NME Blogs - The Big Picture

50 Best Tracks Of 2012

By Luke Lewis

Posted on 20 Nov 12

 
 

You dig the best albums of 2012 list, yes? Sounds like you're ready for the tracks. Featuring: a zombie apocalypse, Frankie Avalon and the perfect pop song. Mouse/hover over the images and click the NME icons to read our full reviews.











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Novelty hits seldom came so commendably silly, or so replayable, as 'Gangnam Style'


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With Hit Boy's jabbering production doing its thing under 25-year-old Californian Lamar's insatiable self-aggrandising, it was the big-balling hip-hop anthem of the year


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A lush future-spiritual track that drops 28-year-old Coffman’s full-lunged vocal into a warm, fuzzy lagoon of pulsing digi-dub rhythms


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A fuzz, similar to Kim Deal’s Pixies bass, bongo rhythms; lashings of guitar and Keane Kendall’s desperate vocals


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Kudos to Frank for taking the unsexiest movie of all time and injecting it with so much swagger it became a fireproof seduction ballad. Hammerings of loin-burning organ; huge chucks of southern-fried guitar; generous lashings of sex-dunked vocals


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2012 was the year that New York City’s queer rap scene broke, and the deeply weird and sinister ‘Ima Read’ was one of its anti-anthems


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The most remarkable thing about Ethan Kath and Alice Glass’ ‘Wrath Of God’ wasn’t the darkness, but the brief moments of twinkling lightness that were shocking in their tenderness


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Everything Peace do is special, from reclaiming Birmingham’s musical cachet back from The Twang to sprawling all over airwaves with their stoned and jangly Foalsian sparkle


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It funked and power-strutted like a Rolling Stones third of their age, ‘Honky Tonk Women… And Zombies’, anyone? Yes, everyone. No questions asked


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The nerd-rave wave showed no signs of slowing down in 2012. Scottish quartet Django Django snatched the dancefloor baton out of Metronomy and Hot Chip’s sweaty hands to serve up the stuttering, storming ‘Default’


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‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ was a sun-kissed, bass heavy THWOMP of a track that reminds us exactly why we fell so embarrassingly head-over-heels for Kevin Parker all over again


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The twisted sample of ‘Dust A Sound Boy’ by Super Beagi worked into a horrifying Tibetan Book Of The Dead Shriek, combined with the booming deep hollers of Big Sean, all mix up to make the phlegm-heavy rap at its best


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Fred MacPherson’s scintillating impression of The Killers drinking themselves to death down the Dalston Superstore was a reminder of the bittersweet brilliance of disastrous weekends trying but failing to pull


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There's been a few bona fide club bangers for UK DJs like Redlight and Disclosure this year, but nothing has received more reloads than this bass-heavy bit of teamwork from Katy B and Mosca – the man with the bounciest beats in Britain


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The sort of punkoid perfection that instantly inspired idolatry


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In the continued absence of kitchen-sink troubadour Jamie T, King Krule seems to have quickly snipped and established himself as London’s most vital must-hear singer-songwriter


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What happened with this guy? ‘Jasmine’, a wonky but spectacular pop tune, got tongues wagging at the start of the year and then… nothing. In the meantime, its underwater beats have been ripped off by Kanye West and a stew of UK producers


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All you need to know is that ‘Lies’ is one of 2012’s undisputed albums, a positively majestic fusion of trance synths, dancehall beats and a diva giving it all that


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"Superbly out of kilter with the rest of the years big Indie hitters, the lead track from the Talking Heads hero and axe goddess Annie Clarke’s first collaborative album (‘Love This Giant’) parped with more bra than Adele’s awards cabinet"


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If you wanted to do some old-fashioned rock’n’roll 2012, you had to do it really, really well. Los Angeles duo demonstrated exactly how to take mighty, weighty Led Zeppelin riffs and have sick confidence to make them their own


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The Manchester quartet’s comeback single showed they’d far from ironed out all of their lovable kinks. The staccato stop-start opening segued into a melodic, widescreen shorus that suggested they're going somewhere exciting


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As statements of intent go, Angel Haze’s debut single is up there with the best. “I run New York”, she proffers, over a super-minimal backdrop of chopped up handclaps and gut-punch base drum


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A debut single that found the improbable middle ground between Gary Numan and Camera Obscura, making for indie disco at its most elemental and catchy


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Her tale of globetrotting takes in annoyance with people bitching about first-world problems as well as a sort of existential fatalism. The message: we’re all sitting on ruins


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A fusion of stomping riffs and raucous chourus, the first shot from ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’ also works well when you’re in your bedroom alone, moshing in the mirror


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Pond’s most winsome and winning moment of the year ‘You Broke My Cool’ is essentially the rowdy Aussie psych beats’ very own ‘All The Young Dudes’


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Taylor was allowed into club NME, when in the second verse in this she squealed wilfully about her beau finding solace in “some indie record that’s much cooler than mine”


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Ware’s slowie about a bezzie who drives you nuts but that you couldn’t live without told an honest story about grown up friendship. Chuck in those Mellow Magic drums and rousing synths and you’ve got a very modern power ballad


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In which Warp Records beatsmith Hudson Mohawke teamed up with Montreal producer Lunice and turned out this banger – a synthesis of ticking trap beats, sped-up chipmunk vox and a horn chorus so fat it makes Rick Ross look like Kate Moss


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Here was an intoxicating netherworld of fuzz, packed with mysterious caves and crevices, its unsettling beauty made all the creepier by the fact that Melody is, in the lyrics, behaving like a nightmare’s stalker


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‘Call Me Maybe’ is a freak combination of melody, lyric, verse and chorus where the stars align. Maybe we’ll get sick of it next week. For now, stick it on one more time


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Oh Solange, let us count the ways we love thee. Your ridonkulous neck dance in this video, the squawking production from your best mate Dev ‘Blood Orange’ Hynes, the satisfying “nge” sound at the end of your name. But mostly the way you coo all over ‘Losing You’



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Not only was it a great tune, it also unveiled Matt Helders as a man with a strangely fantastic falsetto



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How many bands could really have delivered a single from their fifth album that had the same youthful vitality they started their career with?



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Ultimate proof that, in 2012, the planet belongs to Grimes. The rest of us are just trying to work out how to even breathe the same oxygen as her


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So Kanye’s ‘Cruel Summer’didn’t quite match this ‘Watch The Throne’, but ‘Clique’ was ample evidence that Ye was still turning out solid gold



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Walloping thug-step, allusions to juddering helicopter funk and sinister lyrics lifted from an art-rock reimagining of Silence Of The Lambs – “Germolene/Disinfect the scene” and “I’ll eat you whole”. And they looked such nice boys…


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Slower, sweeter and more vunerable than we were used to, it was a love song that did what love songs are supposed to do – make you want to lock tongues with a stranger on some beer-sodden Saturday night dancefloor


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A 10-minute opus, that swelled from funk-led meander to strobing electro and then on to some kind of DMT breakdown, and ended with the aftershocks of a Santana album


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Hush now. Listen. Can you hear that? That pitiful whimpering? It’s the sound of British music getting a titanic kick in the balls, and its London quartet Savages who've been swinging the steel-enforcement boots


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Even those who couldn’t get with old Jacky boy’s new love of pedal street guitar had to bow before the might of this. It's all sardonic with and stabbing riffs, and details a bitchy breakout


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On an album of serene self-reflection, ‘Elephant’ is the malicious flip-side to Parker’s innerism, and it packs a downright beasty riff to boot


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The best love songs aren’t always sloshing with gooey romance or about stoking lusty loins. Sometimes, the very finest heartfelt missives bypass chest-burning infatuation and tingling nether regions entirely and shoot for something purer, something sweeter


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Bugg’s self-titled debut album contains other songs every bit as good as this one, but contagious, milkman-bothering melody of ‘Lightning Bolt’ assures its status as first among equals


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A swirling whirlpool of synth. A skippingly playful rhythm that danced over the blackest of heartbreak. Above all of which Claire Bouchers delicate vocals snared and trilled


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What could have been a populist tirade ended up suprisingly nuanced, and in terms of its vitriol and the wider audience it was able to reach, there was no greater political song of the year


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This was Haim's introductory calling card – four minutes of pop brilliance that sounds at once fresh but classic, painstakingly constructed but viscerally exciting


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In a year of Jubilees and Olympiads, it was inevitable that there'd be another song about London. Be thankful, then that it came from the pen of Damon Albarn


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As per usual, Mia Arulpragasm spent the first couple of months of the year pissing off some people and delighting others, and then she released the anti-hit of 2012


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It was never going to be anything else was it? Because Sam Fryer, Pete Mayhew, Chilli Jesson and Will Doyle are the most exciting band on earth right now
























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