[16] Sunny Day Sets Fire, ‘Adrenaline EP’

Sunny Day Sets Fire are this year’s Alphabeat. Oh, come on, don’t be like that. Both bands are little nuggets of joy. This lot aren’t Scandinavian – they’re a polyglot collection brought together in London – but they play a similar jaunty pop, a spring-heeled update of swinging 60s sounds, fab, gear and frenetic. ‘Adrenaline’ sounds like it’s got a surfeit of the stuff, of course, and while you wouldn’t want a much bigger dose, an occasional slice of silly aural sunshine is just the ticket.

Junior’s not much of a morning person, so this could give her the boost she needed or irritate the hell out of her. In the end, she managed to stop pouting long enough to offer a perfunctory “lovely, brilliant, beautiful” and then asked, “Can we have Girls Aloud?”

I wanna run for the presidency:

[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.

2008 Top 20 Singles?

Halfway through the year, always looking for delaying tactics and ways to ramp up the tension for the year-end countdown, here’s a minor indicator – the Top 20 Most Played 2008 Singles on my iPod thingy.

[1] Martha Wainwright, ‘Bleeding All Over You’
[2] The Ting Tings, ‘Great DJ’
[3] Laura Marling, ‘Ghosts’
[4] Alphabeat, ‘Fascination’
[5] Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’
[6] Coldplay, ‘Violet Hill’
[7] The Ting Tings, ‘That’s Not My Name’
[8] Death Cab For Cutie, ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’
[9] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’
[10] Lykke Li, ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’
[11] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’
[12] Santogold, ‘L.E.S. Artistes’
[13] Portishead, ‘Machine Gun’
[14] Vampire Weekend, ‘Oxford Comma’
[15] Laura Marling, ‘Cross Your Fingers’/’Crawled Out Of The Sea’
[16] Hercules And Love Affair, ‘Blind’
[17] The Shortwave Set, ‘No Social’
[18] Goldfrapp, ‘A&E’
[19] H ‘two’ O featuring Platnum, ‘What’s It Gonna Be’
[20] Foals, ‘Red Socks Pugie’

Admit it. You’re astonished.

[2] Marvin Gaye, ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’

General consensus paints this as the perfect pop record, but it’s dark, isn’t it? It’s not sunshine and ‘Modern Love’, the way Alphabeat – say – like to wield their pop brushstrokes, and it doesn’t dip into the conventional verse-chorus toolbox to create a Beatley nugget. The chorus is a natural conclusion to Marvin’s prickly, paranoid, wrenched and broken verses, like an outpouring of resentment and sorrow from a man who’d spent so many bars trying to contain it. The arrangement is thrilling, gut-churning, creepy and persuasive and Marvin’s high notes whack the message home. It’s a towering distillation of soul music’s ability to draw you in, leaving you sympathetic yet implicated.

Junior cuts to the heart of the matter: “Where’s honey?” Marvin has all too clear an idea where she is. “Who’s singing?” “It’s Marvin Gaye, the man on Daddy’s t-shirt.” Clearly I have to go and get the garment, a double print of Marv’s face in black and red. Junior points to the red face, “Is that honey?” An intriguing thought, that the great man may be sobbing over his alter ego’s betrayal – but you can’t make that stick. The song’s too raw to be playing games. That’s for Honey, Honey.