(This is Part 1 of a three-part tracks feature. Read Part 2 here.
So, 2011. The year when Arab Spring sprung; the year in which Osama Bin Laden bit the big one; the year that saw British high streets play backdrop to incredible scenes of disorder, and the seven-billionth human soul crawl onto the planet’s crowded surface.
But more importantly than all of that, 2011 was the year which musicOMH decided that for too long the world had been left without guidance while listening to what once were called singles. And so a weekly round-up was born to, in a remarkable coincidence given the current time of the year, a virginal mother and a slightly gullible carpenter father.
And three wise PRs did come from the east (Dalston, probably) to worship the Column, born King of the Blogs. And they brought gifts, of Goldfrapp, Frankmusik and Jessie J to honour their new saviour. And it was good. Apart from Jessie J, of course, who just made everyone angry.
So, as November gently seeps into December, it’s time to take stock of the highs (and lows) of the last 12 months – extolling musical virtues with shameless 20-20 hindsight while discounting the possibility of December dropping anything other than twee nonsense – with a view to counting down 2011′s best, brightest and most brilliant singles.
The Vaccines – Post Break-Up Sex
What we said then: Er…
What we say now: Okay, so the Tracks column didn’t technically exist in January 2011, but that’s not to say music didn’t exist either (though it was, admittedly, slipping into a monochromic, catatonic state of nothingness prior to the input of Tracks’ gawping, facetious and deeply unpleasant columnists).
Nevertheless, in with a bullet to claim the January crown is a track rendered all the greater by its subsequent, crushingly disappointing LP What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? Well, The Vaccines, we expected a hell of a lot more: Post Break-Up Sex is urgent and essential. A lapel-grabber of the highest order that promised the world and, for almost three full minutes, delivered with aplomb. Shame on you boys. Shame on you all.
Hercules and Love Affair – My House
Andy Butler himself references Brian Eno, and the more ethereal strands of Ultramarine, in his music and, here too, picks apart its technical reference points with an impressive relish.
Deerhoof – Super Duper Rescue Heads!
Sounding most fully-achieved, synth driven and possessed of a fluent bass line is Super Duper Rescue Heads! With its “Hello, hello / You lucky so-and-so” refrain and jerky yet ridiculously catchy tune, it manages to combines cuteness and humour, charmingly.
Ke$ha – We R Who We R
Another home for the dumbed down staccato riff permeating its way into the collective conscience. We’d ask for a change of record but the next one will sound just the same.
The Strokes Under Cover Of Darkness
What we said then: Under Cover Of Darkness is the sound of Casablancas, Valensi, Hammond, Fraiture and Moretti casting their collective noggins back to 2001 and successfully reviving that oh-so-essential effervescence of their debut.
It sounds a bit like Last Nite. A bit like Sometimes. And a bit like Hard To Explain. Quite a lot like The Strokes, really. Reassuringly like The Strokes.
What we say now: It sounds a bit like Last Nite. A bit like Sometimes. And a bit like Hard To Explain. Quite a lot like The Strokes, really.
Time hasn’t changed the fact that Under Cover Of Darkness is great, simply because it sounds like The Strokes. In fact, it was the song from Angles which sounded the most like the Strokes. Ergo, it was the best.
The rest of Angles was, well, ok. An album that you knew wasn’t as good as it could have been, but that you also knew was better than it might have been.
The Kills Satellite
Imagine if Ghost Town was a horse. And you took that horse and nailed two of its fetlocks together. Yeah. Oh, oh, and then turned that horse into a cyborg! Yeah. It (Satellite) sounds just like that.
FOE – Tyrant Song
A crushing, sassy slice of post-rock with a creepy, flickering Donnie Darko-style video that would make her cited influences – “Dahl, Lynch, Hitchcock, Zappa, PJ Harvey” – proud (though Bet Lynch is more a brass band sort of girl, surely?).
When Rihanna was good, she was very good. But when she was bad, she was pretty fucking dreadful.
S&M successfully baited the tabloids and was her worst single of the year. By some distance. It sounds, appropriately, like a normal Rihanna track that’s been handcuffed to a post, trussed up like a chicken and stripped of all of its dignity.
tUnE-yArDs – Bizness
What we said then: It’s amazing how exciting a word will look if you capitalise every other letter. Look: bEiGe! Yeah. Are you excited by that? We can tell.
It’s a song which probably should ‘defy categorisation’. But not for us. Not when we’ve got a category entitled ‘The Flying Picketts throwing steel drums at The Skatelites plus other random folky stuff’. Been a while since we’ve had the chance to use it, actually.
What we say now: Bizness struck us with a deep infection that lingers on. Merrill Garbus’s sophomore release was dandy, and this curious, innovative and altogether irresistible cut soundtracked a vast swathe of cool spring days. It was also proof of the tUnE-yArDs pudding we’d first sampled in 2009; BiRd-BrAiNs, indeed, wound up at number 20 in our top 50 albums of that year, nestled nicely between Wilco and Bat For Lashes.
What we’re trying to say is that we’re always right. Always.
PJ Harvey – This Glorious Land
Wonderful. Completely odd, completely contradictory, but completely wonderful.
The Goldberg Sisters Shush
A later John Lennon-style stomper with a thick fug of authenticity and a cracking one-shot video in which Adam looks like a manic Alfred Molina. Bliss.
Black Eyed Peas – Just Can’t Get Enough
If you are looking for proof that God hates us and wants us to be miserable, ladies and gentlemen, we give you the Black Eyed Peas.
Cults – Abducted
What we said then: As Cerys Matthews once sang, expectancy will always spoil a party. But will New York film student duo Cults suffer the same ignominy? (No.) Will their brand of joyful, ’60s-tinted genre-mashing – released on Lily Allen’s record label – catapult the band into the hearts of literally dozens of people? (Probably.) Will the likes of Vogue, The New York Times and Spin declare them “one of the bands of the summer”? (Yes, as will their Soundcloud comments.)
What we say now: While some songs peak early, fireworking across your consciousness with a brief and brilliant arc, only to quickly fizzle and disappear out, others take longer. But give more.
Abducted, and in fact, most of the Cults album, is definitely in the later category. It is a fuzzy but blissful, cute but dangerous, poppy but prickly, gem. It is also far darker and more sinister than you might initially think. We like Cults. We really do.
Esben and The Witch Chorea
When we dance like deranged zombies on windswept cliff tops, we’re given a stern talking to, a sugary cup of tea and a lift to the nearest bus stop. When Esben And The Witch do it, they wind up in an artsy black and white video and become the toast of the town. Where’s the justice in that, eh?
Arctic Monkeys Don’t Sit Down, Because I’ve Moved Your Chair
A twangy guitar suggests that while they were dancing around bonfires in the desert with Josh Homme , one of them was sneakily listening to Hank Marvin and while Alex Turner is back to being brilliantly surreal rather than worryingly straightforward.
Also, the video is an almost shot-for-shot remake of I’m Free by the Soup Dragons. Check it. It’s gold.
Katy Perry feat. Kayne West E.T.
A song boasting three enormous tits.
In space no one can hear you plagiarising TATU, which is handy, because E.T. couldn’t sound more like All The Things She Said without dressing Kayne up in a a schoolgirl outfit and soaking him next to a chain link fence.
(This is Part 1 of a three-part tracks feature. Read Part 2 here.