Best Tracks of 2012: Editorial Picks

11 Jan 2013 — Editor

After yesterday’s lovely staff picks, today we’d like to continue our manic list assault (at least that’s what it started to feel like over the past two weeks or so) with the tracks that we, i.e. the editors, i.e. Tonje and Henning, have been into in 2012, a little recapitulation that we’ve come to admire over the past two years, which is why we don’t want to stop it as yet although over the course of the past year, No Fear Of Pop has finally become something bigger than just the two of us. Check out both our lists below, and listen to (most of) the tracks in two handy Soundcloud sets. Thanks for introducing that feature, dear Soundcloud.

From our perspective, 2012 started with an inevitable growing obsession for the laptop produced, obscure pop, UK garage or weird techno, respectively modifying our usage of words such as "psychedelic" or "fuzzy" to "sonic" and "mind-altering". If you've been reading this blog at all in 2012, you may have noticed this too, but who knows, perhaps will 2013 see the return of garage pop guitars, but without trying to sound too euphuistic, we somehow doubt it.

One more thing, this year marks the very first time that we could actually (and accidentally) agree on our track of the year, which is Kuedo’s marvellous “Work, Live & Sleep In Collapsing Space”. Unsure if that is a good or a bad sign for the future of the website. You decide.

Read our selections after the break. 


On my list below you will find pieces of humane, electronic noise in curtesy of Holly Herndon, industrial techno of Andy Stott, a transonic club banger from Stay+, S Olbricht's cassette-tech production, the new-agey "psalmgaze" of Solar Year or the pitching dark, suffocating landscape of Burial; all of which have given us different angles from the poisonous life after 2AM, with or without strobe lights involved. In the nightlife aftermath we wake up to sounds of engulfing ambience and timelessness from the likes of Lights Dim and Gallery Six, Young Magic, Vestals, Theo Bass or Mirroring's mind-blowing "Silent From Above", over to the production-sharp pop brilliance of Jessie Ware, Kate Boy, Frankie Rose, Night Panther and Chrome Sparks.

As much as I frown over the idea of ranking music, there are two particular tracks that stood out in my book, but with two very separate intentions. M O N E Y, the Manchester-based quartet with visuals that we were oh-so-proud to introduce earlier this year, have written one of the most beautiful, above-board tunes of 2012, allowing time to be a part of their slowly evolving atmospherics. On the other side, and as we previously experienced through the four-point, Funktion One sound system of Berlin's one and only Berghain, Kuedo's "Work, Live & Sleep In Collapsing Space" has granted our lists the #1 ranking: a track that has been fought over to be dropped in our DJ sets, and a track that makes us so very proud to be part of the future of pop music; be it the pop genre dressed in Holly Herndon's attic techno, or the kind of pop where its description of genre feels safer to label, for instance through the sound of  Purity Ring. It is almost unnecessary to mention that we are utterly excited to see what 2013 will bring.

#01. Kuedo – Work, Live & Sleep in Collapsing Space
#03. Andy Stott - Numb
#04. Burial – Ashtray Wasp
#05.  Stay+ - Crashed (feat. Queenie)
#06. Holly Herndon - Fade
#07. Chromatics – These Streets Will Never Look The Same
#08. Physical Therapy – Drone On (feat. Jamie Krasner)
#09. Kate Boy – In Your Eyes
#10. Solar Year - Brotherhood
#11. Purity Ring - Grandloves
#12. Young Magic - Sparkly
#13.  Kuhrye-oo – Give In (For The Fame)
#14. S Olbricht - DntTlk
#15. Delusions - Almost
#16. Mirroring – Silent From Above
#17. Jessie Ware – 110%
#18. Theo Bass – Mr. Stellakis
#19. Majical Cloudz – Turns Turns Turns
#20. CHLLNGR - Haven
#21. Bloksberg - Goma
#22. Lights Dim / Gallery Six – Sea Of Tranquillity
#23. Vestals – Forever Falling
#24. Chrome Sparks – Send The Pain On
#25. Night Panther - Snudge

— Tonje Thilesen

As mentioned above, my favourite track of 2012 is also Kuedo’s single on Planet Mu, which was released sometime in the very middle of the year. It is, perhaps, an odd choice in some respect: It was Jamie Teasdale’s 2011 full-length Severant that was truly groundbreaking material, one of the most refreshing approaches to electronic music composition in years (and that I almost completely missed out on, which is why the album didn’t even make it on my 2011 list, my bad). In that sense, “Work, Live & Sleep In Collapsing Space” is a refinement, a reassurance, but not another revolution. Also, what makes Kuedo’s three-track EP so special and ‘now’ has a great deal to do with Laurel Halo’s and Claude Speeed’s breathtaking, radical re-imaginations of the title track. Still, the song itself simply is further evidence that Jamie Teasdale is one of those artistic minds – alongside Laurel Halo, Holly Herndon, or Burial, plus a few others – who in 2012 seemed to have at least a vague idea on what the future of popular music might, or rather should, sound like, something this site will always look and be grateful for. Above all though, “Work, Live & Sleep In Collapsing Space” is a single in the truest sense of the term: it is a track you get addicted to instantly but that also keeps growing and unfolding, unveiling sonic details that so far you had kept overlooking. It is one of those tunes that justify the existence of the single repeat button, cause you want to get lost in it again, immediately, over and over. At least I did. That’s basically why the track needs to be up there.

The rest of the list should speak for itself, I feel – those who follow this blog, or perhaps Ad Hoc and the few other media outlets I have been involved with this past year (thanks to everyone who made that possible, it means a lot to me), will already know about my obsession with Dean Blunt’s “The Narcissist II”, or Holy Other’s “Love Some1”, or Vessel's "Lache", or indeed anything Burial so graciously dropped; as Tonje mentioned, it hasn’t been a year for guitar-focused music all things considered, but Copenhagen’s noise/(post-)punk scene keeps getting me more and more excited, and with all its rage and embittered despair, Lower’s “But There Has to Be More” is the most stirring outcry I have come across in ages, not despite but because it is directed against nothing or no one in particular. Old Apparatus’ rise to fame and recognition will continue in 2013, I hope, and until that happens, “Schwee” remains one of the most interesting and complex tracks of past year, happily evading all genres, and is only the prime example of how the young London collective have found their very own musical language. Human Ear mastermind Jason Grier’s humble, achingly touching duet with Barcelona’s Lucrecia Dalt is perhaps the single most criminally overlooked pop gem of 2012, simple and innocent yet infinitely astute and sincere.

Finally, a few words on Angel Haze’s “Cleaning Out My Closet”, a track that stands out due to the simple fact that despite its all-too familiar (and wisely chosen) instrumental, it’s the one that actually hurts while listening; and it should. The straightforward, bleak, painful lyrics tell a story so universally applicable that they’d almost completely transcend the immediate subject, if it were not for every single word crying THIS. IS. WHAT. HAPPENED. The song is not, as Pitchfork’s Joseph Patterson put it rather oddly, showing the rapper’s ‘softer side’. In fact, it is very much the opposite. “Cleaning Out My Closet” is not a track I’ve listened to a lot, nor is it one I’d say I enjoy listening to. But it is a bold statement that needs to be heard; as Angel Haze puts it, it appears very much necessary to ‘let that feeling ring through your guts’; which makes it perhaps the most important track of 2012.

#01. Kuedo – Work, Live & Sleep in Collapsing Space
#02. Dean Blunt feat. Inga Copeland – The Narcissist/Choice of a New Generation
#03. Angel Haze - Cleaning Out My Closet

#04. Burial – Ashtray Wasp
#05. Lower – But There Has to Be More
#06. Holy Other – Love Some1
#07. Holly Herndon – Fade
#08. Vessel - Lache

#09. Ilyas Ahmed – Now Sleeps
#10. Old Apparatus – Schwee
#11. Jason Grier feat. Lucrecia Dalt – Clouds
#12. Lukid – Manchester
#13. Inga Copeland – B.M.W.
#14. LOL Boys – Changes
#15. Grimes – Skin
#16. Mirroring – Silent From Above
#17. Jacques Greene – Dakou
#18. Albert Swarm – Moths and Moth Catchers
#19. Ryan Power – I Don’t Want to Die
#20. Vatican Shadow – Cairo Is A Haunted City
#21. DIIV – Doused
#22. King Felix – Spring 02
#23. A Made Up Sound – Malfunction (Adjust)
#24. Dusk + Blackdown + – High Road
#25. C.T.M. – Jewel

— Henning Lahmann