Oops, the end of December waylayed me with virus. Still not firing on all cylinders, but here are my top 10 favorite songs of 2012.
1. Frank Ocean - Bad Religion
The real genius of this song, for me, is that such a personal song became so ubiquitous. For me, Ocean's song sounds exactly like what I felt 10 years ago -- 19, desperately wishing I weren't gay, but desperately wishing my bad news girl interest love me back. I, too, felt like I had three lives balanced on my head like steak knives. I never could make her love me. (See also: this live version)
2. Usher and Diplo - Climax
This is my most-listened to song of 2012 -- addictive, beautiful and pessimistic. The four minutes tell the story of whole months of my 2012. Usher's voice has never sounded better, and Diplo distills dubstep into its greatest pop potential.
3. Kendrick Lamar - Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst
I could happily pick any song from Lamar's album to fill this spot. But "Sing About Me" stands out because of its message (that stories have power, that telling THIS story is his calling), its rhymes (In pajamas and Dun-ta-duns / when thunder comes it rains cats and dogs), its rhythms (that pause after "I'll wait" !) He's saying big things here, but comes out so easy. For me, no one has painted such a perfect ethnography since Nas's "Illmatic."
4. Earl Sweatshirt - Chum
Earl raps more bars with longer, more tongue-twisting lines than any other artist right now. That's apparent in "Oldie." Here, his verses are shorter but no less complex. (Mama often was offering peace offerings / think, wheeze cough, scoffing and he's off again) There are traces of the rambunctious young gun of OFWGKTA that first introduced him to the world, but this is a different Earl. Sensitive, open and earnest.
5. Schoolboy Q f/ Kendrick Lamar - Blessed
I love the way the aggressive, contemplative lines lay over the dream-pop beat. This was the first song of the year that showed me that rap could return to the form I once loved, that rap could still be ABOUT something. Plus, that Kendrick Lamar verse has the craziest cadence.
6. Miguel - The Thrill
His voice sounds so good. I just want to drive around all night listening to this song.
7. Frank Ocean - Summer Remains
The music bloggers can have their "Pyramid" love. For me, the other best Frank Ocean song of the year is the one he made "just f**** around" with his Macbook one night.
This song has some of my favorite lyrics of the year (The tide stole my youth / the creases in my brow ain't tanlines / saltwater swole my eyes / the sun burned me back and blue / too cold this side of June)
8. Stay Calm - Let Me Clear My Throat
I love how the beat charges ahead, how Claudia Meza's voice sounds with Zac Pennington's. And I love the line "Broke both legs but I'll be just fine." I can't stand to listen to it only once.
9. Bat for Lashes - Laura
Her voice is so good, and in this sparse piece, you can really hear the vulnerability it holds.
10. Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built
Like everyone, I feel about 17 and unstoppable when I hear this song.