Friday, December 22, 2006

The Singles of the Year 2006

Or perhaps that should be subtitled 'What? No 'Jump in my Car'?'. For somehow David Hasselhoff managed to almost score a number one single this year with a dreadfully cheesy song, and a hilarious video. And purely for that reason he almost warranted a position on the following rundown. As did current novelty pop track 'Chacaron' by El Chombo which seems to border that fine line between madness and genius by having someone mumble over a basic backing track whilst someone else talks about Macaroons. Utterly bizzare. However, as will become evident, there is only space for one genius/terrible borderline track as it has been a great twelve months for individual singles. What other songs narrowly missed out? Well Snow Patrol's 'Chasing Cars' was, and still is, a beautiful love song that came close, as did both of the slightly bonkers yet immensely funky singles from CSS, and The Zutons' brilliant 'Why Won't You Give Me You're Love?'. Also, in the name of avoiding overtly favouring my fave bands ,The Bluetones' 'My Neighbour's House' was denied a place on this list despite being a brilliantly bouncy indie track. So, what songs defined and summarised the year musically? Not flaming 'Atlantis to Interzone' by The Klaxons to start with. Read on...

10. The Strokes - Heart in a Cage

From the second that Nick Valenti's lead guitar screams and screeches in to life, sounding as though he's trying to out do Guns and Roses' 'Sweet Child of Mine', this track immediately grabs your attention and inspires air guitar riffing. Whilst Jules croons about feeling out of place and missing chances with a girl, the musical accompaniment seems to veer between heavy metal and Iggy Pop-style punk, to make a track that rocks, swirls and broods in equal measures. What's more, the line "See I'm stuck in a city/but I belong in a field" seems strangely touching from a band so defined by their relationship to New York. The best thing they've ever recorded? Quite possibly, yes.

9. Boy Kill Boy - Suzie

Back in January, the music press was buzzing about this London-based band being the next big thing. However, when their debut single, 'Back Again', sounded like a rejected Editors track, people were right to be sceptical. However, that couldn't hide the fact that the follow up was a glorious three minutes of glam-indie-pop. With it's stacatto guitars, jerky synthesisers and downtrodden lyrics, culminating in the anthemic chorus hook of "count down to the disappointment/I'm your's tonight', it was a very special track. Perhaps if it had been their debut it would have better justified the hype.

8. Robbie Williams - Rudebox

Upon release of this track The Sun proclaimed it "the worst song ever recorded". The first time you heard it you had to check yourself that you'd heard it right. For why on Earth would an alleged 'global superstar' release a song with such quintessentially British lyrics as 'TK Maxx costs less"? However, that wasn't the real lyrical gem of the track, that was reserved for "the R-U-D-E-B-O-X/Goes up your jacksy and splits your kecks". Whilst the track proved once more that white, British men are not in anyway 'gangstas', you were never fully convinced that Mr. Williams also in on the joke, gleefully aware that what he was performing a pile of complete nonsense. Did he trick the world in to thinking this was serious? Is it really a subtle parody of hip-hop culture? Or is it just a really dreadful song? It's that pause that the track inspires that makes it fantastic. Go on, shake your rudebox. Whatever the hell that means.

7. The Holloways - Generator

"I can get a record player/and a generator/to generate the music that makes you feel better". What a fantastic statement against middle class angst this track was. Complete with indie-folk guitar parts that recall The Levellers in more ways than one, this track came along towards the end of the summer and shone brighter than a lot of the sunshine we experienced this year. Whilst some may say it was a little preachy, or a bit too much like The Levellers in fact, there's no doubting that it's a frank, joyous and bouncy reminder to be grateful for what you've got.

6. The Fratellis - Creepin' Up The Backstairs

Perhaps there should be a law that the track that announces your presence to the world should be as chaotic as this is, as it's breakneck chord sequence and quickly-delivered lyrics seem perfectly suited to inspire mass hysteria when played live. However, unlike The Libertines, who seemed to revel in being a total shambles on record, there's something quite ordered about this track that only adds to the energy of it. Whilst they went on to become absolutely huge towards the end of this year, this tale of youthful defiance of your parents and your siblings only underlines what I mean when I say that if I was ten years younger they'd probably be my favourite band, since this would be the reason why.

5. Keane - Crystal Ball

It begins with a wave of feedback and some glimmering, crystaline piano sounds that suggests something fragile and mysterious. From the second Tom Chaplin's vocals enter, proclaiming "Who is the man I see/where I'm supposed to be", it's obvious that the opening music is a good indicator of the rest of the song. What follows is four minutes of astonishing honesty, documenting what it really feels like to look at your reflection and not recognise the person you see. Depending on the mood you're in it makes for either comforting listening that someone else has experienced the same feelings, or a quite harrowing admission of helplessness. A strange, angry and bold choice for a single that seems to cry for help and then turn it away at the same moment. Truly fascinating.

4. The Rapture - Get Myself Into It

When The Rapture appeared a couple of years ago with their 'House of Jealous Lovers' track, I literally ran a mile. It sounded like a dog whelping the same four words over a backing track best described as consisting of an atonal guitar riff and some cow bells. It was only after the constant badgering from a good friend that I grew to appreciate said song. However, when I first heard this track I struggled to believe it was the same band. Slick, funky and intensely groovy, it was both a throwback to the late 1970s and completely of it's time, and flowed with the attitude and style you come to expect of a band originating from New York.

3. The Killers - When You Were Young

Whoever thought that the lyric "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus" would wind up being one of the lines of the year? However, when it's delivered in Brandon Flowers' unimitable hollering wail it just somehow works. The whole song works as a bridge between the downtrodden, slightly sleazy sound of 'Hot Fuss' and the more widescreen Americana of 'Sam's Town', where there's uncertainty about climbing mountains and people riding swirling hurricanes. U2's (ironically titled) guitarist The Edge must also be kicking himself that he's been outdone by the guitar work on this track. It's just a shame they followed it up with the dreadful 'Bones': the most generic indie track in a long time.

2. Muse - Supermassive Black Hole

Muse comebacks are always notoriously impressive. I mean who could forget them announcing their second album, 'Origin of Symmetry', with the massive slap-in-the-face wall-of-sound that was 'Plug In Baby', or the way in which 2003's 'Absolution' was introduced by the brooding, menacing 'Time is Running Out'. Yet, really and honestly, was anybody expecting this as the comeback single for their new album? Gone were those walls of feedback and over the top riffs, and in came angular guitar and bass parts that more recalled the current Indie/art school movement rather than the heavy rock they're associated with. What exactly has it got to do with black holes? I haven't a clue. But it's a phenomenally adventurous and unexpected piece of music. It's place in this list was rivalled by the equally mad riffing of 'Knights of Cydonia', but just for having the sheer balls to produce this type of song warrants it's recognition over the other track. Sci-fi twinged, truly marvellous and featuring some of the best distorted, repressed screaming I've ever heard.

1. Kasabian - Empire

In a year that saw many bands suddenly a go a little bit bonkers (for example, see Muse), Kasabian raised the bar to ten, cleared that bar, and then raised it again with this storming, baffling lead track from their second album. What makes it such a great track though? Well, for starters it begins in a completely boring manner by coming across as a bog-standard indie stomp-fest. Then, all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, singer Tom shouts "Stop!" and it sounds as though you're suddenly listening to a rock cover of the Doctor Who theme (a feeling that only increases as the chorus finishes and the middle eight plays out). Complete madness. Add in the over-the-top video and it only adds to the appeal of the song. Quite what the lyrics have got to do with empires is beyond me (if anyone can explain then I'd be most appreciative), but this is a truly wonderful, mad, piece of music that is perfect for a bit of a pogo when played live or for a bit of a dance at a disco. Either way, it's guaranteed to get you on your feet.

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