Year in review | Top Songs of 2012
The new year is well under way, so it's about time for us to get down to business and chart our top tracks of 2012. It may not have been the most prolific year ever in music—especially not when you throw Psy, commercialized dubstep and "EDM" into the mix—but that doesn't mean it was without highlights; quite the contrary actually. To our ears, it was an especially good year for the leftfield side of house and techno, with a few sweet indie and bass treats thrown in for good measure. Here's our full rundown.
20) Maya Jane Coles "Gettin Freaky" — Heidi's Jackathon Jams
"[Maya Jane] Coles has again shown why she's cornered the market on a tasteful and potent new strain of house music... One really gets a sense of the new-school star's postmodern interpretation of the jacking style Heidi is so focused on recreating. Vintage Chicago signifiers abound, but Coles makes them all her own." — From Joshua P. Ferguson's XLR8R review
19) Rhauder "Sidechain" — Ornaments
German producer Rhauder sadly flew under our radar until the middle of 2012, when this gurgling dubwise house burner featuring the legendary Paul St. Hilaire miraculously appeared in our inbox.
18) Eveson "Bluebirds and Powder" — V Recordings
We would never have expected the legendary d'n'b label to drop a soothing Bonobo-esque, oriental shuffler reminiscent of broken beat's hey day, and yet here it is. Londoner Eveson knows his roots well.
17) Disclosure "Latch" — PMR
This youthful London duo was the talk of the year thanks to its throwback blend of '90s house, 2step and soul. Disclosure's remix of fellow Brit Jessie Ware was the winner for 2012 popular poll, but we couldn't resist the swung groove on display here. "Latch" wasn't for everyone, but for us it spelled out the brighter possibilities of bass music's pop side.
16) The-Drum "/BZE" — Mishka
This doesn't cover what ended up being our favorite track from Chicago psych R'n'B producers The-Drum's 2012 EP, but it does speak well of the duo's sound: "Sharing a similar headspace to Bladerunner soundtrack composer Vangelis, songs like "/BLD" recontextualize brooding dystopian atmospherics and cosmic Italo rhythms into syrupy crunk beats that ooze with reverb. Then there's "/SYS," which goes further into R'n'B territory with chipmunked vocal snippets echoing in and out of jittery double-time drums and waves of static warmth." — From Joshua P. Ferguson's XLR8R interview
15) Daphni "Yes I Know" — Jailong
Dan Snaith is a musical juggernaut regardless of his pen name, and his dance-floor-oriented Daphni side project is a case in point. It may not be as consistent as Caribou, but the soul-drenched "Yes I Know" more than smoothed out any ups and downs from his 2012 full length, Jailong.
14) Lockah "The Sour Drink from the Ocean" — Jeffree's
The time frame that took us from our excitement about trap rave's potential to our exasperation over its overhyped status was virtually nil. #themostoverhypedgenresincemoombahton. Anyway. Lockah managed to shine through the gross over saturation—likely in part because he hails from Scotland's vibrant bass scene—with this nuanced low-slung gem.
13) Only Children "Down Fever" — Nuclear Family
A heavy disco sample has been an integral part of dance music since, well, since it ceased to be called disco. That lineage has been maintained for more than 30 years now, especially here in Chicago where Nuclear Family patriarchs Bald E. and Dino Soccio, a.k.a. Only Children, burned holes on dance floors with the looping "Down Fever."
12) Maxxi Soundsystem "Regrets We Have No Use For" (Herbert remix) — Hypercolour
"Though a 4/4 beat pulses through each of its releases, to try and tidily sum up London's Hypercolour as merely a family of house and techno imprints is to neglect everything that has made it such a joy to follow these past 12 months. Whether it's... the guttural growl that pervades Tom Demac's "Critical Distance Pt. 2" or the slinky bounce Herbert wove into Maxxi Soundystem's "Regrets We Have No Use For," the A&R braintrust of Alex Jones, Jamie Russell, and Ste Roberts has consistently proven that normal for Hypercolour is an absence of exactly that."
— From Joshua P. Ferguson's contribution to XLR8R's Best of 2012: Labels
11) Guy Gerber "The Mirror Game" — Visionquest
We know we just derided trap music a few entries ago, but in the grand scheme of things, we're not above trend surfing ourselves. And while we've jumped on our fair share of band wagons, one thing has remained consistent through it all: our love of swimming—dancing, really—in the deep. No label or artist better personified that this year, than this combo right here.
10) Yeasayer "Henrietta" — Secretly Canadian
Full of funk, lightly skanking and tie dyed with Yeasayer's wonderfully druggy undertones, "Henrietta" is a shoo-in for our indie ballad of the year, one we love to sing along to as much as we love to play out—you'll blow minds mixing into a d'n'b cut in the song's final moments.
9) The Globe "Adventure Party" — International Feel
"The Globe's "Adventure Party," practically makes up for the purchase price on its own with its riotous combination of twisted 303, gospel piano, and disco swank; it's no wonder that the song has made its way into the peak of Horse Meat Disco's sets."
— From Joshua P. Ferguson's XLR8R review
8) Hot Chip "Flutes" — Domino
Though this U.K. troupe's In Our Heads was a slight let down as a follow up to One Life Stand, Hot Chip did not leave us empty handed. A pair of brilliant remixes from Major Lazer and Todd Terje were strong contenders for this slot, but we had to give it up to an original—a stunning display of the true potential of these indie dance masterminds.
7) Simian Mobile Disco "Seraphim" — Wichita
The acid line was seemingly inescapable in 2012 (see Photek, Innerspace Halflife and even Poolside for diverse evidence of this) but few spin it better than these technoid masters, Simian Mobile Disco.
6) Chromatics "These Streets Will Never Look the Same" — Italians Do It Better
My girlfriend describes Chromatics to me as '70s porn music. While the aesthetic is surely near to the band's collective heart, its much more: a mix of crush velvet, leather jackets, feathered hair, stripper poles, polyester, Italo disco and despair, all of which can be found here.
5) Danny Daze "Your Everything" — Hot Creations
Our first big dance track of 2012, we've featured Danny Daze's "Your Everything" in so many sets the past 12 months—including our highlight of the year, opening for James Murphy—we're almost sick of it. As if, this oozing electro funk workout from the former Discotech man is impossible to grow tired of.
4) Ry + Frank Weidemann "Howling" (Âme remix) — Innervisions
Having already confessed our love of all things deep, we can tell you with absolute certainty that no label does this better for us than Dixon's Innervsions, and this year that came in the form of "Howling" an understated number from Âme's Frank Weidemann and silky crooner Ry. Between the prolific output of labels like Visionquest and Crosstown Rebels there was a lot of competition on the market these past 12 months, but when the dust settled, this diamond in the rough best retained its luster.
3) Burial "Ashtray Wasp" — Hyperdub
In a year where even Burial's existence as an singular individual was called into question—is he really just a figment of Four Tet's imagination come to life?—the London-producer-shrouded-in-mystery did not let the quality of his work come into question. His Kindred EP is such a stunner, picking a stand out was the only hard part. Ye, with the sprawling twists, turns, static and soul, "Ashtray Wasp" rose as the ghost of 2step past, and one of the best moments of 2012.
2) The Dead Rose Music Company "Faith" — Let's Play House
The anonymity of this Mancunian producer wore off as his popularity grew throughout 2012, but this should be considered a good thing. A crafter of finely sliced disco cut ups and feel good deep house excursions, TDRMC has climbed the ranks to join a coveted spot within the scene shared by names like Mark E, the Revenge and 6th Borough Project. And like his brethren from England and further north, he's singling himself out as one of an elite few who can simultaneously take us back to disco's hey day and still give us something completely fresh.
1) John Talabot "So Will Be Now" — Permanent Vacation
Prior to Permanent Vacation's debut label mix, we had no concept of Balearic music was. We knew Ibiza, but for foam parties and Carl Cox, not for this larger mentality of laidback island dance grooves. Well, that and disco grooves stretched like taffy have come to form the foundation of the Dialogue Inc sound. As much as a hypnotic '70s groove can keep us occupied on a dance floor all night long, it takes another level of writing to elevate a song beyond club functionality to a status where it sounds amazing regardless of setting. This is what the prolific Spaniard John Talabot has done here, and what makes "So Will Be Now" our top song of 2012—although we will admit, hearing this on one of the Balearic Isles probably takes this song to another level still.