January 30, 2008

The PhoeniX 50 : 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized, music, reviews, PhoeniX Phil — pxpl @ 5:37 pm

Better late than never! This was started back in December but I moved house, then got ill, then there was plague of locusts, my dog ate the homework etc. etc.
So here it is the legendary PhoeniX 50. A semi-favourite songs of the year affair where I
a)       Wax lyrical about the glories of a good pop single like a simple dog excited about a bone
b)       Inevitably get a load of e-mails saying “actually that was out two years ago…”
c)       Promote my love for songs and / or bands that I may well regret giving early support to over the course of the next 12 months (oh how easy it is to get “swerved” by an early single)
The following rules apply
a)       Only one song per band
b)       In order to escape charges of nepotism (I don’t work for NME after all) I haven’t included any songs that may have released via PopArt or any songs by people who have seen me in my pants
Are you ready? Well yes down and here we go…
The PhoeniX 50 2007

This Is Pop (Live XFM Session)
Charlotte Hatherley

A spiffing cover version of the XTC tune by the ex-Ash guitar maiden. Not big nor clever but always fun during an “i-shuffle”

Just a Song About Ping Pong
Operator Please

Yeah yeah.. It’s a novelty single by a bunch of (possibly stage school) Australian kids but hey! atleast it’s a silly speedball head rush of a novelty single by Australian school kids. In at number 49 for the “CHEATER! LIAR!” bit alone. 

Painting New York On My Shoes
Poppy & The Jezebels

Sounding like the X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene recounting a misty dream over some almost self-taught piano this song charmed me in the early parts of 2007.

A Ghost In The Arcade

They may have disappeared into post-peak mediocrity but this blistering little tune was still a treat.

Disconnect the Dots
Of Montreal

Half of me thinks this is too smug by half “Oh look we’ve got 80’s synths” U.S. indie-smindie tedium, the half of me is quite charmed by the fact it sounds like Ken Stringfellow “doing a Postal Service”. Oh the conflict! … Still, I keep listening to it so it’s in at 46. Poppet.

The Last Parade On Ann St.
Chris Bathgate

Singer-songwriter-sometimes SLGTM bassist Chris Bathgate is in at number 45. with this song that seems lost in a whisper until the final reverb drenched guitar outro that sounds like heaven crying.

Legs ‘N’ Show

Admittedly “Daddy’s Gone” was funnier (in a sing along doing your own comical impression of singer James Allan’s vocals) but this fuzzed up JAMC go doop wop blast was the track that gets me excited. If the CBP (Chavy British Public) take Glasvegas to their heart in 2008 there could be pub sing longs of such scale it would be as if The Proclaimers and Oasis had produced a distorted spawn. Frightening… yet also strangely exciting.

Click, Click, Click, Click
Bishop Allen

Yeah yeah… it’s generic U.S. radio friendly indie rock but I’m sucker for an instant almost jingle-esque chorus and this chorus delivers in spades plus I admire their mercenary business savvy in them fully going for the “indie girls who take photos” demographic. How do I sleep at night? I pretend this is by the Eels or someother band that’s “allowed”.

Mansard Roof
Vampire Weekend

This sounds like the classic ”Concrete & Clay” re-imagined by a band forced to play on a Polynesian cruise ship. More power to them, I say.

The Sailplanes

A fine unleashing of pounding bass, wirey guitars and joy dividing synth from this London band.

I Am John
Loney, Dear

Yet another “Swedish indie-pop” charmer of a song, the difference this time is that at the end it all goes falsetto crazy and sounds a bit like Barry Gibb gatecrashing a Hidden Cameras’ recording session. Fantastic.


He’ll never release a brilliant album (and he’ll never top those classic Libertines singles) BUT dear old “Cheeky Pete” can still knock out great tunes like this.

Golden Skans

Being more manufactured than McFly, even sillier than SFA and fuelled by Bill Drummoned pop philosophies should make Klaxons a hell of a lot more entertaining than the “alright I suppose… if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing” product that they actually are. Still, this is classic “Indie goes Top Ten” crossover hit that will be used on Question Of Sport as backing music to sports clips from 2007 for years to come. Hooray! 

The Shins

After loving “Chutes Too Narrow”, I found The Shins’ follow up album “Wincing The Night Away” something of a disappointment but in the handful of tunes that got repeated plays this year was “Australia”… a charming little funbundle of a song if ever there was one.

Western Meadowlark
Brown Recluse Sings

Chortle. The 8 year old in me find’s this bands name hilarious, it instantly brings to mind someone who is advertising a new brand of constipation relief leaping off the toilet with a fist in the air proudly declaring “FINALLY… Brown Recluse Sings!” followed by some notes on a tuba. “But what of the music?” I hear you ask. Well, this is a little charmer, a bit like the bass and drum track of U2’s “With Or Without You” over dubbed with some splendid fey U.S. indie.

What’s a Girl to Do?
Bat for Lashes

Semi-spooky bit of cinematic harpy wailing entwined with spokenword over harpsichord notes entwined over a Spector beat. Essentially it’s just Black Box Recorder for ATP types but still I declare this great stuff.

Super Trouper
Camera Obscura

Traceyanne Campbell and company drag out every inch of sadness out of the Abba classic with this slowed down softly strummed cover version.

I’m A Soldier
The Afghan Whigs

A new track from their 2007 best of (”Unbreakable: A Retrospective”) “I’m A Soldier” showed that Greg Dulli and the boys still could deliver soul tinged-90’s alt rock with gusto.

The One U Wanna C

“His Royal Badness” was reunited with Wendy & Lisa for this ace power popping track.

Heinrich Maneuver

Yet another brooding anthem to stroll around mysteriously to while wearing a duffle coat from everyone’s favourite gloom rockers.

Modest Mouse

A cracking piece of modern alternative from the band that also won the “Most Successful Guitarist Wanted Advert” award this year.

Sirens of Titan
Zan Pan

Ridiculous and sublime in equal measures, “Sirens of Titan” sounded like Marc Bolan and Sparks surfing on a punkoid rainbow generated from Rush’s amplifiers. Wins the award for “most outrageous single of the year” hands down.

You! Me! Dancing!
Los Campesinos!

Depending on my mood, I find the music of Los Campesinos! either extremely irritating or extremely exhilarating. For my money this was their bestest offering of the year, starting with slowly and soft strums on a guitar the intro builds into a cacophony of noise before the driving riff kicks in. The listener is then plunged headfirst into a dizzying rush of guitars, glockenspiels and indie boy / indie girl vocals with the song stopping and starting at all the right places just like a pop rollercoaster.

I Want You Back
The School

Admittedly this was just the demo on their Myspace page BUT what a tune it is. Sounding a bit like The Concretes with a greater spring in their step this song is one of the highlights of the live sets. Hopefully 2008 will see the release of the actual version.

I Wish That I Could See You Soon
Herman Düne

Actually out in 2006 (I believe) but the song and the video only seemed to get wider appreciation this year. This is a great little ditty about keeping calm when your loved one is far from you by the using the advice of angels in the role of backing singers. Or something.

Patrick Wolf

Ah the use of fireworks as percussion. Ah the crooning vocals. Ah the glam-boho romance of it all.

Nag Nag Nag Nag
Art Brut

“Older? Wiser? This song’s the decider,” sang Eddie Argos on this spiffing good comeback single. Dealing with the classic “Mid - Late 20’s crises” has never been relayed in songform better than this.

Baby’s Coming Back

In a move akin to as if Oasis released a cover of “Get It On”, McFly decided to cover a song of which they had already stolen the intro from (for “Obviously”). Still mustn’t grumble it gave the lads yet another Number One Pop Hit plus it finally took the legacy of cult power popper’s Jellyfish into the bedrooms of teenage girls. It’s a shame that McFly’s only other single of the year “The Heart Never Lies” was utter shyte.

    Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls
Pelle Carlberg

Charming piece of Indiepop from (guess where… yes it’s) Sweden, CGLCBMMTCBLCG does everything you’d expect it to and then some.

Black Jacks
Girls Aloud

At the risk of sounding like one of those godawful websites that patronisingly bang on about how pop music (or anything that has pseudo-Goldfrapp electric synth blips in it) is sooooooo much better and artiscally futurist than the Kooksian Indie Rock, it does have to be said that Team GA (that’s the managers, producers, writers and the five semi-celebs that front the product) are one of the best groups of the decade. I wouldn’t dare suggest that any of their albums are classics but when it comes to the crunch the dizzying arrangements, occasionally cavalier song structures (”Biology”) and non-sensical lyrics of GA will leap the next generation gap far easier than the likes of the Foo Fighters. Anyhow, this album track from their new album “Tangled Up” shows Team GA at their best throwing together melodic verses that are bit like Blondie’s “Sunday Girl” over a backing track that evokes a futurist take on Mike Flowers Pops. Then the chorus explodes covered in a wall of crashing guitars before a shouty Le Tigre-esque cheerleader bit is thrown in as if just for fun. Splendid, if this isn’t a single in 2008 then their record label are a bunch of buffoons.

Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies
Biffy Clyro

Pounding drums, gruff vocals, crashing guitars that occasional riff n’ shred, strings and choirs flow through the song like angels slaying demons… yes it’s the world of HORMOAN RAWK. The album version of this is immense! If I was 16 this would have been my song of the year but alas I’m 30 so it peaks at number 20.

No Cars Go
The Arcade Fire

Yes The AF make a really good big slab of noise don’t they? It’s all a bit obvious and easy to say that they’re rather good. But I won’t punish them for it. Still this song wins the rare but prestigious “best saxophone solo of the year” award.

One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer
Lucky Soul

Dear old Lucky Soul, having seen them grow from seedlings in 2006 to a band getting 5 out of 5 in the Metro and doing proper tours in 2007 I felt a bit like a parent who had seen his child go off and make their way in the world. This summer indie hit is a heart bursting, strings exploding lesson in pop glory with a fabulous day brightening outro to boot.

Profit In Your Poetry
Butcher Boy

What is in the Butcher Boy’s pop sausages? I hear you ask. Well the ‘niX tastes a little bit of Love, a little bit of The Smiths and dare I say it some Moody Blues-esque seasoning. A tasty bite if you’re feeling cinematically wronged on rainy walk to work.

Better as a Girl
The Stricken City

Hands down winner of “Bass Riff of The Year”, London’s The Stricken City are kinda like Life Without Buildings for Echobelly / Brit-Pop fans. Nothing wrong with that I say and I love the kickass indie-in-a-garage guitar solo on this where you can hear the plectrum hitting the scratch plate.

Tears Dry On Their Own
Amy Winehouse

Amy Whinehouse is at number 16? Yes… what of it? A tune’s a tune and this 60’s soul pastiche delivers in spades. Plus the title is very true which is odd as I heard someone say at a bus top that Amy hasn’t known what “dry” is for years. I paid no attention… I’m not one for gossip.

I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You
Black Kids

If this would have been out a few months earlier it would have been higher in the PX50 (I’m already regretting it being so low), in 2008 expect Black Kids to get hyped in that annoying faux-low key “Interweb Blog! Interweb Blog! Oh aren’t we clever we’re making indiekids think they’ve discovered them” marketing approach (see also Arcade Fire, Artic Monkeys) that could mean that their popularity will peak in April before fading out into apathy by September (see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Hot Hot Heat). STILL, lets focus on NOW… this song is great. Yelpy Robert Smith vocals over a genre defying backing track with easily chant along / shout along bits and a chorus suitable for every sexually frustrated indieboy. According Dave Rees they ripped off a band called The Violet Pets… maybe but I think it’s unlikely that one of the ten people to experience the VP’s went on to be a member of Black Kids. Plus it’s far; far more accomplished than anything the VP’s achieved. Lament.

My Friend in a Comfortable Chair
Cats On Fire

I think this was actually released years ago but people only started banging on about them this year so who cares. Charming jangle-jangle indiepop from (guess where?… ha ha tricked you! Not from Sweden this time) Finland that wears its “Hatful of Hollow” influence on its sleeve.

On Call
Kings of Leon

This sounds like the big stadium rock hit that Urge Overkill shoulda produced in the mid 90’s but didn’t (produced by Gil Norton naturally). Some people love KoL. Some people loathe KoL… personally I can take them or leave them BUT this song hits all PXPL’s buttons. At moments, it’s eerie yet peaceful like staring out of a log cabin window at midnight and then at other moments it roars softly yet sternly like a protective lioness protecting her cubs. A lesson in comeback singles if ever there was one.

Rihanna (featuring Jay-Z)

The best thing about 2007 was the MP3 sales fuelled return of genuine pop hits. Whether you loved or hated the songs, artists and demographics that made up the 52 weeks worth of top tens you have to admit they way singles now climb, fall and climb again in the charts is so much better than the “straight into the top ten and then straight out of the charts with an anchor” culture that slowly ruined the concept of Pop Music and killed off Top Of The Pops over the past 8 years. All they need to do is being back ToTP on a Thursday night (WITHOUT pointless live performances of dance hits involving failed glamour models prancing around and without Fearne and Reggie please) and we’ll have weather that matches it’s season, a reduction in street crime and oh by golly terrestrial telly will stop bombarding us with rubbish cooking / ice skating / ”making chavs look decent” shows and start showing proper programs again like Wrestling, The Monkees and Blake’s 7. I remember when this was all fields etc.
Anyhow, the return of “proper” charts gave us a proper long, thick, sustainable “number one for the whole of summer” hit single for the first time in ages and what a belter it was. A nagging low burn of a chorus (with it’s instantly irritating yet unstoppable and enjoyable ”ELLA ELLA ELLA” hook) mixed with its thumping synth drums and blippy electro arrangement that does a truckload of work without the listener even realising. Heck even, the Jiggaman turns up and half raps / half mumbles all over the intro just because he can. Add to this a video where “slightly famous but not a household name yet” R&B star Rihanna was re-styled /re-invented as an urban Aeon-Flux pop superstar, and it just goes to show that Pop Music shouldn’t be written off just yet it just needs a bit of stardust, a bit of effort and a bit of belief in it’s importance.

Dead Sounds
The Raveonettes

Sometimes I just want to hear a song that sounds like 80’s goth vampires invading an episode of Happy Days only to come into conflict with a crucifix waving Tom Bosley. When I do get this urge I reach for this splendid fuzzed-up ramma-lamma ding-dong of a single by Sune and Sharin.

Bloc Party


I still find it hard to become a fan of this band HOWEVER songs such as this make it hard for me to fault them. “Flux” is a delicious headrush of Giorgio Moroder synth blips, epic wailing indie guitar heroics and misery guts vocals. PLUS the video has people dressed up as giant alien robots beating each other up. Superb.  


The Song Is The Single

BARR is a band built around some beat poet type. I can’t say I’m a massive fan of the band but the “Song Is The Single” is ace… kinda like Stephen Malkmus freeforming tales about disastrous lower league indie careering over a pounding Glitter-beat, some driving bass and some minimalist piano.

Those Dancing Days
Those Dancing Days

Just when I feel a bit too ”seen it all before” to like new bands I often hear something that puts a huge grin on my face and makes me think, “Heck! Yes there ARE still great new pop songs to be written and celebrated!” Hearing this song was one of those moments, it comes across as if Ace Of Base were re-invented as a lo-fi band with rattling drums and twangy 80’s indie guitar parts. Brilliant… this is like a Eurotrash version odf “Debaser”. Or something.

Our Velocity
Maxïmo Park

You’ve gotta love the Park. They’re the kind of indie band that the UK will always need… they stack up a fine array of top 30 hits and then turn up to the festivals at tea time and play them all with pride and gusto. Lovely. This was the first single from their second album and what fun I had mechanically marching on the spot bellowing along to it “I’m not a man.. I am machine!” I did this all summer and I’m still doing it now if it gets played. Now that’s what I call artistic impact.

When I Lose My Eyes
Saturday Looks Good To Me

SLGTM’s 2007 album “Fill Up The Room” was fantastic! My album of the year… but the rules of the PX50 only allow one song per artist so I’m going with track three. “When I Lose My Eyes” see’s SLGTM main main Fred Thomas expore the concept of love surviving physical decay over six minutes of demented, emotional, rattlingly heroic indie heaven.  This song has everything… so much so that the melodic riff that acts as a hook in the chorus is played by different arrangements of instruments each time it pops round (for example a Wizzard-esque rock n roll sax arrangement one time round, a Disney styled string section the next). At the end of the chorus Fred sings “…to finally find you” like he’s about to bursts into tears at the sheer realisation of his soul searching and before you can take in the sheer scope of what Fred is thinking and feeling the rattling drums kick in and it’s in to verse two. The whole song ends with crashing electric guitars that sound like the waves of death crashing into and destroying the vessel of physical life. If you lose yourself in this song you’ll need to lay down in a dark room afterwards just to feel normal again.

Rule the World
Take That

Lovely old Take That. They do what it says on the tin. They are a pop group. They are entertainers. They don’t want you to feel their pain.. they want to ease your pain. The makers of  ”Stardust” went to Mr. Gary Barlow’s office and said, “Hey Mr. Gary Barlow we’re doing a film can you do a big silly romantic song for us. Y’know like what films had in the 90’s and then we can do a promo vid for the song and stick lots of bits from film… y’know quick flashes of action mixed with close ups of the most famous people in the film”. Mr. Gary Barlow pondered for a while before imagining his fingers on his piano, suddenly Mr. barlow looked up and declared, “Oh yes Mr. Film Maker …The That will indeed deliver the goods for you.” And oh how they did… a song that sounds like Valentines Day, fireworks night and Christmas rolled into one. Lovely. Plus it has the great outro where Gary Barlow sings “Ah’ll the stars, are coming out tonight they’re lighting up the sky tonight…. For you, …for you” in a camp Britpop Suede-esque kinda way. Brilliant …all a boy of a certain age could ask for.

Vuitton Blues
The Laurel Collective

If there’s any justice in the world, The Laurels would hit the hearts and the pockets of the nations young and young at heart like a tornado. Here’s a band who could… nay should have a cultural impact on the charts that matches the likes of The Specials or The Stone Roses. Not that they particularly sound like either band but that’s one of the brilliant things about The Laurels. They don’t sound like anybody else. They don’t dress like they’re trying to fit a genre. Add to this the fact that their lyrics are light years away from their peers and the fact that they can blow another band off the stage with their blistering live performances and I think you’ll agree we’ve got a band that could help kickstart creativity and originality in the UK. In my innocent little pop hits world where everything is still all The Chart Show / Top Of The Pops and the NME / Melody Maker still making Wednesday’s exciting, I reckon that the Laurels have five. Yes FIVE “should be Top Ten smash hits” in them… “Vuitton Blues” is one them. Instantly catchy, constantly rewarding… god bless em.

Super Furry Animals

Now then, I do like a bit SFA. Unlike every other band from “The Britpop Wars”, SFA still haven’t released a complete duffer of an album (maybe some of them have been a bit “hazy” but they have released any actual “Head Music” styled duffers). Even so, this splendid fuzzed up-Glam rock meets Phil Spector gem felt kinda like a return to form.

Men’s Needs
The Cribs

A catchy riff, an outsider stance, vocal interplay mixed with a splendid bit of pop sensibility. All these things make for a great pop single in my opinion and “Men’s Needs” delivered them in spades. It’s an exhilarating 3 minutes worth of guitar pop… the like of which is rarely made these days. From the instant “diddly diddly did  dee dee dee” guitar riff and Gary Jarman’s opening despondent vocals (“Have you noticed I’ve never been impressed by your friends from New York and London?”) through till Ryan Jarman shouting out the chorus like his life depended on it, up until the final scratchy guitar / bass one note outro (that’d make a great hip hop sample).
Like the Ramones before them, the Cribs are kinda like the idiot savants of pop. They were never really been considered contenders but have not only outlived all the other “post-Strokes” bands but also out performed them easily simply by churning out a handful of irresistible indie-punk anthems over the past three years. The result is a dedicated fanbase and chance on album number three to break “the glass ceiling” and “Men’s Needs” did everything it needed to do to launch the band into the top 20, get them a slot at the V Festival and net Ryan Jarman a celebrity girlfriend (bizarrely… Kate Nash !?!)
Naturally being The Cribs there’s some “Whoa-oh oh oh’s!” thrown in just before the instrumental break. Franz’ Alex Kapranos does a splendid job making quite the impression as a producer, giving The Cribs sound some much needed pop-sheen subtly mixing in some soft plinky (almost steel-drum sounding) synth notes to highlight the chorus like a wash on a painting.
This single is a lesson in pop-craft that all secondary indie bands stuck at the Barfly should pay attention to.


1 Comment »

  1. Well, I’m not going to bother making you that mix CD that I promised you more than 6 months ago, since you have a bunch of the songs in your 50 (though it does make me realise I was on the right track with the songs I was putting on it).

    Don’t go writing Bishop Allen off as radio-rock (if that was the sort of thing they played on radiom, I might start listening again), they’re actually managing to maintain credibility in the face of success I never would have thought possible a couple of years back when I tried desperately to get their first album and they ignored all my attempts to contact them. I’m as surprised as anyone, I was sure there would be claims of selling out as soon as they started releasing ACTUAL ALBUMS through ACTUAL RECORD LABELS as opposed to self-releasing EPs through mailorder only. Plus, if I’d done a Nooshie 50 of 2006 (obviously not using the “one song per band” rule), they’d be responsible for at least 10 songs.
    No other band has made a song that made me fumble through my bag for sunglasses in a lame attempt to hide the fact that I was crying in the middle of a shopping centre in Cardiff. In fact, almost no other band ever has made a song that can even make me cry once, let alone every single time I hear it.

    Still, you’re lucky you did say that about Bishop Allen, because it distracted me from the rant about how utterly awful I think Operator Please are that you would have got otherwise.

    Comment by nooshie — January 31, 2008 @ 7:45 am

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