[1] Frank Ocean, ‘Ivy’


The best song wasn’t the single. Takes me back to those blurred boundaries I dithered around back at No.20, because, essentially, I was just seeding this. I could’ve called this 2016 Top 20 Tracks, but singles are magical and if ‘Ivy’ can get Pitchfork’s Best New Music (i.e. be picked out of an album for promo) then that’s basically a single, isn’t it? These days. These new-fangled days.

Now I’m kicking myself for not making Joanna Newsom’s ‘Good Intentions Paving Co.’ the best single of 2010. Or ever.

‘Ivy’ is the best track, single, song of the year because Frank Ocean’s a storyteller with his heart out front, the guitar sounds like Ultra Vivid Scene, there’s no beat, there’s a tale that pulls you into its subversion of guilt and regret, he uses his range to hammer home shifting feeling from the “GOOD!” that desperately affirms everything’s OK to the screaming “dreaming” and the plaintive “me too” in between. He’s an extraordinary performer who makes the assumption you’re in his world – and you are, you’re invested in it.

I mean, take this: as soon as Ocean sings, “I thought that I was dreaming…”, Junior 2 snores. She’s in his hands from the first second (or taking the piss). “I’ve heard it,” she says. “He has a cute voice. It’s very impressive that he’s telling a story.” We talk about Rostam Batmanglij, who’s involved somewhere – the girls are big Vampire Weekend fans. Junior’s worried Frank and Rostam’s diaries won’t coincide enough for them to do it on tour. “They’ll have to bring someone else on.”

“I like the screaming now,” says Junior 3. She then does the “dreaming” screaming until told to shut up.

As we wrap up, as the final scream warps itself away, Junior 2 has a question. It’s a big one. “What’s he going to do now?”

Whittle a nest of tables, probably.

[11] Dirty Projectors, ‘Stillness Is The Move’

So Junior preferred this challenging little time signature-defiling tune-meshing number. I should introduce her to Pitchfork. She did a rather alarming Beyoncé tush-shaking routine to it, laughed at the word “Dirty”, joined in with the “Oh oh oh-oh oh-woah-oh”s and rounded it all off with a game of musical statues – which is probably what the Projectors were aiming at. It’s pretty clear they weren’t trying to be covered by the X Factor winner.

I don’t know whether DPs are massively ahead of the game, or just have the compositional skills of cheesecake. They’re prodigiously talented, happen upon the odd moment of real beauty and doubtless nark off pop classicists everywhere. Bravo? Bravo.

Isn’t life under the sun just a crazy dream?

[3] Girls Aloud, ‘Biology’

“The way that we TALK, the way that we WALK”. Junior finds this frustrating. Are they teasing her? She’s still laughing at me standing by the stereo, but it’s a CD so I’m not even trying to be the superfly DJ. Those new-fangled CD decks are just cheating anyway. You don’t get the chance to hit the stylus arm by mistake, and you never need to balance a 20p coin anywhere to stop it jumping.

I could be the muso about this song’s unusual structure. Girls Aloud and Xenomania eschew your standard verse-chorus arrangement to fling in a load of highs and “can you see the join?” splicing. It shows ambition that a lot of modern pop lazily avoids, whether you like the record or not, and it’s a gamble. They don’t get the Number Ones you might expect, and perhaps they don’t appeal to “the kids” as much as they do to the pop scholars.

Pop scholars: Paul Morley, Paul Gambaccini, writers at Stylus and Pitchfork, the NME to satisfy the occasional whim, and hey, me. And Junior. Will she be defending this sort of stuff when all her friends are into the 2018 equivalents of Sum 41, the Kaiser Chiefs, the Killers and 50 Cent? Don’t fail me now.