Top Pops! Top Tracks of 2012

“Pop music shouldn’t always get a bad rap,” says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles. This round-up list includes our favorite pop tracks from 2012, listed in a spectrum from the chillest to the grooviest to the danciest.


  1. Chromatics – “Into The Black” (Neil Young Cover) DOWNLOAD MP3
    Well yeah, I’m a sucker for a good Neil Young cover. JUDY NELSON
    [audio:/mp3/downloads/Chromatics_Into-The-Black.mp3|titles=Chromatics – Into The Black]


  2. Night Moves – “Headlights” from Colored Emotions
    This track from Night Moves reminds me of Portugal. The Man’s Americana and psych rock blend on The Satanic Satanist. The questioning of personal comforts (“I just don’t know who I am”) mixed with gentle falsetto mantras (“It’s alright”) bring the track to a slow and smooth close. VIVIAN HUA
  3. Usher – “Climax” from Looking For Myself
    There’s not much to say about one of Usher’s best tracks ever, other than — it’s one of Usher’s best tracks ever, and dude has built up quite the collection of good tracks through the years. VIVIAN HUA
  4. Beach House – “The Hours” from Bloom
    Beach House are no strangers to creating beautifully melancholic songs, and their latest album, Bloom, seems to me, from personal experience, the break-up album of the year with its elusively spiritual (perhaps) and bittersweet lyrics. VIVIAN HUA
  5. Gardens & Villa – “Gypsy” (Fleetwood Mac Cover) from Just Tell Me That You Want Me”
    Gardens & Villa submit their cover for a Fleetwood Mac tribute compilation, and as a band that is already reminiscent of the ’80s pop legends, the quintet has submitted the best cover of the bunch. VIVIAN HUA
  6. Aan – “I Don’t Need Love” DOWNLOAD MP3
    Portland’s experimental into rockers Aan got a bit of a makeover this year and have an upcoming 2013 album well worth your eargasms. “I Don’t Need Love” is the raw and energetic precursor to that. VIVIAN HUA
    [audio:/mp3/downloads/Aan_I-Dont-Need-Love.mp3|titles=Aan – I Don’t Need Love]


  7. MS MR – “Hurricane”
    “Hurricane” is perfectly delicate yet sultry and sexy. The singer’s voice is haunting and echoing, and combined with the pounding drum rhythm throughout the track, it is not only the best surprise of the year but also serves as the perfect soundtrack to humid summer nights. ERIK BURG
  8. Cat Power – “Ruin” from Sun DOWNLOAD MP3
    While it’s hard to pick a best track on an album of great tracks, “Ruin” was the single and deservedly so; it was the perfect blend of Chan Marshall voice and her strong guitar playing, an upbeat yet appropriately lyrically downtrodden song. JUDY NELSON
    [audio:/mp3/downloads/Cat-Power_Ruin.mp3|titles=Cat Power – Ruin]


  9. Frank Ocean – “Thinkin Bout U” from channel ORANGE
    It speaks much about the current state of pop music that Frank Ocean’s single from channel ORANGE was the -minute-long and atypically-structured “Pyramids”. That, alongside possibly the best track from the record, “Thinkin Bout U”, are just part of the reason Frank Ocean has be absolutely everywhere this year. VIVIAN HUA
  10. Toro Y Moi – “So Many Details”
    Chaz Bundick seems to increasingly honing in on the power of his Midas touch. This is the first single from his upcoming January 2013 full-length, and its grooviness descends into psychedelic territories in the best ways possible. VIVIAN HUA
  11. Jessie Ware – “Sweet Talk” + REMIX
    A new artist to me, Jessie Ware’s beautiful debut, Devotion has only recently come into my 2012 rotation; this soul-tinged R&B track stands out as one of the best on what will prove to be one of my new favorite albums. JUDY NELSON
  12. Shy Girls – “Under Attack” FREE EP DOWNLOAD
    Indie R&B with a full band and back-up singers, via the up-and-coming Portland band Shy Girls. “Under Attack” was just released in mid-December, and is the band’s most exciting track to date. Can’t wait for more. VIVIAN HUA
  13. Shintaro Sakamoto – “You Just Decided”
    Shintaro Sakamoto mixes elements of dub, jazz, indie, and lounge into a whirling and satisfying coffee shop-suitable but better-than-that vibe. VIVIAN HUA
  14. Psychic Twin – “Gonna Get Her”
    May the reverb-laden, echoey vocals of vocalist Erin Fein whirl into your brainnnnnn as they remind you about the temporary, transient nature of all things and the importance of letting go. VIVIAN HUA





  15. Grandparents – “Arrows” DOWNLOAD MP3
    I may have heard renditions of this track millions of times, but the Western soundtrack vibe of “Arrows” never grows tiring with its garage rock-meets-Nurses vocals (it is not Nurses). VIVIAN HUA
    [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Grandparents_Arrows.mp3|titles=Grandparents – Arrows]


  16. Brainstorm – “Flat Earth” from Heat Waves DOWNLOAD MP3
    Afro influences and harmonizing soar high over a cacophony of sounds. VIVIAN HUA
    [audio:/mp3/downloads/Brainstorm_Flat-Earth.mp3|titles=Brainstorm – Flat Earth]


  17. TOPS – “Diamond Look” DOWNLOAD MP3
    In this playful ditty, the adorable Jane Penny blasts off her piercing vocals to a playful groove. You can also stream the entire album. VIVIAN HUA
    [audio:/mp3/downloads/TOPS_Diamond-Look.mp3|titles=TOPS – Diamond Look]


  18. Deep Time – “Clouds” DOWNLOAD MP3
    This Austin duo released a record of impressively percussive indie pop jams this year, and as a single, “Clouds” is a great representative of an even greater whole. VIVIAN HUA
    [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Deep-Time_Clouds.mp3|titles=Deep Time – Clouds]


  19. Another – “Night”
    On “Night”, Chicago musician Another sprinkles in some Bear In Heaven vocal styling into KISSES-type indie dance. VIVIAN HUA
  20. Taken By Trees – “Large” from Other Worlds
    The dubbed out “Large” takes cues from Victoria Bergsman’s time in the Hawaiian islands. Crucial atmospheric tropical pop. VIVIAN HUA
  21. Poolside – “Fly Away” DOWNLOAD MP3
    Rad daytime disco from So-Cal duo Poolside. Their environment shows through their tracks, indeed. VIVIAN HUA
    [audio:/mp3/downloads/Poolside_Fly-Away.mp3|titles=Poolside – Fly Away]


  22. Grimes – “Genesis” DOWNLOAD MP3
    A ghostly, beautiful song that stands out among an excellent electro-dance pop record. JUDY NELSON
    [audio:/mp3/downloads/Grimes_Genesis.mp3|titles=Grimes – Genesis]


  23. Santigold – “The Keepers” + REMIXES
    Her sophomore album didn’t blow me away as much as her debut did (maybe it was the name change), but there were some excellent stand out tracks, and this was one. JUDY NELSON
  24. Niki & The Dove – “The Drummer”
    This Swedish duo really impressed me with their live show opening for Twin Shadow earlier this year, and made me reconsider their album as a good contender for top of 2012. This is one of my favorite tracks, but it was hard to choose. JUDY NELSON
  25. Tanlines – “Real Life”
    The fact is that this song came out on their debut EP Settings, but the extremely fun reggae-influenced dance track didn’t receive the credit it deserved until their 2012 album, Mixed Emotions. JUDY NELSON



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