[18] Miracle Fortress, ‘Let Me Be The 1′


“As it goes on, it gets better,” says Junior 2. “It’s nice, but it’s not doing much,” adds Junior. In their slightly disengaged style, both statements are spot-on in multiple ways.

‘Let Me Be The 1′ does build, from choppy shoved synths to easy nu-soul garage, passing through perfect pop and jazzy byways, until it gets somewhere that feels like it really matters; until you’re pleading alongside Graham Van Pelt who, even on his knees, has found some kind of euphoric high.

This Canadian one-man band (usually, anyway) is nice, but he doesn’t do much – not in cold, brittle commercial terms. Miracle Fortress’s debut album Five Roses was just about the best thing to happen in 2007, a near-dipless flow of warm, gorgeously harmonised classic pop that was followed too long after by Was I The Wave?, more of the same with the odd electronic gurgle to make it a little more 2011. This year Van Pelt’s just releasing singles that pack in everything he’s learned. He’s still not doing much, but it’s all so nice.

So listen up, everyone. If he’s not going to be the 1, let him be a 1 for a short while at least.

[19] Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX, ‘Fancy’


I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with this one. Clearly it’s as irritating as a mohair codpiece but, more beneficially, it slams you up against the wall with the full force of its stark bullishness. Iggy crunks, jerks, drawls and brags while Charli XCX comes up with another undeniable nursery rhyme chorus, and we all go home a little shaken.

The girls over here are trying to place who it is. “Katy Perry,” says the four-year-old. “Is the rap will.i.am?” asks Junior. I’ve no idea what’s going on there. “Oh, she says Iggy in that other song,” she adds. Anyway, they all agree it’s “good” and perfectly fine for a dad to have it on his iPod. I mean, I wasn’t worried about that but you know how snobbish these kids get.

[20] Sivu, ‘Can’t Stop Now’


Junior’s nine now. I first wrote about the way she experienced music in November 2005 when she was 20 weeks old, fidgeting in her bouncy chair to the minimalist hip-hop of Antipop Consortium. Since then, she’s formed her own opinions, protested about doing this at all and asked to do it again. I think she believed she was famous at one point – if ‘famous’ means a couple of dozen people knowing who you are without actually meeting you, then I suppose she was.

In 2008 Junior 2 arrived and then Junior 3 turned up in 2010. Three girls who reckon they know more about music than their dad. Out of the four of us, I’m the biggest One Direction fan, so perhaps they’re right. But can they recite an entire volume of the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles? No, they cannot. Who’s the real winner here?

None of us knows much about Sivu, but I have press releases in my inbox so I can busk it. He’s really called James Page, was born in St Ives (Cambs version) but somehow ended up in Kennington feeling the weight of South London’s urban dislocation. He sticks it in song, although ‘Can’t Stop Now”s tumbling flow dings a note of optimism with its folky trills, rising keys and faked laser sheen. The ooo-ooo-ooos alone plant it in our top 20 of the year. It’s no headbanger but that’s what Junior does anyway, giving Page the actual thumbs-up. Junior 2 says, “It sounds good to me because there’s lots of people talking,” while Junior 3 adds, “We’re still going south.” She’s playing with a compass.

[1] Mariah Carey featuring Miguel, ‘#Beautiful’


“featuring Miguel”. Oh come on, Mariah, this is Miguel’s song and it’s just perfect. As soppy as a Dean Friedman ballad but a lesson in studied easiness, with Miguel and Carey concentrating on warmth rather than fire as a Stax-y guitar lick rolls beneath them and sunkissed percussion strokes their, um, cheeks. That hashtag’s oh-so modern, isn’t it, kids, but the rest is as trad as an arr. No, I don’t know what a bad folk joke’s doing here.

Best bit? “Let the moonlight…” sounds like the record’s jumped but Miguel’s as unhurried and on point as the great soul man he promises to be. He and Carey slips a summer’s romance into a sliver of a song.

Junior 3 keeps singing, “To me, to me, to me…” like a one-girl Chuckle Brothers. Junior just approves.

[2] Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams, ‘Get Lucky’


Junior reckons she’s heard this 30 times. Generously, she still likes it. Junior 2 sings along as she plays a game on her multimedia camera thing and Junior 3 joins in too, dancing and raising her eyebrows on the high notes. As for me, I think I can just post the original draft of my Track of the Year piece for NME, weaving a cunning web of deceit that makes this entry look chunky rather than lazy:

On 12 July 1979, Chicago’s Comiskey Park hosted its very own disco inferno. Prompted by shock jock Steve Dahl, thousands of baseball fans brought disco records to a game between Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers that would climax with a bonfire of this abominable vinyl. The prank did terrible damage to the pitch of course, but it also cemented a notion of disco as the enemy of rock, even tracing an unwanted line in the sand between white and black pop music, as hundreds of twerps tried to consign it to the incinerator of history.

But, like the legend of the phoenix, something was stirring in the ashes. The next decade would see disco cede to hip-hop, then electro, Detroit techno and the rebirth of soul as the salient expression of black culture, but you can’t keep a good rhythm down. And Nile Rodgers, the king of Studio 54, never really went away.

It was Rodgers who first alerted us to ‘Get Lucky’, airily announcing he was working with Daft Punk and then sitting back and watching the internet explode. Chic meets Daft Punk? Have you ever imagined something so ineffably right? Helmets on billboards and teased seconds of the track in a Saturday Night Live ad break were enough to get juices flowing, but it was the sudden arrival of images on the Coachella screens that beckoned meltdown. Suddenly we had confirmation that Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Pharrell Williams and Rodgers were all united over the same clipped riff, decades of perfect dance music and R&B distilled into one luscious brew. And when the real deal supplanted all those loops and fake tracks that had swamped YouTube and Soundcloud, the excitement could have powered cities. No one was listening to anything else.

Why would you? This was a liquid groove, a silky vocal – punctuated by the sort of Jacko hiccups Benjamin Diamond had attempted on an earlier Bangalter production, Stardust’s ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ – robotic breakdowns, cut-glass guitar and a randy hook that insinuated itself into every cell of the brain. Disco was reborn and remembering its primary function – making people dance, making people happy. Burn, baby, burn.

[3] Vampire Weekend, ‘Unbelievers’


“Vampire Weekend!” shouts the three-year-old as the accordion flares up, and everything seems worthwhile. There are more glorious moments on album of the year Modern Vampires Of The City – the honky-tonk piano on ‘Hannah Hunt’, the key change on ‘Ya Hey’, the vocodered breakdown on ‘Diane Young’ – but ‘Unbelievers’ is the song we’ve sung together all year, belting out the wildly progressive (for three- to eight-year-olds) thinkpiece lyrics, just because it’s all so joyously catchy.

So I can pretend this is the essence of Jukebox Junior, songs chosen by pan-generational committee. But really I’ve forced it down their throats, haven’t I?

[Here’s a bit more on VW and sticking with it]

[4] Arcade Fire, ‘Reflektor’


Speaking of misunderstood albums…

No, this is ‘Reflektor’ the track, the epic they had to come back with once James Murphy was in the room. Maybe a three-minute pop song would’ve been a more radical statement, but as soon as they all got together you imagine they wanted to show everything they could do. Absolutely everything. Junior is fascinated by Regine Chassagne singing in French, but the moment belongs to Junior’s mum who wins the Spot David Bowie game. It’s not just his signature baritone; it’s the point at which a pretty smart kinetic groove turns on the trombone-honking thrills to confirm this is more than just the Lo-Fidelity Allstars rebooted. Which counts as a compliment in 2013.

[5] Laura Mvula, ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’


Laura Mvula’s debut album is extraordinary, but so are the reactions to it. I suspect those deriding her as “new boring” etc haven’t actually listened to the thing – or took the relatively safe jazz stylings of upfront single ‘Green Garden’ to be typical of the whole – because I can’t fathom how you couldn’t come away from Sing To The Moon without your life in some way enhanced. It’s hard to pinpoint what Mvula is, and perhaps that’s led critics towards the easy way out. What she does is take everything she might be – classically trained composer, jazz musician, soul belter, psych poet, pop stylist, gospel singer – and creates something, someone new, who might have touches of Nina Simone or Minnie Riperton about her but equally seems to have accepted a few stone tablets from Brian Wilson. So, yeah, new with old components.

“This is Laura Mvula,” I say. “I know,” replies Junior who likes the chorus that turns out to be a kind of middle eight. Junior 2 nods, Junior 3 sings “Is there anybody out there?” over and over as if she’s trying to help Mvula find someone who understands. In turns stately and ecstatic, this is one of the year’s heart-stopping tunes.

[6] Disclosure featuring AlunaGeorge, ‘White Noise’


It’s the default dance single of the year!

Of course it’s entirely, undeniably addictive but I can never get Alex Party out of my head when I hear it. Which I guess adds up to a bonus.

Here are your cut-out-and-keep reactions:

Junior: “I know this. It’s ‘White Noise’.”
Junior 2: “I know this and I like it.” She sings along.
Junior 3 starts drumming in time then unveils a complex fish-hands dance. The vertical fish.