Here come the heavy-hitters.
5. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People
Back in March, I described this as ‘music to wander around Shoreditch in the sunshine, mingling with hipsters’. I may as well have said ‘super-enormo big f**k off global hit in the making‘ as quite apart from it’s FIFTY-FIVE MILLION YouTube views, since Sept 2010 it’s moved stealthily from the blogs to the Grown Up Charts. Everywhere.
The convoluted stories behind some of these tracks often add something to the enjoyment of the tracks themselves (um, yes, I do remember that I have Rebecca Black at No. 6). Pumped Up Kicks was written by Mark Foster, who, while working as a jingle writer, churned the track out in five hours. The version you hear is his demo; he played/programmed everything and gave it away free online.
A few lucky breaks later (and some legal shenanigans) and the track snagged Foster (and recruits Mark Pontius and the wonderfully-monikered – and dishy – Cubbie Fink) a major label contract.
It appears that despite the jaunty Empire Of The Sun/MGMT sunshine indie feel, the lyrics are from the perspective of a psychotic youngster feeling homicidal. Back to my original one-line description of the track, it seems it’s ‘music to wander around in the sunshine, slaughtering hipsters’…
4. Foreign Correspondent – Joe Chester
It’s very immature, but this music lover still feels a little pinch of betrayal when a ‘discovery’ that one makes crosses over to the mainstream. ‘But I was into them before the stupid Apple ad and that’s not even their best song’; ‘I prefer their early, less commercial work’; or ‘they’d be nothing without people like me’.
However, despite my going on about singer/songwriter/producer Joe Chester for several million years, (most of) you people have not decided to wrest him out of my grubby mitts. Are you being kind to me? Allowing me to hang on to this exclusive, extraordinary secret?
You’re saying that only I can enjoy this perfectly-crafted, smart, elegant music? His three albums of just-the-right-side-of-glossy, exquisitely-written power pop are for me alone?
Fine, it’s your loss. Seriously.
3. Heaven – Emeli Sandé
Fun Fact No. 1: If Adele hadn’t been so successful, Adele Sandé would not have had to switch to her middle name for her pop career.
Fun Fact No. 2: Like other level-headed popsters such as Shakira, Ms Sandé thought it best to get some academic qualifications ‘to fal back on’. She has a degree in Medicine from University of Glasgow.
Fun Fact No. 3: She was three years old when Massive Attack released ‘Unfinished Sympathy‘, a track with a similarly devastating fusion of impassioned vocals over brooding strings as ‘Heaven’.
Fun Fact No. 4: She will be the recipient of the 2012 Brit Awards Critics’ Choice. Given the quality of ‘Heaven’, ‘Daddy’ and her no. 1 with Professor Green*, ‘Read All About It‘, as well as her songwriting credits for all sorts of types from Tinie Tempah to Cheryl Cole to Susan Boyle, she probably deserves it.
Fun Fact No. 5: She seems to be a rather good egg. After her gig in Dublin, she posed for pics and signed autographs for everyone who wanted. Here she is with my pal Aidan. Doesn’t she seem lovely?
Fun Fact No. 6: I feel a bit funny while listening to this track on headphones. It’s a bit epic.
2. Within You – GusGus
Here’s a further lesson in snobbery and being snottily dismissive.
Many of the acts that won acclaim in the late 90s from my peers were like Gus Gus (or GusGus as they are now). Gus Gus, Groove Armada, Morcheeba and Lemon fucking Jelly made to varying extents twee electronic music wearing their jazz musak influences like a badge of honour. It was ‘Chillout’: music for marketeers, the selfconsciously hip, those who would not give themselves permission to dance without checking the label. To my ears then, this was a dull, joyless genre and it much of that output remains forgettable and listless.
And while their flirtations with the music press came and went, and I remained aloof, many of these acts soldiered on and developed. Groove Armada’s 2010 Black Light is fraught, triumphant, electro pop. Lemon Jelly’s 2005 ’64-’95 was a reflection on the use of sampling MILES removed from that irksome, smug Ducks thing so beloved of comedown-avoiders and UK TV station idents alike.
‘Within You’ is another such astonishing, albeit welcome, change of direction from the Icelandic collective that once boasted a member called ‘Fuckmaster’. I now have to work backwards from the slick, complex, melancholy electro of Arabian Horse to the ..
Actually, I don’t. Let’s just stick with this and pretend that they are my new favourite discovery.
1. Gabriel – Joe Goddard feat. Valentina
The sum of all the parts that you have taken
Are a fraction of the parts that make me whole
He was stronger than I was, but it’s strength you can’t sustain.
Do not come to give me counsel; you should beg forgiveness of me, Gabriel
Hello again, Joe. We did enjoy your efforts as The 2 Bears (‘Bear Hug’ making my No. 32 this year). Your bandmate from Hot Chip, Alexis Taylor, gave good support to the wonderful Green Gartside and Scritti Politti too. And yet despite the imminent commercial success of 2 Bears and the existing success of Hot Chip, it’s this solo track that stands way out of all else on this list.
It’s a lengthy track as singles come. It’s not really a dance track nor is it a pop track (it’s too glitchy to be a Big Room floorfiller; it’s too weird to be pop). It’s got some very important sounding but undeveloped quasi-religious stuff going on. Bits sound like ‘Hold That Sucker Down’ but with none of the euphoria.
It’s like he wanted to make anxiety sound danceable. He succeeded.
How very 2011.
Thank you to all the wonderful people (friends, followers and artists) on the various social media who have once again shared their enthusiasm for music with me.
It’s fun being part of our community.
The rest of the best:
Daddy or Chips? Top 40 of 2011
1. Gabriel * Joe Goddard feat. Valentina
2. Within You * GusGus
3. Heaven * Emeli Sandé
4. Foreign Correspondent * Joe Chester
5. Pumped Up Kicks * Foster The People
6. Video Games * Lana Del Rey
6. Friday * Rebecca Black
8. A Day Late And A Dollar Short * Scritti Politti
9. Still Sound * Toro Y Moi
10. Jar of Hearts * Christina Perri
11. When the Thames Froze * Smith & Burrows
12. The Bay * Metronomy
13. Night Air * Jamie Woon
14. Judas * Lady Gaga
15. Human Condition * Joan As Police Woman
16. The Last Dance * Clare Maguire
17. Coming Home * Diddy – Dirty Money feat. Skylar Grey
18. Someone Like You * Adele
19. Finish Line * Yasmin
20. I Wrote The Book * Beth Ditto
21. Asthma Attack * CocknBullKid
22. The Best Things In Life * The Silver Seas
23. Will Do * TV On The Radio
24. Run the World (Girls) * Beyoncé
25. Higher * Taio Cruz feat. Kylie Minogue & Travie McCoy
26. Ritual Union * Little Dragon
27. Sun Of A Gun * Oh Land
28. Popular * Eric Saade
29. Fun * Sharam(feat. Anousheh Khalili
30. Jealousy * Will Young
31. Need You Now * Cut Copy
32. Bear Hug * The 2 Bears
33. The Bishop of New Hampshire * Fingersnap feat. London Gay Men’s Chorus
34. Baby Says * The Kills
35. Hello * Martin Solveig & Dragonette
36. Stay Gold * Camille Jones
37. Take Care * Drake feat. Rihanna
38. Bright Lights Bigger City * Cee Lo Green feat. Wiz Khalifa
39. On The Floor (feat. Pitbull) * Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull
40. Eyes * Kaskade feat. Mindy Gledhill