Let me start this second set of my Top 50 Songs of 2012 by giving you a small bit of background on how this list was put together. The rules are simple, really. After assembling a list of songs worthy of ranking, I start at #1 and work my way back to #50. In order to qualify for the Top 50, the song must have appeared on an album, EP or 7″ single released sometime in the calendar year of 2012. In an effort to broaden the scope of this list, I also limited this list so only one track from each artist could be included. If you check out my Runners Up list, you’ll notice a few songs on there from artists appearing on this Top 50 list. They’re extra songs I loved this year but was unable to include due to restrictions of time and space and rules. Other than that though, this list is pretty encompassing of the many great songs this year had to offer. Here’s a link to see songs #50-41, which went up yesterday. Now please enjoy #40-31!

40. El-P – Drones Over BKLYN
I’ve always had a strong liking for El-P, and was never 100% sure why. No doubt the guy’s talented, and he ran his own record label Def Jux for a while, but in general I’m not a big fan of hip hop. I think it’s in part because El-P in many ways transcends easy labels and works with artists you might not expect. In the case of this song, the guy spits rapid-fire next to a killer beat. His talent shines through in all aspects of this track, plus it’s totally badass.
[Spotify] [MP3] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]

39. Hot Chip – Flutes
I could easily have chosen a single off Hot Chip’s latest album In Our Heads, but instead I chose this song because I think it’s the best on the record. Over the course of seven minutes, it pumps dark and swirling techno at you the likes (and lengths) of which the band has never gone to before. It’s another side of them in an ever-peeling onion that proves not everything in music gets worse with age and experience.
[Spotify] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]

38. M.I.A. – Bad Girls
The first way I heard this song was via its award-worthy music video, and it got me inspired. After her absolutely dreadful 2010 album MAYA, here’s a song that proves her earlier success wasn’t a fluke. With a Middle Eastern flair and the mantra of “Live fast, die young,” part of me wants to cheer this track on for its sheer audacity and attempts at exclusion. Then again, we always want what we can’t have. I’m just glad this song is in our lives to spell that out for us.
[Spotify] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]

37. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents
It’s fascinating for me to see how a singer-songwriter like Sharon Van Etten achieves the level of popularity she’s currently enjoying. What distinguishes her from the hundreds or thousands of other folk artists making similar music? It’s her voice, both in the words she sings and how she sings them. She’s a gregarious songwriter and an impeccable arranger of melody. “Serpents” condenses her unique and great qualities into this one track, and proves why she’s a star.
[Spotify] [MP3] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]

36. Frankie Rose – Know Me
From a moderately successful Sharon Van Etten to a not-so-successful Frankie Rose. I am extremely puzzled as to why such a talented artist and such a critically acclaimed artist can’t quite get legs on her career. She’s been in a number of different bands, tried a bunch of different styles and sounds, and none of it really felt true to her until her latest album Interstellar. “Know Me” is the best song from that album, catchy and briskly paced. She may have been forgotten by many year-end listmakers, but I promise I won’t forget. I know her.
[Spotify] [MP3] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]

35. The xx – Angels
Yeah, The xx’s second full length Coexist was a little bit of a bust. If you liked the first one, the second one is basically the same thing with the parts rearranged. “Angels” stands out because it’s about the closest thing the album came to a single. It actually got me excited about that new album when in the end there wasn’t much need to be. I still turn this song on more often than I’d like to acknowledge, and that’s a big reason why it made this list.
[Spotify] [YouTube]

34. Divine Fits – The Salton Sea
What I really hoped would happen with Divine Fits, the supergroup featuring Dan Boeckner (ex-Handsome Furs/Wolf Parade) and Britt Daniel (Spoon), was that they’d make music completely different from any of their other projects. It wound up that the Daniel songs sounded like Spoon and the Boeckner ones sounded like Handsome Furs. “The Salton Sea” is the real breakthrough track on their debut record. It’s certainly the most experimental, and Daniel’s voice just works so well on the track. If only the whole thing were this good.
[Spotify] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]

33. alt-J – Fitzpleasure
alt-J is a band you can call weirdly beloved. After some serious critical tongue lashings for their debut album An Awesome Wave, indie music fans made them popular anyways. While the record can feel unfocused and stylistically fluid at times, when a song hits, it hits hard. Case in point, “Fitzpleasure,” which is a great microcosm of what this band is all about, and is catchy and features some dubstepian beats to boot.
[Spotify] [MP3] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]

32. The Shins – Simple Song
No one was surprised more than me that The Shins returned in 2012 with a great record. I was convinced something was wrong with frontman James Mercer’s head after he fired everyone in the band a few years ago, then went off with Danger Mouse to make electro-pop under the name Broken Bells. It took awhile, but Mercer eventually resurrected The Shins with new members and the first thing they put out was “Simple Song.” Suddenly it felt like everything was right with the world, and “the band that will change your life” was ready to change some lives again. Not my life…but others.
[Spotify] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]

31. Screaming Females – Doom 84
If you don’t know who Screaming Females and Marissa Paternoster are, you need to educate yourself on this band right away. Seeing them perform live is always a thrilling and intense punk rock experience, and most of their records echo that sentiment. This year they released Ugly, and while there’s a lot of great songs on it, the 7.5 minute “Doom 84” stands out to me not just because of its length, but because of how much sheer badass riffage there is all over it. These are face melting riffs and a dynamo vocal performance.
[Spotify] [MP3] [Soundcloud] [YouTube]