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ello, and welcome to the Stylus UK Chart Roundup Service thingy’s 2nd annual round-up of the year’s best singles as chosen by me, William B. Swygart, a scrawny, hairy 21-year-old from a part of South London that’s either Streatham or Croydon but definitely has trouble making its mind up. Over the next 15,000 or so words I’ll be picking my way through the debris that was popular music singles released in the UK in 2004 that weren’t re-releases of stuff from last year/that I feel need writing about/that I can be arsed writing about. It’s been a long, painful task, and no matter how shittily it all reads I can guarantee you it’s hurt me one fuck of a lot more than it’s hurt you. 50-odd weeks of Wes, Jamelia live in session, DUNCAN EFFING JAMES, Eamon, Frankee, Michelle McManus, Sam & Mark, Usher, Nelly, Ja sodding Rule and more Ronan Keating than can really be healthy for a boy my age, and it all comes to this. I also sat back for a few weeks this year and let others suffer in my place—perhaps they’ll be popping in to wish us luck and write about a single they liked from this year later on too, eh? We shall see. Anyway, many thanks for Stylus for continuing not to twig, totalmusic.tk and dotmusic.com for chart data, and the fans, because without the fans (whoever the fuck they are), five weeks of Rooster might just be that tiny bit more agonising.
75 this year, cos, well, that’s how many were eligible under the criteria above. There are probably several glaring omissions, errors in order, and bits that are just utter horseshit. However, it’s twenty to two on Monday morning and I don’t care anymore, and so without further adieu, we’re underway with:
75) RAGHAV – So Confused (w/2Play) / Can’t Get Enough
(Charted at #6, 25th January / #10, 22nd February)
Regardless of the fact that anyone who names their album Storyteller deserves to have it changed to Ponce while they’re not looking, Raghav’s fall from popularity remains somewhat confusing. It would have helped if 2Play hadn’t decided to replicate ‘So Confused’’s piano noise in every song he’s done since, I suppose, but still. ‘So Confused’ was never the classiest of listens, but it remains a cheap and cheerful piano led tune as Raghav gets histrionic about how confused his girl is making him and 2Play goes *p’tink* in the background. ‘Can’t Get Enough’ saw Raghav breaking free from the piano noise and increasing the R’n’Bollywood quotient of his sound, making him sound much smoother, slicker and, well, better. They were good singles, but they seem to have been completely washed away by the sands of time a whole twelve months later. Pity.
Find it on: Storyteller (V2)
74) SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (Live From London’s Hammersmith Apollo)
(Charted at #16, 3rd October)
The Furries finally put their singles collection out this year, it was as great as everyone knew it would be, and they commemorated it by re-releasing the sweariest single in UK chart history and making it even longer and swearier. There’s a load of unnecessary electro fannydangle in the middle which gets rather boring, but who cares? For as long as they choose to make the mid-to-upper reaches of the UK charts that bit weirder, celebration is deserved.
Find it on: The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (Live From London’s Hammersmith Apollo) EP (Epic)
73) MARTIN SOLVEIG – Rocking Music
(Charted at #35, 18th April)
Norway re-invents disco, again. It’s great, again—a song that sounds like it should be featuring a galaxy of stars glides through every sound effect it can think of as An European moans “Think I got you babe, I can see the fire burning!” It’s fast, funky, loose-limbed and a fair bit less well known than it should be.
Find it on: Sur La Terre (Defected)
72) BEVERLEY KNIGHT – Come As You Are
(Charted at #9, 27th June)
Depending on how you look at it, Bev’s either cursed or blessed with an utter bullhorn of a voice. Frequently she finds herself shunted into the Jools Holland definition of British soul as music for the over-35’s to go “Hey, she’s got a really good voice” to. Well, as ‘Cuddly Toy’ was to Roachford, so ‘Come As You Are’ is to Beverley—the moment where cred gets shred in favour of kicking arse. Bev lets rip all over the place. She tries to be seductive at points, and she may even succeed. You don’t care. Pipes a-roaring, Bev sounds like she’s having the time of her life, and so she should be. Ripper.
Find it on: Affirmation (Parlophone)
71) SIMPLE KID – Truck On
(Charted at #38, 8th February)
So yeah, there’s too much indie in the list. By this I mean ‘too many records that get played on daytime XFM’, because daytime XFM is horrible; Keane followed by ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ followed by The Libertines followed by Coldplay followed by ‘Loaded’ followed by Razorlight etc. etc., all played by a bunch of surly non-amusant bloke-a-trons (except for Lauren Laverne because Lauren Laverne is ace) who’d report you to the police for daring to suggest that Girls Aloud might be preferable to, say, The Ordinary Boys. Every now and then, though, diamonds emerge in the dirt, and Simple Kid’s Beatles-esque homily to the joys of motorway driving is one of those. It shouldn’t work—it’s quite slow, anthemic in a fairly obvious way—but it’s weirdly lovable. Anthems can be quite boring if done wrong, but the Kid has a peculiarly appealing voice (in a weedy kind of way), and somehow you just find yourself rooting for him at the end. Even if he is wearing a trucker hat.
Find it on: SK 1 (2m)
70) YEOVIL TOWN – Yeovil True
(Charted at #37, 22nd February)
On Sunday 4th January, Yeovil Town (of the 3rd Division) hosted Liverpool (Premiership) in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. In order to commemorate one of the biggest games in the club’s history, they decided to record this single, an adaptation of one of their terrace chants. For some reason, it didn’t come out till five weeks after the Somerset side had lost 2-0, but that’s pretty much by the by. The reason ‘Yeovil True’ makes the list is because it’s quite probably the only proper “What the f**k?” moment the chart threw up this year, as your correspondent found himself caught completely unawares at hearing the voice of Yeovil’s manager Gary Johnson (formerly manager of UK Corral favourites Latvia) being utterly over the moon at their single charting. Particularly notable for the fact that it appeared to be available only in the Yeovil branch of WH Smith, yet still managed to chart ahead of fellow new entries by The Stills, Ikara Colt, Kings Of Leon and John Mayer, and made Yeovil Town (currently second in the 3rd Division, or League Two as it’s called now for some reason) the only football club to chart inside the top 40 this year. Truthfully, I can’t remember how ‘Yeovil True’ goes, but I’m pretty certain it was a hell of a lot better than any of the England-related records that charted during Euro 2004.
Find it on: ‘Yeovil True’ no longer seems to be commercially available, but if you ask the nice people at the Yeovil Town club shop they may be able to help you. It is unclear whether an album is planned.
69) MARK OWEN – Makin’ Out
(Charted at #30, 13th June)
Mark Owen makes best Bluetones record ever shock! Gambolling along on pianos and a guitar riff that is quite obviously being played by a man in a beige cagoule, Mark deploys his Manc warble to superb effect as he hollers and croons his love for an annoyingly superior girl. The fact that it was born six years too late doesn’t make it any less wonderful.
Find it on: Makin’ Out single (Sedna)
68) YOUNG HEART ATTACK – Starlite
(Charted at #69, 11th July)
Overhyped Americans come crashing to earth in a ridiculous blaze of glory. The band marry the Bellrays with Europe, while the singer man shouts at girl. Girl howls back “Come alive, come alive, come alive, come ali-hive yeah!” Singer man appears to think he’s a slightly more bearable version of Meat Loaf. “Gotta prove I’m a man, can you understand! I-got-to-prove-I’m a man, can you understand!” They howl it together as it all burns out in a haze of dodgy synth and windmilling guitar. It’s not quite a headfuck, but it is very loud.
Find it on: Mouthful Of Love (XL)
67) PHOENIX – Run, Run, Run / Everything Is Everything
(Charted at#66, 25th April / #74, 18th July)
It seems we may as well stop waiting for Phoenix to come into fashion—for one reason or another their ice-cool French grooviness continues to have roughly the same impact on the mainstream as, erm, The Delgados. Why this should be remains an utter mystery—both this year’s tunes are as relaxed and catchy as Phoenix have ever been, and quite nice for dancing to in a sort of unflustered, shoulder-shrugging sort of way. Maybe they’ll break through one day, but for now they remain one of the most accessible of cult concerns.
Find it on: Alphabetical (V2)
66) NAS ft. OLU DARA – Bridging The Gap
(Charted at#18, 4th November)
Strictly speaking, it didn’t quite work—the wedging together of delta blues and Nas telling you how much better he and his dad are than you just jarred a bit. However, it was so determined to make this incongruence work that it eventually stumbled through the hole—its clothes were a bit ripped and its hair was mussed, but it was there and… it worked quite well, really. Plus, being as how I am a soft bastard at heart, the idea of a father and son duetting on a song about how great they both are makes me go ever so slightly misty-eyed…
Find it on: Street’s Disciple (Columbia)
65) THE DIVINE COMEDY ft. LAUREN LAVERNE – Come Home Billy Bird
(Charted at #25, 28th March)
The words ‘international business traveller’ were born to be sung by Lauren Laverne. As were most other words, really.
Find it on: Absent Friends (Parlophone)
64) THE HIVES – Walk Idiot Walk
(Charted at #13, 11th July)
I really didn’t realise how much I’d missed them till they came back. All buffed up and shiny again now they’re on a major label, with Howlin’ Pelle still one of the best frontmen in the whole wide world, they sounded exactly the same as they always did and were just as much fun. ‘Walk Idiot Walk’ also brought the world’s most half-arsed tambourine to the table, which made it even better…
…then for some reason the WWE decided to use it as the entrance music for Christy Hemme, winner of their interminable competition to find a new SEXY WOMAN WITH BREASTS to add to their roster of SEXY WOMEN WITH BREASTS, who now finds herself rewarded with a theme song whose chorus goes “See the idiot walk! See the idiot talk!” Hmm.
Find it on: Tyrannosaurus Hives (Polydor)
63) O-ZONE – Dragostea Din Tei
(Charted at #3, 13th June)
Me and my brother, sat in a carvery, waiting for dinner, singing the chorus of this at each other. Parents didn’t quite get it. Who would ever have thought Romanian could be such fun?
Find it on: Discozone (Ultra)
62) JIMMY EAT WORLD – Pain
(Charted at #38, 10th October)
As you may or may not have realised, this list is rather long. As such, several singles on this list have at one time or another stood on the precipice of getting left out. ‘Pain’, however, hasn’t so much stood on it as done the bloody can-can all the way up and down it. Jimmy Eat World are a band who, if I’m being honest, have had absolutely fuck-all impact on my life. Some bloke in a bowling shirt being sweaty and emotional and earnest in a slightly above-midtempo manner shouldn’t matter to me, and it doesn’t. But every time I go to cut this one, I make the fatal mistake of listening to it. You see, ‘Pain’ has a little secret weapon in the shape of its drumming, so slappy and swishy that it absolutely demands to be jived to in the nerdiest manner possible. Kick the legs out! Jazz hands! Flick the fringe! Swing the shoulders! Guitar solo on loan from some improbably glossy teen soap! Jim Adkins may be suffering, but fuck him – we’re swinging!
Find it on: Futures (Interscope)
61) AGNETHA FALTSKOG – If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind
(Charted at #11, 18th April)
I almost got rid of this. Then I didn’t. It’s just too sweet, really. Agnetha hadn’t had much solo success beforehand, a #35 hit in 1983 her only hit after ABBA, and this comeback is peculiarly heartening. A ridiculously sumptuous cover of a 1969 Cilla Black single sees Agnetha pining for her lost love over harpsichord, flute, piano and everything else you could ever imagine. She would bring you happiness wrapped up in a box and tied with a yellow bow. It’s twee, soppy, and heartbreaking all at once and the idea of leaving it off the list just made me feel mean.
Find it on: My Colouring Book (Infectious)
Dom Passantino picked:
ESTELLE – 1980
This is the thing, and this is a totally dreadfully formulated theory, but I got an A in my Sociology A-level, so we’ll see how it goes. The big thing in education over the past few years has switched from “WHY ARE OUR SCHOOLS FAILING BLACK CHILDREN?” to “WHY ARE OUR SCHOOLS FAILING MALE CHILDREN, OR “BOYS” AS THEY’RE SOMETIMES KNOWN?” Young black girls have pulled a Mourinho on their exam grades recently, tearing up the table, leaving white males in the dust, and catching up with their melanin-deficient gendermates. Now, you know the argument beloved of all drunken culture studies students, and the random old rapper looking for something controversial to say, that record labels are only interested in perpetuating stereotype, which is why the only outlet for black males in the music industry is as idealised criminals, the same route they’re forced into by the education system. Anyway, if (IF) this is true, then we’re now dealing with the equally interesting flipside of the situation: the only young black female artists coming up in the UK are less Lil Kim than they are “her that used to hang around with Arrested Development”. So Ms Dynamite left garage for dust as soon as she got a major label deal and became the celebrity figurehead for the British anti-war movement, Jamelia’s presented as a positive example of how hard work and intelligence can see you through certain… family issues, and now Estelle is a thousand miles away from every other MC in the UK, being less on a “I’m going to kick you in the fanny and then buy some jewellery at Elizabeth Arden” tip than she is on a positive message one. It’s a great message, except I’ve just talked myself into believing that by liking this track I’m perpetuating racial stereotypes. Oh well.
60) THE FIERY FURNACES – Tropical Ice-Land / Single Again b/w Evergreen
(Charted at #52, 29th February / #49, 11th July)
In your country, the Fiery Furnaces are revered as gods of indie and quirkiness. In Britain… not so much. They had a go at breaking the UK—lots of gigging and so forth—but it didn’t seem to work. The NME gave Blueberry Boat 1 out of 10. The Friedberger kids’ approach to live shows (i.e. not pausing between songs, mashing them all up together and so on) didn’t garner them much more affection. We have names for people like you round here, and they aren’t very nice. Still, both the singles they released this year came fairly close to making them almost as successful as Thirteen Senses, and—in a bold move—weren’t featured on either of their albums. The new version of ‘Tropical Ice-Land’ gleefully fucked its ancestor right up to make it sound like it was being played by a marching band of wind up robots and drum majorettes, slipping and sliding up and down the hills of the Land Of Chocolate, stopping briefly to run Eleanor’s vocals backwards for a laugh, and just generally being fantastic fun. July’s double A-side was a bit more straightforward, but still classy—Eleanor and her keyboard romping (in so far as they ever do) through tales of extreme man trouble and… actually, I forget what ‘Evergreen’’s about. But it’s all quite marvellous, really.
Find it on: EP (Rough Trade)
59) KAISER CHIEFS – Oh My God / I Predict A Riot
(Charted at #66, 23rd May / #22, 7th November)
Once upon a time, there was a band called Parva. They were shit. They split up and some of them went on to form a band called Kaiser Chiefs (named after the South African football team where Leeds United defender Lucas Radebe started his career). They’re rather good, really. People are touting them as the new Franz Ferdinand, which is a little worrying, because there’s a lot more going on here than that. Both songs are indie disco crushers with a glorious sense of abandon and uncool—there is much screaming, psychosis, yelling, and pianos. ‘Oh My God’ is slightly slower and ploddier and probably leads to indie moshpits, whereas ‘I Predict A Riot’ is quicker, has handclaps (I think) and probably leads to indie moshpits. Probably best enjoyed anywhere other than in the vicinity of other indie kids, then. Definitely best enjoyed, though.
Find it on: Oh My God / I Predict A Riot singles (Drowned In Sound / B Unique)
58) JC CHASEZ – Some Girls (Dance With Women) b/w Blowin’ Me Up With Her Love
(Charted at #13, 18th April)
It all seemed so promising… and then he didn’t sell any records. Somehow “He’s like Justin, except he will also do you in the ass!” didn’t get over. Odd that. Anyway, his single that made it out (Amazon is willing to flog me a copy of ‘All Day Long I Dream About Sex’, but its non-appearance in the top 75 puzzles me a bit—could it really have been outsold by The Fall?) was very good. ‘Some Girls’ had sine wave synths while JC perved on girls in the club, while ‘Blowin’ Me Up With Her Love’ featured a quite random drum fill while JC perved on girls in the club. Does that explain anything? No. It’s late, I’m tired, and N’Sync were SHIT. JC is quite good though.
Find it on: Schizophrenic (Jive)
57) JOJO – Leave (Get Out) / Baby It’s You (ft. Li’l Bow Wow)
(Charted at #2, 5th August / #8, 21st November)
World’s Most Reasoned & Mature 14-Year-Old Girl is in here firstly because saying “LEAVE BRACKETS GET OUT!” is still tremendous fun, and secondly because Neil Kulkarni’s piece on her in Plan B was that good that I had to re-evaluate my position and, well, he’s right y’know. Why not purchase a copy and find out why?
Find it on: Jojo (Mercury)
56) SPECIAL D – Come With Me
(Charted at #6, 11th April)
Putting this in a singles of the year list does seem a bit weird, given that it really could have been made any time in the past fifteen to twenty years and would still have sounded exactly the same—admittedly, that point could be made about rather a lot of the singles here (quite possibly all of them, thinking about it), but for some reason it feels especially prevalent here. Thoroughly unabashed blippy Euro-rave, sped-up vocals, a German bloke shouting out “Turrrn it up, up, up, up!” and a riff that could have been made in a primary school music lesson—no surprises, cos it doesn’t need any.
Find it on: Come With Me single (???)
55) CLINIC – The Magician (Did not chart, released July 12th)
An Arabian bazaar flute sounds. Wake up call for—*DOOSH!* A guitar whirrs around crankily while drums get hammered monosyllabically and a bass starts pumping, then a man in a mask starts whining indecipherably. Here’s the new Clinic. Same as the old Clinic. HOORAY!
Find it on: Winchester Cathedral (Domino)
54) AVRIL LAVIGNE – Don’t Tell Me / My Happy Ending / Nobody’s Home
(Charted at #5, 16th May / #5, 8th August / #24, 21st November)
It would not be unfair to suggest that this column hasn’t really made its mind up on dear old Avwiw. For instance—why are her songs enjoyable when Pink’s are just deeply irritating? Do I enjoy these songs because I find them funny, or because they’re genuinely rather good? It’s all so very confusing, but somehow she just seems to be The Ultimate Teenager, stroppy, sulking, incredibly awkward in interviews, slightly fun-hating, mildly embarrassing… and weirdly lovable, beyond the delightful misguidedness of her lyrics. “Let’s talk this over/It’s not like we’re dead” is probably still my favourite opening line of the year, based on how I can’t remember any others right this second. And all the moaning about how manufactured she is—well, she’s 19. She’s a teenager, so she acts like one. She forgets to put her contacts in, which results in her performing on CD:UK wearing a pair of Nana Moskouri-esque glasses. Busted and McFly are teenage because they’re pricks. Avwiw is a teenager, some of whose features might have been exaggerated a bit, but deep down inside she’s still a teenage girl who’s about as confused as most teenagers are, desperately trying to become an adult but not quite sure how. She’s trying to act tough, but she just can’t help her real self from coming out. I think I might be able to relate to that.
Find it on: Under My Skin (Arista)
53) FREELAND – Supernatural Thing
(Charted at #65, 1st February)
Of the many, many things I have to be thankful to Ed O’s Excellent Pop-Blogging Adventure for, pointing me towards this is one of the first. Now, Freeland’s minor top 40 smash ‘We Want Your Soul’ somehow evaded the list last year, but no such mistakes now. ‘Supernatural Thing’ starts very slowly, as a woman prowls around Roisin Murphy-style amid some very slow electro. Minute and a half in, the thing takes right off, by making a noise… like something taking off. There are then beats, as this woman occasionally sings things like “I like it… I love you…” while other voices coo “interplanetary… extra-ordinary” in the background. It’s all a bit like when ‘Take My Breath Away’ really gets going, except in the modern dance music style. No, that doesn’t mean it sounds like when Soda Club covered ‘Take My Breath Away’. Cretin.
Find it on: Now and Them (Marine Parade)
52) MORRISSEY – First Of The Gang To Die
(Charted at #6, 18th July)
Morrissey had four top ten singles this year, of which this was the only one that truly stood out. Mind you, it did stand out rather a lot. He kicks fully into gear on a full-blooded romp through Mexican gangland, telling tales of ‘silly boys’ doing time, shooting each other and generally over-romanticising violence to a tragic extent. It’s founded on the fact that the line “First of the gang with a gun in his hand” scans really well and can be sung along to with incredible ease whilst bobbing about, which is a very enjoyable experience. ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, however, still sounds like Gene.
Find it on: You Are The Quarry (Attack)
51) BLONDE REDHEAD – Elephant Woman (Did not chart, released 23rd February)
Why did I not buy this album? ‘Elephant Woman’ is like a less gloomy and portentous Portishead, a paranoid orchestral beauty, as the singer breathes broken English over strings and harpsichord. It sounds like being lost in Paris, walking quickly through the wind and the leaves with a scarf wrapped high, not sure where you’re going, what you’re doing, why you’re upset, just walking away from ‘there’ towards ‘anywhere else’. It’s quite beautiful, and I should have got the bloody album. Grr.
Find it on: Misery Is A Butterfly (4AD)
50) V –Hip To Hip / You Stood Up
(Charted at #5, 15th August / #12, 14th November)
This lyric from ‘Hip To Hip’ should roughly explain its appeal:
Someone’s spiked my latté
And I’m just not in the mood
Need a little bit of this, need a little bit of that, some chit-chat
And that’s why I’m the dude
And as for ‘You Stood Up’, well, it’s the boy-band ballad equivalent of getting so cross that you punch a wall, then start swearing because your hand hurts. I have no idea if the album’s any good, but the boys are so very, very entertaining that I hope its commercial failure doesn’t hold them back. The world could do with more popstars that are intentionally funny.
Find it on: You Stood Up (Island)
49) McFLY – Obviously
(Charted at #1, 27th June)
It’s a miracle. McFly—they of twattish photo-mugging, surliness masquerading as wit, and really, REALLY horrible singing voices—made a single so bloody good as to make it all seem quite irrelevant. Even if you get pissed off by their vocal affectations and the quite unnecessary shoehorning of American cultural references into the lyrics (I’m impressed that Danny had decided to live in LA for precisely two years, though), the chorus and verses are so breezy and catchy that it can be divorced from all that bullshit. Their voices seem to quite deliberately be on best behaviour, almost like they’ve been threatened with letters home if they try any of that Tom DeLonge shit. A quite staggeringly natural piece of retro-pop revivalism that had #1 tattooed all over it, and promptly delivered. Then they went and released ‘That Girl’ and ‘Room On The 3rd Floor’, so I could get back to hating on their sproggy arses all over again. I honestly couldn’t have planned it any better.
Find it on: Room On The 3rd Floor (Island)
48) TWISTA – Slow Jamz (ft. Jamie Foxx & Kanye West) / Sunshine (ft. Anthony Hamilton)
(Charted at #3, 4th April / #3, 5th September)
‘Slow Jamz’ just makes me smile, this big stupid grin all over my face—it’s so easy, so laid back as it rides along, Foxx’s crooned name-checking of the soul legends is just perfect, Kanye does a tidy little opening verse featuring, as is his wont, at least one line that is nowhere near as clever as it reckons, but his key bit? “Damn, baby, I can’t do it that fast, but I know someone who ca—” and Twista’s so fast that he bursts in before the poor bugger’s had a chance to introduce him properly. Beautiful. The wee feller whose similarity to a potato I just can’t quite resist pointing out (again) has had quite the year, considering hardly anyone over here had heard of him before—four top 40 hits, two inside the top 5, and the most important thing of all: the realisation that no song that samples ‘Lovely Day’ can ever be a bad thing.
Find it on: Kamikaze (Atlantic)
47) THE ZUTONS – You Will You Won’t / Don’t Ever Think (Too Much)
(Charted at #22, 11th April / #15, 24th October)
It is becoming increasingly evident that I’m the lone Zutons apologist in the whole of the internet music blogosphere hivemind steering-committee popist-rockist cartel clique community youth-hostel, so I suppose I’d better explain myself. Basically, I reckon the Zutons have the potential to become one hell of a lot more interesting than most of their output thus far has suggested. Dave McCabe’s a bit like me—he wants to be interesting and new and exciting and different, but he’s not learnt how yet. So the album is bogged down with some fairly dull bits of ‘songcraft’ and so on, but every now and then the light shines through the cracks. The thing is, though these two songs are quite lovely (and feature some top handclap action), the Zutons still feel like a bit of a work-in-progress looking to grow and evolve beyond their confines, to develop beyond the ‘nu-dadrock’ and ‘Coral ripoff’ millstones that they’ve been lumbered with. The key might just be that in Abi Harding they possess one of the great popstars of our time—she might not be the greatest saxophone player ever, but her presence definitely adds another dimension to their sound, and her stage presence is quite fantastic. She seems to relish every moment of her time on stage, shimmying and jiving all over the place like she can’t believe she’s there and is quite, quite ecstatic about the whole thing. She’s simultaneously completely uncool and utterly adorable. Yes, call me an eejit, but I truly believe that one day The Zutons will deliver something quite exceptional. Neither of these songs are it, but they’ll more than do for now.
Find it on: Who Killed The Zutons? (Deltasonic)
46) THE GO! TEAM – The Power Is On! / Ladyflash
(Did not chart, released ??? / #68, 28th November)
Tssch. Typical. Pitchfork goes ape over them, some big-shot newspaper writes gigantic feature article proclaiming them as voice of youth culture or something. I go ape over them, and I get nowt. It’s a shame, man. Those reporters could have come round to where I live to see how I work. Then I could have imprisoned them and refused to let them go until they did a massive feature article on how great the Delgados are. I have only got one chair to strap them to, admittedly, so I’d probably have to tie the photographer up and lock them in the cupboard. Except the cupboard doesn’t shut properly so I’d have to shove them under the bed instead. Still, those logistical nightmares are a mere dream now…
Oh, and The Go! Team are still really good too.
Find it on: Thunder Lightning Strike (Memphis Industries)
Edward Oculicz picked:
TUBE & BERGER ft. CHRISSIE HYNDE – Straight Ahead
Suitable for soundtracking ads for electronic gadgets or a scene in a bad TV drama involving some kid overdosing on ecstacy, "Straight Ahead" also informs the young'uns such as myself that, in all probability, there actually was a generation of boys a few years older who used to wank to Chrissie Hynde, an icon at the exact most convenient point on the nostalgia continuum. Conveniently, this is the best thing she's put her voice to in more than a decade.
45) THE WALKMEN – The Rat
(Charted at #45, April 25th)
Oh, I remember when I used to care about Interpol. And then, by the grace of Stylus’ end of year singles list, I got introduced to this little charmer. I remember when New York used to be exciting, me and a mate thought The Strokes getting on Top Of The Pops was the harbinger of the revolution… then I stopped caring. Then I saw Interpol live and thought they were great, then I got the album, then I lent it to someone and forgot to ask for it back, then I stopped caring about that too. This might hang around a bit longer. Amazingly, the vocals make it— “Yeeeeeeeew gotta nerrrrve to be aaaasking a faaaavour! Yeeeeeeew gotta nerrrve to be caaaaalling my nuuuumberr!” Can I hear you? Oh, just a touch.
Find it on: Bows And Arrows (Rough Trade)
44) DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS – Godhopping
(Charted at #24, 2nd May)
The album really was quite a disappointment, getting too bogged down sneering at easy targets and just generally not being anything like as interesting as this single suggested. I’ve not listened to it since reviewing it because I haven’t felt the slightest need to do so—it was proficient, but it should have been stratospheric, because this single was exactly that. Perhaps it was the shock factor, the way that it didn’t sound like anything else around it—a tartrazine rush of mentalist keyboard thumping, xylophones, horn stabs, disco bass and guitars with overdriven vocals that made fuck-all sense. It was all such fun, so insensible and delirious—more or less everything the rest of their album wasn’t, distressingly.
Find it on: Please Describe Yourself (V2)
43) RAMMSTEIN – Amerika
(Charted at #38, 24th October)
Sometimes, a reasoned critique of modern politics is a good thing. Sometimes, however, a big muscly German bloke bellowing “WE’RE ALL LIVING IN AMERICA! AMERICA! IST WUNDERBAR!... COCA COLA! WONDERBRAAAH!” is just that bit better.
Find it on: Reise Reise (Island)
42) FRANZ FERDINAND – Take Me Out
(Charted at #3, 18th January)
So yes. The album really wasn’t that great. They could only make one noise. They aren’t half as clever as they think they are. There are a stupid amount of bands that do what they do except better. They’re really rubbish live. Nick McCarthy isn’t really as attractive as I used to think he was.
CHGG! CHGG! CHGG!
CHGG! CHGG! CHGG!
CHGG! CHGG! CHGG!
‘Take Me Out’ is still brilliant. The trick seems to be to take it in isolation from everything else about them, just take it as the dancefloor destroyer that it is and will be for so many years to come. That moment when it slips slowly out from the buzz of the opening thirty seconds, as the drums wind down, into the section detailed above… fuck yeah. No matter how much of a twat Alex Kapranos is, ‘Take Me Out’ rises far, far above.
Find it on: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
41) BOOGIE PIMPS – Somebody To Love / Sunny
(Charted at #3, 25th January / #10, 2nd May)
“Oooh-bubb-vy zumbaheee lurrrve.”
Find it on: Somebody To Love / Sunny singles (Ministry of Sound)
40) BLINK 182 – I Miss You
(Charted at #8, 7th March)
Another thing that wasn’t meant to happen—when did Blink 182 get any good? The subsequent singles mined a similar vein to this one but with diminishing returns, but ‘I Miss You’ really was quite beautiful, those drums, the strings, and the voices—beautiful despite, or maybe even because of, how bloody awful they are. A lovingly crafted ballad, sincere, heartfelt and ever so slightly moving.
Find it on: Blink 182 (Island)
39) THE CONCRETES – You Can’t Hurry Love
(Charted at #55, 20th June)
Yes, it does soundtrack Phill Jupitus’ stupid face on the television, but forget all that, because the reason it does is because it is so very, very happy. 2 minutes of solid gold handclap & trumpet action, while some Swedish ladies go all Shangri-La (with Swedish accents) on top. It couldn’t fail.
Find it on: The Concretes (Licking Fingers)
38) FERRY CORSTEN – Rock Your Body Rock
(Charted at #11, 15th February)
I’M NOT MEANT TO LIKE TRANCE but oh, this is special. There’s a huge layer of fuzz atop the bumping electric buzz-drums that corkscrews and surges up and through. I type this sat in the front room with my parents, who are watching the Antiques Roadshow on BBC One while I listen to this, and I very nearly started punching the air. That’s how good this is.
Find it on: Right Of Way (Positiva)
37) RUSLANA – Wild Dances
(Charted at #47, 13th June)
Britain’s bitterness after this year’s Eurovision was quite something to behold. Obviously it was POLITICAL and THE WAR and EUROVISION SEX CONTEST (god bless the Daily Record), not because we’d sent some tedious prick with an acoustic guitar, a pale suit and no tune that the British public voted less good than Alistair Griffin and Peter Brame in Fame Academy, Christ no. Face it—Ruslana pwned all. The fact that she had a fifty-strong leather horde getting all callisthenic while she was shouting may have aided matters somewhat, yes, but ‘Wild Dances’ is just so relentless in and of itself that it really just blew most of the other stuff away single handed—yes, even the Turkish ska-punks. Better still, the English version features Ruslana having to sing the line “dai-da, gonna take my wild chances” and audibly loathing it. What conspiracy managed to keep this out of the charts, I wonder…
Find it on: Eurovision Song Contest: Istanbul 2004 (EMI)
36) R KELLY – Happy People b/w U Saved Me
(Charted at #6, 24th October)
‘Happy People’ is gorgeous party music, and as such is nowhere near as interesting as ‘U Saved Me’, which appears to be five minutes of the R begging for Jesus to save his ass. There was a documentary on telly the other day about how Peter Sellers constructed Inspector Clouseau’s jokes out of a spiralling series of things going wrong, and that’s how ‘U Saved Me’ seems to work. It starts off pretty ridiculously—“Here comes this truck now…”- then continues to escalate through “Praying up to God/For someone to call me with a job opening,” “I was 18 out there on the block selling druh-hugs,” and “The results came back and the doctor said ‘I’m sorry but you’ve got can-surrr’,” until the final minute where R basically goes rabid. “I was at the end of my rope!... I was doing drugs!... I was geaaang-bangin’!” Then he just dissolves into grunting like Jacko on ‘Earth Song’ while his gospel choir turns itself up to ‘full’. I somehow doubt that it’s actually going to be converting anyone to Christianity, but it’s top larks all the same.
Find it on: Happy People/U Saved Me (BMG)
35) THE EIGHTIES MATCHBOX B-LINE DISASTER – Mister Mental / I Could Be An Angle / Rise Of The Eagles
(Charted at #25, 18th January / #35, 4th July / #40, 17th October)
The path still refused to run smooth for Brighton’s least punchable. Record company shenanigans led to the bizarre spreading out of these singles across the year, all of them coming out before the album (which contained all three) did, by which time it was almost too late… but not quite. The Eighties Matchbox still don’t fit in. Led forward by Guy McKnight’s bizarre oscillation between howling, crooning, grumbling and slurring, dripping with sleeeeze and unseemliness, they continue to rock quite unlike any other. I mean… why does no one ever talk about this lot? They’re such bizarre fun—‘Mister Mental’ is the most straightforward of the songs here, the one that’s the most similar to the way they used to sound, guitars fuzzy and charging, McKnight yelling on the top, but with added siren noises. Organised chaos, basically, a little like how ‘I Could Be An Angle’ comes across, except that’s odder, as it gets slowed a little, and the tune starts to become bouncy. Then it starts to sound jaunty, and McKnight starts drawling “I saw your pick-tcher in thuh pay-puh too-day / I wuzz impressed, but I Would Not Sayeeeee / You are thuh queen uvv thuh U-S-A / You always save it for thuh end uvv thuh day”, and you slowly realise that they’ve just invented death-skiffle. Then there’s ‘Rise Of The Eagles’, the not-even-vaguely-subtle critique of the US government. McKnight’s voice and the guitars are relentless and pounding, never slowing down (except for obligatory minute-from-the-end-breakdown) as they course along through groans of “Awll dressed up and ready ter go! Awll dressed up and ready ter go!” and little double death disco handclaps. The really weird thing is that these aren’t songs that reveal themselves over repeated listens, but songs that just become more and more appealing the more you hear them, so that you find yourself wanting to listen to more and more. Five top 40 singles, and they remain one of the greatest hidden treasures in British popular music. Weird, no?
Find it on: The Royal Society (No Death/Island)
34) BRITNEY SPEARS – Toxic / Everytime
(Charted at #1, 7th March / #1, 20th June)
“Phwee-Nerr-Nee-Nerr!” Also, nod to ‘Everytime’, because it was actually very good and featured lovely usage of wooden block percussion yet always gets overlooked in favour of its PVC-hostess trolley-pushing sibling. Weird, that.
Find it on: In The Zone (Jive)
33) (THE REAL) TUESDAY WELD – The Ugly And The Beautiful
(Did not chart, released 2nd August)
Another album I keep forgetting to buy. Must take better notes next year. Anyway—Tuesday (not real name) has been described somewhere or other as ‘the new Badly Drawn Boy’. Considering how shit BDB’s latest single was, pray that that’s not the case, because ‘The Ugly And The Beautiful’ is far, far better than all that. It sounds like a night trapped in a sewer with a particularly drunk and bitter council worker. There’s some far-off echoed groans from somewhere as a celluloid piano staggers about tipsily. Occasionally there’s a trumpet. Meanwhile, Tuesday slurs in your ear “At least I’ve got my money, honey—money’s the revenge of the ugly on the beautiful.” Then there’s a trumpet, or it could be a pipe rattling. Difficult to tell. Come into his world—it might not be terribly cheerful, but it is rather entertaining.
Find it on: I, Lucifer (PIAS)
32) KYLIE – I Believe In You
(Charted at #2, 12th December)
Kylie meets the Scissor Sisters uptown, and it doesn’t disappoint. Synths buzz gently, Kylie stares into the camera as the picture slowly vaporises “and ah-haaah-aaah bulleeveeyeww… I! Believe – In – You! I Believe In! I! Believe – In – You! I Believe In!” Lose yourself in circles of sound…
Find it on: Ultimate Kylie (Parlophone)
31) SONS & DAUGHTERS – Johnny Cash
(Charted at #68, 10th October)
Sons & Daughters are a band from Glasgow who take themselves rather too seriously on stage and appear to be running slightly short of ideas. When Sons & Daughters are on form, though, they make hellacious dark country punk, and this is the pick of their crop. I believe the technical term is ‘shit kicker’. The playing is taut, fast and hefty. The singers have realised that, when deployed correctly, the Glasgae accent can sound rather intimidating. ‘Johnny Cash’ is a dark place, occasionally lit up by Adele Bethel’s screaming. Now, I realise I’ve probably described lots of people as ‘screaming’ with varying degrees of accuracy in this piece, but rest assured—she’s screaming. The drums are played in the manner that triggers the brain’s chemical that gets the head nodding, and—whoosh! There it goes! This is a song to be danced to by people who are not getting a muthafuckin’ haircut for at least a fortnight.
Find it on: Love The Cup (Domino)
Alex Macpherson picked:
JAVINE - Best Of My Love
Poor Javine. That solo career didn't go at all well, did it? It's probably scant consolation, but the girl who could've been aloud made the most slept-on single of the year, a monster disco anthem which sees her play the wronged woman to perfection. No, it's not that "Best Of My Love"—it's better. Replete with majestic, heady whooshes (oh, those whooshes! How good would they sound in a club? Very good, that's how good) and a pace which seems to get ever more frenetic as Javine's fury rises, it's mind-boggling that it didn't conquer the world. The city-flattening middle eight alone—'I'm done with it! And I'm over it! And I'm through with it! And I can't believe I ever was a fool for you!'—should have been enough to cement this as Bona Fide Classic In The Vein Of "I Will Survive".
30) CAMERA OBSCURA – Keep It Clean
(Did not chart, released 28th June)
Right, my usual rule is that I won’t include a song if I knew it before 2004… but god, I’ve never actually written anything about Camera Obscura, have I? Had it sat on my ‘current listening’ list for weeks and weeks and weeks on end last year, never bloody reviewed the thing… Right, Camera Obscura are the best twee band in the world today. There are a whole flood of bands that sound a bit like Belle & Sebastian and are complete shit. Camera Obscura are not one of these bands. They sound a bit like Belle & Sebastian but have taken the sound and made it all their very own—the songs are about how bloody annoying it can be being tweecore, how bloody annoying tweecore people can be, about being fucking vengeful, fucking angry, and then going to indie discos and dancing like an axe murderer. ‘Keep It Clean’ is a very good song about not wanting to be part of some scene that people are shoving you into, but its b-side, ‘San Francisco Song’, is possibly their finest song ever. It’s them taking a jangling Wedding Present guitar, an electric organ, and then seeing which goes fastest. It sounds a little bit how Belle & Sebastian used to sound. But better. Apparently they’re starting to make headway in America now. Well done, America!
Find it on: Underachievers Please Try Harder / Keep It Clean single (Merge/Elefant, probably)
29) MANIA – Looking For A Place
(Charted at #29, 1st August)
A fucking marvellous modern swing-pop tune that bleeds attitude and sweats class. Except it’s so classy that it doesn’t sweat at all… hmm. It’s a touch tricky – the song All Saints could have done if they were as good as they thought they were? And could whistle? That’s the key, really—it’s all very good and edgy, but when the chorus gets whistled (I won’t tell you where, cos the surprise is all part of the fun)—that’s when this really hits another gear entirely. It has been argued that it was a little too clever for its own good and just lacked a bit of heart and soul, which I can sort of see, but that whistling… fuck yeah. 2005 just got its first trend, methinks.
Find it on: Looking For A Place single (Arista)
28) SLIPKNOT – Duality
(Charted at #15, 20th June)
Holy shit. The 12-year-olds had a point. ‘Duality’ is a phenomenal record, containing more shifts of pace and tone than you would ever dream of yet still rocking hard enough for that not to be the most important thing you notice. The verses have the singer muttering what he needs to mutter as the guitars *juggajuggajuggajugga* him along to the most important bit—“I push my fingers into my EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYES!!!” I never thought I’d say this about Slipknot, but it’s just beautiful, that chorus, so nigh-transcendental as it leaps from peak to peak to dismal peak, and then, just as it’s getting ready to end, he looks down for what seems like an eternity, his voice stretching off into nowhere before finally landing and crashing on towards the conclusion—seconds do not come much, or possibly any better than that.
Find it on: Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses (Roadrunner)
27) DIZZEE RASCAL – Stand Up Tall / Dream
(Charted at #11, 29th August / #14, 14th November)
So Dizzee became a fully-fledged popstar this year. You can tell this because he smiles in interviews now. To mark this, ‘Stand Up Tall’ featured a black cab with spinny hubcaps and ‘sexy beefeaters’ in what must rank as one of the most half-arsed attempts at cracking America ever. The tune, however, was smashing, pizzicato strings and buzzy static as Dizzee bigs up every geographical area that he’s aware of, exhorting “Backs up, backs up, back off the wall—pull up your socks and stand up tall.” Then, realising that he is Britain’s most credible man, he decides to do the standard ‘how I got here’ song. He decides to do this over a sample pulled from ‘Happy Talk’ by Captain Sensible, because he is Dizzee Rascal and he can. Having decided to forget about cracking America via the conventional routes, he decides to crack America by utterly confusing them, so the video for ‘Dream’ is Dizzee’s take on Watch With Mother, resplendent with marionette-size nightclubs, off-licences and pirate radio stations (run by a yellow ostrich). Of course, since Band Aid 20 there’s been a queue stretching from Bow to Inverness just itching to have a pop at him, but that doesn’t really matter. As his singles this year showed, Dizzee’s not really one for giving a shit about the opinions of other people. Or marionettes.
Find it on: Showtime (XL)
26) EMMA BUNTON – I’ll Be There / Crickets Sing For Anamaria
(Charted at #7, 1st February / #15, 6th June)
I got very, very excited about ‘I’ll Be There’ on Stylus’ blog a little while ago, and by golly I was right—it remains a sublimely constructed, orchestrated and arranged radio pop song, disposable but thoroughly heartwarming, lavish and lush, embracing your sweet embraceable you with it’s orchestra, million-tracked vocals, choirs, and those pauses—oh, the pauses! The album fully lived up to this promise, so rich and light it was a shock to discover the CD wasn’t made out of meringue…
And so obviously the following single was Emma taking on Astrud Gilberto. The general reaction of the British public could be neatly summarised as “Eh?” It’s good to be surprised sometimes, and ‘Crickets Sing For Anamaria’ is a very pleasant surprise indeed. Indulge your sweet-tooth.
Find it on: Free Me (???)
25) WILL YOUNG – Your Game / Friday’s Child
(Charted at #3, 21st March / #4, 11th July)
Let’s try and forget how horrible his cover of ‘Hey Ya!’ was. Let’s try very, very hard. 2004 was the year that Will established himself for better reasons than that he was on telly for a bit—people suddenly started to take him seriously. Because suddenly, Will Young was bloody good. ‘Your Game’ featured yet another choir in ‘not irritating’ shocker as Will got theatrical beyond just setting the video in a theatre. His voice became over-dramatic in such a brilliant manner—“What you gon’ do?” “I don’t know!” “What you gon’ say?” “I ain’t sure!” Man, it’s almost as good as Dexys! ‘Your Game’ was huge, overblown, camp as all fuck brilliance, the sort of song that your hands involuntarily wave around to—incredible in both senses of the word. ‘Friday’s Child’ saw the transition from Will Young to Will Young In A Hat—a laidback sunset of a tune, Will turns crooner as Radio 2 practically faints with joy. He’s already a quite fantastic pop star, and he’s learning all the time—keep him away from the cover versions, and the man will soar.
Find it on: Friday’s Child (???)
24) THE STREETS – Fit But You Know It / Dry Your Eyes / Blinded By The Lights / Could Well Be In
(Charted at #4, 2nd May / #1, 25th July / #10, 3rd October)
“Please let me show how we could only just be for us.” No, it doesn’t mean that much, does it? But somehow, ‘Dry Your Eyes’ was just a force of nature, the surprise number one that surprised absolutely nobody at all. It wasn’t meant to happen and yet somehow it absolutely had to. Mike Skinner, for one week, was the biggest pop star in the whole of Britain. I remember when Marcello Carlin said it would be The Streets’ first number one, back when he put his review of A Grand Don’t Come For Free up however many weeks before it came out, and I wondered what on earth he was going on about. But ‘Dry Your Eyes’ just captures your heart. Every single detail of the final rejection laid bare, a few seconds stretched out into these four minutes, brutal honesty and utter openness. The number one that hid nothing at all from the listener, completely opening up our narrator’s heart, detailing every sensation, movement, gesture and feeling, speaking in clichés but making them sound like absolute gospel truths. Gosh, perhaps the lone shock was that it only had a week at the top, but somehow… it wasn’t the football. The football had ended for goodness knows how long by then, and as terrace chants go “She pulls away my arms tightly clamped round her waist” really isn’t up there. Yes, it felt as though you couldn’t move for people telling you about this amazing record and how amazing this amazing record really was, but it had to be number one, it was too universal not to be.
The really odd thing is the fact that four coherent, free-standing singles all got pulled off this widely lauded ‘concept’ album. It’s all in the story-telling—no, Skinner hasn’t got a particularly endearing flow, and his rhyme-scheme is quite often hideously contrived, but through all four of these singles he makes you forget it, and pulls you in through the narrative and the phraseology, makes you forget that he really can’t rap for shit. It doesn’t matter. (That said, I’ve not listened to the album as a whole yet because I heard ‘What Is He Thinking?’ and it was unbearable. It’s one thing not being able to rap, but bringing along your mates that rap in exactly the same manner as you do except somehow even worse… Jesus…) Beyond all the hype we found four beautiful tales of love, heartbreak, loneliness and the bizarre orbits of romance this modern life forces us into. Marvellous.
Find it on: A Grand Don’t Come For Free (679)
23) MAGNET ft. GEMMA HAYES – Lay Lady Lay
(Did not chart, released March 22nd)
Another gem pulled from the dredge of daytime XFM, ‘Lay Lady Lay’ used to be played a lot by Lauren Laverne, usually at the exact same time every day, several months after it came out. It’s a lovely duet, as the Norwegian man and the Irishwoman catch each other’s eyes across the stars. “You can have your cake and eat it too,” she suggests. “Why wait any longer for the one you love, when I’m standing in front of you?” he replies. The angels sing as they hold hands across the galaxy. He puts his arm round her shoulder. “Stay lady stay. Stay while the night is still ahead.” “So maybe I’ll stay”—she pulls him closer— “Stay while the night is still ahead…” Violins. Credits. Fin.
Find it on: On Your Side (Ultimate Dilemma)
22) KELIS – Trick Me / Millionaire (ft. Andre 3000)
(Charted at #2, 30th May / #3, 20th October)
No, I haven’t forgotten ‘Milkshake’, I just didn’t really care enough to put it in. ‘Trick Me’, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. ‘Trick Me’ gets me dancing, and I don’t usually dance to stuff that you can’t jump up and down to. I’m an indie kid. My jumper and my trousers do match, yes, but that’s because they’re brown and beige. But ‘Trick Me’ slays all o’ that shit. The bass. Jesus H Corbett, the bass, it is so fucking heavy, how do you say no? You don’t. The bit where Kelis talks at the start— “This is it…” Honestly, why do people even give Beyoncé a second glance?
Find it on: Tasty (Virgin)
21) MOUSSE T ft. EMMA LANFORD – Is It Cos I’m Cool? / Right About Now
(Charted at #9, 29th August / #28, 12th December)
The world wasn’t exactly holding its breath waiting for the comeback of the creator of ‘Horny’ and the Tom Jones version of ‘Sex Bomb’. But perhaps this lack of expectations helped him a bit, because no one could have foreseen ‘Is It Cos I’m Cool?’ Well, maybe they could and I’m just ignorant or something, but since when has Mousse T or Emma Lanford had reason to complain about being hounded due to their immense fame? When have they had reason to do this while being backed by a guitar solo that reeks of Knopfler, a handclap ‘n’ bass chug that sounds a bit like ‘Addicted To Love’, and some violins that come in at the end and make the bit where Emma proclaims “Say good-bye to jealousy!” sound like she’s won the war single-handed? When did they have any reason to come up with ‘Right About Now?’ How did she get to sound so drunk? How the hell does this thing work? Why do I love it so? Does it really matter? Here come the violins again. Home, James.
Find it on: Right About Now (Free2Air)
20) RACHEL STEVENS – Some Girls
(Charted at #2, 18th July)
Yes, sunshine, dog’s arse, etc. But, well, it’s brilliant. I wrote way, way too much about this when it charted, but Richard X = great, Rachel X sings it quite well, “HEY! STOP!”, the grumbling at the end, you shook my shoulders all night long, etc, etc, etc. Marvellous. ‘More More More’ was pish though.
Find it on: Funky Dory (???)
19) CHARLOTTE HATHERLEY – Kim Wilde
(Charted at free download single off her website, so not actually officially released as such… but it did have downloadable artwork! Which is sort of the same thing! Isn’t it?)
Ash released some stuff this year. It was shit. Charlotte Hatherley, however, released some stuff this year and it was belting and I forgot to put it in the Albums of the Year ballot bugger bugger bugger. No matter, because here is where we put matters right—‘Kim Wilde’ lives up to the name and then some. It’s a big straggly mess that starts fast, continues fast, then gets a bit faster and ends fast. It goes on for four minutes and I can’t figure out if ‘you barely notice’ or ‘it feels twice as long’—I’ve left my coins in my other trousers, so you’ll have to work it out for yourself, but work it out you will—this is fun and a half. There are girl-group backing vocals, lyrics that make no sense or are indecipherable but, well, they rhyme, so you sing along anyhow, guitars stop and start but mostly start… there’s some drumming… here’s to more of the same.
Find it on: Grey Will Fade (Double Dragon)
18) DO ME BAD THINGS – Time For Deliverance
(Charted at #57, 31st October)
NINE-PIECE CROYDON GLAM METAL DETECTIVES YES YES YES!!! Yes, my home town quite unexpectedly came up with the goods this year, as this lot brought their not-as-bizarre-as-they’d-perhaps-like-to-think mix of Cats and Ten Benson to CD:UK and the lower reaches of the top sixty—in a year that won’t be particularly remembered for lacking over-camp pop-rock mentalism, ‘Time For Deliverance’ deserves to be put quite near the vanguard—the 90’s house diva woman hollering and shrieking all over the noize like she’s doing a guest spot for Basement Jaxx, the guitars that go crash at the drop of a hat, the West Side Story bellowing of the chorus by the entire ensemble—truly, something for everyone. Oh, and Ed O likes it, and Ed O is never wrong (except about The Rasmus. And he does underrate the Go! Team a bit. Oh yeah, and that Erik Faber chap isn’t really that good…)
Find it on: Time For Deliverance single (Must Destroy)
17) NELLY ft. CHRISTINA AGUILERA – Tilt Ya Head Back
(Charted at #5, 28th November)
I want mitigation, dammit! It is not possible that either Nelly or Christina Aguilera or both were actually good! It CAN NOT BE that I was wrong all this time! No! NO!
To be fair I might not have been wrong. They both definitely bring something out of each other—they’re enjoying the hell out of each other’s company, and Nelly works fantastically when someone’s there to keep him in check. I don’t mean in the ‘him doing a guest verse’ sense, but Xtina is all over him. Whereas Kelly Rowland was just like “You are quite nice, and your side parting does not look even vaguely silly,” Christina barely lets him get a word in edgeways. She is fantastic. He is fantastic. The backing samples ‘Superfly’, and you don’t need me telling you how good that is. I’ve still yet to like anything else either of them has been involved in—but rule nothing out…
Find it on: Sweat (Mercury)
16) DAWN OF THE REPLICANTS – Everyone In Heaven Is Afraid Of Heights
(Did not chart, released… erm…)
And so we come to the oddest entry in this year’s list—the entry that no one seems capable of confirming the existence of. Not the song, that definitely exists, and is definitely on DOTR’s album, but the single. When I first heard this on the radio, John Peel announced it as their new single. Amazon doesn’t stock it. Penny Black doesn’t stock it. HMV doesn’t stock it. Opal doesn’t stock it. I’d have checked Insound, but that just seemed silly. And ugly. DOTR’s on-site discography stops at the end of 2003. Basically, I’ve no idea whether or not this was a single. But I think it was. I hope it was anyway, cos this spent an age sat at the top of this list…
My previous history with this lot has been, roughly speaking, non-existent. Of all the people that purchased The Extra Room, I’d imagine I’m the only one that has never previously purchased or, indeed, heard a record by Dawn Of The Replicants. Where have they been all my life? ‘Everyone In Heaven Is Afraid Of Heights’ is fantastic, a church hymn for doomed youth. It contains my favourite moment in all of music this year, as torchlit monks boom out… something. But it’s booming, and it’s lit by big, flaming stakes. How can you lose? Paul Vickers’s croaky voice is dead perfect, as he intones his tale of the boy hanging by the threads of his jumper from the steeple, because “Everyone in heaven is afraid of heights/And you never get issued a survival knife.” There is an organ and some saxophones. It’s all dead pagan, and I love it to pieces.
Find it on: The Extra Room (Hungry Dog)
Barima Nyantekyi picked:
THE KNIFE - 'Heartbeats' (Rex The Dog Mix)
Where did Rex The (Wonder) Dog come from? Ever since he (or they, could be a lot of him) surfaced on Kompakt in early 2004 with the jacking engine squelch of 'Prototype', he quickly revealed his prime ambition—to succeed Ewan Pearson as dance remix king of the year, ultimately taking the dollar of mid-90s pop-trance marvel JX (one of his speculated well-known aliases), comeback wobblers The Prodigy, arch Northern lasses Client and stomp heroes supreme Depeche Mode. And they were very good and all, much like his solo stuff, and he must have kept his closest rivals, Tiefschwarz looking over their shoulders. 'Heartbeats', though, is Ultimate Rex, as close to an encapsulation of a music maker's magic bag as one could hope to find.
'Heartbeats', originally by Swedish pop tarts, The Knife, is a lyrically different animal to its (close) namesakes (eg Annie, Tahiti 80). It's about that certain emotion, but at its most loved-up. And that's where Rex comes in. For certain dancers and bloggers at the end of 2003, he was a wet dream come to life. For Rex is a guy who pays attention, whether it be to Pearson's 80's extended remixes-styled pearls or to one writer's fantasy for the musical strands electroclash returned to us all to intertwine with the woozy euphoria of synth-o-drama early-90s house and rave. These key qualities already exist in the original 'Heartbeats', which sounds like Trevor Horn and Grace Jones producing and performing a Whigfield track. So up steps Rex to coax and combine the ecstasy and the latent 80s dance remix out of the song. We have little clicks, tiny whooshes, an acid bassline, Orbital's keyboard collection played simultaneously, a little bit of jacking and a sound that's both alien and welcoming. In speeding up the rhythm of the track, Karin's singing becomes more longing and the stutters and echoes of her voice that permeate the track transform her into the slightly vulnerable girl who's still not that sure what she wants to say. The most joyous releases in the song come in the chorus, like every rave track should, but we have to travel through a (relatively) minimal landscape of lost and confused Karin’s and equally wanderlust-bitten synths. But by the time we reach the grand lead-out chorus, I feel like Rex has been slowly breaking my heart. Which is fine—to go back to JX (pattern!), when 'There's Nothing I Won't Do's rave perfection ceased to be the prime attraction, the desperate longing within suddenly shot to the surface like a slap in the face and suddenly I saw clearly the twists of emotions that belie such songs; how one can suddenly come to suspect they are yet becoming enmeshed in someone's private experience or fantasy. The Knife sing about falling for somebody at a club while off on one, but, thrillingly yet guttingly, Rex makes me feel it. It's a rare remix that makes you reflect on the qualities of the original over again and this elevates Rex above almost any other mix (including his own) and 'Heartbeat' of recent times.
Am I a great big sentimentalist? Without a doubt. And there's certainly no surprise that this is my choice of remix for now—as a bonus, it even has a kind of symbiotic link to my other prime favourites Cornelius' 'Everything Needs Love' (by Mondo Grosso—the heartfelt wonderment) and Cagedbaby's 'No Matter What You Do' (by Benny Benassi Presents The Biz—the 80s-electro-meets-rave-feet-mover) But as I have done for others before, I'd like to say thank you to Rex, whoever you are, for simply making me feel.
15) DEEP DISH – Flashdance
(Charted at #3, 3rd October)
People tend to be a little puzzled as to why I like this record. It’s the groove. It’s… smooth. Sinuous. The guitar riff looped all the way through gets the spinal column going, the booms and drops set off the head, shoulders, knees and toes, and the vocals—well, she’s got a nice voice, hasn’t she? She’s pretty secondary but unobtrusive, keeps things going, gets it on the radio, it’s a massive hit. Cannot be listened to other than at night, but when it’s on at night… so fuckin’ cool.
Find it on: Flashdance single (Positiva)
14) SHAPESHIFTERS – Lola’s Theme
(Charted at #1, 18th July)
Best number one of the year. The ‘dancing about architecture’ types must have a field day—this wasn’t meant to happen! ‘Some Girls’ wasn’t meant to be denied by a *cough, splutter* CHAV record! But ‘Lola’s Theme’ was our lovable underdog number one this year (we were only allowed the one—‘Take Me To The Clouds Above’ was a bigger surprise, arguably, but it wasn’t a fraction as good as this), the vocal house track that got it right, got it so absolutely spot on that it took me a few minutes to recover when it hit me. It’s the way that the vocal just fits perfectly with the song, Cookie reads the situation and reacts just right. It’s the euphoria of that insistent trumpet hook, never changing in length or volume or pitch or tone, but always popping round when needed to ratchet it up a bit more. And, shock of shocks, it’s in the lyrics—“I’m a different person/Turned my world around” isn’t genius to look at, but put in the context it becomes quite perfect, magical even, just that summation of how the knowledge of someone or something’s existence in this world makes you feel so much better. Overflowing with the power of love, ‘Lola’s Theme’ is one of those perfect moments when it suddenly all makes sense and everything is just brilliant. Summer would not have been the same without it.
Find it on: Lola’s Theme (Positiva single)
13) BELLE & SEBASTIAN – I’m A Cuckoo / ‘Books’ EP
(Charted at #14, 22nd February / #20, 27th June)
2004 might possibly represent the high point of Belle & Sebastian’s career thus far—yes, ‘Legal Man’ got them into the top 20 and on Top Of The Pops, but they followed it up with Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant, which was a bit piss (I’ve finally realised—‘Beyond The Sunrise’ really is that bad). This year, though, they took their jaunty Thin Lizzy-isms to their highest ever chart position coupled with a cool kids-pleasing Avalanches remix that threw Murdoch in with a Sudanese choir and it worked; and then… they got the funk. The ‘Books’ EP found them turning up the bass and firing off ‘Your Cover’s Blown’, which married a typical tale of Murdoch pitying a girl and being rubbish at a disco to cowbells and ‘grooves’ (classy ones, of course)… and by god, did they ever pull it off. ‘Stay Loose’ suddenly seemed like a waypoint as memories of ‘Electronic Renaissance’ faded into the distance. They’re six albums in, but it suddenly feels like they’ve just begun—we all know they’re soft cos we’ve all seen them dancing, but now they’ve got some new moves and the future has just got very, very interesting indeed.
Find it on: Dear Catastrophe Waitress / ‘Books’ EP (Rough Trade)
12) SCISSOR SISTERS – Comfortably Numb / Take Your Mama / Mary
(Charted at #10, 25th January / #17, 4th April / #14, 17th October)
This is the hard one.
I already feel like I’ve written so much about them, almost like I’ve shouted myself hoarse trying to proclaim their glory, screaming about how yes, it does sound like the 70’s, it does sound like Elton John, but it isn’t ironic, it isn’t putting it on, it is fucking marvellous pop music with soul and feelings and fun and joy and so on. And each time I see them on telly it gets that little bit harder, they edge that bit further away from ‘me’ and a bit nearer ‘them’. The band that did ‘Electrobix’ and ‘Monkey Baby’ becomes the band that did ‘Take Your Mama’. The band that made me feel like I’d stumbled on the most glorious little secret the first time I heard ‘Laura’ becomes the Observer Music Monthly’s band of the year.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. Did I really want them to continue to be the band that played the Birmingham Academy 2 earlier this year, stuck in that ugly little box of a venue with its awkwardly designed stage and oppressive ceiling? Shouldn’t them selling out the Royal Albert Hall be exactly what I dreamt of? Hell, how did I fail to see it coming? Am I just being a jealous little prick or is there genuinely something wrong with the fact that my album collection now has at least one CD in common with that of several people I despise?
I think ‘Mary’ might just have answered my question. Listen to that voice of his. Jake Shears wants to hold your hand, and ‘you’ is everyone. It’s not ten-a-penny, this. Sure, sometimes the album rings a bit hollow, their omnipresence is a little annoying, they really, really don’t need to be releasing ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’ as a single at the start of next year, and sometimes it feels like they’re cheapening themselves by being everywhere all at once, by associating with these T4 types—forget him, I’m mint! But ‘Mary’ just makes me realise that all these incidentals won’t ever stop them being special. Pop is popular, and that’s what the Scissor Sisters are now. That’s why as I write this, on the morning of the 22nd December 2004, Scissor Sisters is #7 in the UK albums chart. A few more weeks and it will have been in the top 20 for a whole year, and I don’t doubt that it will accomplish that feat. The fact that it will still be accompanied by Maroon 5 and Keane is entirely by the by. I might not be as close to them as I used to be, but I still love the Scissor Sisters, and now it seems like there’s an awful lot of other people that do too. I’ve got to be happy about that. And I am.
Find it on: Scissor Sisters (Polydor)
11) BALLBOY ft. LAURA CANTRELL – I Lost You But I Found Country Music (did not chart, released 3rd May)
This was originally released as a double A-Side with ‘Past Lovers’, a song from Ballboy’s rather disappointing third album from last year. I bought the single hoping it would be some sort of split thing, with Ballboy doing one song and Laura doing the other, but it turned out to be them duetting on a Peel Session version of this song from Ballboy’s second (very good) album A Guide For The Daylight Hours. I bought the single anyway, and got it home and was a bit disappointed. The song’s only about a minute and half long, and only having a minute and half of Laura Cantrell singing is a bit like having a fun-sized Mars Bar—the taste’s lovely, but you’re disappointed that you can’t have more. The two Ballboy songs were a bit meandering and pointless too—it’s peculiar how inconsistent Gordon McIntyre can be considering he’s basically does two sorts of song (the quick one with the keyboards and the slow one with the acoustic guitar).
Then, on the 26th October 2004, John Peel died. At some point that evening Radio 1 played this.
And I miss you
But luckily there’s music
Luckily there’s music
To see me through
This was recorded live at Peel Acres last Christmas, and features Jon Graboff (Laura Cantrell’s guitarist) taking lead guitar with Gordon playing rhythm guitar and singing. The guitars intermingle gently through it all, and the length is suddenly perfect, the softer tones and the simple notes create this bizarrely magical moment in time, Gordon and Laura in seemingly different worlds but with the same feelings, sometimes separate and then every now and then they come together, both subdued and lovely, careful not to tread on the other’s toes, neither wanting to drown the other out… I cried all the way through that night, and for ages afterwards, because it feels like it’ll never happen again. It feels like a minute and a half snatched from another time, another era—practically another world, now, but a world I was lucky enough to live in from time to time. It’s sad, but at the same time it’s a reminder of how grateful I am, and how I hope that it’s never allowed to go away; that all the Peel memorials, the tribute nights, Rob Da Bank insisting on referring to his stewardship of the programme as ‘The Peel Show’, are not seen as ONLY celebrating the past, but also the possibilities. The door to this house remains open.
Find it on: Past Lovers/I Lost You But I Found Country Music (SL) —alternatively, you can download a radio rip of it from Laura Cantrell’s site.
10) THE FUTUREHEADS – Decent Days & Nights / Meantime
(Charted at #26, 1st August / #49, 24th October)
You know how, right, when people talk about guitar bands as ‘great pop bands’ and then you listen to their music and wind up gravely disappointed? The Futureheads are absolutely nothing like that at all. I’ve had to get their album down off the shelf to look at while writing this entry, because their (and its) existence makes me feel so happy. With just two exceptions (‘Alms’ and ‘Stupid and Shallow’—a great song, but the radio edit would nix on “You eat shit cos you’re stupid and shallow” and it just wouldn’t be as much fun) they could have picked any of the songs off it for singles and you wouldn’t have minded in the slightest. Man, I almost want to review the album all over again, not because I’ve changed my mind on any of it but because I can’t be 100% certain I convinced everyone the first time around. I listen to the singles again and it feels just like the first time. They’re the male Girls Aloud! No, shut up, they ARE! It’s the way in which there’s no one dominant personality or sound, the collective identity of the whole outfit is so strong but at the same time each individual is a solid character within themselves, and their every note bursts with charisma, humour, charm and energy; every song so different, so familiar, so exciting, so much going on all at once, so many ideas and so very, very Futureheads. The all-singing, all-dancing Sunderland Geeky Blokes Revue rattle along thrillingly through hip-checking jerks and swivels, handclap drums and oh, those vocal arrangements! Four separate layers moving backwards and forwards, up and down and side to side, more hooks than a hook convention, jigga-jigga schusch-schusch all over. They’ll never be cool, but since when does that matter? You might be dancing alone, but you’re dancing. That’s plenty good enough.
Find it on: The Futureheads (679)
9) MISTY DIXON – You’re So Cruel To My Heart
(Did not chart, released 5th July)
Misty Dixon’s album Iced To Mode came out in 2003, but for some reason this song off it was released as a single this past summer. Not that I’m complaining, you understand—‘You’re So Cruel To My Heart’ is a quite exceptional piece of Twisted Nervery, as aged synths, creaking guitars and Victorian girl vocals meet in a forest clearing to dance lustily and stare at the sun. It’s dark brown overcoats, long scarves, black tights and buckled shoes, everything coated in haze as the drums do their marching beat. It all swirls along most captivatingly for two minutes, before all of a sudden:
Don’t tell all you know
Find where you want to go
And then realise
You’re so cruel to my –
The girls take flight and refuse to come down ever again. Their cries continue to echo: “HEARRRRR-ARRRR-ARRT!!! HEARRRRR-ARRRR-ARRT!!! HEARRRRR-ARRRR-ARRT!!!” The song fades itself out. You wallop the repeat button. Magic is a wonderful thing, innit?
Find it on: Iced To Mode (Twisted Nerve)
8) GIRLS ALOUD – The Show / Love Machine / I’ll Stand By You
(Charted at #2, 4th July / #2, 19th September / #1, 21st November)
You may have noticed that I quite like Girls Aloud. This year, they were utterly sparkling—they’re doing the arena tour thing that most pop acts do next year, but unlike most pop acts, they’re actually selling out venues. See, Girls Aloud are unique because they’re perfectly happy being Girls Aloud. Most other groups shoot their mouths off about who they’d like to collaborate with, what records they’ve been listening to, who their influences are, what kind of sound they’ve gone for on their new record; Girls Aloud don’t do any of that, because they don’t need to. Girls Aloud live in a world where no other worthwhile music exists except for the music of Girls Aloud. Girls Aloud have Xenomania to write songs for them, Xenomania have Girls Aloud to make hits for them. It’s perfect. They got trust in each other, and the confidence to believe that no matter what they do it’ll be great. And nine times out of ten, it is. Hence these three singles: ‘The Show’ destroys the Benelux, ‘Love Machine’ rewrites the 1950’s, and ‘I’ll Stand By You’ gives people even less reason to think that The Pretenders were any good. L’état, c’est Girls Aloud, and long may it stay that way.
Find it on: What Will The Neighbours Say? (Polydor)
7) THE DELGADOS – Everybody Come Down
(Charted at #67, 12th September [also #6 in the 2004 Festive Fifty])
Just like all the rest of its family, ‘Everybody Come Down’ really does get better and better with every listen. Where once I felt like screaming “Stop sounding like Teenage Fanclub, for fuck’s sakes!” now I just beam. There’s so much going on that you just don’t spot the first few listens—the tambourines at the end, the organ that sneaks in from somewhere, the guitar at the end… The Delgados did what the world said they could never do (again), and legitimately came up with a gorgeous happy pop song, marvellously sung, played, written and produced … number sixty-seven. Perhaps they’re just too good for the charts, I can’t see any other logical explanation. Ten years from now, they’ll be erecting statues when the people finally fucking realise just how special they were. Still—‘Girls Of Valour’ comes out on February 28th, and is even sunnier, bouncier and longer. Give them a hit, you bastards.
Oh, and ‘Everybody Come Down’ had a B-Side called ‘I See Secrets’, which you also need because the whole world needs to hear Emma Pollock singing the word ‘door’ and which would probably have found its way into the top ten of this list all on its very own. They’re too good to you, really they are.
Find it on: Universal Audio (Chemikal Underground)
6) TYLER JAMES – Why Do I Do
(Charted at #25, 7th November)
Westlife recorded an album of Rat Pack covers that sounded like it was coming live and direct from a really boring part of Swindon, whereas Tyler James managed to position himself as the coolest man in town in the space of just one single. The opening sounds a bit like ‘Trick Me’, but it soon evolves into a masterpiece all of its very own—Tyler coos and croons about trying to get his girl back while maintaining his dignity at the same time (and failing) over this tinkling piano skank, the bass whumps away quietly, there’s some trance-anthem-quiet-bit handclaps, some trumpets that appear a grand total of once, heave-ho backing vocals… and by god, does it ever make you move! Just jiggling along in yer chair, on yer feet, it’s complete bloody genius—twists and turns, but the groove and the claps are always there, it all sounds so easy, everything gets its own little moment of virtuosity and the whole thing is just incredible. I’m not sure how you can fail to love this to bits. You’ll try. You’ll fail. He’s set himself an impossibly high benchmark for the future, but throughout ‘Why Do I Do’’s running time he never gives you any reason to think anything he touches won’t turn to gold.
Find it on: Why Do I Do single (Island)
5) ANNIE – Chewing Gum
(Charted at #25, 19th September)
Contrary to what SOME OTHER WEBSITES might have you believe, Annie just had the one single out this year. ‘Chewing Gum’… has enough been written about this song? Fuck off. The possibility—probability—that there are people out there unfamiliar with the skills propels me. Annie came from Norway, and she brought with her SHOULDERS. And lo, the shoulders did dip and swivel while her head did bob from side to side and her fringe did flop all over her face. And then she did ask “Was there anything else?” and lo, we did melt. “Oh no! Oh no! You got it all wrong! You think you’re chocolate when you’re chew-ing GUM! Oh NO!” And lo, we did inadvertently make a pun and we were quite pleased with ourselves. Then we did go and spend £15 on a copy of her album in the fulsome knowledge that next year she would step forth and conquer all and we would speak unto them “Ahhhh, we were there first, wankahhhh.” Because we’re right. ‘Chewing Gum’ is a romp, Annie playing hopscotch on your heart and you can’t do a damn thing about it. Christ, she’s good.
Find it on: Anniemal (679)
4) CATHY DAVEY – Clean and Neat
(Did not chart, released 9th August)
Bedrooms are of primary use for dancing in, as we all know, and ‘Clean and Neat’ is just peachy in that regard—it feels tempting to call it an archetype, a template to be demonstrated to classrooms full of GCSE Tweecore students. “This is how you get them dancing. SHUT UP.” The song wears its simplicity as a badge of pride: the slow steady strumming and big lumpy drums hardly ever waver in tempo, occasionally getting a bit quieter (before the chorus) then a bit louder (the chorus itself), and throughout there’s this drip-drop rhythm that practically cries out to have hips shifted and knees bent really slowly to, waiting for a nation of schoolgirls to use it for a skipping rhyme.
And front and centre, Cathy Davey is twisting and shouting like nobody’s business, single-handedly reclaiming the Irish lilt from all those troubadour pricks that make you want to say really insulting things about Robbie Keane in a very loud voice. She’s irrepressible and adorable, like Isobel Campbell if she was less twee and more Irish. Listen to that holler at the start of the chorus, the way she switches up from her hair-twirling whisper into this huge bellowing, “but by Ju-ly, I’MONNAWAY-HEE, Well you got all NIGHT so put yer best foot FORWARD!” She’s fantastic, and ‘Clean and Neat’ is just Queen Euphoria all the way through, so I find myself wondering “Why am I the only person that’s heard this?”
And then I realise that she’s been out on tour with the 22-20’s. THE FUCK FOR? God, sometimes it makes me want to fucking scream that this shit is being wasted on those shits, when this right here IS A NUMBER ONE SINGLE JUST WAITING TO HAPPEN DO YOU HEAR ME (a popular singer that isn’t shit oh what the hell I most likely mean Girls Aloud) THIS-IS-A-FUCKING-GOLDMINE! But no, she signed to Regal, she got bracketed as indie, she got punted to student media, she made a half-decent album that no one bought, she’s probably been dropped now. But on the off-chance Xenomania have any spare jobs lying round—I’d imagine wor Cath’s available. She’s well worth your time, and everyone else’s.
Find it on: Something Ilk (Regal)
3) GRANDADDY – Nature Anthem
(Did not chart, released 22nd November)
I’m not usually a big one for American nu-psych types with animal suits, as anyone who’s ever been within earshot of me yelling about how the Flaming Lips are having the career The Delgados should be having will probably already know. This one, though, got me. In the heart, yes. It’s got six lines:
I wanna walk up the side of the mountain
I wanna walk down the other side of the mountain
I wanna swim in the river
And lie in the sun
I wanna try to be nice
It’s some hippy shit, basically. And a lot of the time, I don’t like hippy shit. I particularly don’t like hippy shit sung by kids’ choirs and men in trucker hats.
Why the fuck is this song making me cry? It’s so… simple. The guitars are strummed gently, the drums are lazy and lolloping, there’s a nice soary synth noise, drums fuzz in at the start, I do quite like the way Jason Lyttle sings ‘riv-urrrr’, here’s the kids… it’s so nice. It’s the nicest song ever. It’s a big fat pile of nice. I still cry at the bit in The Snowman where the snowman melts too. Christ, I’m a soppy bastard sometimes. But yes, I love this.
Find it on: Below The Radio (Ultra)
2) ALCAZAR – This Is The World We Live In
(Charted at #15, 26th September)
The major reason that it’s a bugger to write about Alcazar is that it’s very difficult to resist the temptation to listen to their music whilst writing about them, and it’s nigh-impossible to resist the temptation to dance to their music whilst listening to it. This year, more or less everyone handclapped. No one, however, handclapped like Alcazar. It’s the way that the handclap is positioned as being so central to the song, adrift from everything else, out on its own—*clap-clap!* No one namechecked themselves with anywhere near the skills of “Doesn’t matter who you are/ When you’re moving up with Al-ca-zarrr!” That feels like the greatest sentence in the English language, the way the backing gets sucked up through a straw when she sings it… this dream of their ideal, shiny plastic world where everyone can go down to the disco and get along and all dance together to this song, this beautiful, beautiful song with its beautiful, beautiful chorus, the beautiful, beautiful handclaps, this world that they live in… fucking take me there already. Three minutes is not enough.
Find it on: This Is The World We Live In single (RCA)
1) JOHNNY BOY – You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve
(Charted at #50, 8th August)
So then. 14,000 or so words and seventy-odd blurbs later, and the top of our heap this year is this record. I’d rather been hoping to sneak it up on you, but it’s been doing sort of quite well (i.e. appearing) in several end-of-year lists already. Handily, though, it’s never been put in the sort of position whereby any of you would be particularly bothered to investigate any further, so I’m staking my claim, ta.
In boxing rankings, organisations often leave the number one or number two spots vacant because no one’s earned the right to fill them. Putting Johnny Boy at number one on this list feels just like that, somehow. There were so many great singles this year, most of which I listened to an awful lot more than this, a few of which I’ve been much more into than this, almost all of which I’ve written more words on than this. And yet somehow, this just had to be number one. The realisation just hit me that this record and no other would top the list, and from that moment onwards nothing at all has changed my mind. Despite how much I’ve fussed and hyperventilated about so many records so far this year, a song about which I know fuck all except that it was produced by James Dean Bradfield, had its video on the TOTP website for a week, and was made by a man and a woman who might be from Manchester and who used to be signed to Boobytrap records—that’s my favourite single of this year. Let’s see if we can figure out how.
As you may have noticed from the title of this article and the repeated mentions of it throughout the piece, handclaps were very much the in thing this year. This single doesn’t have them, but it’s got pretty much everything else you could ever want. The intro is ripped off ‘Be My Baby’ or whatever that song that everyone rips off the drums from that isn’t ‘The Funky Drummer’ is. However, these drums then lead into… a xylophone, which brings with it tambourines. You’ve not got handclaps, but these’ll do plenty. A firework goes off, and our spokeswoman strolls into shot: “And I just can’t help believing, though believing sees me cursed…” The fairy lights flicker gently, snow falls softly as she walks down the street, the xylophone and the tambourines keep going as she sings in a noticeably Scottish accent words that I can only half make-out. She turns the corner. “You are the generation that bought more shoes, and you get what you deserve…”
The fireworks are back, percussion falls over, she slingshots off a lamppost and now we’re running, the first verse returns redoubled in strength as she sings it out again, this time with backup from other voices from nowhere, the drums get louder and trumpets come round another corner and attack. “You are the generation that bought more shoes, and you get what you deserve…”
“Mmmm, mmmm… ooh baby, ahh baby, ooh baby, ahh baby…”
They stand atop a hill from whence they can see the whole city. The trumpets start getting fidgety. The beat goes on. While the Scotswoman takes her time, the instruments roar down the hill, and she starts to run to catch them up, then she overtakes them again. “This frequency’s my universe…” The backing singers come in and get all Polyphonic Spree on it. She starts sprinting for the line. “YEAH YEAH! YEAH YEAH!” “But for all we are receiving, but for all we are receiving, but for all we are receiving…” They all run on. Fireworks shatter the sky ahead, the snow falls thicker and faster. The beat goes on. The Scotswoman cuts to slo-mo and drops a voiceover, “Adidas sleek mystique reversed… You are the generation that bought more shoes and you get what you deserve” then back to full pace. She charges on, “YEAH YEAH! YEAH YEAH!” into the black with everything coming along with her, and the beat goes on. You don’t know fuck all about her but it feels as though she’s speaking for you somehow. You don’t where she’s going, but it feels like somewhere worth going, and you want to go with her.
‘You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve’ is single of the year because of all this and more. It’s the fact it came from nowhere. It’s the fact that it sounds like it came from nowhere. It’s the instrumentation and the vocals and everything playing like the glory days have all come at once. It leaves you breathless, a swirling mass of happiness collapsed on the floor and staring at the stars. It gives you belief in the present and faith in the future, it pumps your fist, swells your chest and gets you going, feeling wonderful. The lights go out and it’s the only sound, the sound of the ghosts and monsters playing in the night. I am a bit given to pretension, yes. So’s this, a tiny bit. Don’t let that stop you. This will be our year.
Find it on: You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve single (Vertigo)
By: William B. Swygart
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