50 best songs of the calendar year. Songs must be from an EP, LP or demo released during 2012 and no band may appear twice. Today, we count down 40 to 31.
40. Howth - "Secret Goldmine"
Howth, all rich with horns and moral victories offered the outlines of a clandestine financial reserve on glittering single, "Secret Goldmine". A down-stroke guitar and drums cribbed from the National's catalog, "Secret Goldmine" was an unrequited love song, pitched at the last minute in hopes that the feeling would be mutual. "I'm thrilled to be your secret goldmine," was code for something else: unconditional and long form duets.
39. Maps and Atlases - "Fever"
In a year lacking big, bold rock songs, "Fever" did its best to roll the collective windows down and jam the collective accelerator pedal to the collective floor. It was supposed to be a transfiguration, a dreamed moment when the "Fever" passed and we were a more reasonable, less knee-jerk, rational species. Of course, the wailing guitars and slamming drums did little in this stead. "Fever" passed, tipping five minutes, but not without the break that comes in the middle of the night and at high temperature.
38. Donora - "And Then The Girls"
Donora, a Pittsburgh band with brash enough chops to make a name for themselves on the national scene, broke through in 2012 with a rigorous touring schedule and a singular moment on, "And Then The Girls". There was an argument that it was the year's best chorus, a refrain that drove over and over and over at the same idea: the title lyric in falsetto, four notes in play and all of them pleasing to the ear. It was maybe vapid, but so was Le Tigre, and "And Then The Girls" recalled a glossy riot grrl chic, girls in revolt but tastefully done.
37. Mirror Talk - "Choose Life"
For anyone waiting on the Future Islands record that never came in 2012, Mirror Talk was the baritone synth pop of which your dreams were made. Rooted in an oblique question - "Is it true love?" (and the comma placement or lack there of made all the difference) - "Choose Life" was the grinding, industrial jam to architect the last stages of a disaster. It was New Order for kids that knew New Order; it was Future Islands for people that already loved Future Islands.
36. Eliza and the Bear - "Brother's Boat"
The insistent opening guitar chords of "Brother's Boat" announced the arrival of Eliza and the Bear. It was post-Mumford pop, folk music with a touch of bombast, Edward Sharpe without all the commercial overtones. The final explosion, "Just let it go," was built for Beasts of the Southern Wild, an anthem for where the wild things actually were.
35. Princeton - "Remembrance Of Things To Come"
Princeton does baroque pop better than anyone in indie rock and "Remembrance Of Things To Come" was no exception. It was all build and no payoff, strings frantically chasing a syncopated piano progression around a falsetto vocal. It was indie rock for a string quartet, things lost and forgotten or, as the band suggested, those memories yet to be made.
34. Oberhofer - "HEART"
No one went more for broke in indie rock this year than Oberhofer on "HEART". The all caps title was an overture, an introduction, to what was a twitchy and bombastic arrangement. The final movement, one of the best 90-seconds of music this year, was a crashing, tumbling conclusion to an already bold arrangement. It was about losing love, a shuddering coda to a brilliant bit of somber pop, Bradley Oberhofer cooing down the back of the disaster.
33. Chairlift - "I Belong In Your Arms"
There is a world where Chairlift's "I Belong In Your Arms" was the single best song of 2012, a glittering bit of synth pop built for an 80s movie that was never made. Like The Chocolate War, the gags are slapstick and the allegories are hard to miss, Polachek and her crew making a crystalline arrangement that drives restlessly forward like a lost and improved Kate Bush single.
32. Lord Huron - "Time To Run"
Things fell apart internally in 2012, or at the very least, continued their pattern of utter instability. So pardon Lord Huron for looking outward on lead single, "Time To Run," a banging and clattering slice of world pop that served a bit of footnoted notice to bands like Local Natives and Vampire Weekend. The truth was out there, to be sure, a mixture of love and loss in the service of foreign interests and neocolonial ideas.
31. Here We Go Magic - "How Do I Know"
In the era of the overly certain opinion, "How Do I Know" presented a pleasant countretemps. All about not knowing if she or he was the one, Here We Go Magic offered a bit of indecision - and this is completely absurd because "How Do I Know" is also so clearly a love song - in a time and place where everyone, everywhere, all the time, has a take.