Top 50 Tracks of 2012

Every year, I can’t help but look back at the past 12 months and gauge them against past years. This year has not had the classic albums of years gone by, but with the rise of EDM comes the age of the single. I asked our team to suggest their top three tracks of the year and this list is the pick of the bunch. We’ve got most genres represented but electronic music is heavily prevalent as producers can knock out a track in a matter of minutes (see Star Slinger’s ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ Train to London Refix). This means we can be drowned in a (Frank) ocean of Disclosure knock offs and Burial copies but it also gives new producers a chance to shine on an even playing field. Compiling this list was a difficult task as it showed me the brilliant diversity of the Circulation Magazine team with few tracks being chosen twice. This means the list is not a comprehensive countdown but more a selection of what we enjoyed in 2012. Enough chatter, enjoy the tunes.

50. Cherry Blossom – Stumbeline
A late release in the year from Stumbeline (one third of dupstep trio Swarms). Stumbeline is a Smashing Pumpkins b-side but the artist makes neatly constructed electronic beats with the occasional guest vocalist. This is the first and best track from debut album Spiderwebbed. (Joni Roome)

49. Sorry feat. Andre 3000 – T.I.
Sorry without Andre 3000 would be just any other rap tune. At around 2:30 the tune is absolutely turned on its head. Despite having the same beat, Andre 3000 manages to completely flip the mood of the track due to his insane rhyming ability and his distinctive Southern drawl. An apology to the world, Big Boi and his family – Andre steals this tune and adds another impressive guest spot to his strong 2012. (Joni Roome)

48. In The A feat. T.I. and Ludacris – Big Boi
A boisterous and rowdy ode to Atlanta, three powerful rappers over a militaristic beat – what’s not to love? This is a million miles away from the earnestness of Sorry but is still a brilliant track that adds to a great year for hip-hop and rap. (Joni Roome)

47. 110% – Jessie Ware
Our summer issue cover girl released her Mercury Music prize nominated album Devotion this year. An example of pop done well, this album straddled the mainstream and alternative radio stations. The Julio Bashmore produced 110% is my personal highlight, although copyright issues are currently dogging the track with the ‘carving my initials on your forehead’ sample not being granted permission. (Joni Roome)

46. & It Was U – How To Dress Well
Another of our cover stars from 2012. How To Dress Well’s second full length release Total Loss was widely hailed to be as good as, if not better than his debut. & It Was U was a single from the album and is an example of the minimal, layered vocals that he does so well. (Joni Roome)

45. The Art of Peer Pressure – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick’s album blew everyone away and this track was a perfect highlight of why the album was so acclaimed. An intelligent view of peer pressure and crime in Compton and an unconventional structure made for a refreshing rap track that showed a change in direction for hip-hop as a genre. (Joni Roome)

44. Wings – The Invisible
One of the best albums of the year, a grief filled tribute to vocalist Dave Okumu’s late mother. Wings is one of many great tracks on the album. For fans of In Rainbows-era Radiohead (Joni Roome)

43. Magic feat B. Slade – Recloose
A track that featured on our Spring playlist. Magic is an upbeat tune from New Zealand based producer Recloose. The vocal mix brings so much more to the tune and has been a constant fixture on my playlists this year. (Joni Roome)

42. Pierce – Dominic Lord
After stepping away from the A$AP mob, Dominic Lord caught attention with the striking video for his first, solo track release ‘Pierce’. Produced by the pie-fingering Hudson Mohawke, Dom’s highly visual bars are laid over ethereal cries and a sophisticatedly slowed version of the standard rap-backing formula. His debut Fashion Show EP features examples of his own production. (Jonjo Lowe)

41. Wicked Games – The Weeknd
Originally recorded for The Weeknd’s 2011 mixtape House of Balloons, the song was remastered and released as the lead single for his 2012 album Trilogy. Shortlisted for BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll despite being a successful music act since 2011, The Weeknd are sure to hit the mainstream with their alt-R&B in 2013 and this track was Niamh’s highlight of their releases this year. (Joni Roome).

40. Get Got – Death Grips
Big year for the opinion dividing rap group. Intense, insane and infuriating to fans who booked a ticket for their cancelled tour. Death Grips released two albums this year, the acclaimed The Money Store and the hugely inferior No Love Deep Web. They also got dropped by their label amongst other things. They could still be the biggest musical troll since Joaquin Phoenix went hip-hop but for now they have some credibility as long as they keep putting out songs like Get Got. (Joni Roome)

39. 10 Symphonica IX (My Wait Is U) – Grimes
The first of two entries from Grimes. 10 Symphonica IX is standard Grimes-fare with arpeggiated keys, dreamy vocals and a driving drum beat – this is no slight on Grimes as her standard tunes are head and shoulders above most of her peers in 2012. This one was chosen by Jonjo. (Joni Roome)

38. Wandering Star – Polica
Swirled around my head for months thanks to the fluid rhythms and careful manipulation of frontwoman Leaneagh’s voice. (Alice Brooksbank)

37. Is Your Love Big Enough – Lianne La Havas
I’m a sucker for soul music & have fallen a little bit in love with La Havas & her voice. It was tough to pick one song but after much deliberation and uncertainty this was my final decision. (Niamh Connolly)

36. Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage – Blawan
Blawan’s epic Boiler Room set in May managed to be both year-defining and prescient at once, setting the tone in the UK Bass scene for a year of balls-to-the-wall techno. The highlight of the set was the first emergence of mutant horrocore stomper “Bodies”. As the treasured dublate did the rounds it proceeded to turn raves into existential orgies every time it was dropped. And despite getting a very nicely packaged release courtesy of Joy Orbison’s label Hinge Finger, nothing will beat Boddika rewinding this on the MS Stubnitz a mere ten minutes before the police shut down Bloc. Jus’ Sayin. (Alex Beazley-Long)

35. Chum – Earl Sweatshirt
Odd Future member shows his maturity with this heartfelt track about identity and a lack of a father. Interesting to see how far Earl can go after guest spots and releases like this attracting much warranted attention. (Joni Roome)

34. Obedear – Purity Ring
Purity Ring’s debut album was a popular listen amongst the team and Bex has chosen ‘Obedear’ as the choice cut from a fine sturdy cow of an album. (Joni Roome)

33. Wild – Beach House
A big, echoey song from the Baltimore duo – it always managed to elevate spirits on a long drive with the windows down and that smoky voice drifting… (Alice Brooksbank)

32. Yet Again – Grizzly Bear
Will’s pick of the bunch from Grizzly Bear’s fantastic album Shields. Universally praised and for good reason, Grizzly Bear are one of the best bands around today. (Joni Roome)

31. Inspector Norse – Todd Terje
Sax samples and a groovy (please, let me use that word) beat make ‘Inspector Norse’ a real upbeat single. Sounding like a late night on Miami beach in 1987 – Lucy has revealed herself to be a funk enthusiast with this pick. (Joni Roome)

30. Tesselate – Alt-J
Big year for Mercury Music Prize winners Alt-J. Albums sales rocketed and the critics have been spraying superlatives everywhere about their debut record An Awesome Wave. Tesselate was one the big singles from the album and is Felicia’s pick. (Joni Roome)

29. Higher Ground – TNGHT
Hudson Mohawke and Lunice collaborate to form TNGHT. Big club anthems are the order of the day and Higher Ground was the club shaking, foot stomping anthem of the summer. (Joni Roome)

28.Why Do U Feel? – Moodymann
Kenny Dixon Junior has been around forever, renowned for being a pivotal part of the Detroit underground scene. This song is something different though, chopped up ramshackle blues drums and vocals stop and start for a few minutes before finally being allowed to breath. The results are heartbreaking, a track full of warmth and positivity. Hearing Ben UFO play this in full at the Four Tet all-nighter in Brixton was one of my favourite moments of the year. (Alex Beazley-Long)

27. Wolf – First Aid Kit
When I heard this song, I realised I too wanted to experience the adventure and angst of finding my wolf-mother and wondered why I hadn’t started the search earlier in the year. With this song as my soundtrack, I danced in meadows, I howled at the moon, I even sacrificed a lamb. My wolf-mother has yet to turn up on my doorstep, but the search continues with this song on repeat throughout. (Alice Lawrence)

26. Disparate Youth – Santigold
I’ve been a fan of her music for what feels like forever and the 2012 album ‘Master of My Make-Believe’ didn’t disappoint, this was my highlight. (Niamh Connolly)

25. Pink Matter feat. Andre 3000- Frank Ocean
Difficult to choose one song from this stellar album, possibly the album’s only weak point is its lack of one particular stand out single, but this is a weak point that affects end-of-year-list makers only. This typifies the originality and talent that Frank Ocean possesses. Andre 3000 has had some year, every single guest spot he has taken on a track he has stolen the limelight, Pink Matter is no different.(Joni Roome)

24. Gone Too Long – Himself Her
Another club track for the list. Lucy picked this one and it’s had some playback around York for the past couple of months. A real smooth vocal line over handclaps and synths. (Joni Roome)

23. Wut – Le1f
I was never going to leave this gem out. Not the most universally acclaimed track from the team but one of my personal favourites. Insanely camp with an equally OTT video, great rhymes and a hook that will stick in your head for days. (Joni Roome)

22. The Ego – Nicolas Jaar & Theatre Roosevelt
An interesting vocal line dominates this tune as Jaar works his customary magic with the beat. This is a divisive track and Olivia sits in the ‘Love It’ camp. A late release in the year and it sneaks into our countdown deservedly. (Joni Roome)

21. Thinkin Bout You – Frank Ocean
One of two Frank Ocean tunes in our countdown, this one selected by editor Jonjo. A prime example of Ocean’s talent as a storytelling songwriter and also of his stellar vocals. “A tornado flew around my room before you came/Excuse the mess it made, it usually doesn’t rain” – this is the kind of simplistic yet powerful lyrics that so propelled Frank Ocean up the end of year lists. (Joni Roome)

20. Express Yourself feat. Nicky Da B – Diplo
Ooooooh, controversial choice alert. Human meme machine Wesley Pentz aka Diplo outdid himself with this tune. An eye-catching video, ridiculous lyrics courtesy of Nicky Da B and an incessant stream of retweets of twerking girls on Diplo’s Twitter feed. Despite this, it is a very catchy song and perfect for a 2am play on a night out. (Joni Roome)

19. Holdin’ On – Flume
A quavering soulful vocal line adorns a bouncing instrumental track. Wild vocals and a tight beat make this a match made in heaven. It’s fresh and interesting and it’s another of Will’s picks. (Joni Roome)

18. The Narcissist – Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland
2012 was the year my car’s headlights finally began functioning to an acceptably safe standard. And lo, the night-time drives could begin, with Dean and Inga never missing a journey. Even in the face of sharp corners, unlit cyclists and deer on the road, we remained calm and soothed by the delicate ebbs of tenderness in this song. (Alice Lawrence)

17. Lost In Tokyo – Koreless
Jamie xx dropped this into his Boiler Room set early in the year and it finally got a release in July this year. An modified vocal sample over a minimal spacious beat with a hint of warm chords – lovely. This one was Olivia’s pick. (Joni Roome)

16. One Day/Reckoning Song (Wankelmut Remix) – Asaf Avidan & The Mojos
This tune was chosen in it’s original version by Felicia and the remix was chosen by Olivia. I’ve included the remix in this list as I felt it reworked the original into something a bit special. (Joni Roome)

15. Hide Yourself – 14th
This gives me goosebumps. It’s tender but dancey at the same time. The beat is definitely there, but lets the incredible vocals dominate. Their EP has some other gems, ‘Take Me There’ in particular is infectious. Is it mean to say 14th are a better Alunageorge? (Phoebe Rilot)

14. Silver Springs – Lykke Li
This is a Fleetwood Mac cover from the compilation album ‘Just Tell Me That You Want Me: Tribute To Fleetwood Mac.’ This was released in August and I have not stopped playing it since. This cover from Lykke Li is exactly the territory that she thrives in, with room for her haunting voice to take centre stage. (Joni Roome)

13. Bird on a Wire – Riff Raff and Action Bronson
An incredible laid back beat with a sexy sax sample made by rising star Harry Fraud is given vocal treatment by the interesting combination of Riff Raff and Action Bronson. Raff is an internet celebrity and ex-from G to Gent star whilst Bronson is a big, bearded ex-chef from Queens. Do not approach this track with any cynicism because it is absolutely fantastic as both men put aside any comedic aspects to deliver a real earnest effort. (Joni Roome)

12. Hood – Perfume Genius
Beautiful and heartbreaking. Perfume Genius, a.k.a Mike Hadreas, sings from the heart in the most painfully genuine way. This song is from his sophomore album ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’ released earlier this year. My boyfriend cried when we saw him perform it in a candle-lit chapel. (Phoebe Rilot)

11. It’s Too Late (Snakehips Remix) – Wild Belle
London producer Ollie Dickinson has been growing from strength to strength over the last year and this offering only shows a hint of what more he has to offer. (Will Olenski)

10. Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine) – Darq E Freaker feat. Danny Brown
‘Huge’, I think justifies it. I like how the video sort of looks like your own house party if your friends were a bit cooler and Danny Brown crashed it. He’s the best/weirdest rapper of all time? (Phoebe Rilot)

9. Tapes & Money – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
It’s been a big year for Orlando Higginbotham aka T.E.E.D. Hitting the mainstream with his electronic, club and radio friendly beats he has gained massive plaudits for his incredible live show: costumes, dancers, disco balls, lasers and a glitter cannon make him an amazing artist on the stage and on the radio. Lucy Watson chose ‘Tapes and Money’ as her favourite release of his. (Joni Roome)

8. Fuck U All the Time (Shlohmo remix) – Jeremih
Anything Shlohmo touches is gold, and this remix doesn’t disappoint. Jeremih’s ‘Late Nights with Jeremih’ is probably my Mixape of the Year (a high accolade). He’s taken the dark, dirty RnB musings of The Weeknd but added elements like ‘humour’ and ‘2 Chainz’ to make something unique and erm, ‘2012’? (Phoebe Rilot)

7. Jasmine – Jai Paul
XL’s resident enigma released only his second track in four years and it was well worth the wait. His modest, reserved vocals combined with tumbling, reverb heavy bass and funky guitar licks that Prince in his 80s heydey would have been proud of. The end result is the perfect 21st Century love (lust?) song, just as unsure and self-aware as it is seductive and heartfelt. (Alex Beazley-Long)

6. Ashtray Wasp – Burial
The emotional climax to Will Bevan’s sprawling masterpiece Kindred EP was special even by his incredibly high standards. Ever since the success of his two albums, Burial has been pushing the boundaries of what electronic music can achieve, abandoning the constraints of traditional song structure and focusing more on the states of mind that sounds can conjure. “Ashtray Wasp” is the perfect evocation of this, clocking in at twelve minutes of feedback, vinyl scratches, and gut-wrenching vocal samples that is simply devastating.(Alex Beazley-Long)

5. Genesis – Grimes
The combination of vapourous vocals and bouncy basslines carried me floating through the last days of summer in a golden haze. (Alice Brooksbank)

4. Backseat Freestyle – Kendrick Lamar
Already canonised as a modern classic despite not even being six months old, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. City is one of the best releases of recent months; if not years. Bravado, tongue in cheek boasts, a switch in delivery style, a killer sample and brilliant instrumental track – it has it all. ‘Damn I got bitches’ and ‘Biatch/ No Way’ are sure to be heard shouted out at hip-hop club nights for years to come. Kendrick prays his “dick may get big as the Eiffel Tower”, I’m unsure of this genetic fact but the hype surrounding this track certainly is as big as the Parisian landmark. (Joni Roome)

3. Say My Name (Cyril Hahn Remix) – Destiny’s Child
Chosen by Bex, this was the tune that surely soundtracked the alt-students freshers week 2012. Blogs, clubs, radio – this brilliant remix was everywhere despite being insanely basic in it’s production. It takes a well known vocal sample, slows it over a club beat and it works in a massive way. The ‘ooh’ hook is infuriatingly catchy. (Joni Roome)

2. Modern Driveway – Luke Abbott
Signed to Gold Panda’s NOTOWN label, Luke Abbott was selected by the man himself because of his potential. Gold Panda released Financial District/ Mountain around the same time Luke Abbott released Modern Driveway and the student usurped the master. Modern Driveway is an absolutely gorgeous, late night, low key electronic track with a glowing heart. Ticking along gently with elements so quiet you might not hear them. Woodblocks and strings decorate the main synth line until it all combines and twists into one. A beautiful example of what one man and a laptop can do. (Joni Roome)

1. Climax – Usher
It couldn’t be anything else. This is not the track that Diplo and Usher should have made, it should have been a noisy, hype anthem with generic club vocals but instead we got Climax. An example of the skill of restraint – Diplo holds back with minimal production and lets Usher take centre stage with his mournful lyrics. The opening synth sound, the minimal electronic drumkit, the ticking hi-hat in the background and the silence make it a beautifully put together tune. The strings were added by classical composer Nico Muhly that reflects on the considered and crafted production methods. This tune got hyped on the blogs, played on the radio and in DJ sets all summer, Oneman’s selection in particular caused Beacons and Warehouse Project crowds to erupt into a sing-along.Diplo stated that his thinking behind the track was – “I was making something like a minimal techno record with Atlanta strip clubs in mind.” A brilliant description of what was the best single of 2012. (Joni Roome)

Joni Roome