Top 50 Songs of 2012

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Treble's Top 50 songs of 2012

20. Dum Dum Girls – “Lord Knows” (Sub Pop)
[from End of Daze EP] Buy at iTunes

Dee Dee Penny had a rough 2011. After losing her mother, she channeled most of her grief into 2011’s excellent Only In Dreams. Most of the songs were gloomy, albeit reflective and atmospheric, and “Lord Knows” carries on the same themes, with a more refined sound. Of course, Dum Dum Girls have always sounded great, and “Lord Knows” is reminiscent of classic shoegaze without being a Ride or Slowdive carbon copy. Not only does Dee Dee Penny offer nostalgia through her music, but she is able to convey most of her feelings and thoughts in such a clear and concise manner. “Lord Knows” sounds hauntingly familiar, straight out of a late ’80s/early ’90s catalogue. It’s a song that seems lost in time. – Giovanni Martinez

19. Baroness – “Take My Bones Away” (Relapse)
[Single; from Yellow and Green] Buy at iTunes

On their Red and Blue records, Baroness flirted, from time to time, with melody and straightforward rock `n’ roll; underneath the impeccable, metallic shredding, one could always sense a potential for stepping outside of the genre there that wasn’t being tapped. On Yellow & Green, though, this potential exploded to the forefront, with the rock elements thoroughly dominating Baroness’ music. You don’t have to get very far into the album to realize this, only to the second track, “Take My Bones Away.” A wonderful pastiche of prog conceits and punk energy within a rock song, it’s both a moment of early brilliance and a huge step forward for Baroness, showcasing just how great John Dyer Baizley is — having previously confined himself to pretty much one vocal style — at rough-around-the-edges, gritty rock vocals. Oh, and there’s still some fantastic shredding. – Connor Brown

18. Crystal Castles – “Wrath of God” (Fiction/Casablanca/Universal Republic)
[Single; from (III)] Buy at iTunes

Apparently Crystal Castles have given up on humanity as in any way redeemable. And apparently this needed to be emphasized on (III) because the previous two were seen as being too generous (?). Is this somehow connected with a number of people thinking that the album is something of a letdown? Well, yeah. Does it make sense for a bummed out band to make an effort? To be polished and consistent? So far as I can tell that only worked once when Nevermind came out, and look where that got us. Expect this legion of disappointed Crystal Castles fans, then, to resort to playing this track and only this track from here on in. Though it is more subdued than the racket for which the duo is known, it is nonetheless a gorgeous track, aping as best it can the slow, half-frozen pulse of post-punk and packaged for a guitar-less/police state future. If it be a turd, then let it be one of blown glass and black glitter. – Chris Morgan

17. Usher – “Climax” (RCA)
[Single; from Looking 4 Myself] Buy at iTunes

Released on Valentine’s Day, Usher gave solace to every broken hearted lover out there with the fantastic “Climax.” He never exactly spells out where his disintegrating love went wrong, but there’s no mistaking that it’s over. Using pulsating synths and icy pads, Diplo provides the perfect backdrop for Usher’s distressed falsetto. The song’s rhythms stray pretty far from the dance floor — and this might be why the song didn’t translate quite as well on the pop charts as some of his bigger hits — but it’s one of the most stirring ballads he’s ever given us. Ultimately, Usher’s pain is our gain. – Chris Karman

16. Torche – “Kicking” (Volcom)
[Single; from Harmonicraft] Buy at iTunes

When Torche’s joyous “Kicking” graced the internet earlier this year, I couldn’t shake it from my mind. One could compare the exhilarating vibe I felt while listening to hang-gliding over a cliff of fire-breathing dragons (or whatever weird-dream where one is flying high through the air). The song’s a blast — the pick scrape lead-in alone is enough to guarantee a smile. The pounding verses and unison syncopated beats give way to this harmony-filled power-rock chorus that more closely resembles ’70s power pop than Torche’s metal contemporaries. Vocalist/guitarist Stephen Brooks has never denied his love for bands like Guided by Voices and Superchunk, and even said his favorite song of all time is Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” and while one first-listen the song seems devoid of ’90s indie rock-influences, never have those influences crept into Torche’s sound so deeply as they have with “Kicking.” – Rick Moslen

15. John Talabot – “So Will Be Now” [feat. Pional] (Permanent Vacation)
[Single; from ƒIN] Buy at iTunes

A lot of the attraction of John Talabot’s output the past few years has resided in its working over of the territory in which the present obsession with tropical and beach atmospherics slides into house music. So, that the track most fit to make dancefloors full of people bubble over in ecstasy is also the one most likely to produce a terribly pleasant case of Ohrwurm comes as little surprise. The vocal samples, cribbed from The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination” of all places, give “So Will Be Now” a repetitive feel halfway between song and track, enticing and teasing, ensuring that when the synths get heavy and haptic for the last couple of minutes the moody bliss is all enveloping. – Tyler Parks

14. El-P – “The Full Retard” (Fat Possum)
[Single; from Cancer 4 Cure] Buy at iTunes

If someone like LL Cool J can make a cottage industry out of rap comeback tracks, surely other rhymesayers can use the conceit to their advantage once in a while. That’s really all “The Full Retard” is, the first single from El-P’s first proper album in five years. Yet it’s a wildly successful reminder of everything we liked about the guy in the first place. It’s an arch-absurdist track referencing a movie meme with a blond Jack Black and a black Robert Downey, Jr. Simply put, you don’t want to fuck with the flow of a man who embraces chaos. Powered by buzzing beats, squirming synths, and an attention-grabbing soundbite from his late friend Camu Tao, El-P constructs a hyperactive world — “I’m a Rocky, run a hundred mile before my coffee” — suggesting the classic big beat of The Prodigy as much as it does his Rawkus and Def Jux roots. – Adam Blyweiss

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

The quintessence of Beach House lies somewhere between the bittersweet weight of nostalgia and the immateriality of hope without object. That’s the bands territory, but it’s also one that they pass beyond from time to time, like a medium communicating with an occluded shadow world, by way of Victoria Legrand’s voice. “Myth” starts off sounding like a perfect manifestation of that quintessence, glassy arpeggios lacing around each other, Legrand seeming authoritative as she huskily delivers evocative but evasive lyrics: serenity on the surface, intensity just below. You could try to sum up the song by way of the lyrics, “If you build yourself a myth / Know just what to give,” the sound of the piece as much as the meaning of the words. There is a mellow joy, doubt pitched beneath it, each tiny sacrifice made amidst the necessary clutter of everyday myths. – Tyler Parks

12. Frankie Rose – “Know Me” (Slumberland)
[Single; from Interstellar] Buy at iTunes

Frankie Rose’s Interstellar isn’t a drastic departure from her recordings with either the Outs, Crystal Stilts or Vivian Girls. But it’s just enough of an adjustment to make a world of difference. “Know Me,” one of several singles from the album but the best by some distance, is the most explicit embrace of 4AD-style dream pop aesthetics over fuzzy C86 indie pop. Her guitar shimmers and sparkles over eerily moaning synths, as Rose stretches verses of only a handful of words into graceful, gauzy taffy. The whole production is heavenly enough for her cynicism and defiance to go nearly unnoticed; her chorus of “Know me, don’t know me/ I hear what they said/ It doesn’t own me/ I’d rather be dead” becomes a blissful part of the song’s rhythmic, resplendent scenery, but it’s a strong reminder that sometimes even the prettiest songs hide razor sharp teeth. – Jeff Terich

11. Frank Ocean – “Sweet Life” (Def Jam)
[Single; from Channel Orange] Buy at iTunes

Sure, “Bad Religion” is the gut wrenching ballad and “Pyramids” is the mind bending, ten-minute epic, both remarkable in their own ways, but “Sweet Life” is unquestionably the most infectious moment on Channel Orange. In it, Ocean paints a gripping, surreal picture of a `black Beverly Hills,’ a neighborhood that’s “going ape shit crazy.” But even while he details a life lived in the safety of wealth, cutoff from the reality of the outside world, he leaves the decision of a whether or not this is truly a sweet life up to the listener. Part of what makes Ocean so affecting is the way he so skillfully puts the listener squarely in the narrator’s seat. Even if you’ve never lived in the lap of luxury or can’t quite make out what some of the imagery is about, thanks to Ocean’s gift as a storyteller, the conflicting and complicated nature of the lifestyle on display here is easily to identify with. – Chris Karman

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