Before the end of the year – providing that the world doesn’t end in a few days – Korean Pop annoyance PSY will probably reach over a billion YouTube views. A [expletive] billion! And middle-aged men dying of heart-attacks attempting to dance to it still don’t know what the hell “Gangnam Style” means. Does it matter? Yes. Every lyric matters. So goes our homage to 2012’s finest sentiments put to song, “Oppan [expletive] gangnam style” included, in alphabetical order, because we dig words over numbers:

Andrew Bird – ‘Lazy Projector

Leave it to Andrew Bird to call out the lazy projector in our minds, the one that tries to make sense out of our most intimate memories. In a performance in London he cites the end of a relationship as a particular time in which this projector reels. It’s a wonder as to whether or not it’s an act akin to insanity or divinity. A question for the ages, and one that Andrew Bird isn’t afraid to ask: [LISTEN] – Jeff Min

Tell me who’s the best boy and the casting director
And the editor splicing your face from the scene
It’s all in the hands of a lazy projector
That forgetting, embellishing, lying machine
That forgetting, embellishing, lying machine

Alt-J – ‘Tessellate

Single-handedly attempting to make the world of geometry sexy, Mercury Prize winners Alt-J’s love of mathematical metaphors were best utilized on this unexpectedly sensual tale of two lovers fitting together perfectly. Echoing a similar sentiment to James Blunt and Elmo’s heartfelt Sesame Street duet, the studious quartet declared their love for the good old triangle amidst a hypnotic wave of percussion that helped to banish the unwanted Mumford & Sons comparisons once and for all:  [LISTEN] – Jon O’Brien

Triangles are my favorite shape
Three points where two lines meet
Toe to toe, back to back, let’s go

AlunaGeorge – ‘You Know You Like It

The best of the indie R&B outfits to arrive on the scene in 2012 and perhaps the most likely to break-through in 2013, the kittenish tones of Aluna Francis may have sounded like butter wouldn’t melt. But by celebrating their independent spirit on this deliciously woozy statement of intent – think 90s girlband All Saints as remixed by Warp’s Chris Clark – she hinted that there was a much feistier personality underneath just waiting to be unleashed: [LISTEN] – J.O.

Some people want me to be heads or tails/I say no way, try again, another day

Fiona Apple – ‘Werewolf

Silencing a seven-year hiatus with another endearing set of foot-in-mouthisms that just made you fall in love with heartache again, at no point on The Idler Wheel… does Apple tremble as acerbic, healthy and true blue as “Werewolf,” a treacherous and airy piano dance tumbling brilliant simile after simile, likening an ex-lover from everything from a shark to a wishing well to arrive at her veritable catch phrase: “Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key:”  [LISTEN] – Gavin Paul

And I could liken you to a chemical the way you made me compound to compound
But I’m a chemical two inevitable you and me would mix

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – ‘Baby

This song was never supposed to happen. It’s a cover from brothers Donnie & Joe Emerson, whose obscure album saw no love until Light In The Attic reissued it this year. Ariel Pink, an accomplished songwriter himself, felt what everyone feels when listening to “Baby” for the first time, which is a rich level of emotion descending from an innocent, almost divine place. Emotion like this can’t be faked, and Ariel nails it: [LISTEN] – J.M.

When we’re out in the moonlight
Lookin’ up at the stars above
Feels so good when I’m near you
Holdin’ hands and makin’ love
Oooh baby, yes oh baby

Bad Brains – ‘Popcorn

Bad Brains are a confusing outfit – equal parts reggae and hardcore punk. The 35-year-old band has seen plenty of lineup changes, dynamic changes, and controversy. However, vocalist H.R.’s straight-forward, new take on ways it can be “on” (e.g. “On like Donkey Kong”) is just simple fun meant for a live show. More people should be saying this in day-to-day life: [LISTEN] – Karl Fagerstrom

It’s on like popcorn

Bat For Lashes – ‘Laura

Backed by melancholic piano, The Haunted Man’s lead single is, indeed, haunting. Every stanza is chocked with memorable images of longing for the spotlight, or mourning the death of revelry. “Your name is tattooed on every boy’s skin, Ooh Laura, you’re more than a superstar” wails singer Natasha Khan at the song’s peak. It doesn’t matter if this fame craving, pervading both “Laura” and “Marilyn,” is alter-ego autobiographical, related to a friend, or fictional: [LISTEN] – K.F.

You say that they’ve all left you behind
Your heart broke when the party died
Drape your arms around me and softly say
Can we dance upon the tables again

Beach House – ‘Myth

“Myth” stands out from other Beach House material not because it’s catchy as all hell (after all, they’re always catchy). While still definitely fitting in their dreamy sunset vibe, “Myth” has more urgency than expected, adding to the bittersweet aura. Vocalist Victoria LeGrand reminds us not only that we “can’t keep hanging on to all that’s dead and gone,” but further toes the line between ecstasy and sorrow, or reality and the “myth”: [LISTEN] – K.F.

What comes after this momentary bliss
The consequence of what you do to me

Best Coast – ‘My Life’

Why Bethany Cosentino got so much shit for her plainspoken lyricism when she dropped her surf pop sophomore kick in the sand this summer is a testament to the tongue-lashing bandwagon of the blogosphere. Two stiff middle-fingers in her corner, fuckers. Not every jam has gotta dig into the Thoreau dictionary to channel a little existentialism. Producer Jon Brion cooked her throat and power pop guitar tone to perfection here, in which she pulls some salt-kissed Elliot Smith-isms in overdub bliss: [LISTEN] – G.P.

All the things I’m taking are making me insane
And when I go to sleep at night, I’m wishing for a change
To go back in time, make what’s wrong feel right

Black Moth Super Rainbow – ‘The Healing Power of Nothing

Black Moth Super Rainbow’s latest psychedelic electronic effort, Cobra Juicy, has been abuzz as possibly their best, and definitely their most accessible. Whether you agree or not, frontman Tobacco objectively upped his vocoder-imparted lyrical game. Mainly about a new love interest who “makes his dreamin’ okay,” this album opens with Tobacco spelling out his art’s fetishism in just four words: “Hairspray, Gasoline, and Roller Skates.” He’s not satisfied with just that, though: [LISTEN] – K.F.

The day I met you I knew, you’re gonna break me up
The pinkest grapefruit you’re squeezing in my papercut
A thing to hang on your wall, just like an animal
Ten pounds of hair makes it heavy

Cody ChesnuTT – ‘What Kind of Cool Will We Think of Next

Cody ChesnuTT’s decade long exile from music represented a seismic shift in perspective. He exorcised the demons left behind from Headphone Masterpiece, and transformed into a socially conscious, political activist. “What Kind of Cool…” is an example of what’s been stewing in his mind since, which is that the world is in need of some serious reform; lay aside the ego, and do your brothers and sisters right. Strident social commentary from our generation’s Marvin Gaye: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Know how to walk, know how to ride
Know how to stay fly, know how this time’s burning
But what we don’t know is that ain’t gonna be enough

Coheed and Cambria – ‘Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute

Apparently this album is about “main character Sirius Amory’s journey into the unknown where he discovers the energy source and its relationship to the planets…” and so on until no one who owns less than a room full of comic books knows what vocalist Claudio Sanchez is talking about. Regardless, this was a solid, punchy rock album, and Sanchez certainly knows how to both rally the troops and turn a phrase in this boxing-match metaphor: [LISTEN] – K.F.

Ladies and broken gentlemen, the undisputed champ of misery
In this corner, we find his challenger, the pride of utopia
We made our beds, to lie in them proud, proud of our great mistakes

Converge – ‘Aimless Arrow

Converge regularly act as the sole “aggressive” act to hit top-album lists with every one of their releases. The fact of the matter is, while metal is one of the music industry’s children locked under the stairs, Converge albums are undeniably beautiful. Their latest offering opens with this emotionally-confrontational indictment; universal yet not cliché, this message hits home for anyone who has forsaken another, or suffered abandonment themselves: [LISTEN] – K.F.

To live the life you want, you’ve abandoned those in need
A necessary casualty, or so you would believe

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – ‘Walk Like a Giant

At almost 17-minutes long, half of this Crazy Horse fuzz focal point is glorious just on its distortion meditations alone. And Young’s pen is not at its most threatening. But paired with a collective “I wanna walk like a giant” harmony, and a heartbreaking prod into the very ethos of 60’s idealism gone awry, it’s a remembrance of both Young’s sentiment that rock will never die, and just maybe if they jam long enough, the genre will indeed save something: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Me and some of my friends
We were gonna save the world
We were tying to make it better
We were ready to save the world
But then the weather changed
And it fell apart
And it breaks my heart

Crystal Castles – ‘Plague

It’s difficult to see how any critics could dismiss III as ‘middle of the road’ when faced with such nightmarish fare as “Plague.” Revelling in her usual role as scaremonger, the hugely charismatic Alice Glass shrieks, often unintelligibly, about a Big Brother-style higher power brainwashing humanity on a typically unhinged foray into dubstep. Accompanied by a suitably disturbing clip from an 80s French cult horror movie, it’s probably one to avoid playing whilst home alone: [LISTEN] – J.O.

I need you pure I need you clean
Don’t try to enlighten me
Power to misconstrue
What have they done to you

Dam Funk – ‘I Don’t Wanna Be a Star!

If you’ve ever seen a Dam-Funk show then you know by now that he’s a bonafide rockstar, playing with a fervor that borders on the extreme. The only problem is that he wants nothing to do with stardom, and he means it. This song is merely an extension of that ethos, one that he’s been living by for years. Dam is a historian of funk and boogie, and all he’s doing is carrying the torch; the anti-rockstar: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Being a star is corny
And I never want to be one, and I mean it
I don’t want to be a star
Something else, way deeper
I don’t want to be a star

Dinosaur Jr. – ‘Watch the Corners

Riding that line between mumble and sweet blistering J. Mascis Marshall stack shred, the indie icon churned out one of his band’s best jams in their near 30-year existence. “Watch The Corners” sears home a tale of something gone awry, its narrator trying to step in and warn with a handful of forgiving and confessional cues, but it just doesn’t work. In the end, Mascis has no choice but to make his amp bleed: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Hey me watch the corners
Watch me ’cause I know what you done
He me don’t you know
Watch me ’cause I’m all alone

DJ Yoda feat Scroobius Pip – ‘RIP Sega

Likely to evoke a wave of nostalgia for anyone who grew up on the classic console games of the early 90s, bearded evangelical rapper Scroobius Pip eschewed his usual state of the nation sermons to explain why he favoured the Super Nintendo over the Sega Mega Drive on this comical military strut from DJ Yoda’s expertly playful sophomore Chop Suey. Spoiler alert – a certain trainer-wearing blue hedgehog and bottleneck dolphin gets it in the neck: [LISTEN] – J.O.

Who the fuck wants to be a jumped up porpoise, getting into rucks with other dolphins and orcas

El-P – ‘Works Every Time

El-P has stated that this record is about not giving in to the darkness or surrendering to death – his main concern after he lost his friend Camu Tao to lung cancer. Along the way Cancer 4 Cure takes you through all the darkest, most paranoid recesses of El-P’s mind. Hopefully most of it is fiction. “Works Every Time” focuses solely on self-medicating for those issues by “buying your way to planet Nerf,” or rather: [LISTEN] – K.F.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue
If I exist right now, I damn sure can’t provide you proof

Everything Everything – ‘Cough Cough

With talk of trading body parts and succumbing to capitalist ideals, the Mancunian art-rockers’ comeback initially reads like a weary confession about how they sold their souls to the devils of the music industry. But fear not, as after four minutes of manic synths, frantic percussion and Jonathan Higgs’ trademark falsetto proves that they’re as baffling and idiosyncratic as ever, it’s abundantly clear that their attack on the power of greed is much more universal: [LISTEN] – J.O.

You clear your throat you raise your eyebrow but you don’t say
There’s something wrong but it’s okay if we’re still getting paid

Gossip – ‘Get a Job

Teaming up with Girls Aloud’s hit factory Xenomania, Gossip may have softened their usual spiky indie-disco sound slightly on ‘all killer-no filler’ fifth LP, A Joyful Noise. But the notoriously outspoken Beth Ditto proved her tongue remained as sharp as ever on this biting attack on the ‘daddy’s little rich girls’ of this world that if they weren’t so vacuous, would probably leave the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian’s ears burning with shame: [LISTEN] – J.O.

Who’s gonna hire you with your lack of experience
Who’s gonna wire you, the last of your inheritance

Hot Chip – ‘Night & Day

The standout from the oddballs’ career-best In Our Heads, this Scissor Sisters-esque electro-house anthem was typical of Hot Chip’s ability to combine the sublime with the ridiculous. Featuring the kind of deadpan rap that makes Madonna’s ‘Mini Cooper/supa dupa’ rhymes sound like a stroke of genius wordplay, Alexis Taylor won’t be giving Jay-Z any sleepless nights that’s for sure. But unlike Madge’s hopeless attempt at proving her street credentials, its ludicrousness worked in its favor: [LISTEN] – J.O.

I don’t got no Abba/I don’t play no Gabba
I like Zapp not Zappa
So please quit your jibba jabba

Hurray for the Riff Raff – ‘Born to Win (Part One)

The summer needed a hickster freight-train jam crusading for the rights of the freewheelin’. These gaggle of Nawlins’-area, pseudo gypsies came through, hootin’ off-mic yelps, wailing harp bridges, a “can’t keep us down” acoustic strummer meant to remind y’all what’s really important – the ability to sing with your damn friends, be a bum, however you define it, and spill some rum, or whatever it is you like to fill your glass with: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Let the whistle blow on the wind
It can carry us away again
For we are some of the few special ones
Who still sing

Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Call Me Maybe

Who expected a former third-placed Canadian Idol contestant later discovered by tween irritant Justin Bieber of all people to create the most irresistible pop song of the year. The joyously anthemic synth-strings, impossibly infectious melody and Jepsen’s playful delivery were all undeniably vital cogs in the wheel. But without its slightly awkward but perfectly-crafted chat-up line, the ode to infatuation at first sight possibly wouldn’t have turned out to be such a worldwide guilty pleasure: [LISTEN] – J.O.

Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy
But here’s my number
So call me, maybe?

JJ Doom – ‘Guv’nor

On the surface it seems like Doom is just spitting a series of blathering, non-sequiturs, but underneath is a glimpse into the madness that concocted the brilliant doomposter scheme, a true villain in every sense of the word. On “Guv’nor,” the lead single to Key to the Kuffs, Doom reaffirms his place in hip-hop, and reminds the world that what he’s delivering is worthy of official ranking: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Catch a throatful
From the fire vocaled
Ash and molten glass like Eyjafjallajokull
The volcano out of Iceland
He’ll conquer and destroy the world like the white men

Kreayshawn – ‘Gucci Gucci

As we advance further in society, our food manufactures are able to create snack treats made to override all sense of self-control, chemical cocktails that trigger very much orgasms for all the fat and sugar regions of your brain. They are disguised in names like Flaming Hot Cheetos. Kraeyshawn is this, in audio form. So damn addictive with her brat-trash hip-hop posturing, all of the time humorous and sing-song, all the time completely detrimental to society: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Bitch you ain’t no Barbie
I see you work at Arby’s
Number two, supersize
Hurry up I’m starving

Kendrick Lamar – ‘Money Trees

Kendrick Lamar emerged as one of the top lyricists of 2012, and for good reason. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City offered a glimpse into a seldom seen slice of hood life, and Kendrick was our guide. He showed us how to survive in a place like Compton while still aspiring for something more. The contradictions are fascinating, and the way in which his narratives unfold, like on “Money Trees,” never once alienates our reality from his: [LISTEN] – J.M.

It go Halle Berry or hallelujah
Pick your poison tell me what you doing
Everybody gon respect the shooter
But the one in front of the gun lives forever

Mac DeMarco – ‘My Kind of Woman

Each song on Mac DeMarco’s 2 is an epic unraveling, a train wreck that happens at a sullen and leisurely pace. His honesty eliminates all traces of superficiality, and it revels in the truth, whether it’s in the doldrums of everyday life or in the heart of a relentless firestorm. “My Kind of Woman” is the lead single from 2, and it aptly reflects DeMarco’s unabashed vulnerability: [LISTEN] – J.M.

You’re my my my my kind of woman
And I’m down on my hands and knees
Begging you please baby
Show me your world

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – ‘Same Love

Re-lighting the progressive bulb Frank Ocean finally turned on this year when hip-hop found its first gay poster-child, Macklemore’s a heterosexual Seattle upstart raised on all the Wu-Tang and Nas familiars. But somewhere along the line, through a downward drug spiral, the dude developed a serious hunger for equality and humor – see hipster screed “Thrift Shop” – realizing that there aren’t enough voices for such a thing, recalled a lifelong love for the bond his gay uncles share, and disseminated: [LISTEN] – G.P.

If I was gay
I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
‘Man that’s gay’ gets dropped on the daily
We’ve become so numb to what we’re sayin’

Mars Volta – ‘The Malkin Jewel

After a 2009 ego-battle between prodigy ex-TMV drummer Thomas Pridgen and singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, it seemed like TMV was on its last legs. Replacement drummer Deantoni Parks added a new fire to their new album, showcasing what they have deemed “future punk.” Although this track’s bouncing flow hints more at “future funk.” Cedric pulls back his past dictionary-in-a-blender tactic for an eclectic, yet coherent method, delivered with a sinister murmur over Parks’ tumbling tom spills: [LISTEN] – K.F.

Wash it down with harlot soap
Well, is this what you want?
I’ll paint your steps with lilac stains
Of smelter revenant

The Men – ‘Candy

One of the slower country-punk gems from Brooklyn’s whiskey-swilling rabble-rousers was the year’s perfect let-the-good-times roll jam that reminded you how great unemployment can be, and just how, brother, sister, it’s gonna be alright. Even if that girl or dude you pined for can’t hear you sing. You still can sing. You still can have a drink. And you’re free of many an oppressive thing, depending on how you look at it: [LISTEN] – G.P.

I just quit my job now  I can stay out all night long
Where my mind is tomorrow don’t matter ’til the dawn
Can go to a million places, could sing a thousand songs
Until my mind is made up, I’ll be really really gone

Nas – ‘Back When

In his 22-year-long career Nas has seen his fair share of trials and tribulations, including a point in time that had him contemplating retirement. 2012 was a resurgent year for him as he worked the festival circuit hard, reintroducing himself to a new generation of fans. “Back When” is him realizing how far he’s come – a poignant reminder, for fans both old and new, that even legends have to start somewhere: [LISTEN] – J.M.

How it all started, fifth floor apartment
A jigsaw puzzle aerial view of the projects
A kid saw struggle, buried a few of his partners
Now I chill in resorts enjoying massages
Check out the oracle bred from city housing

Frank Ocean – ‘Forrest Gump

So much controversy surrounded Channel Orange when it first came out. And it’s funny cause while the attention was given to Frank’s sexuality, the visions of an incredibly intimate portrait stood patiently in the cut, waiting for the world to settle down and catch up. “Forrest Gump” is a play on that overtly critical view, and while there are more poignant songs on the album to choose from, this one reflects Frank’s profound sense of humor: [LISTEN] – J.M.

I saw your game, Forrest
I was screaming, “Run 44!”
But you kept running past the end zone
Oh where’d you go Forrest?

Odd Future – ‘Oldie

Before Odd Future even released a proper full length their controversial lyrics were already ruffling feathers. They kicked down rap’s front door, and before people even knew what hit em they were already on to the next. “Oldie” features a lion’s share of OF’s roster, and Tyler’s verse is as clear as an explanation as you’re going to get as to what they’re all about: [LISTEN] – J.M.

This is for the niggers in the suburbs
And the white kids with nigger friends who say the n-word
And the ones who got called weird, fag, bitch, nerd
Cause you was into jazz, kitty cats, and Steven Spielberg

Passion Pit – ‘Take a Walk

The oppressively catchy chorus on this one totally threw me for a loop. When our narrator lists off all of his old-world financial woes and fixes it by “taking a walk,” you assume it’s just a literal stroll to clear his head. When you find out later that “taking a walk” refers to the last steps off a tall building to commit suicide, it’s disorienting at the very least: [LISTEN] – K.F.

You see I am no criminal, I’m down on both bad knees
I’m just too much a coward to admit when I’m in need
I took a walk

Plan B – ‘iLL Manors

A response to the 2011 London riots, the theme to Plan B’s relentlessly grim directorial big-screen debut wrapped up his scathing attack on the government’s prejudice against the working class with a suitably aggressive blend of punk, hip-hop and breakbeat. Neither castigating the culprits nor justifying their actions, Ben simply drew upon his own personal experiences of growing up on a tough council estate to produce the most thrilling protest song of the 21st Century: [LISTEN] – J.O.

There’s no such thing as broken Britain
We’re just bloody broke in Britain

PSY – ‘Gangnam Style

This song is just infectiously silly. 2012 was a banner year for viral hits such as this one and “Call Me Maybe,” but “Gangnam Style” blew the insufferable competition out of the water, as it is now the most-watched YouTube video of all time (even though, at time of writing, it’s only about 5 months old). Perhaps it’s the dance, or PSY rapping from a toilet, but the humorously stuttery chorus definitely played a part: [LISTEN] – K.F.

Ehhh, sexy lady
Op-, op-, op-, op-
Oppan Gangnam Style!

Saint Etienne – ‘Tonight

Proving once again just how much they understand the power of pop music, the criminally underrated Saint Etienne returned after a seven year absence to perfectly recapture the thrill and anticipation of going to see your favourite band live on stage. An effortlessly classy slice of glittery disco-pop, packed full of couplets which straddled that fine line between genius and nonsense, “Tonight” matched anything Kylie Minogue has put her name to over the last decade: [LISTEN] – J.O.

Maybe they’ll open with an album track or a Top 5 hit, no turning back

Screaming Females – ‘It All Means Nothing

Marissa Patemoster’s shreds a better Stephen Malkmus-snaked power pop chord than she scribes punk-isms, but when they all marry each other along with her Sleater-Kinney vocal inflections things get so gnar magical, like this riot grrrl fist in the air that every 13-year-old girl looking to start a punk band should learn to play immediately, followed by a test on why certain parts of the veritable ‘all’ means nothing: [LISTEN] – G.P.

I’m on a mission to smash the mirror
Get myself off the scale
I’m gonna forget so I can see clearer
Get myself  off the shelf

Serengeti – ‘Uncle Traum

Before Serengeti released C.A.R., his latest album for Anticon Records, he was fighting for his life, battling pneumonia. For weeks he slipped in and out of a coma, and at one point suffered a series of small strokes. During the recovery he experienced wild hallucinations, coming face to face with some of his deepest, darkest fears to which he raps about in vivid detail here. Just another revealing chapter in Geti’s enigmatic career: [LISTEN] – J.M.

The antibiotics made me hallucinate
Cops arrested patients
Arabian Spiders inside my arms
And Uncle Traum
Him and my wife got shot, she was seeing him for a year
I had no idea

Esperanza Spalding – ‘Black Gold

When Esperanza Spalding won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011 it was for a number of reasons, one of which was that she singlehandedly revitalized what was perceived as a dying sect of music. Radio Music Society, her latest album, is more free flowing yet it contains sharp compositions and deeply emotional lyrics. “Black Gold” is her heartfelt ode to the fathers out there who take the time to love and connect with their children: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Hold your head as high as you can
High enough to see who you are, little man
Life sometimes is cold and cruel/Baby no one else will tell you so remember that

Titus Andronicus – ‘Ecce Homo

Like an angrier, grating little brother of Conor Oberst who never ditched his punk roots upon discovering Springsteen, Patrick Stickles has been crafting some brilliantly warm yet abrasive screeds lately. There’s this moment on TA’s return to non-Civil War anthemics on Local Business where the twenty-something sites his “disturbed dangerous drifter” panache now placed “in a deluge of hipsters.” But the very first verse on this opener really gets at his Bukowski-thrash crown: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Okay I think by now we’ve established
Everything is inherently worthless
There’s nothing in the universe
With any kind of objective purpose

Underworld – ‘Caliban’s Dream

Responsible for the chants of “lager lager lager” that defined the laddishness of the mid-90s, rave veterans Underworld have never exactly been renowned for their lyrical prowess. But they raised their game considerably when it mattered on this beautifully poetic cauldron-lighting theme, inspired by the works of WH Auden & Philip Larkin, that in the wake of Paul McCartney’s disastrous encore, should have been the perfect finale to Danny Boyle’s breath-taking Olympics opening ceremony spectacle: [LISTEN] – J.O.

But a flame arrives to guide us
Past the gold between the anvils of the stars

Sharon Van Etten – ‘Serpents

The lead single of Sharon Van Etten’s indie star-studded album, Tramp, “Serpents” never really relents or lets the listener fully relax, due in part to the drum beat co-opted from Arcade Fire‘s “No Cars Go.” This assists in Van Etten’s delivery of haiku-like lyric bombs such as this to whoever wronged her: [LISTEN] – K.F.

You enjoy sucking on dreams
So I will fall asleep
With someone other than you

Scott Walker – ‘SDSS 1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)

At 69, Scott Walker – the singer, not the Wisconsin governor – can still make even the most hardened shock rocker blush. The fact that “I’ve severed my reeking gonads/Fed them to your shrinking face” is coming from such a polished, operatic voice is all the more unsettling. Disgusting imagery aside, he also throws in some uniquely-executed introspection and hundreds of references that require Wikipedia. This 22-minute opus has all of the above in spades: [LISTEN] – K.F.

No more
Dragging this wormy anus
Round on shag piles from
Persia to Thrace

Jessie Ware – ‘110%

Accompanied by a contrastingly brash Big Pun sample about ‘carving initials on your forehead,’ Quiet Storm revivalist Jessie Ware staked her claim as this year’s most sophisticated chanteuse with a gorgeous dub-pop tune that was so feathery-light it was in danger of floating away. Her seductive tones may have failed to tease her prospective partner onto the dancefloor, but “110%” proved that Girls’ favourite Robyn certainly didn’t have the monopoly on crying at the discotheque: [LISTEN] – J.O.

Although I’m coming close to you, oh my love
I’ll keep the dancefloor warm
But I’m still dancing on my own

Waxahatchee – ‘Be Good

Just a girl and guitar. Another twenty-something love done did me wrong sketch with a beer and a couple of hearts on the line. Another case of a perfectly produced strummer, though – the same as Best Coast‘s “My Life” – in which this southern soul waxes over a moonlit reflection of a reverb jangle something conversational pure, gives in to failure, sits back and smiles. And someone said youth is wasted on the young: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Now I’m laughing at my boredom
At my string of failed attempts
Because you think that it’s important
And I welcome the sentiment

Jack White – ‘Love Interruption

Mr. White’s first foray, finally, into something he felt time to call by his own name boils all of his current troubles with women and love and blues into a masochistic gem of a frenetic howler that never does get electrified, just like that twisted bitch called love seems to do to a heart. But damn don’t you want it to keep it up to see how deep it can push before White decides to twist the knife and smile: [LISTEN] – G.P.

I want love to grab my fingers gently
Slam them in a doorway
Put my face into the ground

Matthew E. White – ‘Will You Love Me

Don’t let this soft-spoken Virginia heart fool you in early moments of his sentiment. He’ll take it somewhere. Backed by a crew of over 30 other Virginia hearts, White’s half M. Ward, half Curtis Mayfield, chasing build-and-charge soul resurrections that’ll make you believe in the power of love. You’ll encounter loneliness and darkness. But White, in with his horn section, a string lull and some choir girls will pull you out. ‘Cause “baby, you’re magnificent. Child, you’re intelligent:” [LISTEN] – G.P.

Darkness can’t drive out darkness
Only love can do that, baby
Only love can do that

You Won’t – ‘Fryer

Swelling from acoustic strummer to a Graceland-ish percussive howler, Boston’s rising Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-ish duo tackle some of life’s more harrowing misfortunes that just keep squeezing the hearts of tragedies and contemplations of suicide, playing third-person savior narrator, keeping it real with just a very simple final answer that’s not what you want to hear. But hey, that’s life, and it’s beautifully sad: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Christine loved a nice boy until her boy died
And she’s punching the walls now and wanting to cry
She says oh if I got me gun
Blew my brain from its body
Would I finally be done