[16] Love Ssega, ‘Minds’

love-ssega-15

Love Ssega wins the battle of the former Clean Bandit vocalists with this chunk of new-wave dance, a bit Talking Heads, a bit LCD Soundsystem who are a bit Talking Heads. It’s a good song that feels a little underwhelming here, and Junior likes it at first but then says, “It gets boring.” Pop careers flash by in a moment these days, don’t they?

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[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.

Miracle Fortress, ‘Miscalculations’

Miracle Fortress

In Rainbows and Sound Of Silver were all well and good, but the best album of 2007 was, of course, Miracle Fortress’s Five Roses. The Canadian Prince Rogers Nelson – as no one has called him until now – Graham Van Pelt did it all himself, lovingly concocting a modern Beach Boys album set to shimmering bucolia (you know what I mean, sounds like a heat-hazed summer meadow) with, improbably, a devastating hook in every song. It was almost too perfect to sell. So it didn’t.

Four long years later, only endured by playing Five Roses at least once a week, Van Pelt is back with a new album Was I The Wave? that looks set to make a mockery of Adele’s chart feats. It’s a rather more electronic affair that I’ll be reviewing for millions of pounds in the next day or so, and ‘Miscalculations’ is the killer single. Actually, ‘Raw Spectacle”s the single – or “free download”, to give it its accurate title – but Van Pelt should see sense soon enough. You see, it had Junior doing a spontaneous hula dance which, as we’ve seen over the last five years, is the interpretive equivalent of holding up a card marked ‘Hit’. And about as successful as Jukebox Jury predictions ever were too. Hit!

[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] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’

MGMT

Like LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’ last year, this is so far ahead of the pack it isn’t funny. Except it is. Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser dream of their rock’n’roll future to come, and it’s all drugs and supermodels – are they as knee-deep in them now as they anticipated? Hell, probably.

‘Time To Pretend’ has an irresistible, kinetic energy. It’s a rolling stone, but it gathers moss, drums (the drums, the drums), synths, pure glee and giddy excitement. I suppose it has an ‘80s bent in its shiny, pumped-up production yet the excess is unfiltered ‘70s. They look like a pair of prog/hippie casualties to boot. The second half is one long spine-tingle and the hanging chords of the final bridge/chorus sound almost heroic – assuming there’s heroism in “The models will have children/We’ll get a divorce/Find some more models/Everything must run its course”. Naturally there is.

The album Oracular Spectacular is a bit Blue Oyster Cult for me; let’s just revel in a perfect single’s anticipation of living fast and dying young. The album prize can go to Vampire Weekend, with honours to TV On The Radio, Lykke Li and Coldplay (yes, Coldplay – I couldn’t believe it either).

As for Junior, she’s loved this from the moment she first heard the chirupping bleeps of the intro. Today she dances, rolls around the floor and bounds about in front of her sister – and her sister’s clapping. Bravo.

[2] Michael Jackson, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’

It’s well-established that Junior’s a bit of a dancer, shaking down to everything from The Jam to Prince to Girls Aloud and all the way round to entire LCD Soundsystem albums – so why does Jacko draw a blank? Does she find it difficult to listen with complete abandon in light of all the allegations against him this past decade or so? Can any of us listen now without the music passing through the prism of approbation?

In this case, Junior’s annoyed that her nursery rhyme CD isn’t playing; Dad’s “Just one song and then I’ll put it on” is cutting no ice. As for the rest of us, I think it’d be a pity if we couldn’t enjoy the music at its base, uncomplicated level, but it’s tricky to forget the freak the dazzling young Michael would become.

It’s a pity because this is easily one of the most exciting records ever made. Inspired, presumably, by Star Wars, Michael lets rip with dog-whistle nonsense about “the Force” over planet-circling strings and bombastic brass to create a vertiginous dancefloor ride that, by rights, will have you blowing chunks. That’s a good thing, incidentally. As an example of what the adolescent Jacko and mighty producer Quincy Jones could achieve together, it’s a thrilling signpost to Off The Wall and, er, Thriller; a line in the sand, leaving disco over there and, over here, hyper-tooled ‘80s gold-bar soul.

[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.

[16] LCD Soundsystem, ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’

“‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’ is playing at my house.” Not a flicker. Junior will appreciate her dad’s jokes one day. It took me a decade or so to finally realise that my old man’s dry quips were the stuff of legend. I think she enjoys the record but her mum finds it forgettable, twice asking what it is. Indeed, does anyone remember LCD Soundsystem now? They were cool in February. Anyone?