Top 50 Songs of 2012

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Treble's Top 50 songs of 2012

30. Bat For Lashes – “Marilyn” (Capitol)
[Single; from The Haunted Man] Buy at iTunes

Natasha Khan has always had a flair for the theatrical, but “Marilyn” is arguably the most cinematic, silver-screen-ready moment in her career to date. Perhaps proving the song’s namesake may be a little too apropos, the thundering rhythms, buzzing synths and sweeping strings carrying the chorus do provide for some of Bat For Lashes’ most epic moments. And as deeply satisfying as those big moments are, how refreshing are the bizarre vocal manipulations echoing off of each other in the middle eight? In a year filled with stark examinations of real life and harrowing opuses, Khan’s fantasizing proved to be the perfect escape. – Chris Karman

29. Twin Shadow – “Five Seconds” (4AD)
[Single; from Confess]

There are a lot of broken hearts on Twin Shadow’s Confess, and George Lewis Jr. is most often the one doing the breaking. But on “Five Seconds,” the album’s booming, synth-heavy single, he likewise makes a pretty convincing case of being the one who’s wounded. In one moment, he’s desperately attempting to pick up the pieces, declaring, “I don’t believe in… you don’t believe in me/So how could you make me cry?” But his star performance reaches its heart-stopping climax with an unhinged yelp of “There’s no way to forget it all!” It would be uncomfortably open and vulnerable, if not for the dense layers of synth, jangly new wave guitars and Purple Rain production values. But no amount of overdubs can mask the beating, bleeding and bruised heart at the center of this song. – Jeff Terich

28. Spiritualized – “Hey Jane” (Fat Possum)
[Single; from Sweet Heart Sweet Light] Buy at iTunes

At the outset of “Hey Jane,” the massive opener of Spiritualized’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light, Jason Pierce asks, “Hey Jane, where’ you goin’ today?” But it’s Pierce that takes the listener on quite a trip. A fairly lengthy psych-rock odyssey at just shy of nine minutes long, “Hey Jane” is just the kind of harmonious, garagey anthem that has made Pierce something of a legend in British rock music. Once the track kicks off, it starts on a raw, rollicking jog that seems to only pick up momentum as it goes, stopping halfway through and then restarting again for a coda that makes up fully half of the song. It runs, scoots and ascends, reaching the gospel glory that often crops up in Pierce’s songs, while remaining totally badass. – Jeff Terich

27. Tame Impala – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” (Modular)
[Single; from Lonerism] Buy at iTunes

The vibes that Tame Impala singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker dishes out might not be incredibly novel, but what “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” lacks in originality is more than compensated by style. Grounded by a Sgt. Peppers-esque vocal and bass-line smooth enough for jazz-fusion, this track boasts a true `lonerism’, a declaration of independence by someone who can’t seem to get out of a rut. As the song progresses and that bass-line becomes overcome by a psychedelic swell of synth and guitar, the listener begins to feel lost in between two spaces as well. – A.T. Bossenger

26. Beach House – “Lazuli” (Sub Pop)
[Single; from Bloom] Buy at iTunes

From album to album, Beach House have continued an amazing level of growth, both in their songwriting abilities as well as the sheer grandeur of their sound. And yet, what may be the most satisfying detail in “Lazuli” is the lo-fi synth arpeggio that opens the song and carries the choruses. It’s a simple, but ultimately powerful progression that acts as the perfect counterbalance to the expansive nature of the rest of the instruments and the colossal presence of singer Victoria Legrand. For as majestic as a Beach House song may sound these days, what really makes their music special is what has always made their music special: the attention they give to their craft. It’s those little details that enable the band to go bigger without ever forfeiting anything in return. – Chris Karman

25. Cat Power – “Ruin” (Matador)
[Single; from Sun] Buy at iTunes

When Chan Marshall fully embraced richer, soulful production on 2006’s The Greatest, it wasn’t quite a game changer so much as a logical extension of the bluesy sound she had already cultivated on a smaller scale. And while Marshall opted to record the bulk of new album Sun on her own rather than assemble another massive studio ensemble, the exception that finds her backed by a team of veteran indie rockers, “Ruin,” is not coincidentally the most physical and gritty on the album. Propelled by twinkling piano and booming tom-toms, “Ruin” is a road movie in four-minute song form, Marshall putting in perspective the plight of spoiled jerks against one of the best grooves in her career. In another context, from another voice, a line like “Bitchin’/ complainin’/ When some people ain’t got shit to eat” might come off as preachy. What makes it work is Marshall, herself, who, big arrangements or not, seems to live and breathe the blues. – Jeff Terich

24. Sleigh Bells – “Comeback Kid” (Mom + Pop)
[Single; from Reign of Terror] Buy at iTunes

Sleigh Bells might have given the wrong impression by titling their second album Reign of Terror. It’s not as if the band could wreak any more havoc on eardrums than they already had with 2010’s Treats. Instead, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller left the volume dial right where it was (somewhere between 11 and total obliteration) and found a way to make their deafening riot rhythms even more pop friendly. Its most successful synergy of hook-laden pop songwriting and power chord punch is “Comeback Kid,” which is arguably the duo’s most fun song to date. Never mind the fact that the increasingly more badass Krauss bounces on a bed with a machine gun in the song’s video; the melodies alone have the potential to make a two-person pep rally into a full-blown stadium sing-along. And it doesn’t take much to get there — the song is essentially Nirvana’s “In Bloom” with dreamier vocals and more handclaps, but even these slight adjustments seem revelatory. Apparently Krauss’ studded leather jacket was only the second best part of the band’s makeover. – Jeff Terich

23. Santigold – “Disparate Youth” (Downtown)
[Single; from Master of My Make Believe] Buy at iTunes

“Disparate Youth” is, to put it simply, Santi White at her very best. It bears all the hallmarks of a good Santigold song — ethereal synths, frenetic guitar and calypso beats — all tied up together in a neat package and topped with White’s signature purring vocals. As usual White mish-mashes various genres and styles of music in order to create something that sits just between dancehall and protest anthem. With an irresistible sing-along chorus, (mainly consisting of “oh-ah, oh-ah” — credit where it’s due, she knows how to keep it simple) mad video, and thankfully, no distracting guest contributors, leaving her to do her thing, it is, fabulous, bonkers and pure gold, just like Santi herself. – Grace Barber-Plentie

22. Grizzly Bear – “Sleeping Ute” (Warp)
[Single; from Shields] Buy at iTunes

For a band that typically dabbles in loneliness and misery, it’s worth noting that the first single from Grizzly Bear’s fourth album is surprisingly upbeat. While it may not exactly inspire hand clapping and foot stomping, there is something in the beat of the first three quarters of the song that is uplifting. Grizzly Bear excels in rollicking beats and “Sleeping Ute” continues in this pattern, but while their usual songs nod more towards a Spector-esque plod, “Sleeping Ute” is rollicking and sporadic. The final minute or so of the song is typical Grizzly Bear — slow, fragile and moving. In anyone else’s hands this kind of a song may sound shoddy and rough, but as usual, for the Grizz, it works. – Grace Barber-Plentie

21. Chromatics – “Kill For Love” (Italians Do It Better)
[from Kill For Love] Buy at iTunes

Some songs are memorable simply for being catchy, harboring indistinguishable grooves that creep under your skin. Others stick out by boasting an aesthetic so unique that it’s sources can’t exactly be pinned down. The namesake track from Chromatics’ 2012 release, the sweeping epic Kill for Love, is one of those singles that fits firmly between the two. It’s a haunting take on Italo-Disco, driven by morbid synths that recall The Cure and Depeche Mode without borrowing way too much from singles past. Throw in some thrilling synth octave jumps, a brief `half-time’ rhythm break down, and simple, yet striking lyrics (“I drank the water and I felt alright/I took a pill almost every night.”), and it’s not hard to see why Chromatics made such a splash this year. – A.T. Bossenger

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