Monthly Archives: January 2010

Let’s Get Cynical About: The Brit Awards 2010

After finally finishing my ‘Songs Of The Decade’ posts, I wasn’t sure what I was going to talk about next. But as luck would have it, the nominations for this year’s Brit Awards have just been announced – and they’re always ripe for a good kicking. Without further ado then…

British Female Solo Artist

Bat For Lashes
Florence & The Machine

Leona Lewis
Lily Allen
Pixie Lott

Bat For Lashes is clearly the standout act in this list – which means, of course, she stands bugger all chance of winning. Predicting a winner from the rest of the artists seems a little bit tricky, but if I were a betting man I’d put my money on the big-selling winner of last year’s ‘Critics Choice’ award, Florence & The Machine.

British Male Solo Artist

Calvin Harris
Dizzee Rascal
Mika
Paolo Nutini
Robbie Williams

Well, Robbie Williams has already won this about a million times before, and he’s picking up the Outstanding Contribution To Music award this year, so it seems a bit pointless for him to win here. As for the rest… well, Mika should clearly not be winning anything apart from ‘most irritating voice’. It’s not easy to make a prediction here, but I reckon they might be ‘edgy’ this year and pick Dizzee Rascal. He is performing at the ceremony, if that’s any indication of anything.

British Breakthrough Act

Florence & The Machine
Friendly Fires
JLS
La Roux
Pixie Lott

This category has been subject to the vagaries of the public vote for as long as I can remember, which has resulted in some truly terrible winners. That tradition is probably set to continue here – I predict a JLS victory, but I’ll be quite happy to be wrong. I’ll be voting for Friendly Fires, for what it’s worth.

British Group

Doves
Friendly Fires
JLS
Kasabian
Muse

While the only possible reaction to JLS being on this list is “oh, FUCK OFF,” seeing Friendly Fires get a nomination is a very pleasant surprise – but I don’t think either of them will win. It’s probably a two horse race between Kasabian and Muse, and I think Kasabian will take it.

British Album

Dizzee Rascal – Tongue N’ Cheek
Florence & The Machine – Lungs
Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
Paulo Nutini – Sunny Side Up

Considering the amount of brilliant British albums released in 2009, this is quite a mediocre list, in the grand scheme of things. Oh, wait, it’s the Brits. Anyway, I think it’s going to be Florence & The Machine or Kasabian, but I can’t decide which… Florence or Kasabian. Florence or Kasabian…

Florence.

British Single

Alesha Dixon – ‘Breathe Slow’
Alexandra Burke Ft Flo Rida – ‘Bad Boys’
Cheryl Cole – ‘Fight For This Love’
Joe McElderry – ‘The Climb’
JLS – ‘Beat Again’
La Roux – ‘In For The Kill’
Lily Allen – ‘The Fear’
Pixie Lott – ‘Mama Do’
Taio Cruz – ‘Break Your Heart’
Tinchy Stryder Ft N-Dubz – ‘Number 1’

In recent years, the British Single category has devolved into the ultimate public-voted crapshoot, making it near impossible to make an accurate prediction. But isn’t it wonderful that there are three X-Factor acts in this category AGAIN! Isn’t it touching that both little Joe McElderry and his X-Factor mentor, Cheryl Cole, are nominated! Isn’t it brilliant that the best songs on here, by a country mile, are by La Roux and Lily Allen! Aren’t N-Dubz shit!

…wait, I’m not being sarcastic about that last one. Better hope Dappy doesn’t send me death threats!

BRITs Album of 30 Years

Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Dido – No Angel
Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms
Duffy – Rockferry
Keane – Hopes & Fears
Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Phil Collins – No Jacket Required
Sade – Diamond Life
The Verve – Urban Hymns
Travis – The Man Who

Question: Which of these albums is the best of the last thirty years?

The correct answer is Radiohead Kid A. But uh, that didn’t win when it was nominated in 2001, and the slightly obtuse rules for this category state that, to be nominated, an album has to have won in the ‘Best British Album’ category at the Brits (as well as having sold a truckload). This one’s up for the public vote as well – as if one complete crapshoot wasn’t enough. As for a prediction… my stab in the dark would be Coldplay.

Most Memorable Brits Performance of 30 Years

I’m not even going to bother listing the extensive nominations for this category, as among them is one Michael Jackson – he of recently-deceased-King-Of-Pop fame – and as this is yet another publicly voted category, I would be massively surprised if anyone but him wins.

International Female Solo Artist

Lady Gaga
Ladyhawke
Norah Jones
Rhianna
Shakira

Well, after reading the first name on this list, the rest just read like a formality. Personally, I’d take Ladyhawke over Lady Gaga any day of the year, but I really can’t see anyone but the disco-stick rider taking this.

International Male Solo Artist

Bruce Springsteen
Eminem
Jay-Z
Micheal Buble
Seasick Steve

Well, technically Lady Gaga could win this award too lolololol!!111! I don’t really know which way this one’s going to go, but Jay-Z lost out to Kanye last time, and with Mr. West nowhere to be seen, I reckon it could be the Hova’s year.

International Album

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Black Eyed Peas – The E.N.D.
Empire of the Sun – Walking On A Dream
Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3
Lady Gaga – The Fame

While I didn’t particularly get into it myself, it’s nice to see the Brits academy at least acknowledging the critical love-fest that surrounded Animal Collective’s latest record. However, as always, they’ll reward the artist that sold a shit-tonne of units – that’d be Lady Gaga then.

International Breakthrough Artist

Animal Collective
Daniel Merriweather
Empire Of The Sun
Lady Gaga
Taylor Swift

For some reason, the Brit awards have seen fit to replace ‘Best International Group’ with this new, publicly voted category – and because it’s a public vote, Lady Gaga wins. The End. I guess it’s kinda funny that Animal Collective are considered a ‘Breakthrough Act’ after nine albums though.

And that’s your (Pixie) lot(t). Ho ho ho. Come back after the awards ceremony on the 16th to see how right/wrong I was!

… you can come back before then if you like though. I might even have written about something else.

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My Songs Of The Decade, pt III: 2007-2009

I decided that attempting to compile any objective sort of list of the ‘best songs of the decade’ was was ultimately a futile effort, so instead you get this – a vague attempt to recount the songs that not only are great tunes (well, mostly), but in many cases have also had some personal relevance to my life. I’m going to list them year-by-year, so you’ll have to excuse the inevitable fragmentation of my own personal chronology, as I didn’t ‘get into’ many of these songs until years after they were released.

And yes, I’m aware that by this time ‘End of Decade’ lists are “so last decade”, but never mind.

2007

Arctic Monkeys – ‘Do Me A Favour’ – (Favourite Worst Nightmare)

Not only did ‘Do Me A Favour’ contain a pounding, almost tribal drumbeat, an infectious bass hook and lashings of atmospheric guitar, it also yet again showcased Alex Turner’s lyrical talent. It takes a certain something to come up with a line like “And to tear apart the ties that bind/perhaps fuck off might be too kind” – perfectly encapsulating the kind of situation you hope you never have to be in, whilst simultaneously making you wish for an opportunity to use the latter half of it as a bitter kiss-off. For me, this was the standout track on Favourite Worst Nightmare – and considering the overall quality of Arctic Monkeys’ second album, that’s saying something.

Battles – ‘Atlas’ – (Mirrored)

‘Atlas’ is pretty much a seven-minute summation of the genius of Battles. Jagged guitars, warped vocals and bursts of electronic noise are all underpinned by the biggest, bounciest drumbeat heard all decade to create one of the most maddeningly, brilliantly relentless tracks ever. I’m sure a lot of people couldn’t get past the smurf-like vocal hook, or simply just don’t ‘get’ Battles – but for me, hearing this is still as much of a raw thrill for me now as it was two years ago. Up there with ‘Idioteque’ in my hypothetical ‘definitive list’ of the best tracks of the decade.

Cardboard Radio – ‘Last Week’s Town’ – (Cardboard Radio LP)

It might seem odd to include a song by a local band who gained very little national exposure, but I’ve yet to find a song that encapsulates my own personal resentment for my hometown as well as ‘Last Week’s Town’. “I’m sick of hanging round in this town/With the pretence we’re keeping it real” is surely a sentiment that many people – from York or otherwise – can relate to.

GoodBooks – ‘The Illness’ – (Control)

The indie-disco anthem that never was from one of the decade’s most criminally overlooked bands. This sparkling electro-pop gem should have propelled GoodBooks to great heights – instead, the band would never even get to release their second record, leaving only their brilliant debut album as a reminder of what could have been. Curse you, music industry, and curse you too, fickle record-buying public!

Hadouken! – ‘That Boy That Girl’ – (Single)

There’s a reason I’ve cited the single release from 2007 rather than this song’s eventual inclusion on 2008’s Music For An Accelerated Culture – because it sounded far more fresh and vital at the beginning of 2007 than it did over a year later, packaged as part of a decidedly ‘meh’ debut effort. The band’s zeitgeist-skewering wit and infectious energy have rarely been as potent as they were here.

LCD Soundsystem – ‘All My Friends’ – (Sound Of Silver)

While spending New Year’s Eve 2007 in York with some friends, I recall managing to lose everyone else whilst heading to The Minster to see in the new year. I stuck this on my iPod, and as I wandered around, vaguely searching for people and taking in the celebratory atmosphere, I couldn’t help but smile when James Murphy asked “where are your friends tonight?”

It didn’t matter.

M.I.A. – Paper Planes – (Kala)

I could try to come up with some intellectual or intelligent reasons as to why I like this song, but what I’m actually going to say is ALL I WANNA DO IS *BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM* AND-A *KAH-CHING!* AND TAKE YOUR MONEY!

PJ Harvey – ‘Silence’ – (White Chalk)

By this point in her career it was already well established that PJ Harvey was in possession of a great voice, but White Chalk thrust it into the spotlight more than ever. Having basically learned the instrument from scratch for the album, her piano playing has a simple beauty about it – and crucially, it really allows her voice to shine. For me, this was most spine-tinglingly realised on ‘Silence’ – just listen to this live version of the track and you’ll hear exactly what I’m talking about.

Radiohead – ‘Videotape’ – (In Rainbows)

Prior to seeing Radiohead live, I didn’t really ‘get’ In Rainbows – apart from this song. ‘Videotape’ is, quite simply, one of the most poignant, touching things Radiohead have ever done. A plaintive piano ballad with subtle electronic accompaniment, it’s a showcase for Thom Yorke’s unique voice and lyrical talent. Amazingly affecting – one of those songs that I’d secretly love to cover but dare not even try for fear that I’d ruin it for both myself and everyone else involved.

2008

Crystal Castles – ‘Vanished’ – (Crystal Castles)

Can a synthesiser sound lonely? Crystal Castles certainly managed to capture that feeling here, with what basically sounds like a Pong machine in an echo chamber. The reverberating notes give the track a sense of space – and the feeling of isolation and emptiness is created by the fact that the only other things occupying said space are a minimal beat and choppy vocals. Absolutely masterful.

George Pringle – ‘We Could Have Been Heroes’ – (Poor EP, Poor EP Without A Name…)

George Pringle basically represents the logical conclusion of my love of spoken word sections, being, as she is, a spoken word artist. But that doesn’t mean she’s dull – far from it in fact, I find her absolutely engaging, riveting even. Whether or not you can actually relate to what she’s saying or just kinda wish that you could, she has the ability to leave you hanging on every word she says. Her Garageband-crafted instrumental backings are also worthy of mention. They’re often as crucial to the atmosphere of a song as the words themselves – and yet they never get in the way of them either.

Johnny Foreigner – ‘Salt, Peppa And Spinderalla’ – (Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light)

For me, it’s difficult to pick just one song from Johnny Foreigner’s debut full-length. In the end, however, I went with ‘Salt, Peppa And Spinderalla’ for one simple reason – the massive euphoria created by the song’s tension-and-release structure is perfectly centred around one sublime moment:

“Bring out the real fun; turn on the real drums.”

The Last Shadow Puppets – ‘The Age Of The Understatement’ – (The Age Of The Understatement)

‘The Age Of The Understatement’ saw The Last Shadow Puppets establish themselves as a band with ‘cinematic’ written all over them. The song basically sounds like the best James Bond theme tune that was never actually used for a Bond film – suggesting that the producers should draft Alex Turner and Miles Kane in to write the next one, or even call the next movie The Age Of The Understatement so they could just pinch this instead. But if the comparison to Bond themes has put you off, here’s an equation for you instead: Alex Turner  +  Miles Kane + a symphony orchestra + guitars that sound like The Coral + the drums from ‘Knights Of Cydonia’ = bloody brilliant.

Late Of The Pier – ‘Bathroom Gurgle’ – (Fantasy Black Channel)

‘Bathroom Gurgle’, in contrast with Fantasy Black Channel’s more brilliantly ridiculous moments, is simply an utterly sublime synth pop song. From the squelchy opening hooks to the infectious vocal hooks (“Find yourself a new boy!”), to the fact that it breaks down into a completely different song halfway through, it is pure genius. End of.

Los Campesinos! – You! Me! Dancing! – (Hold On Now, Youngster…)

I could have put this in 2007, as that’s when I first heard this song – but this entry not only represents the individual brilliance of ‘You! Me! Dancing!’, but of Hold On Now, Youngster… as a whole. Los Campesinos! are only matched for abundant, noisy exuberance and sheer lyrical relatability by Johnny Foreigner, so it’s no surprise that I gush like a fanboy about both bands. Oh, and yeah, there’s a bloody ace spoken word section at the end.

Los Campesinos! – ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ – (We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed)

Because, well, if you release two outstanding albums within the space of a year, you kinda deserve two spots on my list. And really, how could I not include a song that so perfectly encapsulates the frustration, the uncertainty, the pain, the negativity, and the sheer desperation (“OH WE KID OURSELVES THERE’S FUTURE IN THE FUCKING/BUT THERE IS NO FUCKING FUTURE!”) that being in a long distance relationship can cause?

2009

Bat For Lashes – ‘Two Planets’ – (Two Suns)

This is the kind of song that can lend an instant sense of cinema to any moment – running through rainy city streets, travelling through hills on country roads, exploring an unfamilar town at night, watching a beautiful sunset. There’s always something about ‘Two Planets’ that makes it feel like a perfect soundtrack – be it the pounding, echoy drums, the otherworldly synths, or simply Natasha Khan’s wonderful voice.

The Big Pink – ‘Velvet’ – (A Brief History Of Love)

Hyped-up they may have been, but with songs like this The Big Pink arguably deserve it. Not only is ‘Velvet’ an epic, noisy shoegaze anthem that washes over you in a wave of sound, it also poignantly talks of disillusionment with love . “These arms of mine don’t mind who they hold/so should I maybe just leave love alone?” goes the chorus lyric – and I’m sure that a hell of a lot of people can relate to that last part in particular. What makes ‘Velvet’ truly great, however, is the fact that the sheer noise of the track acts as a catharsis to the troubled subject matter – there’s just something liberating about it all. Listen to this and let it blast away your troubles for four minutes.

Grammatics – ‘Broken Wing’ – (Grammatics)

Again, this arguably belongs in 2007 as that’s when it first came out (as a B-side to the original ‘Shadow Committee’ 7″) and it was certainly relevant at that time too. But given the personal nature of this list, ‘Broken Wing’ still gets the nod over other, equally worthy Grammatics songs because of its heartstring-tugging portrayal of a long distance relationship – starting out sparse and plaintive, and then suddenly bursting into a sweeping epic halfway through. Still sounds as tragically beautiful as the first time I heard it.

Fever Ray  – ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’ – (Fever Ray)

I’ve already gushed about how Karin Dreijer Andersson’s debut record as Fever Ray is an atmospheric masterpiece, and ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’ represents the album at its absolute zenith. With ominous synths and ghostly pan-pipes underpinned by an echoing drumbeat and a quietly strummed guitar, the song creates an almost tangible feeling of a bleak, empty landscape. The only thing cutting through this darkness is Karin’s distinctive voice – and yet, she wishes to cling on to her loneliness, to make it her own… “Morning, keep the streets empty for me.” Utterly mesmerising and stunningly beautiful.

The Horrors – ‘Sea Within A Sea’ – (Primary Colours)

I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll say it again – ‘Sea Within A Sea’ represents just how far The Horrors had come since their debut album. No-one was expecting an 8-minute, slow-burning but incessant soundscape from a band previously best known for snarling garage-punk nuggets. It was a giant ‘fuck you’ to their critics, many of whom I’m sure were quick to jump on the gushing bandwagon of praise that followed the release of Primary Colours. And you know what? The band deserved every word of praise flung their way. I can only hope that their next record turns out to be just as exciting.

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My Songs Of The Decade, pt II: 2004-2006

I decided that attempting to compile any objective sort of list of the ‘best songs of the decade’ was was ultimately a futile effort, so instead you get this – a vague attempt to recount the songs that not only are great tunes (well, mostly), but in many cases have also had some personal relevance to my life. I’m going to list them year-by-year, so you’ll have to excuse the inevitable fragmentation of my own personal chronology, as I didn’t ‘get into’ many of these songs until years after they were released.

And yes, I’m aware that by this time ‘End of Decade’ lists are “so last decade”, but never mind.

2004

Arcade Fire – ‘In The Backseat’ – (Funeral)

Interestingly, in all the ‘Best Of The Decade’ coverage I’ve seen so far, everyone agrees that Funeral was an amazing album, but not necessarily on which song (or songs) should represent it in a list of the ‘Best Songs Of The Decade’. I’m going with ‘In The Backseat’ because it feels like it really captures the sense of loss that permeates the album – and when Régine’s voice finally breaks down into a desperate howl it’s a moment of truly gut-wrenching emotion. For me, it’s almost impossible to listen to this song without ending up with tears in my eyes.

Feist – ‘Let It Die’ – (Let It Die)

Being prone to wallowing in my own misery, I latched on to this song as a kind of post-breakup ‘cold comfort’. What makes this one of the most beautifully tragic songs of the decade is that it not only captures the sadness of faded love, but also the regret – “The saddest part of a broken heart/Isn’t the ending so much as the start.”

Franz Ferdinand – ‘Take Me Out’ – (Franz Ferdinand)

While ‘Take Me Out’ would prove to be only the first of many dancefloor-slaying behemoths from the Scottish quartet, it’ll probably remain their most memorable. Why? Because of the simple, hook-laden lyrics, and the fact that it contains the kind of instantly recognisable guitar line that is destined to be chanted on nightclub floors for years to come.

Interpol – ‘Narc’ – (Antics)

Yeah, yeah, everyone bums Turn On The Bright Lights far more than its successor, but ‘Narc’ makes this list because it was one of the first Interpol tracks I heard. Paul Banks’ cryptic crooning and that utterly infectious guitar riff had me hooked – and happily, they had even better tracks than this in abundance.

Kasabian – ‘Club Foot’ – (Kasabian)

Ah, remember when it was actually ‘acceptable’ to like Kasabian? Remember when the words ‘lad-rock’ weren’t permanently associated with them? Remember when ‘Club Foot’ was, simply, a massive tune?

Oh, my bad – it still is.

2005

The Bravery – ‘Unconditional’ – (The Bravery)

For a while, The Bravery were one of my absolute favourite bands – and while ‘An Honest Mistake’ will inevitably be the tune they are remembered for, ‘Unconditional’ was largely to blame for my own personal fanboyism. Yes, that synth line does sound a lot like a ringtone (indeed, it was mine for a good while), but to me it was possibly one of the most euphoric-sounding things ever. Couple that with easy to relate to (if only vaguely meaningful) lyrics, and it was easy to latch on to in my confused, early student days. Not that I’m trying to make excuses – I still think that ‘Unconditional’ was both criminally overlooked and a sublime tune.

On a more general note, The Bravery can be credited as among the bands who made me start going to gigs in earnest – I’d been to only 4 or 5 gigs before 2005, but I dare not think about how much I’ve spend on tickets since then…

The Duke Spirit – ‘Love Is An Unfamiliar Name’ – (Cuts Across The Land)

Speaking of criminally overlooked, The Duke Spirit would like to say hi. Their debut record was a fine work of art – sexy, dark and raw, in complete contrast to many of their shinier, chirpier peers. ‘Love Is An Unfamiliar Name’ in particular was an alluringly dirty slice of rock – the kind that forces you to shake your hips in a way you didn’t even think you were capable of. If I ever run a clubnight, I will play this every week until the end of time – to make up for the fact that it should, by rights, have been all over dancefloors back in 2005.

Editors – ‘Bullets’ – (The Back Room)

Editors, on the other hand, had no difficulty becoming an indie-disco staple. It’s not difficult to see why – incessant beats, big, reverberating guitar riffs and catchy choruses make for great dancing/singing material. However, Editors mean so much more to me than that. Not only did I form a massive emotional attachment with the band’s music, they also lead me to meet someone who would become a very good friend at a time when I didn’t really have all that many – more than ever, I realised the power of music to bring people together.

Maxïmo Park – ‘Apply Some Pressure’ – (A Certain Trigger)

Perhaps a bit of a cop-out selection on my part given that there are Maxïmo Park songs with far more personal resonance to me, but this is arguably their best tune and certainly the most succinct summation of what the band are about. It also contains a sentiment that I’m sure anyone can relate to: “What happens when you lose everything? You just start again… you start all over again.”

Patrick Wolf – ‘This Weather’ – (Wind In The Wires)

Ultimately, the appreciation of music is a personal thing – and so it stands to reason that we connect it to events in our lives, and indeed to other people. People introduce each other to music, and thus one of someone else’s favourite songs can become one of your own. But music can also be representative of a time, a place, a person, or even a specific moment.

For me, ‘This Weather’ is all of those things, but – just as importantly – it’s also a genuinely beautiful song.

Test Icicles – ‘Circle. Square. Triangle’ – (For Screening Purposes Only)

Perhaps one of the decade’s most famously short-lived bands, Test Icicles splurged onto the scene only to implode shortly after – and if they left any sort of lasting legacy, ‘Circle. Square. Triangle’ was arguably it. Pounding drum-machine beats, coruscating, criss-crossing guitars and lunatic screams combined to create a completely unhinged, yet utterly compelling dancefloor-slayer. Hell, it’s never gonna happen, but I’d take a Test Icicles reunion over another Led Zeppelin or Sex Pistols get-together any day.

2006

Arctic Monkeys – ‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’ – (Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not)

It’s difficult to pick one, defining song from Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, but Alex Turner’s urgent delivery on ‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’ lends his ever-wry observations an extra edge, and it’s matched by the song’s searing guitar. The fact that this is just one highlight of many is a stark reminder of just how good this album is.

Grinderman – ‘No Pussy Blues’ – (Grinderman)

This is picked purely because of its objective brilliance, and is not in any way a reflection of the sexual frustration which has so often been a part of my life. Honest.

But really, any man who can’t relate to Nick Cave’s exasperated cry of “DAMN!” just before the frazzled guitar kicks in is a liar. Or a massive dickhead.

The Horrors – ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’ – (The Horrors EP)

It might seem overly indie-faggy to cite this as being from the EP rather than debut album Strange House, but doing so more accurately represents the time-frame in which I got completely obsessed with this song’s snarling sub-two-minute blast of venomous, gothic garage-rock. They may have moved on (and gained greater critical acclaim to boot), but this is one hell of a reminder that The Horrors were an exciting proposition from the get-go.

Howling Bells – ‘In The Woods’ – (Howling Bells)

Howling Bells’ debut album was a sublime record all round, but, for me, ‘In The Woods’ stands out as its most amazing track. Evocative of fragile love in a lonely place, it’s spine-tinglingly atmospheric and stunningly, beautifully naked in its introspection. It’s one of those songs that can, for a few minutes, transport you to another place – and it’s a place you’ll want to visit over and over again, all the while yearning for it as if it were real.

The Long Blondes – ‘You Could Have Both’ – (Someone To Drive You Home)

I mentioned in my last blog that I’m a bit of a sucker for spoken word sections in songs, and I think this was the track that started it all. It is a bloody brilliant spoken word section though – in places referential (“I feel like CC Baxter in Wilder’s ‘Apartment’…”), paranoid, (“I was in full time education when I got scared of the future”), resigned (“and I’ve only got a job so I don’t disappoint my mother”), sardonic (“And you don’t have to worry that much about the future/and it’s not as if you ever did before”) and more besides. Overall, it just felt brilliantly relatable – especially the line “and you’ll always have someone to drive you home,” which seemed like it was written especially for teetotal designated drivers like myself.

Oh, and the rest of the song is pretty damn good too.

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My Songs Of The Decade, pt I: 2000-2003

I decided that attempting to compile any objective sort of list of the ‘best songs of the decade’ was was ultimately a futile effort, so instead you get this – a vague attempt to recount the songs that not only are great tunes (well, mostly), but in many cases have also had some personal relevance to my life. I’m going to list them year-by-year, so you’ll have to excuse the inevitable fragmentation of my own personal chronology, as I didn’t ‘get into’ many of these songs until years after they were released.

And yes, I’m aware that by this time ‘End of Decade’ lists are “so last decade”, but never mind.

(Edit: I’m a dumbass and got the year of the BRMC track wrong. Oops)

2000

Coldplay – ‘Don’t Panic’ – (Parachutes)

Really, this entry should probably just be the entirety of Coldplay’s first album – which I absolutely played to death on a Club Med holiday in Ibiza. It went pretty much everywhere here me, and thus I can’t hear certain parts of this record without it being shot through with images of that holiday. In particular, the echoy guitar line of ‘Don’t Panic’ reminds me of the lit-up view across the pool at night – permanently associated with warm, relaxed nights.

Elliot Smith – ‘Everything Reminds Me Of Her’ – (Figure 8)

We’ve all been there – well, ok, maybe you haven’t – but the feeling that everything is an inescapable reminder of a lost love is something that Elliot Smith encapsulates perfectly in this song. For me, it’s something that came to a head one night at a ball in Cambridge, where the reminder in question was in fact every single pretty girl in a pretty dress – oh, and I think there was a group calling themselves ‘Between The Bars’ playing too. That last thing might clue you in to the fact that, fittingly, “her” in this case was the person who introduced me to Elliot Smith in the first place. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Linkin Park – ‘One Step Closer’ – (Hybrid Theory)

I contemplated not admitting to this, but well, it’s not like anyone thinks I’m cool anyway. I include this song not because of any particular lasting affection for Linkin Park (Minutes To Midnight was shit, yo), but because it completely blew me away the first time I heard it on the radio. I subsequently remember looking in record shops for this ‘Lincoln Park’ band, and being a little bit put off when I saw they looked kinda scary on the back cover – bear in mind that at this point, my fragile sensibilities had largely been exposed to the likes of Travis and Coldplay. But then ‘Crawling’ came out and, like many angsty teenagers at that time, I took the plunge – thus starting a not-so-brief dalliance with nu-metal and other such related stuff. Looking back, this does imply that my current taste in music could be a hell of a lot worse – I guess I should be thankful.

PJ Harvey – ‘This Mess We’re In’ – (Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea)

Like Elliot Smith above, it wasn’t until years after this album came out that I was introduced to PJ Harvey, and I rued not paying attention earlier in the decade. However, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea has become a particular favourite of mine, and this fragile, haunting duet with Thom Yorke is one of its absolute highlights. It’s also got a sublime spoken-word section – by the time you get to the end of this list, it’ll be quite clear that I’m a bit of a sucker for them.

Radiohead – ‘Idioteque’ – (Kid A)

On the same Club Med holiday where I spun Parachutes to death, I met a guy called Sam who was obsessed with Radiohead (he also played me part of the first Muse album on cassette, which is as big an indication as any as to how far we’ve come in 10 years) . This may or may not have influenced my decision to buy OK Computer at some point later in time – I honestly can’t remember when I bought it – but it would be nearly 8 years later that I first listened to Kid A. Of course, ‘Idioteque’ had been soundtracking my nights at World Headquarters in Newcastle even before that, I just hadn’t realised what the song was or who it was by – I only knew, instinctively, that it was rather brilliant. If I were to attempt to pick a personal ‘best song of the decade’ in any sort of objective manner, it’s quite possible that ‘Idioteque’ would be it – I do have to stop and wonder where I’d be now if I’d have heard it instead of ‘One Step Closer’ back in 2000…

2001

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll (Punk Song)’ – (B.R.M.C.)

It may have been a bit of a red herring when compared to a lot of the other tracks on Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s debut album, but there’s no denying that this was the song that got me interested in the band. Raw, loud and infectious, it hooked me instantly and I’ve been a fan of the band’s output ever since.

Daft Punk – ‘Aerodynamic’ – (Discovery)

If you tell me that you hate Daft Punk, then you’re a liar – either that or the most stony-hearted creature in existence. That’s not to say that everyone is in fact a massive fan of them – but you know full well that you’ve danced to this (or one of Discovery’s other singles) at least once in your life. It only takes the most casual appreciation of the French duo to realise that they’ve made some of the decade’s most feel-good party tunes.

Gorillaz – ‘Clint Eastwood’ – (Gorillaz)

Even before Blur finished their last album, Damon Albarn was already embarking on a new project that would set him on course to become one of the decade’s biggest musical innovators. Collaborating with Jamie Hewlett to create a fictional band pretty much gave Albarn licence to do whatever he wanted – as evidenced on the band’s twisted, hip-hop influenced early single. It does seem a little bit wrong to pick out just one song for praise though – the best thing about Gorillaz is the sheer extent to which Albarn and his collaborators have embraced their creative freedom.

Muse – ‘New Born’ – (Origin Of Symmetry)

Origin Of Symmetry saw Muse take the angsty alt-rock of their debut and take it up to the next level – which would become a recurring theme throughout the decade, with each successive album becoming increasingly overblown. While this strategy eventually faltered with this year’s The Resistance (in my opinion, at least), the likes of ‘New Born’ remind us not only how far they’ve come, but also how bloody good they were in the first place.

The Strokes – ‘Hard To Explain’ – (Is This It?)

Love them or hate them, it’s impossible to deny that the arrival of The Strokes had a profound effect on ‘indie’ culture in the decade to come – both musically and in terms of the hype that surrounded the band. While ‘Last Nite’ is arguably *the* perennial Strokes tune, I’m including ‘Hard To Explain’ here because I actually prefer it. Sue me.

The White Stripes – ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ – (White Blood Cells)

There’s not really a lot to say about this one – it’s raw, it’s simple, and it’s utterly infectious. Absolutely one of the decade’s finest tunes – and despite various side-projects and further ambitious efforts with The White Stripes, I’d still say that White Blood Cells is my favourite thing involving Jack White to have been created this decade.

2002

Idlewild – ‘A Modern Way Of Letting Go’ – (The Remote Part)

People say they went soft after 100 Broken Windows, but Idlewild still showed flashes of that fire on their subsequent records. The Remote Part was probably better known for its sweeping, emotional epics, but this raw, sub-three-minute blast of guitar angst is probably one of my favourite tracks on the album – and one of my favourite Idlewild songs, period.

The Music – ‘Take The Long Road And Walk It’ – (The Music)

Let’s put aside the fact that the band went AWOL for several years while combating problems with drink and drugs, and concentrate on  the fact that The Music’s debut album was pretty damn good. Happily, they would eventually recover and produce more euphoric dance-rock anthems like this one – although this, one of their earliest tracks, still remains one of their best.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘By The Way’ – (By The Way)

Yes, yes, you might say they haven’t done anything good since Californication, but that album was released in 1999 so whatever dude. ‘By The Way’ (and by extension, the album of the same name) makes this list because it served as my first real introduction to Red Hot Chili Peppers – and if a new album causes you to check out previous work by the same band, then surely that’s a good thing, right?

The Streets – ‘Weak Become Heroes’ – (Original Pirate Material)

I’ve never actually been on drugs, but I like this song nevertheless – Mike Skinner’s observations are razor-sharp here, even if I can only pretend to relate to them. Also, I would one day like to be able to respond to the greeting “pleased to meet you” with “likewise, a pleasure” in the slim hope that the person I’m talking to realises what song I’m referencing. I’m such a geek.

2003

The Electric Soft Parade – ‘Bruxellisation’ – (The American Adventure)

Hats off to you if you know this one – any attention surrounding The Electric Soft Parade seemed to quickly subside after debut effort Holes In The Wall, but this melancholy beauty from their second album is one of the best things they’ve ever done. It also contains the following vocal sample:

Woman: “What are you doing?”
Man (presumably Tom or Alex): “Recording the street noise.”

I found it hilarious, for some reason.

Patrick Wolf – ‘Demolition’/’London’/’Paris’ – (Lycanthropy)

There are two reasons I’ve grouped these three songs together – 1) Because I couldn’t possibly pick between them, and 2) Because they run together in this order on Patrick Wolf’s debut album Lycanthropy, and form one of the best three-song runs you’ll find on any album this decade. The desolate mournfulness of ‘Demolition’ leads into a wistful peon to Patrick’s hometown as he prepares to leave London… and then the sadness finally gives way to hope as he arrives in Paris and realises that he has the power to write his own future… ” it’s all in the palm of your hand”. Individually, they’re already fantastic songs, but considered together they’re absolutely wonderful.

The Rapture – ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ – (Echoes)

The Rapture certainly know the key to making people dance, and this is easily their most seminal tune. Not only did ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ have enough cowbell to satisfy even Christopher Walken, it also had an unavoidably funky bassline – these factors combined meant you had no other choice but to get down.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Maps’ – (Fever To Tell)

In the midst of Fever To Tell’s garage-rock noisiness was this simple, beautifully emotional gem. Inspired by Karen O being away from her boyfriend while on tour, ‘Maps’ not only delivers an arresting sentiment (“Wait… they don’t love you like I love you”), it then has the genius to follow it up with a cathartic blast of guitar that you can let everything out to. This one goes on the objective ‘best songs of the decade list’ for sheer tear-jerking brilliance.

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