Tracking 2012's Best Songs #19 - Pretty Much Amazing

Tracking 2012's Best Songs #19

This week on Twerps.
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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 The xx, Animal Collective, Cat Power, Shy Kids and Twerps.

(Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)


The xx - "Chained" (1 of5)

After the gorgeous and bare first single and opening track "Angels," Coexist's second song, “Chained,” is more indicative of the rest of the album, as it showcases all three members in peak form. Sim's velvety voice makes a grand entrance into the arrangement and one can't help but notice that he has matured as a singer. There is a seductiveness to his croon, a kind of eery yet comforting allure. Paired with Madley Croft the duo make for one of the most engrossing vocal pairs of the last few years. To go along with that, Jamie xx hovers silently in the background, sculpting deep drum rhythms and sophisticated synth patches. The tone of “Chained” is altered when the drums kick in mid-measure and only slowly work their way into the rhythm of the song. It's something you would find on a Nicolass Jarr or a Burial track and it is the first glimpse of the influence dance music has had on Coexist's sound. Once all together, the song's elements form a beautiful harmony; particularly as Madley Croft and Sim mirror the song's chord changes with their voices. The song would be perfect if not for its abrupt ending. It seemed like it had so much more to say but was unnecessarily stopped in mid-sentence. –– Drew Malmuth



Animal Collective "Wide Eyed" (2 of5)

“Wide Eyed,” an early standout from Centipede Hz, has all the usual elements of a great Animal Collective song – fuzzed out synthesizers, a hypnotic, pounding drum beat, and a wacky array of random aquatic and computer noises squeezing themselves in. But there’s one glaring difference: the lead vocals. Taking charge on this song isn’t a cracked-out, shouty version of Brian Wilson but instead a lower-register, dallying warble that brings to mind a more robotic James Murphy. If Panda Bear and Avey Tare are the Paul and John of Animal Collective, Deakin and Geologist are George and Ringo – still recognized, but nowhere near the main attraction. On “Wide Eyed,” though, it’s Deakin’s time to shine, as he nails his first-ever lead vocal performance on a song he wrote (it’s his "Think For Yourself" moment). The change, as I mentioned, is obvious. Deakin’s vocals give the song even more of a droning, trance-inducing feel – like snake-charming music for the ATP crowd. But it still fits the vibe of the music Animal Collective continues to put out: ever-churning, ear-thumping stomp-a-long pieces that are impossible to pigeonhole. –– Adam Offitzer



Cat Power - "Cherokee" (3 of5)

Cat Power’s updated sound on new album Sun is bold and energetic. “Cherokee” is the first introduction the listener has to the maturation of Marshall’s songwriting, and it does not disappoint. On the chorus, Chan Marshall sings “if I die before my time bury me upside down.” Historically, an upside down burial entailed a post-mortem punishment. Criminals or those that committed suicide were sometimes buried this way as a final scarlet letter – a final emblem of shame. Marshall clearly still looks back on her life with mixed emotions. Perhaps anger, guilt, and remorse intertwine with relief that things have now become better. Her ability to convey emotion through her voice is as strong as ever, yet “Cherokee”’s instrumentation stands in contrast to her morose tone. Especially during the chorus, one isn’t sure whether to feel uplifted or to reflect on the nature of death. The disparity of these elements is captivating. –– Drew Malmuth



Sky Kids - "Raise 'Em Right" (4 of5)

From the initial tribal howling of “Raise ‘Em Right,” Shy Kids instantly bring to mind the wild sounds of Animal Collective. The influence is obvious, but Shy Kids are able to distance themselves in a major way – accessibility. Unlike early Animal Collective (or even much of Centipede Hz), “Raise ‘Em Right” is an immediately enjoyable listen, with screaming at a minimum and instead an emphasis on sing-along harmonies, “do-do-dos” and rollicking, Afro-beat percussion. It’s a song I would have no fear playing for my parents, which is something I can’t say about “Today's Supernatural.” Speaking of parents, they are the subjects of the song’s playful and powerful lyrics. "Raise 'Em Right" opens with a statement that is equally funny and true: “Anyone can have kids, even if you're stupid. Ask your parents, they did.” As the song builds to its conclusion, the band chants a laundry list of essential childhood memories: "Playtime and pretend, imaginary friends...books read before bed, can't get them out my head...first dates and heartbreaks, and homemade birthday cakes. ” With lyrics like these, and an EP title like Field Trips, Shy Kids are clearly aiming to live up to their name by writing songs with a uniquely young voice. “My backpack makes me feel so lucky,” they sing on “Teachers.” “I’ve got pockets full of optimism, and a mind made of putty.” While the childish lyrics could come off as lame, Shy Kids make it work, hitting that nostalgic sweet spot. “Raise ‘Em Right” and all of Field Trips will have you longing for the days of recess, lunch-packs, and the bus ride home. –– Adam Offitzer



Twerps - "He's In Stock" (5 of5)

“He’s In Stock” breezes along casually with an old-school swagger for an extremely quick two minutes and 24 seconds, ending before you know what hit you. With guitars strumming calmly in the background, lead singer Marty Frawley sings like a true “twerp” - he's got a natural, charismatic punk-rock attitude. The vocals aren't so much angry as they are aggressive; oozing with confidence. As a result, the track strikes a perfect balance between new-wave chill college rock (Real Estate) and vintage ‘70s underground punk (The Clash). So while it’s undeniably a light, easygoing summer song, the tone is moody enough to keep “He’s In Stock” on your radar through the fall and winter. –– Adam Offitzer