Delilah, ‘Love You So’


I’ve done a proper, almost considered review of her album for NME, but we do of course need to appraise Delilah frivolously – and with input from a seven-year-old.

Delilah’s all 21st century trip-hop, which sounds like a creaking bore on paper until you appreciate what she could’ve been. She was a vocal foil for Chase And Status, the hollow-hearted Apollo 440 for nos jours. We could’ve had another Kosheen on our hands. In the circumstances, some lush, gorgeously sung trip-hop is manna from Heaven.

Junior’s musical muscle memory isn’t weighed down by the plodding mass of Morcheeba or Sneaker Pimps, so she can sit here and enjoy ‘Love You So’. There’s a trace of sarcasm in her “fantastic” verdict and the cherry on top is the wavering thumb, neither up nor down.

Junior’s mum just spends three minutes trying to remember the name of Finley Quaye’s ‘Even After All’.

Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, ‘Especially For You’

Kylie and Jason

A very minor consolation for the epic gig we’re all missing tonight. Don’t know about you guys, but I couldn’t wait to stand in the tipping rain making amazing gags about what a ‘Tragedy’ it was. But even gnat’s piss-weak jokes would’ve been worth it to see Kylie and Jason turning on that half-arsed chemistry again, to have Donovan make us yearn for the glory days of Keith Washington, to hear this wan melody squeaking over a vast PA. Oh, alright, I quite like it – but back in 1988, something made me take against ‘Especially For You’. There was something irritating about that hairsprayed sock puppet Donovan draping himself all over the delectable pocket-sized goddess Kylie that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Junior says this is “boring”. When I put on ‘Better The Devil You Know’ she says it’s way better. I think we can all detect the uncommon factor, kids.

Justin Bieber, ‘Boyfriend’

Justin Bieber

Junior is seven today. And this is her first record – well, the album is. Maybe her record-buying development’s been arrested by Jukebox Junior because you’d expect her to have her own records by now, wouldn’t you? Sure, she has Disney Princess compilations and nursery rhyme CDs, but she doesn’t need to go out and buy (or ask for) One Direction or Rihanna albums because nice people send them to Daddy anyway.

So Justin Bieber’s Believe will be the answer to that first record question in years to come and it’ll all be because Bieber’s UK label thought Junior’s dad would rip it and spray it all over the Internet, so they didn’t give it to him.

This is just streaming. It doesn’t count.

To my ears this is a pale Trousersnake retread, but I just don’t get it, do I? Junior does the patented family shoulder roll and Junior 2 already knows all the words. It’s quite chilling how the Cult of the Belieber has infiltrated my house while I was trying to win the family over with clean edits of Azealia Banks tracks. This is just a taste of my powerlessness to come.

Animal Collective, ‘Summertime Clothes’

Animal Collective

So it’s Junior’s fourth birthday. It seems only three and a half years and a bit since we were reviewing Antipop Consortium records together and plumping for Kanye West over Missy Elliott in the 2005 chart. How time flies, innit.

And in those few short years, Animal Collective have gone from quirky indie electronica nerds to quirky indie electronica nerds with something approaching proper tunes. There have always been squirts of brilliance, but 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion has pulled together more than most and set them to some full rave dynamics. The jaunty ‘Summertime Clothes’ isn’t the best single on it – mayyybbeee we’ll save one for the year-end chart – but it’s a ray of hope as everything goes haywire outside the window.

Newly grown-up Junior is more interested in the flashy magic eye madness on the album sleeve, gracing the song with a mere handclap or two. She’d have loved them at Glastonbury though, where they stole the show with disco lights and hands aloft and sent all my mates packing to buy their album.


N.B. Coming soon(ish) – The Top 50 Singles of the 00s

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.

Sam Sparro, ‘Black And Gold’

Sam Sparro

I kind of like it, but I sort of don’t. Sam Sparro’s huge written-in-the-stars hit was in the mix for our countdown until I was overcome by wishy-washyness. There’s something undeniably impressive about ‘Black And Gold’, and yet there also seems to be nothing there when you chip away at the surface. Should that matter? I guess, sometimes, it does. Anyway, it’s bold, it brims with cod-philosophy and it appears convinced it really means something. Throw in some weighty synths and catchy dust, and you’ve got a hit lodged in everyone’s brain for a calendar year.

Perhaps I should have left the decision with Junior, who yells “Black and gold!” before Sparro’s finished uttering his first line. She taps out the rhythm on her little table and has a merry old time for the duration of Sam’s career.

So long then, 2008. And so long it was. I’m ready to move on and I reckon the rest of you are too. If the mood grabs, use the comments box wisely to choose a new year – but not 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 or 2008.

Duffy, ‘Warwick Avenue’/‘Mercy’


Any seemingly endless round-up of 2008 would be incomplete without mentioning the Dusty-voiced siren from Wales. Rockferry was the bestelling album of the year, chart fans – no mean feat in a climate where Coldplay were releasing their best record in years (ever?), Oasis were returning to form (hmmm – maybe Q asserted that) and Leona Lewis was still shifting units by the warehouse. But is Duffy up to much? On this day in history or near enough, I saw her play at the Pigalle when she was a mere twinkle in an industry tipster’s eye, and thought, “Yeah, ok, she does it well enough.” That “it” being “the voguish ‘60s thing”. The songs are pastiche with a bit of verve – Bernard Butler’s calling card from McAlmont And days – and she has some nice, witchy hand gestures.

That’s about the limit, though. Today’s tune was ‘Warwick Avenue’, all bereft and stirring, but we turned to ‘Mercy’ soon after because we hadn’t quite reached nursery. To the first, Junior asked, “Is that Duff?” which seems harsh – it’s a pleasant song, even if it sticks to its template like glue. I could see Junior mouthing along to ‘Mercy’ in the rear view, which is no surprise considering its grating ubiquity. “I heard this yesterday,” said Junior, and in her speak that means any point in the past. Sounds about right.

Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’

Fleet Foxes

Another one that narrowly missed our 2008 chart, finishing around 23. It’s a gorgeous song, but that’s not enough, is it? It needs to be a single – not just a single – and this feels like part of an album. If that doesn’t make any sense, stick it on my list of hang-ups.

So, beards in popular music: do they make better harmonies? I’m thinking later Byrds, Fleetwood Mac (ok, maybe not Stevie and Christine, but who knows what Lindsey Buckingham and John McVie were trying to hide?), The Beach Boys in transcendental mode, erm, ZZ Top? Well, it has the doings of a theory. Fleet Foxes’ debut – an album of the year in all the likely places – is glazed in harmony, and nowhere is the melding of hirsute voice more lovely than on ‘White Winter Hymnal’, with its mercury lyrics (“scarves of red tied ‘round their throats/to keep their little heads/from fallin’ in the snow,” anyone?) and rising/falling chords.

It’s a soft hit with Junior who answers my “Do you like it?”s with “Stop talking, Daddy, I’m trying to listen”. I shut my trap and the album wanders on, with Junior recognising other tracks and pointing out I play them at home. She’s right – it’s been one of my favourites too. I’d like to see these bears perform live but I understand you need to be well over six foot to catch a glimpse of them, sitting down strumming their guitars. I’m not that tall yet.

R.E.M., ‘Man-Sized Wreath’


We need a dose of healthy scepticism to tackle the thorny old “return to form”: was it up to much in the first place? Did the artist really lose it or just fall out of fashion? If they lost their mojo, have they genuinely rediscovered it? And were they better when they had hair?

It’s particularly hard with R.E.M. –  who seem to tempt these fanfares with every other release – because no one can agree when they peaked. Last year’s Accelerate was critically regarded as a near-match for Murmur, an aficionado’s high-point, but R.E.M.’s universal love-in centred around Out of Time and Automatic For The People. No one’s expecting them to reap those commercial riches again, so perhaps it’s safest just to wish for the solid basics again. Do things well, avoid the spectacular, mittens to megasales. On this playing field Accelerate’s a success, but it’s not enough to matter.

Junior’s first reaction was an oddly leading question: “What’s his hair like?” Makes you wonder; can you hear if a singer’s bald? And can we get a government grant to find out? She was pleased to hear about Michael Stipe’s chrome dome anyway, because Harry Hill’s pate has been fascinating enough.

And what about ‘Man-Sized Wreath’? We both enjoyed the steely guitars, the urgent riffing. It’s angry and engaged, with some quotable lines – “Turn on the TV and what do I see? A pageantry of empty gestures all lined up me”, “Nature abhors a vacuum, but what’s between your ears?” – and rousing “wow!”s. On the album it’s tethered by some ordinary pegs, but set against the old-time form this is one track that isn’t shamed.

Beyoncé, ‘If I Were A Boy’


And here’s B herself, who made the halfwit’s decision to release a double album in 2008 showing both sides of her personality. One, presumably, is the real Beyoncé – a girl who likes nothing better than to flex her vocal chords on a stack of lachrymose ballads, seemingly bent on reducing our braincells to so much grey sludge – while the other is the much-trumpeted Sasha Fierce. Ol’ Sasha’s a bit more fun than real B, happier to bump and grind her way through some r’n’b floorfillers, waggling those intimidating thighs, but even she has nothing to challenge the dazzling B’Day, Beyoncé’s storming 2006 triumph. All in all, a schizo misfire.

The maudlin, bitter ‘If I Were A Boy’ is of course one of those “real me” ballads, and one of the better ones too. It’s heartfelt country-soul that should really be crooned by the likes of LeAnn Rimes, but Beyoncé makes a decent fist, elevating a fairly ordinary song to something closer to special simply by the power of her lungs and emotional heft. Obviously, we chaps got all miffed at the outrageous suggestion that we never listen to the missus and just want to have a beer with the lads and… ah, ok.

Junior had a gander at the sleeve, keen to know who was claiming to champion her interests. She was quiet, so I fired a few questions: “Do you like it?” met with a modest nod; the more searching “What would you do if you were a boy?” got her thinking. Then the answer: “Run.”