[1] Animal Collective, ‘My Girls’

For all its ecstatic brilliance, it’s annoying that I’ve known what the single of the year is for most of 2009. But it seemed so obvious when I heard it. I hadn’t been expecting truly great things from Animal Collective – maybe more of the same quirky pop, bellowed harmonies, abstract lyrics and squelchy textures – so when they came up with this dense, sticky, Beach Boys rave track that actually seemed to be about something (Panda Bear’s kids and – erm – Adobe slabs), it was as welcome as a fat cheque on a… well, right about now, please.

It’s struck me that I might simply be a sucker for this because I have daughters (and everyone likes to think that song is about them, don’t they? Don’t they?), but listen to those Frankie Knuckles-nabbing synths and the slow introduction of the bass that makes it sound like Orbital – and then the steady rise and layering of the sonics, the two different hooks that could stand as a chorus. And the “Woo!”s. Your hands are in the air, aren’t they?

On this play, Junior pranced like a deer from kitchen to living room, but she’s been tuned into ‘My Girls’ all year, along with its album Merriweather Post Pavilion, a mainstay of the car in 2009 – and probably the album of the year too. The Horrors’ one was good too, mind you. And Grizzly Bear’s. And Wild Beasts’.

We’re not going to do an album chart though. We’re going to do the Top 50 Best Singles of the 2000s, and we’ll start next week. Merry Christmas, all you cats.

I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things…

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[2] Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Zero’

And now we come to everyone’s second favourite single of the year. ‘Zero’ is brilliant, a long-, long-awaited blossoming of Karen O and co’s always obvious pop chops; a striding, mammoth synth sledgehammer here to deliver us from indie wetness; a brazen bit of late-Noughties electro land-grabbing; a bassline-bouncing hot rock in leathers; a massive sigh of relief in the face of hitherto diminishing returns; and a Blondie-on-Berocca zig-zag through Julian Casablancas’ electric dreams.

Junior wasn’t in the mood.

Was it the cure?

[3] La Roux, ‘Bulletproof’

Junior sings, “This time, baby, I’ll be blaaaaaiiiiiiirrrrproof”. It sounds like an anthem for a resistant European Union.

She loves this song, loves its chorus whatever its words. This is understandable – gratifying, even – because ‘Bulletproof’’s toytown hook is one of the most delightful I’ve heard in years. It seems based on minimal effort (Elly Jackson pouting, sullen, around the studio) but the results are perfect, like an even more immediate ‘Ready For The Floor’. And like Hot Chip, La Roux’s cheap Casio sound is just that bit too tacky to sustain an album. Let’s hear it for the singles.

Time is running out:

[4] The Horrors, ‘Sea Within A Sea’

This would have been a better Christmas No.1. It has droney vocals, seemingly endless monotony, a metronomic rhythm like the slow trundle around the Boxing Day M25, that pervading sense of doom – in all, it’s a real festive cockle-warmer. But of course it neither has *GASP* swearwords nor the relentless Cowell machine behind it, so there was never a snowball’s chance. And no one thought about it. Next year then.

The Horrors can comfort themselves with all the critical garlands they received for an impressive step forward. Only the gloom and occasional tough riff remained from their (pretty funny) goth-garage debut; otherwise, Primary Colours was a fug of glacial synths, Krautrock basslines and happy-go-lucky Joy Division ambience. ‘Sea Within A Sea’ was the astonishing curtain-raiser, galloping in on a Satanic groove, hanging around for five teasing minutes, then sailing away between banks of tinkling keyboards. It’s good.

“I like the singing,” came an atypical response, “but I don’t like the music.” She said that, but she performed a wafty indiegirl dance for the full seven minutes, with some slapstick falling-over thrown in. Slapstick. It’s what The Horrors are all about.

Wicked stone (man):

[5] Jamie T, ‘Sticks ‘N’ Stones’

Jamie Treays is a national treasure, only no one realises it yet. He’s smart, wily and witty, and is all the best bits of The Clash rolled into one rat-faced, half-cut Wimbledon marauder. ‘Sticks ‘N’ Stones’ was going to be the record that did it; the first fruits of a difficult second album (so difficult he made it twice) and a boisterous tune blessed with at least two different choruses along with a serious treatise on the ideal circumstances for a “crap”. Forgive the unlikely compliment, but it’s Mike Skinner gone plastic punk.

And did the record do it? Was it T’s big break? Barely. Just another No.15 hit. You should take a long, hard look at yourselves. When she’d finished pogoing (a natural response, even to the plastic variety), Junior took a long, hard look at the sleeve and declared Jamie “green”. And that’s not all: he even “sounds green, like a tree.”

Let’s go out and find some trouble:

[6] Röyksopp featuring Robyn, ‘The Girl And The Robot’

Röyksopp get away with being coffee table dance bores because they’re Norwegian. Stick them in the Home Counties, and they’ll be held in the same esteem as Groove Armada, Morcheeba, Apollo christing 440. “Didn’t you make a good record once?” an aging hipster will say. “Yeah, that one on the advert,” will be their chipper reply. “Oh, and the one that Robyn rescued.”

And she does rescue it. This would be a hi-NRG SAW-era Kylie record (OK at the time, but in 2009?) if it wasn’t for the “killingest pop star on the planet” and her ability to make the mundane sound heartbreaking. She could make the Liverpool FC year-end financial figures sound dramatic and devastating. But instead, it’s the story of a poor girl ignored by her cold, workaholic boyfriend. He’s like a robot. He may even be a robot. After all, as well as sounding like 1989 this sounds like The Future. It’s a wormhole.

It’s also the key to unlock Junior’s dynamic array of disco moves, which now appear to include The Robot. Fortunately, she doesn’t look like Peter Crouch. My brother looks like Peter Crouch.

Never know when you’ll return:

[7] Lily Allen, ‘The Fear’

Too many people give Lily Allen a hard time, because of who her father is, because she’s got an unfettered mouth, because she writes songs that tell how it is – at least for a young LDN lady. She’s undervalued as an artist. She runs the full gamut of pop – straightforward catchy songs, ska, hip hop, even country – and somehow is taken less seriously for it. Where the hell was her Mercury nomination? Sweet Jesus, Glasvegas got a nomination. Kasabian got one.

‘The Fear’ is Lil’ at her best: sharp, witty, personal, snippy and set to the best pop hook of the year. For Junior, it means earnest school disco dance moves and her parents coughing loudly over the swearwords.

Packing plastic:

[8] Noah And The Whale, ‘Blue Skies (YACHT Remix)’

Everyone loves a good volte-face in music, particularly when it’s a rather wacky folk-pop outfit deciding to ditch the jarring ditties in favour of widescreen heartbreak-infused indie-country-soul. So imagine the world’s delight when Laura Marling dumped chief Noah head Charlie Fink, forcing him to lick his wounds and make an excellent album detailing his “I’m fine, really. Really, I am. OK, I’m not. But I will be” stance. That’s what The First Days Of Spring turned out to be, and lead single ‘Blue Skies’ was its ray of hope.

But we’re concerned with YACHT’s remix here. The DFA crew took Noah And The Whale’s big music, stripped it back and turned it Balearic – yet still retained the beaten-and-bruised hopefulness of the source material. Junior does jazz hands to it, and a lengthy impersonation of one squeaky vocal effect, sweetly undercutting any grand moodiness. I play her the original too, which she describes as “mad”. It’s what this blog’s all about: an unfathomable perspective.

This is a song for anyone with a broken heart:

[9] Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys, ‘Empire State Of Mind’

New York reminds me of Christmas anyway, possibly through seeing When Harry Met Sally a dozen too many times, so it feels right to eulogise this love letter right now. But is it a no-holds-barred tribute? Alicia Keys’ commanding, spine-tingling holler sounds like a throaty homage, but The Hov swings between wallowing in the neighbourhood and caution-poem acknowledgement of those who have fallen by the wayside. It adds bite – “Mommy took a bus trip/Now she got her bust out” – and intrigue – “Good girls gone bad/The city’s filled with them” – to a big, ballsy anthem.

As I cue ‘Empire…’ up, Junior asks, “Will it make my shoulders go funky?” Built around samples from The Moments and Isaac Hayes, I should say so. She bounds about, dangerously overexcited, and seems to know every word of Keys’ contribution – until she starts singing her Nativity song over the top, sampling anew. Anyway, this one couldn’t fail to move her; it’s a tune as massive as Alicia’s champion asset.

Don’t bite the apple, Eve:

[10] Dananananaykroyd, ‘Black Wax’

Not ‘til this year did I realise I liked shouty Scottish “fight-pop”. Thanks to Dananananaykroyd for leading me into the light. ‘Black Wax’ is the closest thing to a proper song on their debut album, and of course they find it a bit wimpy with hindsight. It’s a kind of surf-pop with screaming, a real chorus and some lovely guitar meanders at the close – and seen live, they’re a blast.

On this play for Junior, the CD skipped like billy-o, but somehow it seemed appropriate, unhinged and jumpy. She clapped along to the choppy riffs and went for a bit of hoarse-throated yelling, just to get into the spirit of the thing. Tags like “fight-pop” conjure playground knockabouts. I doubt the Dananans are long out of primary school themselves.

Highlights in yellow: