Almost to the end of the songs, and then it’s videos, albums, and the 2013. Quite the rollercoaster ride over here.
If you missed 50-21, here’s a link.
A few initial observations on the lists I’ve put together so far:
1. Bands are making some really cool videos
2. Too many bands are breaking after an album, or even before putting out a debut
3. The sophomore releases this year were generally really good
4. There’s a lot of new bands to be really excited about
But onto the penultimate songs list…
20. My Tiger My Timing “The Gold Rush”
If Saint Etienne were germinating in the blog era, this could very well be them. A sophisticated, electronica that’s good for both the dancefloor and anti-social nights alone.
19. Mi Mye “Lament”
Divorces are awful, awful situations, but Mi Mye’s Jamie channeled much of his negative energy into the brilliant album The Time & The Lonelyness. “Lament” is the lead track, and although it’s no walk in the park, it’s a heartbreakingly honest assessment of the situation.
18. The Crookes “Maybe in the Dark”
“Maybe in the Dark” is a track for folks who enjoy nights of anonymity in northern clubs, an equal mix of soul and indie that wears its heart firmly on its sleeve.
17. Bruce Springsteen “We Take Care of Our Own”
Ever since The Rising, Bruce has enjoyed quite the late career renaissance. Wrecking Ball is another solid album from top to bottom, and while he’s never going to own the radio like in the good old days, tunes like this one make me proud to be an American.
16. This Many Boyfriends “Starling” (single version)
Not that the rerecorded version of this track from the band’s debut is a let down, but the single version has so much more immediacy and fits the band’s lo-fi aesthetic so much better. It’s the perfect track for a chilly autumn night.
15. The ABC Club “White Lies”
When a developing band starts to establish a consistent pattern of quality, and tops it off with a mesmerizing slice of melancholia-pop like “White Lies,” all you can think about is how amazing the album is going to be. It’s a shame that these guys called it quits, because we’ll never get to know that feeling.
14. Eagulls “Coffin”
This band truly, truly owns, and if “Council Flat Blues” was their greeting to the world, then “Coffin” is them drawing their line in the sand like an indie version of Risk. The lo-fi/garage saviors have taken over the north – next it’s the rest of England, and then hopefully the world.
13. Saint Etienne “Tonight”
Songs about growing older have never been so fun, but it’s easy to forget that the band’s new album and this song in particular is quite reflective, and at times, can be a little sad. But children and grey hair doesn’t mean you can enjoy gigs like you used to.
12. Honour Before Glory “Maisonette”
I’m still heartbroken over Forward, Russia’s hiatus, and maybe they’ll be back one day, but for now Honour Before Glory (basically just Whiskas and friends) has done an amazing job filling the void. “The Maisonette” is the band’s most assured moment, one that seems them run down the path of indie-gaze rather than anything remotely post-hardcore related.
11. Bleeding Rainbow “Pink Ruff”
I’m proud to say that these guys are from Philadelphia. The follow-up to their debut album, which was released as Reading Rainbow, is out next month, and this is one of the singles taken from it. Mixing the best parts of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur, Jr., and Husker Du, this fuzzed out jam is ripe for listening to over and over, especially on long drives when no one can see you drumming on your steering wheel.
I just got brutalized by the hardest exam I’ve ever taken in my life. Holy shit, it was a terrible, terrible experience.
Here’s the middle of the top 50. The list is starting to get really good.
30. Saint Etienne “Heading for the Fair”
From an album that’s both reflective and melancholy comes a song that’s both, and in classic Saint Etienne style, they’ve buried one of their better songs on the album. While many will say that they had their heyday in the ’90s, I’d argue that they’re in the midst of a late career renaissance. This is easily one of their best songs since Good Humor.
29. Niki & the Dove “The Drummer”
This year’s indie dancefloor filler. If someone did a 20-minute remix of this track, I probably wouldn’t complain all too much.
28. Blood Red Shoes “Lost Kids”
This is the first of three songs from them on this list, and one of their most linear moments. But the thing to remember with this duo – even when ordinary, they’re still miles more interesting than almost any other band on the planet.
27. Lone Wolf “The Swan of Meander”
His new album – and this song in particular – has the influence of Wild Beasts all over it. It’s a brooding, dark, and expansive mess, but it’s also the lead single from Paul Marhsall’s best album yet.
26. Bloc Party “Octopus”
A band that returns from a hiatus, even a short one, is almost always past its due date. Whether it’s money or whatever, their heart is usually not in, but Bloc Party bucked the trend. “Octopus” brought back the guitars, and more importantly, the life to the band. This is one of their best moments since Silent Alarm.
25. Runaround Kids “The Narcissist”
I was a little hesitant to put a cover on this list, but this song is too good not to include. Taken from a split tour EP with Irish group We Are Losers, this redo contains everything I love about these guys – the vocal acrobatics, the guitars that fall somewhere between post-hardcore and pop, and the manic energy.
24. Jessie Ware “Night Light”
Hype can be a huge turnoff. I bought into it with Katy B, but I was sorely disappointed. Many of the same folks were all over this record, but I’m glad I gave it a try. Tracks like “Night Light” are an absolute gem.
23. FOE “Mother May I?”
No exaggeration here, but I’ve probably listened to this record once a day this year since its release. Album track “Mother May I?” is one of the reasons why, a grunge-washed rocker that would have made band frontwoman Hannah Clark a star in ’90s.
22. The Cribs “Anna”
Perhaps the Cribs have seen their moment pass in America, but they remain massive in their home country, and for good reason. Each album is anchored by singles, and filled out with indie/garage rockers that are anything but filler. “Anna” may show a more sensitive side of the band, but it’s anything but restrained.
21. Johnny Foreigner “Maybe Daniel’s All the Push I Need”
Every end of year list I’ve made for the past seven years or whatever has featured these guys. And with good reason. They never stop releasing music – albums and singles and EPs and splits and cassettes. You’d think that they’d run out of ideas soon, but as evidenced by this latest single, they’re still going strong.
It’s finals week, so I probably won’t get the next installment of this up until Friday. Gotta get A’s or else.
If you missed 50-41 on Monday (I don’t blame you), then here’s a link so you can catch up before you read below.
40. Pulled Apart By Horses “Some Mothers”
A brutalizing, two-minute post-hardcore jam should not be this melodic, and should not get lodged in your head all day. But it does. Each and every time.
39. Niki & the Dove “Mother Protect”
I initially avoided this duo because of the massive hype – and also because one of the guys doing PR for them is a massive, self-centered douche. But in a way, I suppose I lost out. The band’s debut one is one of the more enjoyable listens of the year, pulling in elements of electronica that would make Bjork proud. “Mother Protect” is the album’s most inventive moment.
38. The Kabeedies “Eyes”
“Eyes,” the lead single off of the band’s second album,” saw a shift in sound, away from saccharine pop to an expansiveness that sees more focus on rhythm. Surprisingly it works, and the new music has had a much longer shelf life.
37. Let’s Buy Happiness “Works Better on Paper”
My love for this band has nothing to do with the fact that I’d like to go on a kissing date with their lead singer. Brilliant indie pop.
36. Cheers Elephant “Doin’ It, Right”
Good music with a ’60s rock feel, “Doin’ It, Right” recalls some of the best moments of the Kinks. Best thing of all? They’re from Philly.
35. The Spills “Atomic Arabian Facebuster”
The Spills were relatively quiet this year, but of the songs they released, this is my clear favorite. It emits hyperactive energy through every note, making it the musical equivalent of Coke and Pop Rocks.
34. I Concur “Your Chair”
When a band releases their finest moment as their latest single, you hate to hear that it’s also their swan song. Their knack for storytelling over fuzz-drenched indie noise is going to be missed, as “Your Chair” continues their trend of brilliant lyricism backed by memorable instrumentation.
33. The Megaphonic Thrift “Fire Walk With Everyone”
At times this Norwegian group sounds like Guided By Voices raised exclusively on a diet of T. Rex and Ride – and that’s nowhere more apparent than on this track.
32. Egyptian Hip Hop “Yoro Diallo”
After this London group’s string of brilliant singles a few years back, I was sure that their debut album was going to be life-changing. When it finally came out this year, I can’t say it was the tour de force I was expecting, but the more time I devote to it, the more I really start to understand it. And “Yoro Diallo” was the first track to grab me. It’s a lo-fi electronic masterpiece that rewards those who are willing to devote the time to really break it down.
31. Alt-J “Tessellate”
Alt-J probably never meant to be a pop band, and this tune for sure was never meant to be a pop song. But alas, “Tessellate” is pop music for 2012, a song that pushes all of the right buttons and at times can be quite uncomfortable to listen to while home alone.
Putting these lists together can be a huge pain in the ass. I may have things down to a science after doing these year-in and year-out for a long time, it’s never easy to rank songs or albums, leave off tracks you really like, and then try to make sense of the final order. It’s never totally accurate and I always forget songs despite keeping a running spreadsheet throughout the year.
Over the course of this month I’ll be doing a few different lists, including (probably in this order) songs, videos, albums, and 2013 bands. While I like to be as thorough as possible, I’m not lucky enough to have music sent to me anymore (at least not as much as I used to), and furthermore, I can’t wait until the last day of the year to put things together.
The list was finalized mere moments ago after a lot of writing and erasing on a few pieces of crumpled paper. My hands are cramped and covered with pencil marks and I’ve sort of lost any desire to go back and revise this. It’s final, and here are numbers 50 to 41. Click the links to see a video or hear the song.
Expect a (mostly) complete Spotify playlist when I post the top 10.
50. Bloc Party “V.A.L.I.S.”
Buried in the middle of Four, this track is the tender side of the all-out assault of the new album. Not a single, at least not yet, but it should be.
49. Clock Opera “Man Made”
A band that I’m still really unable to pigeonhole, which is normally a good thing, but I still don’t know what to make of their debut album. A good record that splices together some nice indie with electronic washes, there are a few too many dull moments. This isn’t one of them.
48. St. Gregory Orange “Salem A.M.”
Remember Arab Strap and how they basically did whatever the fuck the wanted musically, and everyone loved them for it? These guys are blazing the same path, and this track would be a massive hit in the same universe where Spock has a beard. Click the link for a free download.
47. Everyone Everywhere “Queen Mary II”
It’s emo for people who remember emo the first time around, and this local band softly killing it while most of the world is missing out.
46. The Joy Formidable “The Ladder is Ours”
Second albums can be tricky business, but if this Welsn trio follows this path and not the one laid out in “Cholla,” then we’ll have no reason to be let down by the new record. At least not musically, because that artwork is terrible.
45. Wildeflower “Good Girl”
A nice find from London label Stella Mortos, home of Entrepreneurs, this tune is both haunting and uplifting and hints at an artist that has the potential for something very special in the near future.
44. Django Django “Hail Bop”
Like the comet Hale-Bopp, this group has come from deep other space. A few years back they were playing music that was ahead of the curve for most people, and with “Hail Bop,” off of their debut album, they haven’t changed a thing. I’ll spin this record in 2022 and still feel like I’m in the future.
43. Big Deal “Teradactol”
This duo’s first record was decent, but not up to par with anything from vocalist Alice Costelloe’s former band Pull in Emergency. “Teradactol” is the first big moment from Big Deal, and with the reverb kicked way up, it seems that may have just found a shoe that fits.
42. Ellen & the Escapades “All the Crooked Scenes”
The title track from the band’s debut album had me hooked from the onset. It’s indie folk without the pomposity, slowly building into a chorus that makes you wish that this group were ultra famous rather than those Mumfords.
41. This Many Boyfriends “Number One”
When a band wears their influences on their sleeve, it’s often hard to separate the two, but the mastery of this Leeds group is that they’re referential without ever being unoriginal. And tracks like “Number One” make you feel like you’ve been listening to them forever.
Rob Tornoe is the creator of Delaware Punchline and a sports cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I like his work, and he seems real like a real nice guy.
Unlike many others in his line of work, he’s embraced social media and it’s brought him quite a few new fans.
As the final seconds of the fourth quarter tick away and the Birds shockingly have a chance of winning, here’s what Tornoe has drawn up already during the game.
And to cap off the win (since I was too slow putting this post together):
The 8-game losing streak is over, but the team still stinks.
These keep me sane while I’m studying for finals. Translation: I know I’m okay because I would never agree with any of this.