Wednesday, December 19, 2012

End of Year Mix Tapes Special Edition: My Top 25 Tracks of 2012

You guys! It's that magical time of year again! No, not Christmas, you geeks! It's that time where I unveil my favorite songs of the year. I know, I know, it's so much more exciting than what anyone else on the Interwebs might possibly be saying.

Now, last year, I went through my top 20 favorites. This year, I felt a special need to stretch that out to 25. But can you really blame me? It's been a hell of a year, music-wise:

Frank Ocean! Sharon Van Etten! Twin Shadow! CAT POWER! Jessie Ware!

And oh holy shit, none other than my beloved, my one true love:


So without further ado, and before I basically give away the entire list, here we go. In case you haven't picked up on it, there are a lot of lovely ladies on this bizness—and you are going to love every minute of it, I swear it. (And may I just add that my other wifey, Alicia Keys, recently released a fantastic new album, and it breaks my heart a little that I'm not including a track from there. But! Too late in the game to win me over this time. Sorry boo.)

Deep breath. Here we go: 

25. HAIM — "Don't Save Me"
A recent, but nonetheless amazing, discovery I found on one of my favorite music blogs, disco naïveté, who called this track "yet another perfect slice of 2012 pop-but-not-pop." I quite agree. Also: "Baby, don't save me (if your love isn't strong)."

24. Lianne La Havas — "Lost & Found"
This beautiful young lady is one of the many, many examples of how the Brits were killing it this year with some soulful shit. On top of that, I spent one rainy Sunday in April listening to this over and over, finding solace in the fact that apparently I wasn't the only person who could feel all of the feelings she sings in this song. I'm not ashamed to say that I did. The good thing about feeling lost? Eventually you find yourself again. Sometimes that's with the help of beautiful music. Without further weeping:

23. Grizzly Bear — "Sleeping Ute"
Pitchfork called this first song from Grizzly Bear's latest album "an unusual explosion of energy," with Daniel Rossen's guitar a "knife slashing through thick sheets of percussion as he croons amidst the clamor." I called it, "ohholyfuckthisisamazing" and I think that is equally accurate ("and I can't help myself").

22. How to Dress Well — "& It Was U"
This. Beat. Over at NPR, Frannie Kelley wrote that this song is "irrepressible, the kind of song that makes you push your partner away on the dance floor so you have enough room to really move." Yes, exactly. 

21. First Aid Kit — "To a Poet"
Right from those opening "ooh, ooh, oohs," this song gets me every time. But in particular, "Now I miss you more than I can take/and I will surely break"—but, "there's nothing more to it, I just get through it." It's a lovely, lovely song.

20. THEEsatisfaction — "QueenS"
Discovering THEEsatisfaction this past March was the perfect birthday present. And the takeaway from this track? "Whatever you do, don't funk with my groove." I won't, I swear I won't.

19. The Mountain Goats — "Until I Am Whole"
Because all two minutes and 49 seconds of this song just fucking kills me. Every single part. And that's all I can really say.

18. Kwes. — "bashful."
Back in March, my brother tweeted, "calling it: @alisoncomposes has a new crush." He was talking about Kwes. And boy, was he right. On top of the fact that I didn't stop listening to this song on repeat for about a month straight, well, dare I say that if I was stuck on an elevator with this Brit, I might be...bashful? Yeah, I went there.

17. Santigold — "Freak Like Me"

16. Kathleen Edwards — "House Full of Empty Rooms"
I knew Ms. Kathleen would get a spot on this list, but I had one hell of a time narrowing down my favorite from her latest album, Voyageur. Ultimately though, there was something about the way her voice (almost) cracks during these sad confessions, "And I'm far from perfect/I'm far from anything/but I swear when we started/I used to make you happy" that spoke to me the most. Because I think it takes a lot of guts to admit that "I don't know you, not the way that I thought I did," and she does it beautifully.

15. Kendrick Lamar (feat. Dr. Dre) — “The Recipe”
I don't even know where to begin with how much I've been loving Kendrick Lamar this year. Here, paired with Dr. Dre, he just doesn't get any better for me. Women, weed, and weather, amiright?

14. Azealia Banks — "212"
Of all of my many, many lady crushes this year, the one I have on Azealia is possibly the most serious. Is it because no one else has ever declared, "Ima ruin you, cunt" while bouncing around in a Mickey Mouse sweater? Or is it because this song is just thebestthingever? You tell me:

13. Cat Power — "Ruin"
Chan, darling. You came back to us with this magic, and for that we are all grateful.

12. Bear in Heaven — "The Reflection of You"
Because pretty much all I did in the month of May was read Bon Iver Erotic Stories, watch Lost, and listen to Bear in Heaven. True story. I got to see Bear in Heaven play at Lollapalooza this year, and even though I was sweating my face off, I loved every single minute of it. This is why:

11. Miguel — "Use Me"
Just when I thought no one was even going to get in Frank Ocean's league this year, Miguel had to release Kaleidoscope Dream. I think technically I'm supposed to say that "Adorn" is my favorite track from the album, but I'm not gonna lie. As I described this track the first day I heard it: This song is the sex. I'll leave you with that.

10. The xx — "Chained"
Back in August, this song felt like perfection to me. It's no longer quite as poignant, but I'll be damned if it still isn't almost perfect. It's everything I love about The xx. "It's not a secret you should keep."

9. Twin Shadow — "Five Seconds"

8. Yeasayer — "Longevity"
Ian Cohen reviewed Yeasayer's new album, Fragrant World, giving it a measly 5.4 on the ever-important Pitchfork scale, and wrote of this song in particular (with what I can only assume was a self-satisfied sneer) that "the only real friction is that of a square peg plugging into a round hole." I'd just like to say: Whatever, Ian. What the fuck ever. Decide for yourself, guys:

7. Bat for Lashes — "All Your Gold"
Natasha Khan has completely stolen my heart with The Haunted Man (and the fact that I discovered she's a Roald Dahl devotee!). With this song, she makes me feel wistful and defiant and sad and hopeful all at once. And as if it wasn't already devastating enough, she had to go on and dance around on the beach wearing a black-and-white bodysuit.

6. Dirty Projectors — "Gun Has No Trigger"
Because "you'd see a million colors if you really looked." I love this song with every ounce of my being, and don't you dare tell me I'm being dramatic.

5. Jessie Ware — "Sweet Talk"
You wouldn't believe me if I told you just how much I love this song, and Jessie Ware in general. Because: I LOVE HER. This song is exactly what I want from a pop/r&b song. Then there's this video, which is just the cuteness. Yes, the cuteness. It's the right word, trust me:

4. Alabama Shakes — "I Found You"
Brittany Howard might as well be singing about my feelings for this band with this song. Bless you, Alabama Shakes, I finally found you! Well, in reality, I found them last year, when "Hold On" made it to my 2011 best of list. Whatever. Mere details. The point is, we all found the Alabama Shakes this year, and thank Jesus for it. This song makes me want to shake my fist and jump around and weep and scream. All in love, of course.

3. Frank Ocean — "Pyramids"
After falling head over heels for Frank Ocean last year, thanks to Nostalgia, Ultra (and more specifically, "Novacane"), he then decided to go and make channel ORANGE, which was one of the highlights of my year. When I first heard this song, after I got over the beautiful mind fuck that happens over the course of 9 minutes and 53 seconds, I shook my head in amazement and played it again. And again. And again. "Set the cheetahs on the loose."

2. Sharon Van Etten — "Give Out"

You know when I write a damn poem about a song, it's pretty likely it'll end up on this list. (See last year's list for your proof.) The night before I saw Sharon Van Etten's show at Lincoln Hall, I wrote one, largely inspired by the song "Give Out." To reveal how many times I have listened to this song since February would only serve to embarrass me and make you nervous, so I won't. You can figure it all out with the damn poem, probably.

1. Fiona Apple — "Anything We Want"
Hi, have we met? This should really be no surprise at all. FIONA! (You can read all the feelings I feel about Fiona in this previous post.) This July, all my dreams came true when I got to see Fiona Apple perform at the Chicago Theatre. Of all the amazing songs on her new album, this one kills me the most, particularly when I saw her perform it. Oh, holy shit. When she sang, "I looked like a neon zebra shaking rain off her stripes," shaking her whole body, I think the entire crowd died a little. There's something about the way Fiona says, "I wanted you to kiss me when we find some time alone" that is perfection. So I'll leave you all with this, my favorite song of the year. And guys? Just remember: "Look around, it's happening, it's happening, it's happening now."