Words: Alison Potter, Emily Solan, Howard Gorman, Jack Thomson, Rajan Lakhani, Raman K, Saam Das, and Simon Opie
If you thought that end of year lists were history (winking smiley) by now then you'd be sorely wrong. We adopt an overly careful and considered approach when putting our lists together. We think the effort is worthwhile. Judge for yourselves below with our favourite songs of 2012 featuring everyone from big hitters like Bobby Womack and Arctic Monkeys to upcomers Mt. Wolf and LULS.
#25: Mammal Club - 'Painting'
Good bands pop up all the time. But it’s also important to reflect on those who slip out of our grasp. Newcastle experimentalists Mammal Club sadly called it a day in 2012 but gave us one of the most powerfully dynamic singles of the year in 'Painting'.
#24: Everything Everything - 'Cough Cough'
From Mammal Club to one of their undoubted influences, Everything Everything. The band wowed us with their comeback single 'Cough Cough'. Complete with actual cough sounds, this was one of the most brilliantly inspired intros we’ve ever heard.
#23 LULS - 'Swing Low'
LULS emerged in 2012 in a cloud of mystery. Just like pretty much any other new band in 2012. What stood them apart was their ability to construct Wild Beasts-esque wide-eyed offerings like 'Young' as well as this storming indie anthem.
#22 The Vaccines - 'I Always Knew'
Probably the best song written by a drummer since the days of Razorlight, this ode is filled with some of the most frank lyrics we’ve heard all year, especially in “So let’s go to bed before you say something real/Let’s go to bed before you say how you feel”.
#21 Ministry - 'Ghouldiggers'
The death of Ministry guitarist Mike Scaccia just before Christmas adds a certain twist to the amusing lyrics of 'Ghouldiggers' - which discusses being worth more to the music industry when you’re dead than alive, amid crunching riffs. RIP Mike.
#20 Twin Shadow - 'Five Seconds'
The standout from George Lewis Jr aka Twin Shadow's latest album 'Confess' - an exciting, heady rush of a song, with an ‘us against the world’ vibe.
#19 Rainy Milo - 'Bout You'
We’re expecting big things in 2013 for London songstress Rainy Milo, whose arresting, soulful vocals evoke the memory of Amy Winehouse. We hope that Rainy can match the latter’s success, without the tragic ending.
#18 Bobby Womack - 'Please Forgive My Heart'
The song is heartbreaking in itself but when added to Bobby Womack's history, it's nigh on impossible to stop being emotionally floored by it. The burbling piano is understated, giving his extraordinary vocal prominence instead. The confessional nature of the lyrics are heightened as Womack desperately seeks redemption in the song for his past deeds.
#17 Oliver Tank - ‘Up All Night’
Oliver Tank is a magical talent who didn’t quite take off in the way we had hoped over the course of 2012. Not his fault though, with gems like ‘Up All Night’ making steady appearances. His beautiful brand of electronica hopefully won’t remain underappreciated for much longer.
#16 Foals - 'Inhaler'
The days of Foals' jerky math-pop seem a long, long time ago. Previewing their forthcoming new album, 'Inhaler' came as a surprise - seemingly adopting a Madchester vibe while channelling Rage Against The Machine. A juxtaposition which worked remarkably successfully.
#15 Palma Violets - 'Best Of Friends'
No, we're not talking reminiscing about those violet-flavoured sweeties we all loved but rather the south-east London five-piece that are causing a stir, particularly at the NME HQ. Looks like Rough Trade have picked up on the next big thing.
#14 Jai Paul - 'Jasmine'
Jai Paul continues to thrill and baffle in equal measure. He finally followed 'BTSTU' with a new track, 'Jasmine' - its growling intro subsiding into a smooth classic than a certain Bobby Womack would probably be proud of.
#13 Chairlift - 'Take It Out On Me'
Given the turmoil in the synthpop band, Chairlift's second album was a more emotional affair then their previous effort and when the melodies were at the forefront, the results were deeply affecting, best demonstrated by the astonishing 'Take It Out On Me'.
#12 PAWS - 'Sore Tummy'
If you liked the Smashing Pumpkins when they rocked the house and want to discover possibly the best UK drummer around right now then PAWS will thrill and delight. A track surprisingly absent from the vast majority of end of year lists.
#12 Purity Ring - 'Fineshrine'
Purity Ring nailed that bombastic electro-pop sound with their debut album, 'Shrines'. 'Fineshrine' is one of the many excellent examples of the Canadian duo at their striking best.
#11 Alt-J - 'Tessellate'
One half of our single of the month in October 2011 and indeed, Jack's top track of 2011 - the atmospheric and infectious 'Tessellate' stood out on its own upon its July 2012 single release. Alt-J rarely fail to mesmerise.
#10 Strangers - 'Shine On You'
We're still not quite sure how to write their band name but 'Shine On You' was the band’s finest offering to date. An anthem that should have bothered the upper echelons of the chart but sadly, didn't. Ride the wave of euphoria with arguably the biggest chorus of the year.
#8 HAIM - 'Forever'
They came to our shores in May 2012 as the buzziest band around and still managed to stun most of the UK music industry at The Great Escape festival. 'Forever' is where it all started for HAIM - the unique blend of folk, rock and RnB that saw them top the recent BBC Sound Of 2013 poll.
#7 Arctic Monkeys - 'R U Mine?'
A one-off stop gap single from the boys and a look on what possibly to come on album number 5. Emphasis is placed on guitars here rather than the crooning melodies we saw on 'Suck It And See', this 'Thunderbirds' referencing track excitingly hints at heavier things to come.
#6 Daughter - 'Smother'
Daughter capped off a terrific 2012 by signing for 4AD, who will be putting out the trio's debut album sometime this year. The beguiling 'Smother' signalled a wider scope and ambition than their previous recorded material, suggesting that the forthcoming record will be an alt-folk classic.
#5 Mt. Wolf - 'Life Size Ghosts'
We instantly fell in love with 'Life Size Ghosts', as did pretty much anyone else who listened to the track in 2012. Almost a year on, we remain in awe of the band's mix of pulsating beats, ethereal vocals and folktronica.
#4 Frank Ocean - 'Pyramids'
Ocean's statement about his personal life just ahead of the release of his 'Channel Orange' album was dismissed by some as publicity stunt. The subsequent critical acclaim threw out any such claims. The album's most ambitious track was 'Pyramids', lasting nearly 10 mins but holding the attention of the listener throughout.
#3 Plan B - 'ill Manors'
Plan B's effort at a protest song received more than his fair share of criticism. Yet 'ill Manors' describing more eloquently the emotions expressed by those who feel lost in today's Britain than any politician, expressed even more deeply in his feature film of the same name. One of the most important tracks of 2012.
#2 The xx - 'Angels'
Following on from their Mercury winning debut album was always going to be a challenge. At times, 'Coexist' did match its predecessor, such as on 'Angels' - Romy Madley-Croft's stunning, breathy vocals taking centre stage against their characteristically minimalist background. A wondrously sparse, haunting love song.
#1 BASTILLE - 'Flaws'
We were pretty surprised that BASTILLE didn't feature in the BBC Sound Of 2013. Then again, they've consistently and pleasantly surprised us over the last couple of years. 'Flaws' got a tweak for its 2012 re-release and sounded bigger than ever. Dan Smith and co. were at their most infectious with this synth driven single that highlighted their perfectly gauged harmonies.
Listen to the tracks in a Spotify playlist here, or in the embed above.