dimoko’s best of 2012

It is clearly that time of year.  Every critic comes out and makes you feel bad by saying that an album you’ve never heard of was the best ever.  I found 36 songs by rigorous process of checking the “2012” smart playlist for good songs.  Also, please keep in mind i used “Sweet Life” by Frank Ocean, a very popular pick this year, in a DJ mix called July Heatwave 6 months ago.  These are in Artist alphabetical order, so don’t judge.

B. Dolan – Which Side Are You On
Not the only white rapper on my list.  Great sample from Woody Guthrie this song goes into a lot of politics which i probably don’t agree with.  But the beat is infectious.

Beat Us – B. Fleischmann
Clever samples, droning melodies and hand claps…what else can you look for.  If i had a football team i would play this at home games.

Ben Folds Five – Do It Anyway
My favorite piano pounding man is back and he brought his old buddies, and they make good music together.

BT – 13 Angels on Mr Broken Windowsill
Hey, wasn’t BT that 90s techno guy?  Yeah, and he was on a Powerbook promotional movie too, but lately he has produced some good music, including this track which combines ambient atmospheres with music that really can only be described as dubstep…and i liked it.

The Chap –  What Did We Do
An great track on the first un-ironic album by the worlds most ironic band.  Still catchy, still great, still my favorite band.

The Chemical Brothers – Superflash [live]
I watched Don’t Think outside of the ONAT compound with 4 other people.  2 of them were there to meet me, the other 2 were bored.  The movie was great, this song is great and it proves that the brothers still know how to make music.

The Chemical Brothers – Theme For Velodrome
The Chemical Brothers are on this list twice…well they did 2 projects this year.  And one of them was to make a theme for the olympic velodrome…and they got literal with it.  But are you telling me you don’t want to slowly ride a bike for 2 laps and then ride faster for one more lap to this?

Cody ChesnuTT – ‘Til I Met The
If my grandma heard this song, she’d probably like it.  If i tried to explain to her why the last two T’s are capitals?  Probably couldn’t do it.  I’m glad people still make real rhythm and blues.

Emeralds – Adrenochrome
Incessantly builds to a great atmosphere.  Also, while listen to it about 3:45 and on it sounds like the music being played while MacGyver is trying to cut something with a torch. 

Errors – Hemlock
I wish i had an echo on my drums like this.  I’d never stop playing.  Also, it is really difficult to find a simpler, better baseline than this song.

Fairmont – Paper Stars
Their album wasn’t as good as the Velora EP last year, but it was still good.  And this song builds a great little bit of texture as it builds. 

Father John Misty – Holly Forever Cemetary Sings
Jesus Christ Girl, this song is good.  and i sing that line a lot.  Glad to hear a good singer/songwriter that isn’t a fucking pansy.

Fiona Apple – Daredevil
When i was in highschool i thought that Fiona Apple should have gone out with me.  I would have been good to her, and her music would have suffered.  I’m anxious to hear Taylor Swift get a taste of the crazies in the later years of her awful dating life.

Four Tet – Locked
The first 5 seconds of the tune remind me that i love four tet, and after 30 it kicks me in the face…and this whole album keeps it up.  Man do i love four tet.  OUCH, MY FACE!

Godspeed You! Black Emporer – Mladic
Like Russian circles before it.  This keeps up the tradition of songs that are called Mladic (theirs was called Mládek) that really fucking rock.  Glad that these weirdos are back.  I assume that they are wearing masks, wherever they are now.

The Hackney Colliery Band – Prodigy Medley
I would listen to this band cover 90s techno forever if i could.  I highly encourage this sort of thing.

Hot Chip – Don’t Deny Your Heart
Hot Chip has the best lyrics of any artist active today.  At least to me.  They have managed to take odd electronic music and add genuinely heartfelt love-song lyrics that don’t seem cheesy.  Maybe they actually like their wives!

Jens Lekman – Erica America
I’m glad there was a new Jens Lekman, because he makes great music.  While i am sad that he broke up, i’m not sad that he wrote music about it.  Maybe he can go out with fiona apple.

Little People – Aldgate Pattens
I anticipated this album for a long time this year.  Great low keep instrumental hip-hop with a touch of magical strings.  The album didn’t disappoint, and this track has a great video, if you want to check it out

MGK – Stereo
Hmm, two white rappers on one list?  Well, i’m not afraid to like a rapper from Cleveland.  Sometimes a bit juvenile, but sometimes he mentions The Browns, so fuck you.

Frank Ocean – Sweet Life
July damn it!  So great.  Lived up to the hype.

Pye Corner Audio – Sleep Games
A lot of awesome deep electronic bass-lines in my list this year.  That is the kind of year it was i guess.  This track will multiply the number of drinks you’ve had for sure.

Roger Hoover & The Hurt – Full Force Gale
America on a plate…er…in a song.  Technical skill meets rust-belt living.  Americana roots music at its finest.

RRose vs. Bob Ostertag – Pointillism (variation one)
More deep bass.  Maybe i really just like my sub-woofer.  This is classic style of probably called “house” or “trance” or something but i never really label my electronic stuff.

Santigold – Disparate Youth
Best beat of the year.  and a great followup from Santigold, who when i first heard i didn’t like.  It turned out that MIA was the one who sucked.

Shearwater – Animal Joy
lots of clapping on this song.  also lots of triumph, which is Try added to Umph according to my 8th grade math teacher.

Sigur Ros – Rembihnutur
Makes me want to sleep on a cloud.  Or at least visit iceland.  or at least a violin testing facility.

Silversun Pickups – Mean Spirits
Rock and Roll still exists, and this is it.  I get it if you don’t like the dude’s voice, but, much like collective soul, it is tough to argue with these riffs.  And there is a chick in the band, so shut the fuck up you misogynist fuck.

Sofa Surfers – Word In A Matchbox (feat. Mani Obeya)
Sofa surfers goes back and forth between making electronic albums and making rock albums…for awhile i thought it was two different bands, but i was wrong.  I guess this one is electronic and rock… i dont know man, i’m tired of your labels.

Spiritualized – I Am What I Am
This is a Spiritualized song.  And i love those songs.  No doubt about it, dude remembered how to make songs that sound like him…and he can keep doing it, because he is good at them, and i will keep listening to them

Stars – Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It
Stars are Canadian.  They get inspirational on this one.  They may have been hanging around with Hot Chip some, because they are in love too…and this from a band that said “take off that dress you wont freeze”

Tame Impala – Elephant
Tough to not like this song, even though they email me every other day…listen, i wanted the free download, not to know everything about you.  But keep up with the songs.

Tor – Moon II
Not to get all serious on you, but i had this song on while reading news reports from a particularly tragic bit of news this year, and it made it all the more haunting.  A beautiful song from a truly exceptional album.

Trouble Books – Collapsed Arpeggio
Back to Wacky!  Some of this sounds like someone noodling on their keyboard, but i keep coming back to it.  So i say noodle on.

Ulrich Schnauss And Mark Peters – Yesterday Didn’t Exist
I dont know if it existed or not, but this haunting track makes me wish it did.  Makes me want to eerily watch someone who is sleeping on a cloud listening to Sigur Ros

Yeasayer – Reagan’s Skeleton
Easily the most rollicking head bobber this year…and i wish there was an accompanying video of an animated skeleton running to the beat.  i would watch the hell out of that, and probably share it to google plus…and then to facebook after a few days.

If you’d like these songs, leave a comment and i’ll send them your way.

Things That Happened on Television

The problem with talking about television at the end of the year is that most of the actual best things to happen on television in any given year represent key story points in serial ongoing dramas. Doctor Who, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and, I suppose, Game of Thrones (which I’ve not watched much of) and The Walking Dead (which makes me want to throw things at my television) are all stories where if I said “hey this was the best thing” it would give away either a setup or a payoff. Furthermore, they’re impossible to get something out of without having first putting something into them. Also, if you’d really like to see more people jerking off over Breaking Bad, may I recommend that you consult, oh, any other website in the world. Alternately, hit me up on gchat. We’ll tawk.

10 Top Chef – The Ultimate Chef Test
The pilot episode of the tenth season of Top Chef Prime was, by its very nature, the first episode of Top Chef since season 9, when we watched contestants on an ostensibly-cooking-based television show ski, balance balls on their noses, play whack-a-mole, recite Springsteen lyrics, and invent a language that would be the only thing they were allowed to speak in while they recreated traditional recipes to serve to the Terracotta Soldiers of Qin Shi Huang. The season 10 intro, then had them….cook food. For the judges. Who would then pick a winner. While Top Chef has lost a lot of its place in the reality-television culture, and has been primarily a slog for the last few years, it was refreshing to see a still-basically-mighty franchise settle in and get back to what made people watch it in the first place, especially with the knowledge that the people that did watch it in the first place are probably the only people watching it now, and will therefore be rewarded1 by the change.

9 R. Kelly – Trapped in the Closet
Roberty Sylvester Kelly has something to say. It’s best if we all listen.

8 Weeds, Gossip Girl, The Office & 30 Rock
OK, so technically 30 Rock and The Office are extended into 2013, but since each of them ends in the first month of 2013, they get full credit for the bulk of the work being done in 2012. Each of these shows, when it aired (yes, even Gossip Girl) represented something that was interesting and creative being done with the medium. Each of these shows was responsible for creating an entire set of rules – a whole world – in which to exist. And each of these shows eventually sagged under their own weight, and meandered back and forth in the rut they’d constructed for them, continuing on well past the point at which the initial spark remained alit. Gossip Girl burned out the fastest2, and, to its credit, 30 Rock was never consistently bad. Weeds and The Office had uneven runs, and were hampered by the state of their cast members by the end of their run. It may seem cruel to celebrate a mercy killing, and perhaps it is. It’s at the very least somewhat perverse to take any kind of joy in the end of enterprises that provide livelihoods for people. But television is, or should be, a creative endeavor, and, unlike most forms of entertainment, there is a finite amount of space for it to exist, and taking up a spot after the point at which you’re still earning it is equally unfair to all of the people who are being denied a spot because of a refusal to acknowledge that what you have isn’t what you had.

7 Veep – Frozen Yoghurt and Parks & Recreation – Win, Lose or Draw
2012 was a good year to be a politician, apparently. Both of these episodes focus on what the title character – in one case a thoroughly terrible person who believes her image is all that matters, and in the other a thoroughly genuine person who has absolutely no idea how to manage her image, neither of which can do much by way of catching good luck – would do if she were suddenly elevated in her position of power. The two episodes are, tonally and in terms of jokes made, as different as they can be (and their outcomes share nothing). Nevertheless, rather than figure out something to say about each one, or having to choose between them, they share this entry.


6 American Horror Story – The Origins of Monstrosity



5 Louie – Daddy’s Girlfriend (pts 1 & 2)
The conversation surrounding Louie could be, at times, infuriating. Louis C.K. continues to be someone who’s very funny, and who is doing an admirable job of finding new ways to do the things he wants to do without compromising on exactly what that is, and that’s the line that people are willing to say. Well, with Daddy’s Girlfriend, he finally gave Louie an easy forty-four minutes to give people to explain why people should watch Louie. First completely striking out with Maria Bamford4, he then, eventually, meets Parkey Posey’s bugfuck-crazy Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and things proceed from there. I don’t want to recap everything, but really, it’s as good a place as any to get the flavor of what Louis is doing, and it’s also probably the outright-funniest set of episodes of the show so far.

4 Community – Pillows and Blankets
American Horror Story and Louie got their two-part episodes in one entry, but Community’s worked a little differently. You probably should watch Part 1, for the necessary groundwork, but it’s Part 2 – a fake PBS-style documentary of a giant blanket fort war, that is actual necessary viewing. Community got a whole lot of praise, and then a whole lot of press for its network- and personnel-related struggles. A brilliant show run (and largely performed) by difficult-to-work-with crazy people, Community will, in fact, return in a few months for us to see what happens when it exists in a more stable environment. My opinion is already on the record, and I hope I’m wrong about it, but for better or for worse, “Pillows and Blankets” will always be a memorable and important part of a memorable (and probably important)
TV show.

3 Saturday Night Live – “Sad Mouse,” “Mokiki Does the Sloppy Swish” and “Lincoln”
At this point in the history of Saturday NIght Live, at which point the show is basically going to live forever until Lorne Michaels abandons it (and then probably for awhile besides), the only real question after a major cast shakeup is “how is this going to change the dynamic of the show?” Of course, everyone’s going to insist that the version that existed when they were 13 is the best version, and that’s almost as old as the show itself, but it has been really good this season. Even more interesting was what would happen to the “Digital Short,” responsible for the lion’s share (if not all) of the renewed interest in SNL in a post-YouTube era, now that the digital short’s parents, the members of Lonely Island, had all cut their ties with the show. The answer seems to be – the digital shorts are going to continue, and they’re going to be weird as hell. And I couldn’t be happier about it. “Mokiki Does the Sloppy Swish” has a hippie doing an impossible-to-replicate and utterly-bizarre dance move, and was surprising and strange. “Lincoln” saw Louie remade as being about president Abraham Lincoln (if Abraham Lincoln was also Louis C.K.), but “Sad Mouse,” a strange, dark short about a man who signs autographs in Times Square while wearing a mouse costume as a way of coping with a breakup, is one of the finest things I’ve ever seen.

2 Adventure Time – I Remember You
Alright, this one is an exception. Adventure Time isn’t a one-hour serialized drama. It’s a fifteen-minute cartoon about Finn the Human and Jake the Shapeshifting Dog, but it’s also basically-continuous, and it’s seriously one of the best shows on TV right now. Cartoon Network shows ran into the ground awhile back – the combination of animation’s lack of physical limitations and the overarching sense of humor – which relies heavily on absurd, one-dimensional characters and non-sequiturs5 – meant that it was hard to wring anything new out of them. The Regular Show gained some ground by slowing down and being a bit smarter, and Children’s Hospital and NTSF:SD:SUV get around it by not being animated. Adventure Time, at its best, reminds us what it is about cartoons that keeps even non-drug-using grown-ups without kids6 watching them. And “I Remember You” is, without a doubt, Adventure Time at its best. With a huge stack of silly, funny jokes piled up in the first part, through the very-real ramifications of the mental state of the villain, all the way to the legitimately-heartbreaking conclusion7, “I Remember You” is an astonishing piece of television writing – and it’s twelve minutes of script time.

1 The fact that this list was so hard to compile without leaning on engaging, worthwhile long-form dramas
For all of my general curmudgeonliness, and the fact that I get annoyed with television shows in about half the time it takes normal people, it’s a great sign that I had to put up caveats to prevent the best stuff that happened from interfering with my list. While I will never be in a position to watch everything, and while that’s not even particularly a goal, I’m happy that there’s so much that’s worth watching that I can watch the very best of what’s out there, the things that speak to me the most, and it still leaves a vast field of things to consider. As someone who basically wants to like things, there’s nothing better than when it’s very easy to do.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: the pilot of Nashville, after which is stopped being “great” and started being “pretty good,” The Jim Carrey episode of 30 Rock, the “Haley gets arrested” episode of Modern Family (and, more specifically, the “pancake house” runner in that episode), any time Michael Che was on Bunk, the Comic-Con episode of NTSF:SD:SUV, and the episode of Girls where Hannah goes back to Michigan

1 a tv show! rewarding its fan base!
2 I don’t think it really even made it through its second season, but mileage varies
3 I don’t like to talk about politics on ohioneedsatrain, even if they’re make-believe politics
4 alright, that was a bit spoilery, and also, wouldn’t we all like such an opportunity?
5 this is not a complaint. A lot of the early Cartoon Network series had the same set of attributes, and are among the funniest television shows I can remember. It just became a liability after awhile.
6 that’s me. hi.
7 and really, that conclusion is a punch in the stomach. Like, a Fry’s-dog-level wallop.

februarymakeup’s Best of the Second Half of 2012

We’re back for part 2, everybody! I won’t recap the entire year until I put these two things together and make the ordinal list of the best of the year (that’s right, people, I will make lists endlessly).

You can find a folder full of all the songs here.

Listen along. Well, don’t listen along. This list is alphabetical. You’ll probably get, like, brain whiplash. Anyway, this is the final and definitive list, so whatever else you thought you were listening to, you can go ahead and throw it out. Thanks.

Joey Bada$$ – Survival Tactics (f. Capital STEEZ)
There’s been a growing swell of more backwards-looking hip-hop, and some of it is actually ranking among some of the best stuff going. Joey Bada$$, however, is one of the first acts to actually directly rock a retro vibe in his work. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to continue to feel about it – and really, I don’t know how I feel about Joey Bada$$ as a rule, but “Survival Tactics” sure makes it seem like it’s a good idea at least some of the time.

Azealia Banks – Neptune (f. Shystie)
Azealia Banks put out a ton of music in the last six months, and most of it has been pretty good. Fantasea is the easiest place to start, and this song is the best song on Fantasea. I also don’t have a whole lot ot say about it.

Big Boi – In the A (f. T.I. & Ludacris)
Everyone acted surprised when this album took forever to come out, like Big Boi hadn’t been delaying and postponing his records since the early Outkast days. Like his other solo efforts, it’s pretty uneven as a record1, but has some really killer songs, including this all-geriatric ode to Atlanta.

Neneh Cherry and the Thing – Dream Baby Dream
The most unfairly-slept-on record of 2012 is also one of its weirdest. Sixteen years after she last recorded anything, she found a Scandinavian jazz ensemble named after one of her father’s songs, assembled a bunch of covers, and put on a pretty amazing display. Recorded in one take, it’s their cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” that takes home the medal here2. It’s not only the most compelling, but also the most impressive – covering Suicide means going up against Alan Vega’s vocal performances (the thing that drove Suicide in the first place), and “Dream Baby Dream” is one of the all-time best. Neneh Cherry takes it in the opposite direction, and comes out with a really impressive piece of free-jazz weirdness. You should all go buy this record right now.

Cody ChesnuTT – That’s Still Mama
Cody Chesnutt (look. I’m not doing that every time, alright?) was gone for so long that people had forgotten that he was missing. And then, out of basically nowhere, “That’s Still Mama” appeared as an advance single to a sprawling odyssey of an album. The advance single was still the best song on it, but it contributed to the back half of 2012 being a banner period for great R&B records.

Cities Aviv – Escorts
Dark, weird, and sounding basically like it was recorded inside his own head, this is exactly the sort of things that pushes all of the right buttons. Here’s to a long, long career for Cities Aviv.

The Corin Tucker Band – Neskowin
After her kind-of-unmemorable first solo record, Portland’s greatest singer found her footing and managed a much more consistent, much more satisfying album that, nevertheless, didn’t really have a killer single. “Neskowin” was the closest3, and so gets included here. Maybe I should’ve made an albums list this year. It would’ve looked different, and made it a little easier to find things to say about the music.

Dan Deacon – Guilford Avenue Bridge
On paper, Dan Deacon should be my favorite artist in the world. A noise musician who’s interested in the intersection of sound, composition and pop songs, he’s clearly a man who thinks about things in a similar way. But his records are always a little more interesting than they are listenable. “Guilford Avenue Bridge” is a genuine exception – a great single that has some pretty great sounds in it, and an absolute joy to listen to. Listen to it while driving and you’ll attract the attention of lots of cops.

Death Grips – Come Up and Get Me
Death Grips made a lot more headlines in the back half of 2012 for their antics than their music, violently and publicly severing their ties from their much-ballyhooed4 major-label deal. And that’s fine, because No Love Deep Web wasn’t actually very good. It had its moments, but it really could have used some more punching-up to be on the level of The Money Store ,or some more sample clearance to get back the magic of Exmilitary. “Come Up and Get Me” was one of the only tracks to arrive in a basically-fully-formed state, and it’s actually pretty righteous for all that.

Domo Genesis x Alchemist – Elimination Chamber (f Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples & Action Bronson)
Proving that Alchemist really could just throw everybody in a room together and it’ll come out sounding pretty good. Also, of all of Earl Sweatshirt’s scattered appearances since his return, this one is the most satisfying.

Emeralds – Search For Me in the Wasteland
I don’t know what Mark McGuire has been doing to write music for the last couple of years, but I hope he never stops. Holy shit.

Fennesz – Aware (f. Sakamoto)
Fennesz excels at straddling the line between “soothing sounds” and “boring lullabyes” in such a way that his records are basically a sonic teddy bear – they’re great for curling up around with a book or whatever. God that sounds girly. Anyway.

The Gaslight Anthem – The National Anthem
You know, at this point, your opinion of The Gaslight Anthem is probably already pretty set. They’re never going to do anything particularly surprising. That said: this is a really effective quiet ballad-type thing, and they should do more of that.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – We Drift like Worried Fire
Yeah, the album is songs that they had been playing live for years at the time of their breakup (this one as “Gamelan”). But the recordings are incredible, and the surprise of Godspeed returning made them even better.

Guided by Voices – She Lives in an Airport
I have nothing to add to the miles and miles of music-writer columns about Guided by Voices, but I would totally date a girl who lived in an airport if it meant I got to travel for free.

Tim Hecker & Dan Lopatin – Scene for a French Zoo
As brilliant as Tim Hecker’s solo albums are, his collaborative albums are always top-notch. Obviously this isn’t any exception, and actually, Dan Lopatin’s lighter, sillier vibe does a world of good for Tim Hecker’s studious removal. Noise records don’t come any better than this.

Himanshu – Killing Time
That is nothing less than the best sample flip of the year.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Zimgar
They came back, after sputtering to a stop in the middle of the last decade, with a couple of pretty-ok albums5 that seemed too much like they were chasing after their audience. Meat and Bone, true to its title, is nothing but the Blues Explosion being the Blues Explosion. “Black Mold” was the single – and rightly so, as it featured Jon Spencer at his most Spencerian – but the JSBX’s strength has always been in the nature of the band as a unit – they’re three musicians who play together tightly. “Zimgar,” then, was the best of their songs this year, despite having no vocals. Enjoy a great rock band playing great rock music.

Scott Kelly and the Road Home – In the Waking Hours
Scott Kelly appeared on two great records (this one and the Townes Van Zandt tribute record he made with Steve Von Till and Wino), and one pretty-ok record (about which more later). Which is good, but weird, because he’s still kind of an annoyingly affected singer. Nevertheless, can’t take away from this song, which is perfectly evocative of both the band’s name and its title.

Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)
Kendrick’s album was marked by his intelligence, his wordiness, the immaculate production, and his age. So naturally the best song on it was the song celebrating hedonism. Naturally.

Maserati – Abracadabracab
I had my doubts about Maserati after their drummer’s tragic passing a couple of years ago – the drums have always been the most important part of a Maserati album, after all. But they put it back together with aplomb, and made epic-sounding music that sounds just like their namesake. And they should probably give a lot of money to whoever designed that delay pedal.

Menace Ruine – Set Water to Flames
Another top-shelf art-metal release, this one also continues in the proud tradition of Montreal bands with policies. Weird-ass singer Genevieve Beaulieu doesn’t think performing live is warrented, and sings songs about….something inscrutable and metaphysical, and her own Martin Rev, S. de la Moth, creates scraping, clanging drones that are sort of third-cousins to heavy metal (if you squint).

Menomena – Plumage
Another band that had to soldier on after losing a key member, Menomena did a little less well, although they still managed this single, which is pretty great in their usual yelpy tradition.

Metz – Wasted
Sometimes you just want something to be really, really loud.

Miguel – Do You…
“Give hugs not drugs,” you say? Miguel says “Why not both!”

The Milk – Picking Up the Pieces
Alright. Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, The Milk is basically The Coral with an updated sound6. But who wouldn’t want to be that? No, the real disclaimer here is that “All I Wanted Was Danger” is the best song on this album. It’s their “Dreaming of You”7. You should go listen to that song again right now. It’s a stone-cold classic. But it was the advance single for this album, and it was way in advance (like, I think it came out at the end of 2010). There are other good songs on this album, but “Picking Up the Pieces” basically gets the honor because it’s got Stringer Bell on it.

Mirrorring – Cliffs
Another in a brilliant series of noise-music collaborations, The confoundingly-misspelled Mirrorring has just enough Tiny Vipers to make it distinct from the already basically perfect recorded output of all-time favorite Grouper.

Mono – Dream Odyssey
It’s hard to fault Mono for making only a good record, since they’d been on a string of great ones. For My Parents is not a great album. It’s pretty good, but it’s basically Hymn to the Immortal Wind 2: Electric Boogaloo. “Dream Odyssey” is the best song, and it’s an awfully good best song, but it’s still hard not to sight when a great band’s momentum finally slows down.

Bob Mould – Fugue State
Bob Mould has, at this point, written so many great rock songs that they should just rename the genre after him. If I can be half as good at anything for as long as he’s been at making loud, catchy guitar music, I will have lived a happy life.

Murder of Crows – Down By The Lake
Alan Sparhawk is trying to work to death. Early in the year there was a Retribution Gosepl Choir record, with another due next year, Low has an album coming out early next year, and somewhere in between all of that, he found the time to make this record with violin player Gaelynn Lea. “Down By The Lake” is the prettiest song on the album and, since that’s sort of what they’re doing, it also makes it the best.

Nadja – Dagdrom
There should be a line through that “o”. I should go find the unicode character for it. Anyway, husband-and-wife duo Nadja finally (finally8) came back, and the results were, of course, miraculous. Aidan Baker has probably released fifty or so CDRs since this album, but his efforts when he hitches his talent to another musician are always pretty stunning9.

Neurosis – My Heart for Deliverance
This is the only good song on the album it comes from, but what a doozy. It seems that if Scott Kelly’s heart is for deliverance, it’s also not really in this album, which hits all the points you expect a neurosis album to hit, but manages to not be very filling anyway. Except this song, which is everything you could want out of a Neurosis track. 2012 was a great year for post-metal10, and it’s a shame that the forebearers couldn’t have made a better showing.

Franz Nicolay – Frankie Stubbs’ Tears
Remember how The Hold-Steady all of a sudden were a good band that people liked, and then they weren’t anymore and Craig Finn’s solo album sucked? Yeah. Well, maybe we haven’t been giving Franz Nicolay enough credit. This song also gets extra bonus awesome points for the “whoa-oa-oa-oa” part, which is basically the best thing anybody recorded all year.

Frank Ocean – Sweet Life
You already know whatever there is to know. Frank Ocean owned 2012, and that’s as it should be.

Pinback – True North
In the time  between Autumn of the Seraphs and Information Retrieved, Rob Crow made two solo albums and a handful of collaborations, and Zach Smith has reunited his old band (the inimitable Three Mile Pilot, who proceeded to make a somewhat-disappointing record) and then broken it up again. And yet, Information Retrieved sounds exactly like Pinback, and therefore couldn’t be better. “True North” is a classic Pinback song, and it’s good to have them back, even if the road to that kind of consistency seems way more complicated than it needs to be.

POS – All of It
POS has been on an upswing to all-time greatness for the last couple of years. Doomtree’s No Kings was probably the album I listened to the most in 2012, and We Don’t Even Live Here is on that level, without being a re-hashing or a sequel11. It’s chock-full of great singles, and a couple of them might even be a little better, but there is no better boast in hip hop than “I’ve got A1 credit on my come-and-get-it card,” so “All of It” is essential listening.

Busta Rhymes – Wine and Go Down
Twenty years after Busta Rhymes appeard and the world didn’t know what to do about it, Busta Rhymes continues to appear. And you know what? We continue to have no idea what to do about it. Rarely is someone so singular also so popular, and his 2012 mixtape Year of the Dragon was as weird as anything else he’s done. “Wine and Go Down” is also a case of a bassline so good it’s actually typing this entry itself.

Rihanna – Diamonds
The “famous beautiful women sing songs about everything is going to be alright if you just be yourself” subgenre of pop song is generally the most irritating12 one going, but I’ll be damned if “Diamonds” doesn’t work like crazy. The difference between a great Rihanna song (“We Found Love,” “Umbrella,” “Diamonds”) and an ok Rihanna song (basically every other Rihanna song) is the song’s ability to work within Rihanna’s voice, which is very powerful within a very narrow range13. “Diamonds” does that, and transcends it’s silly “you are beautiful, no matter what they say14
message in the way that pop songs should – yeah, it’s stupid and maudlin and overblown, but goddammit, that’s why we listen to pop music.

Rick Ross – So Sophisticated (f. Meek Mill)
There were probably other Rick Ross performances – “911” and “Hold Me Back” come to mind, but “So Sophisticated” makes it for that Beat Bully beat, which was so sick that seemingly every rapper had to build a verse around it on a mixtape15. And for good reason, it’s everything you want a track to be, and marks maybe the only time Rick Ross hasn’t dominated one of his own songs, which is no small feat.

Ty Segall – Inside Your Heart
Seriously, though, we all miss Jay Reatard a lot. Ty Segall is filling in admirably for the “wildly prolific and equally inconsistent” aspect, and occasionally manages a gem like “Inside Your Heart.”

Six Organs of Admittance – Solar Ascent
Speaking of mind-bogglingly prolific people, it’s Ben Chasny! It’s hard to keep track of ol’ Ben, and his Six Organs of Admittance records are usually not keepers. This time he hooked up with most of his much-better band, Comets on Fire and made an album that didn’t actually sound very much like Six Organs of Admittance. This turned out to be a good thing! And “Solar Ascent” was pretty good for any of you who might also still miss Comets on Fire. Basically, if you close your eyes and mumble “Comets on Fire Comets on Fire Comets on Fire” you can pretend that’s what you’re hearing. I promise I mean this in the best way possible. Really.

Swans – The Seer
There’s been a lot written about Swans since their return. And for that, I rejoice. A great many of us were carrying the flame for them in the fifteen years they weren’t around, and the reason was because their music was very much the product of one of the most uniquely, fully-formed creative visions in the history of rock music. Swans were, always, both the complete embodiment of what a rock band should be and entirely antithetical to it, and the best part was: no matter how high-minded and intellectual people wanted to be about their music – and it held up to all of it, with a sense of composition that matches the eggheadiest post-rockers and a head for sonic exploration that gearheads had to be impressed by – the fact was, and remains still, that it’s some of the most physically powerful music in the world. There are people who are unmoved by Swans, there are people who are put off by them, and that’s fine. And there will come a time when liking them isn’t cool again, just as it wasn’t for the first twenty years of their recorded life16, but what’s nice (and the reason for this digression) about their current popularity is that it completely coincides with some of the highest-quality work they’ve done, in addition to it being some of the most singular. Anyway. CLEARLY I HAVE OPINIONS HERE. “The Seer” is, in addition to an impressive addition outright, actually a pretty worthwhile distillation of what it is that makes Swans so special. Thereby, and after all of that slobbery fellatio of a paragraph, it’s probably also fair to say, if “The Seer” doesn’t grab you, Swans are unlikely to.

The Tallest Man on Earth – Little Brother
Actually, I suppose the only benefit to listening to these tracks in alphabetical order is that this song would be a nice little come-down after “The Seer.” Anyway, it’s a pretty little song from a pretty little album by a dude who’s absolutely not very tall, and also Swedish.

Tame Impala – Elephant
There’s a thing that happens every once in awhile with Tame Impala songs, where the thing that happens in the song is so obvious, but so un-heard, that you kind of have to stop and applaud it. “Elephant” is one of those songs.

Tor – Paper Rain
Canada, man. I don’t know what’s going on up there, but experimental music from Canada in 2012 was basically the best kind. “Paper Rain” is gorgeous, and pretty good for making everyday stuff seem extra-poignant.

Trampled by Turtles – Alone
Generally speaking, 2012 was a boring, lackluster year for Americana-type music17, but two of this year’s best albums were Who’s Feeling Young Now by the Punch Brothers and Stars and Satellites by Trampled by Turtles. “Alone” was a pretty refreshing breath of air in a year that saw a lot of stale old samey pabulum.

Kanye West – Mercy (f. Pusha T, Big Sean & 2 Chainz)
I’m only human, guys.
Paul Westerberg – My Road Now
The internet has afforded Paul Westerberg all sorts of new horizons in self-sabotage. Shortly after it became firmly entrenched that you could self-release albums, without a label, and without anyone fucking with it – something that it seems the prickly, self-directed Westerberg would thrive with, he released a single-track album, a follow-up that was actually a chunk of the middle of that album that had been taken out, an EP that arrived entirely without fainfare and then, earlier this year, this song. Nevertheless, having found it, it’s a pretty great song that’ll probably be chopped into pieces and used to fill in the space between an album of Slim Harpo covers or something in a couple of years. Sigh.

Chelsea Wolfe – Sunstorm
OK, so Unknown Rooms wasn’t supposed to be an album, but a collection of songs that already existed, which I suppose means it shouldn’t be here or whatever, but it’s her best….not-album…so far, and “Sunstorm” is one hell of a song.

2 Chainz – Birthday
2 Chainz has spent the last couple of years making guest verses that are a highlight of the songs they’re on (go listen to “Mercy” again to see it in action!). His own album was kind of uninspiring, except for “Birthday,” on which Kanye’s verse is so good18 that 2 Chainz is, basically, dropping a guest verse on his own track. Also, I’m not very good at getting gifts, so it’s always nice to know what people want for their birthday.


1 which, really, is even less a surprise than the fact that the album took forever to come out.
2 with an honorable mention to their excellent cover of The Stooges’ “Dirt”
3 followed probably by “Groundhog Day”
4 including by yr crsp!
5 and one top-shelf single in “Hot Gossip”
6 or a slightly-upgraded, less rock-oriented Zutons, but that takes longer to say.
7 or, again, their “Valerie”
8 FINALLY.
9 it’s absolutely beside the point, but worth mentioning that his collaboration with Tim Hecker, Fantasma Para
stasie, is a classic.
10 or art-metal or whatever. I know I’m grouping together like fifty microgenres here, but I don’t actually care. Feel free not to tell me about it.
11 it was also the subject of a hilarious Pitchfork review, in which the reviewer decided that the album was good because it wouldn’t convert people to POS’ political viewpoint, which may be the single dumbest criterion for liking an album I’ve ever heard. He didn’t disagree with POS’ politics – he said that people that did wouldn’t like the album and that is why he didn’t like it. These are the things that remind me why I read record reviews.
12 I’m not saying any of my problems would be solved if I looked like Rihanna, but I don’t think they’d be exacerbated.
13 interestingly, the other thing that “Umbrella” and “Diamonds” have in common is that they were written by people who generally represent the boring parts of hip-hop songs (The-Dream and Sia, respectively), who have trouble getting famous, and who have much better singing voices.
14 words can’t bring you down. Really, “Beautiful” is not only the patient zero of this kind of song, but it’s basically the song in whose shadow all of these songs, including “Diamonds,” which comes as close as anyone ever has to matching its parent song.
15 and Cadence Weapon, at a Daytrotter session, thus making this the most oddly-employed beat of 2012.
16 although I suspect they’ll never be as underheralded as they used to be – even as recently as a couple of years ago, meeting another Swans fan in the wild was a rare and special occasion, and playing Swans for people generally meant first describing them in terms of the early-eighties New York art scene (and, sigh, Sonic Youth), or playing their cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and hoping for the best. All of which was the case while Michael Gira was earning a fair amount of attention in Angels of Light and, briefly, as the guy who ran the label responsible for Devendra Banhart*. Swans fandom used to be full of proselytizing.
*remember that guy?
17 actually, I generally refer to all of it as “country” music, because it annoys bluegrass fans and folk fans alike, each set of whom tends to have bought the line about “country” music being unworthy of serious consideration. I, however, call it “country” music because I love country music, and that means that calling it country music makes it considerably more worthy of my consideration. Suck it, h8rz.
18 the revival of Funny Kanye West is basically the best thing to happen to hip-hop in years.

The 2012 Grammy Awards

I guess this means we’re officially back in the swing here at ONAT! The Grammys are, for reasons that are probably obvious if you’ve stuck around this long, my favorite awards show of the year. My taste in film is so idiosyncratic that I never even have anything to say about the Academy Awards (I mean, I’ll probably find something to say about them1, but you know how it is), the Emmy Awards barely matter for anything ever, since the same people win every damn year, but the Grammys!

They exist as a shining example not of what the actual pop music world looks like, but of what record company people think the pop music world should look like. This year’s an especially topsy-turvy one, with almost no hip-hop presence in non-genre-specific categories, and an unstated by definite lean toward the same rockist, asyncratic attitudes that made headlines last year2. Not to mention: there is no Nicki Minaj here anywhere. None. Not one song. Not “Starships,” not “Beez in the Trap,” bupkiss. That’s fucked up. Like her or not, her presence in pop music has been enormous this year, and whatever it is the Grammys are meant to measure3

So without further ado, here are the nominees, and the rightful winners, as usual.

Non-Classical Producer of the Year
People don’t listen to production, and this particular award will be given out offscreen, and yet, here it is, annoying me. There are a couple of good candidates, I suppose. Dan Auerbach isn’t the producer of the year because he only really knows how to do one thing – and he’s pretty good at it, but it ain’t cuttin;. Jeff Bhasker record fun.’s album, and it was a fine album, certainly, but it means he produced as many notable albums as, say, Dr. Dre, who did a much better job with his. Markus Davis wins overproducer of the year, but I don’t think that’s what we’re doing here. Salaam Remi did a pretty good job with a tough assignment (a Nas album), but I think our winner here is Diplo.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Diplo

Best Comedy Album
Well, huh. I don’t think any of these were the best comedy album of the year, but it only highlights what a weird comedy rabbit-hole it’s possible to live in.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jim Gaffigan, Mr. Universe, but I think James Adomian should get to make the acceptance speech.

Best Musical Theater Album
It’s 2012. Can we stop doing Porgy and Bess now? I know, I know. Blah blah blah Gershwin blah blah product of its time blah. But seriously. We need to cut this shit the holy hell out. I think this is Follies without Bernadette Peters, which is just silliness, so that’s out. I have gotten to this point in my life without any exposure to Once beyond “Falling Slowly”4. I’m still so mad about Porgy and Bess that I’m boycotting the Gershwins entirely, which leaves us with Newsies

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Newsies, but I think James Adomian should get to make the acceptance speech.


Best Americana Album
These people don’t know dick-all fuck about americana.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Punch Brothers, who are welcome to punch their way onstage.

Best Country Album
Country music has a bit of a history with the single-artist covers album, in a way that most other genres don’t. I don’t really know why that is, but I suppose it has something to do with the generally-historically-focused nature of the music itself. Anyway. Fuck Miranda Lambert, that Zac Brown Band record had a pretty good single, but got samey pretty quick, Hunter Hayes is a snooze, and, while the Time Jumpers are just fine, this category marks the first actually good album nominated for a grammy5.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jamey Johnson, Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran

Best Country Duo Performance
MY, WHAT AN ODDLY-SPECIFIC CATEGORY. Anyway, here’s the Time Jumpers again, not winning, despite my really pulling for them. Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars isn’t actually a duo, because, like, there’s three people up there. I like that Don Williams and Allison Krauss were nominated even though, I must confess, I don’t think I’ve ever actually liked Allison Krauss. I’m done talking about Little Big Town and the Eli Young Band.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mrs. Coach and Mrs. Coach’s hair, “Already Gone”

Best Country Solo Performance
Still not “Springsteen.” Still. It’s also not “Wanted,” which, as the single from Hunter Hayes, the aforementioned snooze, is still a snooze. “Over” might be my favorite Blake Shelton song, but that’s not exactly a crowded field. Carrie Underwood shouldn’t get to be nominated for awards until she records a song that isn’t exactly like all of her other songs. Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost of Livin’” is an alright song. So’s Dierks Bentley’s “Home.”

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ronnie Dunn, “Cost of Livin’,” but it came down to a coin toss.

Best Latin Pop Album
I…have no idea.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesse y Joy, because I’d like to hear the pronunciation possibilities.

Best Rap Song
Guys! This category is not as bad as I feared it would be! Ok, so the first thing we do is throw out “Young, Wild & Free”. We also lose Drake’s “The Motto,” because it’s a really weak single. “Lotus Flower Bomb” is good, and it would be nice to give a little love to Miguel, but I just can’t do it. “Neighbors in Paris” is really not only not the best song on Watch the Throne, but it’s not the best Kanye song in this category. “Mercy” is the best Kanye song in this category, but I think Nas actually takes this one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nas, “Daughters”

Best Rap Album
I actually don’t know the Grammys period of eligibility, but doesn’t it seem like Take Care came out forever ago? This is a good field. Based on a T.R.U. story has some great tracks, but it doesn’t really get there. And, as much as it pains me to say, the same is true for Rick Ross’ God Forgives, I Don’t and The Roots’ Undun. The second Food & Liquor wasn’t a patch on the first, and Lupe’s kind of a nutball, so while it would be entertaining to get him up there and talk, I’m not sure he deserves it. Life is Good is a really, really good record. The best Nas record in a long, long time. But man, forever ago or not, Take Care is even better.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drake, Take Care

Best Rap Performance
I don’t understand the distinction, but it’s basically an opportunity to not have to make a real decision about “Mercy” vs. “Daughters”

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kanye West f. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
This category is really specific, and actually, I sort of hope that they start making every Grammy category as narrow as possible. “Talk That Talk” is an ok Rihanna song with Jay-Z on it, “Wild Ones” is…a Flo Rida song with Sia on it that I don’t have anything to say about except that it probably shouldn’t win a Grammy. “Cherry Wine” is a good excuse to eulogize Amy Winehouse all over again, but that always seems rather tasteless to me. “No Church in the Wild” is a likely candidate, as is “Tonight (Best You Ever Had).” I guess we should assume that Frank Ocean is eventually going to be tired of giving speeches, and give it to John Legend and Luda.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: John Legend f. Ludacris “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)”

Best R&B Song
OK, so, I think it’s great that Frank Ocean is nominated all over the place, but why the fuck isn’t he represented in the genre that, like, his record belongs to? I really don’t understand this at all. Especially given the weak nonsense that did get nominated. Tamia? Really? Elle Varner and Anthony Hamilton did alright, and Miguel actually made a really good album, with about half a dozen songs on it that are better than “Adorn”. So really, this category sucks.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Frank Ocean, “Sweet Life,” unless they come back and re-nominated a better Miguel song.

Best R&B Album
Alright, let’s unpack this a little. Miguel and Frank Ocean, who put out two of the best records of the year, are both nominated for song of the year. Frank Ocean is also nominated for record of the year and album of the year. SO WHY ARE THEY EXCLUDED FROM THE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS FOR THEIR GENRE? Miguel got a nod at “Best R&B Song,” which is also, admittedly, for his song of the year nominee, but where is Frank Ocean in these categories? This is utterly baffling.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I think this Grammy should go to anyone who can explain this conundrum to me.

Best Urban Contemporary Album
Oh, wait. Is Frank Ocean not R&B because there’s rappers present in his work? Because if so, then why is Miguel nominated in both categories? I’m not saying the two men do the same kind of work, but I do think they’ve got to be in the same genre, right? Fucking Tyrese was nominated for Best R&B Album. Fucking. Tyrese. Ugh. And shouldn’t Drake be in here? God, this whole category is almost certainly an excuse to get Chris Brown to show up.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Me, because I’ll be making nachos when this category is happening.

Best R&B Performance
Hey! It’s the Robert Glasper Experiment! I’m ok with that. OK, so “Urban Contemporary” is listed in between R&B categories, so this only makes the who0le thing more confusing. But I’m trying very hard to get over it. Estelle has proven to have considerably more longevity than I would’ve thought (I honestly didn’t think we’d hear anything from her again after the admittedly-great “American Boy”), but “Thank You” isn’t all that good. I guess I have to resign myself to the fact that “Adorn” is the song from Miguel’s album that’s getting the attention. That’s fine. It’s not actually a bad song. Luke James is right out. And that leaves me in the following position: I love the Robert Glasper Experiment. I do not love Usher, not one little bit. But “Climax” is probably my favorite Usher song6.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Man, it’s probably “Climax.” That makes me sad. Robert Glasper can have some of my nachos, though. That’s slightly more meaningful than a Grammy because it’s got cheese on it.

Best Traditional R&B Performance
Who would’ve guessed that Anita Baker was still up and around? Or, even more surprisingly, SWV? Melanie Fiona never really rated, and Gregory Porter never will. It seems wrong for this one to go to B.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anita Baker, but I think James Adomian should get to make the acceptance speech.

Best Alternative Music Album
Boy, Alternative doesn’t seem to mean much here, does it. Bjork’s Biophilia and Tom Waits’ Bad as Me were both good albums by great artists, but not great albums. Making Mirrors isn’t bad, per se, but outside of “Somebody That I Used to Know” it’s not that good, either. I would like to see Fiona Apple win, mainly because her album was so surprising, even though I have a hunch we’re going to watch M83 walk across that stage, which is fine. I guess. I mean, the album’s not bad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Fiona Apple, whose album title is super-long, which would be fun to watch people read over and over again.

Best Rock Album
This list is almost identical to “Best Rock Song” down there, and I have only heard one of these albums all the way through. So I guess it goes to that one, because it doesn’t matter anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jack White, Blunderbuss

Best Rock Song
And here we come to it. What’s weird about this is that I can’t really come up with a definition for “rock” music that includes fun. or Mumford & Songs. So, as much as they’re probably the most worthy people in the category, they don’t win. I have officially given up on understanding what it is that people like about Muse, but since it’s unidentifable, it’s probably also impossible to reward. The Black Keys have done a lot to prove that it is, in fact, possible to sell out entirely even in 2012, and a Grammy would probably do a lot to cement that, which would make it thematically appropriate, but bad for, y’know, our cultural health. Both Jack White and Bruce Springsteen would have some pretty awesome acceptance speeches, and both had pretty good songs.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bruce Springsteen, “We Take Care of Our Own”

Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance
Anybody else remember when this used to be two separate categories? Life under the rockists was weird. Anyway. This category is really, really depressing, and I’m not talking about it anymore.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: the commercial rock music establishment, for clinging to this until its last dying breath. Alternately: any of the actually-good metal bands that are never going to come within several thousand miles of a grammy ceremony.

Best Rock Performance
Seriously. It’s the same fucking people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Alabama Shakes “Hold On”

Best Dance/Electronic Album
STEVE AOKI IS STILL AROUND?! Man, that’s something. I liked Album Title Goes Here a lot, but I loved Don’t Think.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Chemical Brothers, Don’t Think

Best Dance Recording
“Levels” was pretty tight, and maybe it’ll get Avicii and Flo Rida to mend those fences. “Let’s Go” is everything that’s wrong with Calvin Harris7, Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” and Al Walser’s “I Can’t Live Without You” have nothing to recommend them, and, frankly, I’m not sure that Skrillex needs two consecutive years worth of encouragement.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: “Levels,” and Flo Rida is obligated to repeat the acceptance speech verbatim the next time he wins an award.

Best Pop Vocal Album
Pop albums have kind of always been missing the point, and especially so in 2012, so I admit that I haven’t spent much time with any of these as albums. Kelly Clarkson used to be worth the time, but all of her albums are exercises in samey dumbness these days. “Stronger” is tight, though. Florence + The Machine and Pink are doing basically the same thing (big voice, big songs, not doing anything worth remembering until the chorus, over and over and over again). Both acts also pretty much made their best statements a couple of years ago. It’s not going to be Maroon5 .I feel like in these rundowns I come across as being unfairly harsh to fun., a band I legitimately enjoy. That’s not fair to them.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: fun., Some Nights

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
I should give an award for the Grammy categories that don’t make me wonder just exactly how big the hammer was that hit the nominating body in the head (collectively). Excluding Florence + The Machine, this almost even makes sense. “Payphone” isn’t a good song, but it’s got a pretty good Wiz Khalifa bit. The other three songs are all – legitimately – great songs. “We Are Young” is getting the short end again, because circumstances conspire to keep me from treating them like they deserve. “Somebody That I Used to Know” is in a similar boat, although I like the song a bit less. But really, we knew where this was going from the moment it started.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: LMFAO, “Sexy and I Know It”

Best Pop Solo Performance
This is another good category! That’s two in a row, Grammy nominators. “Stronger,” as mentioned, is a good song, but probably the tenth or eleventh best song Kelly Clarkson’s managed in the last decade, and so really not up par. “Wide Awake” is almost without question the worst Katy Perry single of 2012. “Where Have You Been” was a good Rihanna song until “Diamonds” chased away all other contenders8. The version of “Set Fire to the Rain” that’s nominated is marked as being a live recording on the Grammys’ website. That’s weird, and I don’t like it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”

Best New Artist
Isn’t there a curse with this one? I don’t know. That’s a lot of responsibility. I guess it goes to the Lumineers, because we all know nobody is going to hear from them ever again anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Lumineers

Song of the Year
OK, so. Why is “The A Team” nominated here and nowhere else? This is a weird category for 1D to get the nod. I don’t like it. I won’t allow it. It’s still not “Stronger.” Stop making me reject “Stronger,” Grammy committee. STOP IT. Song of the Year is meant to recognize the possibly-imaginary quality of songcraft (your mileage may vary). As such, then, whatever “songcraft” is, “Call Me Maybe” ain’t got any. For all of its considerable charms, it’s an ikea bookcase of a song – functional, even nifty, but not something you’d mistake for the real thing. “Adorn” is a good song, but I’ve already expressed that it’s not really a high point, and, really, I think that, if we’re talking about something that may or may not exist that means “can exist independent of its performance,” then “We Are Young” is our winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: fun. “We Are Young”

Album of the Year
It’s really hard, this far down the list, to find anything new to say about these people, although I will say that I think the Grammy nominating people have stuck by The Black Keys for far longer than anyone thought they might. Anyway, this one’s easy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

Record of the Year
WHY ARE THERE LEFT-FIELD CANDIDATES HERE? Also, and I don’t want Ms. Clarkson to take this the wrong way, why the fuck is “Stronger” nominated for everything? It’s not record of the year any more than it was anything else of the year. It’s also, it pains me to say, “We Are Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Getting Back Together,” but it would’ve been in a worse year. “Somebody That I Used to Know” should be given a special Grammy for being the second- or third-best in a lot of categories, both grammy-related and otherwise. It’s like the Buffalo Bills in the nineties: it’s not that it’s not great, it’s just that it always manages to not be great enough9. “We Are Young” was already song of the year, and had a good shot at the whole thing, if it weren’t so mannered. No, “Record of the Year” is about the actual performance on the recording, and as impressive as some of those things are, there was only ever one candidate.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Frank Ocean, “Thinkin Bout You” (but actually “The Sweet Life.” Just saying.)

And that’s it, folks! Try to remember that this shit exists in February!

1 unlike, say, the Independent Spirit Awards, the nominations for which were announced in the recent past, and whose awards ceremony I’m actually likely to watch, but that heretofore haven’t gotten a mention around here.2 which is probably brilliant – last year’s Grammys were talked about a lot, and there’s no reason not to capitalize that buzz. It is, after all, an event, and is therefore driven by popularity.
3 Popularity? Industry presence? Actual quality? Marketability? Availability for the awards ceremony? I honestly have no idea.
4 for no good reason, actually. I like Glen Hansard just fine.
5 with apologies to the Avett Brothers, who were nominated back in the Americana category, and made a perfectly adequate record that, like each of their other records to date, had way too much filler.
6 not something I say lightly: I still regularly sing “Yeah” while I do the dishes.
7 it’s a lot of what’s wrong with Ne Yo, also, but Spotify doesn’t show his stupid hat or his stupid dance moves, so it doesn’t paint as complete a picture
8 and yes, I do mean to imply that “Diamonds” was so good that it made other songs worse. Because it is, that’s why.
9 there it was, folks. The only football joke I know enough to make.

Spotify’s Most-Played Songs of 2012 Part 2

25. Adele “Rolling in the Deep”
WDISAP: The reason this particular list is interesting is because it doesn’t chart anything except literally the number of times a song has been listened to. So a million (I don’t have the play count numbers) people listening to, say, “Gangnam Style” to see what it’s like without also watching the video counts just the same as 1,000 people listening to “Sail” 100 times each. But when the song is a little older – and especially when it reaches the kind of saturation point that “Rolling in the Deep” did at its peak – it becomes more likely that, y’know, people just really like it. And that’s almost certainly the case here. Even I, with my cold, shrivelled heart, hardened against the outside world by the ravages and vicissitudes of life, still occasionally need to be reminded that the scars of Adele’s love with someone remind her of that someone. Also: those are the best backing vocals in a pop song in over a decade. The end.

24. Psy “Gangnam Style”
WDISAP: It’s come up twice already on this list, and its position says: that even without the video, that even after the wave of cultural weirdness5, there’s still a song under there, and it still makes people dance. Alternately: sometimes you can’t watch the video and still want to think about the video.

23. Coldplay “Paradise”
WDISAP: That there is a certain portion of the population that will always be there for Coldplay, just like they’re always there for U2, or Radiohead, or Maroon 5. It’s probably the same people, even.

22. David Guetta f. Nicki Minaj “Turn Me On”
WDISAP: It either says that people like listening to music that they could make themselves with about two hours worth of education, or that people really don’t understand how braindead David Guetta’s music is. This is an ok song, though.

21. Rihanna “Where Have You Been”
WDISAP: Maroon 5 isn’t the only band that can be really consistent and still get a lot of people listening to them! Well. Rihanna’s a person, not a band. But you know what I mean.

20. Jayz & Kanye West “Neighbors in Paris”
WDISAP: Because this shit is cray

19. Flo Rida “Good Feeling”
WDISAP: That sometimes they like music that’s just exhausting. Oh, and also Flo Rida. People really, really love Flo Rida.

18. fun. “Some Nights”
WDISAP: As this list gets closer and closer to #1, the thing I can’t help but notice is that the songs get…bigger. Not bigger in the sense of “more popular”6, but sonically bigger. One of the things that was striking back there at “Take Care” was that it was such a little song. And even then, it was still pretty swollen. There are some exceptions further on (it doesn’t just increase in mass all the way up the list), but for the most part, we’re dealing in the realm of the big, soaring song. What does this have to do with fun.? Well, that’s kind of all fun. does. Now, I like this song (and I like “We Are Young” even more, but that’s later on.7), but their stock in trade is the big song – at least insofar as their singles are concerned. I dunno, I think fun. got noticed in a way The Format or Anathallo didn’t in part because they played the game a lot more, and in part because they happened along at a time when people were really into their idea.

17. One Direction “What Makes You Beautiful”
WDISAP: I would imagine it says that people like a combination of 1) being a girl who doesn’t think she’s attractive and therefore attractive to the members of One Direction or 2) lusting after attainable girls. Please note that there is no evidence that anyone over the age of, say, sixteen actually likes this song. If you do, feel free to drop an email or a comment! I’d love to know why!

16. LMFAO “Sexy and I Know It”
WDISAP: If “Party Rock Anthem” was a milestone of human achievement, “Sexy and I Know It” is LMFAO leading us to a new plane of existence.

15. Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa f. Bruno Mars “Young and Wild and Free”
WDISAP: I’ve thought, often, and will probably say something later about, the fact that if pop music of any genre has taught us nothing, it’s that you can never pander too much or too obviously.

14. Michel Telo “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”
WDISAP: That there is no language barrier when it’s time to shake ya ass.

13. Skrillex f. Sirah “Bangarang”
WDISAP: That the opinions about Skrillex songs are either completely arbitrary, or everyone else knows something that I don’t.

12. Avicii “Levels (Radio Edit)”
WDISAP: Wikipedia says that Flo Rida’s song “Good Feeling” was primarily influenced by “Levels,” and that seems plausible. So I guess people like…that thing. Whatever it is.

11. Rihanna f. Calvin Harris “We Found Love”
WDISAP: That we all wish Calvin Harris hadn’t jettisoned all of his talent after he produced this song. COME BACK TO US CALVIN. WE LOVE YOU.

10. Loreen “Euphoria”
WDISAP: That the rest of the world pays a lot more attention to the Eurovision song contest than Americans do. Or at least than I do.

9. David Guetta f. Sia “Titanium”
WDISAP: At this point I have no idea what the hell is with people and David Guetta. It just seems entirely arbitrary.

8. Maroon 5 f. Wiz Khalifa “Payphone”
WDISAP: That people like Wiz Khalifa more than Christina Aguilera

7. Nicki Minaj “Starships”
WDISAP: That authenticity is well and truly dead, because we like it when Nicki Minaj pretends to be Rihanna considerably more than we like actual Rihanna.

6. Train “Drive By”
WDISAP: That we have trouble sleeping, and sometimes don’t have access to Benadryl.

5. Flo Rida f. Sia “Wild Ones”
WDISAP: I feel like, at this point, this is just mathematics. It says that people are predictable – Flo Rida is worth a certain number of listens, featuring Sia on your track is worth a certain number of listens, and the two things combined is #5 on the list.

4. Flo Rida “Whistle”
WDISAP: Of course, Sia can’t even hope to compete with that fucking chorus. No one can, really. I’m surprised that many people actually listened to the song that many times, because it’s been in my head more-or-less constantly since first I heard it.

3. fun. f. Janelle Monae “We Are Young”
WDISAP: That sometimes we all have the same opinion. Alternately, that it takes hundreds of spins to try to figure out what, exactly, Janelle Monae is doing on this song.

2. Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”
WDISAP: That people don’t actually listen to the production. I’m on the record as liking the song, certainly (I’m only human, after all), but seriously, the cheap-fake-string-synths and weird drum programming are the same elements you’d find on something that came out on Mute in the early eighties. Not to mention there’s a “string” noise that leads into the “before you came into my life” part that always makes me think there’s something wrong with my speaker. And yet, here it is, the second-most-listened-to song of the year.

1. Gotye “Somebody That I Used to Know”
WDISAP: That it’s not impossible to create a sensation in an organic, real-world way. Yes, I realize that Gotye changed his sound enormously, presumably in the interest of selling more records, but authenticity died back at #7, so we’re not talking about that. And yes, I know that a lot of what was able to create the sensation was the dollars that came from signing away his music to a blah blah blah, but it’s refreshing to see, at #1, a song that’s got a decidedly-odd arrangement, and that made its way on the strength of its giant8, climactic last verse, and helped by its weird, memorable video. It’s like a throwback to simpler times, when David Guetta wasn’t chaining ipods together and pushing the play button, when no songs were featuring Pitbull, and when won’t.i’m.not was still Will X. And it’s a pretty good song, for all that, even if his earlier stuff was much better.

5 we love our emasculated, goofy-ass Asian dudes so much, y’all!
6 because it’s a list of songs in reverse order of popularity, Einstein.
7 Spoiler Alert!
8 although, seriously, some little songs would be nice.

Spotify’s Most-Played Songs of 2012

(Part 1 in an ongoing series of judgments of the American People)

So Spotify released the 100 most popular songs of the year on their service, which is neat. It seems like everyone uses Spotify, but I think that’s just because most of the people I interact with on a day-to-day basis use it. If you think about it, it’s really only the people who have completely abandoned the ownership model that are regular users1 – and I don’t know what that means, really. So what better way to figure out who the users are, nay, who people are, than by running through the top fifty (because 100 is way too damn much, guys, and even my bi-annual lists are only fifty songs long2.

So without further ado, here you are. The real meaning of Spotify.

50. Jennifer Lopez f. Pitbull “Dance Again”
What does it say about people (WDISAP): That we, as Americans, like it when Jennifer Lopez tells us she wants to have sex with us, and we dont’ mind if someone three apples high paraphrases Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Actually. That’s a pretty good idea. This song should be higher on this list. Except it, y’know, sucks.

49. Foster the People “Pumped Up Kicks”
WDISAP: That despite the last five years or so being dominated by people saying things like “the cycle moves so fast these days and omgomg”, people will still listen to a song pretty heavily for years if they think it’s good enough. Somehow, this is the song that the people have chosen.

48. Owl City f. Carly Rae Jepsen “Good Time”
WDISAP: That if you can really put some backbone into a “WOO” in middle of a chorus, people will like you. Carly Rae Jepsen is basically taking tips from The Refused.

47. Swedish House Mafia f. John Martin “Don’t You Worry Child”
WDISAP: That weird, sad dance music is apparently something people want to listen to way more than I think they do3.

46. Tacabro “Tacata (Radio Edit)”
WDISAP: That when those sad bastard Swedes are done, motherfuckers gotta DANCE.

45. The Wanted “Glad You Came”
WDISAP: This is the only song by The Wanted in Spotify’s top 50, and the only song by The Wanted that I know. Now, I suspect that The Wanted’s fanbase isn’t precisely all over Spotify, but I would think they’d have more of a presence than that. So I guess what it says about people is that they listen to The Wanted a great deal more than I think they do, especially given the amount of time I spend seeing their name in stuff.

44. Alex Clare “Too Close”
WDISAP: That a whole lot of people saw those Internet Explorer commercials

43. Skrillex “First of the Year – Equinox”
WDISAP: That our enthusiasm for pop music’s most recent reincarnation of AC/DC is bottomless, and we are all powerless against his wub.

42. Taio Cruz f. Flo Rida “Hangover”
WDISAP: People really, really like songs about having gone to the club last night. Seriously, I may say more about this later, but it seems like there’s an inordinate number of songs that essentially take place the day after binge drinking. People are antiretronostalgic for reminiscing about the great time they’re going to have in, like, ten minutes. Taio Cruz is just there to fill the hole. And, of course, our appetite for Flo Rida is insatiable.

41. LMFAO “Party Rock Anthem”
WDISAP: It says that we’re all ok. I don’t want to live in a world where this song isn’t cherished as a treasure of human achievement.

40. Simple Plan f. Sean Paul “Summer Paradise”
WDISAP: That if you replace K’Naan on your track (for reasons that I don’t actually understand, nor am I interested enough to try to figure out, because every proper noun I’ve typed out in this entry so far makes me itchy), the people will flock to your song. But not too much.

39. Ed Sheeran “The A Team”
WDISAP: That hookers are existentially sad, y’all.

38. will.i.am f. Eva Simons “This is Love”
WDISAP: That william’s (punctuation corrected) programming works, and that he figured out how to get enough people to play his stupid fucking song so that he appears on a year end list despite having dissolved the group that he usually used to channel his neuro-disruptor ray. Good show, bill.you.are!

37. AWOLNATION “Sail”
WDISAP: That dubstep-style squelchy beepy beats are like bacon – we will put that shit in anything.4

36. M83 “Midnight City”
WDISAP: A lot of people abandoned NBC for the BBC during the Olympics, and M83 was there for them.

35. David Guetta f. Usher “Without You”
WDISAP: That simple, obvious dance beats + technically proficient singer continues to be what the people are demanding.

34. Maroon 5 f. Christina Aguilera “Moves Like Jagger”
WDISAP: That we, like children, crave consistency and routine. And Maroon 5 releases a single, and it sounds exactly like every other Maroon 5 single except this time augmented by one of the other judges from the reality show their singer is on, the people are pleased, and they will listen to it forever.

33. Chris Brown “Don’t Wake Me Up”
WDISAP: Nothing good.

32. Maroon 5 “One More Night”
WDISAP: That they literally like Maroon 5 songs interchangeably. I would love to see the actual play counts on these #s 34 and 32, to see how far apart they really are.

31. Lil Wayne f. Bruo Mars “Mirror”
WDISAP: That no matter how vital and original you can seem early in your career, if you eventually get lazy and stop trying, people will eventually love you. Bonus points if you can completely waste Bruno Mars on a terrible, terrible hook.

30. Justin Bieber “Boyfriend”
WDISAP: I think the fact that the #2 most-watched YouTube video ever is only #30 on the list of most played tracks on Spotify tells us that Justin Bieber’s fanbase uses YouTube a lot more than they use Spotify. Especially since this song (unlike some other YouTube/Spotify dissonance-creators, about one specifically more later) isn’t particularly dependent on its video.

29. Sean Paul “She Doesn’t Mind”
WDISAP: The career of Sean Paul has always been somewhat baffling to me, and especially so w/r/t this particular song. I guess it says “some people out there are really strange.”

28. Kelly Clarkson “What Doesn’t Kill You”
WDISAP: Another argument in the “people like consistency case,” this song was probably even followed up by a well-sung ballad that nevertheless didn’t particularly chart. Which is probably as it should be.

27. Drake f. Rihanna “Take Care”
WDISAP: That sometimes we get really sad, and need a Canadian to guide us through the tough times.

26. Pitbull f. Chris Brown “International Love”
WDISAP: That periodically throughout history, the people have gone ape crazy for a song that was, essentially, just a list of places where the women are attractive and it would also be a nice time to listen to this song. In this case it’s a lie, of course: there’s never a good time or place to listen to this song. Ever.
 

hop back over tomorrow to catch the top 25!

1 I am a Spotify user, it’s true. I use it mainly for things I’m interested in hearing more than having, and also comedy albums, which, except for the particularly good ones, don’t have a lot of re-listen value.
2 look for the next one sometime in the next week or so!
3 this is not the only song on this list that will tell me that.
4 while I was watching the video for this song on YouTube, because I couldn’t remember how it went, YouTube suggested that I might next want to listen to “(All I Wanted Was) Danger” by The Milk. YouTube was 100% right, and this song has been around for long enough that PEOPLE SHOULD STOP SLEEPING ON IT. Go listen to it. It’ll make you a better person.