Mixtapes for Hookers

The Best of 2012, Part 1

50. Grimes, Oblivion
Lisping and noodly, I can see how this outwardly precious song might drive people nuts. Even more so since Grimes became something of a critical phenomenon this year, in that way where she was beloved by bloggers and largely ignored by anyone who doesn’t read music blogs. Nevertheless, I like how catchy it is, and I’ll always hold a candle for dance music recorded in people’s bedrooms.

49. Kelly Clarkson, Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
It seems like so long ago now that this song was ubiquitous, spending three weeks atop the Billboard Singles Chart (and becoming her biggest-ever single, in that regard). It seems like one of those songs that’s all chorus, but my favorite parts are actually the pre-chorus and the fidgety guitar bits that start and end the song, popping up here and there to keep listeners on edge.

48. Nelly Furtado, Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)
The first single from Furtado’s already-forgotten The Spirit Indestructible album, this song failed to catch on for several reasons for this: a forty-five second drum-and-bass breakdown that has nothing to do with the rest of the song and the fact that she’s largely name-checking early-nineties R&B groups that most people don’t remember, mainly. (Even I had to remind myself what a Hi-5 haircut looked like.) Also the video was a visually pleasant but ultimately very weird mix of Native American dancers and Swarowski product placement.

47. Miguel, Adorn
I only like one male-fronted R&B slow jam every five years or so, if that, but Miguel’s “Sexual Healing” update has really been winning me over recently. The lead single from his Kaleidoscope Dream album, Miguel wrote and produced the song himself, indicating that the man’s talents aren’t entirely vocal. His voice, though, is something, emotive and seductive without veering into overly cheesy histrionics.

46. Nero, Promises
This was a big hit in England in the summer of 2011, but this year it crossed over to become a (minor) American hit. (I spent way too long debating whether this song should qualify for this list at all.) And while dubstep is the laughingstock of the dance music world (and, from what I can tell, of the indie rock world) I actually really like songs with this amount of bombast.

45. Timo Pieni Huijaus, Pleiboi
At some point in my desperation for new music one night, I feel down a Youtube k-hole and ended up giving myself a crash course in Finnish hip-hop. It exists, for one thing, which I guess most people don’t realize. This single, from Huijaus’ album Kaikki loppuu, samples Finland’s 1966 Eurovision entry and therefore scores some bonus points. I have no idea what he’s singing about, though I confirmed via some shady lyrics website that he does rhyme “duckface” with “fuckface” (in English).

44. Cat Power, Manhattan
As I was introduced to Cat Power via Moon Pix and The Covers Record, I was disappointed in her sober, happier albums, even as I was glad to see things looking up for Chan Marshall the person. I think she’s finally found a good mid-point, though. Jukebox was pretty good album, but “Manhattan” is a really good song. For five minutes it bubbles along with Schroeder-ish piano bits and really well-mixed drums.

43. Bruno Mars, Locked Out Of Heaven
Listening to Bruno Mars is a lot like watching a telenovela, normally, with the sensitive singer drawn to hammy, over-the-top metaphors about morphine drips and jumping in front of trains to describe whatever girl is bugging him that day. What Mars needed, it turns out, is clever producer/historic appropriator Mark Ronson, who added a fun backing track that sounds more like a Police song than many Police songs do. It works.

42. Kraftklub, Songs Für Liam
Remember Art Brut? Like, when Art Brut were good? I miss Art Brut, and all the bands that sounded like Art Brut circa 2007, all jokey and critical about the music industry but with fun guitar lines. This song is very much of that ilk. The only words I could really understand amidst all the German were “Arctic Monkeys”, but the chorus translates roughly into “When you kiss me Noel is writing songs for Liam again!”

41. Beach House, Lazuli
Oh, Beach House. Every song you make sounds more or less the same, and yet they’re all so good! “Lazuli” was released in advance of the album Bloom, yet another record I got very excited about and then didn’t buy, but the song itself is really very good.

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