Top ten: Welcome to the beautiful south
1. Mavis Staples, "I'll Be Rested"/"99 and 1/2"/"My Own Eyes": At 68, she's taken even longer than her Pops to peak. On We'll Never Turn Back, she draws upon her memories of protests and arrests during the civil rights era. This isn't self-congratulation: "99 and 1/2" (set to LAPD brutality footage below) and "My Own Eyes" and Katrina remind us how far away we are from equality in practice, how much work remains to be done. But while turning back isn't an option for the brave, it's essential to look back and honour past heroes. Her reimagination of "I'll Be Rested" moves from a roll call of civil rights martyrs ecumenical enough to include both Malcolm X and Bobby Kennedy, to a list of passed gospel greats ending with Pops. There's no song that can make me a believer. But that's never stopped me from wishing there were a heaven.
2. Tabu Ley Rochereau, "Karibou Ya Bintou"/"Adeito": I like the more expansive soukous of the Seventies onwards better than the early dance club stuff. So while I find the first disc of the Rochereau comp The Voice of Lightness enjoyable, it's the second, covering his peak Afrisa International period, that sounds great to me. The wah-wah "Aon-Aon" you should know, while "Karibou Ya Bintou" is a gently gorgeous warm welcome. In the live "Adeito", Rochereau lets his supergroup mess around for five minutes, before jumping in to show why he was the great African singer of the era. Next: someone please compile his best post-1977 tracks -- if the best are as good as those of his rival Franco (whom Rochereau dominates on their classic collab Omona Wapi), he goes way up the worldwide all-time list.
3. Taio Cruz ft. Luciana, "Come On Girl": Mostly generic, but at least they're ripping off the best, even if Timbaland would find their attempt to recreate his "My Love" synths laughable. Then there's Luciana, of "Covered in Punk" and "Yeah Yeah" fame, one of the most sexual singers ever (even though she sounds like the not particularly sexual M.I.A.), who flips the song to make it truly dirty. Funny that a song called "Come On Girl" should be most memorable for its invocation of male orgasm, but that's porn for yuuuuuuu.
4. Gui Boratto, "Beautiful Life": Hey Ace of Base, don't jump off that bridge! Just look at that water down there -- it glistens.
5. DragonForce, "Through the Fire and Flames": South African singer. Hong Kong guitarist. New Zealand guitarist. Ukranian keybist. French bassist. Scottish drummer. The official extreme power metal band of the United Nations. Go Planet!
6. Of Montreal, "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal": Break-up as theatre, explosion, implosion, food fight and over-analysis. Maybe it's the last of those that got them back together.
7. The-Dream ft. Rihanna, "Livin' a Lie": Umbrella manufacturer and umbrella wielder find that parasols can't dry your tears, eh, eh, eh.
8. Against Me!, "Thrash Unreal": It's not like you're going to make her kick heroin, so she doesn't want your sympathy -- because it'd be accompanied by your judgement.
9. Imperial Teen, "21st Century"/"Baby and the Band": Fourteen years after they formed Imperial Teen in an attempt to solve the "All My Friends" OMG-I'm-30 problem, 30 for life doesn't seem so bad. As much as they love the hair, the TV etc., and as exhausting as touring is, there's nothing like making noise to remind themselves they matter in the 21st century.
10. Ghostface Killah ft. Raekwon & U-God, "Rec-Room Therapy": Eat your whole grains, else that crack vial up your ass is gonna mess you up.
Eleven more: Burial, "Archangel"; Drive-By Truckers, "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife"; Flo Rida ft. T-Pain, "Low"; Franz Ferdinand, "All My Friends"; Imperial Teen, "Room with a View"; Lil Wayne, "Blooded"; The Magnetic Fields, "Too Drunk to Dream"; Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, "Killing the Blues"; Ghislain Poirier, "No More Blood (Megasoid remix)"; Tabu Ley Rochereau, "Likambo Ya Mokanda"; Mavis Staples, "Down in the Mississippi".
Good but not that good: Bloc Party, "I Still Remember"; The Brunettes, "Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth"; Fucked Up, "Year of the Pig"; Jay-Z, "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)"; Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "100 Days, 100 Nights"; R. Kelly ft. T.I. & T-Pain, "I'm a Flirt Remix"; Konono No. 1, "A.E.I.O.U."; Linkin Park, "Bleed It Out"; Kylie Minogue, "The One"; David Murray Black Saint Quartet ft. Cassandra Wilson, "Sacred Ground"; Danuel Tate, "Pushcard".
I still can't work out what people see in her, possibly because I've seen neither the videos nor the iPod ad: Feist.
Under ether: PJ Harvey.
Labels: top ten