[4] Arcade Fire, ‘Reflektor’

2013-arcade-fire

Speaking of misunderstood albums…

No, this is ‘Reflektor’ the track, the epic they had to come back with once James Murphy was in the room. Maybe a three-minute pop song would’ve been a more radical statement, but as soon as they all got together you imagine they wanted to show everything they could do. Absolutely everything. Junior is fascinated by Regine Chassagne singing in French, but the moment belongs to Junior’s mum who wins the Spot David Bowie game. It’s not just his signature baritone; it’s the point at which a pretty smart kinetic groove turns on the trombone-honking thrills to confirm this is more than just the Lo-Fidelity Allstars rebooted. Which counts as a compliment in 2013.

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[1] LCD Soundsystem, ‘All My Friends’

All My Friends

Junior says: “I used to give this one [thumbs-up], but now I give it two,” which is the point, really. ‘All My Friends’ improves with age, as do LCD Soundsystem, as does James Murphy, as do we all, even if it feels as if all that youthful vigour is slipping away along with our cool and our relevance in this cultural tumult. None of that periphery matters in the end, none of those mistakes, none of those false friends, and nor does it amount to a hill of beans if a plan comes apart or you’ve worn away your edge. Because in the end you’ve made it, and you can celebrate that with the other survivors.

‘All My Friends’ is brushed with regret, but its pace and build is thoroughly rousing. From the stabbed pianos – which immediately launch Junior into a pencil-straight staccato dance – to the warm, coaxing bass to the headlong, delirious clatter as it hits full stride, this is an anthem for pelting towards 40 at full speed. Bring it on. For once Murphy escapes his influences, sublime as they are (“Heroes”, ‘Once In A Lifetime’, yeah, ‘Love Vigilantes), because this is absolutely natural, no slavish imitation. As a piece of music it shares qualities as insubstantial as mood. As a piece of poetry it has its own heart.

Best bit: At each peak, another layer is added. Just when you think you’ve got it, it moves on and you’re left holding the first 10 years.

[20] LCD Soundsystem, ‘Bye Bye Bayou’

IT STRUCK ME that 2009 wasn’t a sparkling year for singles – until I started trying to compile a Top 20. Then it was heartbreaking. So, regret and recriminations to Eels’ ‘That Look You Give That Guy’, Saint Etienne’s ‘Method Of Modern Love’ and Fuck Buttons’ ‘Surf Solar’. It hurt, but you had to go.

Let’s cheer up with the long-(well a couple of years at least)-awaited return of James Murphy and his so hip they’re actually hip and not just what hip people think is hip quasi-band LCD Soundsystem. Here he turns Suicide’s Alan Vega’s psychotic rockabilly screecher ‘Bye Bye Bayou’ into – let’s face it – Underworld’s ‘Mmm Skyscraper I Love You’ and the results are absorbing, bracing and head-nodding.

Junior was all primed for the year-end countdown, holding out for some Girls Aloud and sharpening her critical faculties (these are usually her shoulders; they’re the litmus test). The title amused – she and her sister changed it to “bye-bye, you” with plenty of waving – but then the bombshell: “I don’t like it”. Oh. Murphy rescued it with a zappy sound effect at the end which “makes my ears go crazy. And my legs. And my socks.” If he can crazify socks, he’ll go far.

Is that all right Bayou?

[1] LCD Soundsystem, ‘All My Friends’

LCD Soundsystem, ‘All My Friends’

The single of the millennium – sorry, Scissor Sisters, you had a good innings – is a fantastic achievement from a man at the very peak of his game. I’ve already mentioned this year’s Sound Of Silver, which snaffles the album rosette, but this is the dizzy high point of the set. A sensitive appraisal of a life in motion, ‘All My Friends’ is unsentimental but touching and universal.
 
It’s difficult to pinpoint. To these ears it’s a glorious amalgam of New Order’s ‘Love Vigilantes’ and ‘Run’, Talking Heads’ ‘Once in A Lifetime’ and David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’ – and as wonderful as that suggests, but it’s no copy. It’s a stunning original, a would-be seminal track if it was possible to follow it.
 
To unending layers of piano, bass, guitar and bags of atmosphere, James Murphy sings of running with the pack, but always coming back to what counts – your friends. Aww. But, as I say, it’s not sentimental. It’s resigned, but happy. Wistful and celebratory.
 
You’d think loving this track was the sole preserve of the thirtysomething, but Junior has adored it all year. As ever, she mimes along with the woodpecker piano of the intro, more frenzied as it works itself up, and sings the last word of each line like one of those people who always finish your sentences. Only she does it in a cute way. That’s a deft move.

[4] LCD Soundsystem, ‘Someone Great’

LCD Soundsystem, ‘Someone Great’

Met with gentle swaying from Junior, James Murphy’s song of profound loss is warm in its stark simplicity. It’s the aching heart of a quite brilliant album – Sound Of Silver – an album that engages the feet and the emotions, a remarkable forward step from the admittedly fine new-waveisms and punk funk of their debut.
 
Built on burbling, prodded keyboards reminiscent of early exercises by Depeche Mode and The Human League and propelled by a hopscotching beat, ‘Someone Great’ tells an unadorned tale of the death – we assume – of a beloved friend. It is powerful in its lack of histrionics, but anguish seeps through in the final chorus. Tough but beautiful.
 
The sentiments won’t reach Junior, but she dances with care and sticks around for most of its six-plus minutes. As it fades, she asks me to “put the girl on”. And so to No.3.