I still think singles are more useful than any other piece of art. The three minute manifesto; the distillation of all a band's ideas - this setting out and laying down of principles and scope; the whole This Is Who We Are of it is what makes them so special. They should stick in your craw, singles. They should make you sit up straight, look out, breathe.
And if, like me, you use music like medicine, or look upon iTunes as if it were a bathroom cabinet, you can start to think of singles like little blue pills. Some make you massive, some make you shrink to the floor, but I chose all of my favourites from 2012 and put them in a Spotify playlist, here.
Here are some highlights.
Most people in indie do not like being happy because it interferes with the artful staring into the middle distance they are always doing. And though I still identify with indie's army of broken hearted idiots, I also quite like to have fun. So we have Dan Croll's 'From Nowhere', a song that begins as if Raw Sex were his backing band, and which is about how looking into the eyes of someone you fancy can make you falter. Similarly gleeful, is R. Stevie Moore's 'Pop Music', which is like a lost song from Randy Newman's Toy Story soundtrack, and as rum and salty as a thing could be. I also love the urgency of Here We Go Magic's 'How Do I Know', and the fine lyrics of The Proclaimers 'Spinning Around In The Air' with its boast that Craig and Charlie 'climb over houses, to climb upon you'. Unironic, unwinking HAPPINESS.
The bands that split the crowd tend to be those who have a kitchen sink approach - chuck it all in, see what happens. My favourite band with ideas are Everything Everything, whose 'Cough Cough' serves as a primer for the (insane, wonderful) 'ARC' which comes out in January. Other singles which could not be accused of having a dearth of content (bleh, 'content') were Dirty Projectors' 'About To Die', all of Django Django's output (especially the choppery of 'Default'), and the brilliantly strange 'Mannequin' by When Saints Go Machine. There's a line in the chorus of 'Mannequin' about how the robot of the title is 'born and raised for traffic' and I just think that's supremely poetic - a really beautiful, and beautifully creepy, line.
If you wanted to get off with someone in 2012 you needed to have played one of four singles. AlunaGeorge's 'Your Drums, Your Love', Sebastian feat. Mayer Hawthorne's 'Love In Motion' and Wild Beasts' re-swizzle of Jessie Ware's 'Night Light' were three of them. You would, however, have had the best snog of your life if you did 'it' to Jai Paul's ridiculously slinky 'Jasmine'.
No single had the visceral power of Anna Meredith's 'Nautilus', which had the air of Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice about it. This means Anna Meredith wrote a piece of music that can put you in mind of Goethe, which is alright by me. I also loved Dobie's 'Hustle With Speed' (such a good title: 'What are you doing, darling?' / 'I'm hustling with speed' etc). In a fuggier - and altogether more warming - vein, nothing was as blamelessly derivative as Tame Impala's 'Elephant'. I also think no one genre hops across techno and house music quite like T Williams, especially on the brilliantly tinny 'Synthia'.
Meanwhile, David Bazan's cover of Deerhoof's 'No One Asked To Dance' might as well be being sung from the end of a bar. It is a saddening, drunken ballad. You should also draw the curtains and paint the walls black before listening to 'I'll Be Looking Out For Me' by Trembling Bells & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. However, no single this year was as sad and simultaneously triumphant as Sharon Van Etten's 'Leonard'. So good, can't listen to it.
Ooh, indie, it's so WEIRD!!! Like The Magnetic Fields, who are officially the quirkiest band in all of indie, and whose 'Quick!' is about the gasp you take before someone says something absolutely below the belt in an argument. I like that Magnetic Fields chose to stretch out that moment, so that the whole song exists in it - a whole love affair hanging in the balance. And until the song ends, you don't know which way it's going to go. Meanwhile, all of Patrick Watson's singles had their own peculiar magic - but 'Into Giants' was my favourite, for its lilting sprawl. Ondatropica's cover of Sabbath's 'Iron Man' was probably my favourite cover version this year. Mainly because they are Colombian, and sound really, really pissed.
When I am in the gym thinking FUCK THEM about people I do not like in order to spur on better and more faster rowing, I listen to Tempa T's 'Say It Right Now'. It's basically Tempa T doing 'Firestarter', but you wouldn't say that to his face because he would probably glass you. I also love how the premise of the song is notionally reasonable - 'If you've got something to say, say it right now' is what people on reality shows say, before someone actually does say something honest to them, and they get in a massive snit. Also, if you shout SAY IT RIGHT NOW in the form of the song you can pretty much guarantee a) no one is going to mess with you, ever and also b) that people will only ever say nice things to you in future. I am likewise still obsessed with Bang On!'s 'Fars Yer Whop', some fifty listens later.
I love kooky-ooky creepy-weepy singles. But none put the willies up me quite like the two Lorn released. 'Weigh Me Down' in particular, is guaranteed to make me check I locked the door. Also, my friend told me that when he worked at Hunstanton fun fair, they had three sizes of hot dog sausage: normal, large, and FRIGHTENERS. 'Weigh Me Down' is a frightener.
Omega Male's 'Testosterone' was a swaggering triumph, even if it is basically just four minutes of moody willy-waving. Similarly full of snark, Ossie's 'Ignore' is about how guest vocalist Tilz is going out with someone really annoying, so he is all like get out of my face, and I am not listening la la la la, and let me dance to this song you wangface. Any singer who sings about how they have no time for hot girls is funny.
Forced to pick, I would say my favourite single this year was Anna Meredith's faultless, perfect 'Nautilus'. But I found nearly a hundred brilliant singles - including all 45 of DiS' Singles of the Week - most of which are on this Spotify playlist.
The full list of all DiS' 2012 Singles of the Year, is below.
Darkside - ‘A1’ from ‘Darkside’ EP (Clown & Sunset)
AlunaGeorge - ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ (Island)
Ane Brun feat. José Gonzalez - ‘Worship’ (Balloon Ranger Recordings)
Anna Meredith - 'Nautilus' from ‘Black Prince Fury’ EP (Moshi Moshi)
Bang On! - 'Fars Yer Whop' (Big Dada)
Batida - ‘Tirei O Chapéu’ (Soundway)
Beak> - ‘Mono’ (Invada)
Big Black Delta - ‘IFUCKINGLOVEYOU’ (Masters of Bates)
Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - ‘The Powers & The Glory Of Love’ (Chemikal Underground)
Brassica - 'Modern Magic' from ‘Temple Fortune’ EP (Civil Music)
Cate Le Bon - ‘Puts Me To Work’ (OVNI / Turnstile)
Charlotte Gainsbourg - ‘Anna’ (Because Music)
Chvrches - ‘The Mother We Share’ (National Anthem)
Dan Bodan - ‘DP’ from ‘DP/Aaron’ EP (MMW1 / DFA)
Dan Croll - ‘From Nowhere’ (Racquet Records)
Dan Mangan - ‘About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All’ (City Slang)
Dan Sartain feat. Jane Wiedlin - ‘Now Now Now’ (One Little Indian)
Dead Fader feat. Sensational - ‘Fishsh’ from ‘work it, no’ EP (Robot Elephant Records)
Deco Child - ‘S&G’ (Ninja Tune)
Deerhoof feat. David Bazan - ‘No One Asked Bazan To Dance’ (Polyvinyl)
Dexys - ‘She Got A Wiggle’ (BMG)
Diagrams - 'Tall Buildings' (Full Time Hobby)
Dirty Projectors - ‘About To Die’ (Domino)
Dirty Projectors - ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ (Domino)
Disclosure - 'Tenderly' (Make Mine)
Django Django - 'Default' (Because Music)
Django Django - ‘Hail Bop’ (Because Music)
Dobie - 'Hustle With Speed' from 'Nothing To Fear' EP (Big Dada)
Dutch Uncles feat. Jonathan & Jeremy from Everything Everything - ‘Road To Roy’ (Memphis Industries, free here)
Euros Childs - ‘Spin That Girl Around’ (National Elf)
Everything Everything - ‘Cough Cough’ (Columbia)
FaltyDL - ‘Hardcourage’ (Ninja Tune)
Field Music - ‘A New Town’ (Memphis Industries)
First Aid Kit - ‘The Lion's Roar’ (Wichita)
Fucked Up featuring Jim Jarmusch, Annie-Claude Deschênes & Austra - ‘Year Of The Tiger’ (Matador)
Gravenhurst - ‘The Foundry’ (Warp)
Here We Go Magic - ‘How Do I Know’ (Secretly Canadian)
Hooded Fang & Pinkunoizu - ‘Clap’ / ‘Parabolic Delusions’ (Full Time Hobby)
Hot Chip - ‘Night & Day’ (Domino)
Jacques Greene - 'Prism' from 'Ready' EP (3024) (Jazz Monroe stand-in week)
Jai Paul - ‘Jasmine (Demo)’ (XL)
Jesse Boykins III & Melo-X - ‘I'm New Here’ (Ninja Tune)
Jessie Ware - ‘110%’ (PMR)
Jessie Ware - ‘Night Light (Wild Beasts Remix)’ (Universal / Island)
Kindness - ‘Gee Up’ (Female Energy / Polydor Records)
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - ‘John Taylor’s Month Away’ (Domino)
Liars - ‘Brats’ (Mute)
Liz Green - ‘Bad Medicine’ (PIAS)
Look, Stranger! - ‘One For The King’ from ‘One For The King’ EP
Lorn - ‘Ghosst(s)’ (Ninja Tune)
Lorn - ‘Weigh Me Down’ (Ninja Tune)
Luke Abbott - ‘Modern Driveway’ (NoTown)
Mac DeMarco - 'Ode To Viceroy' (Captured Tracks)
Magic Bullets - ‘Unlearned’ from ‘Much Ado About’ EP (Mon Amie)
Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight - ‘Going Going Gone’ (One Little Indian)
Martin Rossiter - ‘Drop Anchor’
Moulettes - ‘Sing Unto Me’ (Balling The Jack Records)
Muse - ‘Survival’ (Helium 3 / Warner Music)
Ned Collette & Wirewalker - 'How To Change A City' (Fire Records)
Negative Pegasus - ‘Floating Omen’ (Small Town America)
North Atlantic Oscillation - ‘Soft Coda’ (Kscope)
Omega Male - 'Testosterone' (Full Time Hobby)
Ondatrópica - ‘I Ron Man’ (Soundway)
Opossum - ‘Girl’ (Fire Records)
Ossie feat. Tilz - ‘Ignore’ (Hyperdub)
Patrick Watson - ‘Into Giants’ (Domino)
Patrick Watson - ‘Step Out For A While’ (Domino)
Pollens - ‘Helping Hand’ (Tapete Records)
Poppy & The Jezebels - ‘Sign In! Dream On! Drop Out!’ (Mute)
Proxy - 'Junk' (Turbo Recordings)
Pulled Apart By Horses - ‘Wolf Hand’ (Transgressive)
Pure Bathing Culture - 'Ivory Coast' from ‘Pure Bathing Culture’ EP (Memphis Industries)
Pushy Parents - ‘Secret Secret’ (Elefant)
R. Stevie Moore - 'Pop Music' (O Genesis)
Sam Lee - ‘The Ballad Of George Collins’ (The Nest Collective)
SBTRKT - 'Hold On' (XL)
Sebastian feat. Mayer Hawthorne - ‘Love In Motion’ (Ed Banger / Because Music)
Sharon Van Etten - ‘Leonard’ (JagJagJaguwar)
Shrag - ‘Devastating Bones’ (Fortuna POP!)
Sleepin' Giantz - ‘Mucky’ (Tru Thoughts)
Society - ‘All That We’ve Become’ (Roundtable Records)
Stay+ feat. Queenie - ‘Crashed’ (Black Butter)
Susanne Sundfør - ‘White Foxes’ (Sonnet Sound)
T.Williams - 'Synthia' from 'Can We' EP (Enchufada)
Tame Impala - ‘Elephant’ (Modular)
Tashaki Miyaki - ‘Tashaki Miyaki Sings The Everly Brothers’ (For Us)
Tempa T - ‘Say It Right Now’ (Next Hype Entertainment)
The 2 Bears - ‘Warm & Easy’ (Southern Fried)
The Dø - ‘Gonna Be Sick’ (Village Green)
The Insomniax - ‘Love She Wants’ EP (Earnest Endeavours)
The Kills - 'The Last Goodbye' (Domino) (DiS' Editor Sean Adams' stand-in week)
The Magnetic Fields - ‘Andrew In Drag’ (Domino)
The Magnetic Fields - ‘Quick’ (Domino)
The Proclaimers - ‘Spinning Around In The Air’ (Cooking Vinyl)
The Shins - ‘Rifle’s Spiral’ (Columbia)
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - ‘Tapes & Money’ (Polydor Records)
Trembling Bells & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy - ‘I’ll Be Looking Out For Me’ from ‘Duchess’ EP (Honest Jons)
Verdensrommet - ‘Nytt’ (Narbovarsel)
Veronica Falls - ‘Come On Over’ (Bella Union)
When Saints Go Machine - ‘Mannequin’ (!K7)
White Rabbits - ‘I’m Not Me’ (Mute)
Willy Moon - ‘Yeah Yeah’ (LuvLuvLuv)
Yeti Lane - ‘Warning Sensations’ (Sonic Cathedral)
See you next year.