Yesterday, XLR8R offered up the first half of our picks top 50 tracks of the year, a list that we've concluded below. Honestly, after hearing solid tunes just about every day in the XLR8R office, it's difficult to narrow things down, but these were the 25 tracks that burrowed the deepest into our psyche during the course of the year. Once again, we've enlisted the artists themselves to speak about their creations; in the process, they shed some extra light on various aspects of the music-making process, outlining their inspirations or songwriting techniques, or simply offering some other detail that we didn't know before. Given that we enjoyed these songs so much, the extra tidbits of information are all the more enlightening.
25. Jam City
"How We Relate to the Body"
"It's a love letter and a thank you and a mission statement. And a reminder that we actually do have bodies, and that that is ok. Maybe intimate, maybe ecstatic. The weird friction of touching someone else, of moving together, no moroseness, no solitude, just joy." - Jam City
24. DJ Sliink
"The way 'Vibrate' came along is crazy and [it 's like it was] meant to be. I was actually in the studio, recording my boy for a new project we were working on. I recorded the vocals, [and] once the vocals were done, I finally played it back. In the background, I heard my phone vibrate. Automatically this idea popped up in my head: 'just vibrate girl.' I immediately stopped the session because I had the idea. I re-recorded the actual vibration from my Blackberry, [which] naturally generated sub-bass. I recorded the adlibs, and that's how I shocked the world." - DJ Sliink
"'Lache' is an important track for me; it was key to the development of the album and to my feelings about doing a record in general. It was the first piece that I finished properly, which then put the rest of the tracks in a context for the first time. It was a centerpiece to develop the album around, and also signified that the hardest part of the process was behind me. I've got some fond memories of dancing 'round my room to this one." - Vessel
22. Simian Mobile Disco
"'Cerulean' is probably the best example from Unpatterns of what we were sonically trying to achieve on that album. It's built around repetitive patterns that move constantly in and out of phase with each other. You can hear it clearly on the intro, before the drums kick in, and it continues moving in and out of time over the duration of the track. The melodies were built up around those patterns." - Simian Mobile Disco
"Back from the Grave"
(Italians Do It Better)
20. Head High
"Rave (Dirt Mix)"
"There was a record two years ago, the first one. It was actually just [a vehicle for] making good old music from the '90s, banging house music. That's why the name of the label is Power House. At Hard Wax, I was talking with DJ Pete about early-'90s techno with a powerful bass drum, [people like] DJ Duke from New York, or a lot of records from the Netherlands from this time. We always called it 'power house.' I thought, 'I have to do it—power house.'" - Rene Pawlowitz (a.k.a. Head High a.k.a. Shed), from XLR8R's The Many Faces of Shed
19. Holy Other
"Sometimes you forget about the degree in which circumstance can affect you. I set out wanting to create a more dance-oriented, positive record than anything I'd written before. But after I wrote "Held," the entire trajectory of the record changed. It was the first track that seemed to mirror where I was at emotionally at that time—and once I realised this, I totally let my sadness complete the record." - Holy Other
18. Jessie Ware
"Running (Disclosure Remix)"
"Could not have been happier with the response our remix got. Thanks to everyone out there who supported and bought it! Who knows about the VIP?!" - Disclosure
"'Drum Track' is just 1984 Chicago and 2004 London smooshed together into a bastard creation. It's a context-free club track. I've heard everyone from grime DJs to hard techno DJs play it at various pitches and it somehow makes sense every time." - Helix
"'Hardcourage' was a test or almost an exercise at first. I'd never made a track with a 4X4 909 kick like that, ever. I never wanted to. If I was gonna try and do that, I had to mess the snares up and put them all over the place. Then I needed a load of bass of course, cuz that's what you do with a track like that. A few friends started playing it on Rinse FM and it kinda took off. I catch myself telling people I have never made a banger before, that all my shit is subtle and song-like or whatever. Now I have made a banger. It's what I want to hear, I guess." - FaltyDL
"Caves of Paradise"
"When listening back to the recordings I made [in Cuba], it became obvious to me that the percussive elements would be my way in, my way to connect. I have used congas, bongos, and other drum sounds in so many of my tracks over the years. Tracks like 'Conference' (which I made in 2004), or another example that comes to mind is 'Lean Forward.' It was the recordings from Ramses Rodriguez (drummer) and Yaroldy Abreu (congas) which I often used as my starting point and vibes. Such incredible musicians. This was a real blessing, as the recordings were made especially for me. The record could not of been made without those guys playing." - Mala
13. Tom Demac
"Critical Distance Pt. 2"
"Excuse the rehashing of quotes from heroes, but this was definitely a case of 'I love it when a jam comes together." (Cringe.) 'Critical Distance Pt. 2' was one of those tracks that fell into place after just a couple of hours jamming on some synths [that ended] up propelling things into the slimmed-down collective conscience. It's annoying really, as it rarely happens like that in the studio; most of my time is spent twiddling with things that sound shit whilst managing coffee-induced heart palpitations. Either way, I'm super happy with this track and how it ended up, and I'm not forgetting the different feedback it had from across the board, whether people thought it scared the shit out of their mum or not." - Tom Demac
12. LOL Boys
(Friends of Friends)
"'Changes' came about after our friend Montrilla asked us to remix Heart Streets, a group he was a DJ for. Instead of remixing them, we decided to see if we could collaborate with them. We worked out the details and they sent us some great acapellas and thus 'Changes' was born." - Markus Garcia (a.k.a. Heartbeat(s)), formerly of LOL Boys
11. Lando Kal
"'Rhythm Sektion' was one from a series of three tunes I made in a day that all had a similar formula. At the time, I had just gotten ahold of a new Miami (808 clone) drum machine made by Berlin-based Acidlab, so I was well excited to dive deep that day. It was also one of the first times I had approached production by simply recording full long takes of the gear I was experimenting with at the time, rather than doing loads of micro-editing with software like I was used to. I've since stuck with that process and consider that track to be one that pioneered a more hands-on, simplified workflow that I currently really enjoy working with." - Lando Kal
10. John Talabot
"'Destiny' is a song that took more than half a year to finish. I started a percussion loop and a bassline and sent it strictly to Pional. He sent me back some lyrics, but I couldn't make more. I was stuck in the idea, so I started going to Madrid and recording different instruments and keyboards with [Pional], but even then, the track wasn't working. After recording more than three times in Madrid, both instruments and more lyrics, I decided to bring all my stuff into my old PC in Barcelona and started to make a puzzle. I worked hard for one month and eventually finished the track with the main melody. Even then, Pional and I weren't too convinced about the result, but it worked." - John Talabot
9. Simian Mobile Disco
"Put Your Hands Together"
"We got the vocal in 'Put Your Hands Together' from Jamie Lidell. It's a loop from a long improv session that he did at our studio and he only sung those words once, but they jumped out at us when we were listening back to the recordings. I love how the lyric suggests several, quite opposing meanings and it feels appropriate to take a small snippet of sense out of a chaotic take, as this is how we approach our synths, too. The insistent, looping vocal seems uplifting at first, but soon it takes on a slightly manic, religious quality. The change happens without the vocal changing at all, as it's just a loop going round and round, a good example of repetition being a form of change." - Simian Mobile Disco
"We actually made this way back in the middle of 2010—before the whole '90s buzz had come back again—and only managed to get it out this year, which probably worked in our favour looking back! A lot of the music we love comes from the early-'90s US house scene, but we also have lots of love for the UK garage scene. Whilst giving a nod to the past, we wanted it to sound big, rough, and focused on the floor. [The production is] simply stripped back, dark, and jackin'." - Bicep
7. Four Tet
"I made most of this in an airport. [I] seem to be coming up with most of my good stuff while I'm traveling these days." - Four Tet
"Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?"
5. George FitzGerald
"I wrote the track in more or less one evening after spending the usual Friday working at Blackmarket Records in Soho. I'd been working in the house/techno section there for about a year and had just been immersing myself in US house bits. I could always hear a route between that and the earlier UK garage from the '90s that I loved so much. 'Child' was just a rough attempt to create a bridge between those two things in my head."
- George FitzGerald
4. Boddika & Joy Orbison
"This track is the perfect example of two guys walking into a studio with no plan, having fun on the machines, and not thinking about things too much. That was all we did. We wrote the track in two days and the rest was history." - Boddika & Joy Orbison
3. John Talabot
"So Will Be Now..."
"This is probably my favorite track on the album and it's the reason I love working with [Pional] in Madrid, far from my studio environment. It's totally a 50-50 creative process and listening now, I realize that when we work together, new things happen. It's not part of Talabot, not part of Pional—it's a whole new person. We made the main idea of the track in an afternoon. And when I was going back home in a cab after the studio session, I knew that it was going to be the last track on the album. I knew it for sure. Not many changes were made after that, just some cuts and edits, and then the track was already done. I feel like this is a song that I'll be always proud of and I never have that feeling with any of my stuff. Never." - John Talabot
2. Todd Terje
"I'm very thankful to Kristoffer Borgli and Marius Solem Johansen for doing a music video for this song—it gave the track a completely different life. I didn't know Marius before I saw the result, but his character completely fascinated me and every time I see him now, I just want to jump over to him and fist pump, "walk the dog," "lay down the cement," "saw the plank," or do one of his other moves. If he ever learns the "make fancy dinner" move, I'll hire him as house help on the spot!" - Todd Terje
1. Girl Unit
"Ensemble (Club Mix)"
"'Ensemble' was one of the first tracks I'd written after having gone through a bit of a block, and I knew I wanted to do something way different but something that ultimately felt good, whether you're playing it in the club or on the yacht. Having already written the smoother chorus/breakdown parts as a kind of pop-music idea, the track really came to life once I'd started programming the drum tracks, got those low, Linn-style rimshots, and brought in the low bass stabs and the 'wow' synth from the Yamaha DX100—that's really where the 'Club Mix' part came from. The whole thing is as in debt to 1980s electro-funk as it is to Bangalter's Roule Records." - Girl Unit
XLR8R's Best of 2012 coverage will continue throughout the week, so check back each day for additional year-end round-ups. In the meantime, don't forget to take a look at the other Best of 2012 pieces we've posted already:
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Top Downloads
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Podcasts
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Features
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Videos
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Labels
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Hi, Doctor Nick!
XLR8R's Best of 2012: New Artists
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Overrated Releases
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Underwhelming Releases
XLR8R's Best of 2012: Tracks, Part One