Tracking 2012's Best Songs #17

This week on Tracking listen to additions from Frank Ocean, The xx, Tame Impala, Dan Deacon and How To Dress Well.
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This week on Tracking listen to additions from Frank Ocean, The xx, Tame Impala, Dan Deacon and How To Dress Well.
Tracking

This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year (you can check out the official list as the year progresses)––you can listen to additions from Frank Ocean, The xx, Tame Impala, Dan Deacon and How To Dress Well. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)

Frank-Ocean-Channel-Orange

Frank Ocean: "Bad Religion" (1 of5)

This week's Tracking is 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. –– Drew Malmuth

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The-xx-Coexist

The xx: "Angels" (2 of5)

Oliver Sim has mentioned that Coexist is influenced heavily by dance music, which makes its first single, “Angels”, both unexpected and welcome. The xx often explore a dark kind of beauty, one that is obscured by a hazy and cavernous atmosphere. “Angels” draws on that affinity. It focuses on Romy Madley-Croft's voice and her story of passionate love. Like much of their work, the stark soundscape is best suited to a contemplative time of the day; a time when distractions are minimal and soul-searching abounds. Jamie xx's minimal percussion rumbles in the background as the gaunt guitar melody unfolds. Madley-Croft's voice is the center of the arrangement but its the small instrumental touches that contribute to the song's haunting ethos. Its a beautiful song but one can't help but imagine that it is only a small inkling of the territory that will be covered by their new album. The song ends and, as lovely as it is, it is clear that it is only the first taste of something much more groundbreaking. –– Drew Malmuth

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Tame-Impala-Lonerism

Tame Impala: "Elephant" (3 of5)

Tame Impala’s “Elephant” is another post-apocalyptic transmission from Lonerism – that fascinating bass groove sounds like listening to classic punk on warped vinyl; it bookends a mesmerizing psychedelic break section with guitar and synth tones that sound borrowed from someone’s flood-damaged ‘70s record collection; Kevin Parker sounds like he’s singing through his teeth about pulling the mirrors off the Cadillac of some cocky asshole and it feels like you’re there with him under whatever post-barfight nuclear winter starless sky, trashing this car and then driving off really fast into that obvious symbol for your uncertain future. It feels invincible and dangerous and not all that improbable – the best kind of science fiction. –– Genevieve Oliver

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Dan-Deacon

Dan Deacon: "True Thrush" (4 of5)

2012’s the year of electronic humanity – records from Grimes, Nicolas Jaar, and Purity Ring, among others, explored human emotion via the somewhat unexpected (read: not acoustic guitar-driven) medium of electronic music, but all the criticism pointing out how awesome this was seemed to forget one very important fact: Baltimore’s Dan Deacon has been making heavily synthesized but incredibly human, emotional music for years. “True Thrush,” a single from America, his first record for Domino, is a gorgeous, emphatic sing-a-long, recalling Deacon’s best, most community-evoking cuts (we keep thinking of “Wham City”), with its gently percolating arpeggios, group vocals, schoolyard chants, and hypnotic backward effects, and it proves Dan’s still got it in spades. –– Genevieve Oliver

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How-To-Dress-Well

How To Dress Well: "Cold Nites" (5 of5)

Tom Krell makes R&B sound haunting. By that I don't mean haunting as in unforgettable (although there is a bit of that as well). I mean downright ghostly. Like some forgotten spirits decided to produce lush melodies and sing about their tortured souls. His latest track from Total Loss, “Cold Nites,” is more sinister than the dreamlike “Ocean Floor for Everything.” The orchestration is swirling and dark and when Krell bursts into his signature falsetto wails its as if its coming from within a cave. If Justin Timberlake had the brains to work with groups like Forest Swords (as Krell does on this track) this is what he might sound like. Of course, Justin could probably never sound as heartbroken as Krell does. His lyrics evoke a sense of futility; he sings “tired of waiting/ but I keep on doing it.” I'm sure many have the same sentiment toward the release of his new album. –– Drew Malmuth

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