‘Oh hooray! ANOTHER ‘best of’ music list!! SO excited for this one!!!!!!
Ok, so when it comes to end of year lists the internet is literally rammed with wank. It’s all ‘top ten this’ and ‘playlist that’ and ‘OMG U PUT SUSAN BOYLE B4 NICOLA ROBERTS?? LIKE, WTF?!!’. In some ways it’s nice to have those lists to bookend the year and remind you of that random song you loved way back in February before that other song came and shat all over it- they (usually) acknowledge the tracks which have defined the year for most people and (the best reason for these lists in my opinion) may even help to finally introduce someone to a song which somehow managed to pass them by during the last twelve months.
But at a certain point it all begins to seem a bit meaningless. We KNOW that ‘Born This Way’ was a fucking amazing album, and that while Lady Gaga might still be doing a major cock tease re: the whole ‘Heavy Metal Lover single release’ sitch (GET ON IT GAGA CHEERS THANKS TA), ‘Marry The Night’ and ‘Edge Of Glory’ were still above average songs. We KNOW that Adele pretty much smashed it with ‘Someone like You’ this year, that Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ is a breathtaking piece of song writing, and that Rihanna yet again pulled it out the bag with ‘We Found Love’. Even your bloody gran could probably nail the rap to Super Bass while making you a cuppa and acknowledge that it is ‘a fucking good tune’.
And don’t lists just make everything seem a bit, well, dull? The whole joy of music is that it’s a fluid, ever evolving experience- a song which seemed amazing three months ago may seem a bit grey and dull in the light of newer releases, only to sneak up on you again in a few months and give your ears a big old frenchie. It’s those little idiosyncrasies in music which make it so fun and exciting. To pin it all down in a nice, neat, ordered list seems like the equivalent of replacing the chocolate fingers and bouncy castle at a kids party with plain digestives and a Sudoku puzzle.
WHICH BRINGS ME NICELY ON TO MY END OF YEAR LIST. (Horaaaaaayzzzzzzzz)
Firstly, this is not a list of the best songs of the year. There have been so many amazing songs out this year that choosing even five would be impossible. Instead, it’s a list of songs which, for one reason or another, made my iTunes library that little bit more special in 2011. Some of them may have sold less copies than a ‘Steve Brookstein Sings Dad Rock’ CD, and be relatively unknown, but they each bought something to the table. In the case of Unicorn Kid, Charli XCX, Saint Saviour etc, they introduced us to some amazing talent which may well come to bend the sounds of the charts to their will over the next few years, while in other cases such as Roxette they demonstrate that even after nearly thirty years in the biz you can still knock up a balls out tune.
So go and have a tea break Lana, and let’s give Gaga some time to go and find a bin to piss in before she unleashes album number three next year. It’s time to shine a light on some of the songs which brightened up 2011 in their own special, understated way.
UNICORN KID- BOYS OF PARADISE
For me Unicorn Kid has to be one of the most exciting artists around at the moment. Armed with an electronic feather duster and industrial sized can of Mr Sheen, this year he managed to dust off the naff cobwebs from the chiptune genre and shine it up to something exciting, fresh and bursting with energy. While Unicorn Kid is no stranger to the music industry (he’s been remixing and releasing songs since he was 15), this year he began to refine his sound and demonstrate what he’s truly capable of. Songs like Boys Of Paradise combine elements of chiptune, trance, rave and pop with a more conventional song structure that builds and falls in all the right places. There’s nothing like it in the charts at the moment and, with his debut album set to be released in 2012, it will be fascinating to see where this goes.
Also check out: Unicorn Kid- Feel So Real
CHARLI XCX- STAY AWAY
Like Unicorn Kid, Charli XCX is one of those annoyingly talented scamps who, while the rest of us were busy getting pissed on WKD and watching Hollyoaks at the age of 15, was out there on the East London club scene- playing at a series of warehouse raves and soon becoming renowned for her energetic/ slightly mental performances. However, 2011 was the year when she really began to develop a maturity in her sound and find her feet with regards to her musical direction. Stay Away is a beautifully haunting slice of electro pop which harks back to the luscious laments of Shakespear’s Sister and matches it with intelligent lyrics. There’s no shortage of female electro artists around these days, but with her effortlessly cool persona and assertive intelligence, this girl has the potential to stamp her musical mark all over 2012.
Also check out: Charli XCX- Nuclear Seasons
PENGUIN PRISON- DON’T FUCK WITH MY MONEY
In the latest case of ‘shagged by the blogosphere, dicked over by the charts’, meet Penguin Prison- a.k.a New York uber fitty Chris Glover, who combines 80’s New York disco with electro funk and synth pop to make music radiating with a housey warmth. Having spent the last few years remixing tracks by everyone from Marina and the Diamonds to The Fader, this year he released his self titled debut album and demonstrated that he’s more than capable of being an artist in his own right. With its accomplished arrangements, tight hooks and ridiculously catchy chorus, Don’t Fuck With My Money is one of the album’s clear highlights and, for me, one of the most joyously upbeat songs to be released this year.
Also check out: Penguin Prison- Fair Warning
COLD WAR KIDS- MINE IS YOURS (PASSION PIT REMIX)
The best remixes are the ones which not only change a song, but completely transform and, in this case, improve it. Passion Pit have always been on the ‘amazedar’ for their stunning remixes, but what they managed to do with Mine Is Yours by Cold War Kids is breathtaking- turning a pleasant enough indie song into an epic, star gazing, synth washed, electro booming wall of multiple orgasmic, ‘let’s do that again shall we? OH GO ON THEN’ noise.
Also check out: Tegan and Sara- Alligator (Passion Pit remix)
JUNICA FEAT LADYHAKWE- LIVING IN MY HOUSE
Spurting from the musical loins of talented New Zealander Nik Brinkman, Junica’s debut five track E.P, released earlier this year contained the sort of dreamy mix of bouncy synths, atmospheric vocals and New Order style guitar riffs that you can never have too much of. Living In My House has all of those things, but it also has that bird Ladyhawke who came and amazonged everything up a few years ago with her debut album and then sort of pissed off for a bit! Summery, infectiously catchy and carrying echoes of a nostalgic indie pop sound, it’s a song which takes you by the hand for a cheeky dance and kisses you on the lips when it’s all over.
Also check out: Junica- And it Hurts
ROXETTE- SPEAK TO ME
Somewhere in Azerbaijan a radio station will currently be playing either Listen To Your Heart or Joyride by Roxette- trapped in a blissful musical groundhog day and refusing to believe that anything exists outside the comforting vortex of late 80’s/early 90’s power pop. Perhaps in about thirty years they’ll discover this song- taken from their eighth studio album (159th if you include the greatest hits) which was released earlier this year, Speak To Me demonstrates that, while Roxette may have lost their way a bit since their peak and become slightly lazy/ by the numbers with their songs, they still have the ability to knock out a fucking amazing ballad when they want to. Featuring the failsafe strategy of Per on verse and Marie on chorus, Speak To Me is a gorgeous, touching pop ballad whose comfortingly familiar presence made 2011 at least 3% less shit.
Also check out: Roxette- Anyone
‘OH YAY! LITTLE MIX HAVE WON X FACTOR! THE WORLD OF GIRLBANDS IS SAVED!!’.
Except actually, ‘The World’, there was already quite a good girl band knocking around out there who happen to have put together a brilliant album. While there have been an endless, erm, ‘parade’ of failed girl bands littering the musical graveyard of 2011 (Belle Amie anyone?) Parade immediately struck me as offering something different. Amidst the glut of bland auto tuned, dance driven polish that a lot of girl bands seem to have gone for recently (HI ‘ON YOUR RADAR’!), Parade’s album is alive with character and, dare I say it, good old fashioned pop songs. It sounds edgy and urban, yet simple and playful , and while it’s by no means perfect the hard work that these girls have put into making the album and the range of styles and sounds that they’ve experimented with suggest that if they stick with it they could start to make some serious progress in the next couple of years.
Perfume is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Catchy, fun and playful- it demonstrates everything that makes this ridiculously overlooked girl band so special.
Also check out: Parade- Mr Right Now
SAINT SAVIOUR- REASONS
GOOD GRIEF, that voice. There are so many amazing things I could say about Saint Saviour- her genuine talent for writing beautifully crafted songs, her mesmerising live performances which hook your eyes and don’t let go, the fact that she’s took complete control of funding her debut album via the ingenious Pledge Music scheme- in which fans can pay for a range of items including stage costumes and the chance to sing in her choir, through which she’s able to master and market her music, or even the fact that she posts handwritten thank you cards to everyone who makes a pledge.
But it all comes down to that voice. Crystal clear and exuding emotion, Saint Saviour has one of the most distinctive and exciting voices to emerge in music over the last few years. Nowhere else is this more evident than on ‘Reasons’- featured on the Anatomy EP which was released in early 2011. It’s a truly gorgeous song which begins as a tender soul tinged ballad and builds to something powerfully uplifting. The last 60 seconds in particular never fails to bring me out in a goosebump ravaged swoon.
Also check out: Saint Saviour- This Aint No Hymn
Saint Saviour’s Pledge Music page
GENERAL FIASCO- WAVES
Shhhh. Whisper this very quietly and don’t tell Pitbull, but word on the street is that indie pop might be getting good again.
There are already a few bands starting to make ripples in this area- Spector, PNAU, Starlings etc, but General Fiasco seem to be completely nailing it. They’re a conventional ‘band’ with instruments n shit, but their songs contain an unmistakable poppy character- catchy hooks, stadium chanting choruses and, most importantly, fun- without veering over to the ‘cheesy/cringe’ side that indie pop can sometimes go to. Their Waves E.P was released last month and if you’re looking for two and a half minutes of hands in the air chanty how’s yer father, then look no further than the title track.
Also check out: General Fiasco- The Age That You Start Losing Friends
And finally, in a year where chart music continued on its massive tits out bender in da club while dubstep wanked all over the place, Manchester outfit D/R/U/G/S demonstrated that it is possible to make electronic, dance edged music which sounds euphoric and bold, while still retaining a subtle simplicity to it. Love/Lust is five minutes of hypnotic electronica in which D/R/U/G/S gradually paints a radiant canvas of ambient melodies, plucked strings and ghostly female vocals. It’s an amazing piece of music, and if more of the charts started to sound like this next year that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.
Also check out: D/R/U/G/S- Velodrome 1