Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of the 2012 Best Track Lists

The end of year lists are out.  There are so many of them and they come out so early.  There must be a strong demand for lists, or maybe just a very great supply of list makers.

The high points of Rolling Stone's top 50 song list were Alabama Shakes at #1, First Aid Kit at #10, Grizzly Bear at #29, and Craig Finn at #40.  My 8YO will be excited that the Wanted made the list (at #44), but why are they on Rolling Stone's list?

Paste's list of the top 50 songs of 2012 also had First Aid Kit and Alabama Shakes in the top 10.  They also had a song I hadn't heard called "When I Write My Master's Thesis" at #2.  That's the kind of thing that makes the Paste list a lot better than the Rolling Stones list, even if there's a lot of overlap.  Grizzly Bear and Dr. Dog sat right outside the top 10 at #11 and #12.

The NME top 50 best tracks of 2012 list strings together a number of songs that I really like, but don't quite love, from #6 to #9 with Grimes, Jake Bugg, Bat For Lashes, and Tame Impala.  Tame Impala shows up on a lot of lists this year.  I liked their 2010 record better, and I didn't see that one on too many lists, so I'm suspicious that the new record is just benefiting from the belated buzz due to them in 2010.

The Spin 40 best songs of 2012 is too heavy on the generic pop music for my taste.  There's some overlap with other lists on the alternative end of the Spin spectrum (e.g. Grimes, Bat for Lashes, Japandroids, and Cat Power), but the list is dominated by pretty mainstream stuff.  On the other hand, maybe the other lists that left off Psy and Carly Rae and Kanye will look silly in 10 years.  Call me skeptical (maybe).

Popmatters gives us the 75 best songs of 2012.  Grimes and Japandroids come in at #1 and #2 here as well as showing up on countless other lists.  They've got Frank Ocean's "Pyramids" at #3 helping him run the table showing up near the top of more lists than anyone else with more than one song in contention.  I think I could like "Pyramids" if it was shorter.  I tried to listen to some of his other hyped tracks when the record first came out with so much buzz, and I've concluded that he must be a writer's artist.  I'm a listener and a list maker, not so much a writer.  I'd like to see Cloud Nothings higher up than #52, but at least they made this list.  Adventureous genre blending music also didn't do very well on any of the lists this year, so I was glad to see Django Django at #15 and Pepe Deluxe at #22.

Stereogum gives a positive review to Pitchfork's top 100 track list.  Speaking of Cloud Nothings, they come in at #34 at Pitchfork.  By being a top 100, there's more room for both some adventurous choices and mainstream hip-hop and dance choices.  Pitchfork is probably the winner in terms of the most music that I haven't heard that I'm now interested in hearing after reading what they had to say about it.  They might also be the winner in terms of the most music that I haven't heard that I'm still not interested in hearing after reading what they had to say about it.  If Rolling Stone and Paste overvalue rootsy music, Pitchfork and NME definitely undervalue it.  A perfect list would fall between for me with a few more obscure choices.

Prettty Much Amazing gives us a top 25 with a lot of overlap with Pitchfork in the top 10.  They give their #1 to Fiona Apple, whose comeback is apparently stronger than I understood.

Esquire's list is moderately interesting just because it has so little overlap with the other critics lists and they need to be commended for including Lee Fields, who appears to have been ignored by everyone else.  Nonetheless, the presentation of the list on the web site is probably too annoying for anyone other than the most committed list reader.  MSN, with only a top 12, competes for annoying presentation.

I tried to dig up a few more obscure lists in the hopes of finding more unexpected gems.  Two lists with potential are Jonk's top 100 songs and the Wounded Jukebox.  Jonk gets extra points for waiting until the end of the year to post and for including a lot of stuff I haven't heard that I think I might like.  The Wounded Jukebox gets points for being one of the only lists to include Edward Sharpe's "Man on Fire".  Both lists get points for including Tallest Man on Earth and for introducing me to Lord Huron.

Now it's time to start making a list for New Year's record shopping so that I can be ready to make my own best of 2012 list a year from now.  As I explained in 2011 and again more recently, I need a year to catch up.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best Tracks of 2011 (with the benefit of a year's reflection)

A year ago, I decided to start a new tradition here.  It's a bit hard to claim something as a tradition when it's only been done once.  Now it will be twice.  So that you don't have to click over to it, here's what I said a year ago:

"I've decided to start a new year-end tradition. I'm going to count down the top tracks from the previous year. Let me be clear. I'm reviewing the year that ended a full year ago. I'm not counting down the just-completed year. It's too soon, and everybody's doing the current year. They have editors and deadlines. I don't. I'm going with the previous year. I will have had time to catch up and reflect."

This list of the 75 best tracks of 2011 is both longer and better than it would have been if I had made it a year ago.

75) Bon Iver - Calgary
74) Cass McCombs - County Line
73) My Brightest Diamond - There's a Rat
72) Wilco - Art Of Almost
71) EMA - California
70) Adele - Rolling In The Deep
69) Peter Bjorn And John - Breaker Breaker
68) Destroyer - Savage Night At The Opera
67) Nicki Minaj - Super Bass
66) Wild Flag - Romance
65) The Dodos - Don't Stop
64) The Strokes - Machu Picchu
63) Peter Bjorn And John - Second Chance
62) Erik Friedlander - Low Country Cupola
61) Sloan - Shadow Of Love
60) R.E.M. - ƜBerlin
59) Phantogram - Don't Move
58) Veronica Falls - Right Side Of My Brain
57) The Ettes - Teeth
56) Washed Out - Eyes Be Closed
55) Alexander - Truth
54) Secret Cities - Always Friends
53) The Bevis Frond - The Divide
52) The Vaccines - Norgaard
51) TV On The Radio - Caffeinated Consciousness
50) The Baseball Project - Panda and The Freak
49) My Morning Jacket - You Wanna Freak Out
48) Cults - Go Outside
47) The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
46) Lana Del Rey - Video Games
45) Bell - Meaninglessness
44) Smith Westerns - Weekend
43) John Maus - Quantum Leap
42) Girls - Honey Bunny
41) tUnE-yArDs - Bizness
40) Chain And The Gang - Why Not?
39) Austra - Beat And The Pulse
38) Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks
37) Atari Logic - Around The Bay
36) Factory Floor - Two Different Ways
35) Akron/Family - Silly Bears
34) The War On Drugs - Baby Missiles
33) Yellow Ostrich - WHALE
32) Okkervil River - Rider
31) The Fresh & Onlys - Keep Telling Everybody Lies
30) Girls Names - I Could Die
29) Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know
28) The Bandana Splits - Sometimes
27) Dengue Fever - Family Business
26) M83 - Midnight City
25) Amy LaVere - You Can't Keep Me
24) The Mountain Goats - The Autopsy Garland
23) Jerusalem and The Starbaskets - Chocolate Covered Everyberry
22) Fleet Foxes - Sim Sala Bim
21) Title Tracks - Turn Your Face
20) The Head and the Heart - Sounds Like Hallelujah
19) Crystal Stilts - Radiant Door
18) Battles - Ice Cream (Featuring Matias Aguayo)
17) Ward White - 1964
16) Rob Crow - Purpose
15) Little Dragon - Ritual Union
14) Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Simple Girl
13) The Wooden Birds - Be No Lie
12) The Feelies - Later On
11) Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers - Heaven In Stereo
10) Let's Wrestle - I Am Useful
9) Generationals - I Promise
8) Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise If You Can See
7) Sandro Perri - Changes
6) Those Darlins - Screws Get Loose
5) P.J. Harvey - The Words That Maketh Murder
4) Fujiya & Miyagi - Pills
3) Pistol Annies - Hell On Heels
2) Bill Callahan - Free's
1) Blitzen Trapper - Fletcher

And now I have a full year to troll through all the best of 2012 lists that were rushed out over the last couple of weeks.  Some are better than others.  Some have songs that will grow on me.  Some have songs that will age rapidly and poorly.  Look for my 2012 list here at the end of 2013.