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Sunday, January 24, 2010

100 FROM 2009 (OR THEREABOUTS)

1. Pet Shop Boys, "The Way It Used To Be"




2. Camera Obscura, "French Navy"




3. Saint Etienne, "Method Of Modern Love"




4. Röyksopp featuring Robyn, "The Girl And The Robot"




5. Bag Raiders, "Shooting Stars"



Despite withholding its chorus until the final minute, "Shooting Stars" nevertheless sounds incredibly hooky all the way through -- thanks to its looping synth riff, which is therefore, quite literally, the unsung hero of a track that needs to be considered as classic as "Music Sounds Better With You."


6. Medina, "Kun For Mig"



"The beeps fill my universe, music only for me": while Shannon trusted in the music to lure her man, here it's all over but the crying, and the music can only serve as a numbing drug for Medina, and to break our hearts in turn. Since I first heard this song, Medina has recorded an English version ("You and I"), but the wonderful thing about the original Danish track is how polyphonic that title is. Sometimes, when I do the aural equivalent of squint, I hear Medina singing, "comfort mine comfort mine"; at others, she is whispering, "compromise compromise"; always and in whatever form, the phrase never fails to be appropriate and evocative.


7. Marit Bergman featuring Titiyo, "300 Slow Days In A Row"



Marit and Titiyo have been in a lesbian relationship, for presumably a while, but they've drifted apart. Since they are duetting, they clearly both recognize this -- but since they aren't communicating, they don't, or can't, let each other know. PARADOX! [/Tracy Morgan voice] This came out as a single in 2008, but it didn't hit me till I heard it in the context of the album The Tear Collector; the steal from ABBA's "Happy New Year" is still undeniable, but that just ups the melancholia quotient.


8. Richard Hawley, "For Your Lover Give Some Time"




9. Cicada, "Love Don't Come"



Has a grammatical error in the title, but also laser sounds on the verses, and laser sounds always win.


10. Florence + the Machine, "Drumming Song"




11. Junior Boys, "Hazel"




12. George Michael, "December Song (I Dreamed Of Christmas)"




13. Pet Shop Boys, "King Of Rome"



While "Last night I lost a day" may be my favorite line, the pivotal one, in the logic of the song, is "Some day, you'll deign to phone me." Throughout the track, our narrator has only appeared to be imagining himself as the tragic King of Rome. Yet, in this moment, adopting the royal diction that is the verb "deign," it seems for a moment that he might actually be regal -- but, in exactly the same moment, he also finds the tables turned, since it is the addressee, and not himself, who must "deign" to phone.


14. Summerhill, "Parking Lane"

Hear it at http://www.myspace.com/summerhilldk, or at http://www.warnerchappell-promo.dk/summerhill/song01.swf



15. Mini Viva, "I Wish"



It might sometimes appear that I only have time for deceptively upbeat songs that sneak in some melancholia, but here's a track with something like the opposite tendency. In "I Wish," the relationship is clearly over ("I was one with you," we are immediately told), and all that's left is for Mini Viva to wish for its revival, and then to wish that wishing works ("If I wish that hard enough, would love come home again?"). Yet, thinking of the boy in question, our singer also can't help but allow a glimmer of joy to overcome her, and reduce her to more primal forms of speech: "He could be the one who touch the light inside my soul, oh oh oh oh!"


16. Chrisette Michele, "Blame It On Me"



The only reason to watch American Idol this year is to see if the auditioning masses, ever searching for that big soul ballad they can shriek out à la "If I Ain't Got You," cottons on to "Blame It On Me," or to see if the producers realize that this, which already has room for the big gospel choir to join in, singing and clapping, would be a perfect coronation song. (Wait. I think I mean that's a reason not to watch American Idol this year.)


17. Paloma Faith, "Smoke & Mirrors"




18. Tommy Sparks, "Miracle"




19. Bliss featuring Ane Brun, "Trust In Your Love"




20. Charlotte Hatherley, "White"





21. Tiësto featuring Sneaky Sound System, "I Will Be Here"




22. Patrick Wolf, "Damaris"




23. Frankmusik, "Done Done"




24. Little Boots, "Earthquake"




25. Alicia Keys, "Empire State Of Mind (Part II) Broken Down"




26. Donkeyboy, "Ambitions"




27. Alcazar, "Baby"




28. a-ha, "Foot Of The Mountain"




29. Gossip, "Heavy Cross (Fred Falke Remix)"




30. Marit Bergman, "Snow On The 10th Of May"




31. Anjulie, "Colombia"




32. Jonathan Johansson, "En Hand I Himlen"




33. Alexandra Burke featuring Flo Rida, "Bad Boys"



Artists love to protest when they are compared to other artists ("I'm an individual!") -- even though they will also sometimes deign to, say, curate a CD compilation of their musical influences. Certain music lovers likewise love to complain about music writers who compare one artist to another ("that's so lazy!") -- though they probably don't bat their eyelids when iTunes or Amazon "recommends" music to them. And, of course, every complainer ignores the possibility that this system of differences we call language, arguably, is inherently comparative. But there is at least one reason to be thankful for these knee-jerk reactions against comparisons: Alexandra Burke may or may not have selected "Bad Boys" for her debut single because she wanted to avoid being juxtaposed against a certain other X Factor winner. And if the desire not to be Boring McBoringson, Mk 2 resulted in this stomper, then, hurrah, music won!


34. The Saturdays, "Lose Control"




35. Wamdue Project, "Forgiveness (Eric Kupper Radio Mix)"




36. Relation, "Your Tiny Mind (Lifelike Remix)"



Possibly the only pop song in history addressed to the morons who believe in creationism.


37. Paloma Faith, "Stargazer"




38. Annie, "Anthonio (Fred Falke Remix)"




39. Bob Sinclar featuring Sugarhill Gang, "Lala Song"




40. Miranda! "Mentía"



Unless they sound more spikily electro -- as they did on "Don," the closest they've come to a crossover hit -- Miranda! continue to be under-noticed by pop-lovers outside of their native Argentina. "Mentía," which in an alternative universe is a big hit for Kelly Clarkson, is another reminder of why this is a pity.


41. Paloma Faith, "Upside Down"




42. Basement Jaxx, "Raindrops"




43. Frankmusik, "Better Off As 2"




44. Dan Black, "Alone"




45. Pet Shop Boys, "Pandemonium"




46. VV Brown, "Bottles"




47. Imogen Heap, "Half Life"




48. Ocelot, "Our Time (Treasure Fingers Remix)"



Surely, if this blog has taught you anything, it is that any line, if repeated often enough, starts to sound desperate and its singer, in denial or at best just trying to talk him- or herself into something? "We're gonna get drunk, and we're gonna get down. We're gonna take drugs, and we're gonna get fucked. And we're gonna do it all tonight, and we're gonna make it out alive." (Sometimes -- when you get remixed by the excellent Treasure Fingers, for instance -- such singers have a good time while in denial, though.)


49. Dan Black, "U + Me ="




50. Bliss featuring Boy George and Alexandra Hamnede, "American Heart"




51. Florence + the Machine, "Howl"




52. A Camp, "Stronger Than Jesus"




53. Sondre Lerche, "I Cannot Let You Go"



Although Sondre Lerche has always been open about his love of Prefab Sprout, that influence -- aside from when he covered "Nightingales," of course -- has never been very apparent to these ears, drowned out, perhaps, by Sondre's tendency to use heavier guitars than his heroes ever did. On this album track from Heartbeat Radio, however, the homage, specifically to "Appetite," is obvious, and makes me wish he threw legal caution to the wind more often.


54. La Roux, "Cover My Eyes"




55. Dragonette, "Easy"




56. Shirley Bassey, "Almost There"




57. Lily Allen, "I Could Say"




58. Montt Mardie featuring Hanna Lovisa, "Unknown Pleasures"




59. Kings of Convenience, "24-25"




60. Paolo Nutini, "Candy"




61. Lucky Soul, "Whoa Billy"




62. Erik Hassle, "Make It In Time"




63. Daniel Merriweather, "Impossible"




64. A Fine Frenzy, "Electric Twist"



Once I was kicked by a pony. It was not as fun as this.


65. Findlay Brown, "All That I Have"




66. The Postmarks, "My Lucky Charm"

Hear it at http://www.myspace.com/thepostmarks


67. CFCF, "The Explorers (Original Version)"



The original version of "The Explorers" first appeared in January on CFCF's EP, Panesian Nights; late in the year, he -- now BFF with its singer after the amazing remix job he did on her "Time To Let Go" (#24 on 2008's countdown, fact fans) -- roped in Sally Shapiro to provide vocals on the track. It's not much of a vocal -- Sally appears to be whispering random phrases...from another room, but that's more or less par for her course -- and, indeed, the original's driving synths are somewhat turned down to make room for her melody. Best, therefore, to stick to the clean lines of the instrumental, though, if you insist, you can also listen to the remix:




68. Montt Mardie, "Last Year In Marienbad"




69. Villa, "Agneta (Villa Edit)"



For everyone who ever dreamt, while lying on a beach in Ibiza or elsewhere, of hearing the Love Unlimited Orchestra backing up ABBA.


70. Nerina Pallot, "It Was Me"



Many songs on Nerina's album The Graduate seem to have been inspired by existing book or film titles, so I would like to imagine that this is a reply to Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You. (Though sonically, and in terms of its lyrical sentiment, it really makes the most sense to think of this piano ballad as Nerina's take on "Now At Last" by Blossom Dearie, probably by way of Feist.)


71. Girls Can't Catch, "Keep Your Head Up"




72. Chromeo, "I Can't Tell You Why"



This Eagles cover seems so effortless that it would be easy to see it as throwaway, but Chromeo's inspired decision to use a vocoder on the chorus -- which makes the titular declaration sound way more tortured than in the original -- reveals that there is, in fact, more effort here than first meets the ears.


73. Florence + the Machine, "Swimming"




74. Anjulie, "Some Dumb Whore"



As Little Boots learned, these days anyone with a mouse is all too ready to pretend to know everything about A&R. Though Ms. Hesketh is mostly right -- seriously, Internets, "Stuck On Repeat" was never, in any shape or form, going to make a good single -- it's also hard to look away when a record company so nakedly cannot figure out whether to position a singer as the next MIA/Santigold (hence, a more "streetwise" lead single "Boom" and a sleeve like this), or as the second sanitized coming of Amy Winehouse*, by way of Gabriella Cilmi (quick, we have just enough time to clean her up for the album cover!). Given how its title was changed, from the sampler's "Some Dumb Whore" to, on the actual release that was sold at your local Starbucks, "Some Dumb Girl" (even though the lyric remained intact), this song shows the strain -- even though, ironically, this is actually one of the prettiest, breeziest, jazziest number on the album.

*I hereby apologize for putting "Amy Winehouse" and "coming" in the same sentence.


75. Dan Black, "Ecstasy"




76. Daniel Merriweather, "Red"




77. Kings Of Convenience, "Mrs Cold"




78. Camera Obscura, "Honey In The Sun"



The common knock against My Maudlin Career is that its songs sound like rewrites of the tracks on Let's Get Out Of This Country, and indeed, "Honey In The Sun" is at moments just an uptempo version of "Country Mile." But isn't the world a better place with an uptempo version of "Country Mile"? (I'm willing to let Camera Obscura be the tweepop version of BWO, who openly render their songs in ballad and disco versions.)


79. Dragonette, "Pick Up The Phone (Richard X Remix)"




80. Summerhill, "Country Boy"




81. Erik Hassle, "First Time"




82. Tiësto featuring Tegan & Sara, "Feel It In My Bones"



"More like 'Feel It In My BONER,' amirite, ladies??!!"


83. Mandy Moore, "Everblue"



A cheap trick, perhaps, but the heavy beat perfectly conveys the heavy-heartedness of the song.


84. Brookville, "Break My Heart"

Hear it at http://www.myspace.com/brookville

Never knew that: sometime this past year, I learned that the Internet's "Tiredest. Construction. Ever." comes from The Simpsons -- which means that, without Matt Groening, I might have struggled to know how to represent the chorus of Brookville's song: "You. Will. Break. My heart." Of course, in this song, that construction isn't used for, well, cartoon effect. Here, the entire sad story of the song is in those pauses between each word (and, for me, part of the heartbreak comes from the fact that we can hear Dominique Durand, presumably, on backing vocals, which makes me yearn -- as solid as the Brookville album is -- for the return of Ivy.)


85. Late Night Alumni, "What's In A Name"




86. Madonna, "Celebration (Benny Benassi Edit)"




87. Mika, "Blame It On The Girls"



It's a bit strange that the internet wags who complain about Mika's creepy determination to constantly channel his inner prepubescent boy would never think to say the same thing about female pop stars who, say, appear in schoolgirl uniforms, but whatever: "Blame It On The Girls" is energetic and propulsive, and if it sounds like it's evoking one of Gwen Stefani's marching band numbers, then all the more appropriate.


88. Sad Brad Smith, "Help Yourself"




89. Groove Armada, "I Won't Kneel"



They should make T-shirts featuring the title of this song (which, on the verses, owes a debt to Bent's "Coming Back"), even though they obviously won't sell well in gay bars.


90. Olivia Ruiz with Lonely Drifter Karen, "When The Night Comes"



That Olivia Ruiz never sounded more French than on one of her few English songs is ironic, though I may have, like everyone else, lost all track of what that adjective really means.


91. Jonathan Johansson, "Efter Skimret, Efter Snön"




92. Prefab Sprout, "Let There Be Music"




93. Benjamin Biolay, "La Superbe"



One day Etienne Daho will record an album that picks up the string-drenched sound of Corps Et Armes; until then, we have this.


94. Melody Gardot, "If The Stars Were Mine (Orchestral Version)"




95. The Sound Of Arrows, "Into The Clouds"




96. Owl City, "If My Heart Was A House"




97. Fibes, Oh Fibes! "Love Child"




98. Anoraak, "Nightdrive With You (Fear Of Tigers Remix)"




99. Jade Ewen, "Punching Out"



Imagine if this had been Rihanna's comeback single. ("Too soon!")


100. Plastiscines, "Barcelona (Lifelike Mix)"

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