[17] Bat For Lashes, ‘Laura’

Bat For Lashes

Most of the Bat For Lashes chat this year has been about her standing there starkers on her album cover heaving an also-threadless man about. What could be, uh, naked titillation is in fact making a more artistic point about stripping herself bare, no ornament, no facade, and expressing an openness in relationships too. As she explains to Andy Welch here in an absorbing interview.

Phwoar. Sorry. But ‘Laura’ backs it all up, as unadorned as it is beautiful. There’s a glumness about it, but just listen and it’s a lovely pep talk to a cautious pal – and that chorus, that word in fact, hits like a graceful steam train. A hook so refined.

It prompts some interpretive dance from Junior, which seems right for Natasha Khan. There’s a touch of the aesthete about her, however good a straight-up popstar she could make. Junior 2 wants to dance on the table. She drinks in lyrics, you see.

[20] Regina Spektor, ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’

Regina Spektor

Junior is 7. When we started our year-end countdowns on 7 December 2005 she was five months old and our No.20 single of the year was Gorillaz and De La Soul’s ‘Feel Good Inc.’.

In 2006 it was Secret Machines’ ‘Lightning Blue Eyes’
In 2007 it was Bat For Lashes’ ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’
In 2008 it was Hot Chip’s ‘Ready For The Floor’
In 2009 it was LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Bye Bye Bayou’
In 2010 it was Lykke Li’s ‘Get Some’
In 2011 it was Surkin’s ‘Ultra Light’

And now it’s Regina Spektor, exhuming a song from a decade ago and slapping on a bouncing, pop reggae rhythm track that you’d have expected to see Rockmelons fail to have a hit with in 1993. So it’s all about history today.

“I know this song,” says Junior, turning sharply to the stereo and draping her hair in her apple strudel and custard. “This is the best song ever,” projects Junior 2 (aged 4), hearing it for the first time. By the second chorus she knows all the words because she’s got a brain like that. Junior 3 (aged 2) just wants to get down and dance with her sisters. With every daughter we produce, this blog gets more complicated. That’s why I take six-month breaks – not laziness. No.

Spektor’s never been more than a kooky distant blip on my radar but What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is a deep-pile, affecting album and this is its shining pop moment. It also makes me want to hang out on Lexington and claim, “I love Paris in the rain”. I just love Paris when I’m not throwing up the previous night’s dinner from that place near Sacré Coeur. So that’s nice.

[16] Siobhan Donaghy, ‘So You Say’

One of an unending line of “new Kate Bush”es – Tori Amos, Bat For Lashes, erm, Patrick Wolf, Florence + The Machine, Marina and the bloody Diamonds, for all I know – Siobhan Donaghy fits the bill with a pop music that’s free, experimental, ostensibly commercial (albeit without the essential hits) and miles away from her unhappy work with Sugababes. ‘So You Say’ is forensically beautiful in every detail, and for that it’s quite remarkable.

Junior says: “It’s very quiet,” before the huge chorus swells forth, demonstrating a rather flowery take on the Pixies’ quiet-loud-quiet ethos. “I like the singing.”

Best bit: The da-da-ing and doo-doo-ing of the dizzily drifting middle section.

[17] Jamelia, ‘Thank You’

Jamelia

“I didn’t like it,” was Junior’s considered response, “But I do like this.” “This” was the new Bat For Lashes album.

Poor Jamelia. Junior wasn’t interested because she was enjoying the rare treat of a bowl of Honey Nut Loops, but Jamelia’s used to the cold shoulder. A weary example of the British music industry’s failure to support black female artists – unless, like Estelle, they’ve had a snazzy US makeover – she’s currently nose to the grindstone on her fourth album without the luxury of a record contract. Our Jam jumped ship from Parlophone (or was she pushed?) when the splendid Walk With Me puzzlingly failed to shift the units it deserved. Hey, maybe the public just doesn’t like her enough.

‘Thank You’ is the title track of her second album, back when she looked like a Superstar in the making. It’s a battered but defiant roar of self-assurance, set to a typically ambitious setting of bleeps and shimmers, and was a strong enough tune to stride to No.2. The thing is, it doesn’t always work like that.

Made me strong:

Florence And The Machine, ‘Dog Days Are Over’

Florence And The Machine

Yes, I fibbed. I played the industry tart last night and went along to the BRITs launch at the Roundhouse, so it seems only fair to stick around in 2008 for a few minutes to laud Critics’ Choice award winner Florence. Her vocals were mixed way too high – not quite such a treat when your voice leans towards the old banshee’s wail – but nothing could spoil this storming number. Flo bashed the drum Bat For Lashes-style while harp trilled prettily alongside. Whether she’ll hit the commercial peaks of last year’s CC winner Adele is another matter altogether, but she’s sure to be a whole lot more interesting.

Junior was acting the arse this morning, rabbiting baby talk back at me whenever I asked a question. To give her the benefit, she was possibly trying to include little Junior 2 who writhed rhythmically on the rug while big sis did a ludicrous high-tempo dance. It’s the kind of record that should make you lose your inhibitions, whirling wildly to each burst of energy. Either that or you’ll just hate it.

Where are you then? Pick a year, any year, except 1969, 1973, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

[12] Jamie T, ‘Calm Down Dearest’

Jamie T, ‘Calm Down Dearest’

Wimbledon’s premier rap-skiffle rodent had a big year, what with that Mercury nomination (and he really should have won – or did I say that about Bat For Lashes? Anyway, Panic Prevention was wildly inventive, clever and fun) and a packed John Peel tent singing along to this track at Glastonbury. His range is clearest on ‘Calm Down Dearest’, which sounds like Saint Etienne’s ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’ sung by a particularly verbose drunkard. It’s even better than I paint it.
 
It was greeted with stomping feet by Junior, who also chose to mirror the lyrics with a snarly face. Has she seen the lad? It was uncanny. She threw all this into the first couple of bars, missing the later subtleties of Treays’ affecting semi-ballad – “racking and stacking them lines” – subtleties that fair bring a tear to a wincing eye.

[20] Bat For Lashes, ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’

Bat For Lashes, ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’

WE BEGIN with the witchy, ethereal, Bjorkish, any other tired adjectives that might have been applied this year, Natasha Khan – runaway Mercury favourite on the night and Kate Bush for the Noughties. The ramshackle Klaxons snagged the award, but Fur And Gold was the most enticing album on the list, all horses and wizards.
 
This comes on like ‘Be My Baby’ with its thumping drum intro – let’s be clear here, it is the ‘Be My Baby’ intro – before it gets all, erm, witchy and ethereal with Natasha whispering her vexing situation as if she’s floating around right next to your ear. The chorus steals the drums again, but provides no answers, just that question. It takes you into a dark, unsettling world – pure pop drama.
 
Junior took the CD off me, popped it in the tray and pressed play, unprompted. We may have been doing this too long. She then held out her ra-ra skirt and curtseyed throughout, which was a new one on me, but I can quite imagine that Khan is a curtseying sort of girl.