Top 10 songs of 2012
The songs are listed in no particular order. Condensing the list to 10 presents enough difficulty, breaking them down any further would simply wring every last drop of joy out of the entire process.
1. Tame Impala – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
Never has unrequited love sounded this sweet. Bathed in reverb, lead singer Kevin Parker’s lilting vocals weave a tale as old as time; boy loves girl, girl doesn’t know boy exists. The heartbreak reveals itself in lines like “I’m just holding onto the hope that maybe your feelings don’t show.” You always hope someone loves you as much as you love them, but in the end, you never really know. This song details the next step; somewhere inside, you know they don’t feel the same, but you’re in denial. It’s an utterly helpless feeling, and it’s never sounded better.
2. Gotye – “Somebody That I Used To Know”
Rarely does a song you can’t escape announce itself with less fanfare. An intro of lightly-strummed guitar gives way to a tip-toeing xylophone before Walter de Backer, otherwise known as Gotye, begins to spin his yarn. Surprise – it’s about a relationship. He begins by reminiscing about the high points; the hyperbole-laced moments of clarity that arise in any relationship. “Now and then I think of when we were together,” Backer sings. “Like when you said you felt so happy, you could die.” The real emotion lies in the chorus. His vocals strain ever-so-slightly as he reaches for the notes. “You didn’t have to cut me out,” he sings, “make out like it never happened and that we were nothing.” It’s a beautiful example of the duality of relationships and how perspective is everything.
3. Sara Bareilles – “Once Upon Another Time”
The striking of a match, followed by the crackle of a lit candle, bring us into the world that Bareilles has created here. What follows is a beautiful ode to the loss of innocence that naturally occurs with the accumulation of years. An endless drive, with death as the final destination. “Once upon another time” she sings. “Somebody’s hands who felt like mine, turned the key and took a drive, I was free.” Bareilles’ vocals are flawless. Smoky and silky, they rise and fall, almost without effort. Near the end of the song, when she harmonizes with herself, the song floats off into the ether, lost forever. “Deciding nothing’s good in dying,” she sings. “So I would just keep on driving, because I was free.”
4. Hot Water Music – “Drag My Body”
This album might have never happened. After splitting on good terms in 2005, one of the band’s singers, Chuck Ragan, pursued a solo career. The rest of the band continued on before going on a hiatus that eventually became permanent. Fast-forward seven years and you have “Exister”, the band’s first full-length album in eight years. “Body” speaks to those who’ve had enough. The downtrodden who’ve lost their way. “I’m hardly feeling human anymore, enough to drag my body from the floor,” he sings in the chorus. It asks the proverbial question, regardless of form or language; is it better to have loved and lost or never loved at all? The protagonist is fed up, he’s clearly had enough. Does he take the road less traveled and never want for excitement, while constantly in search of stability or does he buck up and do what has to be done. Basically, adulthood is calling. Will you answer?
5. The Lumineers – “Ho Hey”
There is no current scarcity of folk-rock bands floating around. The Lumineers hail from Colorado. American-made folk-rock music. Another group from across the pond, Mumford and Sons, broke on the scene with their sophomore album “Sigh No More” in 2011. Even the Avett Brothers are on a roll. It’s currently a tough go of it out there in this particular genre. We’re only five songs in and I seriously hope you’re seeing a pattern develop. The best songs are always about love. Yeah, there’s jealousy and anger, but those are ancillary emotions. Necessary, yes, but only in the service of one thing: Love. So, on “Ho Hey”, what did the Lumineers do? They wrote a song about unrequited love. And put a unique call-and-response twist on it, sprinkled in a chorus that sounds like a cross between Twee and Folk and they made it all their own. Lead singer Wesley Schultz begins the song with a list, all the things he’s been doing in order to be a better man. “I been living a lonely life,” he sings. “I been sleeping in my bed.” The chorus is the perfect summation of all the feelings. Simple, and to the point. “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart,” he rationalizes. Growing up is hard to do, seldom is it this catchy.
6. Japandroids – “The Nights of Wine and Roses”
Fireworks greet you and prepare you for the celebration to come. The Canadian duo, consisting of Brian King on guitar and lead vocals with David Prowse on drums, are ready for whatever life brings. “Long lit up tonight and still drinking, don’t we have anything to live for,” King sings in the first verse. “Well, of course we do, but until they come true, we’re still drinking.” The trip isn’t about the destination. In this case, it’s about having as much fun along the way as is humanly possible. All this is featured against a backdrop of ragged rock n’ roll. Rollicking drums hold up ringing guitars that turn crunchy in the chorus. Overall, you have as much fun listening to the song as they have IN the song. Isn’t that what’s all about anyway?
7. Best Coast – “The Only Place”
“We were born with sun in our teeth and in our hair,” lead singer Bethany Cosentino declares in the song’s opening line. Another song about California and how awesome it is. Big deal, right? It’s an ode to California, to be sure, but it’s about home, in whatever form it takes and wherever it may be. Cosentino’s vocals are simultaneously substantive and fragile. They soar in the chorus as she extolls the virtues of California life. “Why would you live anywhere else,” she asks. “We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we’ve got the waves / this is the only place for me. Home, wherever it is, sounds like a great place.”
8. fun. – “We Are Young”
When you’re alone in the car, this is the chorus you shout at the top of your lungs, not really caring if the person next to you at the light thinks you’re crazy or not. “Young” is the sound of a generation trying to get its bearings, figuring out it doesn’t exactly like where the ship is heading, but figuring WTF, let’s ride it out.
9. Hot Chip – “Look At Where We Are”
What can I say about Hot Chip? You never know quite what to expect from the British quintet, but you can bet it will be earnest. And fun. With this song, we’re concentrating more on the ‘earnest’ and less on the ‘fun’. It’s a beautifully stark, modern love song for our time. They cleverly play with the lyrics in the first verse as lead singer Alexis Taylor uses mining terms as metaphors, hinting at a deeper and more concrete message. “From the deep silence of my mind / is something I’m trying to find,” he sings. “When it speaks, you know you will hear my name / Not so complex in design, but harder to mine/As I step, in vain.” Hot Chip are in the midst of a string of very solid albums and it’s always fun to hear what they will come up with next.
10. Bloc Party – “Kettling”
“We can feel it in our bones,” lead singer Kele Okereke declares during the songs’ chorus. “Kettling” recalls the band’s debut album with its sense of urgency. Ostensibly about the London riots in 2011, at least on the surface, it’s more about the winds of change that are blowing. Not only will the revolution be televised, it will be streamed for your viewing convenience. The older generations have given it the old college try, it’s time for the youth to take the mantle. And if the older generation doesn’t feel like letting it go, these kids might just take it. “We drop the lighter into the gas,” Okereke sings. “If the whole world is watching us, let them watch / let them watch.