An atypical year. But aren’t they all?
These are my tracks of the year. As in, released this year. It can be an official release. It can be just on MySpace or youtube. The “Single from an album released last year” is usually me trying to include someone who I missed from the previous year somehow. There’s also the Single Lady Rule, where a single that was actually released in the US – so all over the place – in the previous year, but only actually peaking in the UK afterwards can get included. Also, one track per artist. If an artist has several awesome things, I’d generally pick the best and shunt up their position a few notches for that. In past years, people like the Go Team and Outkast have profited from that. In this year, it’s people like Robyn.
I’ve put all the tracks I can on a Spotify Playlist. For those outside the hallowed zone of Spotify, here’s the Youtube list. The Spotify One includes 36 out of the 40. The Youtube one includes 37 out of the 40, though has some live versions instead of the “real” one. On ones absent from one or the other, I’ll include a link in the post in question. For the rare track which isn’t on either, I’ll include a link to what I can.
Anyway – LET US GO WITH THE LISTIOSITY! TUNE IS GO! I REPEAT, TUNE IS GO!
40) Luke Haines – Outsider Music
This isn’t a track. This is an album. This year, Haines released it. Fifty copies. Each recorded individually, with songs drawn from a pool of 15. One take. One of them includes the postie coming, apparently. Sold for seventy five quid each.
I have one. You almost certainly do not, unless you’re Matt Sheret, in which case you do.
Who’s the winner here?
Luke Haines. Luke Haines is the winner.
39) The Like – He’s Not A Boy
Just to imagine Everett True exploding “I PUBLISHED HIS SHIT AND HE DOES THIS TO ME, THE BAST! FUCK ‘IM!”. Deeply cynical mod-garage-girl revivialism. The bridge and the chorus do pretty much nothing, but the verse’s propulsive little stomp moves shoulders. And the linking organ!
38) The Indelicates – Europe
The Indelicates embrace… actually, no. “Embrace” is probably the least Indelicates word in the world. Let’s go with “deigns to stand in the same room as”. Europe deigns to stand in the same room as baroque cellar theatricality. I didn’t really give Songs For Swinging Lovers enough time, but I really should have returned.
37) Threshold – Sex Bob-omb
Fuck me, the Scott Pilgrim film was AWESOME.
36) Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – You Won’t Let Me Down
The sound of exactly you want to hear when crawling into an ATP venue after a night of booze-obliteration. Also, proof that it’s not all shouty girls around here.
35) Kate Nash – I Just Love You More
Just mostly. I’m sure there was something off Nash’s (patchy) second album I dug more than this, but I haven’t time to work my way through and check. So instead, I’m going to go for the first track I heard from it, which is made of screaming and petulance and the power of repetition. Also, it’s the one which Walker likes least.
What was it? I can’t remember. It wasn’t Doo-Wah-Doo. That was shit.
34) Standard Fare – Fifteen
A Revisita 69 special. Ida Maria-esque jangle and falling over and unquestioning questionable emotions.
33) Holy Fuck – Latin America
Listened to the album on repeat for whole scripts, and still couldn’t name a single track out of it. It’s just a lovely aesthetic, propulsive whole I disappear into. I went with this, as it’s got Spotify’s highest number of plays, and democracy is IMPORTANT.
32) I Blame Coco feat. Robyn – Caesar
She really does sound like her Dad! As in, a bloke! Also, first appearance of Robyn in the charts. I was talking to McKelvie a minute ago, and he noted that I can’t just have the whole thing be Robyn. Except she she’s put out so much stuff, I absolutely could.
31) Say No To Love – Pains of Being Pure of Heart
It says something about how little I follow the press now that I’ve got no idea why any of the Pains’ singles haven’t appeared in any end of year list. Has there been some kind of enormous jangly-twee-backlash? Are they being hounded around New York, being forced to huddle beneath satchells and defend themselves with pin-badges? I just don’t know and don’t care, as I’m being Lovelorn and pulling my imaginary jumper tighter to myself.
30) Teenage Fanclub – When I Still Have Thee
Oh, let’s make this bit of the charts a JANGLE CONJUNCTION. Every time I see Teenage Fanclub live, I like them more and I’m aware by the glances of my younger friends that they think it makes me less cool than the whole painting Skaven thing. But as I give a fuck, y’know? Romantic, close harmonies, shambling loveliness.
29) Frightened Rabbit – Swim Until You Can’t See Land
Still Scottish, still a little Jangly, still interested in the matters of the heart, more likely to bawl loudly about your inability to find love in some manner of orifice or – in this case – swimming into the middle of fucking nowhere. Which is apparently about losing yourself, but given their usual idiom, does make you think about trying to drown yourself.
28) Warpaint – Undertow
I’ve just realised I’ve miscounted, so want to slide something in here. Warpaint and their atmospheric rock will do, I think. Though I preferred this from their 2008 EP, though it was live in January so… oh, let’s get a move on.
27) Silver Columns – Brow Beaten
Those bleeps! They just won’t stop bleeping! Silver Columns were the band I most missed seeing at ATP, because I LOVE THOSE BLEEPS. Also, Falsetto. Also, Hot Chip were pretty nob this year.
26) No Age – Glitter
Those fuzzes! They just won’t stop fuzzing! I LOVE THOSE FUZZES, etc. No Age are the sort of thing which I imagine is playing inside Marc Ellerby’s head every single second of his life. A graph between feedback and romance, expertly plotted.
25) Everybody Was In The French Resistance…Now! – G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N. (You Know I’ve Got A)
The army of Argos bands marches onwards. French Resistance finally came out, leading to this single where it notes Avril Lavigne is a crazy stalker who should just leave us all alone. But we must also mention Spoiler Alert! whose Batman is about as good as the genre of DC-superhero-origins-set-to-music can possibly get. And after the fiftieth time, I still laugh at the AT THE MOMENT I’M DICK GRAYSON punchline.
24) Slow Club – Giving Up On Love
The album was out last year, but this was released as a single this year, and I’m including it as my way of saying I’m very, very sorry. Imagine me looking at my feet and everything. The Boy/Girl dynamism just builds and collapses over itself and never sounds any less than completely in love with life.
23) Los Campesinos – Straight In At 101
Romance Is Boring had more many more intricate moments, but the one which filled my spring was this list of hyperverbal neurotic fuck-craving, nailed in place by its opening Bis-esque riff and with its chain of bon mot-guts spooling out before the whole thing just decides to have a nice sit down at the end.
22) Black Box Recorder – Do You Believe In God?
The sole product of their very brief reunion. The sound of a consultant reading Britannia’s test results, seeing her veins are packed up with fat, smirking to themselves before tossing it in the bin and telling the regal, godly patient that everything’s just fine. The smirk on the “How about Euthanasia?” is probably visible to the people of the moon.
21) Fang Island – Daisy
Basically the music for Civilization 4 as performed by Los Campesinos, after they’ve stabbed Gareth to death, and are all dancing around, holding his bisected organs above their heads. And a portal in the room opens and Bill and Ted arrive to play a guitar solo, and then we’re back to the dancing around with Gareth’s component parts. In short: AWESOME!
20) Pagan Wanderer Lu – God in his wisdom and compassion spares the Mona Lisa from being engulfed by the dying sun
From its pure-tone-noise, the sort of literate bedroom epic that always gets included in my list emerges. It even includes the Be My Baby drum-beat! It’s a clear shoe-in. And when the chorus kicks in and the synthy-strings kick in, I want to invite about ten people into my house, cram them into my office, and all put our hands in the air.
[On Spotify, but not Youtube. In fact, not available anywhere bar spotify I can see. Unless you buy it.]
19) Gonzales – This Is Europe
Perfectly sets a tone of European utopianism – as full of glittery promise as a ferrero rocher – and then Gonzales drops a series of perfect images (“I’m an imperial armpit, sweating chianti” “I’m socialist lingerie. I’m diplomatic techno. I’m gay pastry and racist cappuccino”) and then he stops, and lets the utopianism sweep back, and sweep us away.
18) Ke$ha – Tik-Tok
The “Single Lady” rule in full effect. US last year, UK this one. And Dancing to it with assorted games journalists – not least Queen of the World, Ellie Gibson – was one of the most glorious throw downs the year gave me. The sort of Ear Worm that can decapitate the unwary, as shamelessly irresponsible as sticking a dummy on the end of a revolver and passing it to your child.
17) The Pipettes – Stop the Music
The Pipettes’ second album was pretty much unbearable. The main exception was this, which a pure rush of Disco left me addicted, the sort of single which turns an album into just a single with a B-side. The flip of Pullshapes’ “What Do You Do When The Music Stops?”. You do this, and stop the music. Penny would have loved it.
16) Parenthetical Girls – Young Throats
Christ, I loved their early stuff, but listening to this made me realise exactly how much I’ve missed of their development. Enormo-production Associates weirdness, as melodramatic as the Ring Cycle, compressed into its handful of minutes.
15) cocknbullkid – cocknbullkid
Popped up on Revista69, and immediately became something I took daily for months, like a course of vitamins, except tasty vitamins. Presumably has to be a single next year, yeah? Poised and desperate and Wildean, pop that doesn’t feel the need to actually physically pop, explode. Dignity, Dignity, Dignity as Kenickie once said.
[Not on Spotify. Youtube here.]
14) Best Coast – Boyfriend
No dignity here. Emotions, stated directly, without a filter for pretence, and a guitar with a just-so fuzz filter and a harmony filter.
13) Crystal Castles – Baptism
BLEEPS AND SCREAMING. There are times that a man doesn’t need anything other than BLEEPS AND SCREAMING. And for those times, Crystal Castle are there, ignoring you, BLEEPING and SCREAMING and being as self-centred as a gyroscope with a line of coke around it, which it’s not sharing with anyone.
12) Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round & Round
Confession: this is the latest addition to the list. I hadn’t tried out Ariel Pink’s one this year until it turned up on the end of year lists before Christmas… at which point I imbue it, it consumes me and it’s basically been the theme tune to my holidays. Just plain expert stuff. By the time it reveals its chorus at the 2-minute mark you’ve already melted. The chorus just reduces you into gas, before igniting you, turning you into plasma. A sort of previously unknown to science hug-plasma.
I’m not sure what I’m writing now, if you haven’t guessed. POWERING THROUGH.
11) LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls
This is another one where its’ for the incredible album as much as the individual track. But the individual track did lead to much shouting of DRUNK GIRLS for weeks at a time. It makes me wish I still lived in Bristol, so I could print a DRUNK GIRLS fanzine, in the style of an eye-spy book, where you mark off various species of DRUNK GIRLS and then send off for a DRUNK GIRLS badge.
(When I’m not DRUNK GIRLSing, I’ve obsessed over Dance Yrself Clean. Just as a FYI)
10) Electrocute – Super Kiss Attack
Re-read that line. It looks as if I’m parodying myself. It’s like Jamie including “Bleeping Fringes – Dancing Only Slightly” or Walker going for “The Lonely Beards – Girls Don’t Love Me”. But no, Super Kiss Attack totally exists, and I love it like I love Sherbert and making out. Saccharine enough that if you did kiss with it, your teeth would pretty much disolve, it gains extra points for the whole section in German, the two-girl-no-harmonies, its chorus being a list of places where it’s good to kiss, when one Electrocute goes “Ooh – I do like that”, the strange surprise of “I’m a little narcissistic”and the fact it’s called Super Kiss Attack. Also, the bit predictably-yet-splendidly where it starts smooching. And the slow down at the end. Did I mention it was called Super Kiss Attack?
9) Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith – Not In Love
Oh look. Rules breaking. Two Crystal Castles songs in the Top 40.
The reason why is that this simply doesn’t feel anything at all like Crystal Castles, so including it as their entry would just feel dishonest. It’s a perfect example of marrying two talents from across generations and making it work, Smith the perpetual bedroom denied-lover, and Crystal Castles working the atmosphere, somewhere between the Cure’s own stadium-goth-pop and the KLF’s Stadium House.
8 ) The Knife – The Colouring of Pigeons
The album is, to say the least, hard going. But The Colouring Of Pigeons sounds as defiantly futuristic as Darwin’s theory, and just as undeniable. Were I to write a Space Opera, I’d want this somewhere in the sound track. And failing it, I’ll wear the 0s and 1s off the MP3 file by playing it on repeat.
7) Lykke Li – Get Some
Talking about writing music…
Slutty, nihilistic, completely self-possessed, any time I’ve had any doubts about myself, I’ve found myself reaching for this. An agreeable note-to-self-message, it’s taken the role that Steffani’s What You Waiting For? used to.
6) Janelle Monae – Tightrope
Janelle’s frustrated me this year. I mean, I love her to death, she’s clearly a phenomenal talent with one of the year’s best albums… but there’s a sense that she’s believing her hype too much. We’ve all talked about how she should be a star. However, as good as the album is, it’s not a star-making album. It’s got some great material, but nothing which is the definitive, single-strike, cross-over hit. Nothing enormous enough to make her enormous. And extremely good – and the album is full of extremely good – won’t do that. Still, take your pick. Cold War’s “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me” is chill-worthy, but I’m leaning for the explosive, charismatic Tightrope.
5) Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Company
I know there’s much more to this expansive, deceptively simple song (well, for Joanna) than the obvious, but “I will love you until the noise has long since passed” is the sort of thing tattoos were invented for. And the build foreshadowed by “I only want for you to pull over and hold me, till I can’t remember my own name” is about as brave and good as the bravest and best things, overlooked, important, unforgettable.
[Not on Spotify. Youtube here.]
4) Sleigh Bells – Infinity Guitars
So, Sleigh Bells 1 and Sleigh Bells 2 are sitting in the park, feeding the pigeons.
“You coming to the recording tomorrow?”
“Sure! Shall I bring some guitars?”
“I think that’ll be a good idea.”
“How many guitars shall I bring?”
There’s silence for a few moments as Sleigh Bells 1 chews it over.
And then they turned up the next day and made a lovely little pop song with their infinity guitars.
3) POWER – Kanye West
Less music, more a suit of armour. As worn by one-previous careful owner, Achilles, but with extra metal pasted over that whole heel thing. User added features include a rip-cord that, when pulled, fires four daggers into the wearer’s chest. It’s less a monument to egomania, than a moon-mission.
I totally bought into the whirlpool of hype around it, and the album is grotesquely, awesomely compelling. And as everyone seems to be saying, Minaj’s verse of Monster is the most incredible vocal performance of the year. Hell, it almost managed to get Monster the spot on the list by itself. In the end, POWER’s utility purpose – “Scream from the haters – got a nice ring to it/I guess every superhero needs a theme music” is just a good thing to bear in mind for anyone working in the public eye, even in a minor way – wins.
2) Robyn – Dancing On My Own
I’ve liked some people’s music more than Robyn’s this year. I haven’t liked as much of anyone’s music as Robyn. As certain friends of mine pointed out, Robyn deals in pop-fetishism – primarily teenage emotions approached with the eye of a thirty-something. In which case, you could make an argument that Robyn’s the female equivalent to the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn.
I forget who I’m stealing this from, but Dancing On My Own is basically the prequel to Robyn’s Be Mine. Dancing by yourself – and about as far from yourself as possible, because someone’s there and you’re noticing everything about them, and you just hope your shield of dancing-by-yourself-ness is good enough.
The Body Talk individual elements give enough pop for a good decade of anyone else’s career – Indestructible and Hang With Me are the highlights – but this one gets it because…
i) it’s the best
ii) And it killed on the dancefloor when I dropped it at Thought Bubble.
1) My Chemical Romance – Na Na Na [Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na]
Though not as much as this.
Which, if I need a reason for making it a number one is as good as any. Human beings, exploding, chests distended by pop-music; YOU BE MY DETONATOR! GIVE ME MORE GIVE ME MORE GIVE ME MORE etc.
Really, it could have gone any way with the top 3. Kanye and Robyn should feel a little robbed, to be honest. They’ve got the depth of material! The sole triumph of MCR’s attempt to merge the Ramones with Ziggy Stardust is Na Na Na, with a lot of fairly limpid stuff filling in the rest of the CD.
But what a triumph!
Na Na Na is nonsense. Total nonsense, approached with the sort of conviction which makes it a kind of gnomic truth and mystery. It’s called “Na Na Na [Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na]”, for fuck’s sake. I’m reminded of Bill Drummond talking about his partner in crime signing a “Mark Manning” on the bus, because he liked his vibe and intensity. Drummond clearly thought he was insane, because Mark is crap name for a pop-star.
What he wasn’t told was that he wasn’t Mark Manning. He was Zodiac Mindwarp and his band would be The Love Reaction. And Drummond says if he’d been told that, he’d have signed him immediately, for all the money in the world, because that was clearly the best name in the world and there’s no way anyone who chose that could be terrible. It’s impossible.
In a similar way, there is no way a song called “Na Na Na [Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na]” could be anything other than perfect. I refuse to even entertain the idea. Life wouldn’t be worth living if a song could be released called Na Na Na [Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na] which wasn’t worth dying for.
But it is perfect! Life is worth living! We’re going to win! Everything’s awesome! Even the shit stuff, because we’re standing on your property, in V formation, with our hands like tiny daggers up to heaven with wings made of neon and everyone wants to change the world but no-one wants to die wants to die wants to die…
NA NA NA! NA NA NA! NA NA NA! NA NA NA! NA NA NA! NA NA NA! NA NA NA! NA NA NA! NA NA NA! Etc.
I should have a few other little things which you may like coming up over the week, but thanks for reading across the year. Onwards! We will be having a fun time.
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