Tracking 2012's Best Songs #13 - Pretty Much Amazing

Tracking 2012's Best Songs #13

This week on Tracking you can listen to additions from Grizzly Bear, Fiona Apple, Blood Diamonds/Grimes, Hot Chip and Niki & The Dove.
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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 Grizzly Bear, Fiona Apple, Blood Diamonds/Grimes, Hot Chip and Niki & The Dove. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)


Grizzly Bear: Sleeping Ute (1 of5)

Grizzly Bear first got noticed with the chilly, percolating, thunderstorm-gathering groove of “Knife” and made it to indie stardom with the mixtape-ready bubbly pop of “Two Weeks,” and it’s not a coincidence both those tracks are helmed by the band’s de facto frontman and founding member Ed Droste. It’s also not a coincidence that the band’s best deep cuts – maybe, actually, their best songs, “Southern Point,” “I Live With You,” “Little Brother,” “On A Neck, On A Spit” – are guitarist and songwriter Daniel Rossen’s territory. Rossen has an gift for making songs that sound like something massive and dangerous brewing on the horizon, and he also has a gift for devastating, distorted guitar riffage – thus, enter Grizzly Bear’s new, Rossen-helmed single, “Sleeping Ute,” the first track on their as-yet-untitled fourth record.

Dudes jump from time signature to time signature like it ain’t no thing; Chris Bear’s drumming sounds like something huge collapsing, Rossen’s guitar work like bare electrical wires sparking in the rain; it ends in a sort of resigned way, guitars percolating under Rossen repeating “I can’t help myself” like a lounge singer. “Sleeping Ute” isn’t quite as instantly graspable as “Knife” or “Two Weeks” or any of the copycat hyper-accessible indie chamber pop that’s sprung up post-Veckatimest, but that’s what’s good about it – it’s an inscrutable, wild-eyed kind of song that really can’t be anything but Grizzly Bear. –– Genevieve Oliver



Fiona Apple: Werewolf (2 of5)

There are artists that inspire loyalty and unwavering admiration. And then there is Fiona Apple. Her lush piano arrangements and relatively sparse output has made her the kind of musician people speak about in hushed tones, like a hummingbird that no one wants to scare away. Her new, incredibly titled album is on the way and “Werewolf” will only serve to heighten the anticipation. The song tells the story of a relationship between two incompatible personalities. This emotional subject matter is appropriately set to a minimalist piano melody that gives Fiona's lovely voice room to open up. The most striking part of the song may be the off-kilter chorus, where all the time signatures seem to clash yet there is a beautiful harmony in the chaos. I imagine that this tune, beyond being a soundtrack for any number of breakups, will further embed Miss Apple in the collective psyche of her adoring fans. –– Drew Malmuth



Blood Diamonds & Grimes: Phone Sex (3 of5)

Grimes and Blood Diamonds have separately made hay reinventing and recontextualizing the generic tropes of modern pop music to suit their own futuristic purposes – hence, the bubblegum pop fantasy of “Phone Sex,” the collaborative single they’ve just released. The beat’s classic Blood Diamonds – you know, hyped-up Balearic-via-tropical brilliant synth swirls, clubby drum machine set to “fist pump,” bubbly steel drums, pitch-shifted vocals – and the otherworldly, sugar-sweet falsetto classic Grimes. In another world, probably one with lots of chromed-out space travel, “Phone Sex” would be the duo’s Top 40 smash, but even today it’s a hands-in-the-air sunshiny summer anthem that’s necessitates putting on repeat. –– Genevieve Oliver



Hot Chip: Let Me Be Him (4 of5)

Hot Chip are excellent at taking a medium that is often viewed as cold and detached (i.e. digital synthesis) and turning it into a warm embrace. “Let Me Be Him”, the epic 7 minute track off of their forthcoming In Our Heads, makes this abundantly clear. The soaring pop orchestration lead by Goddard's silky baritone makes me feel like I should be wearing protection just to listen to it. Goddard opens the track singing “all this freedom we get, it's not all its cracked up to be.” It's an excellent opening line that concisely captures the pain of losing intimacy once you've had it. The rest of tune swells and contracts like an edgier Phil Collins arrangement. It is a deeply human song that finds Hot Chip at their most cinematic and epic. –– Drew Malmuth


Niki + the Dove Instinct

Niki & The Dove: Gentle Roar (5 of5)

Niki & the Dove make a kind of fractured, diversely influenced pop that’s appealing in its weirdness, and they make a lot of it – a record dropping this year, Instinct, a mixtape to hype up for it, and a three-track EP, The Fox, which includes probably the best song of theirs we’ve heard yet, the delirious, creepily minimalistic “The Gentle Roar.” Singer Malin Dahlstrom keeps whispering “born on a Friday” and it feels like a big secret, something you’re not supposed to hear; even when her bandmates and producers blur her voice into more of a beat element than a front-and-center vocal performance, even when it gets hidden behind layered, echoed choir vocals and percussion that sounds like amplified water droplets, it still feels illicit, haunted, massive, empty, like an abandoned house or a forest of tall trees. –– Genevieve Oliver