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 yesterday. Today, we’re posting songs 40-21.
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.
Check out the Spotify Playlist here.
I have eighty-fourish things to say about “Mercy,” here are three of them: 1. Big Sean’s presence on the track invites so many metaphors—he’s Ryan Seacrest if American Idol had actual pop stars. He’s Ringo Starr with two broken wrists, etc. My favorite was from Chris Ryan, an editor at Grantland, who said on their podcast, “Big Sean is like the sacrificial virgin being thrown into the volcano because of what’s about to happen later.” I mean, still, he was born to be on a track with Pusha T and utter the words, “built a house up on that ass, that’s an ass-state.”
2. Out of the untold thousands of verses 2 Chainz spat this year, this was the most important, the most funny, the best. My favorite 2 Chainz idiosyncrasy is how he’ll record himself responding to his punchlines. Most of the time, he’ll say something gross and then there’s a barely audible 2 Chainz in the back ground yelling, “DAMN!” But for the initiated, we notice these interjections sometimes become sentient. “I’m drunk and high at the same time/drinkin’ champagne on an airplane” is quickly followed by “TRAVEL!” and the moment you notice it, you won’t ever not revel in its hilarity and perfection. 2 Chainz won the year 2012. He ran away with it. It’s over. We all lost.
3. Kanye’s challenge as an artist is increasingly to be big. His narcissism isn’t a byproduct of his success but (if we’re going off his efforts of late) essential to it. The sample and hook on Mercy are gargantuan, zeitgeist-capturing forces, but it’s not surprising that when we finally get to Yeezus, he switches it up and works his audience into a frenzied ecstasy before handing us off to 2 Chainz. Kanye’s next solo album will, like his others, contain a gratuitous amount of inward reflection and melodrama—but as “Mercy” shows, this is in artist dealing in atmospheric heights of spectacle.–RYAN HEAPE
Five years is a long time off the map, but some of the best stories are all about comebacks. After pursuing the Broken Bells project and orchestrating some lineup changes, “Simple Song” finds James Mercer back with The Shins doing what they do best; filling the sonic void in every fan’s chest with fine-tuned heartfelt lyrics, Mercer’s trademark rich and shimmering vocals, and enough twee romp to leave a smile on even the most sullen music lover’s face. Contrary to its title, “Simple Song” has a complex landscape replete with walls of echo and organs, spacey background vocals, and a heap of well-placed guitar hooks. But, in a manner reclaimed from the carefree glory of Chutes Too Narrow, The Shins make it all sound so easy. Mercer croons “This is just a simple song, to say what you’ve done” and reminds us why no length of absence could make us lose faith in The Shins.–JEFFREY LANCE, Lenora Sol
No one in the history of music has ever been able to what Jack white III has been able to do repeatedly. He’s always been able to take folk songs and make them feel like they were just as big as any rock anthem without losing the intimacy and closeness. With any project involving White, you know you’re going to get a mixture of straightforward, in your face, garage rock and lullabyesque folk love songs. “Blunderbuss” is filled with anything and everything in-between. “Love Interruption” leaves almost as soon as it enters the room. It’s gentle, but has a kick. The tragedy about White is that his songwriting capabilities are often overlooked due to his mesmerizing guitar skills. “Love Interruption” just makes you stop for a moment in the whirlwind that is Jack White III and smell the roses and appreciate his lyrical genius.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Contrary to popular belief, Barack Obama isn’t the most controversial figure in modern America. There’s not a more polarizing figure in The United States of America than Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th president. On one side, he’s the golden boy. He’s the Gipper. A savor for conservative America. The other, his administration was the decisive changing point in America that effected millions of Americans negatively. He’s the antichrist. In hip-hop, he’s always been revered as the latter. Reagan references are a dime a dozen. But no one has taken Reagan’s record and legacy head on like Killer Mike. He’s always been more of a social commentator than a political rhymer. With “Reagan,” Killer Mike takes us back to the 1980s and show us another side of Wreckonomics…I mean Reaganomics.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
I listened to a dizzying amount of music in 2012. The range was as remarkable as the volume. Whether you like it or not, this was the year of “Gangnam Style” or “Call Me Maybe” as much as it was the year where the best performance at the MTV Music Awards was an a capella “Thinkin’ Bout You” by a sedentary Frank Ocean. But no matter what overbearing noise I was subjecting myself to on a daily basis (thanks, Twitter), I kept going back to “Monoliths.” Lotus Plaza made a largely overlooked record with his second LP, “Spooky Action At A Distance;” to be fair, it is a modest, quiet white dude brand of indie psychedelic. As guitarist of Deerhunter, Lockett Plundt was a part of moments like “Desire Lines” and “Helicopter,” where the highest efficacy of the music was in its ability to feel completely cleansing. At three and a half minutes, “Monoliths” is that same emotional cleanse from concentrate, and to an exponential degree. Here, Plundt frees himself from the self-restraint he shows on the rest of the album: he strums his guitar louder and lets his voice soar until it seems to float on its own, cymbals crash and everything feels ascendant. It’s somewhat moving, I suppose, but I can only speak for myself when I say that this song holds the capacity for self-discovery.–RYAN HEAPE
Think about it real quick. Think about how big of a disaster this could have been. It’s one thing to throw in a Townes Van Zandt song into a live set; it’s an entirely different thing to record it for your debut record. Seems like these days, Van Zandt is finally getting his due. Every new band starting within a 100 miles of the Texas border will spout off about how much of an influence Van Zandt was on their music–regardless if it’s true or not. But for these guys, it’s a legitimate appreciation. “Won’t you lend your lungs to me? Mine are collapsing” are the opening lines. It feels like DRB took Townes’ words to heart. They’re certainly breathe life into the dusty, depressing track. It’s rejuvenated by percussionist Travis Stearns’ cajon. It’s got a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club attitude while also staying true to Van Zandt’s original. They out Steve Earle, Steve Earle on it.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
We only got a couple of verses and this single from Earl Sweatshirt following his weird exile. Before his separation from his Odd Future clique mates, there was only a short mixtape. Sure, dude could rap, but that was the only taste we needed to 1) know that Earl had a magnetic, endearing presence and 2) make #FREEEARL happen. When Earl was eventually freed, though, we didn’t get a huge comeback track; we waited for a while, and then we got “Chum.” Earl raps (really well) about missing his dad, about finding Tyler, The Creator as an older brother figure, about “brushing the dirt up off my psyche.” He’s captivating, this sixteen year-old kid. He seems to have plenty of stories, and he already knows how to tell them in marvelous ways.–RYAN HEAPE
The return of Fiona Apple has become my music event of the year. She’s grown up, but she hasn’t grown out of her bitterness; why would we want her to? “Daredevil,” musically speaking, is an eloquent presentation of Apple’s experimental-jazz fusion that’s made her known. The lyrics paint a picture of a person caught in between ups and downs with disastrous tendencies: “I’m caught on the cold, caught on the hot/Not so with the warmer lot/And all I want’s a confidant to help me laugh it off…. And don’t let me ruin me/I may need a chaperon.” Her voice is so sweet and smooth that it’s almost unnerving to hear a story as such coming through her. The song reaches its climax when Apple belts in her raspy, almost naked, voice: “Seek me out/Look at, look at, look at, look at me/I’m all the fishes in the sea.” It’s impossible to ignore passion fueled pleas of desperation that Apple exudes in “Daredevil.” Though blunt, she writes with conviction and truthfulness, and she’s never been braver than she is on this track. I have no problem comparing the writing of Fiona Apple to that of Leonard Cohen; blasphemy to some, but I’m convinced that she is the face for the new American songwriter. “Daredevil” is not to be ignored. Musically sound and lyrically brilliant, Fiona Apple has come to reclaim her rightful seat with the musical elite.–AARON SMITH
Is Tame Impala’s “Lonerism” the modern-day “Magical Mystery Tour?” In short, yes. That’s the fundamental principle you need to know about Tame Impala. Vocalist and chief songwriter Kevin Parker has a John Lennon obsession that is only rivaled by Oasis’ Noel and Liam Gallagher. With “Lonerism,” Parker may have the loftiest, most ambitious record of 2012. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” doesn’t feel like we’re going backwards at all. Rather, it feels like we’re endlessly free-falling through a psychedelic dream of haze, never needing to pull the parachute cord.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Not all of the Orwells are yet eighteen years old, and that’s a disadvantage in a number of ways. We want a high school band to seem naive and totally in the moment only so we can be disappointed that they’re not as nuanced or cynical as we hope they one day could be. We revel in the Orwells making loud punk songs about the hanging around the mall as we laugh at them making loud punk songs about malls. It’s similar to how high-minded critics still patronize the sincerity of Taylor Swift or how they couldn’t talk about Arctic Monkeys without bringing up MySpace. Being a teenager is weird, but if you can remember, it was also fun, sexy, and badass. Also badass: a prom rock mid-tempo burner featuring a full-on wig-out in the chorus. The Orwells will make better albums over their career, but I’ll remember songs like “Halloween All Year” and say, now that’s a band who hadn’t learned how to be boring yet.–RYAN HEAPE
Chromatics are the Ryan Gosling of the indie music world. They’re cool. They’re smooth. They’re able to wear their sunglasses at night and not look like douchebags. What would you expect? It’s no surprise that they were on the Drive soundtrack and that producer/multi-instrumentalist Johnny Jewel played a major part in what the soundtrack consisted of overall. The Italo-disco revivalists came out in 2012 with a heavy hitter of a record with “Kill For Love.” On “Lady,” Ruth Radelet wraps her voice around you. It’s got a confidence and charm like none other. It starts off relatively simple and common with nothing shooting that it’s special. Radelet doesn’t even come in until a good 75 seconds has passed. It’s not until around the two-minute mark that “Lady”reveals all its beauty. By then, you’re hooked.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
When making this album, “Attack On Memory,” Cloud Nothings wanted to go in a more “live” sounding direction with the album. It’s no wonder they went with Steve Albini to produce it since he tends to capture that organic sound of what a band sounds like when they perform live in a studio setting. “ Stay Useless” is the second single, and follow-up, to the previously successful single, “No Future/ No Past,” and practically exceeds the Pitchfork expectation of “Best New Track.” Although, they tried to shed their power pop sound from previous LPs, it is very evident that is the basis of their sound with many other retro inspired riffs that are reminiscent of Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath just in a more melodic setting. The album is representative of what the band is known for and is supposed to be different. Although, it is darker than it’s previous two releases, “Stay Useless” is definitely one of those tracks that reminds you that this band is a power pop bands. An incredible power pop band.–JJ HERNANDEZ
The transportive pleasures of Wild Nothing’s second LP, “Nocturne,” reach an apex on the seventh track, “Paradise.” I’m not sure if hearing it for the first time was more thrilling because of its Balearic danceability or its introverted sense of passion. The former of the two is an aesthetic crutch of mine—I’m a sucker for the kind of lush, lovesick pop that bands like Kisses and Twin Shadow have sought out over the past couple years—and the driving rhythm and airy movement on “Paradise” is intoxicating. When it envelops you, you may forget that you’ve heard lyrics like “dancer in the night/playing with my eyes/velvet tongue so sweet/say anything you like” a hundred times before. There’s about a two-minute interlude where the beat goes silent and you’re left with swirling, cloudy textures. That’s the two minutes Tatum gives you to ponder everything joyous and loving in your life before the rhythm kicks back in and you’re rushed off to rejoin the party. “Paradise” is high-stakes musical escapism.–RYAN HEAPE
Holy shit. Now where was this record? Why wasn’t a record built around “As I Do My Dancing?” I don’t want to bash Bingham’s last record, “Tomorrowland” too much. I get it. People like and need to change their sound for excitement and for the challenge. I get that. But really, “Tomorrowland” left me asking myself (and a few friends) if this was real life. Is this going to be forever? Wait. This is a trick, right? A test of fanhood? Was Bingham trying to pull a Dylan? I’m not sure. When he released “As I Do My Dancing” as a free download weeks after the release of the first “Tomorrowland” single, it just pushed me further into questioning his motives behind the record. “As I Do My Dancing” is TOO good. It shows that he obviously still can write that vintage Bingham song. And to be honest, I originally thought it was from a “Mescalito” or “Roadhouse Sun” recording session. Its jangled rhythm and beat just transport you to Bingham walking down the dirt streets of Marfa.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Is it hard to imagine a world without Beach House yet? Just go with it and say by now it would seem virtually IMPOSSIBLE. The biggest surprise personally for 2012 was discovering my “uncool” family showing interest in Beach House. More to the point: there’s a pretty good chance your mother loves Beach House more than you do! Mine does. “They remind me of Fleetwood Mac,” my mama said two months ago on a short little roadtrip to Plainview and back. That’s just enough time to listen to “Bloom” both ways and have it perk unsuspecting ears just enough to haunt both beginners and the already initiated. No track better represents this well-received, well-returned confidence for Beach House than the swelling “Lazuli.”–BRIAN FLORES, Nadia
Preceded by a bit of a moody instrumental; “Yet Again” comes in as the fourth track on Grizzly Bear’s 2012 release, “Shields.” It starts as airy and somber song that sets a melancholy mood in its introduction which plays well into its lyrical content. The song’s narrator has an issue he’s going to confront with the person he’s been hooking up with over the next five minutes: he wants to break the relationship up. They’re the last ones hanging out after whatever social event they happen to be at, as usual, but as our protagonist reflects on the relationship in the first two verses and chorus, he’s become irritated with his partner and the people who are speculating about them being more than what they are aren’t helping his patience. His partner’s mental state is alluded to in the first line of verse two, which references her emotional state as a shell with cracks in it. The protagonist says he’s another a small crack that HE can keep a track of, implying she can’t, which is one of the reasons he wants to break up. He pleads for his partner to “take it in stride,” and that he doesn’t want any emotional reasoning for why they should stay together because they simply weren’t meant for each other, that they “barely had a case.” When he says what he has to in that first chorus, he’s taken aback by his partner’s reaction, which is just a blank stare, so much so, that he has to make an account of it at the end of his chorus. In an effort to help his now ex-partner come to terms with the breakup, he asks to recount their affair and to try to come to the same conclusion that he has, that they were never meant to be. He then admits that he has no desire to look back and wonder about what could have been, since he never saw his partner that way to begin with. The song ends with him repeating his desire for his ex to take it well and the subsequent response of just blank staring. The outro ramps up in intensity and ends in a disjointed, cacophonous tune which shows how badly the ex is taking it inside.–TAYLOR SEIDLITZ
The first thing you hear is George Lewis Jr. hyperventilating. That’s your warning before the shaking eruption of synth, kick, and guitar. Then the repeat of “Five seconds in your heart/straight to your heart.” The song is the musical equivalent of taking a jackhammer to a glass object; George literally has this propulsive desire to provoke a direct emotional response. The outburst of “I don’t believe in you/you don’t believe in me/so how could you make me cry?” sounds similarly like a provocation. I can’t remember a track that was so insistent on its urgency. Who knew you could achieve resonance via aggressive force?–RYAN HEAPE
We’re being attacked by space invaders.Ty Segall seems to be the unanimous leader amongst the San Francisco neo-garage rockers. Together with Thee Oh Sees, Mikal Cronin, and Kurt Vile have almost single-handedly brought their brand of lo-fi psychedelic garage punk to the forefront of indie rock music. Segall is just relentless, releasing what feels like a new record every month the last couple years. In 2012, Segall gave us three records, “Hair,” “Twins,” and “Slaughterhouse.” On “Slaughterhouse,” Segall and company just come in waves with guitar riff after guitar riff. He’s just ferocious and on the attack with his guitar. They’re the West Coast Strokes–except dingier and rough around the edge. And they probably give even less shit about what you think about them or their music.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Is Ariel Pink being serious here or it is all tongue-in-cheek? I hope it’s serious. It makes the song so much better. The Donnie & Joe Emerson cult classic closes Pink’s latest record, “Mature Themes.” Pink does his best Al Green impression, and for the most part, hits it out of the park creating this strangely addicting indie r&b vintage atmosphere. It immediately feels like a song that’d transform a film scene into being average to amazing–and in the process, catapulting it into the mainstream. It has a smooth groove that could only come from the late 1970s. Pink’s hazy vocals are subtle, yet confident as he struts through the song. It an indie r&b dream.— THOMAS D. MOONEY
This is Ray Wylie Hubbard at his quick-witted best. He tells a story about the perfect guitar, a stripper girlfriend, lust, true love, fate, and most importantly the fact that, in the end, everything happens for a reason and it all turns out right. Ray shares wisdom that can only be gained by living through it all. Musicians, lend this man your ear; toward the end he’s giving you some of the most important Cliffs Notes you can find. So sit down, open your ears and take notes on what Rev. Hubbard has to preach.–MARCO GUTIERREZ, Dirty River Boys