Welcome to part one of the Best Songs of 2012 Countdown. We’ve got brief comments for 40-26, and a bit more for 25 to the end. Check in Sunday and Monday for the very best tracks from the year. YouTube links are available for most songs, and everything can be found on the IWP Best Songs of 2012 Spotify playlist. Check it out!
40. “Prologue” by Downtown Struts // Great melodic punk is always welcomed, especially when the guitars and vocals are this crisp.
39. “Funeral Song” by Fast Romantics // Ringing guitars and the kind of melodic heft Coldplay wishes it could reach make the curious lyrics into an enjoyable song.
38. “I Will be Back One Day” by Lord Huron // Yeah, it’s a bit derivative, but a much warmer, more interesting sound than Mumford and Sons makes this worthwhile.
37. “Tried to Quit Smoking” by Titus Andronicus // Nine minutes of punk exploration builds and reaches a great final destination. And you’ll wish it was longer.
36. “The Modern Age” by Exitmusic // Distinctive singing and a satisfyingly haunting refrain define this song and put it on this list.
35. “Tantalus” by Menomena // If you enjoy the space-rock sonic palette and a slightly off-center groove, this song will hit you in the right place.
34. “Hey Jane” by Spiritualized // It’s a bit over-involved, but a great ride anyway. The repeating guitar phrase guides you over the band’s best new song.
33. “Wind and Walls” by The Tallest Man on Earth // Dylan-esque vocals (but not that bad), earnest instrumentation and emotional output.
32. “Through the Mines” by Stars // Grows (and explodes) much bigger than previous Stars work, but fits their enjoyable U2-type style.
31. “Take a Walk” by Passion Pit // Overplayed (you even saw it on SNL) but worthwhile, a fantastically catchy pop tune.
30. “Sidecar” by Kathleen Edwards // A confident voice and touching lyrics take center stage here, but the organ and curious drum figure will keep you around.
29. “When You Sing” by School of Seven Bells // I can’t help but compare to MBV (all but copying the melody of “Soon”), but the washed-out sounds are a fantastic aural trip.
28. “Lazuli” by Beach House // Delicate, careful, and beautiful layers of music that build from a light intro, through cymbals into a wonderful song.
27. “Something Good” by alt-J // It can be hard to get into this band, but here’s the entry point. The lovely pianos and memorable refrain are deceptively simple.
26. “Petition” by Tennis // There’s nothing explicitly exceptional about Tennis, but it all comes together anyway. An infectious chorus won’t leave you for days.
25. “The One Who Broke Your Heart” by David Byrne & St. Vincent // New Age + Experimental Guitar = …horns? Sure! The primary instrumental melody is tightly constructed, the singing perfectly suits both styles, and the chorus gets better with repeated plays. A great collaboration.
24. “Hot Knife” by Fiona Apple // Wordplay is rarely this successful, and played like a round? Sound and lyricism are inseparable here, with alternating analogies of woman as butter/knife and man as the other. Layers of vocals build, turning the sparse setting into a full-forced, one-of-a-kind statement.
23. “Liberal Arts” by Hospitality // At once musically bright but lyrically ambiguous, if not troubling. “Liberal Arts” show specific snapshots of a journey through early post-college life, the joys, pitfalls, and lingering thoughts of missed opportunity. It doesn’t truly conclude (it ends with a question) but it’s better left open-ended.
22. “Animal Life” by Shearwater // It may seem pretentious, but this song sounds like how the sun rises. Really. No wait… come back! It’s a building, immensely satisfying track that begins quietly and grows, following the detailed similes into a rock anthem conclusion. When the drums hit at 2:00 they’ve got you hooked, and when the key change happens around 2:19 they’ve won you completely.
21. “What Was That” by Dinosaur Jr. // Guitars, guitars, guitars. It’s a reductive summary of what makes Dinosaur Jr. great, but it’s easy to forget just how important their guitar sound really is. With lyrics a bit further back in the mix than a typical song, J Mascis takes center stage and delivers for the full five minutes.