Songs from Down Under

Posted by David Smerdon on Jan 5, 2013 in Non-chess |

Every year, the Australian radio station Triple J conducts the world’s largest online music poll to determine the best 100 songs.  Readers may remember my votes for the 2010 Hottest 100, which also doubled as my first attempt to masquerade as a music critic.  Triple J blasts the winners on January 26 (Australia Day), and in 2013, I (a) have once again entered my votes with a self-assured aloofness of exactitude, and (b) have gotten no better in my pretense.

With no further ado, here are my top 10 choices for the best songs of 2012. Pundits, bettors and Triple J judges: take note.


10. 360 – Run Alone
From beautiful destruction to bouncy optimism.  Run Alone is the first of three dance tunes I’ve thrown into this year’s mix, but it keeps enough character to stop the indie hipsters turning up their noses at the slightly commercial-house flavour.  It’s a light-hearted, all-round winner for beating the blues, coupled with a sunny film clip. Harmless fun, but perhaps a little too shallow to make the final popular-vote list.

9. Seth Sentry – Dear Science
Guaranteed to make the final 100, though almost certainly too frivolous to crack the top 10.  Still, most of us have wondered at some point why technology is taking its time in giving us the future we imagined, and Seth rams the point home.  The whole song is essentially a complaint that science still hasn’t given us hoverboards, and while the message may be slightly simplistic, it’s hard to argue with the logic. A delightful novelty.

8. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop
One of the heavy hitters for the year, Thrift Shop is a serious contender for the number one song of the year.  The beat has a slight Brother Ali feel to it, but it’s the deep, booming baritone hip-hop, combined with the boppy novelty melody, that might see it oust Little Talks for top dog.  To be honest, I think their other, less popular number Same Love, with its serious anti-homophobia message, is a far more meaningful work, but I can’t argue with the fact that this is the song off their acclaimed The Heist album is the one I’m most likely to keep on repeat.  If the rules of Hottest 100 entry were strictly enforced by the judges, Thrift Shop would be a clear favourite for the gold.  But, as it happens…

7. Of Monsters And Men – Little Talks
…it’s probably second-favourite to this blockbuster.  Little Talks was technically first released in late 2011, which should render it ineligible for the 2012 Hottest 100, but it’s been included anyway as a candidate.  Having taken the US and Europe by storm, Of Monsters and Men can be quietly confident of picking up the most prestigious honour in Australian radio, come January 26.  Little Talks sounds a little like Mumford and Sons crossed with the vocal qualities of The xx, and although it’s no Lion Man, it remains favourite to take out line honours for 2012.

6. Calvin Harris – Sweet Nothing {ft. Florence Welch}
The dynamite combination of esteemed DJ Calvin Harris and the phenomenal vocals of Florence Wench (from Florence and the Machine) was always going to score highly on the charts and poll well with the Australian public.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing Florence in concert in both Melbourne and Amsterdam, and it must be said that her voice needs no background beat to encourage you to jump all over the place.  But the one-two combo of Sweet Nothing will get both the fluro-donning raver and antiquated indie folker linking arms and banging heads on the picnic table.  Guaranteed to be a hit at parties.

5. Abbe May – Karmageddon

The song that most easily came to mind when recalling the best of the year was this little apocalyptic apple from an artist I’d never heard of before.  At first, it has a slight Tame Impala feel with those strained, echoing male battle cries, but this beautifully juxtaposes with Abbe’s resonant voice that innocently masks the rather morbid doomsday lyrics.  We’re all going down in a ball of flames, by crickey, this girl’s voice is so – damn – sexy.  For a year in which the world was supposedly supposed to endKarmageddon was eerily appropriate – and if we were all going down, Abbe’s voice would be the sound to send us there.

4. Rudimental – Not Giving In

The final dance number of my list is probably the best of the bunch.  A wickedly upbeat tune, the vocals of English duo John Newman and Alex Clare combine with the effects of the instrumental brass and rumbling bass to really encourage a sense of unbridled optimism and intrinsic strength throughout its five-and-a-half minutes.  If you think I’m giving the song a little too much meaningful credit, check out the music video, set in the slums of Manila, and guaranteed to keep you thinking long after the final note.

3. Chance Waters – Young & Dumb {ft. Bertie Blackman}
I have to confess, I’ve always had a secret crush on Bertie Blackman, which first sparked my interest in this duet with the Australian hip-hop artist formally known by the ridiculous handle Phatchance.  I’m very glad I did, though, because this is an exquisite little ditty that I predict will be a surprising hit in the final countdown.  Despite the lyrical reputation of the singers, it’s actually – how do I put this? – surprisingly romantic.  Do you know someone currently jaded with love and togetherness?  Then this is the perfect remedy to ease them back into a state of wary optimism.  Try to listen to it without tapping your feet; I dare you.

2. C2C – Down The Road

Probably the most unusual find for my list this year.  In general I’m not very familiar with the French music scene, but this English-language piece by a turntable band from Nantes is a beautiful silence-stopper.  Only two and a half minutes long, Down the Road feels like a country/blues classic that’s been mixed up and minced through an electronic blender – but somehow, it works.

1. Flight Facilities – Clair De Lune {ft. Christine Hoberg}
From the shortest to the longest of my entries this year, we come to my favourite track of 2012.  At almost eight minutes long,  Clair De Lune is quite a trip, a dreamy escape, and simply beautiful.  The title (French for ‘moonlight’) could not be more apt, and Christine Hoberg’s angelic voice would be enough to send anyone off to blissful slumber, were it not for the carefully constructed instrumentals and smooth melody to perfectly complement the ensemble.  It’s definitely my pick of the candidates, but while I would love to see it claiming the mantle of Number One, I recognise that Flight Facilities has a style that’s not for everyone.  But it’ll be there in the final cut, and most deservedly so.


So there you have it – my list of the hottest tracks of 2012. You can vote yourself at and give yourself a chance to win a Triple J Golden Ticket, giving yourself entry to all the biggest music festivals in Australia for 2013.  (Okay, perhaps not that useful to you non-Aussies, but I’m living in Amsterdam and still jumping on board.)  Now to bring on Australia Day and see how my picks fared.  Happy listening!








Jan 9, 2013 at 11:11 am

Interesting mate….I have a few of the same ones – but my favourite for #1 is Sweet Nothing…in saying that, i think as my #1, i think the #1 is more likely to be Thrift Shop…Here’s my 10 songs – obviously with more of the dance twist 😉

Avicii – Silhouettes
Calvin Harris – Sweet Nothing {ft. Florence Welch}
Example – Close Enemies
Florence + The Machine – Spectrum (Say My Name) {Calvin Harris Remix}
Icona Pop – I Love It {ft. Charli XCX}
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop {ft. Wanz}
Of Monsters And Men – Little Talks
Porter Robinson – Language
Rudimental – Feel The Love {ft. John Newman}
Sander Van Doorn & Mayaeni – Nothing Inside {Adam F Remix}

David Smerdon
Jan 26, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Not a bad list, Fitz – definitely more of a party selection!

Karmageddon didn’t make the Top 100, unfortunately. For the record, my picks finished as follows:

1: Thrift Shop
2: Little Talks
11: Sweet Nothing
16: Not giving in
17: Clair de Lune
26: Dear Science
35: Run Alone
45: Young and Dumb
88: Down The Road



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