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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 45-41
45. DAM SWEET - I Don't Know

A terrific soulful house track along the lines of Lola's Theme only slightly damaged by the fact that it's crying out for some extra lyrics. The horn sample is great. The beat is great. The little bit of guitar is great. The melody is catchy. It's only lack of progression or variety that is keeping this down at 45 rather than, say, 15.

44. LENA PHILIPSSON - Lena Anthem

"My name is Lena. I am not a tramp!" "My name is Lena Philipsson!". Except in Sweden, and set to the must pulsating, crushing, thudding, mind-blowing electro-pop backing conceivable. I'll say it again, you don't need to understand any Swedish, you just feel this one. Obviously, there is yet more Lena to come. But where?

43. KELLI ALI - Hot Lips

There are few things catchier (if inane) than "And you make me wanna call a doctor/You're a new disease and I think I caught ya" over glammy, hammy pop like this. Hook after hook after hook; a simple ingratiating repetition of the title, a woozy backing behind her tag-line: "Fake your voodoo baby" and that cheery, cheesy chorus. Why is this woman not huge? (Aside from the lack of radio friendly singles and that her last album was really cheap sounding) Sounds like a job for Cathy Dennis, Brian Higgins, Karen Poole or Rob Davis to me.
Also search: Home Honey I'm High

42. DA BUZZ - Dangerous

The most straightforward Swedish dance pop hit of the year to worm its way into my heart. Singalong self-aggrandizement that you can dance to, a Max Martin-esque extra chorus, faceless dance-pop diva giving it her everything, even managing to make "dangerous" almost rhyme with "fabulous". Remarkably compact, too, barely giving you a chance to think before kicking straight into the verses - you get a little more time to prepare for the chorus's arrival, but that doesn't diminish its soaring excellence.
Also search: Set My Heart On Fire

41. DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS - Godhopping

XTC mit electric piano. Yes, almost that simple, except even when they were upbeat and jaunty (or, alternatively, impenetrably obscure), XTC were never this deliciously sprightly. By the time it gets to the last chorus, you feel like it could end at any moment or tack on a few more repetitions; when the former happens, it's almost a disappointment. Most importantly, on this single, Craig McIntosh sounds invigorated and happy rather than condescending and sneering, which was perhaps the only flaw to their otherwise fine album.
Also search: Apples and Oranges
# 9:38 PM []

Friday, December 17, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 52-46
It's the halfway point. And there was much rejoicing.

52. THE 411 - Teardrops

Its sparkle hasn't diminished either with subsequent listens or the failure of their album to a) sell, and b) be any good. Is it possible that this just hits a nerve with a certain type of person due to the sample, and that without that context, it's just a bit creepy for the casual record buyer? I'm not entirely sure one of them is even singing the right notes at some points, and that's as close to individuality as any of them get. It's almost a shame that these quality singles are "wasted" on them, really.

51. THE KILLERS - Somebody Told Me

As far as rock bands you are supposed to apologise for liking a lot, I'll take The Killers' singles over Franz Ferdinand's, thanks, largely because this one is much more straightforwardly sleazy and fun. Also, it doesn't waste 40 seconds in a boring tempo before getting to an interesting one.

50. BUSFACE - Circles

Unwritten law is that everything which features the vocals of Sophie Ellis Bextor is automatically very good (let's just forget I Won't Change You, shall we?), and this is no exception, even though she only appears on one of the verses, and she seems to be saying the same words over and over again. I really can't help it, I just love her vowels. Had her star not fallen significantly in 2003, this would have been good for a mid-table chart position.

49. ANJEZA SHAHINI - The Image Of You

I cheered all the way through Eurovision for the extremely orange Ms Shahini, and why? Because this is a fine piece of songcraft, the vulnerable opening, the (slightly dodgy) bridge into the land of disco, the cheesy guitar solo and the show-stopping (well, would have been if she hadn't been on next to Ruslana), shrieking finale. I actually wish it were longer, there was a second verse never translated into English from the Albanian original, but that's wishing for something beyond what it could have been - as it stands, excellent pop.

48. KELIS - Trick Me

Probably put Milkshake in there too because I didn't include it last year. Trick Me, which I even read criticised as a formulaic Dallas Austin production, is the proper killer of the upbeat ones on Tasty (though Marathon is of course even better), because of its delightful skanky old-movie feel, which would have been wasted if Kelis didn't completely shit over it by saying the word "dick" exactly when you expect her to. Also: "whoa-whoa! this is IT!". Also, there needs to be more videos which are orange.

47. DARREN HAYES - Popular

When shit popstars become magnificent. Left to his own devices, former Savage Garden singer throws some bonkers synths, guitar samples and bits taken from at least six other songs in a blender and completely surpasses the quality of his output up to that point - combined. Album reviewed by me at Stylus (I gave it a 9), and subsequently a bugbear to lots of indie kids - one of whom really hated that it got a better score than those boring twats Interpol. What would you rather listen to, a boring load of indie kids who wish they were Joy Division (why doesn't anyone try to be New Order? Hang on, that's coming up much later), or someone who wishes they were M, Fischerspooner, Donna Summer, Madonna and Richard X?

46. SEPTEMBER - September All Over

It's Europop with an extra helping of bleak. It's all in that rather ominous squalling noise, really. Feeling a bit uninspired today, but this was quite a shockingly ugly bit of dance-pop, particularly in comparison to the comparatively lightweight previous singles that I bopped along to in 2003 - this one is far too upset to do so properly, so was among the more unpleasant yet welcome surprises of the year.
# 3:19 PM []

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 59-53
59. AGNETHA FALTSKOG - If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind

The first song in my list that has made me say that my first impression was wrong. I was pretty lukewarm about it at first, and wrote as much, almost a guarantee I would come around to it in the end (though not the case with Love Machine!, which I still think is no better than "good"), and in this case, my change of heart rests on one syllable - the very last "mind" in the song, which Agnetha floats over the most wispy, fluttery and gorgeous backing imaginable, very wintery. It's a shame that her album turned out to be so awful, proving that some songs thought to be unwreckable were not so.

58. BIG & RICH - Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)

Not a novelty record. Oh sure, it's country on the surface with "cute" references to bling-bling and a lyric that gets less funny every time you hear it, but to tar it with the novelty brush is to demonstrate a complete ignorance of what mainstream country music is actually like today - put down your Ryan Adams (into the bin, preferably) albums and listen to some ACTUAL COUNTRY - the big hits are literally crammed with bad jokes, lyrical gimmicks and the like - the genre is as winking and knowing as any other and while we could go off and listen to "real" country with no jokes and no fun, I'd rather listen to superior pop like this, because it makes me feel HAPPY.

57. BOOSTA ICONOCLASH - Rock 'n' Roll Robot

One of those pleasant surprises, I spotted this one languishing at the lower end of the Italian top 40 and wondered why it was not higher. In fact, I know nothing about the song or the artist, but I know what I like, and I definitely like this song's jerky drum machines, noises and spazzy guitars, not to mention the bizarrely clipped delivery of the lyrics: "Oh! Oh Oh! Rock'n'roll robot! How I want you! How I need you" with all the emphases on the words you wouldn't expect. A bizarre, highly listenable oddity.

56. K-MARO - Femme Like U

This was going to be higher up, but then I saw the video and it did not feature Cyril and some hot bird cruising down the highway, it features lots of posturing and confrontation. Also, Cyril is really ugly, so I went off it a bit. Nonetheless, this is still awfully smooth, the chorus is fantastic, the cruisy AM rock classic guitar backing is ripe to be stolen by someone else to make a big English language hit about it, and even if they do, I'll still pledge allegiance to this one. Even if nobody else, least of all my pop jurists, agree with me on it. I am STILL right, this is STILL good, so ner to you all. (I still love you guys)


A good pop record. Not the best song of the year, get ahold of yourself everyone! This is just wrong. I like this song plenty, why am I apologising for it being overrated, I mean at least it's something I actually like being given too much credit. Well, that's enough apologising for now. It still stomps and I still like it.

54. M-FLO LOVES BOA - The Love Bug

You will have to excuse me. I'm not writing about this one. I'm reserving it for a Stypod entry early next month. I will just say that this is a wonderful piece of K-Pop that features bad rapping and an interpolation of Rapper's Delight. Gorgeous.

53. DAVID BISBAL - Buleria

Simply the most incredibly kinetic four minutes of pop this year. A Livin' La Vida Loca for the 00s, except even more so. You don't need to create ironic distance to love this, though. The brassiest brass imaginable. The most whirlwind-esque groove you'll here - if you can't move to this, you probably can't move. Though the first time you hear it, you at least have surprise as an excuse because it kicks off with the title and some drums - but from then on, it's shut up and dance time.
# 9:33 PM []

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 66-60
66. SCHILLER - Leben (I Feel You)

When I actually saw the lyrics to this written down, I began to question why I liked it so much, but the vocalist, Heppner, has this sort of vaguely enigmatic tone that could probably make anything sound intriguing and profound (Except I heard a Paul Van Dyk song that proved this theory to be a load of rubbish, so there you go).

65. PHOENIX - Everything Is Everything

One of the things about some great pop in 2004 is how it's cognizant of trends in R&B without aping it. Those stuttering, lightning flashes of guitar - The Neptunes wouldn't even need to remix this, they're probably a bit jealous already. Again, it's our ESL popstars that are best at producing this kind of world-weary lyricism - "The things I do possess/sometimes they own me too". Relate or repent.

64. BOSSON - A Little More Time

Vocoded and heliumed to the gills at various times (or is he?), this performs the duel feats of being both airy and squishy. As nice as the verses with their peculiar thudding drum machine blurps are, I was completely won over by the chorus, which is pretty stratospheric - though that may just be the fact that Bosson sounds like he's singing in a room with no air in it.

63. LIBERTY X - Everybody Cries

The dying throes of a fundamentally acceptable mixed-sex pop group. They probably thought they were going to stay at the top when they recorded this, but it still sounds awfully prescient of their gradual decline in chart positions. Clawing and desperate.

62. TM REVOLUTION - Albiero

Though apparently much derided in Japan, this man-who-dresses-as-a-woman fulfils most of my manic J-pop quote. Again, I am thankful for my monolingualism, without which I could not imagine that this song is about, in no particular order, smashing objects for no reason, running around chasing one's own shadow while high on a cocktail of happy pills, being repeatedly slapped in the face and then being welcomed back to reality with a bucket of ice water.

61. SASA, TIN & KEDZO - 365

Possibly Colonia's (Croatian pop powerhouse) most infectious track of the year, three minutes of hip-pop as catchy as Ebola, with the three guys in front being the three runners-up on Croatia's vague equivalent of Idol. Please note: don't download the English version of this track (called Black Is Black) as it's crap, frankly.
Also search: Nista Ili Sve

60. KATY ROSE - Overdrive

In a year where mini-Avrils sold decently and the real Avril was both commercial and critical gold, why was the best single released by any of the knock-offs such a failure? "Yeah yeah!" she goes, as she turns insane in the California sun amid a flurry of gawky, cute couplets and fizzing, buzzing guitars.
# 10:54 PM []

Monday, December 13, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 72-67
72. LE MANS - Countach (Now I'm Dancing)

Kris Le Mans has sung on two songs that I've heard, but I get the feeling that she's versatile. She can do twisted histrionics, but she also does this pumping, bassy, quasi-dance workout. I love the intro riff, which is sort of a nagging aside fitting with the you-suck-and-you-won't-bring-me-down theme of the lyrics. Pop songs about dancing to get over someone or to avoid feeling shit are nowhere near as common as they should be.

71. BODIES WITHOUT ORGANS - Conquering America

Notable for sounding an awful lot like Living On A Prayer done Europop (though Suomen wonders Gimmel beat them to that particular rip-off by a good two years), which is pretty appropriate for a song called Conquering America. Army of Lovers may be long gone, but their spirited, tacky pop will never go away, and BWO are probably their heirs-apparent - producer, pretty vocalists for hire, salacious song titles (Sixteen Tons of Hardware indeed!) and a giddy sense of abandon.
Also search: Living In A Fantasy

70. AIR - Surfing On A Rocket

2004 was the year I finally "got" Air, largely due to this wonderful single and also Cherry Blossom Girl in which the everyday words are rendered delightfully sinsiter in the French accent. "Five four three TWO ONE zee-rooo! You'll never see me again!" is the highlight, but there are perhaps five or six bits competing for second, the dull, thudding plod of the bass, the clicking riff under the chorus, I could go on forever.

69. ESKOBAR - Love Strikes

Though their albums have a bit of a soft country influence, it wasn't really apparent on this teaser single, which was just straightforward, charging indie pop of the best kind. I think something about the crisp drums and the "ooh-ooh-ooh"s in the intro that get me, along with the vaguely fey, sweet delivery - almost squeaky, but in a good way.


The title means "You are guilty", which is pretty perfect. I previously described her voice as being that of a Slavonic Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and I stand by that, but SEB was never this bubbly and aerified, or quite this adorably blank. The sort of mid-90s Eurocheese that's deeply unfashionable hasn't died out in Croatia, but it has gotten considerably more inventive and classy in the last few years. Also: "Woo! Uh-huh! Woo! Uh-huh!".
Also search: I wouldn't know where to start... I'll get back to you.


Needs punchier drums, but nonetheless, this has nice crunchy riffs and Charlotte arguably has a better sense of melody than her erstwhile band leader Tim Wheeler, but she shares his ability to sell a line with her wavering vocals and inflections. Oh, and let's not forget the backing vocals, swoons and ooh-bah-bahs and a chorus that just sounds like summer at the beach or something - the title is a complete red herring other than a reference to Kids In America. It doesn't sound like being in love despite the opening - "He looks so good, my honey to me", but it's clearly a rush of something.
# 10:06 PM []

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 79-73
79. THE THRILLS - Not For All The Love In The World

It's perfectly reasonable to hate The Thrills, though I actually don't, for their hazy Americana-via-UK stylings which I suppose are a bit sleep-inducing. But I know some of these people own Mercury Rev records so they can't hate this without being grossly hypocritical. If you know what Goddess On A Hiway by the Rev is like, then you basically know this. Listen to this next to any other Thrills song and, strangely, you understand the criticisms - they usually sound numb and boring, not too caring about anything as they're a bunch of slacker kids. On this, suddenly, it's as if they got it right - music, melody, meaning, you know? A sense of palpable hurt, a glorious string arrangement and guitars that sound like weeping. It doesn't quite induce weeping from me, but it's not bad.

78. DO ME BAD THINGS - Time For Deliverance

Why wasn't this absolutely massive? Chugga-chugga indie rock, energetic rather than angry, mind, and A WAILING BINT going all proper singing-like underneath it, and then over the top of it, and then all over it. She's a secret weapon, hived off until a minute in, and what a weapon - it's a trick I don't get too tired of because nobody has ever thought to do it before. And what a chorus it is - loud, shouty, fun and you could probably remember it when drunk, which is probably the most important thing. Big props to the incomparable William B. Swygart who insisted I give this a listen because he just KNEW it would be my kind of thing. It so is.

77. THE STREETS - Dry Your Eyes

Much of its charms have faded, but those first dozen listens were powerful. It's time to put this one away and not listen for another few months and then relive those first experiences again. Some of it sounds a little overcooked, but the best parts are one where Mike Skinner knows just what he wants to say and damned if he's going to let a little thing like sensible metre get in the way - when he crams an extra word in, or doesn't quite have his words right, it feels right - it sounds like desperation, and it is just as sad as it was intended. A couple of chords, a string sample and a universal truth. A blatantly obvious mega-hit, in the best sense of the word (no, not "mega-hit", I mean "obvious").

76. LENA PHILIPSSON - It Hurts/Det Gor Ont

Legs that went on for miles, pole dancing on microphone stands and disco diva stylings par excellence. A frothy disco number in Swedish translated by someone with a diabolical sense of humour or a charming naivety into a song that is clearly about anal sex - I know, I saw the way she looked at the camera when she delivered the lines with the biggest gulf between the connotative and the denotative. All of this would mean nothing if it weren't for the exploding climax that is the lead-in to the last chorus... "You're always on my mind!!!!". The Swedish version can't match that for power, but its preponderence of softer consonants makes it rather beautiful on the ear too. It wouldn't have been my choice to represent Sweden at Eurovision this year, not because it's bad, it's just that Melodifestival had such an embarrassment of treasures this year....

75. AUTOLOVE - Bulletproof Heart

...like this. A magnificent bit of frosted-over electro with a keen lyrical hook, great burbling verses that hint of a menace that doesn't come as the chorus raises the temperature a few degrees into the realm of the habitable. One of the things I love about Swedish lyrics in English is that often they're very clever - they use wordplay and puns better than many native speakers, but often they miss the mark ever so slightly and come up with some neat turns of phrase: "You made love a battlefield/This one I will lose" is not in any way correct, as the "this one" should refer to just a battle, but it's still a memory-resident line. But it's all about the way the singer is weak, then strong, then weak, then strong and then it all collapses in on itself right at the end.

74. KERLI - Beautiful Inside

Estonian wounded-balladry par excellence. She's lost without you and beautiful no matter what they say. That should give you an idea what this sounds like, except, as t.A.T.u. proved, singing it with an Eastern European accent makes it either funnier or more powerful. Her protestation of disinterest - "I don't care about me! I don't care about YOU!" - is clearly false, her declaration - "I'm not trying to hide that I am beautiful inside" - is corny, but that would only be a downside if Kerli sang it with any degree of honesty or earnestness - this pudding is grossly overegged to the point where the histrionics are absolutely delightful.

73. THE DELGADOS - Everybody Come Down

The same cloud of despair that hovers over all their best songs is still here, but it seems like the instruments have been cleaned of it. Emma Pollock, though, her voice is so soaked in demons and doom that even a straightforward, lovely pop song with handclaps drips with a kind of jaded weariness. Frankly, this was a bizarre choice of single when one considers the all-conquering brilliance of Girls of Valour, Come Undone and The City Consumes Us, against any of which this comes off decidedly worse, but on its own merits, this is a short, sharp, sweet indie pop song of the type that people just don't do enough of. Too much meaning, not enough hooks, you see. Not here, though, this is just right.
# 9:06 PM []
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