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Best Tracks of 2012


It’s been one of those years where things could’ve been a lot better, but also could’ve been a lot worse. The Arab Spring didn’t end up bringing wholesale peace or democracy to the region, but then it didn’t bring mass genocide or nuclear war either. The Olympics cost Great Britain a ridiculous sum of money at a time when public services were being cut like a slowly melting Vienetta, but then at least we won a few medals and nobody got blown up. Barack Obama managed to keep Mental Romney out of the White House, but then isn’t likely to be able to do much good himself after the Republicans retained the House. Silvio Berlusconi finally got booted out, vowing to leave “this shitty country of which I’m sickened”, but has since decided he actually quite enjoyed running said shitty country and is trying to worm his way back into power. The world has kept on turning, from good to bad and back again, like a football that’s rolled through a turd.

The same has, as always, been the case for music – but it seems on reflection like we’ve had more good than bad this year. Granted, Justin Bieber still sells ten thousand records every time he grabs his crotch, but there was still plenty to get excited about in 2012. Hip-hop, the general quality of which had been akin to a jaffa cake left in an airing cupboard over the last few years, suddenly became exciting again thanks to the emergence of artists like Kendrick Lamar, Angel Haze, A$AP Rocky and Mykki Blanco, while old hands like Killer Mike, DOOM and Aesop Rock produced their best work in an aeon too.

Elsewhere, a handful of indie bands managed to buck the trend and make music that was actually quite interesting, with Alt-J, Django Django and TOY knocking out very decent debuts, while Grimes managed to stay crossover flavour of the month for, well, about twelve months. Electronic music was in rude health as well, with long-overdue returns from Nathan Fake and Michael Mayer, and excellent first albums from the likes of Anstam, LHF and Christian Löffler. Even the pop world wasn’t too dispiriting: Adele produced the best Bond theme in living memory, and whatever you think about Psy, ‘Gangnam Style’ was a heap more interesting than the usual chart-topping bollocks. Best of all, artists like AlunaGeorge, Joey Bada$$ and Dog Bite are already indicating that 2013 might be even better.

But that’s enough fawning and blethering. The easiest way to work out whether you’ve missed anything decent this year is to simply cast your eye over our top 100 tracks of the year below. Even better, you can listen to them on Spotify using the player below. Gonjasufi’s ‘The Blame’ clinched the top spot; a slightly odd choice maybe seeing as it came out in January to relatively little fuss, but that’s not the point. Fact is, if the Mayans are proved right and the world is about to blow up, this is the track we’d want playing over the end credits. Fade out…

    Top Tracks of 2012

1. Gonjasufi – The Blame

2. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid

3. Beak> – Mono

4. Alt-J – Breezeblocks

5. Chapelier Fou – Protest

6. AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It

7. Woodpecker Wooliams – Sparrow

8. Grimes – Circumambient

9. Mykki Blanco – Wavvy (produced by

10. Mark Lanegan – The Gravedigger’s Song

11. Flying Lotus – The Hunger (featuring Niki Randa)

12. The Leg – Bake Yourself Silly

13. Django Django – Default

14. Moonface with Siinai – Headed
For The Door

15. Dan Sartain – Indian Massacre

16. Young Magic – Sparkly

17. Funkineven & Fatima – Phone Line

18. The Gaslamp Killer – In The Dark…

19. A Place To Bury Strangers – Onwards To The Wall

20. Michael Mayer – Sully

21. TOY – Strange

22. G R E A T W A V E S – Feel The Love

23. A$AP Rocky – Goldie

24. Tame Impala – Apocalypse Dreams

25. Ryan Teague – Shadow Play

26. Anstam – Hope’s Soliloquy

27. WhoMadeWho – Below The Cherry Moon

28. Nathan Fake – Paean

29. Cameras – Kreuzberg

30. LHF – Indian Street Slang

31. VCMG – Lowly

32. Porcelain Raft – Unless You Speak From The Heart

33. Clinic – Misty

34. THEESatisfaction – Needs

35. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Some Time Alone, Alone

36. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – My Mind Is Broken By The Sound

37. Brother Ali – Gather Round (featuring Amir Sulaiman)

38. Holy Other – Tense Past

39. Tindersticks – Chocolate

40. Angel Haze – Jungle Fever (featuring Kool AD)

41. The British Expeditionary Force – Crack In The Clouds

42. Dark Horses – Alone

43. Cody ChesnuTT – Don’t Follow Me

44. Cos Ber Zam – Ne Noya (Daphni Mix)

45. Liars – No. 1 Against The Rush

46. Here We Go Magic – Hard To Be Close

47. Thavius Beck – ABV

48. Exitmusic – The Modern Age

49. Daniel Rossen – Silent Song

50. The Flaming Lips – Is David Bowie Dying? (featuring Neon Indian)

51. Jack White – Freedom At 21

52. Gary War – Good Clues

53. Killer Mike – Reagan

54. Gold Panda – Mountain

55. Steel Trees – Attack of the Stoner Zombie Killer Kids!

56. iamamiwhoami – Drops

57. Mi-Gu – Oshiro

58. Werkha – Cube & Puzzle

59. Swans – The Seer Returns

60. Tamaryn – Violet’s In A Pool

61. Aesop Rock – Leisureforce

62. Clark – Open

63. Apostille – Wrong

64. JJ DOOM – Guv’nor

65. Pond – Sorry I Was Under The Sky

66. Omega Male – Wax & Glue

67. Cold Pumas – A Versatile Gift

68. Neneh Cherry & The Thing – Cashback

69. Dog Bite – Prettiest Pills

70. John Tejada – Stabilizer

71. Blood Red Shoes – In Time To Voices

72. Zambri – From An Angle

73. Willis Earl Beal – Bright Copper ‘Noon

74. Menomena – Tantalus

75. Sharon Van Etten – Give Out

76. The Invisible – Generational

77. Christian Löffler – A Forest

78. Carmen Ghia & The Hotrods – Blackjack

79. Seams – The Glow

80. Fairhorns – Ragnarok

81. Andre Williams – Stuck In The Middle

82. Loops Of Your Heart – Cries

83. Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka – Battleships (featuring Abigail Wyles)

84. Scott Walker – The Day The “Conducator” Died (An Xmas Song)

85. Frank Ocean – Crack Rock

86. Die Antwoord – Fatty Boom Boom

87. Chilly Gonzales – Othello

88. Group Rhoda – Virtual Dancer

89. Gentleman Jesse – I’m A Mess

90. Joey Bada$$ – Survival Tactics (featuring Capital STEEZ)

91. Unmade Bed – You Never Really Broke My Heart (Anyway)

92. Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs – Goddamn Holy Roll

93. Micachu & The Shapes – OK

94. Babe, Terror – Lifantastic I

95. Soap & Skin – Voyage Voyage

96. Public Image Ltd – Human

97. Isaac Delusion – Midnight Sun

98. Seaming – Sodaslow (Sipped)

99. Echo Lake – Further Down

100. Alabama Shakes – Hold On

*Three tracks from our top 100 aren’t on Spotify, so click the following links if you want to listen to G R E A T W A V E S, Apostille and Unmade Bed. And why wouldn’t you?

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Willis Earl Beal

Willis Earl Beal
It seemed like Seasick Steve had snaffled the last available bit of hobo schtick and scarpered, but in 2012 Willis Earl Beal has proved that the romantic appeal of the drifter musician still captures the imagination. His story, which he imparts in an excellent interview here, is less fanciful than the Seasick one's tales of jumping boxcars but just as engaging. The way he came to prominence is particularly great: while homeless in Chicago he distributed hand-drawn flyers with his mobile phone number, offering to sing a song to anyone who called. One can only imagine what it would've been like to hear one of his sprawling, disjointed numbers being bellowed down the phone line, but those songs were good enough to see him signed to XL this year. They quickly put out a version of his "Acousmatic Sorcery" album, complete with a zine of stories and sketches, although Beal has expressed minor frustration with some of the changes they insisted on making. The record they put out is hardly polished, mind. The lo-fi recording techniques and idiosyncratic self-taught playing style is haphazardly distinctive, with Beal sometimes singing and sometimes simply rambling over sketchy ostinatos. 'The Masquerade', a disorientating stumble through a club populated by scantily-clad supermodels, is suddenly punctured by maniacal laughter at the end. Elsewhere he reveals a voice of raw, bluesy soul when he isn't busy cackling. Going to his gigs can feel like attending a spell-binding voodoo mass, with Beal as a volatile preacher prone to unpredictable outbursts (not least when he booted a homeless man in the face in Utrecht). While he may be signed to the same label as Adele and has appeared on Jools Holland, it remains to be seen whether his tales are too twisted to gain widespread success. As it is, we should just be grateful we can hear his music without having to make expensive long-distance calls to Chicago...
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