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The 100 Best Tracks of 2012

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  • published
    13 Dec 2012
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    best of 2012
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70: BLACKSMIF
‘…AND THE SUN ROSE OUT’
(SYNCHRONICITY)

Mary Anne Hobbs and Gilles Peterson both transferred to BBC 6Music this year, and Blacksmif’s ‘…And The Sun Rose Out’ is exactly the sort of cut you can see them both prosthelytizing about around the watercooler. The young North Londoner’s track hovers on the threshold between the jazz club and the bashment, oscillating as it does between sunkissed neo-soul and rugged 2-step. As balancing acts go, it’s up there with anything Phillipe Petit ever did – gruff and sweet, heavy and dreamy, spiky and soft-focus.


69: GUNPLAY feat. TRIPLE CS
‘FUCK SHIT IN MY LIFE’
(from BOGOTA RICH: THE PREQUEL, MIXTAPE)

In between his show-stealing guest spots on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Cartoon & Cereal’ and Maybach Music Group’s ‘Power Circle’, the bug-eyed, perma-sniffing Gunplay released a pair of 2012′s most memorable hip-hop tracks, ‘Fuck Shit in my Life’ and ‘Jump Out’. It’s easy to focus on Gunplay’s intensity – and indeed, ‘Jump Out’ has to be 2012′s most purple-faced vein popper, a Hundred Hand Slap of snares, gunshots and one-liners – but he’s also in possession of a Ghostface-esque imagination, and on ‘Fuck Shit’, he really lets it all out, the “just another petty thief / never had a spaghetti feast / mind frame Godfather of the Genovese” anti-hero declaring war on the “bottom feeders, all the snakes and centipedes”. [Audio]


68: BANDSHELL
‘DUST MARCH’
(HESSLE AUDIO)

Help us out, folks – does anything sound quite like ‘Dust March’? Bandshell’s been kicking around under the radar for a good half decade, but nothing in his catalogue holds a guttering candle to this little curio. Fragments of chanced-upon sound – rattling ceramics, distorted yawns, the hiss of wind – echo over an agonisingly slow beat, and the result is some the most uncanny machine music we’ve heard in yonks. Bermuda Triangle techno. [Audio]


67: KCAT
‘BROKEN’ (MIKE DELINQUENT RADIO EDIT)
(MINDSET DANCE)

If this was still 2000 then ‘Broken’ probably wouldn’t have seemed such a breath of fresh air, but this heartbroken 2-step single – driven by guitar and snapping snares over a subtly whomping baseline – really hit the spot for us this year. A timeless sound pulled off with poignancy. [Audio]


66: KOWTON
‘DES BISOUS’
(PALE FIRE)

Bristol boy Kowton’s always been a producer you can get behind, but it wasn’t until 2012 that he really started to find his own sound: on ‘Des Bisous’ and ‘More Games’ (the latter released earlier in the year on Livity Sound, and effectively ‘Des Bisous’ in chrysalis), his brushstrokes became bolder, and he stopped worrying about the details: the drums revel in their sandy distortion, the Danny Weed-meets-Psycho strings are gleefully disconnected from the track’s body, and the whole thing sounds like it was mixed down in a cement mixer. [Audio]


65: BOBBY WOMACK
‘PLEASE FORGIVE MY HEART’ (FUNK VERSION)
(XL)

The last three years have seen Richard Russell focus just as much on the studio as on his label XL, first producing Gil Scott-Heron’s last album I’m New Here, and this year teaming up with Damon Albarn to oversee soul singer Bobby Womack’s The Bravest Man in the Universe – an album that featured some of the troubled artist’s most tender moments in recent memory. ‘Please Forgive My Heart’ was already a stand-out from the record, but on this non-album edit, Russell slips a simple breakbeat into the mix, adding a sense of propulsion to Womack’s longing and providing a welcome contrast to The Bravest Man‘s sparse, hall of mirrors feel.


64: MAIN ATTRAKIONZ feat. DAVINCI
‘DO IT FOR THE BAY’
(from BOSSALINIS & FOOLIYONES, YOUNG ONE)

At its best points, Main Attrakionz’s Bossalinis & Fooliyones fused spaced-out cloud rap with G-funk nostalgia; ‘Do It For The Bay’ is endemic of that development. Harry Fraud provides a Rhodes-and-horns trunk-rattler that allows the laid-back Mondre MAN, the spirited Squadda B, and gravelly guest DaVinci to find their respective comfort zones. While conscious-gangsta Kendrick Lamar is getting all the plaudits for reviving West Coast hip-hop, Main Attrakionz are forging ahead with a post-hyphy, post-backpacker vibe in the Bay Area. [Audio]


63: SKY FERREIRA
‘EVERYTHING IS EMBARRASSING’
(CAPITOL)

While pop-watchers might feel like Sky Ferreira has been around forever, it’s important to remember that the LA multitalent is only 20 years old and only has a pair of proper EPs to her name. On her Ghost EP, the singer acts as a sneering vessel for whatever the song calls for, be it alt-rock, electro-pop, folk. However, the ’80s-styled ‘Everything is Embarrassing’ might be the singer’s best song yet, thanks to writing/production assistance from hitmakers Dev Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid. What starts as a bit of nostalgia ends up a timeless pop ballad. [Audio]


62: CHAMPION
‘CRYSTAL METH’
(BUTTERZ)

Champion might be known as one of UK funky’s brightest luminaries, but he’s long comported himself like a grime producer. His instrumentals have never been afraid to bare their ruff side, and his DJ sets have the antic energy and short attention span you’d expect from Butterz et al. ‘Crystal Meth’ made the debt explicit, and it hit like a roundhouse to the jaw. Messy and madcap, it was about as spirited as grime got in 2012. [Audio]


61: MALA
‘STAND AGAINST WAR’
(DMZ)

Fresh from an adventure in Cuba that led to some fantastic individual tracks (‘Cuba Electronic’, ‘Curfew’) but an album that felt a little like a missed opportunity, dubstep’s all-time greatest rocker finally released ‘Stand Against War’, a legendary Mala track that dates back to at least 2008. The vibes, as ever when Mala’s at his best, are off the wall: hi-hats falling back on themselves as they try to scuttle over that romping bassline, a lead riff that stays in your head from your very first listen. A track in the same vein as classics like ‘Neverland’, and one that should be cherished as such. [Audio]

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