Singles of the Year 2010: Part the Second!
And so it ends, off pootles 2010 with all its talk of shackles, wor and love lost. Here, the continuation of this year's Top 100 Singles, with some special mentions for my absolute favourite and best sounds near the bottom. You will find a Spotify playlist of all the below here, or if you like, you could just dive into all DiS' Top 100 Singles of 2010 here. I may actually have chosen 101. Do forgive.
A TOP FIFTY, THEN
Aloe Blacc - ‘I Need A Dollar’
To sing something as achy, careworn, tattered and despondent as ‘I Need A Dollar’, you have to sound wise. And it’s got to sound like hard-won wisdom – we need to believe you’ve seen the breaks race past, and really believe you’ve found out it’s just one, stained compromise after another. Aloe Blacc can do this and is also the smoothest; of all the men in music, he is the dapperest. His album - though entirely straightforward and with few sharp edges – is very difficult not to pash on very hard indeed. All men should dress like him at all times.
Anika - ‘Yang Yang’
Let us pretend you are at a party, let it be an actual happening with beatniks, 'jazz' and blistering, full-colour cine blaring on the walls. You are behind the decks with all the vinyls, and you need to play something to compel The Most Avant Boy In The Room to talk to you. That record is ‘Yang Yang’, even though I usually run a mile in the other direction from anything that has arty B.O. It has the sleaziest of sirens on it.
Cloud Control - ‘Gold Canary’
Cloud Control have a done a great, big, wonderful, many-bitted thing, so it is to their enormous credit that ‘Gold Canary’ is such a balmy, tender delight. From the sea-shanty, impossibly warm man-vocals that start it; to the psych-out at 01:30 in; to the yelps one cannot help singing along with, everything in this single works. You know, even if you get nose to nose with it and can see its gaping pores.
Charles Douglas - ‘Summertime’
So. Though I should I should probably spend a bit of time telling you why 'Summertime' is a great unreleased Lou Reed seven (but with none of the attendant Old Frog of Rock connotations because Douglas is - even now - only 34), I sort of can’t be bothered. You will either like it or not, and I do - I love it with all my heart and only partly because the vinyl on which it is pressed is half-green and half-transparent.
Crystal Stilts - ‘Shake the Shackles’
Part of me looks at this and goes Oho, Crystal Stilts, I know who you are, we pinned you down like a butterfly at least a year ago; and alright, we might have had the odd sympathy shag but essentially it is over, because I already know your best jokes, have tasted all the things you are best at cooking, seen all your swizziest outfits - the sheen has worn clean off. But then I play it, and all-a-sudden I am doing a search on my Inbox on the off-chance that I did not delete its email address or mobular phone number. ‘Shake the Shackles’ is a funny combination of doom and rainbows. Like most things in life, hein?
Debruit - ‘Nigeria What?’
Afrobeat-infused cut-ups that make you dance on actual train station platforms (in actual public), hardly ever come along. But everything dEbruit is doing – teasing with funk flourishes, tickling with his talk box, stretching and syncopating vocals, as well as the care he is taking - all of them make me feel joyous. I think This Is What Music Should Be Doing, and no one is as accomplished as him at it. Remarkable.
Django Django - ‘Wor’
‘Wor’ begins with rumbling bass picks that recall Dick Dale’s ‘Miserlou’. This being a pretty ominous setting out of their musical stall, Django Django heap doom upon threat by adding sirens, helicopters and a barreling bassline. And then handclaps, which is where I start to think, ‘Come now, Django Django - if that really is and must be your name - this is too much, I will end up getting silly over you.’
Drake - ‘Find Your Love’
First things first, ‘Find Your Love’ is a lost Craig David single. And I don't like Craig David. So perhaps I am just feeling particularly soppy, but I find 'Find Your Love' – and in particular the walkie-talkie vocals - curiously affecting. I mean, say what you like about Drake – and I feel sure you want to know how Dappy Out Of N-Dubz thinks he is the tits; and do feel free to worry about whether he is the saviour of everything or the worst man alive; but me, I think I shall just let ‘Find Your Love’ - and its absurdly over-acted video - wash over me. It is brills.
Family Of The Year - ‘Summer Girl’
Even though in many respects 'Summer Girl' is a cliché wrapped up in a formula with a load of old blueprint splodged down upon it with no thought for the calories, there are times when these things do not matter. I mean, you, me - we can say what we like about clichés in music and music writing; how terms like ‘Beach Boys harmonies’ are meaningless, and how songs which ponder the availability of perfect girls who sit by beach campfires with their damnably touchable golden skin are essentially a bit pointless or boring. But if you ever hear anyone saying such a thing - or find yourself thinking it - just put this on and rejoice for the re-treaders and the trads. Family of the Year SMASH their chosen sound, right, they make it ageless. It is so perfect I could scream.
Florrie - ‘Summer Nights’
‘Summer Nights’ is just about having fun. Which is what pop music is meant to be about I think; that and pashing. And it has the sort of jolly frisk about it that Rachel Stevens' singles had. In conclusion: uncomplicated pop music designed specifically for larks and sung by a girl with a wink in her gob. Who is asking you to mess about with her in a car park.
Gorillaz - ‘Doncamatic’
‘Doncamatic’, though in many respects just an awfully good pop song, was the moment when I realised again that Damon Albarn is a genius - even though that word gets thrown around like so many toffees in a predatory playground. And the transition is complete, Gorillaz LLC is now the umbrella organisation that allows Damon to put out the pop records he’s always wanted to make but has perhaps been too young to allow himself; as you get older I find you care far less – if at all - what people think and it’s freeing, wonderful. So I don’t care either, I want him knighted, immortalized in Halls of Fame and roundly given the keys to the galaxy. He can do anything.
Groove Armada And Will Young - ‘History’
I am quite prepared to sound insufferable when I say that Groove Armada are the sort of band it is troubling to find yourself liking. But one must admit, ‘History’ has soundtracked countless emergency dance breaks this year. Including an impromptu disco in a caravan awning with wipe-clean curtains. I mean, I’m not saying I lost it completely to this single in Mundesley Caravan Park, and fair dos, I did check the curtains were closed. But that was because I didn’t want to offend next door Barry and his very nice next door wife Pam with my moves. Also their dog, Jed. Their caravan is called a ‘Senator’.
Hot Chip - ‘I Feel Better’
Hot Chip are soppy. They are more sentimental than a Daniel O’Donnell Christmas Halbum Dedicated To Old Spot, His Horse What Died In The Potato Famine (So It Is). And yet somehow, they are simultaneously very calm about their many and various feelings. Listening to them is like having someone stood beneath the window of your bedchamber; and they are chucking pop pebbles up at the glass while the rest of the world dreams away nicely – but you quite fancy them, so you don’t whisper down for them to gan and piss off. I am so proud of Hot Chip and I think all the best bands make you feel this way – almost as if they were your offspring; partly your creation, utterly yours.
Keane - ‘Stop For A Minute’
It would be deeply disingenuous for me to ignore how for some people, Keane are icky as hairs on a soap bar - and that is one of my Top Five Icks. But I am not one of those people. Instead, Tom & The Other Ones induce an indecent and instant sort of euphoria. Worse still, I really do think I could write a Greer-style book on young men with Chaplin’s bewilderingly boyish beauty. Even though I know the prologue would be philosophically as well as academically half-cocked, before finally showing its true colours in the main text -which would be largely illustrated using the Pantone Rainbow of Perv. WARNING: At one point Tom sings ‘Sometimes I feel like a little lost child’ in this single, and I can't tell you what I thought in response.
LCD Soundsystem - ‘Drunk Girls’
I think what I like most about Drunk Girls is how many snippets of wisdom James manages to sneak under the radar. Drunk Girls sounds like it’s the most inane song ever sung, but if you listen hard it’s actually deeply sane, and even a bit romantic.
Mariachi El Bronx - ‘Holy’
Mariachi El Bronx are larksome. And their album really is the sort of thing your whole cru will appreciate, from your Moms to your Pops to the tiniest younglings. My whole family love the crap out of this album, and yet it is more mournful than you can possibly imagine; more weal than a skipful of Serious Indie. If I ever go on holiday I want them to be the hotel houseband. And as me and Jorge sink our thrimptieth tequila, I want them to be singing about the greed of the catholic church and Wronged Men, as he props me around a lantern-lit dancefloor. Mmmmn.
Oh No Ono - ‘Helplessly Young’
‘I don’t know what to say / She reminds me of the future’ is a marvellous lyric one could easily re-appropriate in the field of romance - where I feel sure it will pay heady dividends as a chat-up line. Oh No Ono make psychedelic pop music but are not hippies. Imagine! It is all the hurrahs.
Mini Viva - ‘One Touch’
This has some very dread lyrics in which we are induced to try their ‘candy’ and worship with them at the altar of ‘fashion’, fame and ‘status’. But ‘One Touch’ has a chorus that is undeniable; a Catholic Pope of a whooshing melody that reminds you just how unnaturally gifted Brian'n'Miranda are. In one of my many shoeboxes of tat, tickets ‘n’ forgotten dweams, there is a cassette tape of me and my sister listening to the charts. And there is this bit I remember, where you can hear me - fit-to-burst - go ‘Oh! OH! I LOVE THIS ONE!’. And that is how I feel about ‘One Touch’. RIP MINI VIVA.
Muse - ‘Resistance’
Not the Queen one, nor the Moonlight Sonata one, nor the Theme from Carrie one, nor the Rufus Wainwright, here-I-am-camping-it-up-as-a-Fronch one. ‘Resistance’ is about STICKING IT TO THE MAN WITH BELLS ON - just like every other Muse song - and it is all-out, utter skillz from start to finish. Bloody love Muse like a bloody great big bloody rugger bloke would, I do. (Try saying that without your teeth in etc.)
OK GO - ‘This Too Shall Pass’
This Too Shall Pass' is about not letting the black dogs get a hold, even as they bite down hard on one's ankle and start to have a good old chomp. This is a band who know how to have larks but who also crucially, know how to communicate them. I listened to this at 5am in the morning on an alarming deadline and yet managed to echo its sentiments with gusto.
Paris Suit Yourself - ‘Craig Machinsky’
Here are Paris Suit Yourself with a song about discrimination and it is markedly berserk affair by a band who have (almost) managed to camouflage their fury behind huge - almost jolly-sounding - piano stabs and the sort of backing vocals that recall nothing so much as a Muppets Cast Album. I thought I was thoroughly baffled and a little afraid of ‘Craig Machinsky’, but in fact I am a little bit in awe of it; I think it is good to be unsettled by things you admire.
PIFCO - ‘UK Adults’
PIFCO are here to talk to you about modern grown-ups. And how very naughty they are, because for them it is always with the squiffy and always with the funny sweets. And though it is rather like The Fall or The Stranglers, 'UK Adults' also has a certain deliberate loucheness about it; as if it could not be bothered to tie its own shoelaces. And then, when it falls over, it can't be arsed getting up. No bad thing of course, as there is a glimpse of Devo invoked here too; all superfast angular jangles and proper, actual jerking. It is a bit tuneless - but given that its wrongness is all on purpose, it would be silly to get too upset.
Robyn - ‘Hang With Me’
Even though people who say ‘I don’t really want to get into anything serious’ are the absolute dreadest for we hopeless romantics to get off with, Robyn is here to tells us something about which she is quite clear; you are absolutely effing not allowed to FALL IN LOVE WITH HER. And the surety of this idea – tra, la, la, don’t fall in love with me, right – coupled with Robyn’s unrivalled grasp of melancholy, make for a wonderfully soaring but strangely sad single. See, ‘Hang With Me’ tries to say it is possible to hit the brakes on how you feel; to feel a bit, but feel no further. But sadly this ability to quell is pure poppycock, unless you happen to be made of circuits.
Simian Mobile Disco - ‘Cruel Intentions’
Obviously, Beth Ditto has chops and can sing for all the squirrels of her beloved, hometown state. But when she opens that magnificent gob of hers, I also feel I can hear a pure sort of kindness in it. ‘Cruel Intentions’ is a nicely positive three-minuter about being ‘down for whatever’ – whether you interpret ‘whatever’ as unmentionable sex acts, or Crown Green Bowling (Kilmarnock rules).
Sleigh Bells - ‘Infinity Guitars’
Look at Sleigh Bells, letting the side down with their frankly absurd good looks and perfect, flawless fuzz pop. I mean, I don’t know who they think they are; with their button noses, and their Raybans that suit their faces and their damnably sexy high school jock jackets worn over a schooliform. So I will view those who do not like ‘Infinity Guitars’ or Sleigh Bells with a curious, knowing sort of suspicion. IT’S NOT HER FAULT SHE’S THIS FLIPPING BEAUTIFUL. AND I SAY THIS TO MYSELF AS MUCH AS TO YOU.
Standard Fare - ‘Fifteen’
You’re only fifteen, what was I thinking?’ wail Standard Fare - and it really is paedo pop of the sort all right-thinking people should condemn. But it’s also the catchiest little fucker since fish swam down the river Trent with big Eat Me signs on their arses, all mouths agape; helping the hooks in with slippery fins. It is perky, it jangles, and it has a clarity of tone that would shame the Society for the Protection of Nice Grammar & Speaking Proper.
Still Flyin' - ‘Runaway Train II’
One of the singles this year that slowly rose, ‘Runaway Train II’ began its time with me in the dread ‘Also Out This Week!’ section. But like a bad house guest it kept drawing attention to itself, until I had to admit I wanted it to stay, and rather liked it finishing all the milk. In the pantheon of this years singles it was first on the sofa, then it got the aerobed, and now I am like having sex with it or something. I am amazing at metaphor.
Surfer Blood - ‘Floating Vibes’
Boy oh Boy I love ‘Floating Vibes’, even if its title is abominable; and even though there is a line about how you will have to learn to surf if you want to go and visit Surfer Blood in California; and even though I am pretty sure they would have got nothing in special for your arrival - take a sleeping bag, surfers are lazy hosts. For it to have overcome my very, VERY deep-seated aversion to anything involving waves, straggly blonde hair, wetsuits, jumped-up bits of Styrofoam, terrible daggy clothing brands and HERMAN ACKFING HESSE, is quite some feat.
!!! - ‘Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass’
Here is a band who could rescue the most sexless and unfrisky of droids, ChkChkChk know what they are doing and it is not going to hurt - other than in the good, bad ache, way. Quite apart from having one of the best names for a single all year, ‘Jamie My Intentions Are Bass’ is absolutely wonderful; as slinky and provoking as a thing could be. Also, how ridiculously hot is Nic Offer? Nobody should look that good in tennis shorts. NOBODY.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - ‘Round And Round’
Nar-nar-nars in songs are never not good - just ask Bananarama. And even though I wish everyone in music sounded and looked exactly like them three - and Ariel Pink does not - I still think Ariel Pink is ace. Partly because he sounds like a soft rock Stephen Malkmus and partly because he proffers warm - very nearly MOR - arrangements in one hand while offbeat sensibilities are grasped tightly in the other. ‘Round and Round’ is especially winning on the oxymoronic booming softness of the chorus, where we are asked to ‘hold on’.
Donae’o - ‘Riot Music’
Magical things seem to emanate from the collective noodlings of Digital Soundboy alarmingly frequently, as if they had their mixing desks under some sort of spell. ‘Riot Music’ was a massive highlight, from Donae’o’s grrr noises, to him giggling, to him saying what I shall spell phonetically as sim-in-ah. SOMEBODY TELL THE OLD WOMAN WHAT THIS MEANS. Also, 'Riot Music' has the sound of glass breaking as percussion. Just don’t play it to the crazy students.
Everything Everything - ‘Schoolin’
I think Everything Everything write the sort of lyrics you want to copy out in your fanciest, serify hand. For me it's a song about not knowing, and how hallowed halls and turreted language obscure the most important snippets of knowledge - the essential bits we apes need to know if we're to carry on calling this planet ours. Or you know, maybe it’s not about enviromentileism, maybe it’s about sponge baths. In the end it doesn't matter, when a pop song is this artful and intricate.
First Aid Kit - ‘Ghost Town’
I do wish First Aid Kit would stop being so devilish heart-breaking, it is more than I can bear. But ‘Ghost Town’ is so effortlessly mournful and affecting; they really are a whirlwind of yearn and there’s naught I can do about it. This time around they want to make you cry by singing about what it is like to move on and be forgotten by someone. To be one of those people that just flits - all shadow-like - across the mind of another.
The Hidden Cameras - ‘Underage’
When indie can be bothered, it makes immense pop songs. This happens not nearly often enough for me; I like my singles hooky as anglers' kitboxes. But ‘Underage’- with its darned hymnal choruses, rinky dink tunesmithery, button-pushing key changes and munificent melody really is a triumph, it is exactly the sort of thing I am a massive sucker for.
Hjaltalin - ‘Suitcase Man’
When Suitcase Man’ begins it is all the doom in the world; quivering strings straight out of shadowy Vienna, Orson Welles managing to look sexy even as he reveals himself to be a calm sociopath untrammeled by silly, flimsy concepts like murder; oh, whatever killin. Then the singing starts and it explodes into wonderful histrionics, with muted drunk brass, cantering cellos and some of the most ridiculously showy - if not actively vulgar - orchestration I have heard in quite some time. It is absolutely WOWZERS, it revels in itself, it reeks of DRAMA, and yet is still as pop as a thing could be.
James Blake - ‘Postpone’ from ‘CMYK’ EP
Thinky, sexy music with errant stabs of brass that make Narnia happen in my brain. You may have heard of James. He is ‘alright’.
James Blake - ‘Limit To Your Love’
Five out of ten.
Janelle Monáe feat. Big Boi - ‘Tightrope’
With all its talk of lovelorn bots and pashing on the run; its wanky notions of ‘suites’ and ‘movements’ you forget that ‘Tightrope’ is a real daub of amazing, a properly traditional get-on-up funk workout that doesn’t bother worrying about being out of time. It’s the moment on The Archandroid when the scales fall, it’s the bit where you hang all notions of cool and try to do her one-foot-shoe-shuffle. I am fairly sure I would not get on with anyone who did not like it; and I love it when pop music makes me feel this partisan. They don’t make them like this anymore? OH YES THEY DOOOOOOOOOOO.
Kate Nash - ‘Do Wah Doo’
Earlier this year I wrote that ‘Kate Nash does not come across like the sort of girl one wants to have round for a fiddle with a facepack, however many bottles of Sun In she might have in her bathroom cabinet.’ I was wrong. Because even though ‘Do Wah Doo’ is an absurd pastiche, I cannot tell you how many times I have pogo’d to it. I finally bought it last week on seven.
Klashnekoff - ‘Klash Anthem’
My favourite line in ‘Klash Anthem’ – a doomy, irresistible and utterly classy hip hop jam with more atmoss than a hundred Powell'n'Pressburgers - is ‘Vex at the way that I flex’. Partly because it trips off the tongue in a quite delightful fashion. And partly because 'vex', 'vex-making' and ‘all very vex’ are some of my favourite words and phrases. This means I have something in common with a man who calls himself Klashnekoff. Also, it has a pretend Russian on it and a soap opera section at the end. This is quite literally in my Top Ten.
Lightspeed Champion - ‘Marlene’
It has an actual slamming bassline that sounds like someone beating a pub table with a rubber fist [DAMN YOU CARTWRIGHT, I ORDERED GINGER WINE, YOU BLESSED FOOL] and some strings that quiver like orchestral fern fronds in a light wind. The press spaff calls 'Marlene' things like ‘epic’ and ‘grand’ and ‘expansive’ - but I prefer to call what they are doing here ‘funky histrionics’; it has a nice ring to it.
Magnetic Man - ‘I Need Air’
A song about being off your tits on drugs bloody drugs that I have played TO DEATH, ‘I Need Air’ is the record you should point to if an alien drops round for a cup of tea tomorrow and asks you what modern pop sounds like. You see, even though it is both Shooting Stars and Coming Up and Is This What Is Meant To Happen and My Insides Have Gone All Massive and all that other naughty - it’s also so perfectly put together that it NEVER SNAGS. A faultless pop record, then, a joy.
Mark Ronson - ‘Bang, Bang, Bang’
The first thing to say is that this has got Q-Tip on it, and Q-Tip is my favourite rapping man of all time, all of it. The second thing to say is that the video is a triumph. The third is where I reveal how ‘Bang Bang Bang’ is in my top five of all the songs this year, and the fourth is that MNDR looks very like Josie Lawrence. So there you go. I have kicked myself 67 times for not making it Single of the Week back in July. That is how many times I have played it.
Pictureplane - ‘Cyclical Cyclical (Atlantis)’
Pictureplane start ‘Cyclical Cyclical (Atlantis)’ how they mean to go on. Which is to say; with a chord sequence that sounds like it’s attached to a boomerang. And as it whizzes away from you; and as you know it’s coming back again, there is a delightful air of fulfilled desire. They do not mess, they are not about to wave their pretty organ stabs in your face just the once. It is also rather sexy, with its repeated proclamations of how Pictureplane are ‘all visual’. 'We're all visual,’ they keep saying. Now, to my mind (and do imagine it, do think of someone you quite fancy saying ‘Thing is, [your name here], I’m quite a visual person’) this means only one thing. And that thing is quite rude.
These New Puritans - ‘We Want War’
If someone had bothered to tell me These New Puritans were going to do an emo re-work of 'Get Ur Freak On' I would have put it on my pod as soon as it arrived. Perhaps someone should ring them and ask them to do more 7½ minute epics. And maybe tell them that if you listen to this in Tescos, it is really, really exciting. There I was in the deli aisle, and all-a-sudden, that black-coated kiddiewink (who should have been the last word in cuteness) had a look of the Damiens about him. Popera of the very best kind; and quite MAGNIFICENT in its bigness. Also: bassoons.
Timber Timbre - ‘Demon Host’
When I listened to ‘Demon Host’ it did not take very long for the images to start blossoming, and very alarming they were too. It has the extraordinary air of a shady cabin in the woods, where your only company is a red-eyed, strumming Not Right. And he has been awaiting your arrival; he has sharpened his axe, just for you. And right at the end - just after Taylor Kirk has sung ‘I have seen the demon host’ (Lawks!); and right after that, when he quite literally sings ‘Wooooo Hooooooo’ like an ACTUAL GHOST; there follows what are surely forty five of the most beautiful seconds I have ever heard recorded. It’s so wonderful, I giggled (in fear).
TuneYards - ‘Real Live Flesh’
It doesn’t take a genius to work out how Real Live Flesh in your Real Live Life is one hundred times more head-spinning than anything you have to pay for. So here is a record. I think it is about how much better women are in the now - in the here and now; when they are sweaty and ruined. And yet it is not a dry feminist treatise, it is an explosion of playfulness with a drum beat of quite forbidding, frisky portent and a heady minor key applied to the vocals. So when Merrill sings ‘We are not what what you wanted’ / ‘We are not what you asked for’ I just think ‘Exactly. We’re better.’ See, the greatest lie porn ever told was that it provided a sexual watermark worth aspiring to. When in fact, the only watermark you’ll ever need is in your own head; your own bedroom.
Yeasayer - ‘O.N.E’
Songs about not needing someone anymore and getting over them which also sound triumphant are usually the reserve of pop music (Robyn, Robyn, Robyn). But this year – hurrah! - Yeasayer made a pop album. So might I suggest you sing ‘O.N.E.’ when romantic scoundrels gallop off. And then sing it again, VERY LOUD, when they come a-crawling and a-wheedling back.
DiS' Top 100 Singles of 2010 Part 1 is here. See you in January, everyone.
Wendy is on Twitter, here