Top 50 Tracks of 2012: 20-11

surviving the golden age, best of 2012
spiritualized, hey jane20. Spiritualized “Hey Jane”
In their year round-up, Spin Magazine highlighted “long songs” calling them a rebellion against our ADD culture. At nearly nine-minutes in length, “Hey Jane” by Spiritualized is the longest song on our countdown. But because of the ADD nature of our culture, the track works. The track noisily crescendos about three-and-a-half minutes in. The listener is tricked into thinking the track is over before a thumping bass line and ambient guitars usher the next movement of the song in. Working on the same theme, a strong guitar riff carries the tune over shuffling drums building back up to a crescendo over the last four minutes of the track. – Adam Morgan

Cloud Nothings, Stay Useless19. Cloud Nothings “Stay Useless”
There is something agonizing about aging. While most people cover up the pain of aging by staying as busy as humanly possible, Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi wants to bask in it. He begs “I need time to stop moving/I need time to stay useless” in this noisy anthem for the aging punk. – Adam Morgan

tnght, higher ground18. TNGHT “Higher Ground”
When Hudson Mohawke and Lunice‘s teamed up to form TNGHT no one knew exactly what to expect except something awesome. Their debut single “Higher Ground” shattered those expectations. The track mixes speaker-shaking kicks and militaristic snare with airraid bass and stuttered female vocals into one hard to swallow mixture. The track simultaneously sounds like the highpoint of UK grime and the future of US hip hop. – Adam Morgan

miguel, adorn17. Miguel “Adorn”
No song has made me look and sound more foolish in my attempts to (privately) sing it than “Adorn.” Miguel’s handling of the very simple, tender material and his ability to elevate it to a quasi-hypnotic vocal level reveal him to be a masterful artist whose skill reaches far beyond his young age. Next time it comes on the radio, I’ll just let Miguel do the singing. – Mark Steinbach

grizzly bear, yet again16. Grizzly Bear “Yet Again”
“Yet Again” is one of the best con-jobs of 2012. With its calm vocals, random tambourine shakes and inconsistent piano, Ed Droste and company are doing their best impression of spontaneity. In reality, this is a band that peppers little details into the landscapes of their songs in order to comprise a much more lush whole. It’s never an accident. By the end of “Yet Again,” Grizzly Bear has reverted comfortably to their familiarly complex compositions, and the result is stunning. – Mark Steinbach

Death Grips, I've Seen Footage15. Death Grips “I’ve Seen Footage”
At what point in Death Grips‘ “I’ve Seen Footage” do you look around and say “what the fuck is going on?” Is it when you first recognize the beat as that from Salt-N-Pepa‘s “Push It”? Is it when you decode the lyrics “You seen dat head blow off his shoulders in slow mo?/rewind that, it’s so cold!”? Or is it when you realize the song is basically about surfing efukt? Stay noided. – Adam Morgan

kendrick lamar, bitch dont kill my vibe14. Kendrick Lamar “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”
“Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” feels very representative of Kendrick Lamar‘s year. The track was originally to feature Lady Gaga but label conflicts forced a kibosh on the collaboration. Instead, Kendrick (who even says in the song “sometimes I need to be alone”) put out the song solo and it feels like his strongest work on what many argue to be the album of the year. Rapping over a bear that feels like this decade’s version of “Aquemini,” Lamar raps verses that are part lonely space traveler and part diary confessions. – Adam Morgan

earl sweatshirt, chum, odd future13. Earl Sweatshirt “Chum”
2011 saw Tyler. The Creator become the face of Odd Future while Earl Sweatshirt‘s fate hung in the balance. 2012 saw Earl’s return and he closed out the year but reasserting himself as the most talented rapper of the collective with “Chum.” Over an ignorable looping piano, Earl unravels his history. Rapping “It’s probably been twelve years since my father left/left me fatherless/and I just used to say I hate him in dishonest jest/when honestly I miss this nigga, like when I was six,” it is a moment of honesty that other single mother products like Eminem have never given us. It is that honesty that makes Earl feel more grown up than his counterparts and ready for bigger and better things. – Adam Morgan

major lazer, get free12. Major Lazer “Get Free”
It seemed like an odd pairing at first: Diplo‘s never ending dance party, Major Lazer matched up with Dirty Projectors‘ Amber Coffman. But Diplo turns down the dancehall vibes and instead creates an underwater reggae instrumental that allows Coffman’s vocals to shine. As she painfully sings the track’s chorus: “Look at me/I just can’t believe/what they’ve done to me/we could never get free/I just wanna be,” the listener wonders which of this year’s events is she speaking about? The jailing of Pussy Riot? The never ending gay marriage debate? Women’s rights in the Middle East? They are all applicable in the sphere of “Get Free.” – Adam Morgan

Fiona Apple, Every Single Night11. Fiona Apple “Every Single Night”
After closely working with Jon Brion on When the Pawn… and Extraordinary Machine, it would figure Fiona Apple would make her most Jon Brion sounding song as soon as she stopped working with the producer. The Idler Wheel‘s opening track features a sparse music box instrumental that allows Apple to give her dynamic performance. As she turns the phrase “every night is a fight with my brain” into a tribal chant, its hammered into the listener that this is an insomniac’s plead. But even in her insomnia, Apple creates very literal metaphors painting a picture of “my breast gonna bust open/the rib is the shell and the heart is the yolk/and i just made a meal for us both to choke on.” – Adam Morgan