Tuesday, January 10, 2006

SWSL Top 20 Singles Of 2005

Was it just me, or was it not quite as hot a year for singles as 2004? That said, quality still abounded.

The honourable mentions:

ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS – ‘You Are My Sister’ / ‘Hope There’s Someone’
ART BRUT – ‘Emily Kane’ / ‘Good Weekend’
BLOC PARTY - ‘Banquet’ / 'The Pioneers'
KATE BUSH – ‘King Of The Mountain’
CLOR – ‘Good Stuff’ / ‘Outlines’
THE CORAL – ‘In The Morning’ / ‘Something Inside Of Me’
DOVES – ‘Black And White Town’
THE DUKE SPIRIT – ‘Love Is An Unfamiliar Name’
EDITORS – ‘Bullets’ / ‘Munich’
FIELD MUSIC – ‘If Only The Moon Were Up’ / ‘You Can Decide’
FOO FIGHTERS – ‘Best Of You’
GIRLS ALOUD – ‘Long Hot Summer’
GOLDFRAPP – ‘Number 1’
THE GO! TEAM – ‘Bottle Rocket’
HOOD – ‘The Negatives’
IDLEWILD – ‘Love Steals Us From Loneliness’ / ‘I Understand It’
INTERPOL - ‘C’mere’
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – ‘Tribulations’
THE MAGIC NUMBERS – ‘Forever Lost’ / ‘Love Is Just A Game’
MAXIMO PARK - ‘Going Missing’
MERCURY REV – ‘Across Yer Ocean’
SONS & DAUGHTERS – ‘Dance Me In’ / 'Taste The Last Girl'
SUFJAN STEVENS – ‘Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois’
TEST ICICLES – ‘Circle. Square. Triangle’
THE WHITE STRIPES – ‘Blue Orchid’ / ‘My Doorbell’

Now, down to the real business…

20. NINE BLACK ALPS – ‘Not Everyone’
Very tricky, shooting yourself in the mouth with a shotgun, you know. No wonder Kur(d)t Cobain missed, fled Seattle, arrived in Manchester, had facial surgery and formed Nine Black Alps. Amazing the lengths someone will go to to get away from Courtney Love. The disappearing-and-reappearing act has borne thrilling fruit in the form of an album, Everyone Is, and its best single, ‘Not Everyone’.

19. SIGUR ROS – ‘Hoppipolla’
Not only did the Icelanders deign to give titles to the tracks on Takk, unlike on its predecessor ( ), they even went so far as to release a single from it. Thankfully the delicate piano-led tune that was chosen was itself not a concession to convention, just another haunting melody.

18. EELS – ‘Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living)’
E at his best, looking on the bright side of life even when everything in his garden isn’t totally rosy, as hands clap and horns parp. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and a scowl on Sufjan Stevens’s when he realises he’s been trumped.

17. THE RAVEONETTES – ‘Love In A Trashcan’
Because “The jukebox playing songs about sex / C’mon baby, you’re my best bet” is a great couplet. And because it’s got a marvellous surf guitar solo.

16. BLOC PARTY – ‘Two More Years’
What initially seemed a bit too neat has in time come to sound like a sharp, sleek distillation of all that was good about Silent Alarm. A sign of things to come?

15. THE MAGIC NUMBERS – ‘Love Me Like You’
Brian Wilson ruled my Glastonbury hands down, so it was appropriate that a Wilson-approved band released the summer’s best single. The album might be clogged up with too many lethargic torch-songs, but lethargy is the last thing that springs to mind here, where downbeat lyrics are conjoined to an upbeat melody for bittersweet pop perfection. And it features lots of ooh-ing. Which is nice.

14. THE DELGADOS – ‘Girls Of Valour’
I once asked Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap whether he was concerned that cheering up might curtail his band’s career. “I’m actually quite worried about that”, he replied, “There’s a possibility of me being very happy in the future and having a girlfriend I get on with and like, so that might be a problem”. When their label bosses The Delgados belatedly discovered happiness, it proved to be the end of the line – but at least they left us with this fabulous swansong from last year’s underrated Universal Audio LP.

13. LOW – ‘California’
Well, there aren’t many bands who would contemplate releasing a comeback single about their singer’s mother having to sell her farm, are there? Sublime, but then that’s par for the course with Low. Loud enough to not only drown out conversation but annoy the neighbours? That’s not.

12. MAXIMO PARK – ‘Graffiti’
You’ve heard of art, right? And you’ve heard of punk? Well, this is where the two collide: “I’ll do graffiti if you sing to me in French”. Halfway between the gutter and the stars you’ll find Maximo Park.

11. FRANZ FERDINAND – ‘Do You Want To’
The answer to the titular question posed by this stomping slice of indie-disco delirium from Glasgow’s finest? A whooping, joyous “Hell yeah!” Peacock strut present and correct.

10. GOLDFRAPP – ‘Ooh La Laa’
I don’t want to out myself as a potential fan of sadomasochism, but this is rather like being used as a catwalk by a leather-catsuit-and-stilettos-clad dominatrix. Electro meets glam meets ‘Spirit In The Sky’. Like ‘Number 1’ but better, it was certainly no number two.

9. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – ‘Little Sister’
Nick Oliveri might have departed, but the lead single from Lullabies To Paralyze emphatically confirmed that QOTSA’s powers hadn’t deserted them, motoring along on a piledriving riff that bores its way into your head like a supercharged weevil. The title and dubious lyrical content underlined the fact that they remain defiantly on the wrong side of the tracks.

8. INTERPOL – ‘Evil’
Quite probably overlooked in many end-of-year polls, but not here. Oh no. This one was earmarked for Top Tendom from the moment I heard of its imminent release late last year. One of the very finest moments of a very fine second album.

7. SUGABABES – ‘Push The Button’
What kind of an album title is Taller In More Ways?! But I suppose Keisha, Heidi and the recently departed Mutya can be forgiven nearly anything by virtue of the LP’s lead single, another splendid pop gem that certainly, ahem, pushes my button. And the video features the trio gyrating seductively in a lift. Sometimes the simple ideas are the best. One in the eye for Ms Stevens!

6. THE ARCADE FIRE – ‘Rebellion (Lies)’
Rallying cries don’t come much better than this. “Sleeping is giving in / So lift your heavy eyelids”, they insist. And yet ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ is not just an uplifting rabble-rouser – it’s laden with menace and agitation, and possesses the same insistent rhythm as classics like ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ and ‘Waiting For My Man’. Any song that can make ‘Later With Jools Holland’ positively thrilling must be a bit special.

5. MAXIMO PARK – ‘Apply Some Pressure’
Only a few re-released singles are good enough to actually merit it, and this one was. ‘Apply Some Pressure’ brilliantly showcases Maximo Park’s propulsive and energetic new wave, its earworm status merely cemented by one of the only lyrical hooks to compete with The Arcade Fire this year – “What happens when you lose everything? / You just start again, YOU START ALL OVER AGAIN!

4. THE ARCADE FIRE – ‘Wake Up’
If there was a song with a bigger, more jaw-droppingly bombastic opening than ‘Wake Up’ released all year, then I didn’t hear it. It out-Flaming-Lips The Flaming Lips themselves, both ‘The Gash’ and ‘Do You Realize??’ relegated to the shadows by its dazzling brilliance. And then towards the end it suddenly turns into ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. And yet still not their finest single of the year – that honour goes to…

3. THE ARCADE FIRE – ‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’
Sitting in the dark without the wherewithal to listen to music or boil a kettle, all the while knowing you’re missing ‘Coronation Street’. I’ve never thought much of power cuts. But then without them this song wouldn’t exist. And, appropriately enough, it introduced The Arcade Fire to the UK in electrifying fashion. All together now: “YOU AIN’T FOOLIN’ NO-ONE!

2. THE FUTUREHEADS – ‘Hounds Of Love’
Given that Kate Bush returned to the limelight after a twelve year absence with an ambitious and critically acclaimed double LP, it’s strange to think that the re-ascendancy of her star had less to do with her own output than it did with a cover of the title track of her 1985 album by four scruffy XTC fans from The Dark Place. A truly inspired reimagining, The Futureheads’ take on ‘Hounds Of Love’ is kept off the top spot only because I had hoped it might remain a best-kept-secret album track.

1. BLOC PARTY – ‘So Here We Are’
So here we are, as the sun sets on 2005, celebrating the song that marked the year’s dawning in such glorious fashion. While Silent Alarm is in the main a seething mass of tightly wound claustrophobically neurotic rock songs, the shift in pace and tone signalled by ‘So Here We Are’ ensured it was the clear stand-out. A perfect marriage of post-punk and post-rock, the song builds gently to the hairs-standing-on-the-back-of-the-neck headrush climax, Kele Okereke joyously proclaiming “I figured it out!” to anyone who’ll listen. I would – and did many, many times.

A reminder of the SWSL Top 20 Singles Of 2004:

1. FRANZ FERDINAND – ‘Take Me Out’
3. KELIS – ‘Trick Me’
4. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – ‘Breathless’ / ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’
5. THE ICARUS LINE – ‘Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers’
6. MORRISSEY – ‘First Of The Gang To Die’
7. INTERPOL – ‘Slow Hands’
8. RACHEL STEVENS – ‘Some Girls’
9. GRAHAM COXON – ‘Freakin Out’
10. THE RADIO DEPT – ‘Why Won’t You Talk About It?’
11. THE WALKMEN – ‘The Rat’
12. THE FIERY FURNACES – ‘Single Again’
13. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – ‘Nature Boy’
14. KELIS – ‘Milkshake’
15. THE LIBERTINES – ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’
16. THE STREETS – ‘Blinded By The Lights’
17. PJ HARVEY – ‘The Letter’
18. FRANZ FERDINAND – ‘Michael’
19. THE FUTUREHEADS – ‘Decent Days And Nights’
20. SCISSOR SISTERS – ‘Comfortably Numb’


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