Britney does not feature, just to say.
10. Gypsy & The Cat - Time to Wander
Happy-go-synthy duo Gypsy & The Cat are hardly treading new ground with their 80s infused indiepop, but the epic bounce of "Time to Wander" does more than enough to keep last year's fads alive into the new year. A heave-ho thwack of a beat and a clunky synth bass/piano pairing allow the track to not just wander, but go once step further and gallop. Dizzy synth and skydiving guitars and a lovely Cut Copy-esque vocal seal the deal and you've got yet another wonderful band flying the flag for the absurdly grin-inducing Australian indie scene.
9. Warpaint - Shadows (Neon Lights Remix)
Warpaint's "Fool" record was one long hazy dream, whether a nice one or a nightmare was anyone's guess, but its beauty and startling melodies could not be argued with. The band's "Shadows" single introduces a remix that takes an anti-anthem and makes it a straight up bonafide ANTHEM. Despite opting to cut out the delirious not-quite-hitting-the-note moment in the chorus (the best part, but hey ho) switching shimmering acoustics and primitive drumming for new age synth squelches and fucking huge chords could not have made this track more addictive if it injected cocaine into its tinkling pop and click beat.
8. Niki and the Dove - Mother Protect
Those bloody swedes are at it again. When The Knife and Fever Ray seem to fade from prominance from the second, we've already got a quirky alt-swede-pop act ready to jump into their shoes. But there's something different about Niki and the Dove, in that they don't want to isolate and confuse you like Fever Ray, they want to get through to you, into your very bones, put you into a trance and compel you to move. At first you aren't sure if this is going to be a dark slog or not, but by the time that pan pipe loop kicks in, your doubts are banished, and what replaces it is a joyous, euphoric, and actually quite organic-sounding anthem that declares adamantly "You can't keep me down, I am done, I am furious!" Indeed, I can't see anyone trying to. Sound of 2011? Certainly ain't Jessie J.
7. Purity Ring - Ungirthed
Like Sleigh Bells and Crystal Castles before them, Purity Ring are the sort of defiantly sharp sounding alt-dance act that put a massive grin on your face from the moment their tracks start and it stays there until the abrupt end. Like the two aforementioned bands, who were both astonishing in 2010, Purity Ring are destined for the same kind of greatness in 2011. Beginning like a Lil Wayne track, there's the hard faced urban kick clap beat, a dubstep laden bass line, and the twee female vocals jump playfully around in all sorts of octaves, and the whole thing sounds delightfully fresh. At less than 3 minutes, it could've only been a minute long and still made its point. "Ears ringing, teeth clicking" is their mantra here, and it couldn't sum up the effect that Purity Ring have on their listeners. Bring it on.
6. Nicki Minaj - Roman's Revenge (Remix feat. Lil Wayne)
It's got to the point where you kind of want to see the back of Ms Minaj for a while, but this is one track that refuses to go away, and now Lil Wayne is out of prison, its clear that this is what the track should've sounded like all along. Slim Shady, thanks for showing up, but I think you need to sort out some issues and come back with something interesting to say. Whilst Eminem came across like the "has-been" Nicki described him as, her performance made the song, but now Lil Wayne brings it just as hard. Sounding ravenous and ALIVE for the first time in years, he screams, rants and has to stop for breath on a couple of occasions. "Drink in my hand with the world in the other, The Uzi go BRRRRRR...stutter!" he grills and with all his might cries "I'm a fuckin' assassin, you should jump in a casket" as his flow seamlessly runs into Nicki's "Is this the thanks that I get?" second verse. The presence of the two Young Monarians is an almighty onslaught that perfects this already outstanding track. Oh and just to say... "You and this boy Lil Weezy" brings a grin to my face, I'm sure it will to yours.
5. Destroyer - Kaputt
This is Destroyer's ninth record, and the first one I have ever heard, and according to fans its his best. I have yet to discover the joys of Destroyer's journey to this point, but if any of it is a gorgeous as the title track to his 2011 "Kaputt" record, I may just have a new favourite artist. Every kind of lush soft rock and new wave cliche is chucked into the pot, add some shoegazer guitars for added dreaminess, and some acid jazz brass for the cool factor man, and what you've got is this simply perfect anthem for the fame hungry. "Sound, Smash Hits, Melody Maker, NME, all sound like a dream to me." Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar slurs at us in his could-be-lecherous-but-its-too-slick-to-matter voice. 6 minutes could well be too short for something this lovely.
The video's a bit odd though, I do warn you.
4. Cut Copy - Take Me Over
Cut Copy are without a doubt the return of 2011 for me. "In Ghost Colours" was quite simply flabbergastingly good, and 3 years on, yours truly is hoping for something that will shoot me dead. Now... to say that "Take Me Over" shoots me dead is not quite accurate, it simply feeds me some pills and tells me I'll reach Nirvana soon (the state of perfect existence, not the seminal angsty grunge act). "In Ghost Colours" cuts like "Hearts on Fire" and "Lights and Music" were indie rave classics that pummelled you with enough gorgeous hooks to last you until their next record, but this time round, the band wants you to LISTEN a bit more, and appreciate the sheer songcraft and love expressed in their music. "Take Me Over" is given the space to breathe and its carefree, wonderful chorus, with all its little vocal adlibs, is virtually sing song, caressed by a million spiralling synths and a laid back beat that encourages but doesn't force you to dance. Quite simply, it knows it doesn't need to.
3. Adele - Set Fire to the Rain
To me, "19" was lovely, but Adele was a defeated, hurt and innocent girl on that record. On the admirable "21", she's older and wiser, and "Set Fire to the Rain" is more reflective than anything she's done before. Adele sings of the ignorance of looking to love to heal you when you're weak, and lines such as "My knees were far too weak, to stand in your arms without falling to your feet" are fraught with a knowing but her incredible vocal declares a strength and an ability to move on. Of course, it also helps that "Set Fire to the Rain" is blessed with the most powerful chorus and beautiful melody of the album. Whilst certain songs on "21", such as the potentially equally incredible "Turning Tables", sound a little unfinished, "Set Fire to the Rain" stands alongside "Hometown Glory" as her most affecting achievement.
2. Chilly Gonzales - You Can Dance
Working with Electrofunk masters Boys Noise on Gonzales' latest, "Ivory Tower", has resulted in one of the most irresistible nu-disco tracks of recent times. "You Can Dance" simply IS the party, Gonzales himself cracking out those cocky, slightly jazzy piano chords like its 1977 as his party crowd sing along at the top of their lungs, full of shouts of encouragement and drunken heckles as the backing singers bring the drama. Whatever the "ivory tower" or "the electro piano universe" mumbo jumbo lyrics are about is irrelevant, all that matters is that you can dance. And indeed for 5 minutes and 11 seconds, you can't stop.
1. Cut Copy - Need You Now
I need Cut Copy now. And yet, as a citizen who values decent music, I have vowed to wait til the 7th February to experience the excitement of buying a physical copy of "Zonoscope", Cut Copy's 3rd studio album, come home, sit down and lose myself in what I expect to be as feel good and hands-in-the-air as "In Ghost Colours" was 3 years ago.
Or rather, I EXPECTED it to be feel good and hands-in-the-air, as first single "Take Me Over" suggested. That was until I heard what will be the opening track on "Zonoscope", "Need You Now". This track is a revelation. We're not just dancing, we're feeling uplifted, comforted, and above all not alone. At first it feels as if the track could go nowhere, much like the relationship described in the lyrics, but hanging in there will be the best decision you as a listener will make this year (probably).
Singer Dan Whitford begins with a mumble and ends with a desperate cry of "I know we're going crazy, but I need you now". The track does something similar. Opening with the quiet burble of electronics and pads, the track builds and builds and builds upon a hypnotic groove, until a euphoric climax that will dazzle stargazers everywhere. If Cut Copy were once known for providing hook upon hook, its clear they've learnt a better trick. Sometimes a track's payoff can be good enough to warrant a bit of a build up, and what a, WHAT a build up.
Cut Copy, won't lie, we need you too. *I* need you too!