Hard to believe, but 2012 is 3/4 over. Before long we’ll be flooded with year-end best-of lists. But there’s always way too much good music to make it onto these lists that you really don’t want to miss. So Death and Taxes, Diffuser, and Spinner got together to pool some of the best songs of 2012 you probably haven’t heard yet. Here are some of our favorites—click over to Spinner’s list below.
Tiny Victories, “Mr Bones”
From the first throbbing electronic pulses of “Mr Bones,” we know we’re about to get hit with a song we’re going to put on repeat. It’s got an optimism from the ’80s smashed together with the wistfulness of the ’90s, yet manages to somehow sound timeless. Tiny Victories, as their band name suggests, is all about the triumph of the little things in life. According to press they named their band after a “guy scraping graffiti off his front porch.” In “Mr Bones” from this year’s “Those Of Us Still Alive” EP, Greg Walters sings about his thoughts on heaven: “I’ve been trying to get in but all I can say is, they’ve got a million different ways to make you pay.” Preach it. We can’t get enough of this track, or the whole EP.
- Alex Moore
JJ Doom, “Guv’nor”
“Guv’nor” sounds like what J-Dilla would sound like if he were still alive, and if that isn’t the world’s greatest compliment I don’t know what is. “Guv’nor” shows just what a minimalist beat, a good bassline, and a simple great flow can do to a hip-hop track – elevating the jawn far above the sum of its already minimal parts. A song this simple shouldn’t be this catchy; Outkast’s “Hey Ya” had 4 chords, this has 3. Simple, fresh ingredients a good meal make, and this tight three minutes packs more into it than some rap artists pack into their whole career. It’s a little like finding out that 2 + 2 + 2 = 1,000.
- Ned Hepburn
Y La Bamba, “Squawk”
Y La Bamba is a Portland, Oregon based outfit led by Luz Elena Mendoza, who released their third album “Court The Storm” this year. All the Y La Bamba records have an exotic flair, supposedly being influenced by Mexican folk music. But the new album kicks it up a notch, with latin rhythms and some songs sung in Spanish. Album opener “Squawk” is a frenetic treat with rushing percussion and rich instrumentation layered over nylon-strung acoustic guitar that sounds like it originated from a warmer climate than you probably live in. “Squawk” will transport you to a better place.
- Alex Moore
Future Islands, “Tomorrow”
Future Islands’ “Tomorrow” sounds like the kind of thing a science fiction writer in 1985 would think a pop ballad in 2012 sounds like. Songs like this don’t come around too often; something like this shouldn’t sound so ahead of its time while still sounding so familiar. Between the slinky, toned bass, the atmospheric keyboards, and vocalist Samuel Herring’s screaming breakdown before working his way back into an R&B growl – it’s one of the most nuanced, eclectic, and downright exciting songs of the year.
- Ned Hepburn
Hot Chip, “Look At Where We Are (Major Lazer Remix)”
Hot Chip’s recent album “In our Heads” has been exactly that for the last 6 months—in our heads. From top to bottom it is a solid album. Our favorite cut has to be the somber yet sweet song “Look at Where We Are.” So when I heard that Major Lazer was going in for a remix I was a bit worried all the honesty in the song would just be transposed into rhythm of fast beats for the dance floor. So I was impressed with where Major Lazer took the song. It keeps the truthfulness of the song, adds a little Caribbean swagger and a breakdown during the chorus. The song is catchy and a true ode to the original. Too often do remixes either don’t add enough or add too much, creating an all new entity in itself. Major Lazer found the sweat spot and transformed this song into one that can be listened to at home alone, and at your favorite club. This is my favorite remix that you probably have not heard yet.
- Kevin Camps
Check out More Best Songs of 2012 you probably haven’t heard yet at SPINNER.