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Everything Everything – Kemosabe
Everything Everything have had a very successful year; their debut album, which was actually released back in 2010, seemed to become ubiquitous on trendy radio stations such as BBC 6Music, leading to some mainstream success. And they even found time to build Britain’s first 4G network. The stage is set for their difficult second album, Arc, to be released in January 2013 – but if Kemosabe is anything to go by, they’ve found it to be a doddle. Jonathan Higgs’ strange falsetto vocal is as catchy as ever, alongside fairly simple but downright rhythmic support from the rest of his band. This is a track that simply doesn’t leave your head no matter how hard you try to resist it.
Grimes – Oblivion
Come on. It wouldn’t be a round up of the music of 2012 without a mention of Grimes. Pretty much everything that could be said about Oblivion has been said about it already, which is testament to how strong this track is. Grimes’ heavenly vocal hides a darker subject matter, describing a night where “someone could break your neck, coming up behind you always coming and you’d never have a clue.” The back to basics drum machine underpinning the track is a joy alongside bubbling arpeggio synths. Oblivion is the track that keeps on giving, getting better with each successive listen.
Atoms For Peace – Default
Atoms For Peace is a strange thing. Thom Yorke put the band – supergroup, technically – together primarily to play his solo album, The Eraser, live. I was initially sceptical upon hearing that Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers was to become part of this collective, but it has proven to be one of the tightest musical outfits going. Default is dominated by the glitchy electronic sounds that are clearly Yorke’s doing, but the track grooves along thanks to its (probably synthetic) bassline which may or may not have anything to do with Flea. Regardless, the track is promising and sets the bar high for their debut album, Amok, due early next year.
Blur – Under The Westway
Blur’s first (proper) single as a four piece in twelve years was worth the wait. Described by the band as “a hymn” about London, it is almost stereotypically Blur that they are able to write a song name-checking a motorway flyover (West London’s Westway). Damon Albarn’s fragile vocal and haunting piano laments a world where “men in yellow jackets put adverts inside my dreams” and “the money always comes first”. It’s hardly a feel-good Olympic celebration, but Blur have produced a rousing anthem that sums up London in 2012 better than anyone else could.
Foals – Inhaler
In which Foals change their sound yet again. Listening to this, the lead track from their upcoming third album Holy Fire, it is almost impossible to believe this is the same band that produced those high-pitched indie-pop gems such as Cassius and Mathletics. However, on further inspection, the clues are there. The track is underpinned by the math rock techniques that made the band so appealing in the first place – those rhythmically complex, irregular drumbeats and angular melodies. The addition this time round is heavy (REALLY heavy) guitars, hinting that the band might be eyeing up a few slighty larger venues now.
Muse – Survival
I have no doubt that the inclusion of this track will raise a few eyebrows. Yes, the opening sounds a bit like Take That, the lyrics sound like they were written by a five year old (“Race, life’s a race, and I’m gonna win, yes I’m gonna win”), and the choir chanting “SUR-VIVE, SUR-VIVE” throughout turns the song into some quasi-Masonic death march – but this is exactly what makes it so hilariously brilliant. This was the official song of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Just think about that for a minute. Muse are far beyond their days of producing relatively sane songs; they are ridiculous and they know it. It’s time to stop the chin-stroking and navel-gazing and accept this track for what it is – a great piece of rock music.
Extra Special Bonus Song Of The Year
Let’s face it. No matter how we try to hide it, Gangnam Style absolutely stole 2012 for better or for worse. Now I’m going to spend most of 2013 trying to perfect the dance.
I eagerly anticipate Psy’s Kid A moment.