Tracking 2012's Best Songs #12

This week on Tracking you can listen to additions from El-P, Florence + The Machine, Dev Hynes, Japandroids, How To Dress Well and MS MR.

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 El-P, Florence + The Machine, Japandroids, How To Dress Well and MS MR. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)

El-P Cure4Cancer

El-P: $4Vic/FLT (1 of5)

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. –– Drew Malmuth



Florence + Dev Hynes: "Never Let Me Go" (2 of5)

Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and Lightspeed Champion isn’t one to do anything like most people, and that includes taking on remix duties. Hynes could’ve just dropped some skittering drum machine and synth burbles over some chopped-and-screwed vocals like the rest of them and called his remix of Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials highlight “Never Let Me Go” a day, but that’s for the plebeians. If you thought the original was heart-wrenching, Hynes amps it up to eleven with a vocal track of his own, hypnotically dueting with Florence, and some torch-burning guitar wails close out the whole thing. To call this a remix almost seems like a slight – it’s a total reimagining, a different song indebted to different traditions, a prom-ready slow-burner in a perfect world. –– Genevieve Oliver



Japandroids Celebration Rock

Japandroids "Continuous Thunder" (3 of5)

The best thing about Japandroids' excellent sophomore album, Celebration Rock isn't the thrilling face-melting moments but the sense of exponential growth these two young guys have put on display. They still give them us live at the dive sensation, just with a little more foreplay. The expert slow rising gait of “Continuous Thunder” is shocking considering it’s two dudes recording only one guitar, one drum kit and two respective vocalizers. No overdubs or double tracking, in the words of Jack White that’s “cheating.” Drummer David Prowse takes the vocal reins on this one. A lower register Colin Meloy taming a ten thousand decibel Titus Andronicus axe to grind. King’s power chords resonate with higher than expected fidelity as Prowse recalls: “You took my hand/From the cold glistened rain/Dressed with the knives/Arm in arm with me/Singing out loud yeah yeah yeah/Like continuous thunder.” In a broken 4/4 snare beat the proverbial thunder rolls on drilling to devilish depths until the guitar careens out of control; melding into curiously sullen fireworks. –– Patrick McGinn



How To Dress Well: Ocean Floor for Everything (4 of5)

How To Dress Well, aka Tom Krell, has been at the forefront of the thriving bedroom R&B genre (yes, that's a thing) since 2010's Love Remains. That record was deeply ethereal and his newest offering, “Ocean Floor for Everything”, continues in that vein. Krell's angelic voice opens the track followed by a shimmering synth line and heaps of reverb. Think Bon Iver making dreamy electronic music. The track then builds to a wall of intertwining harmonies but one should also note the undertone of static that adds to the sound's immediacy. It is a short but sweet tune that seems to float away as soon as it stops playing. On its own it's enticing, but I imagine as a part of the upcoming Total Loss it will be one many similarly gorgeous tracks. –– Drew Malmuth



MS MR: Hurricane(5 of5)

Call 2012 what you will – the year of deconstructed R&B, the creepy feminine, the inspiration-Tumblr photomontage viral video – but make sure you call secretive NYC duo MS MR masterful readers of that zeitgeist. On "Hurricane," MS. gives you a peek at the inner workings of her mind – here she’s an R&B diva, there she bears the mysterious, Laura Palmer-ian shadowy nervousness of Polica’s Channy Moon Casselle or a slightly less vacuous Lana del Rey. Sexy, percolating cellos and deconstructed beats back her up, and the end product sounds like rainy, moonlit city streets past last call, like trying to get lost in an apocalyptic urban jungle. –– Genevieve Oliver