I decided to really drag things out this year, so every Saturday between now and Christmas Day I will post ten tracks in reverse order from my sweat-drenched and tear-stained list. It’s a Christmas countdown!
I might say this every year, but this was DIFFICULT. My ‘short list’ had a hundred songs on it so I have spent the last few weeks essentially pushing dear friends off the side of a boat. Usual rules apply, only one track per artist allowed, remixes and covers don’t count (they get their own category of course). Oh and POKE the usual disclaimers about my penchant for crap-pop. What is a bit of Islet without some Katy Perry on the side, know what I mean? Trust me it wasn’t The National who kept the lid on the Diazepam this year. As Emerson said, 'Evermore in the world is this marvelous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats.’
He also said , ‘POP! POP! POP! …’
So here we go …
50. I Am Kloot – Northern Skies
A sterling highlight from their swooning Elbow-produced album, Sky At Night. The lyric ‘You take the coast-road back through your life…’ still brings a lump to my throat even after umpteen plays.
49. Islet – We Shall Visit
Warning! Experimental! The avant-garde is alive and kicking in Cardiff’s Islet: numerous verses, barely a chorus, tempo-changes, all things that might otherwise rile you combine to make this song a triumph of sophisticated noise. Watch them very closely in 2011.
48. Erykah Badu – 20 Feet Tall
She became the sedate soul sister to Janelle Monae in my summertime listening. This song at dusk makes you breeeathe deeeep. Terrific album behind it too.
47. The Vaselines – I Hate The Eighties
‘It wasn’t all Duran Duran Duran Duran Duran …’ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, say The Vaselines, and hurrah to that. This slow-punk antidote to nostalgia was my big shower song this year, and that plaintive outro, ‘Where did that girl go? What did that boy know?’ is vintage Vaselines. Comeback album Sex With An X was a gem to boot. Fantastic gig at Deaf Institute after which I got to meet them backstage. What a night and what lovely people. Long live The Vaselines.
46. (We Are) Performance – The Living
Down a member they may be, but the Lazarus-like Performance rose again with Red Brick Heart. This, the lead single, should blatantly have been Number One. (Do we still have those?) Superb video. ‘You had the best night, it’s all on your website …’ I know right?
45. Hole – Skinny Little Bitch
She returned. I could not love Ms Love more than I already do. Sometimes it’s hard to believe she lived through the nineties with us, let alone the noughties, but not only did she survive, she came through to write some of her best material yet. This track was raw old-school Hole while other album tracks, like ’Pacific Coast Highway’, toughened the Bangles vibe from Celebrity Skin and matched it. Live shows divided audience opinion but so what, she remains the absolute queen of fuck you.
44. Vit Päls – Odysseus
Relentlessly catchy outtake from the Swedish Vit Päls’ indefinable carnivelesque jittery indie electro kaleidoscopic long player Nu Var Det I Alla Fall Så, which may or may not mean Now It Was In All Cases. Whatever, it’s full-on magic.
43. Katy Perry (feat. Snoop Dogg) – California Gurls
Just blame Bannatyne’s gymnasium. This chunky helping of corporate slut-pop might have sounded like a validation of white supremacy were it not for the inclusion of ‘the Dogg on the stereo’. Addictive, like my antihistamines.
42. Drive-By Truckers – Birthday Boy
The Big To Do was a storming LP from hick-rock’s finest and smartest and this was the standout track for me. Lyrics never play second fiddle to DBT’s raw country rock. This is the tale of a young guy on a birthday jaunt to a lap dancing bar. ‘Got a girlfriend don't you boy? Nervous hands can't lie. Married men don't ask how much and single one's ain't buyin'...’ Perfect.
41. The National – Anyone’s Ghost
So much to choose from on a spectacular album from that band you can’t quite believe aren’t from England. This was the one that, for want of a better word, haunted me the most. Puts you in mind of Tindersticks at their very best.
Get your (incomplete) Spotify playlist here. I’ll add it to every week. But, you know, I’m doing this to support the arts. So support ‘em …