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.

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