This blog has been a little more quiet in 2012 than in the past, but there’s never a reason to not announce the objectively best songs of the year (excluding last year, when I never got around to it).
15: I’ll Be Alright by Passion Pit
After ruining our teeth in 2010 with their bouncing sugary synth-pop, Passion Pit again foiled hard-working dentists this year with Gossamer. While it doesn’t quite stand up to Manners as an album, it has some excellent highlights including I’ll Be Alright. Characteristic of the album’s subject matter in exploring how to cope through hardships, of which songwriter Michael Angelakos apparently has plenty, the track’s jolting drive is Passion Pit’s primary contribution to the world’s general happiness in 2012.
14: Some Nights by fun.
Apart from achieving the unusual feat of nailing what Queen would sound like after a few years spent in Africa, Fun replicated Passion Pit’s penchant for hiding anguish behind sublime pop music. With a chorus to die for, a bridge to feel intrusive for singing along to, and a broad accessibility, Some Nights’ hook has that cherished ability to pop up when least expected and refuse to leave.
13: Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past by Sufjan Stevens
Maybe it’s the festive season getting to me, but Sufjan’s offering to December’s musical pit is as good as those of a certain Bublè, although Sufjan actually wrote this one. It sounds even more Christmas-y than the final ten seconds of Cousins by Vampire Weekend, and I can’t wait for my future children to be singing about how ‘drinking makes it easy, the music’s kind of cheesy,’ as well as about how they’re Christmas Unicorns.
12: Breezeblocks by Alt-J
Now Mercury Prize-winning Alt-J, their debut album keeps surprising people I know who listen to it and get swept up in its bizarre vocals and stellar instrumentation. Breezeblocks makes the cut above other tracks like Fitzpleasure, Dissolve Me and Tessellate on the strength of its bridge, which surely has to be one of the finest achievements of engineering of the century.
11: Pyramids by Frank Ocean
So it turns that guy who can both improve a Kanye/Jay-Z song and be a member of a abhorrent musical collective (OFTKWGAWKA or something) can also write a superb album. Responsible for one of my highlights of the year in which the Guardian review spent much of the time discussing his sexuality before closing with ‘The whys and wherefores of Frank Ocean’s sexuality seem completely irrelevant. Which is, of course, just as it should be.’ Pyramids, a ten-minute epic is the standout song on Channel Orange, delving into synth-funk, a smooth jam and something called R&B. While the album was probably too long, Pyramids adroitly dodges the same issue, justifying its length with visits to a vast array of various genres as well as a solo from John Mayer, which segues nicely into-
10: Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967 by John Mayer
This year John Mayer bought a cool hat and decided to visit his roots. The result was Born and Raised, the first of his albums I’ve managed to really enjoy. Walt Grace is a song about a man who ignores the scepticism of his family and builds a submarine, later laughing at the doubters from Tokyo. Surprisingly very Noah’s Ark in its theme, the track is framed by the delectable musicianship that is Mayer’s wont.
9: 1904 by The Tallest Man On Earth
More prone to dividing masses than Moses, Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man On Earth (he’s quite short) released another stellar album this year. Despite my limited authority to make a claim such as ‘this is what folk music should sound like,’ it still doesn’t stop me from saying it in regards to this guy, incidentally as well as to Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. 1904 could even be my alarm tone and I would never tire of it. Sydneysiders let me know if you want to see him at the Opera House in March.
8: Good Time by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
‘Hands up if you’re down to get down tonight.’ Yeah, look, I’m just as surprised as you are that a track by these two is on this list, but I had to be honest to myself and to my millions of readers. Despite being full of more chorus than Pumped Up Kicks, like that track Good Time’s choral repletion was the best possible option, as it’s happier than Taylor Swift receiving an award. If you ignore its advocacy of wasting the time of cab-drivers, it possibly even contains a good message for kids, encouraging them to find the positives in any situation, which is important in this current pop music landscape of Kesha and Gagagaga.
7: Oblivion by Grimes
I’m not going to chuck a Pitchfork and call this the best song of the year, but by golly (who even says that?) it’s close. I know without doubt that if I didn’t inexplicably ignore the gargantuan hype about Grimes all year before only recently investigating her tunes it would be even higher on this list. 2012’s equivalent to Lana Del Rey’s Video Games, for which I also persistently ignored my personal rule of never listening to one song over and over, it’s excellent and superb and more. And she actually pulls off a backwards cap in the video clip.
6: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards by Tame Impala
I’m possibly swayed by the fact that I achieved the monumental accomplishment of receiving over one hundred likes from a Youtube comment on this video, but irrespective of possible weaknesses to public recognition, this track is a winner in every respect. It has bass a la funk muy exelente, a chorus that transcends its foundational perfection when sung in a live setting by the crowd, and the dream-like doziness that Tame Impala do so marvellously. Well done boys.
5: This Song is Called Raggard by Jonathan Boulet
It may not be the greatest song ever written in the same way that A Community Service Announcement is, but Boulet brings the goods in this track about which I have little to say other than my enjoyment level peaks every time it’s played.
4: Today’s Supernatural by Animal Collective
After winning over the world with Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective isolated quite a few newfound fans with this year’s follow-up, Supernatural HZ. I’m yet to listen to it extensively but the same can’t be said of Today’s Supernatural, which burrowed its way into my regular listening tracklist and refused to budge. The lyrics’ mention of the one comprehensible term ‘erratic seesaw’ encapsulate the song’s sound better than I ever could. So, in conclusion, the song is an erratic seesaw.
3: Down In The Willow Garden by The Chieftains & Bon Iver
I have no idea who The Chieftains are, but this blog’s love for Bon Iver (read: my love for Bon Iver) has been well documented in documentaries and Word documents the world over. Regardless of a possible excess of appreciation for a particular artist, this track is a cheap method for transporting you to a small Irish campfire in the 1800’s, which is always helpful. If I could, I’d give Mr Vernon another Grammy for this cover of Down In The Willow Garden. Not that he’d really want it.
2: R U Mine? by Arctic Monkeys
I thought this would be the best track of the year, but in the end it was pipped at the post by a true champion, much like we would have spoken a year ago about losing to Lance Armstrong. The Arctic Monkeys, off the back of last year’s album Suck It And See (which is actually a sublime record that I spent most of the year listening to repeatedly) showed a cooler side than ever before with R U Mine, despite its vomit-worthy spelling of the title. As rock music increasingly holds less relevance to my life, the Arctic Monkeys always manage to demand attention and produce the goods required to maintain it.
1: Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
Were you stuck on a desert island, would you rather be in possession of a roller-coaster or a Monet painting? Yes, water-lilies are nice enough, but sometimes sources of fun can be more valuable than fine pieces of art, and Call Me Maybe is the supreme example of pleasure’s ability to trump artistic proficiency in some special instances. A saccharine song that deserves to be preserved for posterity, this mellifluous track outdid every single other collection of musical notes created in recent history and isn’t likely to be matched – ever – in its perfect encapsulation of pop music’s appeal. The verses are surprisingly enjoyable, the chorus sublime in every way (including the chorus repeat in its first play!), and the bridge somehow evokes a beautiful image of colossal tapestries billowing in a hurricane’s gale (2:23). The best song of the year.