The best songs of 2012 part II

Second quarter report of the tracks that made the spring-summer season.

As August gets underway, here’s our list of the best tracks from the last three months, or at least since we posted the last edition of the best songs of 2012. Click through the 20 songs in the Youtube playlist below, and we hope you enjoy the feature.

  1. Jessie Ware – 110% [PMR]
    Normally stars have to have a certain level of fame to be known by their first name. Jessie Ware at the time of the release of 110% was a promising London singer known to a few tastemakers for guesting on some decent underground dance tracks and a great song with Dave from The Invisible. But the moment this extraordinary, extraordinary song hit back, Jessie Ware became Jessie. Quiet drum patters, from julio Bashmore, a pretty synth line, a delicately flipped sample and a flirty vocal about dancing while you wait for the person you fancy to come over. Within this simple framework is so much: a brave re-purposing of underground dance music, the sign of a new, slighter, lighter form of pop, the sound of two London talents reaching pop heights. More than all of this, and better still, it’s a bloody great lovesong. Jessie, our Jessie: thanks. [CRJ]
  2. Frank Ocean – Pyramids [Def Jam]
    Frank Ocean’s staggering debut album was heralded by two announcements, and if he hadn’t decided to overnight re-map the sexual geography of hip hop, Pyramids would still be the most astonishing pre-release of recent times. A three-part, nine-minute prog-soul epic taking in three thousand years of African history, it signalled the sheer scale of Frank’s ambition, as well as his extraordinary ability to marry sympathetic storytelling and surreal sonics. [CRJ]
  3. Laurel Halo – Thaw [Hyperdub]
    Arguably the heart of Brooklyn artist Laurel Halo’s extraordinary debut album ‘Quarantine’, Thaw articulates misunderstanding as a blunt weight on the chest that, with every ever-hopeful reach, gently fades over time. It’s a deeply affecting, awakening song, one that has incredibly sensitive grasp of the contradictory, contrary human condition. [RS]
  4. Actress – Shadow From Tartarus [Honest Jon’s]
    Shadow From Tartarus stands out on Actress’s superb third album. The track harks back to dusty techno tracks with its grinding base but it’s the addition of an almost impossibly bright synthesised arpeggio alongside the base that marks this out as a star, expertly blurring the poles of light and darkness that are such a key concern on ‘R.I.P’. [AW]
  5. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe [604 Records]
    Released at the very top of the mainstream this spring and on 197 million Youtube views and counting, this lovely track by Canadian Idol runner-up Carly Rae Jepsen has has wormed its way into 3am kitchen sing-along classic. Less a song, more of a chorus; and less of a chorus and more of a social leveller, it’s simply a classic teenage love song. [CRJ]
  6. Chief Keef – Don’t Like [self-release]
    16-year-old Chicago starlet Chief Keef earned a co-sign from Kanye West when he remixed _I Don’t Like_ for his label G.O.O.D Music, but it’s the raw menace and metallic crash of the original that’s the real star. Arguably the rap banger of the year so far, expect this one to be played a lot for a very long time to come. [AW]
  7. Micachu & The Shapes – OK [Rough Trade]
    Discordant and reticent, Micachu’s first single from ‘Never’ is an endearing, enduring example of incredible song-writing, fluently expressing the condition of sadness and – underneath the scrappy sonics – a pure, perfectionist imagination and one of London’s truest talents. [CRJ]
  8. Antony And The Johnsons – Cut The World [Rough Trade]
    Title track from Antony and The Johnsons fifth album which was released on the 6th August via Rough Trade Records, Cut the World is a song capable of encompassing you on an emotional journey beyond your control. The beautiful single climaxes when it reaches the crescendo achieved by a 42 piece orchestra; delicate strings and thoughtful pianos combined with Antony Hegarty’s stunning vocals come together to create a breathtaking track. [FD]
  9. Gwilym Gold – Faithless Arms [self-release]
    Former Golden Silvers member, Gwilym Gold first presented single Faithless Arms in June, earlier this year, at the Boiler Room, the perfect intimate setting for such a humble yet wonderful song. So easy on the ears, Faithless Arms finds a lovely balance between faint drums, gentle keys and enriching vocals in this emotional performance. [FD]
  10. The xx – Angels [Young Turks]
    As the first taste of The xx’s new album, ergo one of the most anticipated songs of recent years, Angels had a lot resting on its delicate shoulders. With all the chatter about Jamie’s big gun collabs, they could have easily come back with a belter but, thankfully, they held true. Angels is the kind of love song that makes you want to scrawl someone’s name on your pencil case in Tipp-Ex for all the world to see. [RS]
  11. How To Dress Well – Ocean Floor For Everything [Weird World / Acephale]
    Pensive and suggestive, this was the first single to be released from How to Dress Well’s forthcoming album, ‘Total Loss’, to be released later this autumn. The evocative vocals of Brooklyn-based Tom Krell have you hooked and as the song builds, so does your involvement. When the synth drops halfway through, it’s like you have been hit with surround sound, the beautiful sounds echoing around you beyond your control. [FD]
  12. Lukid – USSR [Werkdiscs]
    Lukid’ music operates as tone poems more than dance tracks, exploring the exact limits of synth plucks and machine beats, with simple wit and light imagination, leaving a song summarised by what isn’t there. This is the first taste from his new album, ‘Lonely At The Top’, though its strength is that he’s operating in a class of one. [CRJ]
  13. Slime – Anni [GETME!]
    London boy Slime has been drinking from the same well as Mount Kimbie, The xx and Kwes but that’s no bad thing, clearly. He puts his own spin on their space with the magnetic power of shuffle and tone. Anni glows with percussion that tickles the spirits and keys that melt into the skin, and is always over far too soon. [RS]
  14. LA Vampires & Octo Octa – Freedom 2K [Not Not Fun]
    On the surface, Amanda Brown’s latest collaboration Freedom 2K is a pastiche – a list rave cliches, from piano loops to ecstasy chants, over a euphonic, hands-high track. But listen closer, and you’ll see the neon glare is rendered pastel-soft, the day-glo a daydream, the smiley face a flirty wink. In many ways, LA Vampires are a joke band, but at least they’re a bloody good one. [CRJ]
  15. Sunless ’97 – Body Weather[Not Even]
    There’s a naivety to London trio Sunless ’97’s Body Weather that makes me want to spin round and around like the only thing that mattered in the world was seeing who could get the most dizzy. It’s a sweet, sweet pop song, with a beaming saxophone solo that couldn’t give a shit if you think saxophones are cool, not cool, having a moment or whatever. Watch these guys fly this coming year. [RS]
  16. Mykki Blanco (production by Arca) – Join My Militia [UNO NYC]
    Hey guys! Remember when New York music was basically a bunch of art kids running around making violently transgressive music? Me neither, but the bunch of artists at UNO seem intent of resurrecting the ideals of no wave kicking and dancing into 2012’s ambivalent musical landscape, and Join My Militia by the transgendered rapper Mykki Blanco is a jaw-dropping statement of intent over one of the weirdest, most visceral beats the underground has churned in months. [CRJ]
  17. Delilah – Go [Atlantic]
    A new voice, bright, pure and strong, rising from British streets and the global boho trail, Delilah is a fascinating talent. Go is the standout track from her excellent album, a stunning crystallisation of the sound of the London night, full of pirate radio signals and promise. This audacious haf-cover of Ain’t Nobody is one of the bravest releases on a british major label in years, and an absolute diamond of a single. [CRJ]
  18. Teengirl Fantasy – Motif (Actress remix) [R&S]
    For their forthcoming second album ‘Tracer’, NYC duo Teengirl Fantasy stole their gaze from house to Detroit techno’s burning intricacies. So it makes perfect sense they turned to another who has always held a candle for that most innovative of electronic forms to remix their debut single for new label R&S. Taking a tip from the name, Actress focuses on a single groove and, recalling the meditations of his recent album ‘R.I.P’, demonstrates the transportive power of repetition. [RS]
  19. Eaux – _Luther [Morning Ritual]
    London trio Eaux used to be Sian Alice Group give or take a member or two. While there was lots to love about their previous incarnation, as Eaux they stand taller, more focused. Funk-heavy techno permutations provide the swell for singer Sian’s glacier-like vocals to course through. This is a bold debut single, and one that cannot help but get hopes shooting skywards. [RS]
  20. LOL Boys – Changes ft. Heart Streets [Friends of Friends]
    There’s been a fine but thrilling seam of underground pop songs so far this year. I’m talking Physical Therapy’s Drone On, Outer Limitz I Kontact, Blood Diamonds Ritual and that’s just for starters. These kids were brought up on MTV, weaned on hooks; it’s in their DNA. LA/Montreal internet duo LOL Boys hit that sweet spot and then some on Changes, the title track of their recent EP. It’s a belter, a heartbreaker, a sing-it-into-your-hairbrush number. [RS]

More Lists