[1] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’

MGMT

Like LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’ last year, this is so far ahead of the pack it isn’t funny. Except it is. Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser dream of their rock’n’roll future to come, and it’s all drugs and supermodels – are they as knee-deep in them now as they anticipated? Hell, probably.

‘Time To Pretend’ has an irresistible, kinetic energy. It’s a rolling stone, but it gathers moss, drums (the drums, the drums), synths, pure glee and giddy excitement. I suppose it has an ‘80s bent in its shiny, pumped-up production yet the excess is unfiltered ‘70s. They look like a pair of prog/hippie casualties to boot. The second half is one long spine-tingle and the hanging chords of the final bridge/chorus sound almost heroic – assuming there’s heroism in “The models will have children/We’ll get a divorce/Find some more models/Everything must run its course”. Naturally there is.

The album Oracular Spectacular is a bit Blue Oyster Cult for me; let’s just revel in a perfect single’s anticipation of living fast and dying young. The album prize can go to Vampire Weekend, with honours to TV On The Radio, Lykke Li and Coldplay (yes, Coldplay – I couldn’t believe it either).

As for Junior, she’s loved this from the moment she first heard the chirupping bleeps of the intro. Today she dances, rolls around the floor and bounds about in front of her sister – and her sister’s clapping. Bravo.

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[2] The Ting Tings, ‘Great DJ’

The Ting Tings

“Ah-ah-ah-ah ah-ah-ah-ah”, “Ee-ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee-ee”. It’s what purest pop is all about, isn’t it?

Mind you, this is all about dance music, but performed by an ostensibly rock act. Hands across the divide, people. The Ting Tings can pull this off because they’re tight enough to run a groove, and they capture what it feels like. Strings (ee-ee-ee-ee) and drums (drums, drums, drums). House music in a vague nutshell, right?

Above all this is a brilliant pop song, monstrously catchy and annoying in the wrong ears. Katie White and Jules De Martino (IF that’s your real name, Jules) could only take it No.33, even on the back of a No.1 hit (which I’m calling a 2007 release), but when have the record-buying public ever known a thing? When I was buying lots of singles, that’s when.

Junior knows when a chorus is a sop to a young child, but she happily sings along and – crucially – gets hooked by “the drums, the drums, the drums [etc]”. Suddenly everything in the room is fair game. She looks at her table: “The book, the book, the book…” She’s going out with Grandad for the day: “The Grandad, the Grandad, the Grandad…” No way this’ll get wearing.

[3] Girls Aloud, ‘The Promise’

Girls Aloud

I can play this with the utmost confidence, because Junior’s now done what I would have expected far earlier – she’s fallen in love with Girls Aloud. Let’s face facts: we all have. The most surprising thing is they haven’t run out of steam; ‘The Promise’ is the curtain-up to their fifth (that’s fifth) album, and while the long-players are patchy as ever, the quality of single just isn’t dipping. ‘The Promise’ faced brickbats to begin with, sourpusses claiming it was the first step towards Westlife safe-playing or a pale Duffy/Winehouse identikit girl-group-throwback, but it soon revealed itself to be as complex as any ‘Biology’ you could mention. Only the brashness has been sacrificed, the brazen ambition is still there. Listen to it – no verse is the same (there are three, with entirely different melodies), no bridge is the same, and still they throw in a middle eight. If this is pop in the 21st century, I’m on board.

Junior knows all the words, and shimmies her shoulders just like her mum. She’s probably got an opinion about Kimberley’s hips too. I reckon Junior even knows what “walking Primrose” means and understands what the “promise” is and who it’s pledged to. It’s multi-layered, you see; once you’ve sussed out what the music’s doing, you still have to decipher the lyric. The ‘Aloud are two steps ahead of the pack.

But how much longer have we got them for? Rumours that Nadine’s on the way out won’t abate – and she continues to blow the others off stage with sheer lungpower – while Cheryl suddenly looks too big for a band. If they gotta go, go now. It’s been golden.

[4] Hercules And Love Affair, ‘Blind’

Hercules And Love Affair

Antony Hegarty’s a rum old cove – you think you have him pigeonholed as a massively melodramatic torch singer, the type that can ruin a good couple of tracks on a Björk album simply with his wailing presence, and then he goes and fronts up on a stunning disco track as if it were, to him, the most natural thing in the world.

Of course, ‘Blind’ is more than disco; it’s deep, deep house too, throbbing with delicious beats and perky muted horns. Hercules And Love Affair is the brainchild of mythologically-minded DJ/producer Andy Butler, but here it’s very much the Hegarty show – the lead Johnson lifting the song from the solid to the sublime.

This sort of thing is catnip to Junior who hasn’t even had her Rice Krispies yet, but is flinging herself around with gay abandon, sporting a set of penguin-shaped deely boppers. Deely boppers. You remember. You’ve seen Kate Thornton getting giddy about them on I Love 1982.

[5] Goldfrapp, ‘A&E’

Goldfrapp

I might have been mean to Goldfrapp. I took them to be ersatz trip-hop (and there was plenty of that about), then ersatz electroclash (imagine – a sorry copy of Fischerspooner), and finally, ersatz glam. Maybe I should reassess their work, because Seventh Tree is a gorgeous album. Or perhaps they’ve just learned how to be gorgeous. ‘A&E’ is the mother of all comedowns – still, we’ve all woken up in a backless dress, right? – but somehow it’s warm, beautiful and shiny as a new pin.

Junior smiled as it faded in, then hummed along and told me, “We have this in the car.” She asked me the singer’s name. “Alison Goldfrapp.” “Oh, the one who emerged on ‘Pumpkin’, from Tricky’s peerless debut album, right, Dad?” She’s really coming on.

[6] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’

Coldplay

As the opening strings stab, Junior vouches, “It’s my song,” which just about crowns a vexing couple of weeks for Chris Martin. That’s Junior and Joe Satriani on his tail. Joe’s beef is that the melody of the verse borrows a widdly guitar part of his, and while you can’t deny the similarities it’s tough to call it a steal. At any rate, ‘Viva La Vida’’s strength is a pulsating string sound and a chorus you can shine your shoes with.

After the complacent, sloppy muck of X&Y, I wasn’t expecting great things of Coldplay, and Viva La Vida’s lead single ‘Violet Hill’ wasn’t exactly a curveball – but, once you got past the throwback mis-step of ‘Cemeteries Of London’, the album turned out to be a real gem. There’s a switch halfway through fourth track ‘42’ where the band relaxes, tries on some new threads for size and bangs out beauties to the end. It’s tempting to call it the work of Brian Eno and, even if his hand was only a guiding one, he can take some credit that the album is succinct, moving, interesting and brave – in relative terms, at least. The title track is its beating heart (albeit a heartbeat after some mild exercise), a stirring tale of a great leader fallen and shamed. Neil reckons it’s about Tony Blair.

Junior is “woah-oh-OH-OH-oh”ing within a bar or two, pre-empting the chant before the final chorus. Perhaps it was at the start in her first draft.

[7] Laura Marling, ‘Ghosts’

Laura Marling

And she’s only 18! Still! I’m not sure anyone’s ever been 18 for this long, but research (yeah, Wikipedia) suggests Laura Marling has a couple of months to go yet. As ever, it’s hard to believe when you listen to her worldly debut Alas I Cannot Swim with its seen-it-all songs and careworn empathy, but really – 18!

For just a second, you think ‘Ghosts’ is going to be twee-folk-lite, then suddenly it turns out perfect. The parts are delicately layered, tempos are swapped around, shy strings sidle in, Laura breaks our little hearts, drums perk up, a congregation of voices rears – they’re stalking each other – it’s a hymn now, the drums roll, end. Perfect.

With nothing driving her to cut a rug, Junior plays quietly with her sister. I tell her who’s singing and she replies, “Laura Marling. Oh.” It’s tricky to tell whether that’s quiet acceptance or utter apathy, but she’s listened through to the end as everyone should – its magic is in its full form.

That’s the last of the soloists, readers.

[8] Kanye West, ‘Love Lockdown’

Kanye West

If it’s not conventionally danceable, you’re in for a rough time with Junior. Somehow, though, Kanye’s wail from the left field is a hit, eliciting a full-blown disco freakout. She’s hearing the floorfiller behind the bassy thrum and to-the-fore tribal drums; or perhaps she’s thinking what I’m thinking and hearing K-Klass’s Italo piano riff coaxing the song on. It’s not ‘Let Me Show You’, but it’s near as dammit. ‘Love Lockdown’ is a house track in desire if not action. Junior identifies our auto-tuned singer too, pinpointing the fur-coated chap invading Estelle’s personal space on ‘American Boy’.

The new album 808s & Heartbreak has missed the boat this year, arriving too late for the critics’ lists and too near to the Christmas meltdown to be seen above the parapet. Perhaps that’s what Kanye wanted (apart from, erm, megasales – but he seems to be headed there in a less frenzied US market anyway). ‘Love Lockdown’ is a close, panicky affair in form and content, that fits nicely with the depressed, downbeat tone of a broken album. It’s a bold move for a rapper to make an album with nary a rap in earshot, but Kanye’s never been scared of flexing his ambition even while licking his wounds. He mourns his mum and tears down his ex in hurt confusion, and we’re left with a frankly great record. Someone has to come out on top, I suppose.

[9] Alphabeat, ‘Fascination’

Alphabeat

When The Human League sang ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ they weren’t just introducing us to a whole new blaring synth noise or releasing their final true electro-pop single (ok, there was ‘Louise’ a couple of years later, but that was the red herring of the macho Hysteria) – no, they were telling us to stay wide-eyed, drop that cynicism, remember your youth, feel wonder, carry on loving fiercely catchy and shrill Scandinavian pop records…

And whaddya know? Here’s one of them now, with nearly the same name. The story’s the same too. You won’t like this if girl-boy vocal-exchange giddiness and relentlessly upbeat powerpop makes you come out in hives, but if you’re prepared to let a little melodic light into your blackened soul, you might just be able to stave off the nausea for a few minutes. Junior and I love this because a) we’re essentially the same musical mental age and b) we’re both brilliant at singing the “woah-oh woah-oh-oh”s. Here’s your guilty pleasure for 2008.

[10] Keane, ‘The Lovers Are Losing’

Keane

Yes, KEANE.

Now, I’ve never paid them much mind, let alone bought any of their guitarless records, but every bedwetter has its day and Keane’s arrived when they decided to beef up a bit, tighten up the songs and listen to a shedload of A-ha records. Because that’s what the best bits of Perfect Symmetry are – Scoundrel Days ‘08. ‘Spiralling’ was the eye-opener, the rather too eager Bowie-aper that put down an emphatic marker saying, “We’ve changed! We’re still pop, only more so, and look – guitar!” (seriously, it said that), but ‘The Lovers Are Losing’ has one of the most startlingly great choruses of the year so here it is.

Still, some things they’ll never shake off. Junior’s response is a flurry of air-piano and a general look of guileless choir-girl benevolence. Satire, that.