1. "You as You Were" Shearwater
2. "Animal Life" Shearwater
The top 2 songs of the year come from the same artist, a not uncommon feature in the Vague Space end of the year countdowns, and the sounds of the songs were similar -- shimmering pounding beats slowly ebbing and rising to powerful explosions. I really can't give justice in a description to the beauty of the music Jonathan Meiburg was able to achieve on these two tracks. Coming into 2012, at no point did I think of Shearwater as one of the great indie rock bands of recent history, but with these two songs off the stunning first half of Animal Joy, my mind has been changed.
3. "Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips" Moonface with Siinai
4. "The House that Heaven Built" Japandroids
5. "Continuous Thunder" Japandroids
6. "Yesterday's Fire" Moonface with Siinai
There is definitely some symmetry to the top of this song listing, as 3 bands represent all six tracks, in this case Spencer's latest incarnation bookending two tracks from the band that shot highest into my consciousness this year, Japandroids. 2012 was likely Spencer's least "productive" year since before I heard of him in 2004, despite winning album of the year and scoring two top 6 songs. But of course, when you spend every year since 2005 putting out an album that either wins album of the year or comes in second, that's a record of achievement difficult to live up to. Japandroids, though, had an incredible year capped off for me by seeing them twice at the start of December, an amazing live show that will surely make my top 10 favorite concerts of the year. And amazingly, the best song on the Celebration Rock album, "Younger Us," didn't even make the chart as it had been previously released and made this countdown in the same exact form in 2010. So yeah. Big year for the Canadian duo. And Spencer too.
7. "I Want to Be Pleasantly Surprised, Not Expectedly Let Down" Dan Mangan
I'm dying to hear Dan's new album if this song, off a 2-song single released this fall, is any indication of how great his music continues to be. I assume he's got one coming out next year and I will assume it will be awesome. And yes, that's 5 straight songs by Canadian bands (one with Finnish backers). Every year it seems the Canadians dominate my song list.
8. "Waking Season" Caspian
9. "Primitive Girl" M. Ward
10. "Varúð" Sigur Ros
The buildup in "Waking Season" to its abrupt and devastating finish is truly remarkable. And Sigur Ros always has a gem like this on every album. But these two gorgeous post-rock instant classics bookend a short and sweet little track from M. Ward that I could not get outta my head (hee) all summer.
11. "We Drift Like Worried Fire" Godspeed You! Black Emperor
12. "Civilian Stripes" Divine Fits
13. "MariKKKopa" Desaparacidos
Both GY!BE and Desaparacidos had not released any new music since lengthy hiatuses came to each collection of artists nearly a decade ago. I honestly did not expect to hear anything new from either of them this year -- or any year -- and it was with little fanfare and all kinds of surprise that not only did new music get slipped into release this fall from each of them but just how good the music was. Godspeed's song is actually the long-played live gem "Gamelan" in a recorded form (for the first time) and it takes a while to get going (it's a 20-minute track) but once it does, you can't help but be transfixed. Meanwhile, longtime Bright Eyes' frontman Conor Oberst got back with old friends Desaparacidos to write this seething track about Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the evils of immigration policy pushed by racists like him. Really brilliant stuff. So glad to have them back. Oh, and in between is a song from the very first album in the hopefully longlasting collaboration between Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs and Britt Daniel of Spoon. What's crazy about this is that way back in 2002, Britt did a split EP with Conor for the "Home" series (this was Volume IV). Ten years later, they're next to each other in this countdown in new and old collaborations. And indie rock is thankful for all their contributions.
14. "Youth is Wasted on the Young" Young Galaxy
15. "Alex" Girls
16. "Lightshow" Plants and Animals
17. "Tuck the Darkness In" Bowerbirds
Four songs from early in the year (and one from last year, actually) and of the more upbeat, rocking beats than some of the other tracks on this list. "Catchy" or "poppy" might even be an accurate description for most of the songs, particularly the first two here. And of course, Canadians are prevalent again.
18. "Pale Lights" Mount Eerie
19. "It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy" Passion Pit
20. "Heartbreaking Bravery" Moonface with Siinai
Phil Elverum and Mount Eerie had easily his greatest year of music since the groundbreaking The Glow Part 2 (as The Microphones) back in 2003. After several years of decent but not really memorable releases as Mount Eerie, this year saw two solid albums and a bunch of incredible songs, including "Pale Lights," which would have fit right into The Glow's tracklist without trouble. Great year for Phil and the band (who I got to see twice in concert) and I'm so happy to hear "Pale Lights" over and over again.
21. "All of This Will Go" Guided by Voices
22. "House Shape" Mount Eerie
23. "This Summer" Superchunk
24. "Varðeldur" Sigur Ros
25. "Angels" The XX
Mount Eerie makes another quick appearance right behind another comeback band that actually put out three albums this year and right in front of another comeback band that released this catchy one-off single in the wake of last year's majestic Majesty Shredding, which followed a decade-long absence. This was definitely a year for nostalgia and comebacks, with Godspeed, Desaparacidos, Guided by Voices, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and others all reforming to put out new music. Either this was a down year for newer bands or just an up year for really old bands or perhaps I'm getting too old to appreciate new bands (I sure as fuck hope not). Hey, the XX are pretty damn new.
26. "Shivers" Divine Fits
27. "Backsell" Desaparacidos
28. "Solitude" Stagnant Pools
You can tell I'm a bit excited about the Desaparacidos reunion (and upcoming tour). Both new tracks from the 2-song single make my top 30. And Stagnant Pools and Divine Fits released debut albums this year, so I'm still into new stuff. Thank god.
29. "Headed for the Door" Moonface with Siinai
30. "Chocolate Boy" Guided by Voices
31. "I Walked Home Beholding" Mount Eerie
32. "Mladic" Godspeed You! Black Emperor
I've mentioned all these bands before in this countdown so I'll just say that Godspeed's recorded version of the live gem known as "Albanian" is pretty damn brilliant but maybe I've heard it on my Godspeed mix too much through the years to truly appreciate it (unlike the new version of "Gamelan," which I never had a good recording of). And if "I Walked Home Beholding" doesn't leave you choked up, you have no heart.
33. "Keep the Boy Alive" Sebadoh
34. "Dead Sailor" Stagnant Pools
35. "Myth" Beach House
36. "Saskatoon" P.S. I Love You
37. "Ocean Roar" Mount Eerie
38. "Wolf's Law" The Joy Formidable
39. "Ecce Homo" Titus Andronicus
40. "Plague" Crystal Castles
A wide variety of tracks in this little septet (is that a word?). Mount Eerie joins Moonface with 4 songs in the top 40, the top represented bands so far. Sebadoh came out of deep hibernation to release a 5-song EP that hearkened back to their glory days of the '90s. And the rest of the tracks are from new or newish bands that mostly pleased with releases this year (although I was disappointed in Titus Andronicus less sweeping Local Business).
41. "Immaculate" Shearwater
42. "The Nights of Wine and Roses" Japandroids
43. "Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1" The Mountain Goats
I love love love (hee) John Darnielle and his Mountain Goats and I probably listened to them this year as much as any other band but it was mostly back catalog tracks that continued to inspire instead of the new album, which was a bit of a disappointment, particularly considering how much I was anticipating it. But this song was one of the strong ones.
44. "Laura" Bat for Lashes
45. "Shitty City" Moonface with Siinai
46. "Keep it in Motion" Guided by Voices
47. "Harlem Roulette" The Mountain Goats
48. "Gone in Bloom and Bough" Caspian
49. "Consistency" Stagnant Pools
50. "Rembihnútur" Sigur Ros
And we close out our weecap part of the countdown with tracks from bands that have all graced the countdown already along with Bat for Lashes' hauntingly beautiful little track that nearly crosses a line into maudlin but holds on just in time.
51. "Lay Your Cheek on Down" Moonface with Siinai
52. "Shallow" Beach Fossils
53. "Abraham's Daughter" Arcade Fire
54. "Soothe Me" Yuck
55. "Arbitrary High" Sebadoh
56. "Stupid Things" Yo La Tengo
57. "Walk the Furrows" Bowerbirds
58. "Shoreless Kid" Young Galaxy
59. "Through the Trees Pt. 2" Mount Eerie
60. "Rising Below" Dirty Three
(song count update... Moonface 6, Mount Eerie 5)
61. "Child I Will Hurt You" Crystal Castles
62. "Hideaway" Passion Pit
63. "Hi" Xiu Xiu
64. "Masollan" Balmorhea
65. "Dept. of Disappearance" Jason Lytle
66. "In the Yard" Bowerbirds
67. "Take a Walk" Passion Pit
68. "One Engine" Decemberists
69. "Drift Dive" The Antlers
70. "Fjögur píanó" Sigur Ros
(song count update... Moonface 6, Mount Eerie 5, Sigur Ros 4)
71. "My Love is Real" Divine Fits
72. "Pissing" Low
73. "The Descent" Bob Mould
74. "Stay Useless" Cloud Nothings
75. "Fire's Highway" Japandroids
76. "201o" Plants and Animals
77. "Bombs Away" Bird of Youth
78. "Spiderfighter" Guided by Voices
79. "Insolence" Shearwater
80. "Tried to Quit Smoking" Titus Andronicus
(song count update... Moonface 6, Mount Eerie 5, Sigur Ros 4, Guided by Voices 4, Shearwater 4, Japandroids 4)
81. "Until I Am Whole" The Mountain Goats
82. "Evil's Sway" Japandroids
83. "He Rises! Our Union Bellboy" Guided by Voices
84. "Ekki Mukk" Sigur Ros
85. "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When you Give It" Stars
86. "Heaven" The Walkmen
87. "My Drugs" Sebadoh
88. "Dream Odyssey" Mono
89. "Half American" It Hugs Back
90. "Class Clown Spots a UFO" Guided by Voices
(song count update... Moonface 6, Guided by Voices 6, Mount Eerie 5, Sigur Ros 5, Japandroids 5, Shearwater 4. Stars and Mono tie for the most disappointing new album of the year, each only scoring a single track in the countdown.)
91. "Cry for Judas" The Mountain Goats
92. "Automatic" Yuck
93. "Where We Belong" Passion Pit
94. "Star of the Age" Shearwater
95. "Porcellous" Caspian
96. "Watch the Corners" Dinosaur Jr.
97. "Breaking the Yearlings" Shearwater
98. "Sympathy for Spastics" Parenthetical Girls
99. "Artifical Paradises" Hammock
100. "Christmas in the Room" Sufjan Stevens
(final count: Moonface 6, Shearwater 6, Guided by Voices 6, Mount Eerie 5, Sigur Ros 5, Japandroids 5)
Happy Sufjan New Year everyone!