and death, and all the big ones, what your obsessions mean, how the past connects to the future and everything else. I was glad that Saint Etienne were along with me.
8) The Mountain Goats – Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1
As long as I’ve been doing this list, this is the highest that The Mountain Goats has ever appeared. What makes this one special? At first glimpse, it appears to be an entirely standard Goatsian piece. And it is. What’s changed is me, and this year, this is the one I needed to hear every day for the last three months of the year. It’s the opening track on the Young Avengers sound-track, and speaks to the character of everything we’re trying to do with the book.
7) Friends – I’m His Girl
The lyric whose primary content is “Oh man! Our relationship is so awesome!” should render this unbearably smug. That it doesn’t is one of its many miracles. It makes me want into cooler bars than I really should.
6) CHVRCHES – Lies
I’ve stuck The Mother We Share on the playlist, but Lies is my favourite, even though that has the cute Knife-reference in the title. They’re both great. Honestly, listen to it.
Chvrches are basically the exact midpoint between McKelvie and my sensibility. Actually, that’s a lie. It’s as if Jamie designed a pop band and there’s a few of my tweaks in there, but not enough to ruin the fundamental perfection of the design.
5) Grimes – Oblivion
Oh man. The half-second as the synth seems to stumble as it’s starting up and it’s already clear that you’re dealing with something special. The awkwardness married to the sheer transcendent grace, how it moves without really moving at all. It sounds like it’s about to fall down, and when it does, it flies.
4) Icona Pop – I Love It
Conversely, this is so bratty it kicks you in the genitals as a greeting and you don’t really mind. There’s a few things going on beneath the surface, and some of the inflection of meaning is delicious, but none of which distract from its fundamental arrogant nihilism. Its YOU’RE FROM THE SEVENTIES/BUT I’M A NINETIES BITCH punchline is the sort of thing I reach for when my characters need to show the proper contempt for me.
3) School Of Seven Bells – The Night
This was almost #1. There’s sadder songs on the list, but none which cut it when the pain and longing become so acute that it may as well be pleasure. A lamenting Synth-pop Valkyrie, calling out for the dead, rushing through the skies, the lightning in the rain like tears. It’s the timbre of melodrama that drags you along and stays with you like the whole thing was subdermal. I really can’t work out why I’m the only person who adores it this much.
2) Japandroids – The Nights of Wine and Roses
This was almost #1. The opener of one helluva album, starting with fireworks and leading the way into the self-professed Celebration Rock. While the Night uses the hysteric anti-joy as rocket-fuel to propel it, this turns the loathing and fear you are completely and utterly doomed into a something that’s pure triumphialist, a fuck you against jealous gods and everything else that every considered looking at you funny. Rock Music does many things, but the lust for life (with the implication of the alternative) rates highly. If aliens asked me what is this earth thing called life, I may hand them this.
1) Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
Thanks For Reading.