Best Music of 2012CoS Exclusive FeaturesPlaylistsStaff Lists

Top 50 Songs of 2012

on December 07, 2012, 1:00am
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annual report songs e1354807570564 Top 50 Songs of 2012

The first week in our 2012 Annual Report has come to an end. But what an end it is: our Top 50 Songs of 2012. For this list, we took into consideration the tracks that not only spoke to the year, but each respective act’s ability to grow and engage their mind, genre, and sound. That might sound spiritual and what have you, but okay, maybe you’re not a fan of dreamcatchers and stuff. Whatever.

Feel free to let us know what you think, including some tracks you’ll take into 2013 with you. Also, stay tuned as our 2012 Annual Report continues next week with our picks for Live Acts of the Year, Artist of the Year, Band of the Year, Music Festival of the Year, and Top 50 Albums of the Year.


mia badgirls Top 50 Songs of 2012

50. M.I.A. – “Bad Girls”


M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” was no mere hit song: it was a cultural entity that rose from obscurity to take a prominent place in TV and movies, helping to define and reflect the cultural mood of much of 2008. While some artists never experience said phenomenon in their entire career, Ms. Arulpragasam scored a second, slightly diminished return with “Bad Girls”. Released just days before her PR nightmare at Super Bowl XLVI, the track’s something of a spiritual successor to “Paper Planes”; both are catchy, intricate, and ready-made for pop radio and/or singing by the late-night party crowd. But unlike her first big hit, this latest banger has none of her trademark political undertones, proving she can make music just for the sake of having a good ol’ time.  -Chris Coplan

Buy: Amazon

ty segall slaughterhouse Top 50 Songs of 2012

49. Ty Segall Band – “Wave Goodbye”


The prolific Ty Segall released three full-length albums, a live LP, and a split EP in 2012 alone. As he drops record after record, you can hear him developing as a songwriter, growing weary of old sounds and striving for new ones. That was his intent behind forming the Ty Segall Band and recording a song like “Wave Goodbye”. It’s one of the heaviest things he’s ever done — sludgy metal with a bottomless pit of psychedelic noise. One can only sing so many pop songs before wanting to crank the amp and bash it out Sabbath-style, and Segall does exactly that. -Jon Hadusek

Stream: “Wave Goodbye”

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cult of youth love will prevail Top 50 Songs of 2012

48. Cult of Youth – “Garden of Delights”

Love Will Prevail

For the first four-fifths of its duration, “Garden of Delights” takes us to the darkest of corners that Cult of Youth frontman Sean Ragon offers on his post-industrial project’s second LP, Love Will Prevail. For almost three minutes, the bass line grooves away on a doomed-out E minor riff, the tension slowly accumulates, and Ragon shouts “Angels pray while devils kill / We’re left to rot in this stupid landfill” as it snowballs into apocalyptic enormity. And then, something unexpected happens. With just 30 seconds left, the song’s key shifts from minor to major for the first time, and the next words out of Ragon’s mouth are “and love will prevail!” We knew you had it in you, Sean. -Steven Arroyo

Stream: “Garden of Delights”

Buy: Amazon

tanlines mixed emotions cos Top 50 Songs of 2012

47. Tanlines – “All of Me”

Mixed Emotions

At my part-time retail job, “All of Me” plays almost every single day amidst Christmas tunes, easy listening, and “classic rock.” While the song might be more “fitting room” than radio-hit, it without a doubt has the potential to be the latter. Tanlines’ album was a long time coming from an EP and some live appearances, but “All of Me” gives that “2-person-multi-instrumentalist-dance-music” genre a push from gimmick into feat. It speaks to their strengths as songwriters who only have themselves to lean against. Small things like the song’s extended shelf life, or its overall affecting nature, also play a big part in its success, too. Yeah, small things like that. -Mikey Zonenashvili

Buy: Amazon

indianhandcraftscover Top 50 Songs of 2012

46. Indian Handcrafts – “Bruce Lee”

Civil Disobedience for Losers

A song that begins with the smack of a gong can only get better from there. The Canadian riff-rock duo bring Stonehenge-levels of hard rock, packing in elements of speed metal, bloozy guitars, and a healthy dose of schlock. As much as Indian Handcrafts borrow from the likes of Iron Maiden, Motörhead, or even Satan’s Host, the real citation belongs to their Canadian comrades, Anvil. “Bruce Lee”, like the thrash movement Anvil inspired in the ’80s, is loud,  leaden, and replete with coiling guitars. At the two-minute mark, vocals swell around the drum-and-strum blues jam. It builds into a voracious gallop that, of course, ends with a gong. -Sarah Grant

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cohenoldideas Top 50 Songs of 2012

45. Leonard Cohen – “Come Healing”

Old Ideas

Old Ideas’ “Come Healing” won’t be covered by the masses, featured in teen soap operas, or soundtrack weird Zack Snyder-directed sex scenes. But don’t let its lack of oncoming ubiquity fool you. “Come Healing” is one of the most beautiful songs in Cohen’s catalog, and from that beauty comes its strength. The traditional gracing of the all-female choir counterpoints Cohen’s gravely vocals and gravitas, decorating a deceptively complex chord progression and throwing  the lyrical themes into sharp focus. At first, the central request to “come healing of the spirit, come healing of the limb” sounds timid, but “Come Healing” builds, gently yet insistently. When that same sentiment is repeated at the song’s end, it has become a certitude. There won’t be many televised opportunities to demand healing from heaven, but Cohen convinces us of that healing’s inevitability  marking the irrefutable success of “Come Healing”. -Chris Bosman

Buy: Amazon

earl sweatshirt chum Top 50 Songs of 2012

44. Earl Sweatshirt – “Chum”

On his first official solo cut after returning to Odd Future, Earl ditched the stomach-churning rape jokes that peppered his 2010 debut in favor of a more introspective yet no less mesmerizing flow. Behind an ice-cold piano line, he touched on his absent father, his big brother/little brother connection with Tyler, and his strained relationship with his mother. Rhyme upon rhyme is stacked onto each verse, to the point where you’re virtually hanging on to every lazy-mouthed syllable. One of the many stand-out lines from the second verse includes: “Nothing was fucking awesome / Trying to make it from the bottom this is / Feeling as hard as Vince Carter’s knee cartilage is.” He seamlessly juxtaposes dead-serious feelings of depression with grin-educing punch lines, all while sounding like he’s hardly lifting a finger. -Bryant Kitching

Buy: Amazon

crystal castles iii e1348676099314 Top 50 Songs of 2012

43. Crystal Castles – “Sad Eyes”


She loves you, she hates you, she’s just not into you. The eyes give it all away. Even a veiled woman “can’t disguise / sad eyes.” But she can certainly sneak somber lyrics into a toe-tapper. Alice Glass first sang about “sad eyes” in her debut studio session during “Alice Practice”. She now revisits this weepy motif on the danciest track off Crystal Castles’ latest album, (III). The song’s tempo hastens within a few seconds of ignition, and then speeds along, never once losing steam. Ethan Kath’s bruising, wrap-around-a-neck bass lines and jittery keyboard pulse with a scared energy. Meanwhile, Glass croons like Sylvia Plath lost and abandoned at a rave set in the middle ring of Inferno‘s seventh circle. “Sad Eyes” finds one of the grittiest bands around delivering a straight party song sharpened to the sinister edge fans have come to love. -Dan Pfleegor

Buy: Amazon

 Top 50 Songs of 2012

42. The Walkmen – “Heaven”


In their 12-year career, The Walkmen have audibly matured from New York roustabouts to mature family men, as stunningly evidenced on the title track to their latest, Heaven. Judging from the photo of the guys and their kids on the disc’s back cover, Hamilton Leithauser’s silvery croon to “remember all we fight for” acts as a rallying call to keep everything together in 2012’s uncertain times. Sure, the jangle in this track sounds familiar, but the leveled request of “Don’t leave me / Oh, you’re my best friend” is an adult honesty that not many seasoned rockers would feel this comfortable showing. -Adam Kivel

Buy: Amazon

rick ross sophisticated 500x500 Top 50 Songs of 2012

41. Rick Ross feat. Meek Mill – “So Sophisticated”

God Forgives, I Don’t

Before Bawse was Bawse, his lyrical skills were entry-level. Things done changed over the years of many Ross releases, and though 2012 saw one fantastic mixtape, one halfway decent major release, and another highly questionable mixtape, Ross’ fire on the God Forgives, I Don’t single “So Sophisticated” ranks as one of his top performances. In an album where he surrounds himself with his spoils, Ricky takes time to elucidate on his accumulating stacks, choppers, champagne, the whole lot — all while sticking to a flow that puts the weight of a three-syllable rhyme scheme at the back of the bar. It doesn’t get much better than to hear Ross breathlessly growl “Tatted on my stomach: Rich Forever Makavelli.” Ross’ next-in-line MMG disciple Meek Mill keeps up with Bawse on his verse and the production from The Beat Bully ties up and collects on any loose ends. -Jeremy D. Larson

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Dorian Holt
October 20, 2014 at 7:51 pm

No Linkin Park….really….this list fucking sucks. Not a single good song on here. Linkin Park “Living Things” is by far album of 2012
May 26, 2014 at 5:34 am

Thank you for another excellent article. The place else could anybody get that type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m at the search for such info.

Mike Lee
January 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm

This is the playlist of 100 best songs by Billboard.

Josh Valero
December 24, 2012 at 12:57 am

Love the list especially Fiona Apple and Frank Ocean…but where is Miranda Lambert or Pistol Annie’s…they had some bad ass songs!!! Especially “Over You” by Miranda Lambert!!!!

December 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm

FYI: Dylan Baldi thought he would BE more than this, not MEAN more than this….editing.

David Cano
December 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm

If that #1 is the best of 2012, it was then the worst year in history ever. Althoug, I dont think Ocean is the best of 2012, this list is just the worst list ever !!

Casey Smith
December 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Good job making this list before the year even ended…now you can’t put on “Song For Zulu” by Phosphorescent, easily one of the best songs in 2012. Patience next year…patience.

Sergio Cabezuela
December 10, 2012 at 7:53 am

Light Asylum’s “Shallow Tears”?

Tim Sentz
December 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Japandroids @ #2 is awesome.

December 8, 2012 at 3:08 am

This has probably the best review for “Call Me Maybe” that I’ve read so far and it gives the best justification for placing it on the list. Most only cite its ubiquity, but this actually cites WHY it was so ubiquitous this year. Nice work.

Definitely don’t agree with the Taylor Swift song, which I find laughably monotonous (ever ever ever ever ever ever ever…), smug (“your indie record is much cooler than mine”), generic (sounds like a rip of “Since U Been Gone” to me that Swift can’t replicate with her weak voice), and annoying in its overdoing of valleygirl colloquialism (like, ever ever ever…), but c’est la vie.

Rory Biller
December 8, 2012 at 1:49 am

Cloud Nothings: yay – Passion Pit: gay

J. Chris Ornelas
December 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I’m 3 songs into it and so far these are some of the worst songs I’ve heard…

J. Chris Ornelas
December 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Well you redeemed yourself by including The Swans and Beach House… but not a very good list :P

December 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I’m surprised to see such a huge push by the critical community for “Thinkin’ Bout You” over “Pyramids.” Maybe I’m just a big fan of big music, but “Pyramids” still floors me every time.

December 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm

P.S. This list is desperately missing “White Dress,” the best new Kanye track in two years.

P.P.S “Chum” is probably too low. Would you really say it’s a worse song than “Call Me Maybe”?

Alex Young
December 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I was a big fan of “White Dress”, too. It was on the short list, but didn’t make the final cut.

December 7, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Good one. Where’s the playlist?

December 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm

no mercy and/or clique?? no “no lie”??? how you gonna put so sophisticated on and not those. those tracks ran the game for months.

Dan Rust
December 7, 2012 at 11:07 am

Great list guys. Can’t wait to see the top albums list. Like others, I was a little surprised there was no Dirty Projectors. That album is littered with gems. I would have liked to see some Grizzly Bear and Hot Chip too, maybe Django Django. But I guess when it comes down to it, great albums don’t always generate top 50 songs. I’ll take an album full or good songs over an album with a few great songs any day of the week.

December 7, 2012 at 10:55 am

Thinkin Bout You came out last year…

Alex Young
December 7, 2012 at 11:58 am

The demo came out last year. The official release was this year.

Ian McNaught
December 7, 2012 at 10:36 am

uhhh no Grizzly Bear? Yet Again or Sleeping Ute absolutely must appear on this list. Agree with Wasted Days in top 10 at least.

Luiz Fernando
December 7, 2012 at 10:14 am

great list, but I missed Soundgarden and Neil Young, both great albums released this year.

December 7, 2012 at 9:18 am

Some of the write-ups are cooler than the songs but hey you can’t please all the people. But MIA again??

December 7, 2012 at 3:56 am

why do you guys hate Norah Jones so much? geez

David Jenkins
December 7, 2012 at 3:49 am

Laura was easily one of the best tracks of the year….way better imo than All my gold. Something off Moms would’ve been nice. Backseat Freestyle > Swimming Pools. We Drift like Worried Fire? Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop is easily the party jam of the year. I do think this is a good list though. Divine Fits and Swans sealed the deal.

December 7, 2012 at 9:19 am

Love All My Gold but agree about Laura. You could have several tracks off that album. Marilyn too.

December 7, 2012 at 3:42 am

Nothing from Dirty Projectors? Come on now. Swing Lo Magellan was one of the best albums of the year and certainly has at least one song that deserves a spot here.

December 7, 2012 at 2:59 am

Missing Neil Young! Walk Like a Giant and Ramada Inn are awesome songs

Andy Johnson
December 7, 2012 at 2:55 am

& there wasn’t “& it was u”

December 7, 2012 at 2:37 am

Seriously, Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” is horrible, in all ways that a song can be.

Cody Bohler
December 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm

ur just not bout that life

December 7, 2012 at 2:36 am

OMG! I love this list so much! First publication that realizes Genesis is superior to Oblivion! Amazing Top 10!


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