Top 50 Tracks of the 1980s: # 50-46

50. Sinead O’Connor, “Mandinka”
She was three years away from her first (and in the U.S., only) big hit, but her first single perfectly summarizes what was so captivating, joyful, and eccentric about the woman in her youth.

49. Wang Chung, “Dance Hall Days”
I only came around to this song recently. After hearing it on auto-pilot for years, one day I finally noticed the seductive bounce in its step. I believe the video above is the version Derek Jarman directed (at least the super 8 footage has to be his).

48. Romeo Void, “Never Say Never”
I MIGHT LIKE YOU BETTER IF WE SLEPT TOGETHER, I MIGHT LIKE YOU BETTER IT WE SLEPT TOGETHER

47. Depeche Mode, “Never Let Me Down Again”
Sleek, propulsive, immense, brooding, immaculate, sonorous. Most singles by these synth-pop dinks featured at least one of those qualities; this one had ’em all.

46. The Church, “Under The Milky Way”
A textbook case of a song only resonating with me after inspired use of it in a film years later (in this case, Donnie Darko). Although I now forever link it with the film, I can also appreciate it on its own terms whenever it shows up on the radio or my mp3 player.

My Favorite Music of 2012

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Martha Wainwright

The Best Tracks of 2012 in two Spotify playlists:

Volume 1: Someone Who Looks Smashing In Athletic Wear

1. Saint Etienne, “Tonight” / 2. Tanlines, “All Of Me” / 3. The Magnetic Fields, “Andrew In Drag” / 4. Diamond Rings, “Runaway Love” / 5. Stars, “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It” / 6. Jens Lekman, “Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder” / 7. Jessie Ware, “Wildest Moments” / 8. Of Monsters And Men, “Mountain Sound” / 9. Hot Chip, “Let Me Be Him” / 10. Rufus Wainwright, “Bitter Tears” / 11. Sinead O’Connor, “Queen Of Denmark” / 12. The Ting Tings, “Guggenheim” / 13. Aimee Mann, “Labrador” / 14. Imperial Teen, “Out From Inside” / 15. Miike Snow, “The Wave” / 16. Twin Shadow, “Run My Heart” / 17. Martha Wainwright, “Proserpina” / 18. Fiona Apple, “Hot Knife” / 19. A.C. Newman, “They Should Have Shut Down The Streets”

Volume 2: You Enjoy Sucking On Dreams

1. Metric, “The Void” / 2. Calexico, “Splitter” / 3. Sharon Van Etten, “Serpents” / 4. Regina Spektor, “All The Rowboat” / 5. Dr. John, “Revolution” / 6. The Gaslight Anthem, “Here Comes My Man” / 7. Deep Sea Arcade, “Girls” / 8. Keane, “On The Road” / 9. Bat For Lashes, “Laura” / 10. The xx, “Chained” / 11. Emm Gryner, “She’s Gone” / 12. Paul Brill, “Breezy” / 13. Patti Smith, “April Fool” / 14. Andrew Bird, “Lusitania” / 15. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, “Man On Fire” / 16. The Shins, “No Way Down” / 17. Ben Folds Five, “Away When You Were Here” / 18. A Fine Frenzy, “Now Is The Start” / 19. Goldfrapp, “Melancholy Sky” / 20. Field Music, “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing” / 21. Beth Orton, “Mystery”

Top Ten Albums:

1. Jens Lekman – I KNOW WHAT LOVE ISN’T
2. Fiona Apple – THE IDLER WHEEL…
3. Saint Etienne – WORDS AND MUSIC BY SAINT ETIENNE
4. Hot Chip – IN OUR HEADS
5. Rufus Wainwright – OUT OF THE GAME
6. Martha Wainwright – COME HOME TO MAMA
7. Ben Folds Five – THE SOUND OF THE LIFE OF THE MIND
8. Imperial Teen – FEEL THE SOUND
9. Stars – THE NORTH
10. Jessie Ware – DEVOTION

Also Recommended:

Often, I struggle to find enough worthy albums to fill out a top ten. This year, I could have easily done a top 15. Here are a few worthy candidates, along with favorite tracks in parentheses.

A.C. Newman – SHUT DOWN THE STREETS
Far more focused than his second solo album, slightly less convincing than his first, and preferable to the last two New Pornographers records. (“They Should Have Shut Down The Streets”, “Hostages”, “You Could Get Lost Out Here”)

Andrew Bird – BREAK IT YOURSELF
After seeing him perform most of this material in concert two years ago, I diagnose him with a case of Ani DiFranco Syndrome—the studio recordings can’t quite match the live renditions, but at least he cut out the filler that marred Noble Beast. (“Lusitania”, “Eyeoneye”, “Near Death Experience Experience”)

Bat For Lashes – THE HAUNTED MAN
She’s an artist in transition, still finding her voice. For all the studio wizardry on display here, she’s most effective when she places her vocals and melodies front-and-center. (“Laura”, “All Your Gold”)

Metric – SYNTHETICA
Ever confident and insanely catchy, but it breaks little new ground. Nonetheless, a solid follow-up to Fantasies so competent that grumpy old man Lou Reed doesn’t even embarrass himself in a cameo. (“The Void”, “Clone”, “Breathing Underwater”)

Miike Snow – HAPPY TO YOU
A strange but not unbecoming mixture of top 40 dance music with an indie rock sensibility: martial drum rolls, house music pianos and campfire whistling never sounded so good together. (“The Wave”, “Paddling Out”, “Bavarian # 1 (Say You Will)”)

Patti Smith – BANGA
She must have got something out of her system with that awful documentary about her from a few years back (or perhaps you can just blame its director); in her stunning memoir and now this, she’s rarely projected so much lucidity and warmth. (“April Fool”, “This Is The Girl”)

Sinead O’Connor – HOW ABOUT I BE ME (AND YOU BE YOU)?
Still a perpetual Hot Mess, but better that than a boring one. Easily her best since I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, “Queen of Denmark” proves her gift for interpretation hasn’t diminished. (“The Wolf Is Getting Married”, “Queen of Denmark”, “Reason With Me”)

Tracey Thorn – TINSEL AND LIGHTS
After only a few spins, it’s now my favorite modern Christmas album and a testament to her continued relevance that the two originals are highlights. (“Tinsel and Lights”, “Joy”, “Taking Down The Tree”)