Best of 2012….Best Singles/Songs

Best of 2012 Day 2: Top 12 Singles/songs

Ok, so “Singles of the Year”, lists tend to go to 10, but since I like Top 6 lists instead of Top 5, I’ll just double my “Top 6” list to 12.

WARNING!  Ahead lies not just indiepop, but actual “Pop”, pop. Proceed at the peril of your own indie cred! (and if that gag bummed you out, you can cry yourself to sleep at night on this.)

12: “Wacky Past Is Now” – Troubled Sleep.
What’s not to love about a band that takes its name from a Sartre play? When I first heard this leading off a comp album, (before you can ask, yes, *of course* it was from the peerless Skatterbrain.  I’m not gonna say it’s the best site on the web…no, wait, I’m gonna say EXACTLY that.)(1) I was so instantly smitten I ran out to order the 7” & have had it in constant rotation since. Loud, raw, urgent & quick: kinda like the best Sushi restaurant ever (from memory, back when I used to eat fish…if you think there’s a chance that the link was NOT to a Smiths song from an album by the same name…um: this).

11: “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” – Pink
It’s kinda hard not to like Pink. This bubble gum declaration of independence has teeth, but they are puppy teeth & kinda cause you to go “awww” even as the bites cut a bit. We’ve all been there & I think she handles the expression of these emotions with the right balance of vulnerability, determination and panache.

10: “A Team” – Ed Sheeran
(Don’t click on the link if you’re afraid of having a bit of a cry; this video just might do that to you)

It is a real surprise to me that this song is getting serious airtime on popular music stations. I guess I should say “half a surprise” because the song is just that good. Yes, the desire to amaze and captivate with little more than just a guitar and some words is the same one that launched every unpleasant experience you’ve ever had while listening to someone make their earnest plea for your attention at an open mic night, but that doesn’t diminish the power when someone pulls it off successfully. Let me put it this way, Ed Sheeran is opening for Taylor Swift this summer at the Rose Garden & I’m going. (Yes, of course I’m not paying for it, but still: yes. I’m gonna see this.) I hope how high this praise is shall not be lost on you, dear reader. Also, if you want to feel woefully lacking accomplishment in your own life, I’ll point out the lad is only a mere 21 years old. My crafty rebuttal? “Oh yeah? I’ll bet I drank more beers than you at that age.” Bravo, Michael Feck. Bravo. Also, at the risk of redundancy: don’t watch the video unless you’ve taken enough preemptive happy pills. Heavy stuff.

9: “Someone That I Used To Know” – Gotye
I admit, I used to hate on this song. I hated on it something fierce. It was, I suspect, because I wanted to believe something along the lines of “my emotions are unique and refined; they are complicated beyond the mere histrionic emotings of a pop song instantly beloved by the rabble.” Well, the rabble do not exist, or else we are all rabble & I’ll be damned (like my name was Dave Vanian. Yes! Still punk…) if I think I’m better or worse than anyone else or that this song doesn’t tap into a ubiquitous experience where someone you used to love now pretends that you don’t even exist. We have ALL been there. There’s two sorts of people: those who love this song and liars. Pick your team! Also, let’s not lose sight of the fact that, yeah, it’s just a well-crafted pop song. If you brush your teeth regularly, you can enjoy sweets without guilt!

8: “Bad Religion” – Frank Ocean
Seriously, the kind of longing, futility and acceptance in this song seems to out-Smiths the Smiths: from Moz’s “How can they see the love in our eyes and still they don’t believe us? And if they don’t believe us now, will they ever? (2) to “If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion.(3) Unrequited love is nothing but a one-man cult.” from Frank Ocean, the need for recognition from without and the attendant denial is so damn powerful, especially in light of the much publicized coming-out story. We are living in better times & it gets better every day. Also, this. If you wanna hand Frank the keys to the kingdom, Thom & let him front that band of yours for a spell, that’d be like, cool or whatever.

7: “Bitch Bad” Lupe Fiasco
If there’s anyone out there that can bring me back to caring about hip-hop, it’s Chi-town’s own Lupe Fiasco, & his helping to further the awareness of conscious hip-hop to the mainstream. Don’t let the title fool you; this song is about the pernicious effects of misogynist language in hip hop & why it has to stop. He makes a real case for it, instead of a well-intentioned but throwaway verse from MCA circa 1994. (RIP, Yauch. Yr sorely missed, homie.) I’m not speaking ill (no pun intended) of MCA, I’m just saying “Yo, knock it off” is a really different argument than, “here is the way that these things we don’t generally spend too much time considering radically alter our social fabric in a really bad way.”

Also, in the “Act III” section of the video, the reasoning Lupe lays out for even putting away reappropriative/reclaimed usage of the B-word:
“Just like that, you see the fruit of the confusion
He caught in a reality, she caught in an illusion
Bad mean good to her, she really nice and smart
But bad mean bad to him, bitch don’t play a part
But bitch still bad to her if you say it the wrong way
But she think she a bitch, what a double entendre”

also applies well to the same-intentioned use (or ANY use) of the N-word. This is the sort of song that could reasonably inspire a masters’ thesis, so I’ll just leave off by pointing out that I find it sophisticated without being overtly preachy like an ispy song (again, not hatin’: I loved ispy, – & how can you not after seeing that video? They were just kinda preachy, is all. I know I didn’t give a great example, because I linked to a clip I really liked, but trust me: they got kinda preachy at times) and is just really the height of what a pop song can do: entertain and get you to think all in the same 3 minute burst.

6: “Green Eyed” September Girls
What’s up with the Irish being the masters of shoegaze? Yeah, I’ma let you finish Ride & Slowdive, & The Fleeting Joys & Ringo Deathstarr but MBV, Girls’ Names, The Butterfly Explosion & most of all September Girls have this game on lock. On lock! From those first echoey bell-like lines, you’ll just surrender like a Cheap Trick song.

5:  “We Are Young” Fun. (Featuring Janelle Monae) I’ve lived the lyrics to this song. I imagine most of us boozy barhounds here in Portland have. You know: those emotional moments of clarity in the midst of some frantic gathering or other where it’s hot outside but snowing in the bathroom & you’re trying to juggle the bit of trouble you know with that much bigger bit of trouble you wish you knew better & the idea of just trying to take care of each other the best we can & do the least damage somehow seems heroic in the middle of all the thoughtless decadence. This cheesy little song has both caught my widest grins & inspired more tears than I’d care to admit. It’s so good that I’ve even included the obnoxious punctuation (though, after giving it a moment of thought, I just realized that the period makes it self-effacing, which makes it ever-so-much-less obnoxious to me).

4: “Ho Hey” The Lumineers
This is the very very closest I can get to that whole “indie folk” thing that the nation seems to be awakening from its dogmatic slumber about (Yo, surf pop & garage power pop are like reading Hume. I Kant believe I just said that. ONLY REEDIES UNDERSTAND ME…and even they don’t understand me. 3 philosophers referenced in one mere parenthetical aside! Yr welcome. Also, DIAF, Mumford & Sons. No, I really don’t mean that & it’s not clever at all to say such things; I just mean: please don’t let your music be within earshot of me. Please?). This song is the height of “simple lyrics, complex ideas”. In perfect pop fashion it’s over before it really began. The rest of the songs on this album are hit & miss, but this one hits & stings like the best ones do.

3:  “Your Doubting Heart” The Hobbes Fanclub
Speaking of Hume, you’ll have no need to be skeptical or doubt how crushingly infatuating the indiepop is from this English trio. So infectious, but penicillin won’t return your phone calls; it’s too busy pouring this earworm shots & making it popcorn while the wee viral bastard warms itself by the fire. Damn you, Hobbes Fanclub, for making whining about an overprotective significant other sound so wonderfully tuneful. With a hook this big, they could catch a Great White Shark if they wanted to.

2: “My Life Is Wrong” – Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This East River Pipe cover (actually it’s the B-Side to their 7” cover of The Magnetic Fields’ “Jeremy”) is a tear-jerker, even ratcheted up to the manic crashpop speed that PoBPaH give it. The song starts out seeming like a broken-hearted love song, begging some unseen force “Let me wake up right…let me wake up right, because I know my life is wrong, you told me so.” Crushing, right? Then the last lines appear, “daddy, daddy, please don’t go” and you realize it’s a child begging a father to stay around & imagining that some minor transgression is the cause, like “daddy’s leaving and never coming back because I accidentally threw a baseball through the front window & I’ll never ever ever touch a baseball again, just please come back.” If that doesn’t crush your heart thinking about…then I don’t think I have very much in common with you.

1: “It’s Always A Good Time” Owl City & Carly Rae Jepson.

I KNOW.  IKNOWIKNOWIKNOW. (yo, that album cover is one of the most disconcertingly beautiful, scary & dreamy things I’ve ever seen, BT Dubs. Yes, I own it on vinyl; what of it?)

I KNOW! Say horrible things. Go ahead. You wanna know what’s revolutionary? Having a good time. Being comfortable in your own skin. Not feeling like every smile is a lie, hiding the true and unpleasant nihilistic experience of existence. Being happy is *not* necessarily being shallow. Just because conflict lies at the heart of Occidental conceptions of narrative doesn’t mean that sadness, anger and strife make existence more real or art that captures that suffering somehow more meritorious. The unpleasant things in life will race towards you with full haste and no mercy so why run headlong into them in return?

There is joy in this song, an unbridled joy that is as certain that it is ok to have a good time as it is in actually having a good time. Tolstoy was wrong: every happy family is *not* the same & nuance is as manifold to varieties of bliss as it is to the catalogs of depravity.

In short, yes, there *is* a “right side of the bed”, and waking up on it is in fact worthy of celebration. The music perfectly captures this experience with just the lightest tiny feather’s touch of gravitas, which differentiates it from falling over that hair’s threshold into saccharine Rebecca Black (4) territory. I am wholly comfortable declaring this track the “Best Song of 2012” & am totally unconcerned with what you might think of me as a result. Dare to be happy.

Honorable Mention(5) to:
Icona Pop“I Love It”
DIIV’s – “Geist”,
Purity Ring’s – “Obedear”,
Bat For Lashes’ out-Tori-ing of Tori Amos on “Laura”,
Beach House’s “Myth” (that song really turned me around on them, and set them apart from Real Estate and Tennis for me…but not by very much) and
Jessie Ware’s – “Wildest Moments” which answers the question of “What if ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ wasn’t maudlin bombast and actually achieved the emotional impact it so ambitiously strive for?”. Also, Grimes is awesome, but you already know this.

Mr. F.

1: Also, WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THERE’S A NEW TULLYCRAFT ALBUM COMING OUT & THAT THE NEW SINGLE IS ALREADY STREAMABLE?!?! What the hell, Seattle people? Did you get so high that you forgot to keep your lil’ Feckin’ buddy living down south along the I-5 in the loop?

2: I know I said “Moz’s”, but I figured if you were brave enough to click on the link, even knowing exactly what it’s gonna be, then you deserve the pleasant surprise that awaits. And if it’s not a pleasant surprise: glad you found us here by accident; pull up a chair & stay for a spot of tea, won’t you? The band from the aforementioned link weren’t a love at first sight scenario for me, but more like the weird kid in the 1st grade who you used to make mudpies in the sandbox with & never thought twice about, but sometimes said things that made you laugh & grew into themselves in a unique way that you never really took any kind of notice of, until one day junior year, they said something funny in class & you looked over & your eyes for just a slight bit longer than you might expect as you shared the laugh & you found yourself thinking of this person as you walked home past all the turning and falling leaves & a week later you were surprised to find yourself writing their initials & yours absent-mindedly in your notebook inside a heart & then a month later all the leaves are gone & you’re walking hand-in-hand down to a cafe for coffee, a slice of pie & a bit of ignored homework, silently wondering how a careless mudpie could wind up tasting so unexpectedly sweet as the years continue to wrap surprises up in bows for you. The discovery you come late to may be the best one to awaken to…or next to, should friendship strangely and effortlessly turn to love.

3: No, not that one.  Go back to your dissertation in the discipline of evolutionary biology, Mr…no, excuse me, Dr. Graffin & back to running Epitaph records, Mr. Gurewitz.

4: OF COURSE I’m linking to the Black Metal version.

5:  I left Capricornia (indietracks festival version in link!) off, because I don’t want this blog to devolve into the unapologetic loveletter to Slumberland Records (especially Allo Darlin’) that it might otherwise become if left to my own devices, but seriously: the words to that song bring me to tears if I look at them on a page, yet make me want to dance if I heard them sung.  I just can’t think of anything else that even remotely inspires a similar response. Evans The Death’s “I’m So Unclean” (also indietracks!) could have hit the top spot too, were it not released on the back side of Threads in 2011.

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