Top 100 Tunes Of 2007 (10-1)
10. Kathy Diamond - Over (Permanent Vacation)
'Over' is probably not everybody's choice for a standout track from Miss Diamond To You but with each listen, it's 'Over' that grows in stature past more immediate songs like 'All Woman' or 'Between The Lines'. A distinctly thick slab of smoky soul with slightly fucked-with vocals from Diamond, 'Over' hits the ground running and finds its groove from the get-go, before teasing that carnal groove out for as long as is humanly possible. It's a sensuous, humid grind with a love for the black-and-whites (I'm no keyboard expert, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I can hear rhodes, hammond and electric piano all in the mix at different points) and one which burrows further and further into your brain on repeat plays.
Kathy Diamond - Over (mp3)
Bonus: Kathy Diamond - Over (Instrumental) (mp3)
9. Kelley Polar - Rosenband (Environ)
Despite, or in fact, because of all his affectations, Kelley Polar is thought of, in certain circles, as something of a warped genius. For all his strange quirks (this interview for Fact Magazine reveals a lot of them), Polar's music can be strikingly straightforward and disarmingly linear, almost pop-like, but scratch beneath the surface and there's a hell of a lot more going on than just irresistible hooks and operatic disco posing. 'Rosenband' is proof, if it were needed, that the Julliard-trained disco faun is also a shrewd arranger too. It's a masterpiece of intricate layering and button-pushing textures. What looks at first glance to be a rather sugary confection reveals itself to be as dense and multi-faceted as Tchaikovsky further down the line (something which the instrumental remix, also included on the Chrysanthemum EP, adds considerable weight to). The best thing about 'Rosenband' though is that it's merely a taste of the mind-expanding brilliance of Polar's sophomore record, I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling (which takes its title from this track) has to offer. 2008 will be his to own.
Kelley Polar - Rosenband (mp3)
Bonus: Kelley Polar - Rosenband (Magic Tim's Instrumental Version) (mp3)
8. M.I.A. - Paper Planes (XL)
Both a direct comment on what it feels like to be an immigrant in the Western world today and a certified club rocker, 'Paper Planes' perfectly essays what makes M.I.A. such a relevant, brilliant artist. The gunshots and cash till sounds in the chorus can just as easily have their meaning pontificated upon on Newsnight as they can elicit revolver and money-counting hand gestures in sweaty basement bars. Pop songs that have "something to say" are often ridiculed, as pop is obviously the most transient of all genres, but M.I.A. has crafted something that's as for the ages as it is achingly hip. No mean feat. Also, can you hear 'Straight To Hell' without thinking of this anymore? Thought not.
M.I.A. - Paper Planes (mp3)
Bonus: Watch the video on YouTube, complete with cameos from DMX, Ad Rock and Mike D. Also, check out the controversial performance of it on Letterman and, courtesy of Palmsout Sounds... M.I.A. - Paper Planes (Remix feat. Bun B and Rich Boy) (mp3)
7. Of Montreal - The Past Is A Grotesque Animal (Polyvinyl)
You know how when sometimes you get on the bus and sit next to someone who, at first, seems like just a regular person, only to have them regale you with an account of their mental breakdown as soon as your bus leaves the station that doesn't end until you make your excuses and get off the bus two stops before you normally do? Well that's a bit what 'The Past Is A Grotesque Animal' felt like the first time I heard it. It has all the signifiers that have coloured Of Montreal's recent work (a reliance on synthesizers, the increasingly strident vocals of Kevin Barnes), but this is a completely different beast altogether. If Hissing Fauna... was Barnes' break-up album, then this is the manic, drunken-dialling, wailing lowest ebb. And it's earth-shatteringly great, both alien and relatable at the same time. Barnes gets more and more desperate and hurt-sounding as the music gets more squalling and frenetic (even though it actually stays at the same pace all the way through its near-12 minutes). He goes through every emotion on the map before realising that he'll never really lose the girl with the resigned, yet creepy sigh of "No matter where you are, we're always touching by underground wires". You might want to take notice of that nervous, fragile figure next time you're on your way home.
Of Montreal - The Past Is A Grotesque Animal (mp3)
Bonus: A rather touching acoustic rendition of 'The Past...' for aol.com.
6. Holy Ghost! - Hold On (DFA/EMI)
From the opening strutting drum break, through to the near-frantic close, via all the staccato synth throb, ear-tickling clav and everydude vocals in between, 'Hold On' is close to being DFA's finest pop moment thus far. Previously known as indie-hoppers Automato, Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel have fully embraced both the arty disco-not-disco of ZE and the all-out hedonism of Prelude and West End to make the ultimate New York retro disco hit. There's no way it could have come from anywhere outside the five boroughs as it's shot through with just the right amounts of both confidence and neurosis that comes from being a genre which has cocaine and fashion as equal outside influences. Even though it's only the first fruits of their labour, Holy Ghost! feel like the perfect fit for DFA Records in 2007 and the next evolutionary step in the Big Apple's mirrorball-lit lineage. Colour me excited to find out where they go next.
Holy Ghost! - Hold On (mp3)
Bonus: Check out footage of Holy Ghost! recording future material in their Woodstock retreat. 'Static On The Wires' already sounds like a classic.
5. Hatchback - White Diamond (THISISNOTANEXIT)
Although I originally fell in love with the excellent Prins Thomas remix (talked about here and posted here), the more enduring love affair has been with the sterling original. Although there's almost nothing original about it - it cribs from Harmonia, Neu! and Eno to name but three - there's something just so brilliantly fresh about it. The west coast American cats have a different take on cosmic disco from their Scandinavian comrades (as I outlined in my blurb for Sorcerer's White Magic album. Sorcerer, incidentally, is one half of Windsurf with Hatchback), it's more sun-drenched, more inviting and alluring. After all, who would choose fjords over beaches? 'White Diamond' would crumble under too much scrutiny, so your best course of action would be to download it and let the easy, laidback vibes wash over you. As good as 21st century Balearica gets.
Hatchback - White Diamond (mp3)
Bonus: Hatchback - Everything Is Neu (mp3)
4. Still Going - Still Going Theme (DFA/EMI)
2007 was officially The Year The Piano Came Back. Whereas in recent times, percussion had been the thing to get right in dance music circles, be it the clicky micro-snares of minimal techno or the rowdy cowbells and handclaps of disco-punk, but this year producers really fell back on the strength of a good keys lick. There was the hammering, Reich-esque simplicity of 'All My Friends', the upfront, running disco scale of 'Sooner Or Later' and Hot Chip even wrote a song about theirs. More than any other release in 2007, 'Still Going Theme' sang the praises of ebony and ivory (no traces of Stevie or Macca to be found) so eloquently and powerfully that it didn't need words. A refrain so natural it sounded as if it had been idly banged out by the cleaner in Still Going's studio while she dusted the faders moves the whole thing along so fleet-footedly, as dreamy ambient synths bubble away in the background and a stop/start, insistent b-line gives it an irresistible bottom-end. From its first appearance on Lindstrom & Prins Thomas' Essential Mix (easily the most zeitgeist-capturing mix of the year), it was obvious it had class stamped right through it and dancefloors the world over suddenly became populated with goofs playing air keys. What more could you possibly ask for?
Still Going - Still Going Theme (mp3)
Bonus: More pianos: !!! - Yadnus (Still Going To The Roadhouse Mix) (mp3)
3. Chromatics - In The City (Italians Do It Better)
'In The City' is easily Italians Do It Better's finest moment to-date and it's as perfectly simple an example of their downtempo, chilling, Italo-disco-referencing sound as they're likely to ever produce. Equal parts John Carpenter, Goblin and P. Lion, the incessant drip-drop of the watery synth arpeggio provides the anchor for Ruth Radelet's drugged vocal and Adam Miller's choppy new wave guitar line to embellish upon. Even though it sounds frosty and distant, 'In The City' actually comes across as almost comforting, like huddling in a darkened doorway with an illicit love on a cold, damp night. This comes from Chromatics' knowledge of and genuine affection for their sources. Other, lesser artists can do easy-to-please facsimiles, but Chromatics are the condensation-breathing, chain-smoking, leather-clad real deal. Embrace the ennui.
Chromatics - In The City (mp3)
Bonus: Watch the gloriously cheap-looking video for 'In The City'.
2. UGK feat. OutKast - Int'l Player's Anthem (Sony BMG)
The perfect mainstream hip-hop moment of this and many other years was remarkable for more than just being a great song. It marked the return of Andre 3000 and Big Boi as a force to be reckoned with - even though they rap at different ends of the track, they've rarely sounded so in tune with each other - it also showed that UGK are as adept at grin-inducing euphoria as they are at mean-mugging gangsterism. Plus, let's not forget that the tragic death of Pimp C last month couldn't help but lend the track a weight of poignancy. 'Int'l Player's Anthem' covers the thug love spectrum from Dre's heartstring-tugging, salty romanticism in the opening verse, mirrored by Bun B's disarmingly sweet take on the "what's a pimp with no ho'" allegory, while Big Boi lays bare the perils of getting with a gold digger ("Ask-ask Paul McCartney"), giving the song a bittersweet finale. Perhaps fittingly, it's Pimp C's forceful holler that makes best use of Willie Hutch's florid horns and his verse is easily the year's most enduring hands-in-the-air moments. What better legacy is there to leave?
UGK feat. OutKast - Int'l Player's Anthem (I Choose You) (mp3)
Bonus: Andre 3000 in a kilt? Business as usual then. Watch the best video of the year.
1. LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great/All My Friends (DFA/EMI)
Cop out! Look, one of the main rules I set myself when compiling this list was that there could only be one song per artist, which made selecting the number one a real chore. I was going to have to leave one of them out. Then I invoked the "my blog - my rules" adage and chose not to choose, so a joint number one it is. For me, these two songs are inseparable anyway, despite being yin and yang. They combine to make the most devastating one-two punch on an album in years, they complement each other so well. There's the heartworn intimacy of 'Someone Great', then the balls-out inclusiveness of 'All My Friends'. Plus, these two songs mark out the newfound maturity in James Murphy's songwriting better than anything else on Sound Of Silver, so it seems natural not to bisect them. Gone is the snarky, narcissistic uber-hipster of 'Losing My Edge' in favour of a genial, reflective, baggy-trousered philanthropist. I'll write more about them tomorrow (hint-hint), but for now, just revel in the two best songs of the year once again.
LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great (mp3)
LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends (mp3)
Bonus: Watch the videos for both 'Someone Great' and 'All My Friends'.
Top five albums of 2007 to come tomorrow. Keep watching these pages.
Labels: top 100 tunes of 2007