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    BEST TRACKS OF 2012: James Reed



    “Oblivion” On an album bursting with all manner of electro-pop psychedelia and crazy countermelodies, “Oblivion” stood out for how relentlessly infectious it was. In an ideal pop universe, it would have been a Top 10 radio hit. Instead, it was the song that had me dancing around my living room all year long.


    “212” Half the lyrics I’d like to quote I can’t in this family newspaper. This NSFW dance-rap track — full of rhymes that sprayed like machine-gun fire and some stealth singing, too — was like a trumpet blaring the arrival of a talented new hip-hop artist. Unfortunately we’re still awaiting Banks’s full-length debut.


    “On the Sea” The musical alchemy that Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally create as Beach House is almost otherworldly. This song, one of the more unassuming moments from their fourth album, “Bloom,” hinged on the interplay between her sumptuous voice and his steely guitar. The build toward the end was nothing short of an avalanche of emotion.



    “Andrew in Drag” The award for the year’s catchiest chorus in a pop song goes to “Andrew in Drag,” the standout from the Magnetic Fields’ “Love at the Bottom of the Sea.” It’s 15 seconds of sheer joy and elation, a celebration of being a dude who is shocked to fall in love with another dude – but only when he’s in drag. Stephin Merritt, you are brilliant.


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    “Tiny Little Bows” “Call Me Maybe” was great (I’m not being sarcastic), but like a stick of Juicy Fruit, it lost its flavor soon enough, especially when you realized you couldn’t escape it. “Tiny Little Bows,” featuring a sample of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid,” was the next best thing, a bouncy club anthem that should have been a hit for Kylie Minogue.


    “Super Rich Kids” Musically, little happened in this song, but Ocean’s words – about the loneliness and hypocrisy of being young and restless and rich – grabbed you by the collar: “Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends/ Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends.”


    “One Way” Hands down the most heartbreaking song I heard this year, and all it took was a simple piano melody, Cousins’s spare voice, a tasteful string section, and an opening verse that sucker punched you in the stomach: “I break where you bend/I take what you send/ And we both pretend/But I start where you end.” Lordy.


    “Ruin” The first single from Cat Power’s surprising new album, “Sun,” was a bold declaration of independence from Chan Marshall’s past few years as a sultry soul singer. “Ruin” was another beast entirely: an upbeat anthem that rode a melody with tinges of Latin music and a message about being grateful for what you’ve got.



    “QueenS” “Whatever you do/ Don’t funk with my groove.” Now sing that a dozen times to a beat you’d expect from Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu. Repeat.


    “I Knew You Were Trouble”

    I rolled my eyes when I first heard this song while reviewing Swift’s new album, “Red.” (I ended up dismissing it as Swift sounding like “she’s Katy Perry approximating Joan Jett.”) On the subway ride home that night, I was tapping my foot to the melody. By the next day I had memorized the first two verses; by the third I had a dance routine. That’s a smash hit.