My Top 10 Songs of 2007
REHAB – AMY WINEHOUSE
So, it was a 2006 hit in the UK, and you may be tired of it over there, but it was ubiquitous in the States only from its January 07 release onwards. And come the end of the year, people were still playing it and loving it even as Winehouse herself, who lives it like she sings it, appeared to be in emotional freefall. It’s rare to find a song beloved not only by neo-soul cognoscenti, but by kids, radio programmers, young adults and middle-aged housewives alike, and this was one of the few American Top 100 hits I went along with – even noticed – from the last twelve months. Truly, as measured by impact, effect and omnipresence, this was Song of The Year.
“There’s nothing you can teach me/That I can’t learn from Mr Hathaway”
Watch the video here
RUNNING THE WORLD – JARVIS COCKER
Another Brit, and another ‘06 release that only made it to American stores (we still use stores?) in ’07. For its prominent use of the C-word, as in “C**ts are still Running The World,” the track was initially hidden at the end of a so-so debut solo album, but once it appeared on the soundtrack to Children Of Men, it proved less possible for the masses to ignore. (Props to the soundtrack music supervisor for daring to include it.) A song of vitriolic anger at the capitalist system, but rendered with humanity and humility, it was Cocker’s finest five minutes since “Common People.”
“Now the Working classes are obsolete,
They are surplus to society’s needs,
So let ’em all kill each other,
And get it made overseas.”
THOU SHALT ALWAYS KILL – DAN LE SAC Vs. SCROOBIUS PIP
A Cockney spoken-word electro rocker that throws a new delicious couplet at me every time I hear it. You don’t have to agree with its various commandments; you just need appreciate the fun that went into composing them.
“Thou shalt not attend an open-mike and leave as soon as you’ve done your shitty little poem or song, you self-righteous prick.”
WANNA BE (featuring Lily Allen) – DIZZEE RASCAL
This inevitable partnership lived up to expectations, displaying British hip-hop-garage-grime at its Cockney rhyming inter-racial best – and even if it did sound positively lightweight alongside American rap, it was all the more refreshing for its piss-take of the gangsta posers.
“What do you know about being a hard man/your mum buys your bling”
Home-made YouTube video, with Talulah from Bugsy Malone as Lily Allen…
BUCKETHEAD – CARBON/SILICON
Available only from the band’s web site, and entirely for free, this musical adaptation of the book “Snow Crash” uses the same guitar riff for its entire 8 minutes and 45 seconds – and I’ve yet to tire of it. In the middle of the repetition, Mick Jones even references the song itself:
“The choruses of ‘my friend’ part personalizes the song to counteract the rather geekiness of the verses. And to keep it in the rock’n’roll area.”
Hear the song via legal free streaming/download here:
GRAHAM PARKER – STICK TO THE PLAN
Perhaps because former British native Graham Parker is now something of a Woodstock institution, local radio station WDST got right behind his new album Don’t Tell Columbus and played this song incessantly through the middle of the year. And they were certainly correct to do so, for “Stick To The Plan” is one of Parker’s best, lyrically and musically right up there with Dylan and Springsteen in terms of its relevance, easy groove and clever but never polemic wordplay. I should really have got my hands on the album already, as it also includes songs about a) Pete Doherty, b) Parker’s move to Woodstock, and c) the early 20th century destruction of several Catskills villages to build the Ashokan reservoir for New York City’s water supply, a subject I always thought deserved to be put to song. Expect a lengthier treatise on Don’t Tell Columbus in weeks to come.
“Well God said to the president listen to me/I will advise you on
the way it’s gonna be/So the president got to his knees and accepted his fate/It’s a done deal now if you got some objections too late.”
Live rendition of “Stick to the Plan” (Graham, get with the Net!) at YouTube:
LONDON I LOVE YOU BUT YOU’RE BRINGING ME DOWN – HEARING DOUBLE & JCB SOUNDSYSTEM
What greater honor could New York’s LCD Soundsystem have asked for than an online-only bootleg remix album to appear from England just weeks after Sound Of Silver’s release – and for its closing song to be an actual cover version? Hearing Double & JCB Soundsystem rewrote “New York I Love You” to reflect the contemporary capital of the UK – and then further internationalized the concert with a lengthy finale. It was the kind of instant internet interaction that makes modern music so exciting – and if you do download the song or the album, the LCDRemixed team ask only that you consider a donation to charity; they’ve contributed their own talents entirely for free.
“So the boring collect, I mean all disrespect, in the Islington bars I once dreamt I would drink.”
Hear the song via legal free streaming/download here
THE SIDEWINDER SLEEPS TONITE – ROGUE WAVE
Stereogum magazine’s tribute to Automatic For The People, Drive XV, was another online-only, free-to-all-comers musical offering, and very nearly made it into my Top 10 albums list. Only a couple of patchy covers prevented it from doing so. Ultimately, the one I keep coming back to is this song by Rogue Wave, one of America’s greatest new wistful pop bands, who rewrote the R.E.M. classic with sufficient imagination to render it almost an entirely new song, without ever insulting the original.
“The cat in the hat came back, wrecked a lot of havoc on the way,
Always had a smile and a reason to pretend.”
Hear the song via legal free streaming/download here.
THE PRESIDENT’S DEAD – OKKERVIL RIVER
Wishful thinking, I’m afraid, at least if we’re talking about the same President as Graham Parker. But in combining the memory of Kennedy’s assassination with the fictional death of a contemporary President – as imagined thirty years from now – Okkervil River delivered a perfect sub-three minute pop song, almost exclusively on acoustic guitar. Giving away such a great single online paid enormous dividends when the group’s third or fourth album (depending how you count them), The Stage Names, came out to great acclaim, making it onto many End-of-year-Lists.
“If you don’t live through a day for the littlest things,
And the littlest ways made you feel you were blessed
If you died right then, well you know you’d be missed,
But there’s no better state to cease to exist.”
Hear the song via legal free streaming/download here:
AMERICAN LAND – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN WITH THE SESSIONS BAND
Another ’06 song to round out the list, “American Land” was introduced on the Sessions Band tour last year and released on the double CD live souvenir that came out early in ‘07. I confess, not having seen that tour, I didn’t pay the new song enough attention. But when the E Street Band closed their set with it in Albany this past November, it walloped me over the head with its poignancy, for fourteen days later I returned to Albany and, only a few hundred yards away from the arena where I saw Bruce play, became a citizen of this “American Land.” Thanks to the ongoing influence of so many great songwriters on this list who intrinsically understand the importance of great lyrics, I intend to use my new-found electoral voice wisely.
“They died building the railroads worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago they’re still dyin now
The hands that built the country we’re always trying to keep down”
And here’s the live version from Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band, as it appears on the Live In Dublin CD and DVD: