Friday, 31 December 2010

My Top 20 TV Shows of 2010 (and top film, gig)

10 Flashforward 
A crime that this was cancelled by ABC after improving exponentially as the first series progressed. This filled the 'Lost'-shaped hole in the schedules perfectly.  
9 Ask Rhod Gilbert 
Surprisingly funny and original concept for a panel show. Rhod's flatmate Lloyd was the star of the show. Like QI on drugs.  
8 Whites 
Brilliantly understated kitchen-based comedy from Alan Davies, with superb supporting roles from the cream of young British TV talent - Darren Boyd, Katherine Parkinson, Isy Suttie and Matt King.  
7 24 
2010 was the year we said farewell to Jack Bauer. And it was a fitting way to go, with the most gripping series of '24' in years. Dammit, Chloe.  
6 Raising Hope 
Heart-warming new Fox comedy from the 'My Name Is Earl' team. The concept is simple, but the laughs are plentiful, and there's a happy moral message in every episode.  
5 The Event 
ABC's loss (in cancelling FlashForward) is NBC's gain. 'The Event' is still in its early days, but it's already must-see TV. Plus it gives more screen time to Blair Underwood, who was brilliantly evil in the now-cancelled (and sorely missed) 'Dirty Sexy Money'.  
4 In-Betweeners 
Whilst there's a sense that it may now have run its course, the antics of the sixth-formers were as uncomfortable, cringeworthy and quotable as ever. I had to hide my eyes behind my own hands during the fashion show episode.  
3 Dive 
This was a BBC two-parter in August that most of the country probably missed. Stunning acting performances from Jack O'Connell (Cook from 'Skins') and Aisling Loftus in this story of sporting ambition and underage pregnancy.  
2 Southland 
Billed as LA's answer to Baltimore's 'The Wire', this was no ordinary cop show. Sure, there were fast-paced cases to solve, gun battles and car chases, but there was also time for the mundane day-to-day of the job to shine through. Ryan from 'The O.C' (Benjamin Mackenzie) excelled.  
1 The Walking Dead 
Frank Darabont's comic-book adaptation has been unmissable, the TV highlight of the year. Even if you don't like zombies, it's worth watching for the beautifully crafted landscapes littered with corpses, the ease with which Darabont conveys panic, the bleakness of a post-apocalyptic world. And of course, the acting of Andrew Lincoln, with the most convincing American accent I've ever heard from a British actor.   

Past winners

2009 winner: Not awarded

2008 winner: The I.T. Crowd

2007 winner: Heroes

2006 winner: Extras

2005 winner: Lost

I've not seen many films, so my highlight would probably be The Social Network.  

Past winners

2009 winner: A Prophet

2008 winner: The Dark Knight

2007 winner: Superbad

2006 winner: Borat - Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

2005 winner: Maria Full Of Grace

My favourite gig of the year was the Rage Against The Machine victory gig in Finsbury Park on 6th June. You can read my thoughts on it here.

Past winners

2008 winner: Jay Z @ Hyde Park, 3rd July 2008

2007 winner: Muse @ Wembley Stadium, 16th June 2007

2006 winner: Madness @ Benicassim, 23rd July 2006

2005 winner: Queens of the Stone Age @ Kokos, 23rd August 2005

Thursday, 16 December 2010

My Top 20 Albums of 2010


Everything Everything - Man Alive

Released: 30th August

Manchester quartet manage to avoid sounding like any other indie scenesters around at present thanks to a mish-mash of genres, Jonathan Higgs' distinguishable falsetto, and lyrics about war, surrealism and airbrushing.

Highlight: The "too-cool-for-school" choruses of 'MY KZ, YR BF' and 'Photoshop Handsome' have been deserving of their regular radio airplay.


Auf Der Maur - Out Of Our Minds

Released: 30th March

I don't know if anyone else is aware that erstwhile Hole and Smashing Pumpkins bassist, Melissa Auf Der Maur is still recording. But 6 years after her remarkable solo debut, Mel was back with 'Out Of Our Minds'. It's a macabre, proggy, conceptual album, but the guitars and bass are predictably stunning, and it plays very well as a complete piece of work.

Highlight: "Clear the decks, there's gonna be a shipwreck" implores Mel on 'Follow The Map'


Best Coast - Crazy For You

Released: 27th July

Bethany Cosentino's debut album was a critical success, but the praise was, in this case, totally justified. This is a sunny, breezy album filled with smile-inducing hooks, recalling the Beach Boys at their best.

Highlight: Album opener, 'Boyfriend' sets the tone perfectly.


Eminem - Recovery

Released: 18th June

Marshall is still seen as a comedy figure, a pastiche, in some quarters. Personally, I find him believable, and I do feel that this album, both literally and metaphorically marks a turning point in his life. This is a mature album, dark like 'Relapse' but without being held back by the same fears that hindered that album.

Highlight: 'Love The Way You Lie' is the song that 'Stan' wanted desperately to be.


I Blame Coco - The Constant

Released: 8th November

Sting's daughter was one of my finds of the year. I heard 'Please Rewind' on the radio, went to check her out at Latitude Festival (where her set was almost cancelled because of high winds), took my now-girlfriend to see her in a dingy basement on our very first date, and bought the album at the first opportunity. Vocally, she has plenty in common with her father. But her songs are infinitely more interesting.

Highlight: In a year filled with songs about the interaction between humans and robots, 'Selfmachine' is probably my favourite.


We Are Scientists - Barbara

Released: 14th June

We Are Scientists are the most consistent band around today. Their records all sound clearly identifiable as theirs, and yet they continue to mature and develop. Still better viewed live than on record, but 'Barbara' carries on where 'Brain Thrust Mastery' left off.

Highlight: 'I Don't Bite' is classic We Are Scientists.


Kele - The Boxer

Released: 21st June

I'd always suspected that Kele wanted to drive Bloc Party towards a more dance-orientated sound (see 'Flux', 'Mercury' and also his guest appearances on Tiesto and Chemical Brothers tracks). So this album is no surprise, with Kele exploring the full spectrum of electronica.

Highlight: Cheerleader chanting gives way to wobbling synths on opener 'Walk Tall'.


Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Released: 22nd November

So much has been written about MBDTF over the past few weeks, that I couldn't possibly do it justice. Also, I'm still getting to grips with the album myself. But so far, it holds up very well. Kanye was never about the rapping, but the tunes and samples just work better on this album than on his previous efforts.

Highlight: Nicki Minaj's bit on 'Monster'. Jay-Z does his best, and then Minaj shows both Kanye and Jigga how it's done.


Los Campesinos! - Romance Is Boring

Released: 1st February

A turbulent year for Los Camps! but they maintain their extremely high workrate. By my calculations, they'd released 3 albums in 23 months by the time this was released. LC remain a garage experiment, and you wonder what they might sound like if they went for highly-honed professional production instead. I'm not convinced it would be an improvement. I like the ramshackleness of their albums to date.

Highlight: 'These Are Listed Buildings' is the best 2010 pop song that hardly anyone knows, but 'I Just Sighed, I Just Sighed, Just So You Know' is my favourite, courtesy of some delicious vocals on the chorus from Aleksandra, who subsequently left the band.


Hot Chip - One Life Stand

Released: 1st February

Those who know me know that I've long been a huge fan of "The Chip", and they continue to produce dazzling albums. 'One Life Stand' was more stripped down than previous efforts, but somehow retained an experimental style.

Highlight: 'Thieves In The Night' is an excellent album opener, setting the scene perfectly for what follows.


Mystery Jets - Serotonin

Released: 5th July

This one seemed to have flown under a lot of radars, despite some relatively successful singles. But it's a superb album. Mystery Jets have really carved a niche for intelligent indie-pop.

Highlight: 2010's best use of kazoos, on 'Flash A Hungry Smile'


Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

Released: 22nd March

Beautiful, ambitious, evocative work from the precociously-talented Ms. Marling. This was my late night chill-out CD all year long.

Highlight: It's all lovely, don't make me pick a single moment.


Marina & The Diamonds - The Family Jewels

Released: 22nd February

A surprise, in that I was expecting this to be a small handful of serviceable singles and a lot of filler. What it actually turns out to be is a rather coherent modern pop album, with changes of pace just when you'd expect/want them. Some say her voice grates, but I find it rather endearing.

Highlight: 'I Am Not A Robot' and 'Mowgli's Road' are both brilliant, but the chorus and backing vocals of 'The Outsider' will take some beating.


Robyn - Body Talk Pt.1/Body Talk Pt.2/Body Talk

Released: 14th June/6th September/29th November

Tough to decide which of Robyn's contributions deserve inclusion, so I've bundled them up together. 2010 has truly been her year, and these three albums would each make my Top 20 in their own right. Pop music for people who understand pop music.

Highlight: Everyone else seems to love 'Dancing On My Own' but my favourite is 'Dancehall Queen', with Robyn channelling her inner Jamaican.


Foals - Total Life Forever

Released: 10th May

I really disliked this album when I first heard it in May. But gradually, as the year progressed, I found myself revisiting it with increasing frequency. And yes, I'll admit my first impressions were totally wrong. It's an art-rock masterpiece.

Highlight: It's all good, but 'Spanish Sahara' builds and builds to a majestic conclusion.


Lostprophets - The Betrayed

Released: 13th January

Lostprophets were pretty much an afterthought in the world of nu-metal, but 10 years on from 'Thefakesoundofprogress', they're still going strong, and 'The Betrayed' is their finest album to date.

Highlight: Take your pick. Lead single 'Where We Belong' is epic stadium rock. 'Dstryr/Dstryr' is heavier and darker. 'Next Stop Atro City' might be the standout though.


Magnetic Man - Magnetic Man

Released: 11th October

Bringing dubstep to the masses, Skream and Benga are aided by some impressive guest appearances (notably Katy B and John Legend, but the highlight is Ms Dynamite's massive contribution to 'Fire')

Highlight: Ms Dynamite rapping over the crunching, distorted bass of 'Fire'.


Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (II)

Released: 23rd April

Perhaps someone at Fiction Records had a word with Ethan Kath, or perhaps it was the influence of the mercurial Jacknife Lee on production duties, but this was a much more accessible album than their debut ('Doe Deer' being the exception). As if uncomfortable about becoming more commercially viable, the duo then proceeded to give the album the exact same title as its predecessor, making it a nightmare in the 2010 world ruled by search engines. Kath is rapidly becoming the best producer of his generation, allowing free rein to the freakshow/sideshow that is Alice Glass.

Highlight: I already noted that 'Doe Deer' was my single of the year, but 'Baptism' is a huuuuuge tune, and both that and 'Celestica' would be a good starting point for anyone new to Crystal Castles.


Klaxons - Surfing The Void

Released: 23rd August

Oh. Just me, then. Klaxons' second album received an average reception from the journos, and had average commercial success. Maybe the lengthy gap between first and second album was a mistake. Or maybe it was no longer "cool" to like Klaxons. But 'Surfing The Void' deserves more praise than it has received. Klaxons tackled the "difficult second album" head on, and produced a work vastly superior to its predecessor. The title track took the style of 'Myths Of The Near Future' and brought it up to date. 'Venusia' might be the best thing they've ever recorded. And playing live, they continue to impress.

Highlight: 'Echoes' was a brilliant choice of Track 1 and a great lead single. It bridged the times between the two albums and screamed "hey, remember us?" at passers-by.


Delphic - Acolyte

Released: 11th January

January's a bad month to release an album, especially when it comes to making end of year lists, and even more so if it's your debut album. But 'Acolyte' was rarely off my stereo all year long. Much like the Friendly Fires debut last year, or even the Everything Everything and Klaxons albums mentioned above, this is the real sound of indie in 2010. The three-chord guitars are long gone, replaced by intelligent hooked synths, loops, samples and catchy choruses. 'Doubt' suffered from radio overkill, but 'This Momentary' and 'Counterpoint' were really special, and the album opener sent out a clear message - a mission statement from Delphic HQ to the British public. It's just a shame so few were listening.

Highlight: 'Clarion Call' is a succinct introduction and a brilliant opening to a perfectly-formed record.

Honourable mentions go to:

  • Jenny & Johnny - I'm Having Fun Now (released 31st August)

  • Tron Legacy - Original Soundtrack (released 6th December)
  • Rihanna - Loud (released 15th November)
  • The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang (released 14th June)
  • Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (released 3rd March)
  • Warpaint - The Fool (released 25th October)
  • Fenech-Soler - Fenech-Soler (released 27th September)


2009 winner: Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions

2008 winner: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

2007 winner: Britney Spears - Blackout

2006 winner: The Pipettes - We Are The Pipettes

2005 winner: The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

My Top 20 Singles of 2010


BoB ft. Hayley Williams - Airplanes

Released: 9th August

Video here

It's a pretty-enough tune and decent rapping from B.O.B, but the Paramore frontwoman makes it her own, and in the process, creates one of the surprise chart hits of 2010.


Bullet For My Valentine - The Last Fight

Released: 19th April

Video here

Aggressive Welsh rockers are fast becoming world-class. Dunno what it is about a killer riff and some insane drumming that just does it for me, but I've certainly been listening to this all year long. The guitar solo is at 2m 45s and the outro is worth sticking around for too (for those that appreciate these things).


Hot Chip - I Feel Better

Released: 19th April

Video here

Steel drums, synthy strings, and a vocal to die for. This song demonstrates why Autotune is not always a bad thing, and why Hot Chip are ALWAYS a very good thing indeed. The video is probably my favourite music video of 2010.


Two Door Cinema Club - I Can Talk

Released: Unknown (several times, I think)

Video here

Amongst a myriad of average indie singles from average British indie bands, 'I Can Talk' is a beacon of hope... sounds like a British version of We Are Scientists. Love the "uh-oh, uh-uh-oh" sampled backing vocal.


Alphabeat - DJ

Released: 31st May

Video here

Underrated track from the Danes, with a marvellous melody which brings to mind the 90s Europop of Snap and Ace of Base.


Marina & The Diamonds - Hollywood

Released: 1st February

Video here

Sassy pop from one of the brightest new artists of the year. However the radio edit skips the best verse, and it has suffered from overkill to some extent. I can also understand why her way of enunciating every. single. word. might be annoying. But I like it. So there.


Kele - Tenderoni

Released: 14th June

Video here

Parts of the Kele Okereke solo album followed the tried-and-tested Bloc Party model, but the lead single was right at the dance end of his band's output, and just seemed to make sense, from the very first listen.


Example - Kickstarts

Released: 14th June

Video here

Another euphoria-inducing clubbing anthem, accompanied by rapping that does just enough to keep this interesting.


Foals - Spanish Sahara

Released: 17th April

Video here

A slow-burner of a song, from a slow-burner of an album which has matured with time and now sounds like a modern classic. Haunting vocals at the beginning from Yannis, which become ever more hopeful as the song progresses.


The XX - Islands

Released: 8th February

Video here

My favourite track off the Mercury-winning album - I love the interplay between the male and female vocals. Definitely wins "Intro of the Year" too.


Katy Perry - California Gurls

Released: 11th May

Video here

Mrs. Russell Brand had a great year, and this slice of bubblegum pop was stuck in my head for months. Incidentally, if you'd played this to me when I was 16 years old, and told me that I would end up loving songs like this, I'd have had you packed off to a lunatic asylum.


Biffy Clyro - Many Of Horror

Released: 18 January

Video here

Blah blah X-Factor blah blah. Fact of the matter is that this is properly great, and their duet of this with Marina (minus her Diamonds) at the NME Awards in February was sensational. The fourth of seven (yes, seven) singles released from 'Only Revolutions'. Biffy keep getting better and better. 'Mon The Biff!


Rihanna - Only Girl (In The World)

Released: 10th September

Video here

Ri-Ri is at the top of her game, but I wasn't expecting her to unleash ANOTHER anthem quite so soon. Will be heard in nightclubs for years to come. Could have easily had 'Rude Boy' and 'What's My Name?' in this Top 20 as well.


Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly (ft. Shy FX) - Collapsing Cities

Released: 9th August

Video here

A surprising collaboration between the indie troubadour and the drum'n'bass legend, but the beats only serve to accentuate Mr. Cape's lovely voice. Another excellent video too.


Tinie Tempah - Pass Out

Released: 28th February

Video here

Needs no introduction (but I'll give one anyway)... ubiquitous chart-topper, massive bassline, and lyrics about both Uncle Fester AND Tinie's aunt's cupboard space. The junglist breakdown at the end scores bonus marks.


Arcade Fire - We Used To Wait

Released: 1st August

Video here

Praise indeed, given how I generally react to Arcade Fire (i.e. not positively), but this just has a really warm and satisfying feel to it.


My Chemical Romance - Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)

Released: 28th September

Video here

Typically bombastic stadium mega-anthem from the emo brigade. As catchy a singalong as any in 2010. "Standing in... V formation" is another lyric of the year, as is "Shut up and let me see your jazz hands".


Nicole Scherzinger - Poison

Released: 25th October

Video here

In this post-Gaga world, it takes something special to get a pop song noticed. Former lead Pussycat finally achieves her potential with this huge floor-filler. It's got RedOne's grubby mitts all over it, and, frankly, it's a banging choon.


Kate Nash - Do Wah Doo

Released: 12th April

Video here

60s-inspired surf pop, but with the Nash-ster's trademark "edgy" lyrics. It made me happy all summer long, and for that, I am grateful. "I think she's a ...."


Crystal Castles - Doe Deer

Released: 17th April

No official video, but you can hear Zane Lowe ruining it here

One minute and thirty-seven seconds of pure mental. Distorted beats, violent shrieking - what's not to like? This was my single of the year from the moment I first heard it. I've seen Crystal Castles play live four times now, twice this year, and whilst Alice Glass is, admittedly, a tiny bit of psychopath, she's also a bewitching live performer. Ethan Kath stands in the shadows, but it's clear that he is the brains behind the operation, and for all Alice's screaming and wailing, this is his song.

Honourable mentions go to:

  • The Futureheads - Heartbeat Song
  • Klaxons - Echoes
  • Mystery Jets - Flash A Hungry Smile
  • Manic Street Preachers - (It's Not War) Just The End of Love
  • Temper Trap - Fader
  • Delphic - Counterpoint
  • Plan B - She Said
  • Diana Vickers - Once
  • Brandon Flowers - Crossfire
  • Muse - Resistance
  • Robyn - Dancing On My Own
  • Yeasayer - O.N.E
  • The Drums - Let's Go Surfing
  • Lady Gaga ft Beyonce - Telephone
  • LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls
  • The Wombats - Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)


2009 winner: Jordin Sparks - Battlefield

2008 winner: Noah & The Whale - Five Years Time

2007 winner: Los Campesinos! - We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives

2006 winner: Justice vs Simian - We Are Your Friends

2005 winner: Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch

And the winner is.....

In my first year of university (2000-2001), my weekly essay deadline was 9am on Friday mornings. Which meant that Thursday night was 'Essay Panic Night'. Earlier each week, I would have done the required reading, and most weeks, I'd settle down to start writing on that week's topic at about 5pm on Thursday. At about 11pm, I'd be making good progress, but instead of sticking with it and finishing the essay, I'd go to the Phoenix Cinema and see a late-night cult film. I'd get back to college at about 1am, and carry on writing, normally completing the essay at about 5am, in time to catch 3 hours of sleep before my essay was due.

Why do I mention this here, now? I suppose it highlights one of my character traits. I'm good at starting tasks, less so at finishing them. And so it was with this countdown. Having successfully written about 99 of my favourite 100 songs of the Noughties in the last six months of 2009, I then failed to write about my overall #1 song of the decade. Despite adding it to numerous to-do lists; despite being quizzed about it frequently by friends; despite the comments of many strangers who had read the countdown and were intrigued to know about the top of the list, I never got around to completing it. Perhaps I lacked inspiration to write about it, or perhaps there was always something else more "important" on those many to-do lists.

Here we are then, a year later, and still, no #1. I decided recently that I had to rectify this, and knowing myself as well as I do, I set myself a simple rule. I would not write about my favourite singles, albums, gigs, films or TV shows from 2010 until I had written up my #1 song of the previous 10 years.

And it seems to have worked. Ladies and gentlemen.... may I present to you, my #1 Noughties Hit.

"I'm addicted to you, don't you know that you're toxic"

I wrote about Britney's tumultuous decade when I placed 'Break The Ice' at number 46 in my countdown. But for all the highs and lows, there is no doubt in my mind that Britney Spears' decade will be remembered for this. Her finest hour, her piece de resistance, her magnum opus. 'Toxic' was both a critical and commercial hit. Journalists praised its insanely catchy tune and admired the Britster's sultry, breathy vocal performance. The public loved it, worldwide, sending it Top 5 in multiple countries and achieving a #1 for Britney in the UK, Australia, Canada, Norway and Hungary. In her home country, the song was her biggest hit of the decade, giving her a gold disc for over half a million sales. It also won Britney her first Grammy, at the 2005 awards, for Best Dance Recording.

With Cathy Dennis on songwriting duties, alongside Bloodshy and Avant's production, Britney had herself a global crossover hit, although it was (famously) intended for Kylie Minogue. The pint-sized Aussie's loss was Britney's gain though. You'd certainly categorise it as a pop song, but thanks to Bollywood-style strings, warped synths, and a deliriously danceable tempo, it achieved broad appeal - a success on both the radio and the dancefloor. Even the indie kids (mostly) loved it. The video wasn't half bad either, which certainly assisted with the song's popularity.

It's taken me a long time to get here, but hopefully I've finally filled in the blanks, answered your questions and explained why I consider 'Toxic' to be the greatest song from the period 2000-2009. And now, I can get on with writing about my favourites of 2010. Hurrah!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

2: Justice vs Simian - We Are Your Friends

Back at the beginning of the decade, I was DJing on student radio, writing for both the student newspaper and a number of independent webzines, and, as a result, receiving vast quantities of promo CDs and album samplers. More than I could ever possibly listen to, in fact. They say "never judge a book by its cover" but I was often forced to choose which CDs to review based on what the artwork looked like. I distinctly remember the yellow cover and typewriter font of the promo version of Simian's 2002 album, 'We Are Your Friends'. I listened to the album, was mildly impressed, put the CD back into the pile, and forgot all about it.

And then, a couple of years later, two Frenchmen came along and changed everything. Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay remixed the Simian track, 'Never Be Alone' (the central lyric of which had been used as the album's title) for a student radio competition. Which they lost. But French label, Ed Banger Records released the remix in 2003, then re-released it via International Deejay Gigolos in 2004, and out of nothing Justice was formed.

The song, now renamed as 'We Are Your Friends', finally achieved mainstream success in the summer of 2006, scraping into the UK Top 20. The week of its release, I had a torturous journey from Paris (where I was working at the time), via Barcelona and Valencia, to the Benicassim music festival. And on the Saturday night, drunk as a lord, I witnessed a steaming-hot dance tent explode when Soulwax dropped the track. There's a very embarrassing video of myself and my friend Cat at that precise moment on YouTube, and no, I'm not going to tell you how to find it.

From there, the story is simple... Justice's remix became my favourite drinking song, the one guaranteed to get everyone up on the dancefloor on nights out. Their debut album (the one with a cross on the front and no official title) changed my perceptions of dance music and electronica, and I witnessed the Frenchmen dazzle live audiences around London - blowing Chemical Brothers off the stage as their support at Kokos in October 2007, then doing the same to CSS at Brixton that December, and finally getting everyone dancing despite an unseasonal downpour at Somerset House the following summer.

We're still waiting for album number 2 (reportedly due this year), but in the meantime, 'We Are Your Friends' never gets old, even if it has been around in one form or another for virtually the entire Noughties.

Friday, 19 February 2010

3: Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch

I first discovered Ladytron when their debut album, '604' was released in 2001. 'Playgirl', that album's lead single, received reasonable amounts of airplay on Xfm, and I began incorporating that song into my DJ sets at around that time - indeed, I believe I played 'Playgirl' at that same party I mentioned when discussing my #72 song of the decade.

But Ladytron remain one of Britain's most criminally underrated bands, even though they have been producing electronic pop of a consistently high standard throughout the decade. The Liverpool four-piece are far from being a household name, and have actually never had a single reach the UK Top 40.

'Destroy Everything You Touch' was as close as they got, charting at #42 in September of 2005 (whilst the album 'Witching Hour' only got to #81 in the albums chart). It's truly a travesty that a song of such magnificence received so little acclaim. To my knowledge, it barely appeared in end of year 'Best of 2005' lists, despite the fact that it's a song much beloved by everyone I've ever discussed it with.

Mira Aroyo's haunting vocals wormed their way inside my brain and never left. Accompanied by the glossy production and swirling synth soundscape that is Ladytron's modus operandi, it's one of those songs that seems to adapt to every possible scenario. It fits perfectly into a night out, a night in, a happy moment, a sad moment and every possible scenario in between.

If there's one song in my Top 100 that I wish more people knew (and loved) it would be this, so I urge you to watch the video below, and then let me know if you agree with my sentiments.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

4: Girls Aloud - Sound Of The Underground

Another long delay. I'm good at starting "projects", less good at finishing them. Ah well, nearly there now.

The credit for my #4 song of the decade really goes to Xenomania, the production duo of Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper. 'Sound Of The Underground' was one of 60 songs that the pair had written with the intention of launching their own girl group. Yet their project failed to get off the ground, and when ITV's reality show, 'Popstars: The Rivals' approached the pair for a song that they could use, Xenomania were suddenly launched into the big time.

In truth, the outcome of 'Popstars: The Rivals' was a done deal before the show even commenced. The pop charts of 2002 were screaming out for a relevant girl group to fill a Spice Girl-shaped void, and One True Voice, the male winners, never really stood a chance. The combination of Nadine, Sarah, Kimberley, Nicola and Cheryl just seemed to make sense, instantly. Winning the show (and the battle for the 2002 Xmas #1) was one thing, but Girls Aloud's remarkable continued success relied on a combination of exceptional talent, good looks and effective marketing.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 'Sound Of The Underground' was the perfect way to launch the group. A Guardian article at the time famously called it "a reality pop record that didn't make you want to do physical harm to everyone involved in its manufacture", and my own initial reaction to it was similarly positive. I loved the drum'n'bass style beats, and the equitable dishing out of the lines allowed me to quickly identify my favourite Alouds (Nadine and Kimberley, for the record). It felt fresh, modern, relevant. It pulsated with energy, but was not without a little, er... sultriness.

The rest, as they say, is history. 'Sound Of The Underground' became the 40th biggest selling single of the decade, and Girls Aloud followed it up with another 19 consecutive Top 10 singles (a run that ended just months from the end of the decade when 'Untouchable' only reached #11). They're Britain's finest pop group over the last 10 years, and as much as I could have chosen any number of other hits, I felt that going back to where it all started was the right thing to do in this countdown.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

5: The Killers - Mr Brightside

Xfm, the radio station I listened to more than any other over the past 10 years, named 'Mr. Brightside' their Song of the Decade. So did Absolute Radio. I haven't gone quite that far, but #5 in my countdown is still a respectable showing for a much-loved indie anthem. If you needed further proof of the song's popularity, consider this - the song, first released in June 2004, has just re-entered the UK Top 100, and has now spent a total of 71 weeks inside the singles chart (including 14 re-entries).

Brandon Flowers, the Mormon frontman of The Killers is a true showman. The way he moves about a stage, the way he delivers his lines, the costumes, videos and elaborate set designs, Flowers clearly believes in the value of a performance. Which is to be expected, from someone who hails from Las Vegas.

I first saw them at Glastonbury 2004, in the New Bands Tent. They drew the biggest crowd of the weekend, and I described them (in my festival review) as "the HOTTEST band around, unquestionably the biggest new band in the world." At Glastonbury 2005, I saw them again, this time on the Pyramid Stage ahead of the Friday night headliners, The White Stripes. And I mentioned that they "should have been replacing Kylie" (who had pulled out due to her breast cancer), but that they "preferred their existing slot - it virtually guarantees that they'll be headliners in 2007". And then, I saw them again at Glastonbury 2007, and surprise, surprise, they headlined the Pyramid on the Saturday night. This time, I noted that there was "no-one in the crowd who didn't know every word to every song, and at the end of a long day, when you're tired and muddy and damp, what better to cheer the spirits than a big singalong."

If you're sensing a trend here, you'd be right. For me, The Killers are a festival band, and 'Mr. Brightside' is a festival song. It's full of pomp, well-enunciated lyrics (i.e. easy to remember the words and sing along) and, when viewed from the perspective of 100,000 people, it's an exhilerating experience. I'm sure I'm not the only one who can place the exact moments at which the collective enjoyment reaches its peaks - the "... chest, now, he takes off her dress, now" lyric, the first chorus, "it was only a kiss, it was ONLY a kiss", the keyboard bridge into the "I neeeeevvvvvveeeeeeerrrrrr" outro. Best enjoyed live, no doubt, but if you're interested, here's what the video for the single looks like.