With doomsday approaching in just a few days, I decided to start compiling a definitive list of songs released during the last twelve months of humanity as we know it. Last year, 2020k easily released the Top 20 songs of 2011, but, this year was different. I’m not sure if more artists started releasing really good music because the end of the world was coming or not, but it was impossible for me to narrow this year’s favorites down to just 20. So, the list doubled.
In fact, there’s more than 40 songs that were originally in the running for this list, and while they were all highly debated over, some of them just missed the mark for the final cut. They’re honorably mentioned below, with streaming links, and the rest of the flawless tracks follow them. Each song has a brief description and a listening link. If I wrote something about them this year, the number associated with the song will be clickable.
HONORABLE MENTION TRACKS
What these honorable mentions have in common is that they are five fantastic pop songs that have pushed boundaries in their own right. Taylor Swift’s intimate song diaries challenge the state of an impersonal mainstream society, while Natalia Kills’ experimental video compliments the song’s sociological lyrics. “Looking Hot” interpolates No Doubt’s signature ska sound with their wonderful pop additions. Little Boots’ “Every Night I Say A Prayer” was so close at kicking off the top 40 list.
45. Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together [Youtube]
44. Nelly Furtado – Parking Lot [Youtube]
43. Natalia Kills – Controversy [Youtube]
42. No Doubt – Looking Hot [Youtube]
41. Little Boots – Every Night I Say A Prayer [Youtube]
2020k’s Top 40 Songs of 2012. Part One – Songs 40 through 21
40. Fun. – Some Nights Intro/Some Nights – This Jeff Bhasker produced track is a highly emotional indie rock song that blasts the listener in the face with highly compressed rhythmic and vocal sections. The honesty of “What do I stand for? Most nights I don’t know” assault the auditory system in the purest way possible. Lead vocalist Nate Ruess recalls the theatric vocals of Freddie Mercury and where Fun. takes us in the future is highly anticipated. [Youtube]
39. Origamibiro – Ballerina Platform Shoes (Proem Remix) - Proem completely turned Origamibrio’s “Ballerina Platform Shoes” on its head by stripping out the innocence it contained and fueled it with a dark synth bass melody. It’s full of panned Electronic elements and beautiful melodies that morph through the song, carrying it in different directions. There is a 2020k interview with Origamibrio that’s quite introspective. Reading it is highly recommended. [Soundcloud]
38. Gotye – Easy Way Out - “Easy Way Out” doesn’t even clock in at 2 minutes, but it’s beautiful. While the song holds an average of 6dB of dynamic range, which is (sadly) average for a record nowadays, it starts off strong and chugs its way along distorted guitars and excessive percussion and vocal layers. It also holds a nostalgic angst that laments “some feelings have a habit of persisting even though you wouldn’t let it show.” [Youtube]
37. M.I.A. – Bad Girls - It’s a bit obvious that the “Bad Girls” re-release and video was a subject of being chosen by Madonna to join her and Nicki Minaj on stage for 2012’s February NFL Superbowl performance, and we’re glad it happened! Not only does the commercial release of this song run circles around the version included on Maya’s VICKI LEEKX mixtape, but its accompanying music video contains some of the most badass cinematography we’ve seen in a while. It’s a bit noticeable that the final verse was recorded in a different recording session, but who’s looking? [YouTube]
37. Tori Amos – Flavor – The orchestral record Gold Dust that compiled songs through the entirety of Amos’ career was met with extremely conflicting reviews. 2020k teamed up with OTM Blog in a way to combine these differing sides through their collaborative review of the album, but one thing is for certain: “Flavor” is one of Tori’s most versatile tracks in a long time. Along with it’s Gold Dust appearance, it’s original arrangement was featured on Abnormally Attracted to Sin and dance musician Peter Rauhofer recently released a remix EP of the song. They’re all wonderful and raining icing flavor all over the place. [Youtube]
35. Carmichael – Physical - The Olivia Newton-John version of “Physical” remains one of the most campy, quintessential 80’s pop laughs of that decade and was turned into the hypnotic and sexualized anthem it should have been with infrasound featured artist Carmichael’s cover. It’s available over at iTunes for $0.99 and is worth the purchase for the unique vocal production and and guitar layers alone. It’s quiet, it’s raunchy, it’s perfect pop bliss. [Youtube]
34. Trent Reznor – Theme From Call Of Duty Black Ops II – Cinematic themes have worked well for Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor lately. Nine Inch Nails has always had an underlying emotional atmosphere within their musical compositions and it’s strongly shown and demonstrated through Reznor’s solo theme song for the video game series Call of Duty. Electronic aspects, bottled tension, and triumphant marches weave their way through brass and guitar focal points and instrumentally create one of the most intricate and interesting offerings that recall both With_Teeth and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo vibes. [Youtube]
33. Garbage – Automatic Systematic Habit – The first track on Garbage’s comeback record Not Your Kind of People is pretty minimalistic in composition, but you wouldn’t know that unless you downloaded the multitracks and made a remix of the song, which is exactly what I did. The song is now uploaded and available for free download by clicking here (Merry Christmas..you’re welcome), and is a complete opposition in take from its original upload. “Automatic Systematic Habit” is an attack on a compulsive liar who tries to keep his lovers as dirty little secrets. Is Shirley Manson having it? No. Is Garbage having it? No. Is 2020k having it? Fuck you. Are we loving this track? Hell yes. [2020k Remix Download]
32. Kiks – Tell Her (Featuring Amber Clara) – We first reported on Kiks in an infrasound article. In it, the London musician made a statement that ultimately describes the essence of dance track “Tell Her”. “My number one priority in every track I make is to have a catchy vocal hook. Those make or break songs and if I haven’t written a vocal line that sticks in my head and drives me crazy, then the song needs more work.” With repetition of the song’s title in the majority of the lyrical content of “Tell Her,” the dance, house, and dubstep influenced track works flawlessly. Tell her that you’re sorry, but only if you really are (because what kind of person says they’re sorry when they’re not?)..then dance with her to this track. [Youtube]
31. Morgan Page – Body Work (Featuring Tegan and Sara) - Tegan and Sara are no strangers to the dance scene. Being featured on a Tiesto album and having your own Remix EPs released are pretty cool feats for an sister-indie-duo act, and having a beautiful and critically praised feature on a Morgan Page record isn’t that bad either. We remember Morgan Page before he was big, posting on an Imogen Heap message board talking about an unofficial “Hide and Seek” remix he did when the song first came out, and we’re happy to report that our love for Page has stayed and grown from the beginnings to now. He has our pulse working overtime. [Youtube]
30. How To Destroy Angels – Ice Age – Mariqueen Maandig, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Rob Sheridan decided to take it back to a stripped folk era with “Ice Age” off their recently unveiled EP An Omen. It’s simple, with simple guitar and underlying synth pad layers providing a backdrop for Mariqueen’s lyrical focus that begins “I find it looks the same but everything has changed. I find remembering gets harder every day.” It’s a flawlessly executed seven minute track that never tires, despite its stagnant approach. [Youtube]
29. Paul Van Dyk – The Ocean (Featuring Arty) – Progressive trance veteran Paul Van Dyk never disappoints and especially not on his early 2012 album Evolution. It’s an overflowing, long record that foresees dance music’s roots before the mainstream overhaul. Parallel compression and gorgeously arpeggiated synthesized bits create a backdrop for this aggressive, but sometimes ambient inspired dance track that features Arty on vocals. It builds, and builds, and builds before breaking down several times during the song’s run and combines incomprehensible, but important lyrical content. [Youtube]
28. Crystal Castles – Plague – We recently reviewed Crystal Castle’s (III) which features “Plague” as their opening track, and rightfully so. It’s the duo’s most mature and dark offering yet. Political and social injustices are tackled without fear through the entire run and “Plague” is the most disturbingly honest offering yet. Alice Glass and Ethan Kath went for a pure punk approach to their Electronic music, by recording the majority of the songs that went on the record in one take. Sometimes, the record drags, but this track? It is the Plague and its Jacknife Lee assisted synths will haunt you for days on end. [Youtube]
27. Clark – Tooth Moves – We get scared when Warp recording artist Clark releases a record because sometimes the dynamic range is disgustingly small. “Tooth Moves” and the majority of the tracks on Iradelphic are not. In fact, they’re melodically guitar based, unique in their use of obscure recording techniques, and blend into each other in the best way possible. The beginning of “Tooth Moves” barrows from the ending synth of the track before it and interpolates it in suave passion before unleashing wonderful guitar layers and a wicked synth solo. [Youtube]
26. Ellie Goulding – Anything Could Happen – “Anything Could Happen” is an important pop track. It’s one that’s slowly rising up Billboard’s Hot 100 charts, but should already be at the top. It’s brutally approached in one of the most interestingly accessible ways a pop song should be written. Without paying attention, it’s happy, bouncy, and full of hope with a chorus that repeats the song’s title in circles, but listening un-hinges thoughts of post-breakup tears. “After the war we said we’d fight together. I guess we thought that’s just what humans do,” Goulding recalls at the second verse. “Letting darkness grow as if we need its palette and we need its color. But now I seen it through, and now I know the truth.” It is produced to sound pristine and perfect, but it doesn’t need it. It’s perfect even on stripped down performances and on sheet music and paper. [Youtube]
25. Flying Lotus – See Thru To U (Featuring Erykah Badu) – First of all, we’re highly upset that we didn’t receive the two albums Erykah Badu said were coming out this year, but we’ve learned that Erykah talks the talk more than she walks the walk when it comes to a release schedule. It doesn’t matter though and everyone laughs it off (because when she delivers, my God does she deliver), and the collaboration with Flying Lotus is enough to hold us off. It’s Electronic-Jazz, with a noise floor that’s heard through the entire track. It’s a busy track that has Badu lamenting “I can’t make it grow. I know, I know, I know, I know I know, let it go – I can’t make it grow.” What does grow is both Erykah and Flying Lotus’ artistry with this track off Until The Quiet Comes. [Youtube]
24. The xx – Angels - Minimalist is something The xx has become known for and the opening track off Coexist, “Angels,” does its job at portraying the band in the best light possible. It’s heartbreaking to listen to, but it’s a love song. Make sense? We didn’t think so, but does love? The hook changes periodically through the track but comes back to the protagonist being as in love with you as I am through the song. “Angels” is love and beauty personified through song. [Youtube]
23. Norah Jones – Good Morning - We’ve heard Norah Jones sad before, but not as sad as she’s been on her 2012 Danger Mouse produced …Little Broken Hearts record. A euphoric synth and lone guitar opens the track and stays glistening through the composition as extremelypowerful portrayal opens this song. “Good Morning. My thoughts on leaving are back on the table, I thought you should know. And maybe powerful actions or powerful feelings keep me from going.” It’s one of the most melancholic albums released this year, praised for its change in Jones’ eclectic discography. [iTunes]
22. Frank Ocean – Thinkin Bout You – With an experimental video, “Thinkin Bout You” quickly catapulted Frank Ocean’s already extremely acclaimed praise into light. The Channel Orange song brings back the R&B and soul that is desperately declining in today’s music scene. The song refuses to die on the Billboard Charts, has racked up a ton of award nominations and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that this sort of soul music makes a return. It won’t ever get old. Not in our soul, not in our spirit, keep it alive. [Vimeo]
21. Black Moth Super Rainbow – I Think I’m Evil – These Pittsburgh, PA (hey, guys. I’m here too! Let’s be friends!) natives have done a lot for the underground Electronic scene by letting the music do the talking and it’s never done as much talking as it has on their latest release Cobra Juicy. “I Think I’m Evil” combines the band’s signature vocal stylings with an indie electro feel and pop influences to create a track that asks us to run with them because “running makes everything alright.” It’s true, isn’t it?