Man Without Country – The Songs of 2012

A dreadful 2012 comes to an end. I was obliterated and now moderately stabilized. Questions of belonging still flutter like manic fireflies in my head. Man without country. And through it all there was always music. This was a somewhat weak and uninspiring year for new sounds and writing. But just like in years past (here and here), I managed to compile a list of 20 songs that I should’ve written about, but couldn’t. These aren’t necessarily the songs I listened to the most, but rather the ones I want to remember 2012 by. I’ve gathered them here with words, in the hopes that they are the good I’ll carry with me into the future.

The songs below can be downloaded by clicking on the song title (right click+save). Clicking on an image will refer to its source.

So with the right amount of gloom and very little color. Here is my soundtrack of the past 365 days.

20 • Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy • I See A Darkness

We begin with seeing the glass half empty put to song. Familiar disintegration of a friendship. Will Oldham uplifts his own creation. Still honing in on the dark. Yearning for that person who’ll shed light. But now tapping a foot to the beat while at it.

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19 • Major Lazer • Get Free (feat. Amber Coffman)

Like grasping for much-needed air, or yearning to wake up liberated of pain after a long and burdening ailment. A drive towards the unknown, with reggae music playing in the car.

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http://www.alexeytitarenko.com/cityshadows_pix/city_pict5a.jpg18 • James Vincent McMorrow • Ghosts

You could weave this into a love story with pale faces, fangs and wolves. This is off the Twilight soundtrack. I have yet to see an installment. Detached of any preconceived notions of what I think that vampire saga is, I listen to James Vincent McMorrow serve up haunting and beautiful sounds intertwined.

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17 • WhoMadeWho • Inside World

Hot Chip disenchanted and LCD Soundsystem vanished, so I turned to these Danish innovators for a boost instead.

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16 • Fiona Apple • Regret

1999 seems so far away. Late teenage years and Fast As You Can. Two decades later Fiona Apple’s angst remains, and has that PJ Harvey edge to it that penetrates even more. Filled with fired-up imagery set to an acoustic backdrop, The Idle Wheel is arguably the best album of the year. Or maybe simply a heartbreaking work of staggering genius © Dave Eggers.

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15 • Efterklang • The Ghost

A marching band from Denmark charges towards you in slow motion. Forces you to address hidden demons. Hoists you up to another stratosphere. To get a different perspective and figure out who you are.

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14 • The Walkmen • Heaven

Rock anthem for a new generation.

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13 • Sharon Van Etten • Ask

The slow and steady rise of SVE. We’ve come a long way since the much-loved Much More Than That. I was a participant throughout. Seeing her live for the third time this year, she performed Tramp in its entirety. An album polished, decorated and so very complete. As smoke floats outside my window she sings Like cigarette ash / the world is collapsing around me. And what follows is a confession I could never make.

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12 • Bat For Lashes • All Your Gold

There is an uncanny resemblance to that Gotye hit. The difference is that Natasha Khan doesn’t yell. She seduces. Powers over with a bass line to keep you alert. Concludes with warm strings so that you fall for her once more. And never hurt her again.

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11 • Grizzly Bear • Yet Again

September 26 Massey Hall. Grizzly Bear put on a spectacle. Their lighting designer deserves some sort of award for those illuminated flying jellyfish in the background. It was a painfully slow falling in love with Shields. Now I’m not quite sure where that feeling is. I’m mainly left with this hit.

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10 • Melody’s Echo Chamber • I Follow You

True dream pop. Melody Prochet adheres to the genre with hypothesized words of devotion. With a hook, an irresistible soaring electric guitar and the moment of truth at 2:51 when fantasy becomes a reality.

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9 • Young Galaxy • Shoreless Kid

The sole Canadians on this list. Every song they release seems superior to the one before. A clear evolution of sound. And here, the moments that bear no words are exceptionally crisp. Moments that elevate towards the crest of a hill, it being 4:16 where Nothing’s as simple / As knowing you’re safe / In your home / At the end of the night.

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8 • Jai Paul • Jasmine

A phenom emerged in 2010. Now he teases once again with a demo that keeps you yearning for more. More manipulation. More of that falsetto, so distinctly recognizable. A single every two years is simply not enough. He moves at his own pace. So in the meantime, trip the light fantastic.

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7 • Heartless Bastards • Marathon

A race. This song is a marathon. Slow and steady. Can seem monotonous with heartbeats too regular. But then the moment of truth at 5:25, when the end is in sight. And the exhilarating sound you want to hear while crossing a finish line.

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http://payload75.cargocollective.com/1/0/128/3812235/tumblr_lywy9vgIt51qawyaco2_500.jpg6 • Scott Matthews • Seems So Long Ago, Nancy

The master of covers returns. Scott Matthews once delivered the greatest rendition of a Smiths song, and now tackles Leonard Cohen, a master of his own accord. A classic waltz, the tragic tale of Nancy melts ever so slightly into an even smoother tune. The poetry I wish I could come up with.

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5 • The Tallest Man On Earth • Little Brother

A Swedish Dylan-esque plea. Let’s get lucid. Let’s be better.

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4 • The Naima Train • Goodbye 5 Times

The Scandinavian invasion carries on. Maria Nyström is the most recent addition to this list. She holds a secret in her voice. States the obvious while twirling, looping and playing magic tricks. Conducts a train and I am on board.

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3 • Twin Shadow • Five Seconds

A track that belongs to this past summer of thorny walks along the streets I live in. A guitar that throws me back to a song I can’t recall. My childhood mid 80s in Israel. Something about George Lewis Jr’s song delivery makes me a non-believer. This is a fearsome act. A straightforwardness that is denial. A great false alarm that begs repetition.

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http://payload.cargocollective.com/1/0/128/134667/david-lynch-e-isabella-rossellini1.jpg2 • Jessie Ware • Wildest Moments

A marvel. Jessie Ware delivers the perfect pop ballad. The nature of things boxed into 3 minutes and 42 seconds with a gorgeous vocal and a drum that’s the heartbeat of a relationship. Through the good and bad. As a summer memory, this tune was playing in repeat, over and over, while struggling to walk down Bloor Street en route to yet another exhausting therapy session. Wishing I could move to this at a different pace.

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http://payload53.cargocollective.com/1/0/128/3365364/6836186295_5e84de15c7_b_905.jpg1 • Susanne Sundfør • White Foxes

Winter came early this year. The past summer was a haze. Three months that seemed like eternity. Restricted and desolate. A cool wind from Oslo, Norway crept into Apt. 3313 in the heart of downtown Toronto. I think I was trimming my beard at the time. The only radio station I listen to played this stirring ballad. Then a halt. The splendor of it seemed to have slightly charged this lethargic body of mine. I might have seen an end in sight. And I’ve been listening to it ever since. It’s the solitary white scenery infused with a rich hearty reverberation that makes this glorious song my favorite of the year.

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Happy Holidays.

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