30. The Weeknd – The Morning
Abil Tesfaye turned mystery into a buzz R&B hasn’t seen since Drake traded a wheel chair for a mic. “The Morning” capitalizes on that mystery crafting an ode to strippers that utilizes a beat Timbaland and Missy wish they created in the Ginuwine/Aaliyah days.
29. Toro y Moi – New Beat
The funk of “New Beat” creeps up on you when you aren’t expecting it. Toro Y Moi’s thinly veiled syncopated rhymes and falsetto expertly blend with the cacophony of synth and 70’s disco grooves. If Off the Wall era Michael Jackson were here he would be impressed.
28. St. Vincent – Cruel
Stranger Mercy has many star making moments, but “Cruel” finds Annie Clark at her most pop friendly moment. From the enchanting string opening, to Clark’s bubbling vocals and the see-saw guitar make a fetching song out of the narrator’s lament of spiteful human nature. Something many songwriters can’t do.
27. The War On Drugs – Baby Missles
The video for “Baby Missles” sets the tone perfectly for The War on Drugs’ throwback rock sound. A little Boss, some Joy Division and a slice of Arcade Fire influence this insistent track about exploration and discovery. The harmonica kills it on this one.
26. Frank Ocean – Novacane
Ocean may have graduated to the big leagues by being asked to work with Jay-Z, Kanye West and Beyonce, but I still think his own work trumps his recent assignments. The inescapable emotional journey of “Novacane” compares viagara, Auto Tune and affections of multiple women to the feeling of draining his body numb.
25. Alabama Shakes – I Found You
Could there be a band with more buzz going into 2012? The Alabama Shakes exploded with a 4 track self-titled EP full of soul-inspired blues songs with blistering enthusiam by lead singer Brittany Howard. “I Found You” expresses the jubliation of a newly discovered love.
24. Caveman – Thankful
“Thankful” beckons with lead singer Matthew Iwanusa’s airy vocals amid a subtle combo of percussion, warble guitar and synth. The dreamlike track floats by with the repetitive phrase: “thankful are my friends with remorse”.
23. Cut Copy – Hanging On To Every Heartbeat
Cut Copy managed to slow down their whirring parade of rock and dance anthems on Zonoscope for a song perfect for a walk on the beach. Part Empire of the Sun, part MGMT, “Hanging On To Every Heartbeat” balances psychedelic effects with enough guitar strumming to allow you to “drift away so you might never see the light of day”.
22. M83 – Steve McQueen
Anthony Gonzalez aka M83 frontman is an expert in these types of new wave/ambient anthems. It doesn’t get much more epic than the outro of “Steve McQueen” and shouting “just waiting” over and over.
21. Turf War – Cheers to the Years
In what I can only describe as southern garage rock, Turf War crafted their catchiest track yet in “Cheers To The Years”. Be sure to bang this on your next drive through the deep South.