PMA’s Best Songs of 2012

PMA-Best-Songs-2012
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2012 is just about ready to take its victory lap, don’t you think? We’ve been talking about these songs all year long, and now you can see (and listen) to them in one place –– our 105 favorite songs of the year. You can view the list in text form below, or you can check out most of the tracks on this 7 hour Spotify playlist. (We know you’re sighing a breath of relief because your holiday downtime boredom has been remedied.) As always, we invite you to share your favorite songs of the year and any links to playlists you want to share in the comments below. The list is in alphabetical order, except for the top 25:

BEST SONGS of 2012
AB-SOUL – Terrorist Threats (f. Danny Brown & Jhene Aiko)
AIR – Sonic Armada
ALT-J – Breezeblocks
ALUNAGEORGE – Watching Over You
ANDREW BIRD – Eyeoneye
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE – Rosie Oh
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE – Wide Eyed
ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI – Only In My Dreams
AVA LUNA – Wrenning Day
AZEALIA BANKS – Liquorice
BEAR IN HEAVEN – Sinful Nature
BLOOD DIAMONDS – Phone Sex (f. Grimes)
BURIAL – Ashtray Wasp
CARLY RAE JEPSEN – Call Me Maybe
CHROMATICS – Lady
CLOUD NOTHINGS – Stay Useless
DAN DEACON – True Thrush
DANIEL ROSSEN – Golden Mile
DANNY BROWN – Grown Up
DEATH GRIPS – Hacker
DIRTY PROJECTORS – Gun Has No Trigger
DR. DOG – Lonesome
DUM DUM GIRLS – Lord Knows
EL-P – The Full Retard
EVY JANE – Sayso
FIONA APPLE – Werewolf
FIONA APPLE – Anything We Want
FIRST AID KIT – Emmylou
FRANK OCEAN – Pyramids
FRANKIE ROSE – Interstellar
GOTYE – Somebody That I Used To Know
GRIMES – Nightmusic (f. Majical Clouds)
GRIZZLY BEAR – Sleeping Ute
HAIM – Better Off
HOT CHIP – Flutes
HOW TO DRESS WELL – & It Was U
JACK WHITE – Hypocritical Kiss
JESSIE WARE – 110%
JESSIE WARE – Running
JOHN TALABOT – Destiny feat. Pional
GOOD MUSIC – Mercy
KENDRICK LAMAR – Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe (f. Lady Gaga)
KENDRICK LAMAR – Swimming Pools (Drank)
KILLER MIKE – Reagan
KING KRULE – Rock Bottom
LAMBCHOP – Gone Tomorrow
LANA DEL REY – Ride
LIARS – No.1 Against the Rush
LOTUS PLAZA – Strangers
M.I.A. – Bad Girls
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS – Andrew in Drag
MAJOR LAZER – Get Free (f. Amber Coffman)
THE MEN – Candy
MS MR – Hurricane
NICKI MINAJ – Beez In The Trap (f. 2 Chainz)
NICOLAS JAAR – Don’t Break My Love
NIKI & THE DOVE – Tomorrow
PERFUME GENIUS – Hood
POLIÇA – Wandering Star
PORCELAIN RAFT – Unless You Speak From Your Heart
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS – The Night
SCHOOLBOY Q – Hands On The Wheel (f. A$AP Rocky)
SCREAMING FEMALES – Expire
SHARON VAN ETTEN – Serpents
THE SHINS – Simple Song
SKY FERREIRA – Everything Is Embarrassing
SLEIGH BELLS – Demons
SOLANGE – Losing You
TAKEN BY TREES – Dreams
THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH – 1904
TAME IMPALA – Apocalypse Dreams
TAME IMPALA – Mind Mischief
THEESATISFACTION – QueenS
TNGHT – Higher Ground
TWIGS – Ache
THE WALKMEN – We Can’t Be Beat
THE WEEKND – Valerie
WILLIS EARL BEAL – Evening’s Kiss
THE XX – Chained
YEASAYER – Henrietta
ZOLA JESUS – In Your Nature (David Lynch Remix)

TOP 25 SONGS of 2012

25. DIIV
“Doused”
Oshin

24. Santigold
“Disparate Youth”
Master of My Make-Believe

23. Chairlift
“I Belong In Your Arms”
Something


22. Jessie Ware – “Wildest Moments”
Devotion

Jessie Ware, former side-woman and go-to girl for a catchy hook on your UK art-step track, is killing 2012 in her own right: on “Wildest Moments,” Ware ditches the emotional detachment of her attention-grabbing collaborations with producers like Joker and SBTRKT for strong, deliberate percussion and commanding vocals. Lyrically, she stays true to R&B tradition, addressing the pain of crumbling love (“from the outside / everyone must be wondering why we try / why do we try?”). But the sheer passion of it all trumps what might otherwise seem cliché. Instead, it verges on tragedy.

“Wildest Moments” is one of those songs that needs a video shot in a church in 1982, light streaming through stained-glass windows and all – Ware’s voice is so clean and pure that her lyrics about a relationship turning sour sound almost hymnal; that minimal backup –– pounding drums, simmering organ –– is as deliciously ‘80s as they are almost religious. It’s no wonder her debut record is titled Devotion, this is absolutely heavenly.

21. Alabama Shakes
“Hold On”
Boys & Girls

20. Rhye
“The Fall”
The Fall EP

19. Nicolas Jaar
“And I Say/With Just One Glance”
Don’t Break My Love

18. Jai Paul
“Jasmine (Demo)”
Jasmine

17. Icona Pop
“I Love It”
I Love It

16. Chromatics
“Back From The Grave”
KILL FOR LOVE

15. Bat For Lashes
“Laura”
The Haunted Man

14. A$AP Rocky
“Goldie”
LIVELONGA$AP

13. Charli XCX
“You’re The One”
You’re The One EP

12. Japandroids
“The House That Heaven Built”
Celebration Rock

11. Purity Ring
“Obedear”
Shrines

10. Spiritualized
“Hey Jane”
Sweet Heart Sweet Light

09. Grimes
“Oblivion”
Visions

08. Miguel
“Adorn”
Kaleidoscope Dream


07. El-P – “$4Vic / FTL (Me and You)”
Cancer 4 Cure

El-P raps like he is in a Cormac McCarthy novel. His impossibly dense verses are steeped in paranoia and menace, conjuring up a post-apocalyptic world where no one is to be trusted. On paper, it is unclear why such an agreeable man chooses to make music behind a uniquely fierce artistic guise. However, when listening to “$4 Vic/FTL” – or any of the the tracks on his exceptional Cancer For Cure – those questions become irrelevant. It is an El-P track and it is exactly what he wants it to be.

“$4 Vic/FTL” is the most ambitious track on the album and the most complete picture of Jaime Meline’s craft. Like much of El-P’s production, the track takes on a number of different shapes throughout. The opening segment builds a heavy cloud of tension. Synths sputter and snarl alongside a driving bassline and, before the drums drop, El-P’s lyrics set the stage: “there are ghosts here/ there’s a presence there’s a power/ for the tightrope over tank with the piranhas/ for the frazzled it’s a moment it’s a promise/ to be broke down to be lowdown to be honest/ another showdown with the woozy and the conscious.”

The main body of the track comes two minutes in and it showcases El-Producto’s ability to effectively blend elements of rock and hip-hop. The melodies soar and the verse, which almost reads like a suicide note, is made all the more epic. After this climax, however, the strangely touching outro starts to unfold. El-P, ostensibly speaking to the person that the song is dedicated to, says that “they can torture and interrogate/ and shackle to my boot/ I will gnaw off my own leg/ and the hop the fuck right back to you.” “$4 Vic/FTL” is an El-P love song, meaning that it is as terrifying as it is breathtaking.


06. Tame Imapala – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
Lonerism
Lonerism, the fantastic new album from Tame Impala, is in many ways a mind-bending listening experience; but its pop sensibilities also provide some of the most infectious hooks of the year. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” will weave its way inside your head to the point where you are gleefully humming it in the shower and forgetting entirely that the song’s lyrics are painfully depressing. Parker, pining over an unrequited love, sings about how he’s “just holding on to the hope that maybe your feelings don’t show.”

It’s a sad song wrapped up in a love songs package, which strikes me as an appropriate format for representing the way romance actually functions for most young lovers. Especially for the “loners” that Parker wants to identify himself with. There is a sense that the songwriter is watching love slowly pass him by so he has reverted into a world of blissful pop as a means for comfort.

All of that thematic unpacking is interesting but, ultimately, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is just a gorgeous tune that builds a warm melody from 70?s era synths, a jaunty bass line, and a lilting falsetto. Throw it on the next time you a need a distraction from the crushing realization that you are never going to find true love.

05. Kendrick Lamar
“Sing About Me / I’m Dying of Thirst”
good kid, m.A.A.d. city


04. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”
channel ORANGE
The year was heavy on the heartfelt ballads. Still, I doubt anyone is complaining. All are powerful in their own way but Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” may be the most potent. The song has received a lot of attention not only because it is good but because it expounds on the coming out story that Frank told during the lead up to channel ORANGE. That adds an interesting element to the song but it is not what forms its core. “Bad Religion” is gripping because its story of unrequited love is one that most have a fundamental connection to. It’s that destitute feeling where aimlessness and confusion rein. He wails “if it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion.” That religion, which he also calls a “one man cult,” is devotion to someone you care about. And whether it be a god or a mortal if that devotion is not reciprocated the results are often earth shattering. Frank bottles up this feeling and, over a spiritual organ and soaring strings, releases it into the world. Be prepared to shed a tear or two.

03. Beach House
“Myth”
Bloom

02. Usher
“Climax”
Looking 4 Myself


01. Fiona Apple – “Every Single Night”
The Idler Wheel…
Almost seven years after Extraordinary Machine, Fiona Apple returned with an unassuming, virtuosic, and disturbing single. If you take “Every Single Night” as Apple’s version of a “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” assignment, we can surmise that her artistry has reached an apex, along with her anxieties. On “Every Single Night,” Apple’s thoughts (“white-flamed butterflies in my brain”) turn her stomach and then spawn an evil twin. Mind and emotion turn to flesh and then go to war. Her mind is the enemy, and Apple roots for her desires: “I just want to feel everything,” she sings again and again. She invites her twin to dinner. Her heart is the main course, an omelette for the two to choke on. Mutually assured destruction.

Extraordinary Machine opened with a title track pruned to bonsai spareness. The Idler Wheel… begins with “Every Single Night,” equally exacting and elegant but packing an atomic wallop. Apple whispers and wails with skeletal support: a brushed snare drum, a standup bass heartbeat, some cymbal taps, rolling tom fills, and precious toy-piano tinkles. Its dramatic moments (her battles with her brain) are heightened by little more than Apple’s vocals, doubled into a BOOM.

Fiona Apple’s return warrants parades and cannon fire. And we get it, in her own way, with a deceptively simple yet devastating lullaby, sung into a mirror.

What did you think?
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