Friday, December 28, 2012

2012's Top 20 Singles

20) Joey Ramone - “New York City” (Mutate Music/BMG)
Joey Ramone sings about the places he loves in the greatest city in the world? Hell yes, I'll purchase that.

19) Bruce Springsteen - “We Take Care of Our Own” (Columbia)
Springsteen is pretty angry on Wrecking Ball (with good reason), yet once again people missed the point of this song. Hello, doesn't any one remember "Born in the U.S.A." was not a patriotic anthem?

18) Ben Folds Five - “Do It Anyway” (Imaveepee Records/Sony Music)
Welcome back boys, part 1. I didn't realize how much I had missed the bass playing of Robert Sledge. His lines and use of distortion to make his bass a solo instrument was an essential part of this band that is the missing piece from Folds' solo career. 

17) Benjamin Gibbard - “Teardrop Windows” (Barsuk)
This laid back pop gem sounds like Gibbard spent a lot of time listening to the Byrds before he hit the studio. There's nothing wrong with that.

16) David Byrne & St. Vincent - “Who” (Todo Mundo/4AD)
I think collaborating with other solo artists brings the best out of the former Talking Heads main man. The album he did with Brian Eno four years ago was Byrne's best work in ages. And this pairing with St. Vincent is pretty strong. My favorite part of this track from Love This Giant is St. Vincent's voice (or a sample of her voice perhaps) yelling (heck, let’s call it grunting) "who, who." It sounds like she's punching herself in the gut each time she does it. Although I hope she didn't do that. That wouldn't be good for her singing ability.

15) Soundgarden - “Been Away for Too Long” (Seven Four/Republic)
Welcome back boys, part 2. You were away too long. This song makes me want to air drum as much as Superunknown's "My Wave." That is not good news for my carpel tunnel.

14) John Wesley Harding - “Making Love to Bob Dylan” (Yep Roc)
The lyrical conceit of this song (not being able to get it while Bob Dylan's voice is in the room) makes me laugh every time. And the line "I'll lie on my back for Roberta Flack" has actually made me laugh out laugh on the F train.

13) Hospitality - “Friends of Friends” (Merge)
This song reminds me so much of Romeo Void. And that is a very good thing.

12) Nada Surf - “When I Was Young” (Barsuk)
In the album section I mentioned how much the presence of Doug Gillard seems to have inspired Nada Surf on The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. And the monster guitar solo Gillard rips out during this two part epic is the perfect example of that.

11) Gomez - “Jumpin' Jack Flash (Live at Carnegie Hall)” (ATO)
To create a very memorable cover you have to either outperform the song's originator (like, let's say, Whitney Houston's take on Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," which I hate, but is an example that will work for this entry). Or you have to turn the song inside out and make it something truly new. And that's what Gomez does on this take on The Rolling Stones’ classic. They fuck with the time signature throughout until final 40 seconds, taking it from a slow groove to almost punk rock speed and back again. And the best part of this live recording (which the band gave away as a free download) is that the crowd doesn't even know what song it is until the lyrics come in. And then after the first line, you can hear a bunch of people scream in recognition. It's a great moment.

10) Grouplove - “Tongue Tied” (Canvasback/Atlantic)
I know my pal Jay Frank despises this band (or at least thinks their live performance is craptacular). I haven't seen them perform live, so I can't speak to that part of the band. I can say that this former iPod Touch ad tune makes me nostalgic for my youth. Better yet, somebody else's youth that was in the suburbs and included making out at my best friend's house. I also liked this song before I found out the drummer is the son of former Yes ax man Trevor Rabin, who was the guy behind all of my favorite parts on 90125. Way to pass on the genes Trevor!

  9) Norah Jones - “Happy Pills” (Blue Note/Capitol)
Norah Jones has really gotten more interesting as her career has hit the decade mark. It's hard to imagine the woman that could sing the snoozer "Don't Know Why" could eventually do a sultry, slinky kiss off song like "Happy Pills." I have a feeling her next decade will be even more fascinating.

  8) The Figgs - “Do Me Like You Said You Would” (Stomper)
The first time I ever heard this song was at a show in April 2011 at the Rock Shop in Brooklyn. The laid back groove and the double entendre lyrics were familiar, yet so so different for these guys. I knew that they had something on there hands when people started singing the chorus the second time it came around. It was a pretty cool moment and one I think of every time I play the song. (This, by the way, is the first Figgs single to crack the Top 10 on this list in 18 years. Wow.)

  7) Calvin Harris - “Feel So Close” (Ultra)
I got turned onto this song one night while scrolling through the channels and stopping at MTV Hits. I'm not sure what Harris used to get that "it sounds like a guitar but I know it has to be a keyboard or a sample" that plays throughout the track, but my goodness it buried its way into my brain. The song might be higher, but it was used in the ads for that Billy Crystal and Bette Midler "comedy" Parental Guidance and that was worth a few demerits.

  6) Ellie Goulding - “Lights” (Polydor UK)
This song gets the award for the song I heard the most while getting breakfast in 2012. The trophy for that award is made out of bacon. So Ellie, get in touch with my people when you can.   

  5) The Shins - “Simple Song” (Aural Apothecary/Columbia)
I'm not a big fan of Port of Morrow, frontman James Mercer's first Shins album without any of the band's original members. "Simple Song" is the only track that echoes the majestic pop feel I always got from tracks like "So Says I" and "Phantom Limb." And it does it so well. When the little piano lick comes in and Mercer reaches for the highest range in his voice, it's pure sonic heaven. I just wish the rest of the album reached these heights. 

  4) Bob Mould - “The Descent” (Merge)
I knew that Mould had a shot at having his biggest album in ages when the video for this gem hit YouTube. I posted it on my Facebook page, and I saw it on the timelines of 11 other friends within two hours. That's a sign of a great track.

  3) Carly Rae Jepsen - “Call Me Maybe” (Schoolboy/Interscope Records)
You've heard this song a thousand times. You've seen hundreds of lipdub videos on YouTube by everyone from Justin Bieber to Katy Perry and numerous sports teams. You've probably heard (or watched) a few good parodies (and plenty of bad ones). And you know what? That still doesn't take away from the fact that this song's chorus is easily one of the best constructed in the past decade. (And the "I want you so bad" line, which is like a post-chorus, is pretty damn good too.)

  2) Superchunk - “This Summer” (Merge)
Mac McCaughan seems to have hit a good songwriting vein with Superchunk's last three singles. "Digging for Something" and "Crossed Wires" (from 2010’s RT 20 #1 album Majesty Shredding) were instant classics that sounded as if they'd always existed. "This Summer," with its' handclaps, harmonies, great riff and nostalgic lyrics is timeless and a song I'll return to whenever it gets warm. (This, with climate change, will soon start happening in February here in New York.)

  1) Kelly Clarkson - “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” (RCA)
I'm not sure how a song that takes its title from a cliché made it to the top of this list. Perhaps it's just Clarkson's knack for always delivering an "I'll be fine without you, asshole" lyric with more grit than almost every singer currently on the Top 40 charts. It could be that quirky dance done in the song's video. Or maybe most of all, it's just a perfectly constructed pop song that sounds great blasting out of car, on a dance floor or in your headphones. This is a song that deserved to hit number-one and score all those Grammy nominations.

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