12. Junior Boys : In The Morning

(So This Is Goodbye, 2006)

In The Morning captures that queasy sense of over-indulgence we've all felt in the small hours; whether by over-indulgence in substances or in our desires, there's that feeling of mental and physical regret. It's in the gentle, wheezy, percussive gasps, like a shortness of breath; in the nagging, high pitched synth in the background, like a headache; but most of all the hazy melody and woozy, circular, circulating chords that never quite resolve. Sounds like many early mornings I've experienced (all in my youth, of course).

Despite the title, the most repeated phrase in the lyrics is "too young", used almost as percussion. Too young to be wasting your life? Too young for me take you home? (Thereby qualifying for "jailbait pop" in the tradition of Gary Pucket & The Union Gap's Young Girl or Abba's Does Your Mother Know)

Unusually for me, I first heard In The Morning while watching the video, so my interpretation is probably irrevocably affected by the imagery I've seen.

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11. Sugababes : Stronger

(Angels With Dirty Faces, 2002)

Although not the highest entry in this chart that could be described as "mainstream" (despite notionally indie or more "authentic" roots, it's a bit of a stretch to describe Muse, Snow Patrol, Mark Ronson or Kings Of Leon as anything else), Sugababes do operate much more at the manufactured end of the pop spectrum, to the extent that some might be surprised to find them this high. And yet you shouldn't be. Modern day pop is produced by an army of very accomplished back room men and women, and it's insulting to think them incapable of something genuinely affecting. To some extent it's a percentages game, given the volume of product; I wouldn't expect to find that all Sugababes tracks are this good (although, to be fair, I haven't checked). But many of the people working in this field have real pedigree; we'll meet a few of them further down the chart.

In fact, unlike some comparable artists, Sugababes do co-write their songs - or, at least, they have a credit on this. I'm sure they've had their troubled times, like the rest of us, and perhaps that contributes to the feeling of reality. What I like about this hymn to female empowerment is its sense of grim determination. Rather than promote a cheery, senseless - and more obviously commercial - optimism, the song explicitly acknowledges that, if you're looking for a happy ending, your current situation is probably less than perfect. The slow, measured beat, the doleful strings and the (relative) lack of vocal histrionics, along with the dense close harmonies behind an unusually horizontal melody (it rarely moves outside of a single octave) all give a real sense of purpose. The whole thing is beautifully atmospheric and I feel like an empowered woman just singing along with it.

I think the video that shows the girls walking away from their situation capture the overall sense of the song very well. Although the bit where all the male customers applaud the stripper who puts her clothes back on and walks out of the club doesn't strike me as particularly realistic. And obviously it was very important to show the 'babes by the pool in their bikinis. And if I was to be really picky, I might say that the whole thing sounds a little too in debt to Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy but that would be carping.

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10. Queens Of The Stone Age : Go With The Flow

(Songs For The Deaf, 2002)

"I want something good to die for, to make it beautiful to live"

Josh Homme's guitar tone is probably my favourite right now. Gutsy, articulate and yet often sounding on the brink of disintegration, it locks with Dave Grohl's engine room of drums and relentlessly drives the track from the beginning, while the lead provides squealing, swirling punctuation. It feels like we're on the brink of something important, that churning feeling of anticipation in our stomachs, the sense of running out of time to make a life-changing decision - but somehow it's out of our hands already.

"I can go ... with the flow"

The whole album is superb and if it wasn't for my self-imposed limit of one track per album for this list I would have featured one, possibly two more.

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9. Kings Of Leon : Sex On Fire

(Only By The Night, 2008)

Having been at or near the top in many end-of-decade polls, the boys from Nashville will surely be disappointed with their lowly position in this chart.  But let's not let that detract from a classic track.  A triumph of feel over meaning, it could be about anything - the singer's pet hamster, the tragedy of genocide in Rwanda - and still transmit that sense of breathless desperation.  The urgency of the Caleb Followill's voice trumps any lyrical deficiencies and the guitar sounds like it is actually on fire through the chorus.  Wonderfully arranged and put together, it's no-brained modern rock for us all to groove and shout along with, and what more can we ask?

In fact, the whole thing reminds me of U2, both in the specific guitar sound - subtly but importantly laden with delay and a smidge of chorus, I'd say - and technique - the half rhythm, half riff powering the chorus, and also in the way that the whole thing sounds way more portentous than any examination of the words actually proves it to be.

The rest of the album has summarily failed to impinge upon my consciousness and so this remains the only thing from it that I play.

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8. Mark Ronson : Stop Me

feat. Daniel Merriweather (Version, 2007)

There probably isn't another song on this list so likely to be divisive.

For ex-indie kids of a Certain Age, the memory of The Smiths continues to be sacrosanct.  They represent so much to these people; a sensibility new and yet shared and the first flowering of an individual taste (ironic, isn't it?).  Truth to tell, their catalogue (like that of The Stone Roses, another coming of age band) doesn't really live up to the hype.  Sure, there are some superb tracks: "This Charming Man", "How Soon Is Now?", "Bigmouth Strikes Again".  But Morrisey's unique singing style is an acquired taste and, like Bob Dylan, it's a taste that is becoming more and more "selective".

"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" came from the last Smiths album Strangeways, Here We Come, and the whole thing sounds lacklustre to me.  I'm no expert on the history but I'm betting the whole band were getting sick of each other by the time it was made.  I'm sure it's someone's favourite track ever but I'm willing to bet it's not in many Smiths top 10s.  So full marks to Mark Ronson for recognising its potential.

Say what you like about Ronson's production techniques, you have to acknowledge the craft.  Perhaps there's too much of a formula and he probably came close to saturating the market with Amy Winehouse's Back To Black album and his own Version.  Some would call the sound "ersatz soul" and say all it does is mimic the classic Motown or Stax singles.  I think to say this is to fundamentally fail to appreciate the philosophy behind both those labels; they weren't producing art, they were mass-producing product, using a formula.  Sometimes it worked like a charm and those moments are elevated to the status of art and accorded classic status.  It's those we remember now.  But for every classic there were a dozen also-rans, and that's without considering the glut of records from minor labels that subsequently fed the Northern Soul scene.

My point here is that even if you think that the Ronson sound is too retro, too formulaic or even fake, sometimes it works.  Here, it works.  Bizarrely, applied to a doleful, monotonic indie dirge, the whole things kicks arse.  Regardless of their original provenance, the sentiments of the song are the same as those in "Where Did Our Love Go?" or "Stop! In The Name Of Love" by The Supremes.  The quoting of "You Keep Me Hanging On" at the end is just perfect, not just a convenient coincidence of chord sequence but a cute acknowledgement of the common ground.

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7. Calexico : Red Blooms

(Carried To Dust, 2008)

This has a wonderfully autumnal atmosphere: weary yet hopeful, doleful yet content, bleak yet beautiful, like a landscape.  Is that possible?  It sounds country to me, and I'm not talking about the keening, reverb-drenched steel guitar that swoops and glides in the background like a flock of starlings.  I mean it sounds like it's made in the country and about the country.  I'd say it sounds rural.  Again, I couldn't tell you what the song is about, but it makes me think of the cycle of the seasons.

One of the best sources of new music over the decade has been my good friend Paul Smith and many of the tracks on this list first came to my notice via his periodic compilations.  Thank heavens for his efforts and short attention span, I say.  Calexico is a band I'd heard of before - even heard before - but had never really caught my attention.  Truth to tell, they still haven't.  It's just this track.

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