Disclaimer: there are lots of songs from this year that I haven’t heard – I’ve been spending the year hard at work becoming obsessed with Best Coast, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Sonic Youth (and, err, doing my degree/working). But, of the songs I have heard, these have been my favourites.
1. Circulation – Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts
You wouldn’t believe that this man was responsible for this song and Daydream Nation – both genius, but as divergent as you can get without venturing into reggae or dubstep territory. Quite simply, it’s beautifully constructed – menacing, atmospheric, and absolutely wonderful.
2. Piledriver Waltz – Alex Turner – Submarine OST
Although I’ve often been a detractor of The Arctic Monkeys, I believe Alex Turner has finally come good with the Submarine soundtrack, and nowhere more so than on this lushly orchestrated number. The lyrics are clunky, but “I heard an unhappy ending/It sort of sounds like you leaving” tugs at my overemotional little indie heartstrings and fits the film perfectly. Oddly hypnotic – a bit like the film, really.
3. Weekend – Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Click play and it’s all nice and- WOAH, WHERE DID THAT RIFF™ COME FROM?! A million guitar-toting indie bands would kill Cullen Omori and his skinny, floppy-haired posse for that. The ‘ooh woo ooh’ echo of the chorus is pure male Best Coast, and on that alone deserves its top 10 place. That Riff™ elevates it to third. (Oh, and the fact that it’s gorgeous as a whole. But mainly That Riff™.)
4. Get Away – Yuck – Yuck
Speaking of skinny, floppy-haired, guitar-toting indie bands with great choruses… I saw them described somewhere as a “shoegazey Sonic Youth”, which is a perfect encapsulation of their sound. Fuzzy as hell, squealing stop-start guitars all over the place and a perfect sing-a-long, sweet-without-being-cheesy chorus – lovely.
5. I Want You – Summer Camp – Welcome To Condale
‘I Want You’ is my [Welcome To Condale] highlight; its lyrics are aggressively stalker-ish and simultaneously wistful (“If I could I’d kiss your lips so hard your entire face would bruise”), whilst [lead singer Elizabeth] Sankey’s soaring vocals clash with the throbbing bassline in the best way possible. If nightclubs ever start playing good dance music, this will be a playlist stalwart. [from my review of Welcome To Condale]
6. Video Games – Lana Del Rey – Born To Die [not released until 2012]
It doesn’t matter if her image/lips/nose/back story are real, because her voice certainly is. If the rest of her debut album is as luscious as this, Born To Die is going to be topping a lot of ‘Best albums of 2012’ lists. Enough of the ‘Hollywood sadcore’ bollocks, the only genre this needs to fit into is ‘great’.
7. Sophia – Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
Begins in the same twee manner as most of her songs, but there’s something darker about her vocals… It grows in confidence, eventually turning into an upbeat, KT-Tunstall-if-she-was-good number with a swooning chorus of “Sooooooooophiiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaa, I’m wou-ou-ou-ou-ounded by duuuuuust” (it sounds better than it transcribes, trust me). The most accomplished song to date by Britain’s best female solo artist – yeah, Adele, you read that right; now sod off.
8. Blind Faith – Chase & Status – No More Idols
Club songs are notoriously shite. You might be able to grind to beats dirtier than That Toilet In Trainspotting™, but if you can think of them as anything other than glamorised fart noises with a hysterically bereaved woman wailing nonsense over the top, you’re not me. However, occasionally one comes along which you can dance to and listen to without wanting to curl up in a corner, sobbing and clinging to your copy of Dog Man Star for moral support. This is one such song. It’s joyful, sounds comfortingly timeless and is fackin’ catchy – if only more club songs were successfully in this vein.
9. Chair – Big Deal – Lights Out
The latest hyped addition to the boy/girl duos list (and the second to feature on this list) have only been in existence for a year, but already they’ve released their first album and are destined to be cult darlings of the acoustic scene. This little ditty charts the well-worn difficulties of having romantic inclinations towards a friend, but it’s utterly charming and the switch from acoustic to electric guitar in the chorus is surprisingly effective.
10. Machu Picchu – The Strokes – Angles
So, Angles wasn’t as good as Is This It (is anything?), but this is pretty much the catchiest song they’ve ever recorded. Yes, I do think it’s catchier than ‘Last Nite’ or ‘Hard To Explain’. Only just… but just about.
Honorary mention: Punching In A Dream – The Naked and Famous – Passive Me, Aggressive You
I thought this was released this year, but it’s apparently been knocking around since last year… mind you, no-one had heard of it then, so it kind of counts, right? Another one that should be a club classic. It’s also proof that there’s something in New Zealand other than sheep and kiwis. Hell, judging by the electronic noises, it sounds like they may even have electricity over there! An enlightening thought for us all.
Honorary mentions go to: Lotus Flower – Radiohead, White Elephant – Ladytron, Pumped-Up Kicks – Foster The People, Shoelaces – The Submarines, The City – Patrick Wolf.
Late afterthoughts (i.e. songs I didn’t hear until I’d published this): Perth – Bon Iver, Ice Cream – Battles ft Matias Aguayo, Marathon – Tennis, 212 – Azealia Banks, Lonely Boy – The Black Keys, Sadness Is A Blessing – Lykke Li, My Country – tUnE-yArDs, Abducted – Cults.