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1.12.2013

WORLD WITHOUT END: MY 2012 IN MUSIC


"I don't see that there are any particular changes in popular music." Lester Bangs

I don't remember pop ruling my world to the degree with which it ruled my 2012, an odd thing, as I've always been a staunch believer. But then again, pop ruled 2012 to a similar degree that it could all be osmosis.  And by pop, I mean not just catchy but catchy with ubiquity. And by ubiquity, I mean stuff that you hear everywhere and that everybody knows, that somehow blur the hierarchies you impose between your obscurantist hipster self-entitlement and the obliviousness and nonchalance with which ordinary folk approach their music. 

But Rebecca Black's Friday can go fuck itself. I'm talking more of songs like  Gotye and Kimbra's Someone That I Used To Know, PSY's Oppa Gangnam Style, Carly Rae Jespen's Call Me Maybe. Ubiquity of this sweep, of course, tends to breed contempt, except the production and the songwriting on these three numbers was almost irrevocably impeccable, enough at least to buttress and sustain its viral longevity.  I do realize I'm speaking for myself, as all three have its detractors crusading against them with all the zeal and vitriol better reserved for more nefarious moral transgressions. It's a little sad, and not a little pathetic, when people put so much outrage and energy into railing against pop music, although I make an exception when the target of ire is 6Cyclemind or Rocksteddy.

In the light of my own issues with all this misdirected and self-righteous indignation, I took to pop for the spirit of lightening up that is its ore. Which is not to say I've dumbed myself down, musically. But I think there's a way to succumb to the pleasures of frivolity without succumbing to its inconsequence. Not to mention the immense benefits, musically and otherwise.  Not all of this is pop in the strictest sense, of course. And looking at it now, R & B (Up Dharma Down, AlunaGeorge, Jessie Ware, Solange, Usher) and New Wave (Wild Nothing, Frankie Rose, Grimes, Churches, even that Springsteen song)  seem to be  the more pervasive musical strands threading through most of them. There's also a lot of belated returns to guitar crash and tumble (Japandroids, Divine Fits, Gaslight Anthem, Walkmen). And a healthy smattering of my usual relevant fogies (Mould, Weller, Mariah, Dylan, Womack, Blur, Rebecca Gates, Saint Etienne). A mixed bag, sure, but it  almost always is, essentially.

My caveats this year, the only time I've found it necessary to invoke one since I began this, is the lack of an album list and , more significantly, of annotations for the songs.  I haven't immersed myself  in the new records by Pinback, Frank Ocean, Paul Buchanan, Jens Lekman, Ne-Yo and Gravenhurst thoroughly enough to make a proper assessment but I mention them out of the potential I glean from my first cursory listens. The vacuum of writing on the individual songs is simply a casualty of lack of time, which is a foul thing sometimes but is all too real and often difficult to address. As the world didn't end as scheduled, which we of course knew it wouldn't, life went on, just that there was, and there still is, too much of it going on. I can only ask for your forgiveness in this matter and offer a conciliatory promise to make sure this doesn't happen next year. At least I don't have sloth as an excuse anymore.

Disclaimers aside, the usual rules apply. Most of these are album tracks rather than singles, but some of them are singles,too, because such is life. There are a lot of other songs I liked, sure, but in the name of stringency, these are the 50 that mattered most, and matter still. In descending order.




1. Up Dharma Down, Thinker
2. Carly Rae Jespen, Call Me Maybe
3. Wild Nothing, Shadow
4. Bagetsafonik, Airports
5. Ang Bandang Shirley, Iyong
5. Dan Deacon, True Thrush
6. Alabama Shakes, Hold On
7. Paul Weller, That Dangerous Age
8. Sky Ferreira, Everything Is Embarrassing
9. AlunaGeorge, Your Drums Your Love
10. Mariah Carey with Meek Mill and Rick Ross, Triumphant
11. School of Seven Bells, The Night
12. The Gaslight Anthem, 45
13. Kindness, House
14. Tennis, Origins
15. Chairlift, I Belong In Your Arms (Japanese Version)
16. Bruce Springsteen, We Take Care of Our Own
17. Spazzkid, Touch
18. Father John Misty, Nancy From Now On 
19. The Walkmen, The Witch
20. Johnny Marr, The Messenger
21. Japandroids, Continuous Thunder
22. Divine Fits, Would That Not Be Nice
23. Eleanor Friedberger, My Mistakes
24. Frankie Rose, Know Me
25. Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game
26. Bobby Womack and Lana Del Rey, Dayglo Reflection
27. Cody ChestnuTT, Til I Met Thee
28. Nite Jewel, She's Always Watching You
29. Allo Darlin', Wonderland
30. Jessie Ware, Running
31. iLikeTrains, Mnemosyne
32. A Dark Horse, These Butterflies Are Free
33. Solange, Losing You
34. Let's Buy Happiness, It Works Better On Paper
35. Dirty Projectors, About To Die
36. Rebecca Gates and the Consortium, & & &
37. Churches, Lies
38. Best Coast, The Only Place
39. The Hundredth Anniversary, Slip
40. Memory Tapes, Sheila
41. Usher, Climax
42. Blur, Under the Westway
43. Bob Mould, The Descent
44. Sleigh Bells, The Comeback Kid
45. Saint Etienne, Tonight
46. Bob Dylan, Duquesne Whistle
47. Mount Eerie, I Walked Home Beholding
48. The Soft Moon, Zeros
49. Grimes, Vowels=Space and Time
50. David Guetta with Sia, Titanium

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