Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Year in Music 2012: Top 20 Moments in Music

This is the fifth yearly "favorite moments in music" list. It's probably my favorite, because it's fairly unique, and because it invites a closer look at the little pieces of songs that are awesome - a catchy guitar line, a clever turn of phrase, or a particularly kickass bridge.

As always, there's some overlap beween this and my "best songs" list. That stands to reason, I suppose (the best songs are going to have the most memorable moments a lot of times). I've got Spotify links, Grooveshark when I can't Spotify, and YouTube when I can't find either of the others.

20. fun. - We Are Young
"Carry me home tonight"

When I first heard this song, I didn't even realize that Janelle Monáe sang the bridge. Once I found out, I was sort of unenthralled with the news, since it seemed as though her part was faceless enough to be played by just about any pretty face. "Luckily" enough, I got a lot of chances to analyze it. I came to the conclusion that Monáe infuses this song with a soul and heart that it would be completely lacking otherwise. The song has long since stopped being novel or interesting, the bridge lives on.

19. Kendrick Lamar - Backseat Freestyle
"Goddamn, I got bitches!"

Goddamn, I got bitches!
Daaamn, I got bitches
Daaamn, I got bitches
Wifey, girlfriend, and mistress

Not exactly super intelligent stuff, and it does echo the sort of stupid headed misogyny that I hate in rap music, but damn, does it sound good blasting from the speakers.

18. Swans - The Seer Returns
"You. have. a----rived."

There's lots of poignant, creepy moments to be had on The Seer, but this one tops them all. The way that the backing instrumentation drops out before Michael Gira puts so much malicious emphasis on every syllable before the the band kicks back in gives me goosebumps every time.

17.  Cloud Nothings - No Future/No Past
"Give up...Come to...No Hope...We're through..."

Summing up the album before it even really starts - and constantly building to one hell of a climax along the way.

16. P.O.S. - How We Land
...featuring Justin Vernon

Justin Vernon does it for me, so when he teams up with yet another rapper (am I the only one who finds it a little strange how popular a feature he is? I mean, it works pretty much every time, it's just... weird), I can't help but love it. Plus, in 'How We Land', his voice (with vocoder) is used to maximum effect for a rousing end to a great song.

15. Spiritualized - So Long You Pretty Thing
The song earns its title

The year's biggest album ending. 'Pretty Thing' starts out all slow, before bringing it all back for one huge finale.

14. Death Grips - Hacker
"When you come out, your shit is gone"

It's never really delivered in any particularly interesting way, I just really like the threat "when you come out your shit is gone".

13. Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe
Those super-fake strings in the chorus...

I don't really need to go into this. These are 9/10 of the reason that everyone loved this song.

12. Hot Chip - Night and Day

In a song filled to the brim with sex, this is the kicker. It's fun as hell. Plus, Linds likes it just enough to where we can dance around in my office while she tells me that she swears she's heard this somewhere else (I'm pretty sure the only other place she's heard it is in my office, but whatever).

 11. Japandroids - Continuous Thunder
Enter Drums

It's a neat trick, synching up that booming drumline with the words 'continuous thunder'. Sometimes, a neat trick like that is all it takes to send a song skyrocketing from good to great.

 10. Aesop Rock - Gopher Guts
Aes speaks plainly

"I have been completely unable to maintain any semblance of relationship on any level" - In the hands of someone else, that would simply be a bluntly honest lyric, Aesop Rock usually couches his lyrics with so much metaphor and word salad double talk that it's refreshing to hear him speak plainly and in a emotionally open manner. The entire verse plays out that way. 'Daylight' it's not, but it feels like a breath of fresh air amongst the various double speaking and clever rhymes.
9. Memory Tapes - Neighborhood Watch

Sure, we've already heard this before (from the same artist, even). Sure, this apes pretty heavily from the "three or four minutes of slow, then BAM! big breakdown!" dynamics of 'Bicycle'. Sure, it doesn't really reach the heights of that particular song.

The breakdown here is still awesome.

8. Sharon Van Etten - Ask
"I think I need more than the flowers and letters, man"

'Ask' is a great, fatalistic look at a doomed relationship. This lyric is the highlight for me. Going through the motions isn't working anymore, and though the singer seems like she's only just starting to admit it to herself, it's been that way for a while.

7. Frank Ocean - Pyramids
The first synth line

I love the way the entire song (which is otherwise quite busy) gets out of the way to allow that jagged synth line to take center stage, as if it knows what it's got on its hands. Once it comes around the second time, it's layered with the rest of the song, and serves as the transitional to the second half of the song. Both parts are great, but it's the first - isolated and arresting - that really grabs the attention.

6. Clint Mansell - Leaving Earth
Reaper Blast

The ending might have sucked (and it certainly did), but for that stretch of time at the beginning of the game - when they mercilessly undercut a pretty piano ballad with a jarring bassoon blast - everything was perfect.

5. Ghost Beach - Miracle

The chorus of 'Miracle' (hell, the entire song) is pretty much bottled enthusiasm. No moment was more enjoyable (or easier) to lip synch to, and no other hook sent my mood skyrocketing like this one.

4. Lost Lander - Wonderful World
Five Notes

It's funny what context means to music. Without this song's excellent music video, it's extremely unlikely that I would've been as taken with this simple sequence as I was. The accompanying visuals underscored what had been there all along. The moment itself is a fleeting as it is unassuming - a simple five note melody a little over two minutes in that solidifies the mood. Without the video, this moment wouldn't have struck me. Without this moment, this song wouldn't have been one of my favorites of the year.

3. Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built
"Tell 'em all to go to hell"

When they love you, and they will (and they will!)
Tell 'em all they'll love in my shadow
And if they try to slow you down (slow you down)
Tell 'em all, to go to hell.

One of the year's biggest anthems provides the year's biggest rallying cry.

2. Ramona Falls - Spore
"Here I Come"

The first two songs off of Prophet were...okay. 'Spore' started the album proper (and probably should've been the first track on the album). There's a sense of unease throughout the song, culminating in this fantastic section to close out the song.

1. Burial - Loner

'Loner' was already an unusually aggressive Burial song. Then those notes hit - four of them, in a descending pattern, repeated until they blur into each and wrap the listener up in them. Everything else in the song is defined by them, to the point where the repeated "set you free" chant starts to become cruelly ironic. The instant I heard this song in February, I knew that everything else was playing for second.


  1. #18 - From the perspective of generating memorable musical moments, having Michael Gira and Karen O singing on the same album seems almost unfair.

  2. Yeah, there are lots and lots of memorable moments on The Seer, it felt limiting to just have one (the insane panting on "Mother of the World" was a close second - gets my skin crawling every time).

  3. #8: I always heard the song's lyrics as "I need more than a flowers and letters man."
    Which is more damning to the relationship: he's in a completely wrong category.
    But I checked the lyrics sheet and you've got it right.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought it was 'a', instead of 'the'. I actually think 'a' would be a better lyric, but I'm only talking in a generic song sense, whereas the song as stands is almost certainly written about a specific person.

      Either way, it's a very good lyric.

    2. Listened to it again today. Still sounds like "a flowers and letters man".