They don’t make it like they used to…

For 20 odd years now I’ve been keeping annual lists of my favourite things – music, books, films. If you remember High Fidelity (which made my lists for best book and best movie btw) at all then you know exactly how blokes love to make such lists. For the most part it’s been pretty casual. I don’t have a book I religiously record these things in, though I should. Most of the lists have been lost thereabouts over the years. Occasionally I’ll come across a scrap of paper with, say, my favourite songs of 1983 scrawled on it. I’ll sit back, read the list, nod my head, likely thinking yeah, not bad, and, shoot, I remember that.

When it comes to music I’ve found an informal way of keeping tabs on these things. I have an iTunes playlist called Best Years. Supposedly it’s the best songs of every year starting way back when. Originally, just as it was when I did my hand written lists, I went for the top 10, which is the classic. After a while I realised that was pretty arbitrary, and sort of unfair. Some years, great years, rare years, might have 12 great songs for example. Who am I to leave off two because they don’t fit? More often the problem is the opposite – I can’t find 10 songs that meet that stringent requirement. If there’s only 5 then that’s all I’ll select. If it’s less than that, then so be it.

Maybe because I’m getting older, or maybe my tastes aren’t moving with the times, but I find there has been a drastic fall in the number of songs that can be called ‘best’ over the last decade. I don’t know if more than one or two make it from 2012. Go back 20 years and there were plethora.

So here I am about to list out my favourite songs from 2012, but it’s important to know that most of these don’t make the best years cut. I’m picking them as the best of a relatively ordinary bunch, based on the ratings I’ve given them. So here it is, my best songs of 2012:

My favourite song of the year was clearly Cherokee, by Cat Power (though, worth noting, just 3 1/2 stars, when most years my best songs are 4+ stars plus). I’ve like Cat Power for years, but this is her best work I think. It’s a hypnotic tune that swirls around you and draws you in.

Clare de lune by Flight Facilities (w. Christine Hoberg), is another very good song, and not one you could imagine 20 years ago. It’s a beautiful, seductive piece of music that has something of the orchestral feel the name would suggest. It’s another tune that has you floating on top of it, a pretty voice, a hypnotic electronic melody reverberating beneath, then tinkling sweetly as if leading you to a happy place.

The next is a piece of music I’ve found to be quite divisive of opinions: Same Love, by Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert. Not surprising really. Basically it’s about gay love, about it being just the ‘same love’ as anyone else. It’s well done, clever, but the highlight is when Mary Lambert sings her refrain: “….I can’t change even if I tried, even if I wanted to, my love, my love, my love, she keeps me warm…” It deserves to be one of the songs of the year, and it’s a message worth hearing again and again until it gets through. Given the current high rotation we’re likely to hear it again and again. For the record their other big song – Thrift Shop – gives me the shits.

There’s probably a bunch of songs that round the year of the best: Providence, by Lisa Mitchell (love her voice, she’s a mini-fave of mine); Boy, by Emma Louise; Gold On The Ceiling, by the Black Keys; Sweet Nothing, by Calvin Harris (w. Florence Walsh); Lost, by Frank Ocean; and I’m Into You, by Chet Faker. Not sure if this is strictly 2012 (or 2011), but really like Civilian, by Wye Oak, more than most of these.

The highest rated of any of these songs is 3 1/2, most are 3 stars, but I’ve squeezed in some less highly rated than that. That would be unheard of even 10 years ago.

As a point of comparison, here’s a selection of songs from 1992 as good as, and mostly better than, the selection above:

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Creep – Stone Temple Pilots

One – U2

Remedy – The Black Crowes

Winter – Tori Amos

Finally – Ce Ce Peniston

Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton (great album all round)

Sounds of Then (This is Australia) – GANGgajang

I Could Be Wrong – PIL

Everybody Hurts – REM

Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Fucking good year 1992, and for the record not all of these made my Best Years list, though there are some all time favourite songs here. I’m a tough marker. 2 1/2 is an average good song, these range between 3 1/2 stars and 5. Then there’s other great music from 1992 I haven’t listed here just as good as last years list, and more of them – from Hunters & Collectors, Died Pretty, Bruce Springsteen, The Lemonheads… It was an era of great bands – not listed here but featuring in the years around are bands like Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Crowded House, Massive Attack, Metallica, the Cruel Sea, Soundgarden, and sundry others. Gee, I really rocked out then, and loved it.

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