Free from the grind of having to write about music on the regular, and at the time I’d have said “not a moment too soon”. Pop in 2012 felt directionless, the weakest year I could remember. Naturally now it’s contributed more than any other 2010s year to this list.

CHARLI XCX – “You (Ha Ha Ha)”: Charli XCX was my big new pop love of the decade, right from her first gothy, 80s-soaked synth bangers. Her variety, and her speed of development, was thrilling – this single, putting a venomous kiss-off on top of a glitchy Gold Panda track, was one of many jumps forward she’d keep making. YES.

SKY FERREIRA – “Everything Is Embarrassing”: Blood Orange’s favourite production trick – rigid, echoey drums over a melancholy backing – carries this along but it’s Ferreira’s exhausted but remorseless performance that makes it a classic. Every line is a curse, from “I know you’re trying” on. YES.

A$AP FERG ft A$AP ROCKY – “Shabba”: My actual memories of 2012 are great – secure in a new job and loving it; enjoying the best parts of early fatherhood; holidaying with friends; going to the Olympics. But the songs I’ve taken away from it – or in this case found later – tell a very different story: angry, abrasive, vicious. “Shabba” is a bragging song, Ferg and Rocky switching into patois as they lionise the dancehall singer and try to match him, snarling and swaggering over a whip-crack beat. YES.

ANNA MEREDITH – “Nautilus”: From Scottish composer Anna Meredith’s first EP, mixing minimal classical music and dubstep in ways which got this song forcibly evicted from my office stereo (a unique achievement!) A lot of the time the inside of my head feels a bit like this song. YES.

CHIEF KEEF – “I Don’t Like”: Hi-hats drag back and forth to give extra momentum to this monolithic chunk of teenage bad attitude. Relentless, like his flow is coshing you. YES.

KILLER MIKE – “Reagan”: More extremely heavy rap, the production heaping layers of earth on Ronnie’s grave and legacy, each new verse landing harder, turning the beat more into a maleficent drone. YES.

SOLANGE – “Losing You”: Another Blood Orange production, another break-up, this one a lot kindlier, sadder, more forgiving than Sky Ferreira’s black hole of exhaustion. Which means I like it less, but it’s great to hear it again. NO.

JESSIE WARE – “Wildest Moments”: Yes, it’s another song on the sad lady + echoey drum loop tip, I apparently could not get enough of this stuff. Ware is easily a good enough singer to imbue this with real character and feeling even when you can see all the tricks coming bars off. NO.

MIGUEL – “Adorn”: No male singer of the 2010s does yearning quite like Miguel, this is three minutes of naked thirst (a good thing, though it can’t quite get to the level I want for the shortlist). NO.

ICONA POP ft CHARLI XCX – “I Love It”: It’s easy to do snotty and bratty in pop but a lot more difficult to do it actually well without a lot of people really hating you – the 10s in particular feel like they’re strewn with chumps in this regard. “I Love It” is not a work of profundity – it’s Shampoo in a monster truck – but it walks that particular line superbly. YES.

JESSIE WARE – “Imagine It Was Us”: Jessie again (and not for the last time!) with the slinkier side of her sound, and probably the aspect I like more. In a year of big beats, hardass rappers, maximal sounds, I do feel I want to give some props to the more seductive bits of pop. YES.

ZEDD ft FOXES – “Clarity”: Another example of the actual dominant pop sound of the era – enormous EDM belters. Foxes pours her lungs out on the mantric chorus, strapping herself a sound so big I’ve never bothered stopping to think whether the song makes any sense, or even what it’s saying. NO.

RUDIMENTAL ft JOHN NEWMAN – “Feel The Love”: A dancefloor pop belter from a slightly different tradition – when this was in the charts it felt like it had been far too long since I’d heard big honking breakbeats on a pop hit, and these ones really go off. Truth be told it’s been slightly dimmed by its endless use in ads, in which D’n’B is a one-size fits all signifier of “energetic”. But I’m fond enough to give it a pass. YES.

Feels like it’s all getting a bit more random – that continues with 2013, which (I think) will be the last year with enough candidates for a single post…