32ft/second's 2012 Rarities Collection

We hope you enjoyed our week long feature on the Top 50 Songs of 2012.  In addition, we've put together a 19-track group of 2012 rarities, songs that you might have missed as the B-side to a single release, a remix, a radio session, a cover, or a live show that ended up in our iTunes this year. We listened to thousands of individual songs in 2012 and occasionally we came across something not everyone got to hear. Some songs are more obvious, things you certainly will have heard in one form or another and some are deeper cuts. It's like Behind The Music for a blog that already spends its time on music that hardly anyone listens to.

 32ft/sec's 2012 Rarities Collection (.zip)

1. Arcade Fire - "Sprawl II [Soulwax Remix]" (BBC Radio Rip)
2. Swim Good - "Bury My Body And Tell My Friends" (B-side to "Totally A Mess Wild" single)
3. Memoryhouse - "This Will Be Our Year" (Zombies cover)
4. Mumford and Sons - "Tessellate" (Alt-J cover on BBC's Radio1)
5. The Zolas - "Escape Artist" (Live Acoustic Southern Souls Session)
6. Capybara - "Neighbor Crimes" (Live in Brooklyn)
7. Father John Misty - "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" (Live on KEXP)
8. POLICA - "Leading to Death" (Live in Phoenix)
9. First Rate People - "Office Party" (Live)
10. Theme Park - "Jamaica" (Live on The Amazing Sessions)
11. Jinja Safari - "Ignition Remix" (R. Kelly cover on Triple J)
12. Oberhofer - "HEART" (Violitionist Sessions)
13. Thieving Irons - "So Long" (Live on KEXP)
14. Dan Griffin - "Yulia" (Wolf Parade cover)
15. Tame Impala - "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" (Acoustic Pitchfork Log Cabin Session)
16. Passion Pit - "Take A Walk" (Live Acoustic on KEXP)
17. Chvches - "We Sink" (Live on BBC Radio1)
18. Marina and the Diamonds - "PRIMADONNA" (Acoustic)
19. The Vaccines - "Teenage Icon" (Live Acoustic Corona Sessions)

Top 50 Songs of 2012 :: [Number One]

1. Best Coast - "How They Want Me To Be"

2012 wasn't the year dominant culture ceased to exist, but it might have been the year where we all became most keenly aware of it. A creeping relativism, unleashed during the previous decade in music with the release of Garden State, the ascendancy of the Seth Cohen and Zooey Deschanel tropes, the quirking of cool, finally came home to roost. Subculture, in the old Hegelian sense, lost its way. How could you march against the edifices of a fake empire if there were no edifices against which to march? How could you march at all if everyone was in step with their own proverbial drummer? It was finally unclear who was in charge, and the project of postmodernism was sort of complete. The walls and gates of the inner parts of the cultural empire were down; the center had exploded before Foucault and Derrida got to stand triumphantly in the inner chambers; the center now lay in a million little pieces and everyone seemed to hold a part of it.

Some of this certainly marked an improvement. Dominant culture and its relationship to subculture always proved a little abusive: the popular kids against the literate ones, the cool kids against the kids who were into cool things. This fever dream, it seems, passed in the last ten years. Cool now seeped from everywhere, packaged and marketed by a million different companies and adopted in every possible form. Rap kids could wear studded belts and skinny jeans, and skaters wore flat brims. Hipsters rode a rising tide of cultural contrarianism and irony, and adolescents possessed a veritible buffet of acceptable cultural signifiers from which to choose. The xx even made a case for the coolness of introversion and baggy black clothes in the past three years, a fact that would have labeled you a school shooter during the knee-jerk, binary 1990s. Cool could now be virtually anything, a hyper-inflation of cultural capital where everyone was rich and poor at the same time.

So when Beth Consentino of Best Coast sat down to write "How They Want Me To Be," the most haunting and pregnant song of the 2012, it was a little unclear who, exactly, she meant. Who was this "they"? Further, given Consentino's sort of annoying position as an arbiter of "cool" and her myriad failings for being wantonly commercial and personally petulant, was she even the right person to be making a case against "them", even if we were to figure out who "they" were? Consentino was not the most adept or archetypical revolutionary for this confused age. In fact, she will probably be remembered as one of the more cynical artifacts of an incredibly cynical era of indie rock. But her argument on "How They Want Me To Be" took an inward twist that was as thought-provoking as it was gorgeous.

The signature lyric and idea, "I don't to be how they want me to be," proved to pleasantly outdated, a sort of walking, talking bit of nostalgia for a time when parents just didn't understand and friend groups wielded group-think like a cudgel. What was most charming in Consentino's argument was that she still felt penned in, even riding a self-made tidal wave of solid-color Wayfarer sunglasses. No one was chasing her, flannel shirt and full of tattoos, that irritating Los Angeles cool spilling from behind her maybe ironic t-shirt, and still she ran. It was the grand American tradition of restlessness, a sense that all was not well, and that the cultural police still might be out there somewhere. "They" weren't dead; "they" still wanted her to be some indeterminate way. She wanted nothing to do with it. "How They Want Me To Be" was one of the only rock songs of 2012 that so openly admitted to being culturally uncomfortable, that this era of wide-open social and cultural mores was no panacea.

The answers were not to march against new cultural standards or search for more and more bizarre counter-cultural movements; the answers were probably in your bedroom or in your immediate social circle. The revolution was waking in the middle of the night and finding reassurance in another person who felt the same way about this era of cultural fragility, a multivalient dystopia outside and a cocoon within. This was not the breezy fun of "The Only Place," the intensely marketed and marketable single from the record of the same name. "How They Want Me To Be" reflected a deep and delicate, not to mention new, set of anxieties.

Something wasn't right, and it was now impossible to say who or what was responsible. "How They Want Me To Be" illustrated Consentino spending money recklessly and against the better advice of her friends, revealed her mother "just wondering", asking "a lot of questions", the gentle pressures that Consentino necessarily turned into the enemies of her freedom. These were the anxieties that haunted her nights and early mornings.  It couldn't be a nagging adult or even a judgmental group of friends, these were her fictions. No one was chasing her and no one would be. In a world that was once organized by who you were for and against, Consentino woke to find that everyone was for everyone. We were, finally, terrifyingly, alone.

The answer to this new cultural anxiety lay next to her. The song took a final twist on its last line, Consentino wailing into her own duet, "You don't want me to be how they want me to be/I don't want me to be how they they want me to be." No one used "to be" verbs with more poetic license and impact than she did in 2012. The scary realization that "they" didn't exist didn't deter Best Coast. "How They Want Me To Be" proved both a beautiful love song, a plea for refuge from all these swirling cultural decisions, and a new set of marching orders against an age that thought it killed the notion of marching orders. Solace in finding new enemies, in reinvigorating the old conversations, in resisting these new anxieties, in finding someone who also didn't want you to be like they wanted you to be, it was a plea for individuality and partnership in an era that did the mostly former.

We could find ourselves again, she argued, with another and against new cultural enemies, maybe even ones of our own making. Our freedom would not lie in breaking out, but rather in breaking in, finding another who nervously scanned the room and wondered who "they" were and what, if anything, "they" wanted you to be. As an existential statement, "How They Want Me To Be" crafted itself in the negative. We all clutched physical parts of the destroyed cultural capitol and the subcultural Molotov cocktail that destroyed it like little bits of the Berlin Wall, artifacts of a bygone era. The revolution was now past. These battles were over, but "in the morning and the middle of the night," the fight raged on within.


Top 50 Songs of 2012 :: [10-2]

Welcome to our annual countdown of the 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 10 to 2. 

10. A.C. Newman feat. Neko Case - "Not Talking"

What separated Newman's 2012 release, Shut Down The Streets, from being a New Pornographers record remained unclear, especially with a Neko Case appearance on the debut single, "Not Talking". What remained certain was this: when Case and Newman collaborate, the results are magic. A whirling melody and Newman's typical austerity dissolved into Case's transformative duet. It was about a lonely, reverse-engineered Eden. "Rescue teams will look for days/I like the way things are/They should abandon the search," they sang, providing the outlines for exile of these two massive talents. It was allegedly about redemption, a bridge about distance, Case and Newman soaring out over the arrangement with sturdy wings, but it was clear these two were happier out there alone.

9. Father John Misty - "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings"

The most memorable drum and guitar line of 2012, Father John Misty built a house of death on America' far western boundary with "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings." "What are people gonna think?" Misty posed to the woman in question, though he suffered from no reservations of formality when dishing up one of the most satisfying sexual lyrics of the year, "I laid up for hours in a daze retracing the expanse of your American back." It was all love and funerals, digging in the dirt, girls along for the ride, making out and up in cemeteries in Los Angeles.

8. Sun Kil Moon - "Sunshine in Chicago"

Mark Kozelek has never lost sleep over forthrightness. In 2012 "Sunshine in Chicago" was no exception, a bracingly honest take on getting old. He admits to getting an STD in Chicago in the 90s, though this somehow comes across as dulcet as the admissions of his own father's exile to Chicago in the summers to relieve a crowded house. Nominally, it is a walk through a sunny Chicago, but it is Kozelek's talent for blighted imagery that takes us to his father, a more-famous career with the Red House Painters, and that line about "guys in tennis shoes." Few other artists do place, minutiae, and lyrical imagery as well as Kozelek, admitting to being both crushingly sad and entirely fine with getting older, all in the span of a walk down Lincoln Avenue on a sunny afternoon.

7. The Zolas - Knot In My Heart"

The most unexpected and infectious chorus of the year, The Zolas' "Knot In My Heart" proved to have staying power behind their one monstrous hook. It was the Spoon song for the year we didn't get a Spoon record, a bit of angular and restless piano-pop that held incredible darkness beneath an ebullient surface. The "knot" wasn't real, though it probably felt that way. The band unleashed lyrics like, "it's hard and weird not to know how your day begins, though I'm lying next to someone new" a simple and crushing aside. The final twist saw the arrangement at full bore, sparse piano chords insistent over the top of the repeated and eponymous lyric. It both ripped and could rip you apart.

6. The Vaccines - "Aftershave Ocean"

The magical realism emerged as a thick stew on the Vaccines' non-single, "Aftershave Ocean." It was their best song from a frankly forgettable sophomore record that will undeniably result in people getting fired at Columbia Records. "Aftershave Ocean" was undeniably excellent, a weird mixture of elements of 2001 Strokes and 1968 Beatles. The guitar line chased the melody, Justin Young singing throwback pop lyrics like, "You're coming up for air/happier down there/in your aftershave ocean." It wasn't clear what it all meant, some weird lines about self-denial, "pulling the wool over," life being difficult to face and indulgence, but the impression was something more like, "Yellow Submarine," the escape that promised better times below the surface of some magical place.

5. Nite Jewel - "One Second of Love"

A whirring synthesizer back-beat announced the arrival of the singular Nite Jewel's "One Second of Love." It featured the chorus of the year, the absolutely best hook, good enough that she only teased the listener with elements of the first refrain, waiting until the 1.21 mark to unleash the complete version. It was haunting and cold, singer Romona Gonzalez asking, "Who has one second of love?", an implication that this might be more fleeting than we were lead to believe. The middle section darkened further, before a final movement, spacey synths soaring to meet the chorus of their maker, Gonzalez, alone in a layered duet with herself, asking her most pressing question.

4. Beach House - "Myth"

It was a lighthouse warning, an iron triangle, a pot and pan beginning. It was something you couldn't quite place, that ringing sound that began Beach House's stunning achievement, "Myth." That banging, inexplicably folded into the arrangement, like an auditory announcement in the fog that lay ahead. It was beautiful, intentionally and creatively gauzy. Victoria Legrand, in her usually haunting voice, suggested, "what comes after this/momentary bliss/ consequence of what you do to me" as if to say to the world they pushed back in their chairs, something this pretty has to come at a cost. Dreams this big, lies this wide, fog this rich, it must fall apart somewhere. It was maybe a bit much, but like only a few other songs this decade, you'll likely remember where you were when you heard "Myth" for the first time. There was no denying this truth, a banging reminder of where you were on their drifting sea of melody and self-deception.

3. Stars - "Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It"

Leave it to Stars to hit us with a lyric like, "take the weakest thing in you/and beat the bastards with it," a neo-Breakfast Club call for weird dignity in an increasingly individualized and lonely world. For Torquil Campbell, his weakness was that he was frightened and high, twin admissions at the center of "Hold On When You Get Love ...". Amy Milan was reduced to a Kate Busy-like feature in the chorus, her tweaked and soaring vocal offering a counterpoint to Campbell's confessional Moz. The marching orders were everywhere, the title, the chorus, the ratatat drums calling us to attention, the way they slammed in and out of the chorus, the Cure guitars. It was big and bold and beautiful, a bit silly and a bit saccharine, but love can be like that. Stars remained appropriately at the center of the melodrama, maybe the song of their career, one that Campbell admitted had a "pretty melody," but wouldn't help you leave the party at the right time. This was presumably a cautionary tale of the infidelities that happen after midnight. It was an admission; they could tell you what love sounded like, but they couldn't make you do it.

2. Alt-J - "Breezeblocks"

No one knew what to do with Alt-J in 2012. People compared them to Radiohead. Critics swooned. Pitchfork left them out of their top 50 albums. It was a cacophony as loud as the disparate influences on their record. This writer nearly had a meltdown listening to their debut LP, An Awesome Wave, and its best song, "Breezeblocks" the first time through. There was so much to it, two distinct movements, each a bit bizarre, describing first a murder and then a cannibal's desire to eat the object of your love. The final lyrics, almost done in a round fashion, "Please don't go/I'd eat you whole/I love you so," layered and layered, the drums gaining in intensity and the arrangement swelling behind the band until it was almost maniacal. Perhaps this was suitable for a song about holding the object of your desire down with concrete blocks, a winking and intense idea for what would become the band's "radio single" at college radio in the US. The weirdness worked, and Alt-J held us all under the water, or maybe it was us that killed them. Either way, we were kept together in a weird, pseudo-fetishy way, held down with weights and bound to the bottom.


Top 50 Songs of 2012 :: [20-11]

Welcome to our annual countdown of the 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 20 to 11.

20. Jinja Safari - "Hiccups"

It was post-Vampire Weekend pop, but it didn't make it any less fun, or any more awkward when the band balked at questions about Graceland. When you're the seventh layer in the seven-layer derivative dip, you don't think much about the six layers below you, even if it means the dudes in Lady Smith want to punch your lights out. "Hiccups" proved new-fashioned fun, a Lion King for adults, cartoonish bombast and hooks for days.

19. Slam Donahue - "Bug in the Sun"

"Bug In The Sun" emerged as one of the most singable melodies that 2012 had to offer. The refrain, abrasive on recording, intentionally and artfully tweakish, became something else when re-sung in the shower or a good parking garage. "Twitching like a bug in the sun," really a line about modern anxieties, transmuted into something less when put in the voice of the listener. It was a throwback, melodic and garish, self-consciously poppy, the kind of thing best sung again and again.

18. The Happy Hollows - "Endless"

The Happy Hollows had a quiet 2012, save the release of "Endless," a stirring and juiced up take on the pop that Fleetwood Mac (and now those girls in Haim) made deservedly famous. "Endless" ended in a series of soaring "ohs" from lead singer Sarah Negahdari, the line between her falsetto and normal vocal becoming more and more blurry in the maw. It was probably the layers, sliver upon sliver of vocal mix until the only thing left was one of the most elevating refrains of the year.

17. Wild Ones - "It's Real"

A small song, Wild Ones' "It's Real" was a break up anthem with only one hook. But, the chorus, "One more terror night/no I don't think we'll let that happen" proved both grammatically specious and entirely awesome. It was the kind of music that Rilo Kiley stopped making well before they imploded, or maybe a female fronted Say Hi To Your Mom. It was cute without being precious, adorable without being annoying. It was a bit dark, and most importantly, very real.

16. The Tallest Man On Earth - "1904"

The discography of singers making sense out of earthquakes isn't exactly extensive. In 2012, Tallest Man On Earth turned his talents to the shuddering earthquake that rocked Sweden and Norway in 1904. The magical realism ran deep, Matsson singing, "and as I lower down I hear it's a message, and it's 1902 telling people to get out." This notion of being privileged with the prophetic knowledge of some terrible forthcoming event felt hyper-modern, a sense of unplaced dread, even about a century-old natural disaster in Northern Europe.

15. Capybara - "Neighbor Crimes"

Capybara loaded "Neighbor Crimes" full of every bit of their keyboard and guitar pop and then shot it up in the night sky to explode and burn. It reminded the listener of UB-40, perfectly off-beat keyboards and each movement building on this original idea, glossy vocals and explosive guitars in the same moment. It may have been overlooked, but "Neighbor Crimes" was one of most ambitious and unconventional rock singles of the year. It turned the relatively meaningless lyric, "thinking, going, Mexico" into some sort of marching orders: a head-nodding jam that never took itself for anything of the sort.

14. Polica - "Lay Your Cards Out"

You either saw Polica in 2012 or you didn't. The band, maybe the first to ever properly utilize two drummers (and yes, White Rabbits don't count), toured both this continent and the one to our right with a mixture of rolling thunder, cold medicine dreams and magical sexuality. "Lay Your Cards Out" urged a forthrightness that felt real and important this year, the arrangement ebbing and flowing with efficacy, finally a rising tide of layers that washed over the listener, laying everything bare and clean.

13. Chvrches - "The Mother We Share"

"The Mother We Share" patched our genetic material together in a big mess of DNA in 2012. It was Kate Bush-lite, slamming synth stabs and a progression that almost literally took off into the chorus. The shouting catharsis ached of British moral victories, whirring from hook to hook without perfect answers, lyrics like, "the way is long, but you can make it easy on me." We were left with a little girl's voice shouting into the imploding architecture, everything falling apart and, seemingly, coming together. 

12. Challenger - "I Am Switches"

Challenger provided us with the lyric of the year, "I wanna be with you when the other shoe falls." It was one of those deeply American communal fatalisms; in essence, we should be together when this all falls apart. "I Am Switches" was two-halves of a song: one part ebullient synthesizers and big horns, and the second movement, a literal reversal, vocals headed backwards in time and a more plaintive stab at the original idea. None of this would be easy or direct, and all we would have was some sort of new-Platonic Symposium. "There's no philosophy more likely fulfilling than friendship/ I'm lost in the world I'm in love with," were the last lyrics of a difficult but beautiful synthesizer meditation.

11. Sky Ferriera - "Everything Is Embarrassing"

Ever since Zooey Dechanel and Garden State, a generation of kids have gotten away from the sort of Calvinist public shame that drove so much of American culture over the last few centuries. It was suddenly fine to wear an ugly sweater or thick glasses or listen to Belle and Sebastian. It wasn't weird or silly, you were at the absolute center of relativist individualism. Dominant culture ceased to exist. You were you, a quirky and intentionally weird self. Bizarre became the new cool. Sky Ferriera threw the brakes on this program in 2012, claiming the opposite instead. It was all so horrifying, each bit of it, your carefully built and self-consciously quirky self. Every stupid thing you said, each protracted goodbye and stupid aside, your lack of social graces multiplied by your mounting anxiety, Sky went after it all. "Everything Is Embarrassing" made a beautiful case for shame, for downcast eyes and blushed cheeks. We're already weird human beings, she argued, let's maybe not celebrate it to loudly.


Top 50 Songs of 2012 :: [30-21]

Welcome to our annual countdown of the 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 30 to 21.

30. Reptar - "Orifice Origami"

No one had more fun in 2012 than Reptar did during the opening thirty seconds of single, "Orifice Origami". The shuddering synthesizer arrangement coalesced for a brief moment on the shouting lyric, "Something's not all right here," a sort of something-is-rotten-in-the-state-of-Denmark for a generation of kids almost as gutted and even less decisive than Hamlet. Irony was the twist, a party song about everything being all fucked up, dancing on the edge of a disaster, or what your summer should have sounded like if you were under the age of 30 and stuck with these circumstances.

29. NO - "Another Life"

 "Another Life," represented the resounding announcement from post-National rock outfit NO. It channeled Berninger to be sure, only missing a lyric about apple pies or lemonade or something in the lemonade. It was Americana all the same, dark slices of counterfactual, lines like "we'll get pretty after," all targeting a group of future selves that would self-actualize. It wasn't "Mr. November" but on the shaking conclusion, it was NO's "Mr. November".

28. Paradise - "Endless Wave"

Paradise is shaping up to have a massive 2013 around first demo "Endless Wave," a carefree surf-pop arrangement that owes just as much to the Beach Boys as it does to LCD Soundsystem. Opening to a stomping middle section, the band concerned itself with languid days of summer and a sort of zero-friction reality where the confetti cannons explode and we're all carried away on their "Endless Wave".

27.The Rest - "Laughing Yearning"

The most criminally underrated rock band of 2012, The Rest released a crushingly great record and no one from mainstream independent music circles, at least in the US, seemed to go as bananas as they, perhaps, should have. "Laughing Yearning," without spoiling all the fun, is the song that Local Natives will struggle to find on their second long-player, a wide open and Western rock song about hysterical lost love. These were celebratory drums, and a soaring melody, all colliding in one of the best chord resolutions of the year, the lead singer moaning into the maw, tumbling downwards and finding himself in the final group of choruses.

26. Bloc Party - "Truth"

No one made guitars sound so at once warm and abrasive as Bloc Party did on "Truth". Easily the best song off what was a forgettable fourth record - and it was called Four which should have been the first non-silent sign of alarm - "Truth" churned forward toward a crystalline chorus. The band's traditional sawing guitars were here harnessed for the purposes of elevation, signaling a danger and a submission, Kele promising, "I am yours now, respectfully." 

25. The Mean Season - "Hearts"

It was gritty stuff on The Mean Season's "Hearts," opening lyrics about past pursuits and cold hearts. The innovation, beyond the shabby indie rock arrangement, was the critical commentary about the heart ever became a symbol for love. Perhaps it is just a mean little fist that keeps you from dying. Maybe love is elsewhere, rather than the four-chambered flesh beneath your rib cage. Even a bit meta, the band demanded, "Who decided it was such perfect symbol for love/when it's only an organ pumping your blood?" in one of the best, worst and most memorable lyrics of the year.

24. Theme Park - "Jamaica"

Like St. Lucia, Theme Park was actively engaged in making equatorial music in 2012. "Jamaica" joined the already great single, "Two Weeks," to firm up the sense that Theme Park could be staging a take over in the next few months. "Jamaica" was carefree, an instantly memorable hook and a chorus that drifted along under its own power.

23. Thieving Irons - "Poison"

If "Poison" didn't make sense to you, you either had an intensely bucolic adolescence or missed it all together. The narrative thrust, the repeating hook, "I've got poison in my head," exploded into a middle section that was the closest rock music has come to the churn and crush of the finishing kick of LCD's "All My Friends." After all, "Poison" had a second motif. "You were always on my mind," they sang, a reference that this poison might have a proper noun attached to it. She, like the song that followed, was an absolute killer.

22. Harriet - "I Slept With All Your Mothers"

There wasn't much to "I Slept With All Your Mothers." It was less than two-and-a-half minutes long, a lonely little piano and some plodding guitars. It was the vocal, a screaming and insistent melody, not to mention the most pathological conclusion of any rock song of the year, that sent "I Slept With All Your Mothers" near the top of 2012. It was all love and rage, a "fuck off" to the girl who broke your heart, and a middle of the town square scream, "I Slept With All Your Mothers!" before wading off into the friscalating darkness alone.

21. Suburban Living - "I Don't Fit In"

It was the Cure song that the Cure never released. "I Don't Fit In" was independent rock's "Friday I'm In Love" for 2012, only without the saccharine coating and the radio play. All reverb and washing guitars, Suburban Living chased the melody around for awhile before shouting the title lyric against a backdrop of glittering guitars. It was the final downbeat, a relentless and dogged driver, that propelled the arrangement along. This was the music the Drums could never dream of making, a sadness of an unarticulated type that no one has time for anymore.

Top 50 Songs of 2012 :: [40-31]

Welcome to our annual countdown of the 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.


Top 50 Songs of 2012 :: [50-41]

Welcome to our annual countdown of the 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 50 to 41.

50. Swim Good - "Totally A Mess Wild"

A spiraling and looping beat, this First Rate People offshoot delivered a song about being out of control that was tautly and intentionally organized. The initial duet was the charmer, playful and biting in the asking of questions like, "Are you ashamed of the things that you do?"

49. Little Legend - "Saints"

This group of Wisconsinites brought the house when it came to blue-collar rock in 2012. "Saints" proved to be nothing like its title, lines about being born under bad signs and with fires lodged firmly in the skull. It was all whiskey and cigarettes, full of small sins and resolute sinners

48. Teleman - "Cristina"

Bits of Phoenix crept into the corners of Teleman's debut Moshi Moshi single, "Cristina". The cruise-control set at something closer to residential speed limits, "Cristina" glides around under its own power: glossy, love-sick and circular.

47. Long Walks On The Beach - "We're Growing Up"

Long Walks On The Beach made lo-fi sound high on the vaguely seasick "We're Growing Up." Frantic and breathless, the band grappled with the developmental process in a string-soaked universe where "crowds swell" without urging and people "hang tough" in the tape fuzz.

46. Mike O'Neil - "Henry"

Mike O'Neil built the most marketable chord progression of 2012 on "Henry;" it was a wonder it didn't find a multitude of advertising syncs. "Henry" wasn't intentionally commercial, but its breezy arrangement and lilting piano were made for the selling of consumer durables on your television.

45. farragoes - "The End of the Affair"

"The End of the Affair" was a summer single that name-checked Dostoevsky, snappy enough to sing along and dark enough to drive a listener to review their copy of Notes From Underground, somewhere gathering dust on a bookshelf. It was electro-pop with a cynical twist, sounds made for May and lyrics for the middle of a winter that never ever ends.

44. The Shins - "No Way Down"

In an election year, the Shins surprisingly shitty LP, Port of Morrow included one of the sharper, and least obvious political songs of the campaign. All about Mercer's weird liberal guilt and his effervescent liberal anger, it was at once a stab at elites, and a polemic spoken in their language. Beautiful and self-consciously hypocritical, "No Way Down" emerged as a song about "a tiny few having all of the fun," marketed in Starbucks outlets and served with five dollar coffees, a v-neck sweater song all about the 99%.

43. Warships - "Sleeper Hold"

Rooted in a lonely guitar lick, "Sleeper Hold" eventually gathered warmth before spilling over in one of the year's most affirming choruses. It wasn't all rainbows and lollipops, the lyrics were largely about sleeping alone, but the layered and soaring vocal of the refrain was enough to carry the light up out of the darkness.

42.Wildcat! Wildcat! - "Mr. Quiche"

Wildcat! Wildcat! will have a far bigger 2013 than anyone is ready for, a fact evinced by debut single, "Mr. Quiche." It sounded like the making of an indie rock slow-jam, lyrics about "lonely days" and a keyboard progression that practically exploded off the fingers. Two distinct movements, one sparse and the other lush, "Mr. Quiche" eventually erupted into falsetto final act before falling away to nothing.

41. Band of Horses - "Shut-In Tourist"

"Shut-In Tourist" exercised form and function in the same moment, the chorus' only and intensely memorable lyric was the repeated, "so I repeat what you said." The band sang the lyric four times in each refrain, the refrain repeated three times, and then a fourth for posterity only. That's 16 chances to sing "so I repeat what you said," which was, luckily, one of the better, if smaller, hooks of the year.


China Rats :: "To Be Like I"

If everything breaks right for China Rats in the next few months, they will be 2013's answer to the Vaccines 2011-campaign. The Leeds band channels more Ramones pop-brut than the Vaccines ever did, but the insistent drums and shout-along refrains are the common thread. "To Be Like I" is a revolving door rock song, spinning and spinning in place, joyfully centered on the title lyric. The band will play SXSW in a few months time, and have a coming single to back "To Be Like I" and the band's other recent raucous single, "N.O.M.O.N.E.Y." With a big following in the UK, in the ever-evolving American "now," China Rats are in the pregnant moment before things either happen or don't, like "To Be Like I," full of potential, brash and uncertainty.


Tom Odell :: "Another Love"

Tom Odell crafts a fragile, weary and angular piano demo on debut song, "Another Love." Seemingly built for the closing credits of an intensely credible, if boutique cable drama, "Another Love," begins in self-conscious and sparse reserve before finding its down-beat and unfurling in wave after wave of harmony and nearly bucolic melancholy. That progression, the one that initiates the second movement, the transition from sparse to expansive, will feel like it is everywhere at once, the power of chord resolutions and a group of voices together.


Kodaline :: "All My Friends" [LCD Soundsystem cover]

It has been a weird last five years and everyone knows it. See, in 2007 when James Murphy's thesis statement track, "All My Friends" descended on downtown New York, no one had any way of knowing what the next years held. Only a little further downtown the next year Lehman Brothers would accidentally destroy the global economy. Speed up to 2012; LCD is no more; global financial markets are still behaving like a depressed teenager; "All My Friends" is still a genre and generational-defining track." It was about getting older and losing bits of yourself along the way, trying to regain the groups that held you together and have now fractured apart, the grand codependency of youth collapsing into jobs, unemployment, distance, all grinding bits of adulthood. In Murphy's world this was, "you're blowing 85 days days in the middle of France." Kodaline, a band who are doing a very reverent Coldplay impression, recently covered "All My Friends" with a mournful, Irish sparseness. While nothing touches the original, Kodaline, also tapped in the BBC's Sound of 2013 as one of the most promising acts of the coming year, take Murphy to church in a final, group sing. It won't stave the anxieties that drove "All My Friends" the first time, nor will it fix the new ones that emerged since its release, but it's a wonderful reminder all the same.

Lonesome Leash :: "Ghosts"

Dropping into an unsettling dystopia, Lonesome Leash's debut single, "Ghosts" is an ambitious minor key offering that checks in somewhere between the French Quarter and the apocalypse. Sharing methodologies with the drone-pop of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Lonesome Leash, however, is no bedroom project, rather the outcome of a one-man-band or, as sole-member Walt McClements says, "hands feet and lungs." "Ghosts" breaks into haunted house progressions, moaning through a sort of neo-baroque disaster, the final, insistent lyric, "There are ghosts between us, as we lay." It's the soundtrack to the final movement an independent film that hasn't been made yet. A cathedral of horn and accordion mark the outlines of the blast area, this washed out and unsettling bit of pop music, McClements, tense and alone at the center.

Download :: Lonesome Leash - "Ghosts"
Download :: Lonesome Leash - "Feeding Frenzy"


Eliza and the Bear :: "Upon The North"

One of the most promising acts coming out of Britain today, Eliza and the Bear have released their triumphant new single, "Upon The North." It is in the school of their post-Edward Sharpe pop: big, expansive and Western-inspired Americana mixing with a deep British reverence and elegy. The bridge, a shouting and repeated lyric, "I spent summers away," is filled by organ chords, splashy cymbals and backing vocals, the same formula that makes their debut single, "Brother's Boat" so relentlessly charming. "Upon The North" charges ahead with the same type of exuberance, running without looking down, aimed breathlessly on the horizon in the northern sky, despite the fact that, for the American music consumer, this band's future lies dead west with the setting sun.


Gems :: "All I Ever Wanted"

Sounding like Beach House's Victoria Legrand playing songs from the Sundays' back catalog, DC's Gems launch a beautiful and troubling single, "All I Ever Wanted." Far from triumphant, the cut features male and female vocals in the verses, building toward breezy and brutal chorus. Guitars wash against the shores of a playful bass line in the distance, all a set up for the final movement. "Too much to bear," sings Lindsay Pitts, making clear the implied counterfactuals of the refrain. This is no happy ending, nor is it about getting the one thing you wanted. It does outline the architecture of dusty mornings and moral victories lying somewhere about in the ashes.


Randolph's Leap :: "Hermit"

Randolph's Leap are a Glasgow band overflowing with pop hooks and the kind of blighted brilliance on which Scotland has an effective monopoly. On "Hermit", lead track from their EP of the same name, the band sounds intensely like British stab at the horn-soaked pop that Beulah made deservedly famous in the previous decade. Think Stornoway with a bit more punch and a relentless pursuit of a chorus that twirls under its own melodrama. It is, like so much of this type of pop, about being lost and alone. Belle and Sebastian influences creep in at the corners, especially in the final movement where the band loses control in an exceptionally orderly fashion.


Velveteens :: "Do You Remember?"

To grasp the demos from Velveteens, you need eyes to see the initial "Do You Remember?" not as it is now, but what it could be in a real studio, served up with an extra portion of bombast. This is bedroom pop: Casio-looped drums, bits of ambient noise, conversations at both the beginning and end of the recording. The hooks are buried, red-lining the recording, clipping the top of the mix and breaking into fuzz, but the string arrangement and melody are undeniable. The early Mountain Goats recordings were made on a Fisher-Price tape recorder; roughness can be a virtue. Here it just marks a starting point. "Do You Remember?" will likely be re-recorded later, additions of the decadent and the baroque to replace the bedrooms of your youth.


Challenger :: "Are You Scared Too?"

Challenger, a band who released an incredible debut single, "I Am Switches" over the summer, returned with the release of their full length, self-titled debut this past Tuesday. Second track, "I Am Switches" is movie music with three distinct movements: an opening description of the problem, a down-tempo middle section where things look bleakest, and a rousing and ebullient conclusion. The middle third is dark, unfettered elegy, a vocalist left alone with one long, held chord, before the arrangement takes on a bit of Paul Simon-Graceland bass, and a soaring final sequence of keys and a guitar solo that jerks the telemetry skyward. It requires a bit of patience, certainly, but the rewards are manifold. The next song on the record after "Are You Scared Too?" is the aforementioned and explosive "I Am Switches," a song that erupts with as much force as any this year. Challenger does each of these tricks with equal impact, crushing sadness and relentless hope, often in the same song.

Listen :: Challenger - "Are You Scared Too?"


Shout Out Louds :: "Blue Ice"

The Shout Out Louds return nearly three years after the somewhat underwhelming LP, Work with "Blue Ice," a sweeping bit of widescreen pop. If Work was world-weary and a bit too intentional, the band here sounds committed to something more earnestly down-tempo. Adam Olenius, the mumbling soul of the band's truly excellent Our Ill Wills and Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, the voice who launched a thousand Morrissey and Cure comparisons, is his usual distant and morose self (see "Parents Livingroom") on "Blue Ice" . He braces his vocal against a playful piano riff and a flickering guitar line, as the slow-drive arrangement describes a sort of cold clarity in form and function. The band will have a full length out on Merge early next year, "Blue Ice" only a teaser 7", not possessing half the bombast and grandiosity of whatever will serve as the first single. Expect Olenius, for all his thoughtfulness and pacing here, to again find stirring moral victories - this is, after all, a band who wrote a song entitled "The Comeback" - somewhere up in the sky.

Teleman :: "Cristina"

London three-piece Teleman's debut single, "Cristina" opens with the intimate, "I'm coming back to where I started," an odd aside for a band only at its very beginnings. It is reversed remembering, the past pitched as cloistered and bizarre on lyrics like "I never meant to be the bad kid" or the intensely adolescent, "turn the lights on, throw everything around your bedroom." Of course, the glossy arrangement, a sort of cold medicine, plaintive Phoenix, eventually centers on the song's most important line, "some thing's just take you right back, you forget you've got to go soon." The past, for all its hemming in, reminds us again to leave. The last line, "why not let the music play, there's nothing in the way now," reveals this compartmentalized remembering has had its moment and is now gone.


Veronica Falls :: "Teenage"

Veronica Falls' "Teenage", a jangly little single, inspires nostalgia in more than just its name. For the teenagers of the 1990s, this all feels like a lost submission to the Reality Bites soundtrack, Winona Rider issuing winsome and distant stares from a softly lit and unintentionally ironic Volvo passenger seat. Narrowing even further, Veronica Falls sets the scene as "driving late at night", all dashboard glow and passing headlights, where you can "listen to the music you like," which the listener almost certainly has to presume is "Teenage."


Stepdad :: "Must Land Running"

One of 2012's most self-assured and brash singles, Stepdad unleashes the organized cacophony of peeling synths and buzzing keys on "Must Land Running." It is widescreen pop that boils over on the self-actualizing lyrics of the chorus, "Feel it all / feel it all around you / take it back / take it back with you." The keyboards, and it feels like there are fifty of them, climb to the top of the room, flickering against the top of the arrangement like a million summer moths around a bare porch light bulb. "Must Land Running" represents a bombastic and enthused thesis statement for a band who seems to be going for broke in every song on their debut LP, Wildlife Pop. The band, unironically, after unpacking the necessities of water and food on "Must Land Running," jubilantly declare, "There is life!", a statement that would be absurdly tautological or corny if, in this case, it weren't so damn true.


Mystery Pills :: "Anti-Pattern"

Only a noticeable minority, at least outside the old Confederacy, refuses to embrace the triumph of science and reason. This is progress, even in the anti-intellectual bastion of the United States. Still, this inexorable march toward truth is kills a bit of the mystery. It kind of sucks to know how the transfiguration works; the inexplicable ends up becoming the banal. Bedroom jammer Mystery Pills, the work of Raj Dawson, embraces a bit of this duality, a plea for the strange, that which isn't beholden to an algorithm or a matrix of outcomes. In some sense, he flat rejects it in the blipping chorus of "Anti-Pattern", shouting, "Hey, we never needed you anyway," at the assortment of "mathematicians" who couldn't grasp the temple he was building. It is all playful to be sure. Dawson embraces numbers and predictive validity as much as the next person with a high school education. But in an age of definites, Mystery Pills, like the implications of their very name, embrace amorphous aesthetics, the beauty in the unknown.


Ra Ra Riot :: "Beta Love"

Ra Ra Riot jag in a new direction on latest single "Beta Love", afraid and ebullient for the future of their band and their sound. Put another way, it's a long way from the strings-first rock songs they arranged at Syracuse. They played in basements before storming the New York rock scene in late 2006 with a set at Canal Room that offered a take on orchestral rock that put even Arcade Fire on notice. And then the band struggled to bring their intensity to the studio, to record accurately the ruckus from the stage. It never quite happened, save maybe on the bouncy, Honda-approved single, "Boy" from their 2010 LP. On "Beta Love," treble is the move. Buzzy keyboards strain against their outer markers and Wesley Miles, one of the best voices in indie rock, eventually ends up soaring almost into auto-tune and, finally, lands awash in layers upon layers of his own voice. The strings make their requisite appearance, a charming bit of the baroque in "this city of robot hearts" as Miles describes the hyper-modernity of "Beta Love." It is pretty and a little disturbing, smiling into the void, synths aimed at the sky and neon lighting what little we can see, the language and fear of the future in the same song.


Alt-J feat. Mountain Man :: "Buffalo"

"Breathe on me my buffalo," coos Alt-J lead-singer Joe Newman as sort of invocation before latest cut, "Buffalo" suffers a minor explosion into its second movement. Representative of the band's methodology, they are here backed by a choir, shifting easily from sparse elegy to an arrangement in full throat. The final twist sees the band recalling their second-movement hook from single, "Breezeblocks," the lyric "please don't go," replaced with a tweaking, "The buffalo from Buffalo." It is delicate and edgy, soft and dark, silly and serious. The final descending progression purporting to do all this conterminously.


On The List :: The Joy Formidable @ Littlefield [11.11.12]

Ritzy Bryan is absolutely possessed. It is a mixture of sex and violence, rock and roll tied up in this white Victorian dress. Her signature stare, a blend of surprise and being overcome, scanned the corners of the room at Littlefield, a challenge and a dare from the lead singer of the Joy Formidable, one of the best rock bands you can currently see live. But this possession, the seeming loss of control in the hands of the moment has a secondary quality. As Bryan collapsed, heaved and writhed in the hands of her music, she captured the audience, a trick of being possessed and possessing in the same moment. Her eyes, writ large for effect, communicated that she was both here and somewhere else, or, that what was happening was about both her and her audience.

Playing a few intimate shows in New York in advance of their coming sophomore LP, Wolf's Law, the band took the stage at a sold-out and still entirely pleasant Littlefield, to the head-nodding tones of "The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade". Bryan produced her perfect little diorama of destruction on the song's signature lyric, "This dream is in a telescope now," a line written four years ago that seems almost anachronistic now that the band is seemingly so close to crossover, mainstream success. Put another way, the last time they played Brooklyn was nearly three years ago at Union Hall, and though Littlefield is just a few short blocks away, these two sets are separated by a gulf of touring, record sales and reputation-building as a one of the single most transformative live bands of their generation. Using this past to craft their future, the band played, "I Don't Want To See You Like This," a favorite from their debut LP before unleashing, "This Ladder Is Ours," the consensus first single from their forth-coming record. There is little better metaphor than possession of a ladder upwards, especially given the song's video featuring the band in a house blown to bits. Joy Formidable aim upwards because they are so gifted at the creative destruction of their surroundings.

The band moved through favorites, "Cradle," the first song that seized the American audience, and "Heavy Abacus" before playing some new, as-yet-unknown material. They returned to their back catalog on closer, "Whirring", a song where Bryan is at her finest zombie self, charging around the stage, bangs swaying at her eye line with a mixture of menace and couture. In the final moments of "Whirring", bassist Rhydian Dafydd pounded the cymbals on the drum kit, pointing to drummer Matt Thomas and mouthing, "This fucking guy" as Thomas did what he does best: unleashing double-tap fill after double-tap fill. Thomas returned the favor, giving Dafydd the finger which took one hand away from his drumming, a fact that did not seem to disrupt the fury coming from the kit.

Closing with a bit of the dualism that made them suitably famous, Joy Formidable returned for an encore of the acoustic, "Silent Treatment" and the thrashing "Ever Changing Spectrum Of A Lie". Bryan did both poles well, vulnerable and a bit awkward without her guitar and then wantonly destructive. It was possessed and possession, weakness and strength, quiet and loud, a band that is always moving in two directions at once. Finally, this dualism will be appropriately reconciled as they move onward and upward on a ladder of their own making, sex and violence in the same breath.


Harriet :: "No Way Out"

Harriet, an LA band with former ties to PAPA and Dawes, already have one of the best songs of the year, the seminal and eruptive, "I Slept With All Your Mothers." While this debut single was covered in a fun bitterness, on new release, "No Way Out", singer Alex Casnoff describes a moment last April when he ingested far too much weed and his heart stopped. It is considerably more elegiac. He was rushed to the hospital, dosed with Ativan, doctors and nurses saving his life. It's the same piano-base of "Mothers," though more episodic and sparse, a progression toward literal death and then the slow march away. Casnoff outlines this feeling of dying: "you've seen how your body reacts, you've lost control, your body is nowhere," he intones before describing, quite literally, his experiences in the hospital, a doctor who gave him water, someone calling his name. "No Way Out" isn't an anti-drug polemic, rather a mediation on powerlessness against the backdrop of a specific and almost cataclysmic error. The final movement is vocoder harmony, Casnoff and many layers of his own voice singing, "if you hold on, it'll be alright."

Download: Harriet - "No Way Out"


CHVRCHES :: "The Mother We Share"

Riding down the back of Purity Ring and the intentionally bizarre Grimes, CHVRCHES (a Latinized "Churches") craft one of the best synthesizer singles of 2012. "The Mother We Share" explodes into a glittering chorus of fist-raising Kate Bush-lite vocal loops and buzzing keyboards that recall a far poppier version of the Knife. Vocalist Lauren Mayberry does the vulnerability trick well, howling a barely post-adolescent soprano at the maw of synthesizers and digital flourishes that threaten to drown her, managing to tame them all into time and rhythm for a refrain that takes the listener to the top of the room. It is a binary cacophony brought into step. The next movement, a major label deal, is sure to follow in 2013, hacking off a piece of what the Good Natured, another precocious girl-fronted synth outfit, never quite delivered. For CHVRCHES, as Mayberry sings in the chorus, "the way is long but you can make it easy on me," the way just got a lot shorter and easier for these veterans of other bands who now have nothing but bright lights ahead.


The Little Ones :: "Argonauts"

All the way back in 2005, The Little Ones stormed into the early music blog scene with "Lovers Who Uncover", a song that boiled over on falsetto chorus that bemoaned everything with a sighing, "oh no". The bridge invoked a different faded glamor, "way back when we were the latest around," before the lead guitar line and a series of fist-punching "hey's" papered over this richly modern anxiety. Now, seven years later, The Little Ones prepare their second LP, The Dawn Sang Along, a title that invokes at least something of a second coming for one of the original buzz bands that never quite panned the way they perhaps should have. First single and lead track of The Dawn... is the very fun, "Argonauts", a track rooted in ebullient vocal loop. Most revealing, the band opines about being "back again" and "the chance to get it right", before the arrangement washes away into a sea of warm guitars and super-treble organ chord. It is a reintroduction, and a promise to resume the chase of that which eluded them, a golden fleece if we take their metaphor at face value.


You Won't :: "Who Knew"

One of the great conditional love songs of 2012, You Won't craft a breezy earworm melody on "Who Knew", all centered on the word "if". Surrounding the great unrequited questions of why things don't work out, the band builds a series of increasingly absurd counterfactual scenarios ("If I was a cute little kid", "If I was a middle aged man", "If I was 103", "If I was Marty McFly") backed by flickering mandolin and a breathing, moaning accordion. The chorus, "All along I did what I could, but you tell me my timing's no good," is the real killer, the sense that under all these lighthearted hooks lies something darker. After all, what could have happened, all these compounded hypotheticals, never did, two people stuck out of time and all wrapped up in the word "maybe".

Despite all these conditionals, the band definitely plays the Bell House on December 1st.


Mesita :: "XYXY"

A bit of downtown lounge-act veneer covers the surface of Mesita's latest single "XYXY". Following early 2012 LP , The Coyote, and its shimmering first song, "Ken Caryl", which recalled the better-than-the-best-of Loney, Dear, "XYXY" taps a different vein, though no less satisfying. The aesthetic here is loaded with splashy drums and little lyrical admonishments like, "you were not the thing I'm dreaming of," as Mesita sends a fuzzy melody against a sparse piano and watches the unfolding drama. Episodic in nature, "XYXY" pulls back into measures of isolated piano before unleashing itself again with a drum fill and James Cooley's signature warble. Think Tom Vek doing a lounge set, and then embrace the long, slow, outtro of keys and drums, a relaxed end to a spasmodic and mercurial arrangement of forces.


Teen Mom :: "I Wanna Go Out"

Teen Mom's "I Wanna Go Out" drops messily in medias res, like a rehearsal the listener stumbled into, the bass, drums and guitar eventually finding a synchronicity. Of course, this is a useful descriptor for a band who's instrumentation resembles so firmly the Police, and maybe more accurately the arrangement tension in "So Lonely". Teen Mom, a Washington, D.C. act, however, draws much more on an independent, college radio aesthetic than Sting's wanton talent for writing radio singles. The chorus, a shabby and fuzzy winner, is also the title lyric, a falsetto lilt from singer, Chris Kelly. The conclusion churns as a crashing final act. The rolling snare leaving little doubt this is sonically darker than the lyrically morose Police sound it draws so self-consciously from.


Paradise :: "Endless Wave"

Paradise's debut single, "Endless Wave" opens with a buzzing synth chord that harkens everything from Stars' "Fixed" to Phoenix's "1901". The electronic rock geography isn't incorrect either, though "Endless Wave" draws a great deal on the surf-rock reverb for the buried, echoing vocals. It also doesn't hurt this beach-aesthetic that the main lyrical edict is "all aboard, my friends, here comes the endless wave" and the song's middle section owes its layers more to Pet Sounds than any synth rock encyclopedia. A well-arranged cacophony, "Endless Wave" is one of the most promising debut singles of 2012, no more clearly reduced than the 1.36 mark when the song unleashes into an ambitious middle movement that is one part Brian Wilson and one part the finishing kick of "All My Friends". Major label A&Rs take notice, spin your chairs around twice and give this a serious listen: Paradise, four kids from London, are going to be very hard to miss over the next year. Better yet, New York, they play Glasslands on November 13.