What I Listened to This Year

December 27th, 2012 · 2 Comments · By

Well, well, well my little chickadees,

The world has disappointed many by turning,

As did certain records released in 2012

Nevertheless, here is What I Listened to This Year

These are some tracks I liked that were released in 2012. I went with tracks rather than albums so that you could listen to the playlist at work on Spotify. I’ve also linked each track to Soundcloud.

Before we get down to business, there are four tracks I wanted to include, but they don’t exist on Spotify: (1) Beck’s remix of Philip Glass, “73-78;” (2) Cass McCombs’ “Empty Promises;” (3) Jessie Ware / BenZel’s “If You Love Me;” and (4) my boyfriend, Andrew Aylward’s, “Partners.”

In no particular order

Jai Paul, “Jasmine” (XL)

Like Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids,” this song is the perfect serenade to porn, strippers, and pharmaceutically-induced frolics that you wish you could forget even as you flip to another position. “Jasmine” could soundtrack it all, because it’s sexy, and because its twitchy, chilly understatement is what being on some drugs sounds like. There is waste and beauty, something Hans-Zimmerman-serious, in the reproachful loop and relentless beat, in Jai’s half-heard pouts and the echoey, hissy mix. It’ll make you wonder why you didn’t take your mother’s good advice.

Solange, “Losing You” (Terrible)

I gather there’s been an R&B renaissance this year. Well, we’ve had great (and mediocre) R&B for decades, so I don’t know what that’s about, but I do love the open sound of this track – that sample could be mistaken for kids shouting on a playground. It’s a breath of fresh air when so many artists are repping doom, drugs, and lucre. “I’m not the one you should be making your enemy,” Solange sings. It’s the argument of a decent, caring person, which is why this breakup song stays so upbeat: Solange may be single, but she’s still solid gold.

Mac DeMarco, “My Kind of Woman” (Captured Tracks)

I was instantly taken with Mac DeMarco’s blessedly uncoiled sentiments. When he sings “You’re my kind of woman,” you can bet he tells that to all the girls, but it doesn’t take away from the sweetness of the swell. His music exactly channels the merciful simplicity of a fling. DeMarco nails it because he sounds so tired, tired and in need of uncomplicated pleasure.

Kendrick Lamar, “Backseat Freestyle” (Interscope / Top Dawg)

“Backseat Freestyle” is Lamar’s parody of rap excess. It’ll get you pumped, but it’s so fucked up. In the first verse, Kendrick compares himself to Martin Luther King. Grotesquely exaggerating MLK’s inflection, he raps “Martin had a dream / Kendrick had a dream.” But Kendrick’s dream is violent, selfish, and proud, a nightmarish disappointment of King’s famous speech: “All my life I want money and power. / Respect my mind or die in lead showers.” He goes on to “pray my dick grow big as the Eiffel Tower / So I can fuck the world for 72 hours.” Then, just seconds later, he’s paranoid and contrite, “Jesus Christ if I live life on my knees no need to do this.”

Lamar has sketched Milton’s Satan in 3 minutes and 33 seconds and the devil’s a narco-thug rapper. Corrosively imitative, insatiably hedonistic, bomabastic and even fitfully self-aware, Lamar takes down the whole charisma, even while articulating its appeal: “Goddamn I feel amazing.” Shows up “Sympathy for the Devil” for the half-baked flail it is.

Grabbel and The Final Cut, “The Finest Thing” (Captured Tracks)

This is a reissue, part of Captured Tracks’ Shoegaze Archive. I just love the density of loathing packed into this sweet little prom rocker. The singer hates himself, hates the babe, hates himself for hating the babe – and they’ve only exchanged glances. The whole childish lyric drips with sarcasm, “I see your face / my heart goes boom,” and with ridiculous theatricality: “Know that this would never work,” he sighs.  It’s just a sterling example of how nothing says “I love to hate my weakness in this hateful world” like fuzzy twee.

Frank Ocean, “Sweet Life” (Def Jam)

This has been Ocean’s year. He made his own way, starting as a great songwriter (cf. Beyoncé’s “Miss You,”), ditching Def Jam for the Odd Future collective, getting hype for his excellent mixtape Nostalgia ULTRA, and finally, having the courage to come out this summer. His songs aren’t just catchy. A far-reaching character sketch like “Sweet Life,” laconically sums up the inanity of pleasure, an ocean that’s softly dissolving both neighborhoods and globes. Fatal complaisance: “You’re catchin’ that breeze til you’re dead in the grave,” as Ocean sings.

Julia Holter, “Goddess Eyes II” (Domino)

As I’m writing this, I don’t really like Julia Holter. The novelty of her pop/academy crossover, the fusion of Euripides and Eno, has worn off, and now it feels like these songs just don’t have a lot to say. But I include her, because I’ll probably like her and her ilk, Holly Herndon & Andy Stott, again. I really should have put Sharon Van Etten’s excellent and true “Serpents” here, instead, but I liked her acoustic work better.

Micachu and the Shapes, “OK” (Rough Trade)

Like the aforementioned, Micachu (Mica Levi) is a musician of impeccable training. She looks like a member of Jesus & Mary Chain. And despite being an experimentalist, she writes highly accessible pop songs, that bop particular youthful feelings right on the head like handful of field mice.

Majical Cloudz, “What That Was” (Arbutus / Merok)

Is this not one of the most beautiful tributes to friendship you’ve heard this year? Its insight on buds brings to mind LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great,” or Earl Sweatshirt’s “Chum.” And it’s an expansive homage to The City (whatever city), being young, and walking out high on a cold, sunny afternoon to pick up pastrami or an art girl or more beers, without a single goddamn care.

Angel Olsen, “Acrobat” (Bathetic)

I have spoken of this one before. I was very excited to see Olsen at what turned out to be an actually too packed Tea Bazaar show. I’m still a great fan of her artful earnestness and fine lineage (Morita Douji, Sibylle Baier, Kath Bloom), and look forward to getting excited about her next release.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Vijith Assar // Dec 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    I actually really liked the Japandroids album. Also, I am not a chickadee!!!

  • 2 Carolyn // Dec 28, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Coincidence – or something else?