This is a musicblog. Every weekday we post a couple of mp3s and write about them. Songs are only kept online for a short time. This is a page from our archives and thus the mp3s linked to may not longer be available. Visit our front page for new songs and words.

December 31, 2012


Ladysmith Black Mambazo - "Sizobalanda". An incantation for New Year's Eve. I don't speak Zulu, I'm not somewhere with Wikipedia; I don't know what this song is about. So do whatever you want with it. You will anyway - that's what we do with songs, we use them however we want, as chisels or hammers, as the things we break. We use breakup songs as serenades, bangers as ballads. We make insignificant ditties the stuff of wedding marches. We turn "Sizobalanda" into an incantation for New Year's Eve. Make this song promise all the things you want. Make it promise love, or health, or meaning. Make it wish for safety, justice and friendship. Make it a thrumming ganged-up do-re-fa-so-la for laughter and splendour, for clear-rayed skies and green glass bottles, for she & he & they & also for Chief Theresa Spence, who is waiting on Victoria Island, and hungry. [buy]

Posted by Sean at 6:19 PM | Comments (1)

December 28, 2012



Joanna Newsom - "Have One On Me"

    School. School has the ring of routine, the self-regulated purity of forgetting anything except this book, anything except these 5,000 words. It started when it was warm, and the grass had not yet faded. She walked each day back to her room in the three-story building, and the neighbourhood revealed itself with each pass like illuminating brush strokes. After a week she found a place to buy lentils in bulk, and was overcome with that calm feeling, she smiled too widely at the woman behind the cash in her sparkled scarf.
    And the months climbed slowly, persistently past, in that way that one new idea per day clicks a semester by at a steady pace. One day is the allegory of the caves, the next is the Harlem Renaissance, the next is an article by Sontag, photocopied a bazillion times. Over soup, today red, today orange, today brown, she wonders about the utensils of information. And they never talked. Not an email, not a skype call, not a single mix CD. Not a word.
    Megan thought about her often, it was as if she had left her in suspended animation, left frozen at the foyer railing, holding her breath, waiting. She knew in her mind this wasn't true, but the ghost in her heart was always in that frozen position. When she looked in the mirror, Megan wondered if she had noticed these wrinkles, or if they were new, and if she would ever say anything about them. And in the shower she thought about painting her toenails, but every time she got out she forgot about it.
    The first word was on December 8th. An email, one line long: (No subject) are you coming here for the holidays? if yes, when? Of course it was yes, how insulting. She had that way of doing that, asking purposely dumb questions because she wanted to be fawned over. And using "here" instead of "home", how insulting. She was trying to get a rise, back to the paper. Still 3,422 words left to write. Nothing could be decided until the end of 3,422 words. Not even what to eat or where to get smokes, let alone where to go on Christmas or what to get anyone ever who didn't need anything always it's just stuff and stuff is bullshit who cares I can't think about that now.
    School. School has the ring of routine, but also the hypnotic quality of a cult. This could be normal to me if I stayed here long enough, thought Megan. When I finish this paper I'll answer her email. With an insulting email like that, she deserves to wait for a response. She's probably drumming her fingers, sitting by her laptop, she was probably asking because she wants to know when to have my present ready, or maybe she's trying to decide how guilty to feel, I wonder if she's wearing my sweater or she even thinks about me longer than it takes to write one fucking sentence. 3,415 words.

[Buy] (image from Alicante, Spain)

Posted by Dan at 1:24 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2012


Snowstorm, Dec 27 2012, by David Usher

The Limiñanas - "Longanisse". A song from sundazed Perpignan, but of course I hear today's snowstorm. How could I hear anything else? The frosted windowframe is like looking through lace curtains. Outside there is half a metre of snow, like the city is an iced cake. Still the snow comes down. Relentless as the Limiñanas' organ, glockenspiel and electric guitar, relentless as that sprightly "woo-woo!"; some far-sighted scheme, some beautiful meteorological joke. The Limiñanas made blizzard-music on a beach, or in a summer-baked villa. They taught the clouds a thing or two, wearing short black skirts and eyeliner. [buy]


I was introduced to the Limiñanas by Montreal's cherished Jason Grimmer, whose ears are fine indeed. He shared their music in his Best Albums of 2012, which I recommend with great enthusiasm.

In the wake of my own picks, some of the best of the Best of 2012s I've seen are these. Some are noteworthy for their writing, or their enthusiasm, or their diversity &/or accuracy of selection: Molars / Hunt & Gather / Passion of the Weiss (hip-hop) / Gorilla Vs Bear / APT 3313 / Pruning Shears / Erik Lejion/Cult's Best Montreal Songs / (will keep updated).

(photo, improbably, by david usher)

Posted by Sean at 8:05 PM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2012



Joanna Newsom - "Easy"

    The breakfast table. The everlasting breakfast table. An old receipt from the pharmacy "Itm Personal 2 || 18.00 *** 50pts". Stain Island, with a crumb in the center, in a checkered sea. And that tired old basket, so sick of rotting fruit. By the end of August, by the 28th, you're so sick of the heat and the sun, but still you don't want it to leave.
     She came downstairs and put her bags by the door, always twenty minutes early for everything, happy to wait, happy to worry, will take any excuse. Off on a bus out of town in an hour, a whole summer, a whole forever has come to this. They talked about Mark Karma and picked at the corners of the breakfast table.
     "What will it cost for an 'A'?"
     "What do you mean?"
     "Well, you'll make tons of friends, but maybe not as many if you're working all the time."
     Her smile seemed embarrassed, like it was caught naked, feigning pride.
     "So I'll pay in social life?"
     "Everything costs something," she said and they both stared at the sunken peach in the poor old basket.
     She spoke again, "I'm not going to come to the station."
     "I'll be back."
     This hung in the air like dust in the sun, until she repeated it back to her with an Austrian accent. And when they'd pushed the clock as far as it would go they walked to the foyer, cool and shaded, to say goodbye.
     "Goodbye, Megan," she said, and hearing her say her name like that made her want to drop out of school, to take her upstairs and tear her clothes off, it felt like her last chance. But for Megan, a plan laid was a thing greater than herself, greater than her desires, it was somehow the greatest authority.
     She checked her earrings with her fingers, straightened her tie and smirked out the door. The damn sun was baking and she thought what will she eat for dinner? there's no groceries in the house. But thought better than to say it, best to leave on a dramatic note.

[Buy] (i've lost the image source, any help would be great)

Posted by Dan at 7:27 PM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2012


Tesla reads

Fred Woods - "The Pond". A song like the snap of frost, or the whole sheet of a lake going suddenly ice. Woods takes up so little space with his voice, guitar, a simple drum kit. And then just as you are meditating on this little, on this empty quiet, horns lift up like aftermath, like consequence. When a sunbeam lands on snow it is like the snow reverses, rising up into cloudless sky, undoing itself. This music is undone cold, freeze & thaw. Folk music as sharp as pines.

And I think to myself: Every wilderness is unwilded by our presence. It is tamed by our seeing it. You are less alone when you say the words, and someone hears.

[buy / video / Fred Woods plays tonight at Casa with Technical Kidman and You Yourself & I - $5]

(photograph is of Nikola Tesla and his coils)

Posted by Sean at 12:15 PM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2012

The Dead Regenerate With Different Clothes

I'm no spring chicken, I'm 47. A lot of my friends have been married and are getting divorced and they look at me like I'm some kind of savant, like I knew a secret the whole time. They say "you're so lucky, you've been single this whole time," and they want to party. And I say guys, I'm the same age as you, I got here too, I just wasn't married while I got here. And after some drinks they kind of look at me like I knew it was coming, and they ask me about my love life and I tell them the same thing, people have survived on less. They always ask about Theresa and Katie, first Theresa and then Katie. But Theresa and I dated in 2000, and Katie was in 1998, not exactly current prospects. They say I should reach out and keep them in my life and I would like to I really would but I have a problem. Whenever I'm close with someone, and then we break up, I lose the ability to talk to them. And I know what you're thinking, we all do, but I mean that I really lose all control of language. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow without hands. You'd quickly come to realize how often you use those things, and how without them you just sort of stand there and wait for an answer. It's like that, I wish I could talk to them, but in their presence, all words, all sentences, all knowledge disappears. I still have my French, what little of it I have, "merci" and the like, but they don't really like it when I respond only in broken French, and the rest is just gone gone gone. Theresa says it's my fault, that I'm just choosing to be silent or frozen, or mouth agape, but it's not in my control, it's more like the weather than the coat I choose to wear. And so I think I'm at a disadvantage compared to most people, I can't keep a single connection with anyone I've loved, you get one go with me, and after that I'm used up.

Posted by Dan at 3:17 PM | Comments (5)

December 17, 2012


Mystikal - "Hit Me". This is a new song from Mystikal, who is listening to James Brown and turning his life around.

This is a video of the Apollo 16 lunar rover, from 1972. The footage has been "stabilized", adjusted from the original to reduce its shakiness. The reason it was shaky is that the cameraman was in space.

The thing about the lunar rover is that NASA paid to send a dune-buggy to space. They thought: OH shit! let's drive a car on the moon! Look at that thing move. Look at it bound. They are driving a car on the mfin' moon! Did the lunar rover have a tape deck? History does not apprise us. History is staying quiet. History is keeping the Polaroids to itself. Look at that lunar rover!

Look at that lunar rover move!

Chronology aside, it is not hard to imagine the Apollo 16 astronauts listening to Mystikal's "Hit Me". The man's an asshole but he did his time, maybe he's become a better dude. Maybe the president listened to "Hit Me" and signed off on the space mission's new soundtrack. "It's like James Brown but it's got more words," the president said. And the astronauts high-fived, secret-handshaked, smoothed the lunar rover's bumper stickers. GONE BASS FISHING, says one sticker, because the mission navigator is a bassist. SIRLOIN STEAK says another, because the module pilot is the son of a butcher.

Look at that lunar rover move!

Before the stabilized footage, the rover I imagined was always rickety, fragile, a spindly human machine on the surface of a foreign planet. Now it's a bounding hot rod, an celestially-pimped ride. Now it's the leaping astral embodiment of Mystikal's "Hit It" - skipping high-hat, shouts, rhymes, juicin' horns, burbling bass, lines that lift off and find air. "WOW!" The rover looks the way Mystikal sounds: supremely confident, fulfilled, embodied, an efficient machine that is finally executing the thing it was designed for. A fine piece of business.

[Mystikal on Soundcloud / with gratitude to Casimir]

Posted by Sean at 12:02 PM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2012


Yesterday, Sean released his annual list of the 100 best songs of 2012. It's great, check it out. But today I want to add one thing: P.O.S

I posted about the track "Get Down" when it came out, but I've been listening to We Don't Even Live Here more than any other album since its release. More than Killer Mike or Fiona Apple or even Parlovr. It's rough and raw, scary and angry and fraught. It's juvenile, it's unexamined, it's direct and careless and explosive. It's arrogant and brash and a bit preachy, but it speaks to me and lights me up. It's Fight Club without the dumb machismo, it's Adbusters without the dumb self-satisfaction, it's a dumb revolution without any kind of plan. It's exactly what I want to hear. From the heart-racing opener Bumper all the way to the ragged-clothed escape attempt of Piano Hits, We Don't Even Live Here is, in my opinion, the best whole record of the year. In the midst of many great singles, this is a fully-formed assemblage that stands out to me as a great achievement, so I thought I would highlight it for all of you. And to share, the Eminem-esque standoff personal-history track, "Lock-Picks, Knives, Bricks And Bats".


Posted by Dan at 11:48 AM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2012


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 at 1:02 AM | Comments (45)

December 7, 2012



Dur-Dur Band - "Garsore Waa Ilaah"

The day we got a gun, I sat in the back of the dusty old pick-up, wondering if I breathed in enough gas fumes, if I could piss in the gas tank to get us farther. "You're going to get a sliver in your ass," said Jama, his eyes smiling, full of trouble. He always looked at me like a dog, waiting for my eyes to give a 'yes' in return. But today I wouldn't give a yes, my stomach was gnarled and knotted, like this tumorous road.

We jumped out at the top of the hill that looked out over the village, and Hassan just half-waved and drove off, and I wondered if he would be back at dusk like he promised, or if he'd be out of gas by then, his tank always Empty, never anything else. "What do you think she's doing right now? Fucking her brother?" I punched Jama hard, without even looking. He was smarter than me, funnier than me, but I was always stronger. And for that reason he would always look at me like a dog. He was talking about Yessina, the beautiful Yessina with the mole under her nose. She liked her brother, but lots of girls liked their brothers. If I had a sister, she would like me too, it doesn't mean I would fuck her. But I would fuck Yessina, I would marry her first, then I would fuck her.

And she lived here, in this village, and I wanted to see her, but we also had to get a gun. There was a meeting later in the week, and we needed to have a gun for the meeting. Not because anyone told us to, but because the older men with the red arm bands and the beards had lovely shiny guns, fresh from the Americans, and we wanted to at least have something.

We went down to see Gravas, who lived with his house half-dug into the ground. There was food out on the table, you could tell he was rich but was trying to hide it. It wasn't good for people to know you were rich. There were flies on his food, and he talked non-stop. He talked about the history of everything. "We used to be rats, stinking rats. Rodents. Can you believe that? You were a rat and now you want to buy a gun how old are you?" I didn't answer and treated him the way I treated Jama, just looked away and didn't flinch. It seemed like people respected you when you did that, maybe I could treat everyone like that and I would become a great man someday. "Here," he shoved it into my hand and I almost fell over it was so heavy, and I hadn't eaten. Jama kept looking at it, trying to touch its round barrel and hashed grip, I tried not to even look at it, I looked up and straight away, and kept thinking about Yessina. "Used to be that all of this was fertile ground, all thick grass like you've never seen, and then mountains rose up and trapped all the clouds, and now it's dry and dusty and hot. This used to be the greatest place on earth and now you have a gun that'll kill someone or probably yourself by accident." I looked Gravas straight in the eye and handed him his money. Jama and I left, the gun in my waistband held against me with the crook of my elbow as we walked. We were silent for some time.

We were getting to the edge of the village, far from Yessina's house, which to me glowed like a star in my mind, I always knew where it was, when suddenly Yessina came out of a white house with broken shutters. When she saw me she looked away, he eyes skimming along the road, no escape, then smiled. She tilted her face back, like she didn't care. And I felt how Jama must feel, how Gravas must feel, like a dog. "Turek," she said, as if we had planned to meet. "Is this Adib's house?" Jama trying to fight a battle for me. "Shut up, Jama," I hissed, "Yessina." I thought about the gun in my waistband. I saw the whole history of this place, I saw us all as rats, I saw Jama as a rat and Yessina as a rat. I thought of a mountain trapping clouds, collecting them like billfolds. I thought about my gun. And Adib came slowly out of his house, his steps like pooling water. He put his hand on Yessina's shoulder, and she closed her eyes, I think because it was now confusing who was the dog and who was the master. Jama looked at me, his eyes no longer smiling, his mouth ready to speak. I stepped closer to the two of them, looked at them both closer, "This is not your brother," I said, and me and Jama went up the hill to wait for Hassan whose tank was always Empty, never anything else.

[Another great release from ATFA, Feb 5] (image of a woman in Somalia in 1987, the year this song was recorded)

Posted by Dan at 6:11 PM | Comments (1)

December 6, 2012


Grafitti bike tank

Kwaw Kese & Black Prophet - "Let Me Do My Thing". Their request is simple: let them do their thing. This "thing" is more or less unelaborated. Just because they ask does not mean you have to accede. But I like their attitude. They say, When you asleep / mi a work hard. This sounds genuine. Afterhours, they are not playing video games or reading comics. They are working hard. Maybe they are hustling. And so there is something chivalrous simply in asking for your permission. They could hustle without it. They could do their thing. They want you to want them do their thing. They want you to appreciate it. And then they'll take you out on Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights, whenever you want, on motorcycles full of gas. [This music is from Ghana / video / MySpace]

Posted by Sean at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 4, 2012

The Fallibility of COPY/PASTE


Justin Timberlake as played by Romi Graham - "SexyBack"

As the world becomes increasingly uninhabitable, the archival process has become paramount. The world is a hotel room, it is five minutes to checkout, and the archivist is the one checking under the bed, scrambling, stuffing everything possible into the suitcase; including the clothes, the toothbrush, the proper things, but also the bed, the shower, the very concept of dual-insulated windows, and the windows themselves. There is no such thing as merit. Merit was made for a world with an infinite future. Save the good, throw away the rest. This concept is moot. If history is written by the winners, it is the archivist's job to even the score. Saving only good works is like lowering a rope ladder into a lifeboat and saying "You, you, you, not you, or you." Or to be more accurate to the behaviour of inhuman curators, "None of you except for you. The youngest. Most supple. You alone." To save any one work in place of any other is madness, all must be saved, or the whole project should be abandoned. No human creation left behind. Every 6th grade book report on Sharks. Every placemat doodle of a house with smoke coming out the chimney. Every secret handshake that ends in a dirty gesture that looks like genitals. Every tweet @_chloxo: im listening to christmas music, beliebers and directioners are uniting and payzer is back together EVERYTHING IS SO PERFECT RN. And it is my pleasure to add to the Human Record, Romi Graham's version of JT's "SexyBack", part of the Future of History.

[Free, as all things human truly are] (image from consume consume)

Posted by Dan at 6:09 PM | Comments (1)

December 3, 2012


Duets for Abdelrazik cover, by Nazik Dakkach

Stefan Christoff and Matana Roberts - "Duet for Abdelrazik (Winter Morning Blues)". The highlight of Christoff's Duets for Abdelrazik LP, for which the pianist collaborated with six different musicians.

Abdelrazik is Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Sudanese-Canadian who was arrested during a visit to Sudan in 2003. Suspected of ties to terrorism, he was tortured. Canadian, French and FBI agents stood in the room with him.

Abdelrazik was ultimately exonerated. But past suspicion led to his listing on UN 1267, the United Nations security council blacklist. It became almost impossible for him to return to Canada. Any Canadian who tried to help him, offering money for a plane ticket, would be breaking the law.

In March 2009, 100 people jointly purchased Abdelrazik's flight home to Montreal.

In November 2011, Abdelrazik was finally removed from UN 1267.

Duets for Abdelrazik was recorded over two winters. Each song features Christoff and another musician. Abdelrazik stood in the room with them.

Sometimes presence is not a small thing. Sometimes it is everything. It is friendship or collusion, solidarity or hate. It is bravery or cowardice, a political act. So listen to Christoff's and Roberts' "Winter Morning Blues" and hear not just their seeking, their tender hearts, their doleful celebration. Hear the air in the room, the wait and glance, the close-to-touch. Hear the particular, personal sadness. And the hope.


Abousfian Abdelrazik

(album cover by Nazik Dakkach)

Posted by Sean at 10:54 AM | Comments (1)