"An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum", Shabazz Palaces, Black Up
I spent a lot of the year writing and riding bikes to this record. This song always made me stop to pay attention to its amazing haze-sway backing track: swirling vocals, some intensely melodic percussion, and great beats. My girlfriend says I'm too hard on Sasha Frere-Jones, so let me give credit: it was him who turned me on to this excellent record. Thanks, chief.
"Australasia", Pelican, Australasia
Pelican has meant a lot to me for a long time, and they were, bizarrely, essentially the only band I'd ever really bootlegged. When I heard that Hydra Head was going the way of all flesh, I knew that it was in part my fault, so I took my credit card
to the liquor store to the Internet and attempted to atone for my sins by spending quite a bit of money. This song is Pelican at their best: no band not named Iron Maiden gets more mileage out of Sweet Victor Parts (TM Al Burian); no band not named Hawkwind does more with dreamy drone parts.
"Hey Jane", Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Probably the least inspired album I've bought—even Dirty Work had cocaine and Keef/Mick's desire to punch each other—but this was one song I liked whenever it came on. Spiritualized is evidently completely out of ideas, but this one song they didn't phone in, and not-phoned-in Spiritualized is something I can't not like.
"kicking", "Fat Waves", Torche, Meanderthal
I saw Torche with Big Business, and at the time, their high-gloss candy metal (alternating with deep sludge) left me cold. But "kicking" has better hooks than any guitar song since 1984, and "Fat Waves" isn't far behind. I reached for this record more times than almost any other—it's beyond perfect for getting shit done around the house—despite getting it very late in the year.
"ecce homo", Titus Andronicus, Local Business
It's all downhill after this opener, but this was my song of the year, and it wasn't a particularly close race. The rest of the album is a good Clash record, more Give 'Em Enough Rope's hit-what-you-aim-for than, say, Combat Rock's peaks and valleys or London Calling's thrilling sprawl and reach, but this one song is the kind of epic the Clash never managed, an unhurried lope across the band's previous (monumental) achievements and a sweeping gesture forward. The next album will be a California album, it will be called Manifest Destiny, and it will be epoch-defining. Book it.
"Year of the Pig", Fucked Up, Year of the Pig ep
Took me a while to warm up to this tune, but no song was better for running or for riding my bike across town. Originally, I thought "man, the drummer does the same thing for like 18 minutes, meh" but after I made it through the hypnotic drone sections a couple times and let the record overwhelm me somatically, I was more like "MAN, THE DRUMMER DOES THE SAME THING FOR LIKE 18 MINUTES, AWESOME!". It's a song that requires some effort: it's only good if you keep your attention-payer on. It's a song that rewards that effort hugely.
"In Every Dream Home a Heartache", Roxy Music, Viva!
Could really have been any song off of this record, 2012's token album that made my girlfriend ask "what the fuck is this shit" during one of the coked-up metal-disco moments with extra-theatrical vocal vibrato. But something about Roxy Music really works for me a lot of the time (SPOILER: it is Phil Manzanera) and Viva! was my default "time to go to bed, but I don't want anything fucking mellow on because that shit's for sell-out olds" record.
"tracking the dog", Screaming Blue Messiahs, Peel Sessions
"Holiday Head", Screaming Blue Messiahs, Gun-Shy
"Destroyer", Screaming Blue Messiahs, Live at the BBC
I've loved this band pretty much consistently from the time Totally Religious came out. Back then, I loved that album's weirdo echo-chamber drum sound and 10-million-stacked-guitar-noises production, really liked half of the previous record Bikini Red's weirdo everything-in-an-echo-chamber-one-loud-ass-guitar-track sound, and didn't see a whole lot in Gun-Shy's too-much-drum, zero-guitar mix. Trouser Press rated those in reverse order, and that was the only interaction I've ever had with another human about the band Screaming Blue Messiahs. All I know now is that I like all three, and probably agree now that I am old and tired that Gun-Shy is their best, though if they'd ever recorded a live-to-tape album like the Peel Session I bought from Green Noise Records in Portland all those years ago, that would be one of my favorite records of all time. Their BBC Live record is close, but not quite as great. But everything they did makes me exceptionally happy, and I can make it through terrible 80s production values if I have to...
"dethink to survive", mclusky, mclusky Does Dallas
I heard about mclusky via CopyRanter and I owe Mark Duffy a large bottle of brown liquor for the reference. It immediately became a massive favorite of the Clear the Crease crew. Smart and savage: what's not to like? Well, they did break up. So there won't be any more HEAVY TUNES from mclusky. Funnily enough, though, three (!) years ago, my friend Abe tried to sell me on Future of the Left, the band that formed from mclusky's ashes, and I didn't get it; until last night. 2013's HEAVY TUNES of the year will include Future of the Left's "Arming Eritrea" and "Land of My Formers" plus probably around a half a dozen others. Extra bonus: Falco is a really good writer, not just a really good songwriter. Try his tour diary, excellent hit piece on a shit song, and follow his swell twitter. And, for the love of fuck, spend some money on this band's brilliant music and spare them "the hollow anger of the ignored and jealous".
"hurry on sundown", Hawkwind, Some Comp a Friend of a Friend Made
I've always loved this song, and spent a couple years mostly listening to the excellent Oregon band Nudity's version, but this year was all about listening to the Hawkwind version multiple times in a row, singing along every single time.
"man the ramparts", Botch, We Are the Romans
Because sometimes you can't live your best life without spiky, off-kilter metallic hardcore. Wish it hadn't taken me 10 years to catch up to this record.
"oscillation", The Men, Open Your Heart
Untouchably great drone-groove, somewhere in between "hurry on sundown" and "year of the pig", this record pleased me every time I put it on. Less intense and transcendent than Leave Home, Open Your Heart was more varied—and maybe more easy to forget about. But the band's a keeper, and so's this record, and this song will be a staple for a long, long time.
"the nights of wine and roses", Japandroids, Celebration Rock
2012: year of Japandroids. Despite its obvious greatness, I didn't reach for this album all that often. But live, no songs meant more to me than this band's in 2012. I picked this tune pretty much at random: some nights I loved it the most, some nights I loved "younger us" the most, some nights "restless nights turn to restless years" was the lyric that hurt the most... Of course the real best song off the record is "the house that heaven built", the "anything, anything" of 2012, but like "anything, anything", I can't actually listen to the song all that often (because I don't like crying).
"rana", Pitchfork, Eucalyptus
Too much of this record sounds like hyper-caffinated early R.E.M., but (a) that's not a bad thing by any stretch and (b) some of the record sounds like this, which is as good as indie rock ever got.
It also bears mentioning that the releases from Negative Fun dominated the last couple months of my listening. Great stuff. Full disclosure: I got these records for free and was paid to write about them, but I would have been listening to them and loving them regardless. You will be hearing a lot from She Rides, Dripping Slits, and Red Hex in 2013—and so will I!