[15] Allison Crutchfield, ‘Dean’s Room’

allison-crutchfield-2016

A big couple of years for the Crutchfield twins, because of course Waxahatchee made this countdown last year. Check their Wikipedia entries. No, don’t check their Wikipedia entries. Allison’s made the right decision to stretch her legs outside Swearin’. Her debut solo album Tourist In This Town (which I’ve just seen is not out until February, so, sorry about the spoilers) takes her band’s scratchy lo-fi brashness but then digs out all the pop possibilities, bringing out the toplines and generally sounding like it’s not afraid to be out front.

And ‘Dean’s Room’ is the best New Order song since all those very decent efforts on last year’s Music Complete. Kind of undermined the compliment there, but you get the idea. It’s particularly good when it slaps the splashy beats on the chorus. J3 mimes them, J1 shouts “I like this!” with some surprise, J2 is making wry comments about her mum’s friend Allison: “Well, I never knew she could do this…”

For all its raucous earworm abandon, there’s something creepy underneath ‘Dean’s Room’ (“You just want to catch me alone… Think of you like a roach at my feet”) but it all slips under the pounding drums.

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George Michael, ‘True Faith’

George Michael

Junior greeted this with what can most fairly be described as ‘interpretive dance’, expressing emotion – or “eeemwwwohhhshun” as Robo-George might have it – via complex hand signals and wafty Kate Bush arm movements. It was apt, really. ‘True Faith’ sounds like some kind of I Am Kurious Oranj re-imagining of the New Order original, built to soundtrack a ballet conceptualised around Barney Sumner’s clunky rhymes. It might just work. Get me Louis Spence.

Poor George. Opprobrium’s been heaped on this version. “I have a fucking question,” he drones. So does everyone else, George. A few, in fact. Why slow it down to funereal pace? Why in Hades do you want to be Jason Derulo? Why defile a song with a video everyone loves [I paraphrase]?

I’m not so precious. First up, I think I’m a topsy-turvy New Order fan, who’s never been that fussed about ‘True Faith’ but loves the apparently awful ‘Confusion’. Secondly, yep, most of you love the original because of a video so 80s Stuart Maconie can appraise it to camera in his sleep.

And thirdly, bit by bit, cell by cell, arm hair by arm hair, this is creeping up on me. It’s starting to work.

[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.

[5] Scritti Politti, ‘The ‘Sweetest Girl’’

Scritti Politti

I imagine 1981 was an exciting time for a properly sentient pop being. For me, everything was new yet everything was normal, but for the seasoned listener the sands were shifting – punk was gone, disco was (almost) gone, new wave was evolving, everyone had a synth and they were gonna use it. Who knew how it would all turn out? There were atrocities to come as the ‘80s took wing, but New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Phil Oakey, Arthur Baker and other visionaries showed technology could be handled with care and flair.

We find Green Gartside on the cusp, edging away from the dubness of early Scritti Politti singles to find a polished white soul sound wedged somewhere between lovers rock and dreamy new romanticism. Later his music would become so polished you could barely stop it slipping off the turntable, but there are still rough edges here: Robert Wyatt’s creepy, shimmering keys; mild echo and fizz; loose structure. Ever the philosopher, Green sings about the ‘sweetest girl’ through the prism of political theory – too detached to be romantic, too sweet to be dry.

Although there are still shouts for The Beatles from the back of the car, Junior concedes she likes the song, eventually asking me to turn it up. “Scritti Lippy” as she calls them – combining her twin passions of chapstick and not listening properly – can be a bit sticky for some, but she’s got a sweet tooth.

Politics is prior to the vagaries of science:

[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.

[2] Los Campesinos!, ‘You! Me! Dancing!’

Los Campesinos!, ‘You! Me! Dancing!’

It actually breaks my heart not to put this at No.1, but when you’re dealing with the single of the century, what can you do? I’m going to plagiarise myself here – I reviewed this single for a venerable website in June, and nailed my own thoughts:
 
“This Cardiff septet (a Cardiff septet! How long have we waited?) throw everything at the wall and see what paints it all the colours of the rainbow and gives it a kiss for luck. ‘You! Me! Dancing!’, with every exclamation mark a necessity, is a joyful romp through influences as diverse as New Order, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, the Boo Radleys and The Mighty Wah! with all the poignancy, passion and pop they suggest. A boyish vocal shyly mumbles “if there’s one thing I can never confess, it’s that I can’t dance a single step”, but if he wigs out to the glockenspiel and thrashing guitars and drums like the rest of us, he hasn’t got a problem.”
 
A few weeks later, we saw the seven of them at Glastonbury and found that a whole 45 minutes of glockenspiel-bashing was a lot to swallow, but they’ve wisely taken their time over a debut album, which’ll come out in February – perhaps it will offer some light and shade. The good news is ‘You! Me Dancing!’ doesn’t diminish one iota with countless plays, so brimming is it with fantastic ideas. Single of the Year in any other year.
 
In the latest example of what will doubtless be decades of pulling the rug out from underneath my feet, Junior didn’t pay it too much mind. She promised she was listening to it, but it’s tree decoration day and, frankly, what do you think is more appealing to a two-year-old? Los Campesinos! aren’t quite the angel at the top – there’s more than one tier of genius.