Singles of the Year 2010: Part the 1st
This year I have written approximately 117,600 words about my favourite format, this being at the low end of an estimate that I find frankly terrifying. I have listened to singles on my bike, I have listened to them at Sainsers and I have listened in a little house on wheels not far from my favourite empty beach. Mostly these places, and in a variety of tempers.
I listen to the singles rakishly loud, always on headphones and almost never at my desk (laptop screens are poison for thinking anything good). And I tried to avoid the press releases and almost never Goggled the bands, because I didn’t want what I found or read to sway me. A blinkered response from the vacuum of your own vile instrospection has little to recommend it, of course; but in its favour, it is an honest reaction.
And even when the fragmentation of the music industry caused me to spout vile Anglo Saxon; when complex digital delivery systems and the utterly drivelish wankspeak of harassed PRs - forced to email about how they were ‘touching base’ to ‘lock in’ a review - drove me to kick at the circuits of The Machine, still I came back to my funny little playlists. There it was, my Sunday scribble about why music continues to be an affecting thing, capable of invoking great joy. I sometimes wonder what life would look like without it, but I also realise that sort of hypothetical is the height of earnest poncery; you would live.
Anyway. Thank you if you read the column, thank you if you clicked on one of those pointless-but-somehow-not Facebook buttons; for any comments (good or ill). I hope to be back next year with a spring in my heels and a small black circle of promising plastic clutched to my chest. Diane Roby will still be my sub-editor, so if you tolerated the column at all you should probably thank her; to have a Mum who can sort out arcane jokes about indie bands – especially when they will insist on calling themselves plain rude things like Holy Fuck - is something I am very grateful for.
Singles 2010 Part 1 Spotify playlist here, should you wish to listen and read. Or just listen, there are a whole lot of words here.
THE FIRST FIFTY SINGLES IN A POINTLESS LIST OF ONE HUNDRED!
IT IS ALPHABETICAL, BECAUSE THAT IS THE FAIREST WAY
Aeroplane - ‘We Can’t Fly’
Aeroplane can’t fly but they can make an album that steals wholesale from ABBA, Daft Punk and anyone else who is well good at pop. I have no problem with that when the tunes are this larksome. Quite apart from anything else, Aeroplane still have a million points banked from way back when they done this.
Beach House - ‘Zebra’
The next time someone tries to inveigle me in a row about genre and or makes a joke about chillwave at me I will probably toss my laptop into the nearest fire along with my Steve Jobses gadget. ‘Zebra’ is stately single, it is gentle and it sounds incredibly kind, however unfashionable that might be.
Ben & Vesper - ‘LuvInIdleness’
Sounds Familyre are one of the only labels whose mail outs I still receive on my primary, hot-lined, personal email account. I realise this is a rather pedestrian thing to point out, but when you get 200 ruddy emails a day about music and have four separate email addresses with a fifth soon to happen, letting emails about new music trickle into the Inbox specifically dedicated to love, larks and friends, it is in fact an honour. Ben & Vesper are on Sounds Familyre and are wonderful.
Best Coast - ‘Boyfriend’
I couldn’t stomach a whole album of Best Coast, but you can’t really argue with ‘Boyfriend’, pastiche or parody, it’s a perfect pop song about longing and wanting a boyfriend, even if boyfriends are totally rubbish.
Blackbird Blackbird - ‘So Sorry Girl’
‘So Sorry Girl’ is wonderful, dreamy. It is a dust-motes in a sun-ray bit of lo-fi synth pop, and it is oddly emotional in the same way 'Bizarre Love Triangle' might be, even though it is nothing like so bouncy. This is partly down to the vocals (a breathy boy falsetto), partly because it is about Love Regret, and partly because it has a very good syncopated back beat. 'Syncopated back beat' - Daddish.
Blue Daisy vs TOKiMONSTA - ‘USD’
‘USD’ is an utterly gawpable blast of dense and is apparently what They call ‘hip-hop futurism’. Also, it is ‘compressed’. Which means they have shoved all the rumbling beats and unstoppable, vaguely oppressive glitches into a tiny space. You know, like a canned rainbow, or a neon tank squashed into a matchbox. What They mean, is that THERE IS A BLOODY LOT GOING ON ALL AT ONCE. And it might have been too sickly, were I not blessed with a sweet tooth. So while it is Too Many Colours and You’ll Make Yourself Sick, I still want to eat it, wear it, sleep in it.
Blur - ‘Fool's Day’
Yay for Blur sounding like old, good Blur. What an insanely pleasing release this wor.
Bullion - ‘Say Goodbye To What’
On ‘Say Goodbye To What’ Bullion takes an inordinately wibbly, Psych ladyvocal, couples it with a kiddie choir, slams down some lovely bass-y organ stabs and all-a-sudden, here is my pop-hop toyshop and I run in and spend all my vouchers and tug on Mummy's sleeve and want everything, right now, eyes popping. Completely brilliant.
Clock Opera - ‘A Piece of String’
‘A Piece of String’ begins with the sort of propulsive clatter and looped plucks that I quite happily sling in the box marked ‘irresistible’. It also has Good Drama, Good Yearn and Good Serious. And it has booming bass, and a really good bit where he goes falsetto crazy towards the end. And it has some delightful lyrics about ‘shells ‘ that ‘dessicate’ (more words like ‘dessicate’ in pop please). AND it’s all syncopated, and I love me some syncopation. I am calling this single 'histrionica’ and I have made that up just for Clock Opera. Lucky old them. And.
Dam Mantle - ‘A Statue that is Perpetually Unveiled’
I really was able to see the white sheet as it was tugged away by the Lord Mayor in his vulgar jewellery; could make out the Disney castle in the background; hear the crowd manhandling balloons as it tried to clap, and then gasped as one. But that funny old sheet, Daddy - why is it creeping back into place all by itself, and why has time gone backward, and why do I suddenly feel as if I am a vaguely sinister production of the Nutcracker, where the Sugar Plum fairy has got so fat, she can only appear if strung from a crane?
Darwin Deez - ‘Radar Detector’
‘Radar Detector’ tumbles about like a slinky, and just as playful. And it really is a confection of a single, a Cadbury mini-egg of sweet crispiness and a perfect moreish threat to your waistband; one that sees off the whole of the rest of The Musics as if they were Kinnerton advent chocolates; so much brown chalk. But, BUT - at the risk of sounding like a dreary Old - I do wish he’d take off that damned silly headband.
Deerhunter - ‘Revival’
I feel we should take a moment to linger upon Deerhunter’s wondair names. Which for the unknowing, are:
Bradford Cox [dashing commander of a Northshire rowing team?]
Lockett Pundt [keycutter cousin of Wackford Squeers?]
Joshua Fauver [sea-faring trapper of errant fish?]
Moses Archuleta [you do this one?]
You know, if the men out of Deerhunter are really called Kevin, Dave, Rodney and Philip, I will be very disappointed.
Dels - ‘Shapeshift’
It has a line about his Mum. ‘Lazy’ also had a line about Dels’ Mum (I notice these things). In fact, nearly all of 'Lazy' was about your Mum being all like ‘Get out of bed you silly old stick’. So, using the tabloid journalist's extrapolatory method of turning two out of two into something that sounds much, much bigger, this IN TURN means 100% of Dels’ output has been about his Mum. Also, as diss-based lyrics go, 'I'm a chair, so get off' is well good. 'Shapeshift' is an amazing, propulsive, FRESH thing that has some epic throb-speaker on it, and I have played it five million more times than you, right, and none of its brilliance has worn off. NONE. Please can you all buy it, or else his mum will cry.
The Dirty Projectors - ‘As I Went Out One Morning’
In the very wonderful Election, the filmmakers choose to demonstrate teenage girl-mistake Tracy Flick’s careerist mania by using war-cry noises. And they just happen to sound exactly like the ladyvocals on ‘As I Went Out One Morning’. EHHHHHHHHHHHHH, is what the women of Dirty Projectors are singing, simultaneously discordant and harmonious. EHHHHHHHHHHHH - and it is a fine noise, as odd and as troubling a sound as people with more determination than EHHHHHHHHHH talent. Really, seriously though now, you watch out for these ambitious uckfers, they are poison.
Dum Dum Girls - ‘Jail La La’
Does not ‘Jail La La’ have a lovely sense of who-carezzzzzz about it? It seems to indicate that Dum Dum Girls wouldn’t care if you put them in jail (musical or otherwise) - and that, even if they did get SENT DAHN, they wouldn’t give the slightest, figgiest fig. ‘Tra la la, little bit of jail for us,’ they would trill - playing their garage pop all the way from the courthouse, using their leg-irons as impromptu percussion.
Emika - ‘Drop The Other’
Emika might be the first chart-friendly, poptronic emissary in dubstep’s image, and ‘Drop The Other’ is that most perfect of things - a pashtrack. One that exhorts the men to ‘hold their money up high’ and employs careful, deliberate, sauce-making pronunciation on all the words that matter (c.f. ‘hard’, with the emphasis on the 'd') - all of which creates a woozy, head-spinning single. You know, the sort of record you want to do bad things to. It is loin-provokingly rude.
Fanfarlo - ‘Harold T Wilkins, or How To Wait For A Very Long Time’
It turns out this namechecks a Mr. Wilkins, who is a flying saucer and ancient torture chamber enthusiast, crumbly Oxford scholar and reporter of all things Logie Baird. Which is nice for me, I like songs named after British oddbods. In the end though, whatever (or whomever) the song is about, what matters is that Fanfarlo are that joy-making thing – a band who make fully-realised, rousing and squiffily swaying pop songs that are always a pleasure to listen to.
Freelance Whales - ‘Generator 2nd Second Floor’
Despite the world’s worst band name Freelance Whales have made a terrific belter of a song. And it is cinem-indie - the sort of record that soundtracks some award-winning cinematography of some sky before swooping down to Our Hero who is cycling down a steep hill to an empty beach with his winsome, rosy-cheeked, delirious-haired-but-not-‘done'-girlfriend, before they throw all their clothes off and have a lovely little crisis about something vaguely existential.
Girl Unit - ‘Wut’
I cannot leave this alone. Somebody take it away from me, I will BREAK IT.
Grinderman - ‘Heathen Child’
Because all Grinderman songs are about Bad People to whom Bad Things happen, but said bad things are a bit sexy and Godless, you might find yourself listening to ‘Heathen Child’ and wondering if it is a bit self-parodic. ‘Oho,’ is what I began saying to myself, ‘Oho, there is a new Grinderman single, I bet I know what that is about, it will have a woman in it who thinks Dog is rubbish. And she would cut Dog in Asda if she ever saw him in the deli aisle.’ And I'm not the only one who thinks this - the single was forwarded to me by Our Editor. And he prefaced it with just two words, which were 'REAL MEN'.
Grum - ‘Can't Shake This Feeling’
‘Can’t Shake This Feeling’ could quite easily have been produced by Jellybean Benitez, and clearly that is no bad thing.
HEALTH - ‘USA Boys’
'USA Boys’ begins with some kaleidoscopic organ that spirals and morphs. And as openers go, it’s dazzling. Here is God; here he is turning up at His House. And see now how his beatific countenance falls; watch him fumble as he realizes his keys don’t work; HEALTH have changed the locks. And as he bangs fruitlessly on the door, inside, the angels fail to hear him. Because who has time for dead, dread stories when some dudes from LA have turned up with zooming, transportive modern worship spilling from their pockets? This is the Church of HEALTH. And it is a fellowship of Adam. But not in the first man, biblical sense; I mean the other, naughtier one.
The Hit Parade - ‘I Like Bubblegum’
Strangely out of time single, that has heaps of things happening on it, most of which come from the olden days of the 80s. The first time I heard it I thought I hated it. Now, it is in the Top 100! My, how we women change our minds.
Holy Fuck - ‘Latin America’
Sadly for a lyric dissembler such as I, there are no words on ‘Latin America’ - just enough fizzes, bangs and crashes to keep any Clatter Dance aficionado very happy indeed. I mean, Holy Fuck are SO good at this, one almost feels jealous.
Idiot Glee - ‘All Packed Up’
The word that sums ‘All Packed Up’ better than any other is LILT. It lilts, it sways in front of you like a hypnotist's medallion, and you don't really mind that Idiot Glee are going for your zipper as you remember past lives where the fate of mankind rested solely in your hands; because you really were Pasteur, Gallileo and Antoinette, and definitely not Barry from Slough who spent his whole life selling Amway cleaning products to bored housewives and soon-to-be-ex friends.
Jamie Lidell - ‘I Wanna Be Your Telephone’
A not entirely successful exercise in metaphor, but still a marvellously messy funk-pop song. His last album is precisely 37% better than you think it is, and he wears a very nice pair of slacks in the videothing.
Katy B - ‘Katy On A Mission’
Katy B was one of those artists who – like James Blake – it felt like there was a shouting competition about, there was a lot of firsties and a lot of I LIKE THEM THE MOST. And though I am willing to admit I partook in this internet-based nonsense, at the verysametime I found it vile. Katy B is a natural and not vile. I hope music makes her very, very rich.
Los Campesinos! - ‘Romance Is Boring’
Back when I had a real job and email was still the raddest thing in the whole, wild whirl a friend and I were terminal grammar snobs. ‘Look here,’ we would say, ‘for surely this is the dumbest snippet of textual idiocy you ever had the displeasure of reading!’ And then there might be a little total underneath, charting how! many! exclamation! marks! had! been! used! I mention this because as you will have noticed, Los Campesinos! have an exclamation mark. The difference being that in their case, it has been earned - by dint of their sheer, unstinting exuberance.
Mock & Toof - ‘Farewell To Wendo’
Let me tell you how guest vocalist Pollyester (now there’s a name) uses deliberate and slightly wonky repetition (see ‘clar-i-net, clar-i-net’) and how that in turn reminds me of The Mighty Boosh’s crimping; how you could quite easily substitute ‘clarinet’ for ‘Kentish Town’ and the rhythm would be exactly the same. Also, as it is difficult to avoid mentioning the bit where she asks you to ‘murder her with orgasms’ I shan't. It sounds like quite a good way to go, even if it is a bit silly. All in all, a lovely curio of a single.
Mumdance feat. Esser - ‘Don't Forget Me Now’
Every now and then something utterly mentile and banging will queuejump to the front of my shuffle, and I will need to take my pod out of my pocket to see the source of the spring; who is this crazy. Nine out of ten times it is Mumdance. Winningly propulsive.
Musee Mecanique - ‘Like Home’
Musee Mecanique came on my stereo as I stood outside the Gare du Nord, and I was admiring the elegance of the typeface that spelt out its name in stark, sharp white. But even when I sat on a cold slab in the UK drizzle, it still sounded wonderful - all swirling accordions, tip-toeing xylophones, muffled handclaps and warm, Fronch atmospherics. Lush.
Nice Nice - ‘See Waves’
Nice Nice are good at rackets – and not the boring, tennis kind, obviously. This is their second single. It is the dizziest thing you’ll hear today; it demonstrates how they really, really know what they are doing; and its halting, stop-start angular jangle would have won the top spot in a less good week.
Owen Pallett - ‘Lewis Takes Off His Shirt’
One of Owen Pallett’s softest moments, made all the more lovely because the lyrical territory seemed to cover waiting and longing, two of my favourite topics for popular music. Classy man.
Pagan Wanderer Lu - ‘Banish Negative Thoughts’
At some points this year it was hard not to agree with Pagan Wanderer Lu’s sentiments. ‘How can I banish negative thoughts, when everything is so unbearably awful?’ he wailed, on an incredibly noodly, tinny and shrill single that I never expected to love, but ended up having a huge soft spot for.
Panda Bear - ‘Tomboy’
The sane and right thinking people’s favourite member of AC, ‘Tomboy’ is yet another completely transportive, utterly immersive Praise Pop song which chugs along at a fair old pace, dragging you into its soupiness. I mean, I risk sounding like a wispy nutbag when I tell you that for me, listening to Panda Bear is like having my hair brushed out of my face before someone I rather like plants one right where it matters. (Nobody read this, I’m embarrassed.)
Plants & Animals - ‘American Idol’
Sometimes you have to judge a record according to how your feet respond. And my toes flipping love ‘American Idol’, they love the Roxy sax solos, they think the shrill brass is wizard. But if you were to pin them down and ask them what they like the absolute most, I think they would all ten of them agree; ‘American Idol’ is wicked because of that warmly urgent riffing that provides its amiable structure. Lawks it has charm, it is wonderfully unslappable.
Princeton - ‘Shout it Out’
'Shout It Out' is about wanting to bellow your love from the highest rooftops and not being embarrassed, even when everyone asks you to put it away. It is blessed with quivery strings, an officially glorious middle eight, a muffled bass drum, handclaps, tinny tambourines, and lyrics about discos where boys stand at one side and girls on the other. And kindness; it’s got heaps and heaps of that. Essentially it's just about perfect.
The Ruby Suns - ‘Cranberry’
So, The Ruby Suns' 'Cranberry' is a bit ‘Beach Boys’ and a bit blippy. And a bit palms-to-the-sky, as if they were singing in tongues at some sort of achingly now evangelical hangout [such places do not exist, otherwise me and Dog might still be on speakers]. Now, it is going to remind you of something. But I decided I did not care, which is why I made it Single of the Week, and am now telling you it is marve.
Rusko - ‘Woo Boost’
‘Woo Boost’ sounds like the brand name for a pheromone spray you might find advertised alongside tacky testimonials. It is all those oooooo’s, ooooty oooo. In fact, it appeals so dearly, now I just hear ‘Wooooooo Booooooo’ in my head when I read it. Unfortunately, however nice it do sound and however hilaire the things it reminds you of, it is also the wrong title, bearing in mind the racket it makes. Essentially, I do not think this is the sort of record that will help you 'bag' women.
Sky Larkin - ‘Still Windmills’
Lovely lovely lovely Sky Larkin with their neat brand of good ache, ‘Still Windmills’ is a song that displays Katie Harkin’s yearning dulcets as if they were in a glass cabinet, well polished and looked after, despite the characterful chips and grazing. This clatters. It is all your debris-lined skips, under-bed messes and riotiously disorganized garden sheds come at once.
The Strange Boys - ‘Be Brave’
Be Brave is the sound of the old timer at the end of the bar, proffering advice even though he can’t see past the end of his nose or walk straight. He is one of those wiry drunks who never gets fat. This year, The Strange Boys made an advice song that is very wheedling, so I would not listen to them. I would, however, listen to their single.
Summer Camp - ‘Ghost Train’
Ghost Train’ is like the breath of a particularly fine-looking French girl - a Parisienne in Palm Beach, perhaps. And she wisps along, centre-parted hair flapping in harmony with her waist-high flares. But for once this wisping is not spineless or weedy, because it heralds a simple tale of heartbreak. And the thing is, you really _do_ want her ‘to get through to him’ before the sun sets on their Amtrak romance. As ‘Ghost Train’ pulsed along - all 'O Superman' style, intoned and repetitive vocals - I found I reveled in its steam train samples, oddly muffled air, and talk of hoomins SO fantastic, one is compelled to call them ‘angel’.
Tame Impala - ‘Lucidity’
Even though ‘Lucidity’ is Tame Impala doing their best ¾ period Beatles impression, it is ace because it has a psych guitar solo on it that does not result in the entire song being dread (impossible, impossible!). To listen to it is to be covered in fuzz, you have sat in the back of someone’s Rangey and they have dog blankets that hum with warm fur. You don’t even mind, you don’t keep shivering or trying to brush it off, it is fine to be all doggy if Tame Impala are making you that way. Mmmn, dog hair.
Teenage Fanclub - ‘Baby Lee’
I have a fierce sort of admiration for kind songs like this one. I think there’s a neat sort of bravery in wearing your heart on your sleeve. And ‘Baby Lee’ you see, just simply exists - it is the kitten in the corner wanting to be played with and it’s so comfortable in its own skin there is little point in getting annoyed. So you might find yourself wanting to video that kitten playing a keyboard, you might then want to add some comedic neon gifs and an ironically rubbish font and then go on Twitter and talk about how hilariously naive it is. But I shan’t be joining you.
Tickler Tea & Magic Fuzz - ‘The Shakedown’
Absolutely amazing funk work-out, oh Lore, it’s the greatest. You know, somebody once asked the important question; 'Bass: how low can you go?' And apparently in Tickler Tea and Magic Fuzz’s case, the answer to this is SO LOW, that it sounds like the bass has a poorly tummy and bottom. If this doesn't put a smile on your face, you are ill also.
Tobacco feat. Beck - ‘Fresh Hex’
‘Fresh Hex’ is just 95 SECONDS LONG. I think this is a terrible, brilliant achievement, and will admit that there are times when I think all songs should be this length. I think if you can lift - or at the very least create - a mood in this space of time you are to be congratulated. So let us congratulate Tobacco as well as thanking this here Beck - even though Mr. Hansen is a fan of Xenu and hails/curses (I can never remember which) the galactic confederacy every day before he has his dippy egg.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - ‘Garden’
'Garden' really is a gem - the sort of bouncy-ball-basslined, sun-fading, melodic bit of delightful that could soundtrack any Summer Pash. While you're still on holiday it'll sound Just Right; all perfect, written-just-for-you positives. And when you come back to your grey, you'll see it for the pangy bit of sad it really is. Much like Grosvenor's 'Nitemoves', this is a bit of a triumph.
Veronica Falls - ‘Beachy Head’
Veronica Falls have written a pop song about everybody’s favourite place to top themselves and it is really really good. I mean, never has singing along to a graphical location where peepul choose to end it all seemed quite such top larks. This is indie of a particularly British, timeless and guileless sort, and it's also enough to remind a person why they plumped for plaid over pop in the first place. Terrific.
Villagers - ‘Becoming a Jackal’
Does listening to heaps of music turn you into (more of) a wet? I only ask because when I was being saintly and making post-Sunday lunch coffee for the Robys and listening to ‘Becoming A Jackal’ at the same time, I found myself quite overcome. It is some cinematically serious, triple-strength yearn, from the endless drift of the word ‘streeeeeeet’, right down to the wonderfully hollow chiming that make up this single's stark backdrop. Bliss.
Wild Beasts - ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’
Wild Beasts aren’t daft, they know it makes sense to call a song ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’ and to write the lyrics to on the artwork, even if you don’t really want to think about anything dancing on your tongue, because it makes you think of little swimmers going in the wrong end. They are the sort of band to take you to a party in the middle of nowhere, the sort of coves with silk handkerchiefs in their pocket. And they would whip them out with the practiced grace of a huckster, so you wouldn’t notice how that little square of soft smelt a bit funny. Or how later, when the Beasts were tugging at your bra strap, you couldn't stop them even if you wanted to. Menacing.
Part 2 of DiS Top 100 Singles of 2010 is here.
Wendy is on Twitter, here. If you say something uncharitable about videos and pictures she will probably deck you.