The final furlong; the last hurrah; the home straight, and straight home. The year lies on its death bed as the industry sups exotic cocktails, props up the bar at an exclusive wrap show and issues itself a hearty congratulation: “Great high-level synergy on getting One Direction to number one, guys – number one! – and we’ll definitely have to touch base going forward vis–vis the return of Steps.”
Elsewhere, 2011 manages the meekest, weakest of smiles as it draws its last breaths, haunting imagery of its highest highs dancing before its fading eyes: Robin Pecknold‘s wispy beard shivering in a cool April breeze; Will Young squeezing himself into the tightest of lycra get-ups; the intrepid duo known as Cults plundering footage of the Jonestown Massacre with surprisingly cheerful results.
You join us, dear friends, as we timidly tip-toe into 2011’s pungent palliative pit for the last time, clasp its clammy hands in ours and gently recite our most revered and reviled of its tenure. Curtain up…
Summer Camp – Better Off Without You
What we said then: Better Off Without You is a wonder. It’s an almost perfect piece of pop-homage; hand claps and harmonies and little tinkling runs galavanting across proceedings and leaving you squealing in delight.
It’s breezy, summery and sweet and yet lyrically, it’s a I Will Survive for the riotous generation. Less a question of survival, more a question of ‘thank fuck that’s over, you clinging piece of crap, I can now finally get on with my life now that you’ve ceased being the anchor dragging me to the bottom of the pond that is your feeble existence’.
But that’s a bit hard to get into a chorus.
What we say now: Actually, before we get to that. We have an incy-wincy confession to make. Of all of the songs we’ve featured throughout this year, only one has been covered twice, in two distinct columns, three months apart. And it’s this one.
It wasn’t big, it wasn’t clever and it certainly wasn’t deliberate, but it does demonstrate the depth of our adoration for Summer Camp.
An adoration that was sealed the day we first heard Better Off Without You.
Nicola Roberts – Lucky Day
Look, people. Here’s a list. Bruno Mars; Jennifer Lopez; LMFAO; Bruno Mars; Pitbull; The Wanted; Cher Lloyd; Olly Murs.
That’s a list of artists responsible for some of the UK’s Number 1 singles this year. Do you know where Beat Of My Drum got to? 27. 27! Why? Why do you people do this to us? I mean, LMFAO? Bruno fucking Mars, twice?! Why?
But, you can correct the wrong. Lucky Day is almost as good. So it better end up troubling the upper echelons of the charts. Or there will be trouble. Big trouble.
Note: upon release Lucky Day peaked at Number 40 in the UK Singles Charts. Thanks a bunch.
Tom Waits – Bad As Me
We can’t quite shake the image of Tom Waits performing this vocal between gnawing on a lovely, juicy bone and pawing at the bucket that’s been placed over his head to stop him licking his wounds.
Bad As Me (the first single from album number 24) is as you might expect: honky-tonking piano, bourbon-blues guitar, drums that may have been recorded in a intermodal container in the middle of the Atlantic, and *that* voice. It’s great, if just a wee bit predictable.
Still. You wouldn’t mess with the ol’ growler would you? You wouldn’t walk up to him, rub his little head and tell him heshagoodboy, oh, yes he is, hessuchagoodboy.
Chris Brown – She Ain’t You
The global shortage of raw pop material goes on. Miley Cyrus is rumoured to be “reinterpreting” Blue‘s All Rise as her own, Jason Derulo now simply releases old tracks with the artist’s name scribbled out and “by Jason Derulo” written in its place.
But it’s nice of Chris Brown to dedicate She Ain’t You to the memory of Michael Jackson. It is, after all, a note-for-note cover of Human Nature, right? Very classy of the good Mr Brown, and even classier of him to rethink his original idea for the title – She Ain’t You (So I Won’t Punch You In The Face Quite Yet).
No, it’s wrong to kick somebody when they’re down. Or in the passenger seat.
I Swim With Sharks – Just Be Good
What we said then: Now you’re talking: an incisive, infectious and hook-laden stomper accompanied by a slick widescreen promo that segues from World War I traumas to the most surreal of social club gigs. It’s not often that we refer to an act as “upstarts” without a smug grin of irony plastered across our faces, but I Swim With Sharks are the exception that prove the rule. Most definitely a name to keep tabs on.
What we say now: Well, well, well. A number that promptly dropped from our radar only to reappear just as quickly, Just Be Good remains dynamic and precise, coolly surfing an increasingly ominous, shuddering and serrated wave led by the likes of Cymbals Eat Guitars. We’re very much looking forward to a debut album next year and continue to enjoy one of the most satisfyingly bizarre videos since J. Mascis talked us through his latest solo efforts.
Friends – I’m His Girl
We like songs that strut, and I’m His Girl struts like it’s the muthafucking offspring of muthafucking Superfly and muthafucking Shaft. Yeah. Damn right.
What? Oh, who knows. Maybe they adopted.
It’s got a stylish retro-tinged video, a bassline that could have been, literally, hewn from solid funk and a breathy bubblegum vocal. All of those are, individually, certifiably good things. Put them all together and you’ve got something triply marvellous.
Eleanor Friedberger – My Mistakes
Eleanor Friedberger – her what’s in The Fiery Furnaces – is a little smasher: waiting for folk to get dressed to go out is an interminably tedious experience at the best of times, but Eleanor has turned the whole process into an endearing montage of the highest order, topped off with some high quality snecking on. Result.
My Mistakes won’t bring home any Ivor Novellos, but the audio-visual combo she places on offer here is a timely reminder that life, despite plummeting temperatures and driving rain, is generally full of sunshine (figuratively speaking).
Jennifer Lopez – Papi
Psst. Oi. Jennifer. Jenny. J-Lo. J-LO. J-LO! Your song title is but a single letter from a single word summation of your artistic output and displaying a hitherto undemonstrated self awareness and deprecatingly caustic wit.
Sort it out, love.
Factory Floor – Two Different Ways
What we said then: Two Different Ways is great. Mutantbasssteppingsynthesisedpseudohouseindustrialtechnoglitch-tastic. It sounds like the world spectacularly going wrong, in the most awesome way possible.
At this point, we normally just keep going on and on and on – there are few songs that we prefer to the sound of our own voice – but not here. So, with the 30 seconds it would have taken you to read the half-paragraph we aren’t going to write, click on that link, there. Go on. HOPPIT.
What we say now: Live, and on record, Factory Floor were one of our highlights of 2011, and they’re one of the bands we’re anxious to see next year. Provided they’re bringing some sort of new material. If they’re just coming round for a cup of tea, or to eat all of our favourite biscuits, we’ll be less welcoming.
Hypnotic, insistently and pulsating, Two Different Ways sets up camp on the edge of your conciousness, carves a section out of your skull and then buries itself deep into your brain. In a good way.
And whaddayaknow, it is still preferable to the sound of our own voice.
Dot Rotten – Keep It On A Low
Keep It On A Low is inspired, deftly changing tack from driven verse to impossibly addictive chorus and back again, drawing in the greenest of grime laymen with its punchy production, industrial instrumentals and Dots dextrous delivery.
2:54 – Got A Hold
We can definitively state Got A Hold as one of the best singles we’ve heard in 2011, a dark, creeping brickbat of a tune, dank and fuggy and riddled with narcotic atmosphere.
Justin Bieber – Mistletoe
Christmas time, mistletoe and wine. Children singing Christian rhyme. Not young Master Bieber, though: at his age we were happy with a bit of Lego, a Cadburys selection box and a vague concept of mangers, but London, Ontarios biggest heartthrob since Hume “Batteries Not Included” Cronyn is more concerned with late night cappuccinos, shnecking on with girls, and using words like “shortie” and “Ima”.
Yelle – Comme Un Enfant
What we said then: Imagine if humans could be twisty pink marshmallows. Imagine if Lana Del Rey’s lips could be made into a chic chapeau. Imagine if a song sung in French could be noticed by music journalists in England.
Well, Yelle manage the first two in Comme Un Enfant, a sweetly slice of their first album in four years, Safari Disco Club. The long player appeared earlier this year. It was duly ignored by music journalists in England. But if you – like us – love some electropop sassed to the max, this – surely the pinkest video ever recorded – will be for you and your ilk. Not only that but there’s a shot of an ice cream melting. These Frenchies really do think of everything.
What we say now: We’ve lived with Comme Un Enfant for a mere matter of hours, days and weeks, but we’re already making inroads into our full-scale reproduction of the video: with a fair wind behind us and a few more gallons of pink paint, we’ll have it licked in time for the New Year bash. Comme amuseurs.
Oliveray – You Don’t Love
When all and said and done, December is a miserable time. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s expensive. You’ll have to spend time with people you don’t like, and who you avoid, for good reason, for the other 360 days in the year. People will almost certainty attempt to enforce fun. They may even attempt to make you dress up.
The most wonderful time of the year? Fuck right off.
So, this folky, quiet, downbeat lament from Erased Tapes label mates and now collaborators Nils Oliver Frahm and Peter Ray Broderick makes for the perfect accompaniment for these sad times. Bah. Humbug.
Patrick Wolf – Together
Forget Adele, forget Noel Gallagher, forget all of the suggested new Bond theme writers. Because Patrick Wolf has nailed it. Together is a perfect Bond Theme.
Left-field, maybe. But listen to it. Can’t you see the women pirouetting around guns, legs-akimbo? Can’t you taste the martini? Can’t you see Daniel Craig pouting like a 14 year-old goth who’s not been allowed out to see The Cure through 150 minutes of derivative action sequences and poor plotting while it plays in the background?
Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You
Listen, we realise that it’s neither big nor clever to sit here and lay into Justin Bieber, particularly considering we’ve pretty much just done that very thing. However…
Take an established modern Christmas hit and re-record it practically note-for-note; airbrush its skantily-clad, borderline-conscious protagonist and pair her with this season’s face of marketing; drop a few million dollars on a video promo that crowbars in a few dozen product placements, sugar-coats the violent capitalist crushes of midnight store openings and is directly at odds with the song’s original message – all I want for Christmas is expensive consumer goods.
And to all, a good night.