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Today concludes my countdown of my top picks for the year 2005 in this space, with brief comments on each. Having done all the new recordings 60-1 (60-41, 40-21, and 20-1), 40-1 for Old Recordings/Retrospectives (40-21, 20-1), and then 10-1 for music DVDs, here’s my Top 10 selections the year’s best singles!!! I hope you’ve enjoyed these lists—sometimes we’re so preoccupied with the latest releases in the in-box (I could already make a strong list for 2006 based on January and February releases and the advance copies I have for March and April!!!), that we need some kind of reminder to play ‘old’ music that was only released anywhere between 2-to-14 months ago. Hope this has inspired some of that. Enjoy!
And now for 2005’s 10 best singles.
10. DOVES – “Black and White Town” (Capitol/EMI)
You wouldn’t think that this Manchester trio could add a strong blend of Motown and Northern Soul (via “Heatwave”) to their brooding, beautiful mix. But they did. It’s lovely, too.
9. NADA SURF – “Always Love” (Barsuk)
This is pure power-pop with a subtle, featuring insistent, exquisite assault by restrained but full-bodied guitars that are deceptive but ever-present in the background, plus a chops-a-plenty rhythm section. It’s so good, a line like “Always love/Hate will get you every time” seems like the gentle persuasion of a favorite uncle in the hands of leader MATTHEW CAWS rather than a mawkish Hallmark sentiment. Super catchy, too.
8. SUPERGRASS – “St. Petersburg” (Capitol/EMI)
A lovely little country-rocker change of pace for these Oxford favorites; it reminds me of NEIL YOUNG circa After the Gold Rush and Harvest. And that is indeed high praise.
7. LONG BLONDES – “Appropriation By Any Other Means” (Angular U.K.)
A third sharp single from this Sheffield five-some. Good-looking singer KATE JACKSON laments a lover she can’t bring herself to leave, even though he’s badly hung up on his dead ex. Set all her Cosmo girl bluntness to a skittish, jittery, tumbledown post-punk drive, and you’ve got a group that’s making heads of both sexes turn to look and listen.
6. DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE – ”Soul Meets Body” (Atlantic/WEA)
First rate stuff from these Seattle by way of Bellingham veterans. I love that sprightly light dance rhythm propelling a sweet pop song with a killer, high-range melody that even the great BEN GIBBARD can barely manage. It’s also one of the greatest articulations I’ve heard in years of the difference between sex between two people thoroughly in love and two people merely, as the British put it, shagging. Be such connections permanent or fleeting, one smiles in recognition.
6. PAUL MCCARTNEY – “Fine Line” (Capitol/EMI)
Macca’s surprisingly good new LP also opens with this steady-driving song, his floor-tom pounding and quarter-note thumped drum fills reminding of his stealing the stool from RINGO STARR on a few White Album songs like “Back in the U.S.S.R.” 37 years ago. This is a modern sound that’s as clear, direct, robust, and unglossy as this ultra organic back to basics recording approach (set it up and hit record) demands and deserves. Sing along!
4. THE DECEMBERISTS – “16 Military Wives” (Kill Rock Stars)
On one of 2005 finest albums, hands down, this single was also 2005’s best video, too. Not that the tune needs the video’s hilarious spoof of American foreign policy via a “model U.N.” depiction to be a great single, though. For it showcases COLIN MELOY’s deft and increasing talent for sharp arrangements for his wonderfully written songs and amusing lyrics. In this case, it’s the Stax horns that boldly blast through this song that shows how mature he and his merry bunch have become. Blow, trumpets, blow.
3. THE RIFLES – “Local Boy” (Right Hook U.K.)
What a blast of big brash mod pop from this two-year-old Walthamstow, East London four-piece on their third fantastic single—and this is the best of the three to date with another on the way. Never mind the CLASH and JAM comparisons, that just makes The Rifles sound trad and unoriginal, when it’s all just ballpark reference, anyway. It’s the guitars, guitars, guitars that make this group stand out, along with hooks to die for, perfectly mumbled by singer JOEL STOKER. Can’t wait for this band’s forthcoming debut LP. And will someone bring them over here to play when that arrives, please?
2. MAXIMO PARK – “Apply Some Pressure” (Warp)
I could have just as easily picked their “Graffiti” for this list, as there’s more where this came from on their fabulous debut LP A Certain Trigger. But this one is the frenzied, desperate killer, a manic, off-kilter, manic energy rush, with PAUL SMITH’s crazed vocals set to a tightwound riff and minor keyboard trill. Don’t miss!
1. IDLEWILD – “Love Steals Us From Loneliness” (Capitol/EMI)
This was such an amazing single leading off these Scottish wonders’ latest LP, Warnings/Promises, that it ended up making the rest of the album seem slight in comparison. This whopper hits from second number one, with it’s storming “whoa oh whoa whoa whoa” harmonies. And after a light verse, it hits just as hard again with an extraordinary melody and punishing guitars on the chorus. It might be their answer to R.E.M.’s “South Central Rain” or “Losing My Religion” only with twice as heavy guitars and far louder drums and bass. And the lyrics say a lot, too, about the universal human condition. What a great song!
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