Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Top 10 Songs of May '10.

Better Than Love

Hurts can get away with writing glorified power ballads (not even that glorified) because they aren’t pretentious, they simply ARE an 80s synth-led new wave band. They may take themselves ridiculously seriously but that’s the point. So many bands that take themselves seriously enough to think that they are somehow ‘above’ a simple melody and a good pop song, but not Hurts. Better Than Love is hook upon hook of dazzling gothic melodrama, dressed up in Joy Division attitude and Human League arrangements. And it feels better than love.

(Read further thoughts about Hurts and Better Than Love here:

Jumping into Rivers
Diana Vickers

Within a month of Once being released, it seems that the hype over Vickers' debut died down as quickly as it grew, but we're still left with an undoubtedly remarkable pop record. Jumping into Rivers is, to my ears, the little voiced northerner's signature tune, squeaky ad-libs and fuzzy acoustic strumming as various forest animals get busy with wooden clicks and thuds. The most organic sounding electropop song in ages, Jumping into Rivers is bursting with youth and subdued joy, the peerless soundtrack for daydreams to come.

(Read my review of Diana Vickers’ Tales from the Tainted Cherry Tree here:

Better Than Her

It wouldn’t be accurate to call Matisse a frightfully original pop singer. Her voice could be any one of the Pussycat Dolls, and what’s that I hear? Oh it’s that synth nabbed from Just Dance... again. So why give it the time of day? It’s simple, it’s a great song. A really great song, one that has more in common with the forward thinking likes of Robyn and Kelis than Cheryl Cole or The Saturdays. Matisse really can do it better than her, or indeed him and them, because it’s inspirational and celebratory. Cheryl might have got away with Fight for this Love, but there’s no guilty pleasure in Better Than Her. Matisse sings “I’m a girl who can take the lead” and with tracks like this, let’s hope she’s true to her word.

Umbrella Beach
Owl City

To a lot of people it feels like Adam Young’s Owl City project has already outstayed its welcome, given the bombardment of airplay Fireflies has received, but to me, the magic is only just beginning. Umbrella Beach is everything The Postal Service wouldn’t dare attempt. It’s vast, it’s euphoric, it’s absurdly jubilant, and it’s cheesy as hell, but it quashes any accusation that Owl City is a below par Postal Service. What we have here is uplifting Eurodance from a lonely boy closing his eyes and dreaming he is somewhere else. I’d like to see The Postal Service deliver mail where Adam Young is going...

(Read my review of the Owl City album here:

Self vs Self
Pendulum & In Flames

One diluted their sound and forgot how to hold their colour, the other attempted to return to their roots and found that that bird had flown. But in 2010, the two came together and found purpose in their music again through this incredible collaboration. Pendulum’s colossal beats rigidly command In Flames scorching guitar riffs, and Pendulum singer Rob Swire‘s tones are yearning and innocent in comparison to Anders Frieden’s devilish rasps. It’s a match made in heaven, or some place awfully similar.

(Read my review of Pendulum’s Immersion album here:

Diana Vickers

If Ms Vickers was at home in Jumping Into Rivers, she’s on the outside looking in on Notice. There’s a touch of poignancy in the simple message and melody of this song. Co-written by Ellie Goulding, the Starry Eyed star could never have done justice to this delicate ballad herself, whilst when Vickers laments “Will you catch my fall? Do you know me at all? It’s like you never notice me” she sounds vulnerable, naive and scared, even when her voice allows itself to soar in a rare moment of projection. The first verse and chorus are the best, delicate acoustics shimmering around Vickers’ sorrowful whispers, but even when the song teeters dangerously near to power ballad territory, it is Vickers’ fight to stay above the music that makes Notice such a touching, emotional listen. She’s still got a lot to learn about the world, and she’ll find this song especially relevant if her career takes a turn for the worse. But it’s far from justice if it does.

(Read my review of Diana Vickers’ Tales from the Tainted Cherry Tree here:

Violent Dreams
Crystal Castles

By far the most unearthly sounding and yet spellbindingly beautiful track on Crystal Castles’ second self-titled effort, although not quite the best, Violent Dreams manages to be relaxing and unnerving at the same time. As with most Crystal Castles’ music, the band communicates with you via sound rather than words; the distorted, distant mutterings litter the vast echoing chords like drops of rain from a foreboding thundercloud. Violence is nowhere to be found in this track, but the fear of violence and the unknown grows deeper and darker with each lengthy reverb. But it’s ok, it’s just a dream... or is it?

One Touch
Mini Viva

Whilst the rather more famous Xenomania girl group, Girls Aloud, twist the production team’s spacey Eurodance to their quirky, aloof means, Mini Viva make it sound seductive and sexy...


Against my better judgement, a cover makes it to number 2 in my list, but if any band know how to celebrate mourning, Gayngs have proven themselves to be certain frontrunners. Whether 10cc are turning in their graves or not is irrelevant; when Gayngs perform Cry we are treated to something authentically whiney, depressing, plodding and self-pitying, but this is the essence of sadness. It’s not pretty, it’s not easy on the ear, but it’s still somehow beautiful. Cry is the sound of the moment when we admit that no, we’re not ok, the moment when all hope finally seems irretrievable. And as voices tearfully wail the titular word over a cheesy, lush soft rock backdrop, we are all reminded that there is a sort of comfort to be gained from giving in to your sadness.

(Read my review of Gayngs Relayted here:

Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles’ sound stems from taking something gorgeous, or something easy on the ear and sabotaging it with all their might. Celestica is the track that people most associate with the band’s sophomore effort, but Baptism is its true crown jewel. The beats are sharp and unpolished, the pulsating trance chords are compressed and distorted to shreds as Alice Glass yells her way to the front of the mix, like a rebel rallying on her supporters. There is something of a call-to-arms about Baptism, no doubt, and it is this fierce determination that says very clearly that Crystal Castles are not about to take any prisoners. The instrumental breaks bubble with intent like the calm before the storm until all hell breaks loose and Glass begins to aurally assault us once more. Not since Idioteque by Radiohead has a dance track sounded so apocalyptic.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, yes, yes! Baptism is probably my track of the year so far. The rest of the album is phenomenal too... it's like a twisted cyberpunk tumble down the rabbit-hole to the fucked up futuristic wonderland below. Love it.

    Ace reviews too, you're starting to sound like a real critic, haha ;)