We’re continuing our End of the Year coverage this week with a number of articles, and namely, this list. It’s our Top 100 Songs of 2012. We’ll be posting 20 songs a day, starting today with songs 100-81.
To help make this list, we recruited a number of opinions by musicians, songwriters, and music “experts.” They’ve been kind enough to share their opinions on a number of songs sprinkled throughout the list. Be on the lookout.
For our Top 40 Lubbock Songs of 2012 list, check out the following:
For our Reader’s Poll, click here.
Our Top 100 Songs of 2012 will be released throughout the week on the following schedule:
Check out the Spotify Playlist here.
As a big fan of Swedes who make electronic music, Icona Pop are right up my alley. With just two EPs under their belt–and a debut coming out next year–these ladies have the swagger and chops of seasoned pros. Their “Iconic” EP released earlier this fall featured heavy club bangers such as “Ready For the Weekend,” Good For You,” and “Manners,” their breakthrough to the general public via Chiddy Bang. But the centerpiece and biggest hit from Icona Pop is “I Love It.” It’s a bass heavy and synth happy song about not caring and loving it. It’s about setting yourself free from whatever is weighing you down. It doesn’t really hurt that it’s a dance anthem either. Need to stay warm over the winter months? Do yourself a favor and check out “Iconic.” It’s Robynesque dance tracks with an edgy twist that you can jam all year-long. –LESLEY PICON
99. “Hey Jane” Spiritualized
“Sweet Heart Sweet Light”
I’ve only listened to “Hey Jane” about five times since it dropped, for the same reasons no one listens to “Heroes” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” several times in a row. Its pleasures are to be hoarded, saved for only those times when the sun is setting just right or when the company is special. “Hey Jane” is your dad’s ’66 Impala–stealing the keys for a joyride is a solemn event to be treasured.–RYAN HEAPE
Earnestness was a welcome virtue in the rock music of 2012. The Internet can be mean to guitar bands! The Twitter cynics are out in force these days, and you just don’t want to get caught singing bullshit over tired riffs. “There are no mirrors here/do what you want, be who you want to be,” Nick Chiericozzi yells on this song. It’s cute on paper; on record The Men make it devastating. Their LP, “Open Your Heart,” is not unlike a great theatrical performance. The script might be similar, and some of the riffs might be borrowed, but you swear the actors’ emotions are real.–RYAN HEAPE
97. “Santa Ana Winds” Sons of Bill
The Southeast coast just seems to be the right spot for alternative country bands to sprout. Sons of Bill hail from Charlottesville, Virginia. And like the endless amount of bands before them–Whiskeytown, Drive-By Truckers, and American Aquarium to name a few–they too are dead set to tell their stories through the end of a whiskey bottle. “Santa Ana Winds” is the rambling, first song off their 2012 record “Sirens.” It’s a drive down the highway with the windows down and the wind through your hair. Nothing makes you want to get out-of-town and just leave your life like “Santa Ana Winds.”–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Have you guys ever seen a rock band before? If not, here you go. Here’s one here right now. And they’re actually in two rock and roll bands. Rise & Shine is the Dallas-based duo side-project of Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights drummer Jordan Cain and guitarist Brandon “Kansas” Pinckard. It’s blues heaven right here on “Riverbottom.” It’s a Black Keysesque song that’s armed with a driving guitar and pounding drums. You get the urge to yell about being a golden god as the song trails off. And while Rise & Shine’s record isn’t even technically out (due out early ’13), it’s hard to passover a song like “Riverbottom” for a list like this–especially when it’s on their Facebook and Reverbnation pages. You just can’t not like it.–-THOMAS D. MOONEY
Sleigh Bells came out hard in 2009 with the single “Rill Rill,” in which they showed they were a very groovy, loop-based duo and were destined to be a real contender in the alternative rock world. Luckily, their second full-length record, “Reign of Terror” is no slump. It brings us the single “Comeback Kid,” which has a new spin on their sound with a “foot a bit more in the accelerator” feel, but maintaining the pocket feel we have come to expect. It’s quite possibly one of the best night driving songs I’ve ever heard, giving pace, but never losing focus. With “Comeback Kid,” Sleigh Bells has set a wonderful precedent to take their music even farther in the future.–WILL BOREING, Melanee, Red & The Vityls
“I’ll Be Alright” is one of the most honest songs I’ve heard this year. Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos has been publicly battling his bipolar disorder and it nearly bested him earlier in the year. When asked on Twitter about what inspired the new album,”Gossamer,” Angelakos simply responded, “a manic episode.” “I’ll Be Alright” is indeed manic. It swells with that signature Passion Pit sound of jittery glitches and booming drum machines, all while staying true to a smoothly orchestrated beat. Angelakos and company have perfected the formula of dissidence to harmony with “I’ll Be Alright.” Behind the dazzling production are lyrics seemly torn from the journal of a person at their most vulnerable moment: “I’m so self-loathing that is hard for me to see/reality from what I dream and no one believes me.” The track as a whole is a stand out. In a time where everyone uses a synth, Passion Pit still manages to shine.–AARON SMITH
K. Phillips came out of nowhere in 2012 with his Concho Pearls when he dropped his debut record, “American Girls.” Phillips gets lumped up with the number of alternative this and alternative that bands that are coming out of Austin these days that end up being labeled as “Texas Country.” But Phillips’ music lies closer to the heartland than his peers. Like Tom Petty’s “American Girl” with an equal dose of soulful Joe Cocker pipes and Leon Russell keyboard/piano play. “American Girls” overall is jam-packed with upbeat “Exile on Main St” era Stones ramblers such as “To Dance With You,” “Does it Hold Water,” and “Not My Baby Anymore,” but Phillips really shines through brightest on the quieter, more intimate “You Don’t Hafta.” It’s a song you’d find nestled in the middle of an early Jackson Browne record.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Nothing captured the spontaneity and blending of music quite like Father John Misty in 2012. He morphs into something different from song to song, and sometimes within a song, on “Fear Fun.” To really understand the Misty mysticism, you’ve got to hear the whole story and the birth of Father John Misty. The story makes Edward Sharpe blush with envy. The Sparknotes version is this: Father John Misty, most commonly known as J. Tillman, was the drummer for Fleet Foxes when he abruptly quit the band after a show in Japan to focus on his own music. Tillman previously was a singer-songwriter before joining the Foxes back in 2008. After recording their sophomore record, “Helplessness Blues,” Tillman lived in his “van down by the river” and dropped acid everyday for about a month. During this time, he wrote a novel and once that novel was finished, began writing new music, reborn as Father John Misty. And after performing at a number of strip clubs in the Seattle area (Google search it), Father John Misty’s “Fear Fun” was ready for a Subpop Records release. Now, take that all with a grain of salt, but hell, it certainly creates an amazing character.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Time and place and empty spaces. This seems to be the very world we can only begin to describe when it comes to addressing The xx. To take and turn our rock critic vernacular in on itself is what The xx have seemed to do almost right away. But is anybody really paying attention to what’s going on in the music? At times it’s hard for even this fucking guy to fully grasp the quiet, brilliant enormity of it all. ‘Angels’ is honest in scope and powerful in the delivery. And it also happens to be one of the BEST songs of the year. And with that remember this music lover: at the top of the mountain, there is nothing. The xx dare you to meet them there.–BRIAN FLORES, Nadia
Alex Turner and Arctic Monkeys have had this wavy trajectory over the past three years. Between the caliginous epic “Humbug” in 2009, the first Alex Turner solo project with the pensive and warm soundtrack to the 2011 British indie film Submarine, and the boyish dream rock of their fourth LP, “Suck It And See,” lies some line of best fit, perhaps. And maybe it was a downward trend–not of quality necessarily, but of energy. Turner just turned 25 this past year, but with an old soul and almost a decade of touring under his belt, it made sense that “Suck It And See” is about aging. Side A of the LP is lovesick and devilish, with lyrics as simple as “I wanna rock and roll, brick by brick,” and, “lately I’ve been seeing things/belly button piercings.” By the end, everything is “rocking chairs” and breaking it to someone who “you’re not the only one that time has got it in for, honey.” Forward to 2012, where they released a standalone single called “R U Mine?” and an accompanying video that is as embarrassingly silly and amazing as it hopes to be. For Arctic Monkeys, wistfulness and nostalgia have taken a back seat to the cheekiness of lines like “she’s a silver lining/lone ranger riding.” Look at Turner in that video, delivering such lines like the leathered-up asshole he is. “Are you mine tonight girl? Or just mine tonight?” If he weren’t such a lovable asshole, we might stand a chance at telling him “no.”–RYAN HEAPE
I really don’t want to make this into a “WHY NO OUTKAST ALBUM?!” post. I really don’t, so I’ll try and not to. The thing is, you can’t talk about Big Boi without wondering where in the hell Andre 3000 is (I guess we know the answer, Gillette commercials shaving). Until an Outkast album is in the works, it’s something that should always be mentioned in the first lines of anything about either rappers. And on to the song…Why isn’t Kelly Rowland singing more choruses on hip-hop songs? She’s sneaky good. And really, she does kind of outshine Big Boi on “Mama Told Me.” The chorus is complete ear candy where Rowland sings the overly simple, repetitive (in a good way) chorus.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Shovels & Rope very well could be my favorite band of the year. Their sound just cuts deep and gets into your bones. Carry Ann Hearst (You’ll know her as the female vocals from Hayes Carll’s “Another Like You”) and Michael Trent individually wrote dust bowl ballad stompers before they decided to form Shovels & Rope. You couldn’t have imagined the rag-tag “sloppy tonk” music they’d make would and could be more energetic and gritty, but with “O’ Be Joyful,” they did just that. It’s not meant to be an insult by any means, but they sound like they just collected a number of slightly broken instruments–a guitar here, a snare drum there–and decided to start writing music. It’s genuine more than anything else.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Producer Best Kept Secret’s work here borders on meta: the track samples Kid Cudi, MGMT, and Ratatat’s college anthem, “Pursuit Of Happiness,” by sampling Lissie’s awesome, stripped-down live cover of that song. Rising star Schoolboy Q retains Cudi’s initial “why did I drink so much and smoke so much?” sentiment. “Am I over-faded? Hell yeah it’s true,” he says. “I love drunk driving, man I’m something else.” Then after A$AP Rocky arrives and spits a verse containing mentions of every known controlled substance, the intoxicated blur of “Hands On The Wheel” feels a lot like (fellow Black Hippy affiliate) Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools.” Though where Kendrick painfully bared his black conscience, Q seems unapologetic about acting a fool. Yeah, but we need smart bangers like this to soundtrack our pre-parties as well as our hangovers.–RYAN HEAPE
“Plague” could not be a more appropriate title for the first track off of Crystal Castles’ 2012 full length release, “(III).” The song intros with a growling, bordering on dissonant, ambient loop. Similar to an image gaining better resolution over time, or someone regaining audible consciousness after a loud explosion. The main synth line rises from these ominous beginnings and carries on for the remainder of the track. Alice Glass’ initial vocal lines are pleading and almost intimate, as if trying to negotiate a peace before unavoidable catastrophe. A strong kick sets the stage for an explosive chorus that gives the song it’s title. Alice’s lyrics craft imagery of war, death, and destruction, focusing inwardly and ending two separate phrases with repeated lines of “I am the Plague.” This trade-off between an accepting verse and disgusted chorus is interrupted later in the song by pulsating siren synths, giving the listener and since of impending doom. Heavy compression, guttural minor melodies, and sharp unforgiving progressions leave the listener feeling like a bystander or innocent civilian merely caught up in Glass’ personal musical war.–TYLER HARDY, Above the Empire
The first time I heard “& It Was U,” I scrambled to the floorboard of my car to get my iPhone to see what I was listening to, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the track I’d been skipping purely because of the Internet abbreviation used in the title. But what can I say? I couldn’t ignore the soul any longer. How To Dress Well’s use of a simple beat with a falsetto driven harmony is hypnotizing to say the least. It’s hard to ignore the–dare I say–homage to the early 90s soul/R&B style, circa Boys II Men. Tom Krell doesn’t just add to an already proven formula, he takes it and runs with it. His experimental production skills shine on this track along with his smooth soulful voice. “& There Was U” was the surprise of the year for me. It’s played on repeat in my car, and I personally can’t wait to hear more from How To Dress Well in the future. Now, can a brotha get some soul?–AARON SMITH
I am not shy to voice my dissenting opinion about Brooklyn-based electronic bands. I personally believe that it’s an easy, overused style specifically designed to make the asses of fauxhemians move while smoking Parliaments. With that said, I love Tanlines. There’s something about the duo that has sucked me in; I’ve drank the punch, and dammit, it’s refreshing. What separates Tanlines from the rest of the Brooklyn electro-scene is their use of their music reputare. They have a variety of styles ranging from club dance to African drum beats. I would consider “Brothers” a low-fi club beat; it’s not too dancey, but it’s enough to keep you interested. But what really stands out in this particular track are the sincereness of the lyrics. “Change my mind, make mistakes, and put it past them/raise the bar, set the course/and rewind to them.” I have always been a fan of artists who can blend a relatable meaning behind a catchy tune, and Tanlines pulls it off well. “Brothers” is a solid track that keeps your head bobbing while making the listener feel a part of the story within the song. Tanlines may not be the most popular electro-duo, but when it comes to substance, they rank high and they prove it with “Brothers.”–AARON SMITH
A$AP Rocky came out of no where in 2011 with his Harlem swagger and vocabulary and Houston trill big beats and hooks. He really made his first impact with “Purple Swag,” an intriguing song with an equally interesting music video. You asked yourself if you really thought it was good. You questioned wether it was a maintainable sound. Was there substance or was it all fluff? In ’12, Rocky answered that question. It was a little bit of both. And with that, Rocky seems to be the face of what hip-hop looks like in this next decade. It’s something that has street cred while also being appreciated by hipsters, hip-hopheads, as well as passer-bys who are only interested in what sounds good in a club.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Ray Wylie Hubbard is the elder statesmen of Texas music at this point in his career. In saying that, he’s still writing songs that are just as vigorous as any of the young guns around. He’s still as potent as any of those snakes he refers to from time to time, like that double-headed one he mentions here on “New Year’s Eve at the Gates of Hell” for instance. Hubbard’s 2012 release, “The Grifter’s Hymnal” is a record you’d certainly wouldn’t mind referencing mid-apocalypse. It’s a bit of a guide. On “New Year’s Eve,” you catch a glimpse of Hubbard just spewing his venom. He name checks a number of hell-bounders throughout, but when it comes down to it, he’s questioning his own righteousness and destiny. As he said in an interview last spring, “when you get older, you think more about your mortality.” Now that’s something everyone can relate to.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
When I was first introduced to The Orwells earlier this year, I was shocked by a few things by the Chicago suburb punk band. The overwhelming influence on the band of late teens (really, the majority of these guys are 17) has been garage punk bands like The Black Lips. And that to me, is what’s the most astonishing piece of the puzzle. It’s one of those signs that you’re getting “older.” The Black Lips, for me, always felt like a band I’d relate to my high school/freshman days, which wasn’t too long ago. Essentially, the point I’m trying to make here is that I never thought The Black Lips would be the staple influence on a band so soon. But it’s happened with The Orwells (and a few others for that matter). “All the Cool Kids” is a time machine. It takes you back to your teens. It’s immature. It’s awkward. It’s favorite movie is “Dumb & Dumber.” Teenage angst is live and well. Be glad. It’s reassuring that not every teenager is listening to One Direction, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez.–THOMAS D. MOONEY