Top 50 Tracks of 2012: 30-21

surviving the golden age, best of 2012
Sleigh Bells, Comeback Kid30. Sleigh Bells “Comeback Kid”
The first official single from Sleigh Bells‘ second LP Reign Of Terror, “Comeback Kid” showed that the duo was as bombastic as ever. Laced with overdriven guitars and distorted drums, Alexis Krauss’ sweetly sung vocals cut through the chaos like a dove flying out of an explosion. – Adam Morgan
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Twin Shadow, Five Seconds29. Twin Shadow “Five Seconds”
Few artists can make a love song feel like an action movie. Twin Shadow can. “Five Seconds” isn’t the best written song of the year. In fact, the entire concept of the song is a little ridiculous. The fact that it works ‒ and works so thrillingly and undeniably ‒ makes it even more of an achievement. – Mark Steinbach
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Chairlift, I Belong In Your Arms28. Chairlift “I Belong In Your Arms”
Love songs often get a bad rap. People treat love songs as pure fluff written for the pure purpose of being sold to tweens and the sappiest of our population. I defy anyone who believes that to listen to Chairlift‘s “I Belong In Your Arms” and argue that. Lyrically, trite nothings like “All of me/Honestly is dedicated to hold you” sound so convincing out of the mouth of Caroline Polachek. Then put those words over a skipping 80s-tinged drum beat and the track mimics the joy you feel when in love. No sap. No words for the sake of saying words. Just emotions that make you want to dance. – Adam Morgan
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Beach House, Lazuli27. Beach House “Lazuli”
Almost every Beach House song could be accurately described as a concerted effort toward achieving maximum beauty in the span of four to five minutes. “Lazuli,” from its opening keyboard charm to its breathy chorus, sees the dream-pop duo unrelenting in their attempts to transplant visions of grassy meadows and moonlight into the minds of the listeners. Yet, in another Beach House trademark, this painstaking attempt at objective beauty never seems forced or exhausting and is just, well, beautiful. – Mark Steinbach
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Danny Brown, Grown Up26. Danny Brown “Grown Up”
“Remember when my first meal was school lunch?” The opening quip of Danny Brown‘s “Grown Up” feels as timeless as “It was all a dream…” From that opening quip onward, the weirdo Detroit rapper created an anthem for every kid that feels jilted by the system or voted “least likely to succeed.” Complete with a warm instrumental and old skool hip hop scratching, the track has cross generational appeal. – Adam Morgan
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Tame Impala, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards25. Tame Impala “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
The success of Lonerism is built on Tame Impala’s ability to perfectly articulate sorrow through complex psych-rock arrangements and simple lyricism. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” stands as the paragon of this approach, taking a simple concept and infusing it with depth and pathos. It’s the type of song that reveals itself more and more with every listen and serves as a perfect climax for Tame Impala’s grim loner saga. – Mark Steinbach
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Schoolboy Q, ASAP Rocky, Hands on the Wheel24. Schoolboy Q featuring A$AP Rocky “Hands on the Wheel”
When Norwegian singer, Lissie covered Kid Cudi‘s “Pursuit of Happiness” in her ghostly vibe, she had no idea the track would be reinterpreted back to hip hop. But when Best Kept Producer got their hands on the track, they flipped Lissie’s “hands on the wheel/uh huh, fuck that” into a haunting backdrop for Schoolboy Q‘s darkly humorous track. Quips like “too damn high/I can’t stand myself/I love drunk driving/man, I’m something else” show the straddling of good times and self-endangerment. – Adam Morgan
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Lana Del Rey, National Anthem23. Lana Del Rey “National Anthem”
From the austere opening strings to the children choir sung chorus, “National Anthem” is biggest track from Lana Del Rey‘s Born to Die. Besides the stunning instrumental, the track’s lyrics are so slyly cunning. Playing the part of every early Bond girl, Del Rey singing “he says to be cool but I don’t know how yet.” But you get the feeling she is just playing dumb as she eventually works up to “do you think you’ll buy me lots of diamonds?” – Adam Morgan
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ariel pink, kinski assassin, ariel pink's haunted graffiti22. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “Kinski Assassin”
Often times, critics take Ariel Pink more serious than he takes himself. Never does that seem more apparent than on “Kinski Assassin,” the opening track of Mature Themes. The track’s Doors-esque keyboards work as a background for Pink’s bizarre lyrics that come from the intersection of sex and violence as he croons “Blonde seizure bombshells and the blowjobs of death/Bring on the bog and shemales hopped up on meth.” – Adam Morgan

Rihanna, Diamonds21. Rihanna “Diamonds”
While almost every pop princess will catch flack for being prefabricated, Rihanna has caught it for the most legitimate reasons. In addition to not writing her own music, very rarely has she proven to be a strong vocalist–generally demonstrating a narrow range. That seems to change on “Diamonds.” Although not her biggest hit, the track does most prominently feature Rihanna’s voice. The unencumbering instrumental for the most part stays out of Rihanna’s way as her vocals are layered upon each other until the track crescendos into a wall-of-Rihanna. And despite how that might sound, it actually works! – Adam Morgan
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