Saturday, January 05, 2008

Top 100 Tunes Of 2007 (30-21)

30. Radiohead - Reckoner (Self-released)

Of all the songs that Radiohead gave away over the internet this year, 'Reckoner' was easily the most beautiful. Clanging, cascading percussion hammers away whilst Thom's gorgeous, sinuous falsetto pines for something or other (I'm not bothering to parse the lyrics) and a snaky, meandering guitar line pushes its way through to an ambiguous climax. 'Reckoner' doesn't really go anywhere, but it doesn't have to. It just hangs there, radiating warmth and light for just short of five minutes. If there's something negative to be said, it's that it should be longer.

Radiohead - Reckoner (mp3)

Bonus: Live version of 'Reckoner' recorded for that there New Year webcast.

29. The National - Fake Empire (Beggar's Banquet)

Now that it's soundtracking trails of the new season of ER on More4, I guess that The National are no longer rock's best-kept secret. This can only be A Very Good Thing, in my opinion, as the cathartic uplift of 'Fake Empire' is something that anyone with a working set of ears can get behind. Baleful, staggering piano starts the song, before Matt Berninger's woozy, boozy croon looms up out from underneath (apologies for the drunk allegories, but I just can't help it when it comes to this band). When the bass and drums come in so ominously, you have a glimpse of the special place that the song is taking you to, but when you get there, it's heart-burstingly beautiful. Putting this song at the start of Boxer was a bold move and one that the album never fully recovers from, as far as I'm concerned (very good though it is), but taken on it's own terms, it's one of the most bewitchingly grand moments in indie-rock for many a year, not just this last one.

The National - Fake Empire (mp3)

Bonus: The band do 'Fake Empire' on Letterman.

28. Roisin Murphy - Overpowered (EMI)

I think Roisin's (first name terms) at her best when she's being all strident and schoolmarm-ish and the title track from her latest is a perfect example of that. She vamps about the track, staring the listener down with laser-guided epithets, but at the heart of it all, she's actually quite vulnerable. Much like the architectural costumes she wears in her videos these days, the bolshiness seems like something of a front. You wouldn't believe it during that ice-cold, stern bridge however, when she intones "Oxytoxins flowing ever into my brain" with all the iron-clad demeanour of Grace Jones at her best. Brilliant. Top marks to Seiji for the suitably fidgety production too.

Roisin Murphy - Overpowered (mp3)

Bonus: Watch Roisin perform the song at that Fashion Rocks thing (introduction by Sam Jackson, no less) and check out the superb video too.

27. Mark 7 - Sermon (Serotonin Edit) (Creative Use)

Mystery goes a long way on the edits/beardo circuit and, for a minute there, there was nothing more mysterious than Creative Use's fourth collection of edits. With a spiritual vibe and a wide range (gospel, house and balearic disco are covered on its three tracks), there was definitely somewhat of a clamour to find out where this came from. It wasn't long before it came out that this was the work of beardy legend, Mark 7 when people realised that one of the tracks ('Higher') was something he'd been playing out for quite some time. That was the track that got most of the recognition, but in my opinion, it's this, the a-side, that's the crowning achievement. A superb blend of late-80s chill-house and, oddly enough, a Martin Luther King-like sermon over the top, it sounded a little like Primal Scream's 'Come Together' (album version) and a lot like nothing else released this year. That's why it gets the nod for Token Edit in this year's list (in case you weren't paying attention, edits aren't necessarily allowed as there is a separate list for those forthcoming). That and the fact that it's a certified party-starter.

Mark 7 - Sermon (Serotonin Edit) (mp3)

Bonus: Mark 7 - Higher (Editnot) (mp3)

26. Studio - Out There (Information)

Never ones to consolidate and stick to one honed style, Studio like to jump about a bit from genre to genre, often during the course of one song. Never is that more evident than on 'Out There' (actually originally released last year, but held back by my stupidity in not putting anything by them on last year's lists), which starts off in a jerky, early-80s pop fashion, before the focus is relaxed for a foray into blissed-out beach music, before they go all balearic reggae on us and skank off into the horizon, clicking their heels like some twin-headed Dorothy, offering forth possibly the best use of kettle drums on a track in living memory (if you disregard The Knife). Spectacularly strange.

Studio - Out There (mp3)

Bonus: Shaky-cam footage of the guys doing 'Out There' live.

25. Escort - All Through The Night (Escort)

"Give it to me, say it to me, work it with me, if you're ready I'm about to pop!", so starts Escort's most forward moment in their nascent career thus far. A sexy, borderline corny (but never less than totally classy) statement of carnal intent, 'All Through The Night' makes good on the pre-coital promise offered by the sensual come-ons of early singles 'Starlight' and 'Love In Indigo'. It's less obviously organic than their other singles, by virtue of its liberal use of horny, porny synths, but it's still clearly the work of some kind of disco hydra. It also gave rise to the best YouTube fan video of the year. That full-length couldn't come soon enough.

Escort - All Through The Night (mp3)

Bonus: As knobwrangler puts it in the comments, "this is so ill i gotta go to the doctah": The Muppets do 'All Through The Night'.

24. Matthew Dear - Deserter (Ghostly International)

Some songs seem purpose-built for the nighttime and that's most definitely the case with 'Deserter'. Warm, echoey pads and raindrop keyboards, twinned with Dear's rich, unvarnished vocal mean that 'Deserter' is best served whilst pining for a lover and watching the moon move in the sky. Verbosity be damned, but that's all that really needs to be said of this song of rare, fragile beauty.

Matthew Dear - Deserter (mp3)

Bonus: Dear performing 'Deserter' with his Big Hands. That's the name of his backing band, by the way, not a medical complaint.

23. Bloc Party - The Prayer (Wichita)

'The Prayer' seems to distil all of Bloc Party's strengths into one mini-powerhouse of a modern rock song. The pummelling drums and sinewy bass are allowed as much time in the spotlight as Kele Okereke's soulful tones and Russell Lissack's choppy guitar. With retro-futurist synth swathes and incongruous Gregorian-like chanting on top of it all, it's a straight-up classic and as good as British rock music gets these days. In an age when 'gritty' has become a by-word for insincere fakery, Bloc Party's heartfelt romanticism, as corny as it can sometimes be, stands out from the increasingly-uniform crowd.

Bloc Party - The Prayer (mp3)

Bonus: 'The Prayer'! Live!!

22. Ame - Balandine (Innervisions)

Another good year for Innervisions and their well-honed brand of soul-drenched tech-house then, with top-line releases from Marcus Worgull and Tokyo Black Star, as well as this forcerful, almost violent banger from Kristian Beyer and Frank Weidemann. It's a relentless, pulsing, subtly shifting beast of a track and became the go-to floorfiller for right-minded techno and house DJs the world over this summer. It's a horse of a slightly different colour than Ame's other classic, 2005's 'Rej' (also on Innervisions). It's less refined, less gentlemanly than that track, but one thing that you have to say about 'Balandine' is that it goes for the jugular and has you up against the wall, menacing you with threats of all manners for 11-plus minutes and that is very rare in this day and age.

Ame - Balandine (mp3)

Bonus: Ame - Fiori (mp3) Ame's other big track of 2007.

21. Burial - Archangel (Hyperdub)

For all Burial's shadowy subterfuge, one thing that can be said about him is that, whoever he is, he's most definitely a humanist. In spite of all it's studio trappings (vinyl crackle, misshapen, distorted vocal samples) a gorgeous warmth radiates from 'Archangel', the nominal stand-out track from Untrue (an album full of stand-out tracks). Those string sweeps help a great deal, but even without them, the keening vocals, fucked up as they are, put flesh on this stepper's bones. Sparse, moving and alluring, 'Archangel' is certainly angelic.

Burial - Archangel (mp3)

Bonus: Nifty little fan video for 'Archangel'.



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