I am a huge fan of lists. To-do lists, checklists, and my favourite of them all – end of year lists.
This is a task I have undertaken before (2011, 2010) and have for some time now been looking forward to writing this years. ‘But it’s only the end of November’ I hear you shout in disdain. Well this is true, but I’ve had a brief look at what’s going to be released in next month and I don’t think much is going to take my fancy. Plus, time is a big factor in this process. It is more impressive that a song from January makes this list than it is a song released last week. Freshness always tricks you a little bit. I digress.
Without much further ado, here are my favourite 20 songs of 2012.
20. Ultraista – Smalltalk (Four Tet Remix)
I first heard this at the beginning of a mix back in the summer. I then kicked off my October mix with. So it’s fitting that it is at the beginning of this list. Beautiful vocal made even more wonderful with Four Tet’s broken beat.
19. Sebastien Tellier – Cochon Ville
Little of Tellier’s work has ever stood up next to La Ritournelle and it probably never will, but Cochon Ville makes a valiant attempt albeit in an entirely different direction. Made even better by the most nudity-filled video of the year.
18. Andrew Bird – Spirograph
Most of the music I listen to these days is driven by a beat, typically a four on the floor, but there are odd moments when a man and his guitar still makes it way into my listening. Spirograph is one of those moments.
17. fun. – We Are Young
This was my song of the moment for quite a few weeks after its release. It’s not as big on my listen-to-list anymore, but when it comes on shuffle, it still has its definite pride of place.
16. Kanye West – White Dress
MBDTF is still my favourite hiphop album of all time, but there are moments when I miss the old Kanye. Pre-autotune, pre-terrible albums with Jay-Z, pre-baroque pop and grand orchestration. I miss the College Dropout days and White Dress is a wonderful throwback to that.
15. The xx – Angels
Standout from this year’s album and even through its overuse for television, this remains a great tune.
14. Jessie Ware – Wildest Moments
I had heard a lot of Jessie’s voice through various house remixes this year, but I only recently listened to her music in its original form and wow. Wildest Moments is simply sublime. I’ve only heard it a handful of times but I know it’s going to grow and grow and grow. Of all the British female musicians at the moment, Jessie Ware stands miles above the rest.
13. Dusky – Lost Highway
This has to be my favourite house tune of the year, that I didn’t put on one of my mixes. The synth chords guide this feel-happy tune, but the real highlight is the two part drop after the main break. Listening to it takes me back to summertime even with the rain beating down outside.
12. Otto Knows – Million Voices
I’m not much a fan of progressive house generally, though about once a year a song comes through that’s just in your face brilliant. This will have you smiling from cheek-to-cheek. Particularly amusing is seeing the YouTube comment thread where fans debate how the lyrics should be written (my preference is for Eh Ah etc rather than E A).
11. Stay+ – Crashed
Crashed finds itself at the crossroads of The XX, garage, house and trance. While there are moments that are a little cheesy, the sum of all its parts make for a stellar tune.
10. Hot Chip – Flutes
Hot Chip outdid themselves with their long player this year, an absolute classic in my eyes and Flutes just about clinches my favourite song on it.
9. Todd Terje – Inspector Norse
This was released in January, although it has become such a classic that it feels like it’s been in my life even longer. I’m hit or miss with Todd Terje, but this is hit, hit, hit.
8. Russ Chimes – Back 2 You (Hot Since ’82 Remix)
The original of this is patchy, but Hot Since 82 really make this tune something. Less can be said of his Pete Tong remix.
7. Lana Del Rey – Ride
Dark-pop princess LDR had it pretty good this year and any fears that Video Games would be a one-off were appropriately quelled. Lyrically she is on fantastic form here, and the “I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy” is one of those incredibly simple moments in writing that could not be written better in any other way.
6. Ry & Frank Wiedemann – Howling/Howling (Ame remix)
Yeah I know it’s cheating to put both in but I love them both equally depending on my mood. The acoustic original is a brilliant example of why more house producers should take the reigns with producing indie tunes, and the Ame remix kills it. Hearing Maceo drop it at Warehouse Project was one of my moments of the year.
5. Julio Bashmore – Au Seve
This song must have been dropped about ten times at Eastern Electrics and I missed all of them. Thank God I heard it dropped at Sancho Panza at Carnival because there was little more I wanted to hear it through a soundsystem from the moment I first heard it. Song of the summer without a doubt.
4. Hot Natured – Benediction
The Hot Natured crew did a remarkable job stopping this from leaking. Every time it went up on YouTube from either Jamie Jones’ closing set at Paradise/DC10 or his essential mix, it was taken down almost instantly. Which doesn’t help when all you want to do is play it on repeat. It does help build anticipation though, and so it unsurprisingly hit the UK top 40. “I feel like our love has found a home” Ali Love sings about his first discovery of Space in Ibiza. I’m sure many will feel the same about this song.
3. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
“Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad” has been a lyric of much discussion for me this year, because frankly I think it’s one of the greatest lyrics of the year. The kind of allusion to a feeling that pop doesn’t ever usually hit in any context, yet alone with this eloquence or passion. Absolute best part of this song is the break, and nothing else this year comes close to that.
2. Destiny’s Child – Say My Name (Cyril Hahn Remix)
I used to slate Annie Mac for being too mainstream, then I actually started checking our her tracklistings and realised she champions new, underground music extremely well. This absolute gem was one of those championed pieces. I have listened to this song to an almost obsessive degree and it still gets better. The video is here, and if I can blow my own trumpet for a moment, it’s place in my October mix was probably one of my favourite 15 minutes I’ve ever done.
1. Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
I had a hard time deciding whether this, Cyril or Carly should be my number one, but since putting this list together and hearing it in order, I know I was right to put it at number one. Bubblegum pop shouldn’t ever, nor has it ever, been this fucking good. The ‘oohs’ in the pre-chorus make even the most reluctant singers want to burst out into horrendously camp song. The ‘indie record’ line will make anyone who’s ever been remotely snobbish about music, start wondering if they’ve ever done that (yes, we probably have).
It’s just so good. The fact this sits on top of the Billboard Country chart is absurd but hilarious. But it’s the fact it reached the elusive number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 that is really telling. Let’s hope her career carries on with the same arc that it has so far, because if it does, we could be looking at a new queen of pop.
Post by Joshua Lachkovic
It’s December, it’s sodding cold and it’s that time when music hacks all over the world sharpen their pencils and start penning their end of year lists.
As an ex-wannabe-music-hack, music-lover, and addicted-list-maker, I too like making end of the year lists. If for no other reason than it reminds me the following year how much my tastes have changed.
I do not believe that 2011 has been a very good year for music. I’ve been making end of year lists, in some form or other, for the past five or six years. Typically, I have had an easier time choosing my favourite albums of the year. This was the first year that choosing 20 albums I liked would have been a nearly impossible task. The digital download-era of music naturally gravitates towards individual tracks and as a result it’s hard to find an album that is as good when it finishes as when it starts.
That said, this year hasn’t been great for singles either. Compared to 2010, many of the following songs don’t compare.
I’ve compiled a Spotify playlist for the end of year list, which you can listen to here, if you so wish. A few of the tracks were missing from Spotify, which is a massive pain – but I couldn’t be bothered pasting YouTube videos instead – so hit pause and hum the song that’s missing if you like.
Without further ado….
My Top 20 Tracks of 2011
20 | Quilt – Utopian Canyon (Mexican Summer)
2010 was a great year for the New York-based Mexican Summer label, and while this year has been a little slower, the Quilt album really is beautiful. Listening to Anna Fox Roichinski’s vocals on Utopian Canyon, you recognise her background in classical choral singing. Yet they sound just as home on this summery, folky haze as they would in a Cathedral chamber.
19 | Kurt Vile – Runner Ups (Matador)
2011 has not, for me at least, been a great year for long-players. Yet the Kurt Vile record really was a great one. He released a few records before this one, which I’d never heard about, but this one grabbed me straight away. A few years ago – before I listened to pop, house or hiphop – this would have almost certainly been amongst the top five. Brilliant lyrics throughout, though certainly not the most heartbreaking on the album.
18 | Swod – Sans Peau (City Centre Offices)
‘Pop-‘ or ‘Modern-‘ classical has some bloody awful connotations (not to mention oxymoronic). Typically, it’s the sort of stuff you’ll find in the background on a BBC advert, with dancers float along through fields, or a documentary showing a polar ice cap melting on highly-sped up film. Yet ‘Drei’ is vastly different and you could still call it ‘modern.classical.’ At times the album flirts with vast, expanding movements and then at others – as with Sans Peau – the piano loops while sound effects and guitar riffs permeate the song to provide percussion.
17 | Panda Bear – Surfers Hymn (Paw Tracks)
Tomboy was the best psych/indie album since Merriweather Post Pavilion, and this was its best track. Enough said.
16 | Sepalcure – Pencil Pimp (Hotflush)
When I heard this record I thought it came from Bristol. Future garage hasn’t quite taken off in the way that it could have done, but personally I think this is a good thing. This year has seen a number of great releases that hovered low enough under the radar, that pop-imitation hasn’t ruined them yet. The Sepalcure album could change this though, the sparse landscapes, four-on-the-floor, then hypnotic synths and pitched vocal samples, form the typical format for this genre, but there’s something that definitely separates it from anything else. The surprise this morning? To learn they’re from New York.
15 | Amy Winehouse – Valerie (’68 Version) (Lioness Records)
I was always an Amy Winehouse fan, but following her death this year I paid her more attention. Releasing albums posthumously has to be done delicately. Unfortunately Lioness: Hidden Treasures, doesn’t quite have the delicacy that many fans would appreciate. In what must be the first time I’ve ever agreed with Alexis Petridis, this album shows how much of a perfectionist Amy was. So much of the album shouldn’t have seen the light of day, but this version of Valerie (and a few other tracks) make it worthwhile for a listen. It’s a cross between the original Zutons version, the Winehouse acoustic and the Ronson edit all rolled into one.
14 | Apparat – Ash/Black Veil (Mute Records)
I first heard Apparat, with Ellen Allien on 2006’s Orchestra of Bubbles. That was my first introduction to techno – albeit three years before I properly engulfed myself in the genre. On first impressions, it would be hard to recognise the Apparat sound of Devil’s Walk within any of the Orchestra of Bubbles tracks. Devil’s Walk is downtempo, ambient, and it uses many analogue instruments. The way Apparat layers and structures the songs, however, should feel at home. The guitar-strummed break in Ash/Black Veil and the way the vocal and beat collide back in, is just as powerful as the one in Jet. Devil’s Walk works best as an album – and it’d definitely be my album of the year.
13 | Thyladomid & Adriatique – Deep In The Three (2DIY4)
I don’t think 2011 has been a great year for music, but it has been a fantastic year for deep house. Over summer, Cuplrit and Hot Natured had residencies at the Rooftop Bar in LA. The videos that emerged each week showed sunkissed daytime dancing, LA skyscrapers forming a backdrop, and tracks like this one keeping everyone bobbing along whilst drinking champagne. My electronic music tastes changed dramatically this year, out with the sparse, downbeat, glitchy minimal techno, and in with the warm, melodic, R’n’B-influenced house. Deep In The Three samples Feist, which makes this worth the entry in its own right.
12 | Rebecca Black – Friday (Ark Music Factory)
“How high are you going to put Rebecca Black?” asked a friend, after I told him about this list. And what a tough position it is to make. Having not listened to the song for a while, I thought that perhaps I had loved this song for all of the wrong reasons. Yet I put it back on today and everything I wrote about it back when it was released is still true. It’s catchy, it’s euphoric, it’s brilliant pop, and I don’t care what anyone else says. I don’t want this weekend to end. For those that have forgotten my adulation, click me, click me, click me.
11 | JAY Z & Kanye West – Murder To Excellence (Roc-A-Fella)
Watch the Throne was terribly disappointing. While Pitchfork gave it the elusive Best new Music badge of honour, I failed to get excited by it. I realise we’ve hit the point where anything Jay or Ye do is going to be popular, but well-received in the press as well – especially when it sounds this lacklustre? That said, Murder To Excellence is one of the best songs either of them have ever done and really stood out by a mile on the album.
10 | Example – Stay Awake (Ministry of Sound)
Example is a prime target for those people who dislike artists because they ‘sell out.’ To be honest, if you can make a shitload of money making a record that people like dancing to, then who cares? The new album isn’t great, but there’s a few great tracks on there and Stay Awake is a corker. It’s particularly noteworthy because it also features the worst lyric of the year – “we get high on the opposite of Nytol.” The only saving grace of that line is that Elliot Gleave still pronounces the ‘t.’ You can take the kid out of Fulham….
09 | Air France – It Feels Good To Be Around You (Internet-only)
Air France could have been one of the many forgotten bands of the 2000s, yet this track reminded us that they’ve still got it. Produced by Star Slinger, who is one of this year’s best new producers, ‘It Feels Good To be Around You’ samples Jamie XX and reminds us that Swedish Balearic pop is definitely not dead. On the contrary, it’s quite joyously alive.
08 | Bon Iver – Perth (Jagjaguwar)
I wasn’t too keen on the new Bon Iver album when it was released. ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ is my most listened to album of all time (counting by Last.Fm, rather than hyperbole) and it was always going to be difficult to match. A lot has changed since that record, Justin Vernon has changed a lot as well. His musical collaborations over the past few years have stretched from post-rock to hip-hop, and the production on this record is all the better for it. Perth is like the alt-pop, guitar-driven equivalent of LCD Soundsystem’s Dance Yrself Clean. From near-silence to explosive guitar and back again in four minutes. Perfect.
07 | Florence and the Machine – Shake It Out (Island
This album showed that Florence has more than one album in her and I hope she continues to shine like this with each release. It was hard to imagine that she’d do a song as lovable or as big as Rabbit Heart, but Shake It Out smashes the Lungs’ hit single into the distant memory of 2009. Brilliant single.
06 | M83 – Midnight City (Naive)
M83 were, for me at least, the band that did a handful of good remixes in the mid-2000s. The great Bloc Party and Goldfrapp remixes, and that alright one of Placebo. This album was a surprise pleasure for me and if it hadn’t have been for Made In Chelsea, I’m sure another track would be in this position. As it is, MiC has immortalised this song forever and the already infectious synth line sounds all the better for it. Plus it’s got saxophone on it, and I’m glad producers remembered this forgotten instrument this year.
05 | Benoit & Sergio – Everybody (DFA Records)
Everybody has the biggest crossover appeal out of any deep house release of the year. There’s something instantly familiar about it. There’s something instantly lovable about it. It could be the piano-laden nu-disco sound that the track carries or it could be because of that bassline, but Everybody was the perfect choice for DFA.
04 | Pillowtalk – Soft (Life & Death Remix) (Life & Death Records)
While B&S does the greatest crossover, this Life & Death remix of Pillowtalk clenches my favourite deep house track of the year. Bittersweet, melancholic, and beautiful guitar samples that take you to a beach in Croatia, Soft is everything you want it to be.
03 | Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris – We Found Love (Def Jam Recordings)
Rated R was the greatest Rihanna moment for me. Since then, aside from one video on Loud and a collaboration with Eminem, there’s not much she’s done that I really love. We Found Love, however, changes all of that. Calvin Harris is unashamedly Calvin Harris in his production but it’s hard to care. Catchy pop at its best. Will I be listening to this in five years time? I sincerely doubt it, but for now it’s brilliant.
02 | Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) (Capitol)
Considering I fell in love with this song last year, it feels like a cop-out to include it now. And I almost didn’t but then as Rebecca Black crept into my top 20, I suddenly remembered her appearance in the greatest music video of the year. Last Friday Night is my favourite Katy Perry track and like with my love for M83, it very smoothly reintroduces the sax into pop music.
01 | Drake – Lord Knows (Young Money)
Where Thank Me Later was average-to-good R’n’B, Take Care really stands up all tall. The productions throughout are all fantastic, no matter what mode he’s in at the time, yet Lord Knows with Rick Ross is like nothing else. Lord Knows is great for many reasons. First, it’s my favourite track Drake has ever done, second, it’s my favourite track Rick Ross has done since his Kanye collab last year and third, because it’s my favourite Just Blaze production since ‘Oh Boy’, and that one’s been a longtime coming. When Thank Me Later was released, I never thought I’d hear a track like this from Drake, which makes it all the better.
Listen on Spotify here (http://open.spotify.com/user/joshkl/playlist/0EqJ98tu8he3AA2FCEY1Cb)