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Saturday, December 25, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 15-11
15. MANIA - Looking For A Place

Dear world,

I am sorry. This song's underperformance is all my fault. The fault of me and everyone else who didn't catch this song's supreme genius from the first 10 listens. It wasn't immediate enough, it just didn't seem all that bothered. People like me didn't go out and buy it and it stiffed. The excellent follow-up, Money In My Pocket - which provided the sass and immediacy this one didn't have - ironcally got canned, and the rumoured-to-be excellent album sits in Brian Higgins' cupboard. A grave injustice, and I only have myself to blame.

How could this have not burrowed into my skull on the first listen? How could I have seen its insouciance as being anything other than an enormous plus? Why wasn't the whistle the number one sound in my head from the first listen? I don't know. Whatever it was, I promise I'll do better next time. But it's too late now. I'd get properly angry about this, you know. OK, Chewing Gum only did slightly better, but it was a hit in its native Norway, and she's got underground buzz. Mania have just sort of vanished, and listening to the songs they've done that have leaked in one way or another, they really did have a lot to offer. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that this is what the second Sugababes album would have sounded like if Siobhan hadn't left - like a step into an alternate universe without having to destroy the one we're in now.

I said it was subtle before, but until you listen to it on headphones, you might even miss that. The backing vocal "oohs", the way Giselle seems a bit louder in one chorus, then Niara in the next, a little bit of guitar underneath the second verse, despite it not sounding all that concerned with itself, it's absolutely immaculately put together, every detail worked out for maximum critical appeal, though something's gone wrong and it passed everyone by. Maybe if they'd said "fuck" a lot in the chorus.

14. ALCAZAR - This Is The World We Live In

Because pop kids do everything better, that's why Sugababes went to #1 with their re-recorded We Don't Give A Damn About Our Friends and Speedway only sent their version of A Stroke Of Genius to #10. It's that simple, really. And who is more shiny, glittery and downright obnoxious than Alcazar? Many have quite correctly identified the key thing about this song as being about the handclaps. I can't really add anything to that, but I will just say that there is a kind of well-meaning love of the absurdity of mashing up Genesis and Diana Ross that is just too pure and perfect for your average bedroom bootlegger to do - they can make it, but they can't love it almost to the point of a sticky death but not quite, so This Is The World In teeters on the brink, but stays just on the right side of camp stupidity. There's really very little else to say about such sheer, simple inspiration.

13. J-FIVE - Modern Times

Glee. One of two songs I managed to smuggle into Stylus's Top 40 Singles of 2004 - even if it was Number 40 and my attempts to describe why this song is so good continue to fall completely flat. I shall try again, for the third time.

Charlie Chaplin is an icon. He needs no feting in song. But, for the soundtrack to the re-release of Modern Times - the movie, here we have it, and if you're going to do it, do it right. It's almost cartoonish in its simplicity - there's no fancy beat happening here, and as far as the samples go, even though it's a new source, it's nothing that hadn't already been done by Kelis, or, indeed, Lucas way back in 1994. But what wins for this song is the breathless enthusiasm with which Mr Five (Johnny to his friends) earnestly toasts his subject - not even smirking one inch when he declares Charlie "The Mack Daddy of the 1930s" - and the line from modern rappers back through the original Rat Pack is extrapolated that little bit further. Not to mention the fact that "He kicked the game/Go figure/Had no time for gold-diggers" has this infectious swagger that was unmatched by any other hip-hop single this year. Take your Jay-Zs and your Kanyes, I'll dance in my chair to this.

12. HITCH HIKE - Travel Girl
GWEN STEFANI - What You Waiting For?

Included as one entry because a) they're really similar, b) they're equally great, and c) they came next to each other alphabetically, so it just seemed logical. Yes, I'm cheating. Cheating because, technically really, Travel Girl is from 2003, but it ran out of the gates in January and February. I still don't know anything about it really. I just know that if (when?) pop music gets bloated and becomes psychedelic, it probably won't be too bad.

A complete accidental discovery when I scoured the Greek charts, I couldn't even tell you where they're from. What I do know is that a brashly-accented American girl telling clipped anecdotes about her hitch-hiking should have been a cult dance hit this year. As it is, it's still languishing in obscurity... and I kind of like it like that. Not enough to not repost the MP3... Shame that single cover looks like an out-take from that Alanis Morrissette video for Thank U, though.

Gwen's single is pretty much the same musical formula, except with her using all of the vocal tics she has that either endear her to you, or make you froth at the mouth and, to be completely fair, a slightly more substantial song. But the sheer shock value of a 35-year-old American superstar so brazenly doing a Europop single was a bit diminished for me, but at least it's a quality piece of work.

Lyrically, it's got to be about her biological clock again, doesn't it? Stuff the Harajuku Girls for now, Gwen wants kids, and there are enough lines in this song that work with that theory to cancel out the ones that don't.


Oh, Cathy Dennis doesn't need any more plaudits, she's got a barrelful of money, and she deserves every single red cent of it. We've got a world where Britney's people turned down Graffiti My Soul and Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex and we're still here somehow, so perhaps the world wouldn't have stopped spinning on its axis if they'd said no to this one as well, but the fact that they said yes has made the world a much less hostile place in which to be a Britney Spears fan, given the indie kids a jolly good spanking (which they enjoyed, I suspect) and basically strode across our screens again with such confidence and presence that the idea that she was past-it was no longer demonstrably false, but also faintly ridiculous. Someone who was past-it cannot command the power to seize a song of this quality - those magnificent strings! - sure, every man and his musical stoat wanted to be the one to write the song that made her big again, but the fact is, if she weren't still big, there'd have been no reward. Not a bad point on the curve for her to have been, you know.

Like the best pop stars who don't write their own material, Britney is an endlessly varied selection of cavasses for listeners and crucially, songwriters, to project upon. And if it weren't for her bizarre, erratic persona, we wouldn't have this bizarre, erratic strike of lightning to adore.

Britney Spears has done more good songs in her four albums than Madonna managed on her first. She has done fewer show-stoppingly classic ones, but as long as her star doesn't wane appreciably, more will come. A hundred shots of her sans make-up in ironic trucker hats doesn't alter the fact that her robot frog voice, distorted to such a point that she may not even be real, is sexy. She is a golden, plastic icon for children, gays and horny boys. She provides a fascinating, user-friendly front-end to some great pop songs. She is every inch a star, Toxic is every inch a timeless classic and I'm drooling on my keyboard again.
# 4:05 PM []
Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 20-16
20. V - You Stood Up

I was laughed at for saying this was the best boyband ballad since O-Town's All Or Nothing. I now see the error of my ways, it's much better! That said, I don't really find boyband ballads that appealing, being as they usually accompanied by really awful videos in which all the members usually bear really punchable expressions.

This song isn't perfect - the lyrics in the chorus are a bit repetitive and clumsy - one of those lines about standing up and stealing it could have been changed, but V, or at least some of them, can really sing, and have found the exact point on the emotional spectrum where it's felt enough to detect, but not so much that it drowns in a treacly mess.

And if "give it all back, give it all back" is not one of the most gloriously glurgy and enjoyable moments of the year, then there's something wrong with me, and even if it isn't, it makes for a nice break between the choruses regardless.
Also search: Fools

19. ANTTI TUISKU - Yrita Ymmartaa

Antti once got bottled off at a live perfomance. Well done. Not bad for someone who can't really sing and looks a bit like a ferret. He's basically second-string on this record, in which an absolutely divine string snatch is the real thing to listen out for. I actually asked a number of well-educated people if they recognised it, and amazingly, none of them did - it's in all likelihood an original composition, yet it sounds absolutely timeless and classic. It's basically sitting out there waiting to be either sampled or covered wholesale.

All of this would mean nothing if the song above it wasn't strong, and fortunately it is, meaning ferret-boy doesn't have to do too much work. He delivers more than adequately here, taking a delightful, flowing Finnish track and alternately singing it like a lullabye and an R&B ballad (the latter not quite as convincingly) - the line after the second chorus - "Taas yritan, mut sanat ei riita" if you can imagine what that sounds like - is the key line (not that I have any idea what it means), as its first iteration comes over a lovely isolated guitar, the last just over the string sample - it starts and ends on its highest note.

18. CORTEZ vs X-RAY featuring LEMON JUICE - What U Get Is What U C

It's a travesty that lots of people outside mainland Europe have not heard this one, but I'm remedying this - some months too late, admittedly. I think they're Spanish, I could be wrong, but what I am not wrong about is that this is the greatest comedy rap single of all time. I'm not entirely sure whether it's funnier if you assume that they don't know that they're hilarious, or if it's seriously a joke.

What I also know is that rather than being a hip-hop single, this is basically a cheesy Mediterranean Eurodance single with rap on it, delivered with a straight face that works equally well if it's a punchline or if it isn't. You'd never get away with this in your own language thanks to that irritating thing called shame. "You're in the presence of a motherfuckin' rap star!". Pure, unadulterated genius. And bloody fun with it.

17. ERIK FABER - Century

That'd be the token Song With Guitars in the top 20. Well, sue me. But Erik made me feel his anguish, even if for one perfect line - where he bellows out with what sounds like his last ounce of strength - "Stumble through the fire! Sweet sweet fire!". Even if, on the surface, this appears to be the same gutless angst peddled by all too many pale British indie kids, there's a lightness of touch and an honesty that places this streets ahead.

It would have to be, because as far as it goes structurally, it's nothing special. Verse, chorus, verse chorus, another verse with the music stripped away, short guitar bit, chorus, outro. But each piece is so expertly produced and precise, and the lyrics belie a sensitive poeticism that normally is a massive turn-off: "Tell me, what did you wear? Innocence and red?" - tell me, who else has managed to incorporate such seamless hendiadys into the opening line of their opus? And there's even whistling at the end, lest the waves of wall-of-sound pop guitar prove just a little bit too weighty.
Also search: Yesterday's Call, Open Your Eyes

16. LENA PHILIPSSON - Delirium

It's funny that a by-rights past it disco diva who couldn't get into Eurovision in the 80s should end up as arguably one of the best pop stars of 2004. Or is it? This writer doesn't look down on Eurovision rejects, obviously, but how surprising is it that Kylie Minogue is still selling massive units in 2004? A bit, really. Lena Philipsson is 38 and looks like Posh Spice's naughtier, much more fun sister. This song still sounds exactly like Laura Branigan (RIP), features a kazoo and a series of the most infuriatingly ingratiating hooks imaginable. I actually thought some lines of it were in English - the chorus sounds like "you're living in a fantasy/you're living in delirium" but it's basically similar equivalent Swedish words.

The best bit is the middle section, where Lena is accompanied by some extremely cheap 80s synths that are taking her on a whirlwind trip into space - whooshing as if about to take off. The divine chorus comes back one more time, but it's what Lena does after it that makes this her best performance and thus her best single of the year - her repetition of single lines and here and there with more urgency just sounds so right, particularly swirled over such decadent 80s excellent. It may be the most unashamedly retro single I've loved this year, but Lena's been there and knows that the 80s aren't a cheap gimmick, they're a way of life for some, and she delivers with sincerity as if her life depends on it.
Also search: Det Nya Europa, Stopp! Nej! G? Härifr?n!

Happy Festivus, poplings.
# 1:11 AM []

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 25-21
25. PORTOBELLA - Covered In Punk

The reason why everyone is so keen to point out that Lucianna was in Crush with Donna Air is because Crush's Jellyhead is one of the best songs ever, and if you disagree, YOU ARE WRONG. It's that simple. Few people get to make two masterpieces in two separate halves of a career, so for god's sake people, stop hating and RECOGNISE that Covered In Punk is ludicrously catchy, pumping, pounding, incredibly fun to dance to AND suitable to be played extremely loudly in car. Of course, that means it crashed out of the charts and unlike Jellyhead didn't get a stomping Motiv8 remix that at least made it a minor hit overseas.

But it should have! The couplets are lovably dorky, the delivery is unimpeachable, the beat is unstoppable and that riff in the second part of the verse is the catchiest thing ever, at least until the juggernaut that is the chorus comes in (oh, and it has a proper pre-chorus. I love those things), ideal for fist-pumping or attempting to move rhythmically in a fashion to. One day someone should steal this riff and make another song out of it, it is impossible to get tired of.

24. SURFEROSA - Saturday Night

You could be forgiven for thinking that Surferosa are in trouble when the best thing about this song is "ah! Ah! AH! AH AH AH OW OW OW OW!" but you'd be wrong. Because the world needs more pop songs that are whirling dervishes of stupid, stupid fun like this one. Singer Mariann yelps and shouts over a delightful trash-pop backing as if she's going to die if she goes below a certain level of speed, ferocity and utter ear-destroying shrillness.

The only missing ingredient in their usual winning formula that's not present here is the cheap and cheery keyboards, but in the thick of a catchy riff like this one, it is perhaps possible to have too much of a good thing - I don't know if I'd want any distractions in the background detracting from any of this song's killer moments; the way Mariann sings "responsibility" as "risponsibiliteeee" - or indeed, any word that ends in a long "e" sound - "you gotta open up! you gotta!", "come on baby do the dance for me!" - indeed this may be the best song this year where the verses are even catchier than the chorus, but that's no slouch either, but when the verse is overlaid on TOP of the chorus (best trick in pop ever), that's the highlight. If I may steal a phrase from the ever-spot-on Alex MacPherson: "Sahara Hotnights as produced by Max Martin". No further explanation needed.
Also search: Neon Commando, Digital Audio Work Situation and especially the batshit-insane Chinese Moon.

23. ANASTACIA - Left Outside Alone

When shit postars become good, Part II. Whether you ever need to hear it again is debatable, but those first 500 listens were pretty astonishing, weren't they? I mean, what business has this woman got coming out with a song that is a cross between You Oughta Know and It's A Sin? None at all, that's what. This woman has a voice, but no guts. She sings a song about being weak and beholden to someone else into a hands-in-the-air disco anthem (remember I'm Outta Love, god how awful was that?), so when I heard she was going to do something called "sprock" (soul, pop AND rock, you see), I was preparing earplugs for the imminent pain. But the pain never came, because if her new direction wasn't a masterstroke.

She wails in the right places. She sounds a bit like Tori Amos, Kate Bush and maybe Amy Lee. But she doesn't copy, she's learned from them. She hates herself, and YOU at the same time. The guitar is gloriously menacing - although I'm not convinced it's real (not that I care) and when it's not buried beneath Anastacia's voice, the bass is pretty menacing too. I once started an ILM thread on this song and got accused of being a street-teamer for DARING TO SAY THAT ANASTACIA PUT OUT A GOOD SINGLE. Two months later, she had the biggest hit of her career, and I'm still not a street-teamer, so NER to the world. I'd still like to hear a proper rock cover version of it to see if it would work, though.

22. VENKE KNUTSON - Scared

There really is no broad category more maligned than female singer-songwriters with guitars who have pop hits, is there? A third of them get tarred with the Lilith brush, another third get slammed for having no proper credibility, and the other third are criticised as being pale imitations of the other two categories. Well, nuts to that, there is nothing wrong with a girl and her guitar. And no, there is nothing wrong with a girl and someone else's guitar either. So if you are unable to appreciate Venke Knutson, then the someone that's in the wrong place is YOU.

She's almost whispering the verses, and it's adorable. Then she tries to rock out, fails, and it's even more adorable. The key line - alluded to above - "I'm here and you're there, what's this space? Someone's in the wrong place", she sort of mixes them both and my heart melts and spills all over the floor as all my obvious buttons are pressed. Tragically, you only get to here it twice, as the second chorus goes into a shouty middle section that would have ruined the whole thing if it hadn't also been unfathomably adorable.

Yes, I admit it. I LIKE NATALIE IMBRUGLIA. And some of Michelle Branch's singles. And yes, I want to listen to artists who are just a little bit like that. And I'm not ashamed anymore! Venke Knutson is Norwegian for "truth serum" and Scared is magnificent and vulnerable in all the right ways.
Also search: I Wonder, Kiss

21. A*TEENS - I Promised Myself

Can you believe that I listened to this the other day and I had a bit of a blue emotional moment? Really, I did. Well, I do have extremely weak tear ducts - that's my story and I'm sticking to it. It's not as if the end of the A*Teens is something that I'm too attached to, I don't really care about them, but if the people that wrote their songs don't continue writing ridiculously sugary blissbombs of genius pop, I'll be disappointed. But is that worth it? After all, the people who wrote all those great Steps singles haven't done particularly good work for Pop!. Anyway, as far as cover versions go, this is well-thought out. The closing section of Nick Kamen's version is recast as a break in the middle. I think they could have retained the talkie bit in the middle, but the fact that it's survived a bit of jiggering around with shows that it's a fine, sturdy piece of songcraft.

And, atypically, it's one of the rare cases where in a mixed-sex group, a BOY takes the lead vocals and the song is not horrifying. Something magic's in the air. And yes, Max, it really does sound a bit like The Winner Takes It All.

It was the "In the midnight hour, I will wait for you" that did me in, in the end. It's a pretty incredible job when a song is this catchy and perfect even though it doesn't actually have a chorus, more a couple of verses and the aforementioned middle section which is absolutely to die - or cry (there was something in my eye, I swear) - for.
# 11:57 AM []

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 30-26
30. PAY TV - Trendy Discotheque

It matters, in the end, not a whit that in all likelihood, Trendy Discotheque is an endlessly cynical exercise by Proper Dance Music maker Hakan Libdo, entered in the Swedish Melodifestival as a joke, because for god's sake, what any underground subgenre of dance music needs is some memorable bits to break the endless monotony for the thinking pop fan. And this has got them in spades.

And for all the smirking (again, I don't know that there is any smirking, I'm just assuming), this is a properly fun song, because the tongue-in-cheek lyrics are funny, the chorus - backed by "woo! wow! woo! oh yeah!" is pretty irresistable - take note anyone still on the electroclash bandwagon - in its milking of what's a pretty clunky phrase, and the inflections in the verses are just so - "We are glamorous girls. But also very smart. We think the poor-are-boring. They can't afford to party at the Trendy Discoteque!". And because, under the sarcasm and dancing to THEIR music, don't we all secretly like to think the beautiful nightclubbers are a bunch of vacuous idiots?


Once basically an Elvis Presley tribute act who may or may not have influenced a generation of Country and Northern, Weeping Willows have added touches of The Smiths and Depeche Mode into their lovelorn, windswept pop - the abject misery of the former, and the atmospheric, dense sonics of the latter - this could have fit with a few minor tweaks on Ultra. (NB: Nobody else actually thinks this other than me, just ignore).

I think it's the spooky backing vocals, the faint drumming and the slightly trembling country-ish singing (floated in from another genre) that nonetheless fit so snugly on top of the whole tragically upset affair. This is the first song in my list I've actually had to play while writing about it, because I'm scared I'll leave something out - it just seems so insubstantial when I try to describe its uneasy charm - which is good, because otherwise I'd have forgotten things like that little string bit that leads into the chorus, and the break, which just sounds like a heart's death - you even hear a bell toll for it.

28. SHAZNAY LEWIS - Never Felt Like This Before

A song for all seasons - the chorus is a slow dance in the sticky heat, but the verses are frozen with tinges of winter. Far, far, far too subtle to release as a debut single, showing that if Shaznay was the songwriting brains in All Saints, she certainly never twigged why her former group waited until single number two before unleashing Never Ever - you've got to open with your I Know Where It's At to get people interested and dancing - then you can slow things up as much as you want because you have the crowd, or the radio audience, in the palm of your hand.

Of course, some of us were already smitten, and with good reason. She's not the most distinctive singer, a bit nasal for some, perhaps, but some of her awkward delivery hooks you deeper than her melodies, which are uniformly strong to begin with. That said, I do find her more convincing in the verses than when she says "I've never felt like this before/Can't say that you don't make me hot". Shaznay is the whitest black girl to ever be in a girl group, and you notice this even more when she raps, which she doesn't do on this. I just want to hear her do vulnerable love songs. With wall-of-sound production and heartbreak, because she's a doomed commercial force, she may as well go out frowning leaving her fans smiling.

27. BRITNEY SPEARS - Everytime

It is a fact that as long as it's raining, this is the best Britney Spears single ever. But since it's not always raining, it must be conceded that there are usually quite a few that are better. Actually, the fact that this song seems to be well beyond the nicotine-enhanced Mrs Federline's range nowadays doesn't seem to hurt it. She's hurt, so why shouldn't she be completely shot vocally?

But let's take another look. The lyrics - written by Britney - are rather good, aren't they? She's managed to retain the scribbled-in-diary feel of some of her earlier dabblings with a genuinely adult efficiency with the language - even if, despite what her and that Janet Jackson woman say - there is no such word as "everytime" - that make her claims that she is, at last, a woman, actually able to be swallowed. And there's a degree of honesty that reminds me of Madonna at her 80s peak too - this isn't her Live To Tell but that degree of ambition isn't present right now - give her time. Some credit to the lass with the Greek name who gets the co-writing credit - I believe she's currently a contestant on a reality TV show.

26. ESKOBAR - Bring The Action

My brother and I don't really agree on very much. I listen to obnoxious pop, he listens to the exact same thing except made by people nobody's ever heard of and without any catchy bits, and on vinyl instead of CD. But as regards Scandinavian rock, we generally agree that it is great, and I'd wager if you asked both of us what our 10 favourite artists of 2004 were, Eskobar would be the only match.

Is it the long nights up north that spur the Swedes to such awe-inspiring hights of melodics? Fierce competition amongst their small but well-developed pop scene? Genetics? The fact that they are influenced by great pop of the past but never beholden to its formulae, or endlessly and needlessly reverent towards the sort of modernist idea of One Perfect Band (as various UK outfits are towards, variously, The Beatles or Radiohead)? I don't know, but good pop always looks forward, even when it's looking downward.

Bring The Action is good pop, played on guitars, with a benign country influence. Its secret weapons are endless longing, slightly awkward lyrics and a few notes of piano underneath the verses. It's pop because it's not afraid to use the tricks of pop to make its point - here, floating strings and the music cutting out to emphasise the first line of the last chorus. It's pop because it's not afraid to be simple, there are no attempts at being profound or grandiose, just one statement: "I can't let you go now, though I want to". Listen and learn, Chris Martin, because this is what you think you sound like. You don't.
# 10:33 AM []

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 35-31
35. SCISSOR SISTERS - Take Your Mama

Ner, ner, I liked them before you did etc. Anyway, while the track selection for their album was probably not the best taken from what they had available, this song, not featured on their 2003 demos, was a fine surprise - "Mum! I wanna take you to a gay bar, gay bar, gay bar!" - all set to music reminiscent of Elton John when he was in the closet. How apt. I like 70s AM radio classic rock music far, far, too much to resist. (NB. I have never been to a gay bar)

34. EDO MAAJKA - No Sikiriki

This MP3 is a repost, but I had fewer readers back then, so here it is again. Unlike the rather harsher textures of his follow-up, the difficult-to-spell and jury-dividing Prziiii, this is a far more straightforwardly enjoyable bit of rap from Croatia. Gospel flourishes in the backing vocals, a much softer (though still rather, um, funky, within its context) backing and a chorus that you can join in with despite not having a clue what it's about - I do, and I don't - "No sikiriki, sikiriki no no!" is all you need to be able to produce. I've got no real technical idea of flow or what makes rappers great, but on the basis of the way these unfamiliar words are being thrown together, this sounds just fantastic.

33. O-ZONE - Dragostea Din Tei

This was 2004 for so many people, I won't hear a bad word said against it. Think for a moment that at one point this was in the French top 10, along with THREE other singles based on it. Even a dodgy (though not that terrible if you've not heard the original) knock-off had legs around the continent. And why? Because occasionally, you get a single that is just ludicrously happy, bouncy and irresistible. Think The Vengaboys, Las Ketchup, whoever you want. It must have been inescapable, I don't really know as I live in a country where it's never been a hit. Every daft gimmick about this works - the dodgy English translation video (for its unintended hilarity) was even a stroke of misguided genius. The chorus, dead catchy though it is, doesn't even suffer from being completely dwarfed by THAT line - if you can call it that... "Mai-ai-ha-hah!". Three rather gay-looking (except apparently THEY ARE NOT according to the Intranot) boys from the poorest country in Europe opened their mouths and ate the whole continent. Bravo.

32. WILL YOUNG - Your Game

This song was the co-subject of my first ever entry; to summarise, or rather completely rework, this was a bold, brash piece of classy AOR pop, crammed until bloated with fabulous pop moments - the theatrical backing vocals, the way Will actually genuinely sounds a bit miffed and flustered about the whole debacle, the way mid-way through the song "Time.. and time..." sounds as it it's going to end before leading straight into a bit where Will becomes a complete overacting ham with the drama unravelling around him, all of which is fabulously arranged.

31. YELLOWCARD - Ocean Avenue

Haha. Bet you all thought this one was the fake. Well it isn't. My sister (hi Monica!) was watching a video channel the other day and another Yellowcard video came on, and she mocked me - "don't you like these people?" - just on the basis of the video, as god, they're mingers and I hate the way these bands look. I defended them, "This one is a ballad, so of course it's going to be crap.". But, I thought to myself, Ocean Avenue is also a ballad in a way, I mean it IS LONGING and has a violin in it. Drawing a long bow, but amongst the mass of shouty confused emotions they try to cram into their album, on this song, they got it just right - it's sort of vague enough to be about whatever your own faded memories are, while being sufficiently tangible for every overwrought emotional overaction to be wrung out of the fairly insubstantial song being performed. Oh, I love it unreservedly. It reminds me of being young, stupid and back in high school, from where I have absolutely no memories like this, but I feel like I should.
# 9:32 AM []

Monday, December 20, 2004

Top 100 Singles of 2004-ish: 40-36
40. BASEMENT JAXX - Good Luck

You wouldn't want to be the guy who fucked Lisa Kekaula over, would you? Looks can't kill, but if wails and shouts could, there'd probably be a few exes going back hoping that it's not abbout them. Angry without being vicious, dramatic without going over the top and relentlessly exciting - and that's just the vocal track. Basement Jaxx's success rate at throwing everything into the mix and making it loud and pulsing really was improved by the criminally unpurchased Kish Kash, and as such this defies clear genre boundaries. It's soulful, it rocks, you can dance to it, you can pump your fists to it or even have a bit of an introspective moment to it. All the things magnificent pop is supposed to be.

39. WITHIN TEMPTATION - Stand My Ground

This is the aural equivalent of the time I went out to a restaurant with some friends, including two goths. Nobody wanted to sit at the adjacent table, but it was bloody good fun. Hideously overwrought drama, delivered with the straightest of faces, and basically, if Evanescence (oops, didn't mean to say it) had put this song out as their second single, they would be so stupidly rich, Jesus would have disowned them before the converse happened.

38. GREEN DAY - Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

I've worked out this song's appeal, at least to me. It's a perfectly successful collision of the world-weary Dylan-esque "proper" songwriting of "Warning" with the texture of the song that converted me to liking this band, no, not one of their power-pop singles, no, not the introspective ballad, but Redundant, except with a bit more crunch to make the kids feel it, courtesy of the same sort of anthemics that those kids like their early singles, the greatnesses of which I was too stupid to see without the benefit of hindsight. Well I'm not going to let it get away this time - this is bloody great.

37. BERTINE ZETLITZ - Fake Your Beauty

Hugely popular in her native Norway, conversion to her woozy, catchy electro-pop in other countries seems frustratingly confined to the pop intellegensia and cognoscenti. Well, that's quite enough of that. Bertine excels at short, sharp, nagging hooks - clear, cold synth lines, cute turns of phrase, and this is as fine an example of entryism as you're likely to hear - one listen, and that chorus is stuck in your brain, two listens and the verses are pretty likely to have joined it.
Also search: Ah-Ha, Back Where I Belong

36. SHAPESHIFTERS - Lola's Theme

Right when I needed it most, an uptempo, uplifting, uproariously catchy disco single conquered the world, or at least that part of the world to which I paid attention. Oh, I'm still a cynic to its claims of amorous transformation, but that doesn't diminish its charms at all - the horns (not a sample, either) is still a thing of great beauty, the. Chalk this up as one of those rare instances in which grafting a vocal track over a club one actually works brilliantly.
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