Results matching “edmund”

Re: Birth

Hello - "New York Groove"

Edmund out for New Year's. With no plans except to follow his pulse, he finds himself 43 in a bar and some lonely girl is growling into her drink. 10pm. The snow is thick outside, like walking through peanut butter, back to her apartment. The skin of his ass is like paper now, he knows she feels it, he's on top as usual. He thinks about watching other people parent, about drinking out of boredom, and overeating. He thinks about the way every year sinks into a kind of sludge of superstition and tension. The weight of tradition, the false hope of breaking tradition, they're what await every year as it takes its makeup off. Naked and shivering, like in the bathroom after stranger sex, every year stands hangdog in the mirror, squinting head tilted, pressing its skin, to test if it's there, as if to say "you haven't given up?"

Edmund puts on his shoes. And the way the snow falls on his shoulders as he heads out into the night, there is suddenly nothing wrong. These flakes chose me and I chose this life. Thank fucking God I at least got to choose this life.

And it's not even midnight yet.


This is my final entry as a regular writer on Said the Gramophone. It's been 10 years, and the weight of the work has finally become too much. As you may have noticed over the last six months I've been posting less, and now I have to stop altogether. And that is simply because this site is too important to me to work in half-measures. I love Said the Gramophone, I'm so appreciative of all the readers, and of all the things it's taught me. Thank you all for reading and commenting and following me on experiments with words and music. Sean will continue as normal, and I will now read avidly like all of you.

And I will leave you with the TV pilot for Dad Drives, a project that owes its life in large part to the readers of this blog. Thank you.

Dan Beirne

ps. Come what may, it's 2015 and The Best Show is back.

Posted by Dan on December 31, 2014 3:26 PM

A Pressing Concern


Leonard Cohen - "Samson in New Orleans"

Edmund imagines himself dying. He is in a white-linen bed or some such thing where the points of his feet show at the bottom and there is a plant in the window. He is somehow able to address everyone in his life at once, he can speak in their head like God's voice, a voice that drowns out all other sounds. And he imagines himself saying the right thing. A lengthy address, poetic, that would bring them all to tears and they would see his jagged beauty for just that, beauty, and not a thing that saws at everything that tries to grasp it. It would include many things, he thought, but definitely a phrase like "I guess that's how it goes" placed perfectly and given the right weight. The voice would be so powerful that, in death, he would crescendo, his last breath would correspond to his last note. And he wouldn't die like the rest, panting, wrung slowly into cardboard, furtive, embarrassed, unfinished.

[Buy directly from Leonard Cohen]

Posted by Dan on October 29, 2014 12:12 AM

No More Honey

Blonde Redhead - "No More Honey"

Edmund was breaking into Alison's house. They hadn't spoken, not face-to-face, in a year-and-a-half. They'd seen each other in the sides of their eyes, in the peripheral run-off of looking at their son Frank. But not face-to-face. And now Edmund was putting a garden stone through the back porch window. "Paid for that window anyway," he thought, as he wrapped his jacket around his hand and cleared out the jagged edges from the frame. He pushed his body carefully through the opening and was suddenly reminded of his stomach, bloated from beer and not much else. It was hard to tell when he'd started to sweat; was it after five minutes of struggling in the window opening, wondering how his legs must look out the back? or was it the very minute he decided to come to the backyard with bad intentions? Finally his gut, which was now compacted into his body like overpacked luggage, let loose over the edge of the frame inside and his legs crumpled in a paralyzed slump to the floor. Edmund rose with a kind of triumph particular to the slow-boiled criminal: little victories, the clear-and-present-fuck-you. He was in, and he could do whatever he wanted, for a little while.


Posted by Dan on September 16, 2014 10:56 PM



TEEN - "More Than I Ask For"

"I don't love you when it's raining," were the only words Edmund could find to say on the phone, the way you'd find a spider bite on your neck or a dead mouse beside the stairs, "And it always seems to be raining." He'd left May twenty-nine days ago, and now that her namesake month had arrived, it was hard not to think of her. Running at dawn, he imagined, undoubtedly; medicate the sadness just like the goodness. Her single breast held only by that sports bra, and not perfectly by his left hand in bed. How easy it was to be poetic about devastation, he thought while biting his nail, it did most of the work for you. He thought of their life like tsunami footage, cars and street lamps and things that once looked so permanent, so heavy, swept up and swirled like the dregs of a cereal bowl. She cried and told him he didn't know what he wanted. Which was like scolding a starving animal for eating whatever's in front of it.

[Buy The Way and Color]

[image by Marion Fayolle]

Posted by Dan on May 6, 2014 9:18 PM


Shane Carruth - "I Love to Be Alone"

Edmund is alone. Like, alone-alone. No contact with his exes, no contact with his children, the only people he's talked to all week have been handing him food over a counter, usually wrapped in foil. And he walks around at night, all night almost, because it feels more like he's in charge at that hour and maybe someone will beat him up and get his pulse going. Empty pockets, except for winter grit and pieces of pieces of pieces of receipts. Unshaven, he wonders how mustaches are supposed to raise money. The second-hand these days is undecided, like a metronome. Grudges like canker sores. Forgiveness like an ATM withdrawal, each one leaving him weaker than the last. Amazed at people actually able to go to work. Amazed they don't arrest you if you don't. He tried to write a letter at least a dozen times and every time "don't make it like a gravestone, you're making it sound like a gravestone." He itched his scalp like it was alive. Secret brain-fed cockroaches that live between the skull and that Bobby Fischer coif. At the bar, seemingly digging into his phone with one finger, as if uncovering the world's greatest goddamned mystery. There is only one opening, and that opening has closed.


Posted by Dan on April 22, 2014 10:25 PM


Thee Oh Sees - "Penetrating Eye"

And this is stranger sex. Edmund walks into an apartment where the ceiling looks like a tent sagging in the rain, and the only decorations are nail holes and a thin flag. If "alone and awake at 4am drunk" had an apartment, this would be it. Something that smells like wet toast. Something that feels like a begging ritual. Something that sounds like tenderizing meat. And then waking up without having slept. "What are you doing here?" "I could ask you the same question." This was life without May. This was life with a May-shaped hole, gaping and yawning and black and endless. Outside, he wondered when the soonest appropriate time would be to get a beer.



Tomorrow is Record Store Day. There will be many amazing releases, from Sam Cooke to Devo and from Chvrches to Haim. But among my favourite will be a vinyl release of
Scharpling & Wurster's Rock, Rot, and Rule
, the very first Best Show bit. Support your local record stores, and enjoy the treasures.

Posted by Dan on April 18, 2014 12:19 AM


Screamin' Jay Hawkins - "I Hear Voices"

Edmund in a basement apartment. Unable to return to his place with May, he took the first thing he could find, just so he wouldn't have to go anywhere else. A house with six other people. "We share expenses here, we live communally." He wondered how long he would last in the face of mandatory dinners and the shared smells of bodies and a decaying house. He was in his mid-forties, and this was supposed to be some kind of badge of honour, the feather in his cap that was actually nailed to his head. He imagined Frank, his 11-year-old, coming here. He could see the boy's normally scared face downright petrified of the sheer height of these people, their confidence, their beaded everything. He lay on his mattress on the floor of the basement, the power out, and headlights cutting along the ceiling in jagged scrapes. He seemed to sink like a chemical burn into the ground.

[28 days left on the auction]

Posted by Dan on April 15, 2014 11:14 PM

Sugar and Women


Angel Olsen - "Lights Out"
K's Choice - "Not an Addict"

Edmund walked out on May. He walked out on May and into the slanted streets at two in the morning. The late March ice was collecting in slanted flat puddles, like the whole world was tilted on its side and frozen that way. It seemed like there was nothing in his chest, no heart, no lungs, no ribs. Nothing but an electrical buzz. A buzz that seemed to be propelling him forward into the night and away from his fourth marriage. Carolyn, Alison, Jen, and now May. And the women in between, of course. And the women during. He grimaced into a donut and let it surge through him like his blood was sewage. There is no such thing as a normal mental state. There is no word that exists that isn't constantly being contorted into letters. There is no such thing as nature. There is only the buzz. The clicking, insatiable buzz.

[Buy Burn Your Fire for No Witness]
[Buy Paradise in Me]


Posted by Dan on April 10, 2014 6:26 PM

Drink Music

Edmund was tired. 2% battery life and last night's clothes. Blood thick with sugar like raspberry jam. How meaningless a poker win seemed in the face of this grey morning. The morning seemed to have nothing to offer, it seemed to just stand there, stoic, ignoring him. The last year of his life could be titled I Wasn't Dressed For This. His winnings bought a breakfast sandwich and it seemed a cosmic injustice that terrible food tasted good. Edmund wondered where the line was between "knowing you're dying" and knowing you're dying. If you could feel it, with your hands.

Posted by Dan on March 5, 2014 2:25 PM


Perfect Pussy - "IV"

Sometimes Edmund texted Vera. Vera. She even had a mistress' name. Vera loved him, even in his stubble and with his old-man ass, the kind that sagged like paper on the edges. She loved him and he knew it and he liked keeping her on the line. Every couple of months, a text like I just broke 200 bowling or saw a creepy cat, thought you'd like it and this would ignite a back-and-forth that would usually end with her propositioning him, the only way she knew he'd take it seriously, and him acting like "well, if you insist." Today he was fucking her on the afternoon of Valentine's Day, with plans to meet May, his wife, at 7. He looked around at Vera's house: a spare sadness in the decor, inspirational decals and scented candles. In the moment that he swung from his orgasm like monkey bars, he wondered what May would be wearing for drinks, and if he were still blushing when he showed up he would just say it was the cold.


Posted by Dan on February 14, 2014 1:21 PM



Waylon Jennings - "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way"

WE WANT YOU TO SUCCEED. An ad for Calvern College on the side of another bus that howled past Edmund, bursting at the seams. It was early in the morning when his mind would often scrape loose the caked-on vomitous elements of his memory. In the -18 10:04 he recalled the disintegration of his various sex lives. With Carolyn it was chip fingers. With Alison it was sniffing in the house when it was Fall and getting colder out. With Jen it was driving. The secret seeds of doubt and the way the light hits your face. The way your life is built out of wood and creaks and settles into place and suddenly it's slanted, and suddenly that matters. He could only guess at what did it for them. Calling out wrong jeopardy answers. Stupid walks. Checking his phone. Leaving cupboards open. The smell of his spit. Frost was forming on the front of his scarf, and the sunlight was like cold water.
talking to dogs.
the "going to bed" lie.
the photo face...

[Buy] [image]

Posted by Dan on February 12, 2014 1:01 PM

Are You With Me Now?


Cate Le Bon - "Are You With Me Now?"

Edmund took fish oil before bed and dreamt of his wives, past and present. Carolyn, his first wife, was getting re-married. To Garry, her longtime boyfriend, a lazy customs officer with a face like a brick wall. It was strange enough that Edmund would attend this event, in a smoky Polish community center full of strange old faces, but his other exes were there too. They had even less reason to be there, he thought, his smooth shoes gliding over the smooth tiles of the dance floor. He had spotted Alison, his second wife, on the way back from the bathroom. She was prepping something clandestine in the kitchen. Something black with wires and a digital clock, that she was placing inside the cake. He didn't say hello. He went to congratulate Carolyn, and she looked at him with that same face she had given on the first night they'd made love after her art party. That look like I can't show you here but I never want you to leave. And he wondered if maybe she had always wanted him to just go away. The smoke seemed to be the breath of the Polish community center, the music was its smoky language. Edmund searched for a spot on the dance floor, that spot that isn't intruding yet lost in the action, and he spied Jen, his third wife. Of course, surrounded by men, all beautiful and tanned and probably Hawaiian. Her laughter, her glass laughter, dripped through the cracks of the music, and Edmund felt his face go red. Where was May? he thought in his dream, and went to find her. He passed back through the kitchen, Alison was gone and he could hear "cake!" being shouted from the main room. He went down the steps of the Polish community center to check outside, and still nothing, just cold hard crust. Then, back inside, shaking off the cold, he spied her ankles and her shoes. She was just standing amidst the coats. Just standing there. As if she didn't know she was supposed to leave her coat there and join the party.


(thank you Roger for recommending)

Posted by Dan on February 7, 2014 3:23 AM


Edmund and May walked unhand-in-handed up a gold sidewalk, gold from the sun. Cars like the mad wall of wind, the wall of wind and sound and panic you learn to ignore. The hills in the distance like big mansion-flecked piles of money. And with the sidewalk, pure gold, and the noise of the cars, the wall of wind, and the step distance between them, and the slump-shirted bus stop sitter with the bags, Edmund felt like the invisible tie between them was worn like an old elastic on a pair of boxer-briefs. It never quite retracts all the way.

Edmund could be in the most beautiful damn place in the world and he would still look at his shoes when he walked. "How is the world made?" he thought to himself, and answered himself, "In layers. Like a cake."

Ice Cream - "Science"

There is something hiding in this book. In the space between the letters lies a language. When a phrase forms an image it is formed between the letters. When it's written "windows open", windows open and in crawl ghosts. When it says "she sighed" it's heard between the letters, through her teeth like smoke. So to read "I am science," it's understandably dangerous, things may feel haunted then forever after that.

Posted by Dan on January 30, 2014 2:23 AM

Let Me Begin

Link Wray - "Facing All The Same Tomorrows"

Edmund watched his father Peter die in the bright white sunshine on the bright white sheets. So many sheets, ready to change the linens at a moment's notice. The word "Peter" seemed to have scare quotes around it, though Edmund never expressed them outside his own head. It used to be "Dad", but now it was "Peter". He never indicated to his wife May with little finger gestures or even a slight pause and bracketing with his voice (Why do you say it like that?) that he wasn't just saying Peter. But it was distinctly "Peter". From the moment when, after being sick for two months, Edmund saw his body looking like it had been vacuum-packed, the air sucked out through his eyes or his heart or his groin, the energy gone, the sails of his ship limp and windless, no strength to sip through a straw or even close his eyes, he was Peter.

Months previous:
"You see, Ed, the world is made for the healthy. How did you get in here?"
"I walked in."
"Yes, you opened the door and you walked in, right? That's a door to you, but to me, I don't have the strength to turn the handle, that might as well be a wall to me."
Edmund looked at the wall.
"And you get thirsty. You want a drink. Your thoughts wind you out of bed, maybe into some pants, you walk to the hall and think I'd better get my slippers so you go back and get them, then into the bathroom and bend down and drink straight from the faucet, no need for a cup."
Edmund couldn't help but wonder if he had an email waiting for him. "Yes."
"That's a marathon to me. That's a maze so complicated it would take me an hour to solve it, and I'd be exhausted. I'm a different thing now, I can't live here without help."
Peter fell asleep before the episode of Columbo had even really gotten started.

"Peter" looked into the air at what may have been a speck of dust in the light or Edmund's eyes, it was impossible to tell. And totally still, without a sign of pain or discomfort, he vomited. Brown, runny liquid out his nose and mouth, down his face to the bright white sheets, on his vacuum-packed skin. After that was cleaned up, Edmund called May, "I think it's time," and while she was on her way from BC he died.

May, Edmund's 4th wife, had no idea it was happening during her flight. Dutifully, she had put her phone on airplane mode. She looked out the window and thought: if you take the plane away, this must look very odd.

[This is from House of Broken Hearts Pt. 1, an out-of-print release by the endless stream of treasures that is Mississippi Records. Buy others here.]

Posted by Dan on January 17, 2014 12:19 PM


Photo from

Dog Day - "Before Us". A righted sailboat, on a little lake, in a toy village, built by a little boy, doted-upon by his parents, who met in college, on a tarry Wednesday night, right when they thought they were at the end of things, on a November 21st, the day after the day of Saint Edmund, Saint Edmund the patron saint of pandemics and of kings, who was tied to a tree and shot through with arrows.

[Dog Day's "Before Us", the last track on Fade Out, is a faint light that never goes out, a black hole tune, a barely a duet, a persister in plain guitar and plain voice that won't let go until the sky is completely dark. / bandcamp]

(photo source)

Posted by Sean on December 9, 2013 7:36 PM

WISHFUL THINKING: Our 2013 Funding Drive

Said the Gramophone's 2013 Funding Drive

If you enjoy Said the Gramophone, please give us some money.

In 2013, this blog celebrates its 10th anniversary. A whole dumb decade of finding wonderful songs and writing about them.

A lot of things were different, ten years ago:

  • Jean Chrétien was prime minister of Canada, Tony Blair in the UK, and George W Bush doddered over the United States.
  • the iTunes Music Store didn't exist yet.
  • Cory Doctorow published his debut and Jonathan Lethem (an STG contributor) wrote Fortress of Solitude.
  • Little Green Footballs was blog of the year.
  • Everyone was scrambling to get in to the European Union.
  • "Ignition" was remixed.
There, amid the chaos & jubilation of SARS and the Matrix sequels, Said the Gramophone appeared. It tried to be sincere and smart and, every day, to give its readers a few minutes of splendid sound.

Said the Gramophone also didn't have any advertising. We still don't. This is not an accident or a mistake. Ads are terrible. Sure, most music-blogs have ads. So do magazines, festivals, our favourite podcasts. But books don't have ads. Vinyl records don't have ads. Conversations with friends don't cut to commercial.

That choice means that Said the Gramophone's writers, Dan and I (and sometimes Jordan), don't really get paid. That's ok. Yes, STG is tons of work - 10 years and 872,282 words. But we made our bed (we'll sleep in it).

Still, once a year we become shills.

There are costs to running an mp3 blog like this one. We pay to keep the site online, and for every song you download.

Since 2007, our most generous readers have covered these costs. They have sent us dollars and pence, krugerrands and money-orders, to keep this pistachio-green website afloat. We forgot to hold last year's funding drive so 2013's is twice as important. We could really use your help.

Update 24/3: Thank you so much for your incredible generosity. The 2013 Funding Drive is now closed.

Our goal: $1,133.

($30.91 * 34 months + PayPal fees, taking us to March 2014)

Update 19/3: We reached our goal in less than a day. We are floored by your generosity. Later this week we will hide this Donate button for another 12 months. But truly, we can't say this any louder: we have met our server costs, you have been so kind; any more donations are incredible, unguessable gifts. Thank you.

At Said the Gramophone we don't chase pageviews or post press releases. We avoid widgets and streaming: we ask labels to let us share mp3s. If they can't, we find a different beautiful tune to share. We want this to be simple, and we don't bother you with the things that we don't really really love. But our audience is you, just you. That's it. There's no one else. You small, strange gang.

If you enjoy this site, please donate to keep it going.

This year we will be adding a special Donors page to publicly thank everyone who contributes at least $15. You can link to your website or, if you prefer, remain anonymous. Everyone who donates will also receive a link to download a special Said the Gramophone mix. (It has Captain Beefheart, Nicki Minaj and the Aisler's Set.)

A reminder of some of the things we did since our last funding drive: introduced or (more likely) reintroduced you to artists such as Adam Torres, A Tribe Called Red, Angel Olsen, Anika, Alt-J, Arlt, A$AP Rocky, Au, Augustine Enebeli Olisa, Austra, Avec pas d'casque, Azealia Banks, Bankrobber, Bernice, Big Brave, Black Atlass, Blackout Beach, Blue Belt, Blue Hawaii, Bombadil, Brianna Perry, Bry Webb, Cannon Bros, Carly Rae Jepsen, CFCF, Chrome Pony, Cyrillic Typewriter, Damien Jurado, Danny Brown, Deloro, Delusionists, Detsl, DIANA, Digital Leather, Digits, Django Django, Each Other, Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger, Eric Chenaux, Extra Happy Ghost, Foxygen, Frank Fairfield, Frank Ocean, Fred Woods, Freelove Fenner, Goose Hut, Grimes, Gym Deer, Hangedup, Heartless Bastards, Heavy Times, Hidden Words, Hooray for Earth, Hospitality, Jah Youssouf & Bintou Coulibaly, Jerusalem In My Heart, Jessie Ware, Jhene Aiko, Joey Bada$$, John K Samson, John Prine, John Southworth, Justin Bieber, Karneef, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, Leif Vollebekk, The Limiñanas, Luke Abbott, Mac DeMarco, Mari Kalkun, Micachu and the Shapes, Miguel, Milk Teddy, Milton Nascimento, Moonface, the Mouthbreathers, Mozart's Sister, Mystikal, Na Hawa Doumbia, Nap Eyes, Neal Morgan, Nathan Hanson & Brian Roessler, Nikkiya, Norwegian Arms, Orval Carlos Sibelius, Oscar and Martin, Parlovr, Peter Peter, Plan B, Planningtorock, Plants and Animals, P.O.S., PS I Love You, Reversing Falls, Ryan Hemsworth, Sandro Perri, Schoolboy Q, Sleigh Bells, Suuns, Taylor Swift, TEEN, Thee Oh Sees, THOMAS, TNGHT, Travels, Venuses, Walrus, Way Yes, White+, White Label, Willis Earl Beal, Wind-Up People, Woodpigeon, YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN, Yellowteeth and Zeus; wrote of digital music-making, Jelly's wife, brothers' judo, "Suzanne", fading away, a book with crossed-out words, David Bowie's deep boats, convicted murderers, the stories of Edmund, eating jukeboxes, the deaths of Jack Layton, Bert Jansch, Whitney Houston, Cynthia Dall, and, er, Bob Dylan, Psycho and Jimi Hendrix, "Moonlight Mile" and Val's Ice Cream, Katniss Everdeen, The Best Show on WFMU, concerts by Jeff Mangum and Gillian Welch, Lou Reed and the Buddha, a Russian road trip, six Megans (and Joanna Newsom), the trials of Abousfian Abdelrazik; composed overviews of le FME, SappyFest (twice) and Pop Montreal (twice). We also wrote about our 100 favourite songs of 2011 and 2012.

That's some of what we did. But for all the pixels we spilled, we are still deeply indebted to our readers. Every year we say it, and every year it feels even more true: your kindness and curiosity, your panache and élan, your wise-cracks and wolf-whistles, your comments and clicks - these are the things that make this thing a thing. You give us your time, and we feel privileged to give you ours. Thank you for leaving messages, writing emails, offering help and hospitality and faraway friendship. Thanks for the retweets and shares, the proffered MP3s. You play our favourite songs to your lovers, send us your lovers' favourite songs. You put up with this stumbling, fumbling project. We understand that not everyone can afford to donate to a silly website. Regardless of any pennies nickels, thank-you thank-you thank-you all yet again for making Said the Gramophone a ten-year project. Soon it hits its teens.

Posted by Sean on March 18, 2013 12:06 AM


These are my 100 favourite songs of 2012: songs I love more than panetonne & starfruit & cloudy spotlit nighttime skies.

I follow just one arbitrary rule: that no artist may be listed twice.

I made similar lists in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The best way to browse this list is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.

You can also download the complete 100 songs, in three parts:

Said the Gramophone is one of the oldest musicblogs. We try to do just two things, well: finding good songs, and writing about them. We don't mess about with tour-dates, videos or advertising. We post new songs and old songs, write clumsy dreams of what we hear. If this is your first time here, I hope you'll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Of these 100 songs, approximately 71 are fronted by men, 29 by women. 53 acts are American, 24 are Canadian, 10 are British, 2 are Swedish, 2 are Ghanaian, 2 are French, and there is one Kiwi, one Australian, one Dane, one Korean, one Nigerian, one Chinese Japanese and one Finn. This is the way it worked out; it certainly ain't perfect.

My favourite songs of the year do not necessarily speak to my favourite albums of the year. But if you want full-length records that are the best, the best, these were my ten in 2012: Micachu & the Shapes' Never, Taylor Swift's Red, Eric Chenaux's Guitar & Voice, the Chromatics' Kill For Love, Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!, James Irwin's Western Transport, Damien Jurado's Maraqopa, Avec pas d'casque's Astronomie, PS I Love You's Death Dreams and Eternal Summers' Correct Behavior.

Some songs that you heard in 2012 may have been omitted from this tally because I heard them before this year, and included them in my Best of 2011. For example works by Gotye, TEEN, Bry Webb, Grimes and Azealia Banks.

Said the Gramophone's Best Songs of 2012 - original painting by Adam Ferriss.
original painting by Adam Ferriss

  1. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe" [buy]
    It was already rattling around my office at the end of 2011, but it's hard to question that 2012 was the year of Carly Rae. Propelled by Justin and Scooter but mostly just by being exquisite, a joy to sing-along-with. Breathless, jubilant and beautifully catchy, I wrote in the Globe & Mail. With wheeling strings, a simple disco beat ... [it's] tinselly and luscious, miles away from the remixes and ringtones of the rest of the Top 40. "Call Me Maybe" is pop as purest confection, fairytale prize, the valentine at the end of a rainbow.
  2. Miguel - "Gravity" [buy]
    I am moony about Miguel's "Adorn", but "Gravity" has become compulsive - the softshoe "shooby-doop", that synth-bell fizz, the singer's sensual prowl. And those lyrics: Lately / I am certain that I dreamt you. / Overnight suspense is / leaving me defenseless. Right rhymes, like links, a chain.
  3. The Mouthbreathers - "Birthdays" [buy]
    The year's finest one minute and fifty-two seconds of rock'n'roll: crunchy and childish, clever and determined, the work of a dynasty that will take over every palace in the land. "Then I drink my coffee / and listen to records / and when I say records / I mean mp3s." Setup, punchline, smelling salts. Just enough learning that you leave the fight wiser. At parties sometimes you drink some punch, and the punch is spiked, and you do not know it is spiked until you have drunk it down. And sometimes you do something, and you do not realize you are growing up until you have finished the something, and you have lost that friend or felt that feeling. And when you form a band you don't know what the band is until you've formed it. You have drunk a drink, you have grown up a little, you have formed a band. These things happen when they happen. Like a birthday, like the end of a song.
  4. Usher - "Climax" [buy]
    Diplo-assisted, rayed, glittering. But Usher is himself the secretest secret of this song: the singing, the coaxed heart, the cherishing of a wish.
  5. Brianna Perry - "Marilyn Monroe" [download mixtape]
    An elevation of what people love about Azealia Banks: sirens, swagger, the pleasure of words pronounced just just just right. Soundtrack for a catwalk knife-fight, wireless mic.
  6. Avec pas d'casque - "Intuition #1" [buy]
    Impossible for me to divorce this song from Jeremie Battaglia's short video, in May, that used it as a soundtrack. In Montreal this summer the city came into the streets, banging on pots, brought together, beautifully and movingly brought together. We clanged and hoped. We wished. Not just for cheap university education but for an equitable society, a new city, streets full of neighbours. In a certain way, this moment passed. Broken parties fought a dumb election. The autumn blew in. Now it's winter. But Battaglia's film, and Avec pas d'casque's song - they help me remember. They help me hope & wish & set my heart a-clanging. A carelessness / so necessary every now and then, sings Stéphane Lafleur, in French, in words much more eloquent. Let it be your base camp. Avec pas d'casque are one of Canada's best of all bands, and I want you to hear. (Translation here, at the end of the post.)
  7. Taylor Swift - "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" [buy]
    There are so many gorgeous inventions to this silly, joyous kiss-off song; I love the way Taylor's "we" - the we that represents the former couple, the failed relationship, the doomed love - is sublimated as "Weeeee!". I love the grin and eyeroll as her boyf consoles himself with a "cool ... indie record"; as if Taylor is admitting she likes it a bit too, but seriously boy-o come on. And I love the way the title doesn't give away the choruses' secret: we, in fact, are never ever ever getting back together. Because it's 2012, I hear a little "Call Me Maybe". Because it's victorious & rocking, I hear "Since U Been Gone". Because this is Said the Gramophone, I hear defunct sparklers, tumbling magnolia blossoms, matches.
  8. Jessie Ware - "110%" [buy]
    Strobelight effect on a blooming dogwood, blooms in quick motion; or else dogwood effect on a dancefloor scene, slip and turn. "Who's that girl?"
  9. Plan B - "Ill Manors" [buy]
    Fisted and gnashing, the fury of a kid who has seen his country take too many wrong turns. The Guardian calls it "the greatest British protest song in years". They're absolutely right. Labour MP Jamie Reed compared "Ill Manors" to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", the Graun's Dorian Lynskey name-drops Public Enemy and the Clash. Me I hear Rage Against the Machine. As with de la Rocha & co, the politics here are a little muddled, a little clumsy - Ben Drew is hardly offering an electoral platform. But what "Ill Manors" lacks in policy talkingpoints it makes up in a precise, racing wrath, bottleshard-sharp. I think of the nettling slur that follows the Occupy protesters: What are your demands? Plan B has no demands, here. He has a list of complaints. He has a list of snarled complaints and he wants you to know that he is angry. "OY, RICH BOY": Shit's not fixed.
  10. Eternal Summers - "Millions" [buy]
    One of America's great bands, just six pairs of eyes and six pairs of hands, hooks and gallop, a fixed stare at a common horizon. Happy / is the man who / understands it's gonna burn. Never mind the sorrows and defeats; we will pick up guitars, learn how to sing, make up different laws.
  11. Andy Stott - "Numb" [buy]
    The most inventive electronic musician since Burial. On "Numb," Stott makes something new out of early dubstep's ghostliness. There is a little Tim Hecker in it, a little Mary Jane Lamond, the sinking grind of machinery. The ghosts roam more than they could on Untrue. The fences are eroding, the heather fluttering, three suns beginning to rise.
  12. MIA - "Bad Girls" [buy]
    MIA's best song in years, assisted by a wild & languorous big-budget music video. Almost nothing happens in this song, but just enough nothing: chewy rhymes, backwards tape, the glint of a gold tooth. The swagger of a beautiful woman. Listening to this, it makes every sense that Madonna would call up Maya and ask for a team-up. (Though I'm not sure why MIA agreed to the indignity; maybe that's what the middle finger was about.) "Bad Girls" is MIA at her hardest, hard as diamond, marching indefatigably down the road.
  13. BJ the Chicago Kid ft Kendrick Lamar - "His Pain II" [buy]
    My favourite thing from Kendrick Lamar, this year, does not appear on Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City; it's this, sad and hoarse, from BJ the Chicago Kid's mixtape. A treasure and devotional. Soundwave reinvents a sample from Black El's "The Ride", and Lamar finds the bassline, the feeling at its heart. He elevates his three minutes, earns them, telling his story in the blue-goldish glow of stained glass. Questions of God and fortune are not easy: anyone who skips and gallops with this stuff is not thinking hard. Note the care of Lamar's revelation, the melancholy shiver of his doubt.
  14. Solange - "Losing You" [buy]
    I propose that this is only half a song: a one-bar beat, a chorus, repeat. A ringtone in search of an extended mix. And yet it's luscious, pearly, Twin Peaked. It's compulsive, and you play it again, and again, and its scarcity doesn't matter. Loop it round your day, in a ring.
  15. Damien Jurado - "Museum of Flight" [buy]
    In years of great, rough folk music, Jurado has often tried to mix things up with electric guitars. Here, he changes everything, just everything, in a much simpler way: falsetto, organ. It's as if he's moved from the woods to the plateau - through the telescope there's just cliffs, surf, open sky.
  16. Frank Ocean - "Thinkin Bout You (Ryan Hemsworth bootleg)" [more from Ryan]
    Ryan Hemsworth pours water into Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You," fills the r&b with little blooms and 8bit runs, two colours of wishing. The way the light changes at rain. The road disappeared. The pavement's clear lines went wavy. Cars lifted like lakes. Peter blinked in the mist, vision swimming, with a sun that showed and vanished, showed and vanished. There were pinks and golds but especially blues, running blues. Peter thought of Jude, he was so stuck on Jude, but he could no longer find the heartbreak in it, the loss; while the rain ran, he remembered only the way that a touch feels, touching, and the way it feels, so gently soft, as it is coming apart.
  17. Plants and Animals - "The End of That" [buy]
    This is pretty much a perfect 70s country-rock song, or something, only I don't really listen to 70s country-rock, so what the hell do I know? I know that it's magnificent, riffed and hooked, beautifully recorded, with crisp drums and gauzy backing vox. I sing the chorus to myself sometimes. And I imagined an alternate history of its making, of its video's making, like true life were a story and I could make it all up.
  18. Neal Morgan - "Fathers Day" [buy]
    Neal Morgan plays percussion for Joanna Newsom and Bill Callahan. Sometimes you hear a song and you go: oh shit i need to buy this. Other times, like this time, you hear a song and go: oh shit i need to buy this and also i need to buy a drumkit. I went to Neal Morgan's website, clicked BLUE AUDIOPHILE LIMITED LP w/ mp3 because I am a sucker for limited edition things by artists that make the top of my head fly off, skimming out across the room to hit the painting over the lamp. After I had ordered Neal's record I went to and did a search for sweet drumkit and then clicked Buy It Now and ordered a vintage GRETSCH orange drumkit 60s, and three weeks later it arrived. I set up the Gretsch drumkit on a rug in my living-room, beside the painting and the lamp and the top of my head. I raised the drumsticks. I hit the drums. I racketed and blitzed. I was remembering the way Neal Morgan coos and hoos and bloos, like a red and black bird. I was remembering the way he hits his cowbell, like he is rattling a golden egg. As I played the drums, I stood up and sat down. I rocked back and forth. I farted and died. I came back to life with a clear blue look in my eyes, the look of a lover or a killer, someone who is going to stroll into someone else's memories and point at the person who will cause them harm and say, into the camera of the rememberer's mind's eye, This person will do you harm, and then pull out a knife.
  19. Big Sean ft Kanye West & Jay-Z - "Clique" [buy]
    The beat is dour, relentless, one of this year's very best. When I come crushing through walls, cinderblock-fisted, the nightsounds will be these, blue-black and silver. And the raps are fine, too: Jay, Sean and Kanye have easy roles, hyping themselves, hyping their posse, "Clique" calling for nothing except glinging brag.
  20. Chromatics - "Lady" [listen]
    Alongside the new record by Godspeed, Chromatics' Kill for Love is the year's most successful albummy album. And they are not very similar. "Lady" is my favourite song. It is icy and ignited, surprisingly subtle electropop, a coquette coo undergirded by menace and velocity.
  21. James Irwin - "Needleye" [buy]
    This is a new song by James Irwin, whose album Western Transport is the best LP of any unsigned act in Montreal. "Needleye" is woozy and deliberate, patient, all ghostwater and sinking, will o'wisp & folded cloud & gentle saxophone. Rivers rise, shaker shakes, electronics sing. "I don't know why I went alone," James speak-sings. "Somehow staying here felt wrong." His lyrics are always chosen and wrong, accords he finds in dream. His voice is flat as paper. Sometimes he writes his songs quickly and sometimes very slowly. Imagine if you could do the same thing with a tree - cut it down quickly or cut it down slowly, depending on the tree. When a needle slips into an eye it does not hurt: it is like a light that enters another light, a shadow that crosses another shadow, a time that becomes another time. You see only later what has happened, the ruin that was wrought, what the needle has done.
  22. Neneh Cherry & the Thing - "Dream Baby Dream" [buy]
    Neneh Cherry and the Thing, a nordic jazz trio, cover Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream". They wrap it in sax, vibraphone and drum, as if it is very exciting, vigorous, robust advice. Rising into skronk and racket, it imagines a very particular, popping, celebratory dream. The kind of dream where you win.
  23. Micachu and the Shapes - "Nothing" [buy]
    As usual, most of the year's greatest albums are not at their best cut up into singles. Case in point: Micachu, who made one of my favourite LPs of 2012. Never is a collection of woozy, noisy, drowning, fuckd pop songs, sentimental and unsentimental; 35 minutes of seasick industrial ditty. It's utterly brilliant, future-forward, inventive, sad and thrilled. It's like the Beatles, the Fall, Animal Collective and a shipwrecked oil tanker. So - yes, it's good. But it's not an LP of standalone knockouts. It's an LP of standtogether knockouts. Stand "Nothing" with the others, tipsy and coy, full of sickly beauty, the charm of curdled milk.
  24. Kendrick Lamar - "The Recipe" [buy]
    A paean to the west coast and its "three Ws", women, weed and weather. I have never had the chance to visit California, to sun in California, to gawk at the bronzed California women or to evaluate the notorious Californian foliage. But it all certainly sounds good, right here. It sounds very, very good. Producer Scoop DeVille borrows Twin Sister's "Meet the Frownies", but Andrea Estella's Brooklyn coo feels perfectly at home, perfectly blonde; I think of Don Draper waking, bewildered, in a sun-licked mansion. I love Lamar when he is stricken & questing (see #13) but also here, leaning (back and foward), contented as a field of psychoactive sunflowers.
  25. How to Dress Well - "It Was U" [buy]
    This song has never triumphed on my home speakers, on my laptop or even my headphones. But when we listened in the car this bare, thin beat sounded like the best thing in the world: Michael Jackson in a single USB stick, pop-music as perpetual machine.
  26. Joey Bada$$ - "World Domination" [download mixtape]
    Cranberry crunch, cereal-bowl swagger. Baggies full of froot loops, clips full of shreddies. On the corner they are slinging mini-wheats. It is time for a re-up. There are rules of the game, lessons learned: you can make your own raisin bran; don't leave your cornflakes sitting; and the Milk Man cometh. He always cometh. Keep alert, eyes flickery. The Milk Man cometh. He cometh in a truck.
  27. Dirty Projectors - "Impregnable Question" [buy]
    I didn't listen enough to Dirty Projectors' lovely Swing Lo Magellan, an album like a refracted version of Nico's These Days. The PR's digital copy felt insufficient; I need to go buy it on a piece of black vinyl. Then I will listen to it again, and more, and sufficiently. The record will spin on the turntable. "Impregnable Question," so full of love, patient, full of space, all through the room.
  28. Purity Ring - "Obedear" [buy]
    Purity Ring can be distilled into this one fine song. Terse and crystalline synthpop, more vibe than meaning. Like weather.
  29. PSY - "Gangnam Style" [buy]
    I didn't expect this.

  30. Sonny and the Sunsets - "Pretend You Love Me" [buy]
    "Pretend You Love Me" isn't sand, isn't desert, despite all that lap steel. Instead it's flowering, sprouting, ivy curls. It's buds, spuds, beet greens, gladiolas. There is flute, reverb and bassline groove. Sonny and the Sunsets are planting a garden overtop all that strife and spite, the passive-aggressive drama. Rakes and hoes, bags of seed, microphones and electric guitars.
  31. Nap Eyes - "White Disciple" [buy]
    Sour and beautiful indie folk-pop, from Halifax, like the Velvet Underground crossed with Fairport Convention, Lou Reed drawling Thomas the Rhymer. Keats going through a break-up. OK but less esoteric than that. I tried to write a story about it: I do not always understand the Acolyte's parables...
  32. Flying Lotus ft Earl Sweatshirt & Captain Murphy - "Between Friends" [more]
    Posing as Captain Murphy, Lotus' lyrics are Star Wars and Kundalini yoga, kitty-cats, "ramen in a parking lot". Earl's lines are less fragmented. "Watching pot grow in short shorts and some soggy crocs / Shoddy lot of black faces trading body shots ... She buzzin' like a walkey-talk." The raps are secondary to the song, the sound, the production; vibraphone, claps, horns, synths. Several different rabbit-holes, half-explored.
  33. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - "I See a Darkness" [buy]
    Will Oldham re-records "I See A Darkness", one of his greatest songs, adds dancing electric guitar, quick drum-thump, backing ladies. It'd be inappropriate to a sorrowful, mournful song, about the darkness in every human being's heart. But it's just right for a song about seeing a darkness and surmounting it, with love and music, the drive to live - "I won't let go!"
  34. Milk Teddy - "Come Around" [buy]
    This dusty, surfy Smiths-stuff, winsome and full of guitars, made me write the story of an artist, a Morrissey impersonator, and some big Cali waves. (Thanks Andy.)
  35. Peter Peter - "Une version améliorée de la tristesse" [buy]
    With its 80s synths and saxophone, "Une version améliorée..." could be mistaken, in 2012, as redundant. Don't mistake it. Peter Peter have simply written a great song, a song in the songwriting sense, that sounds lovely, and blossoms, splendid, and makes good on every promise. Swoop of strings and Adam Kinner's life-giving saxophone, that synthesizer which warms your bones, lifts the melancholy, all the way to the fade-out. (thanks Erik)
  36. Japandroids - "The House That Heaven Built" [buy]
    Here's an idea: rip the scar off your heart, rip it right off, and see what happens.
  37. Darq E Freaker ft Danny Brown - "Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine) [soundcloud]
    Freaker's a grime DJ, Brown's from Detroit, they meet at a party somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic. There's purple seaweed, swordfish, a bioluminescent couch. There's lots of recreational substances. The seawater's salty. Someone teaches someone else the breast-stroke.
  38. Tune-yards + Angelique Kidjo + Ahmir '?uestlove' Thompson + Akua Naru - "Lady" [listen/buy]
    A charity single, a Fela Kuti cover, subverted by the very shouts of Merril Garbus and Angelique Kidjo. But even if Fela's original has some dubious lines, this isn't parody. It isn't inversion. It's a righteous rendition, funky, trilling, terrific. When I saw Tune-yards play in New York they turned this on after leaving the stage and the crowd didn't leave, it didn't budge. The girls put their purses on the floor and danced.
  39. JLS - "Hottest Girl in the World" [website]
    In the absence of new music from Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, at least there is "Hottest Girl in the World." Yes, the songwriting is very sub-Timbo. JLS, a British boy-band, have been spending too much time with Thriller and not enough with Justified. But Bangladesh's production is thrilling, tumbling - busted blurts, toms, synths like bari sax, fingersnaps, and of course those 32nd-note handclaps, a round of applause in every bar.
  40. Zigi ft Sonniballi - "Amanda" [website]
    Forget the Gangnam style - let me see you do Amanda. The dance-step comes hip-swivelling out of Ghana (see also: Azonto, and #81), carried by the crisp swivel of its beat, Zigi's nonstop chant. The music doesn't just tell you how to put down your feet - it tells you how to lift them.
  41. Chris Malinchak - "So Good To Me" [soundcloud]
    A rosy little Monday morning gift. Small, translucent, like a pink bead. So slight that you could forget it somewhere - on a windowsill, a nighttable, a bench. You could forget it in your own pocket. You could take it for granted - this song that is itself about not taking love for granted, about knowing that feeling in every wakeful moment. You forget the reminder that you should not forget. This is a rosy little Monday morning gift; take care that it does not send you spilling out into loneliness.
  42. Zebra Katz ft Njena Reddd Foxxx - "Ima Read" [video/buy]
    Just one note tall, all threat, all dread, reading.
  43. Chris Cohen - "Heart Beat" [buy]
    Noisy soft pop from the United States of America.Notes from a seeker. You have to be quiet to hear a heartbeat, but if you're really good, you don't need to be that quiet.
  44. White+ - "Red+" [buy]
    A very lucky whirlwind, from Beijing. The conversation stops there, when the air is ripped open by the thunderous tearing of a plane overhead. In the reflections of windows and car doors and sunglasses, summer unfolds like a Dear John letter, where nothing can be but the end.
  45. Fiona Apple - "Hot Knife" [buy]
    A hot mantra, a circle. It widens and narrows in its second half, kaleidoscopic, an overlap of voice and voice, desire and habit. Always the drum at near-boil, flushed. (thanks Ben.)
  46. PS I Love You - "Princess Towers" [buy]
    I'M AT THIS PARTY AND I'M LIKE-- Canada's deepest band - deep in the manner of mines and peaks, canyons. PS I Love You don't just rip up turf, they tear blazing into daylight. What is the word for the thing these riffs do? You are rising too fast, thrown upward, shot like a rocket from the seabed or that molten pit. You are thrust by your furious heart. Earnest without any of the sticky sap of earnestness.
  47. Major Lazer ft Amber Coffman - "Get Free" [buy]
    A weird, gentle, frabjous party song, something you can dance to, slowly. Elastic. Adaptable. Could be a song about class. Could be a song about gay marriage. Could be a song about democracy, race or international development. (See the video.) Major Lazer is Diplo, from Philly. Amber Coffman is a member of Dirty Projectors, from Brooklyn. Geography's just lines.
  48. Karneef - "We Found Money" [buy]
    Karneef is an act from Montreal's new bedroom school: damaged, funky, full of appetite and desire. None of Grimes' childish hexes; this is more grown-up than that, nicked and mangy, wolftongue lapping. Karneef can sound like David Byrne or he can sound like Prince, he can sound like James Murphy or Jim Carrey circa The Mask. "We Found Money" is a resolute jam, skewed and self-satisfied. The singer found money. I do believe he found money. As you may imagine, he is happy about this. He celebrates like a man dancing alone on the dancefloor, like a man dancing alone in an alley, like a junkyard dog dancing alone at the top of the heap. But with the song's slow advance - woodblocks and backing sighs, a cellphone interruption, the sudden & unexpected, frisky, acoustic guitar - you can imagine everyone joining in. You can imagine the scales falling from everyone's eyes, realizing this dirtbag ain't. He found money. He's a millionaire.
  49. The-Dream ft Pusha T - "Dope Chick" [video]
    One of those rare cases that I prefer the "clean" version: in spite of Dream's apologies, the language of "Dope Bitch" is just too vicious. Otherwise the song is all adoring, devoted, oddly cozy, more sleigh-ride than banger.
  50. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft Mary Lambert - "Same Love" [buy]
    Completely, utterly, stupidly sentimental. But after decades of completely, utterly, stupidly sentimental hip-hop songs, it's about time we get a chart contender that gestures toward gay rights. This is just as important as Lady Gaga's self-aggrandizing slogans, Nicki Minaj's sexual agnosticism, Zebra Katz's lidded stare. (It's maybe a little less important than Frank Ocean's tumblr post.) There are aspects of homophobia that need to be addressed on the hip-hop charts, faced head-on, real talk. "Same Love" is a start. It reached No 36. If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me. Have you read the YouTube comments lately? Besides, it doesn't matter how pertinent it is, or how political: as a song it's good, and pretty, and so long as you have a sweet-tooth, there's much to love. (Thanks Michelle.)
  51. Nicki Minaj ft 2 Chainz - "Beez in the Trap" [buy]
    This is basically a song about being at work. This work may or may not be drug-dealing. I remember hearing this song at the grocery store, piped over the PA. For a second I got a flash of what it must be like when you are on in years, disconnected from pop music, and the kids' newest thing sounds simply incomprehensible, alien. This is music?! "Beez in the Trap" is awesome. It is cool, swinging, ungenerous. But I imagine Roy Orbison at the grocery store, pushing his cart of pickles and Oreos, wondering, What the hell is this?! Any sufficiently advanced pop-music is indistinguishable from noise. One day the songs on the radio will no longer make any sense.
  52. Freelove Fenner - "Mint" [buy]
    Montreal's limber Freelove Fenner cover Chevalier Avant Garde. "Mint" is neat like spearmint, golden like taffy, one minute and fifty-nine seconds of righteous skimming softshoe. This song would sing in an empty ballroom, reflecting on open surfaces; and it would sing in a full one, while the dancers try their moves. There is a guitar solo like a sunlight doing parkour, like a small dog chasing a larger dog, and I want to listen to it until I die.
  53. Schoolboy Q - "There He Go" [download mixtape]
    Schoolboy's still my favourite in the Black Hippy crew. An associate of Kendrick Lamar and (refreshingly) Macklemore. This is how you do braggadocio in 2012. Striding, driving, charging right up to the thing that you want; and taking it. Q is high and elite, hot and packing heat. He's a fucking asshole, stealing girls, slinging metaphor. Pistols, pistachio, "whatever occur". He's not wrong when he raps: "Magnificent / They be like, 'There he go!'"

  54. The Hood Internet x Ma$e x Diddy x Notorious BIG x Penguin Prison - "Fuck With Mo' Money" [website]
    Can't tell you how delighted I am that there is still room in the expanding universe for another splendid, doorbell-ringing remix of "Mo' Money Mo' Problems". Jean shorts are meant for thighs. Ice cream is made to melt. Shoes are built to sweat, to brown from street dirt. Hair is meant to tangle. Grass to be matted. Debit cards to be lost, bike bells born for sunglasses.
  55. Eric Chenaux - "Dull Lights (White or Grey)" [buy]
    From Chenaux's peerless Guitar + Voice, one of the very best albums of 2012. Music that evokes Sandro Perri, Chet Baker, recent PJ Harvey, Little Wings, Richard Youngs, Arthur Russell, Willie Nelson, Derek Bailey, Hoagy Carmichael and on & on. This is a song of heartache, bruise, trampled love. All the lyrics seem so bruised, blood running thin circuits underneath. His fingers dance on strings - a guitar that summons summer nights, spanish valleys, dusty bus-stops - and yet there's always that far, listening drone. Someone just out of picture. A waiting face.
  56. Azealia Banks - "Fuck Up The Fun" [soundcloud]
    Steamrollers make things easy. (Previously.)
  57. Pat Jordache - "Steps (Damaged Goods)" [soundcloud]
    A new ropeadope from Montreal's extraordinary Jordache. Melting funk, cowbell roast-beef, Ziggy Stardust plummeting Baumgartner-style from subspace to terra. Bluetooth headset blinks, sharp blue light, mayday / octoberday / saxophone. Play two records on rival turntables, align them, make them perfect, break up with the DJ. Break up with the DJ - and see if those records wobble. See if they scratch. See if they keep on turning, 33 or 45, unstoppable diamond needle, as the earth takes a deep breath and decides to quake.
  58. Adam & the Amethysts - "Drinking in LA" [buy]
    Like Freelove Fenner's "Mint," a cover via CJLO, this time of Bran Van 3000's dopey 1996 hit. "Drinking..." has always been a strange creature, part booze-up party song, part hangover. Adam & the Amethysts mine the song's melancholy, honing in on that central lyric: What the hell am I / doing drinking in LA / at 26? It's a question of fade, growup, entropy, disillusionment. Wisely, it is not reduced to a droopy acoustic cover: the original's strange happy-sad is still present, just in different proportions. There is joy in Rebecca Lessard's backing whoops, in the canter of snare. And the band have imbued this childhood favourite with their own markers of nostalgia - swimming reverb, drifting synths, harmony. Inadvertently, it recalls the Red House Painters, early Cat Power. And for my money, it is every bit as good as the original.
  59. The Doozies - "Independence Day" [buy]
    Like a single ragged inhalation, joyous & wrecked, two minutes long. The song ends at the exhale. There are guitars, drums, a broken microphone, a cheeseburger rock band from Washington DC. Edmund thought of how he might call and say he's somewhere and then quickly arrive. He thought of himself moving quickly around the house, picking Tate up and spinning him in the air. He thought about the last time he was on a plane, and how he had to piss worse than any other time in his life. He thought about the way traveling shakes the juices out of you. All the chemicals get shaken loose, and you could cry or shove somebody or just look at nothing and feel nothing.
  60. Thee Oh Sees - "So Nice" [buy]
    Thee Oh Sees open the big door of their garage and pretend they are John Cale, sort of. Vultures circle.
  61. Bernice - "Rêve Général" [buy]
    Breaking, dissonant indie r&b. Pianos were still falling from the sky. Each one began as a distant black dot, almost imperceptible in the cloudcover. Then slowly it would get larger, and larger, all telltale shape. And the birds would get out of its way.
  62. Here We Go Magic - "How Do I Know" [buy]
    Luke Temple sings "How do I know", the lyrics not the song, like they are one long word, one onomatopoeia, a pennant tied with silver wire. HowdoIknow, like the pinging sound of an aluminium baseball bat, hitting a single; HowdoIknow, like the blurry buzzing of a spring doorstopper; HowdoIknow, like a plucked heartstring. The whole song rests on that sound, that hook, that howdoIknow, and Temple acts as if the question is central to his existence, his worldview. He's wrong. The more important question is plainer. Not How-do-I-know? but simply Do I? Does he? Does he love you?
  63. Arlt - "Tu m'as encore crevé un cheval" [buy]
    Crever means to puncture, to burst. Un cheval is a horse, a pony, a stallion. So listen to France's inimitable, extraordinary Arlt and imagine a horse that slowly deflates, there in the vegetable garden. Also: an electric guitar that sounds like a singing saw, a shrilling kettle. A ticking clock, an old photograph of your uncle's death.
  64. The Luyas - "Fifty Fifty" [buy]
    When we die we are like parachutists, leaping right back up. A cold song that's lashed by warm wantings. Electric guitar & strings & great singing atop the metric motorik of the beat.

  65. Jai Paul - "Jasmine" [buy]
    A song always on the verge of happening, not quite there, like a gem that splits every time you go to measure it. Radiant, then hidden, then shiny again. Lapidary r&b.
  66. Way Yes - "Important" [buy]
    Loose, zingy indie pop. A song in many pieces, that's roamed both hemispheres. The kind that makes you spout giddy gibberish: No scruffs. No doubts. Yearner high, lift, point upsing til the lopers move. Move it, lopers! It don't matter lest you nor.
  67. Tomas Barfod ft Nina Kinert - "November Skies" [buy]
    Eleven months until the next November. To revisit those windy days you can use an old View-Master, or else this song, wistful and running, Kinert's voice within a wave of rushing synths and driftwood snaps.
  68. Killer Mike - "R.A.P. Music" [buy]
    I feel like Killer Mike released this album without even clearing his throat. His old ratty black faded George Foreman shirt, with George kind of grinning, thumbs up, one of his eyes long since flaked off in the wash. He would never yell, but it was so frigging loud. Deafening, almost. The kids next to me would have their earphones in, but you knew they were listening, you could tell by the way their jaw hung open like they themselves were speaking.
  69. Rose Cousins - "For the Best" [buy]
    A country song full of striving. (Previously.)
  70. Alt-J - "Tesselate" [buy]
    My friend Vinny, and the Mercury Prize jury, are able to overlook Joe Newman's creeper voice. I wish I could. He knows "Alt-J" makes him sound like an Australian radio station, or like a fancy way of rolling a marijuana cigarette. But he thinks the music will speak for itself: surely no one will meditate on Alt-J's name while they listen to his coo, his blunt electronic pop. And yet I do. I do. This song is a little like Eagle-Eye Cherry and a little like DJ Shadow circa Endtroducing (mostly the former), all witchy beats & chimes.
  71. Olu Maintain - "NAWTi" [myspace]
    Nigeria's Olu Maintain offers this weird pop single. Sometimes it feels like a parade of MIDI instrument-sounds, fake trombone and fake strings and fake flute. Other times it feels like effortless poolside seduction, sun glinting on sunglasses. "NAWTi" stands for Natural African Woman Totally Inspiring, and yes there's a video.
  72. Justin Bieber - "Die In Your Arms" [buy]
    Bouncing harpsichord, Justin still cherubic, but here's a song about wanting to die in your arms. Can you imagine this kid expiring, maybe with bullet-holes in his chest, and a beatific smile on his face? Can you imagine him going peacefully into death? I imagine him shrieking, sniffling, clawing the unjust air. Kid's never known love. Kid's never known a love he'd trade everything for. These lines are pure fiction: "If I could just die in your arms / I wouldn't mind." But most pop music is fiction, after all - at best the recollection of a feeling. And here's a tune that's a middle-eight short of brilliant, because did I mention that harpsichord? It's borrowed from Michael Jackson's "We've Got a Good Thing Going". And did I mention those fingersnaps? They're new. And did I mention that there are certain chord progressions that are coded into our bodies, just like sunsets look nice, yes sunsets look nice.
  73. Willis Earl Beal - "Evening's Kiss" [buy]
    Willis Earl Beal has the charisma, the voice and the back-story. He just needs to work on his songs. Acousmatic Sorcery feels like a sketchbook, immature scraps; only in the internet age would such a thing send Beal so high, so fast - probably to his own detriment. I sent Beal a letter; his label emailed me a photograph of a drawing. I've seen Beal live; I left disappointed. But he's given me two extraordinary things, this video and this song, "Evening's Kiss", soft and almost imaginary, all at once like a Biggie verse and a Daniel Johnston demo.
  74. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra - "Melody Dean" [buy]
    I find Amanda Palmer insufferable. I think she's self-absorbed, self-satisfied, and she doesn't try hard enough. Friends' personal anecdotes suggest she is a jerk. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this list, none of that matters. Lots of musicians, including Terius Nash, are insufferable. What matters is that "Melody Dean" is great, I admit it, a pastiche of "My Sharona" and the Cars which surprises at every turn. It is triumphant and melancholy, horny and shrewd, a little like Los Campesinos. And it is a delight to listen to. (Thanks Kate and Michelle.)

  75. Young Galaxy - "Youth is Wasted on the Young" [buy]
    Jangly post-punk, gorgeously sung. Headphone music: the corners of the song are full of secrets. More than anything I love the blurred, swimming electric guitar, wobbling in and out of tune, in and out of phase, from this dimension to a better one.
  76. Katy B and Jessie Ware - "Aaliyah" [download ep]
    The latest-breaking addition to this list: Katy B's Danger EP was released around 7 December. So good to hear new songs from the queen of British dance-pop, but that's not what sets "Aaliyah" apart. Nor is it the Geeneus production, the duetting voice of (the marvellous) Jessie Ware. Rather, it's the song. Aaliyah is Aaliyah. That Aaliyah. Late, great, one in a million. Instead of a dance-floor hagiography, Jessie and Katy singing an elegy for their idol, the track is polyphonic, ambivalent, almost backhanded. "Aaliyah, please/ This is green envy/ Why must you taunt me, girl?" Not just the anxiety of influence, that familiar sinking feeling - these girls are scared that Aaliyah will steal their boyfriends. "Aaliyah, please don't take my man / Although you know that you can."
  77. Adam Torres - "Mountain River" [buy]
    Folk music from a man with a voice like a screened window. The man sets up his easel near the green river, by the wagging willows, under the blue sky, and he gets to painting. It is difficult work. His plan is not to capture the scenery, the sunlight, the lazy breeze: just to paint a square of water, running river water, as it passes by. He spends the first hour smearing colours on his palette, blending them, choosing a hundred hues. Then he stares hard at the water, and begins to paint, and stares hard again, and he can't get over the small thin fear that if he stares too hard at the river he is going to tumble all the way in.
  78. Kitty Pryde - "okay cupid" [buy]
    Some of a year's best songs are not about hooks and beats but personalities, characters. Voices we haven't heard before. "okay cupid" is one of those: a portal, for those of us who are not teenage girls, into the dreamy quotidian of a 2012 teenage girl. It is scary, seductive, intimidating, disorienting; this is an age when nymphet have bandcamp pages. Kathryn Beckwith raps about crushes and lies, underage sips, the-Dream and Frank Ocean, scrawling names on binders, pills. But, like, I'm open minded / and it's fine. / I don't do this shit / but I don't really mind it. / I'm not heartless / but I'm hardened / a rotten tooth. She slings her rhymes slow. They drop from her lips like maraschino cherries. Teasing and high; sexual, shrewd, theatrical, adult.
  79. Grizzly Bear - "Yet Again" [buy]
    There's a mathematics to the way Grizzly Bear wrote this song, to the way they tell the tearing-down of a relationship. As on "Knife", Ed Droste sounds dissociated from any fury. He is safe now. Once-fooled and not again. So amid all these towers of timbre and harmony, billowing silver stormclouds, there's a sad, tranquil heart. It could be accused of bloodlessness, yes. But only until those shrieking final instants - as if something almost got out.
  80. Rufus Wainwright - "Sometimes You Need" [buy]
    So maybe this is a song about going to a dogpark with Jake Gyllenhaal, up near Griffith Observatory. But it's beautiful-as-can-be for a song that's just a little tacky, with lines about "movie star eyes" and a "movie star's [dog's?] bark". Wainwright is a gifted arranger, Mark Ronson an inspired one, and their work is transcendent here: acoustic guitar, strings, an oboe even, deliberate and gorgeous. So easy to add a bland sweep of violins; but this orchestration is precise, particular, changing the song. Suddenly we see gardens, Hollywood-lit, the park's droll undertone, and understand the way a plain, dumb stroll can help you find yourself again.
  81. Guru - "Lapaz Toyota" [website]
    More from Ghana, which had a thrilling 2012. Guru's azonto hit is a repeating motif, a series of tasks, an obstacle course. It is a small car in a busy alley.
  82. Django Django - "Life's a Beach" [buy]
    Chummy, strummy, a prep-school Beta Band. You can fall on anything: a step, a piece of timber, a banana peel. You can trip over a relationship, a regret, a long-lost friend. One kiss can send you flying. Be careful when you are on the beach, when you are relaxing on a rooftop garden. Sometimes your mind is like the jingle of tambourine and the clack of coconut-halves, voices rhyming in your ears, and you can slip straight out of your comfy pit.
  83. Parlovr - "You Only Want It 'Cause You're Lonely" [buy]
    Such a tiny, elongated indie-rock anthem. Something for an arena the size of a snowglobe, a world where people go melancholy to football games, throwing obsolete engagement rings to the turf. (Previously.)
  84. Father John Misty - "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" [buy]
    J Tillman strikes the right tone for a song about fucking in a cemetery. Neither spooky nor sexy, just a little confused. Moved by the experience, in many ways at once. (Thanks James and Daniel!)
  85. Heartless Bastards - "Marathon" [buy]
    A great long song, that wheels out cannons in its final minute. Lots of wanting in this twangy garage waltz; lots of praying, with everyone on their feet.
  86. Gros Mené - "Vénus" [buy]
    Fat, farting blues rock, mostly in québecois french, the accents such that it sounds a little like they're just goofing gibberish, chewing black liquorice til their skins turn blue. This is a good time, especially if you are standing near a burning oil drum. (Thanks Julia!)
  87. Icona Pop ft Charli XCX - "I Love It" [website]
    Electropop so simply made that it could be an exercise machine - a stairmaster or bowflex, something you do over and over, grimly, until you figure out a way to escape.
  88. White Label - "Roberta" [download album]
    White Label are ruthless and sentimental plunderers. Here, the vocal from Roberta Flack's "Trade Winds" is stolen and reattributed, given to a new song. It's an uncanny result: "Trade Winds" was little-known to begin with, and White Label's arrangement feels like it could have been written in 1972. So "Roberta" ends up like a new old song, a kind of imaginary anachronism. In this age of remixes, re-dos and collages, "Roberta" still feels special and strange, rare.
  89. The Tallest Man On Earth - "To Just Grow Away" [buy]
    Kristian Matsson in his Woody Guthrie mode, acoustic balladry elevated by organ and a second guitar. Like his tourmate Bon Iver, Matsson makes sincere-sounding songs that are surprisingly opaque, even cryptic. It's an antidote to accusations of sentimentality, but also sometimes a feint. Here it just feels like a man fumbling for the right words to say exactly how he feels. (Thanks Brett.)
  90. Death Grips - "I've Seen Footage" [buy]
    The musical equivalent of a man scampering around an empty auditorium, knocking over chairs. Maybe he'll knock down all of them. Maybe he won't. Depends on him. Lousy robot rap, a chrome cinderblock funk band.
  91. Isaac Delusion - "Early Morning" [buy]
    Languid, chirping pop; a fast thing slowed-down, a nordic place made tropical. It is not easy to stop a moving vehicle. You have to sustain the impact, accept it, without losing your footing on the road. You have to say yes while also saying no. It is the same thing with a day: it will not stop unless you can let it wash right over you, all twenty-four hours.
  92. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - "That's What's Up" [buy]
    A shaggy stomper, the Zeros like hillbilly Muppets casting their hands to heaven, asking for their lovers to stay, the lice to leave, and for the livestock to figure out how to dance. (Thanks Bryan.)
  93. Bankrobber - "Soon" [soundcloud]
    A messy, fine song, its verses echoing like a voice in an empty lighthouse. Wild and whirly, indie rock that hasn't hangups. A dog strolled by, acting like the king of the world. Then the world ended.
  94. Cat Power - "Manhattan" [buy]
    Like many other good songs this year, this is not quite a full song. It's a loop, an experiment of sound, twins as neighbours. Breakfast of leftover stars, saran-wrapped, Dan wrote. Walk on spindly legs in spindly shadows. Harsh sun makes noise on the pavement, like a pap-pap-pap. The world seems to spin on hunger.
  95. Sean Price - "Bar-Barian" [buy]
    No trembling in this rap, no hysteria. Sean Price doth not protest too much. If you want him, you know where he is. Woof. He'll knock your teeth out. (Thanks Casimir!)
  96. CHVRCHES - "The Mother We Share" [soundcloud]
    There is jubilation in the ec-ec-echo of the chorus, something so so sweet in it. Would that the verses were as delicious; I love the sound more than the song.
  97. Mirel Wagner - "No Death" [buy]
    Dark as earth, this acoustic folk song. The narrator sings to her dead love, to a corpse and its still-stirring spirit, without any tricks of pretty language. But I'm also drawn to it as a queer folk-song, the genders slipped, the change like nothing at all. (Michelle again.)
  98. Oregon Bike Trails - "A Summer Thing" [website]
    A ring of rinky-tinky piano and reverby oh-oh-oh, nothing more, but you could build an island out of it; build an island then erect a palace, a skatepark, a zoo. (Thank you again Michelle.)
  99. Opossom - "Blue Meanies"" [buy]
    A merry triumph of bassline and drummer. Lo-fi pop with splashy choruses, sorta Super Furry or Beck-esck, only nothing's nearly as important as that scurrying bassline and those dusty drums, someone give them a medal. (Thanks Lauren.)

  100. The Fresh & Onlys - "Long Slow Dance" [buy]
    Of all the songs on the list, this was the last I heard - and I don't think it would have made it if were not for its extra guitar. Mostly the Fresh & Onlys play a friendly, lite kind of guitar-pop, with winsome melody and moon-eyed lyrics. But there's this one extra guitar, needle-precise and golden, that darts into the song like a hummingbird, like a golden scarab, and all I want to do is to hear that one part again. (Thank you again to Bryan.)

And that's 2012's century of songs, or the way they seem today. There are so many that didn't make it, that I wish I were pointing you to. And there will be so many I've missed (there are so many I'm already remembering). Maybe make your own suggestions in the comments.

At Said the Gramophone we spent the year writing about as many wonderful songs as we could, and old songs too, treasures kept in chests. If you're new to the site, please come again (or subscribe). We update almost every weekday, penning tales about the tunes that make us think yes

Thanks for reading, sorry for the broken links, please support these artists with your money. Wishing you all the best this season - hope you find feasts and dazzles, bonfires and fizz, and lots & lots of love.

Posted by Sean on December 10, 2012 1:02 AM


Norwegian Arms - "Wolf Like a Stray Dog"

Edmund had a horrible habit of writing enigmatic notes, especially before flying. Before a trip out east, he left a note for May, for her thighs and for her forehead, on the table, weighted down by a banana. She got it when it was 10:33, the radio left perpetually on, murmuring:

May, you were sleeping and I thought I wouldn't wake you. I love you endlessly, if that means anything. I have found over the years that nothing really ever goes away. It gets quieter, you can ignore it, but it never disappears completely. It's hopeful, in a way. Everything still has a chance; you will be with me forever. -E

She wrinkled her brow, breaking the banana with her teeth. It could be a note left by someone never to return. Could just be Edmund being dramatic. Mid-chew she realized it had been his laying it out, his suggestion, that had prompted her to eat it in the first place. A binding agent, a banana, thicken you up.

She paused at the trash can, and turned on her slipper to the sliding door. She went into the backyard, green and crisp and an exactly half-sunny day. She wound up and hurled the banana peel as far she could toward the garden. It landed on top of the back fence, hung there for a moment, then slumped into the neighbour's yard.

I could go on, thought May. I do go on.

[Buy now]

Posted by Dan on November 16, 2012 1:58 PM

End Credits

Monomyth - "Feeling"

Edmund and May were married under summer sun. Alison wasn't there, but Frank stood proud in his elastic denim outfit. Evelyn had her hair swept over one eye, but cried with both. Jen came because she wanted Tate to be there. People came to Edmund's fourth marriage the way you would attend a 14-year-old's baby shower. People thought more about their parking.

(The Edmund stories may continue at some point, at any point really, but for now, they will take a rest. I hope you've enjoyed.)

[PWYC for the delicious Monomyth EP]

Posted by Dan on May 18, 2012 11:21 AM

Pick Up On My Game

Pilöt Kidz - "Sunshine"

Frank's first attempt at running away. His "things" packed in a bindle, similar to the ones he saw used by boxcar-hopping hobos in old cartoons, the illustrations of true, unshaven freedom. The contents of his tiny luggage: a copy of Casper's Summer Vacation, a pair of clean socks (most practical item), a tiny half-empty jar of peanut butter (no crackers or utensils), and a video game controller (more symbolic than anything, since it was without any of its counterparts, most notably electricity). He got all the way to the Becker's where some construction workers were ripping up the sidewalk in front. One of them, sunglass-ed and sweating, merely acknowledged Frank with a sunny nod, and he retreated in a grand u-turn that took him back behind the stinky dumpsters where he saw a dead crow and felt like praying. [Buy for 1€]

I Self Devine - "Hold On"

Evelyn is, obviously, valedictorian. She speaks with her chin raised slightly in the air, an arrogance that goes mostly unnoticed, or at least forgiven. She speaks about watching teachers turn into people, the way saying goodbye to military-style authority leaves us confused for the challenge of constant disorder in the outside world. She used the phrase "très facile" to describe some academic universal or other, a secreted and chiding pun on her ex, Trey, who sat listening and smiling, unaware. Edmund, having listened to her rehearsal, and cautioned her against many of the stranger elements of her speech, winced when it came by. An actual quote from her speech: "When I came to this school in 2007, I had one black person in my math class. In my last class, I had 6 people from visible minorities. I feel this is an improvement." [Buy]

Posted by Dan on May 11, 2012 2:25 PM
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