We’ve reached the end of the songs list. Previous entries for songs 40-21 are here, and 20-6 here. Check in with the Spotify Playlist to hear everything in one place, and come back in a few days for the start of the albums list. Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas!
05. “Dance For You” by Dirty Projectors // The best song on Swing Lo Magellan is at once the simplest and most deeply personal song on the record. Here, we find David Longstreth, searching, endlessly searching for an answer. While I’ll never know the exact meaning, I can’t help but think he’s looking for a cure, some tonic to heal or save a loved one. There’s a tender, earnest sorrow, a purity of message that builds from the voice and grows with the guitars. “Dance for you, dance for you.”
04. “Rocks in Paper” by Alek Fin // This is what the last Radiohead record should have been and what anything by James Blake is purported to sound like. What’s here is an otherworldly blend of minimalist rock and quasi-electronic exploration. Dense and precise drums form the backbone, while lightly-plucked guitar and bass add shape. Factor in a Thom Yorke-esque voice and outstanding structure, and you’ve got a memorizing piece. If you were left underwhelmed by The King of Limbs, go find Alek Fin’s new EP. You’ll be rewarded.
03. “Would That Not Be Nice” by Divine Fits // I miss Spoon. They’re arguably my favorite band, probably the best rock group of the last decade. I desperately want them to release something new. So it comes as a great pleasure to see Divine Fits come into being. It’s not the band I miss, but about half of A Thing Called Divine Fits is written by the inimitable Britt Daniel. “Would That Not Be Nice” is the true highlight and essentially a Spoon song. “Swagger” is a miserably overused term, but it’s the best one here; this track exudes cool and has the irresistible guitar strikes that make “My Mathematical Mind” so good. And Daniel’s perfect voice further pulls it together and turns Divine Fits into essential musicians.
02. “The House That Heaven Built” by Japandroids // This has been a weird year for me, and I’ve been thinking about mortality a lot more than I should. A father with a cancer would tend to do that, and it made the longer nights feel even darker. Japandroids represent an escape to youth, a shout, not necessarily to invincibility but to strength and joy.
“The House That Heaven Built” is perhaps the most powerful of those songs, forcefully spitting in the face of those that drag on you. The full chant refrain is a delivery that never fails to strike my core. “And if they try to slow you down, tell them all to go to hell.” It looks shallow on paper, but has teeth (and muscles and a stern look) when screamed above the layers of guitar. It’s a liberating anthem for me, a defiant rock force, and one of the best songs of the year.
01. “Sleeping Ute” by Grizzly Bear // This is the direct sequel to “While You Wait for the Others” that I’ve been waiting for. Unfortunately, it’s also the thing that set unrealistic expectations for the newest Grizzly Bear record.
Let’s get the negative out of the way quickly: Shields is good, but not outstanding, a step sideways instead of a step forward from the excellent Veckatimest. But my personal (and impossible) hopes were established after hearing “Sleepign Ute,” the first single from the record.
Removed from the other tracks, “Sleeping Ute” is simply outstanding. Here we find Grizzly Bear at full power. Thrashing guitars, explosive drums, exquisite vocal harmonies, and emotionally charged lyrics are all here and tuned to perfection. The opening bursts like no previous Grizzly Bear song, and the coda lets down with haunting plucks and a Daniel Rossen giving a quiet confession.
Quite simply, everything works. The production is spot-on, the vocals and instruments are balanced wonderfully, and the pacing is exceptional. “Sleeping Ute” stands above all other songs from 2012 with an intoxicating blend of pure rock bliss and artistic accomplishment. Listen and enjoy.