The best 30 singles of 2007
Photo by Jan Glas
30) "Plaster Casts of Everything" - Liars
The plan was to always keep moving. Flee this mousetrap of a town, get far from anybody who knew their real names. On the back of his bike, she pronounced them martyrs of velocity, exiles of the imagination. When they'd burned through her graduation present, he suggested holding up mini-marts and off-ramp drive-thrus. For a few months, they lived on adrenaline and stacks of twenties, ridiculous blonde wigs and newspaper clippings. Then one night, revving away from the crime scene, she realized that fifty thousand dollars divided by one more cleanly than two. Blonde again, she slipped the keys from his jeans. Back on the move before he was even awake.
* MP3: "Plaster Casts of Everything" - Liars from Liars [Buy it]
29) “The Babysitter’s Club” – Desmond Reed
It would never ever be three o'clock. The eighth period bell would never ever ring, that much was clear. They'd grow into old, gray geezers listening to Mr. Wells mutter on about wavelengths and particles. He slumped in his chair, tore off a scrap, slipped Kelsey a note. "Kill me," it read. Finally, the bell did ring; he dumped his books into his locker and ran for his bike. Listened to Mom drone on about how she needed to find a new man till four. Then he pedaled over to the Petersons' house to babysit. He played hide and seek with the kids, had Oreos and played Warcraft, watched reruns of Saved by the Bell on TBS. Until ten p.m., when Mr. and Mrs. Peterson came back, he felt entirely at home. For once, he was the king of something tangible, the reigning monarch of 815 Stonecrest Road.
28) “Take Pills” – Panda Bear
Dad was never the same after '87. Sad as a veteran, quiet as the truth. He went from moping behind closed doors to lying on the inflatable raft in the backyard pool. For all to see: his pasty legs sticking out of his bathrobe, his tears liberally collecting on the Minnie Mouse-patterned plastic. Then one day the raft was gone, he'd just float on his back in the five-foot-deep water. We watched him from the deck, understanding but ashamed. Then he stopped floating, bobbing under the surface. Holding his breath for minutes, timing how long he could endure below. The durations extended; we stopped supervising because we couldn't bear it. Then he stopped coming back up for air altogether; after the wake, we decided to scatter his ashes by the lakeside. He'd left a note under my door that said, "I'm sorry, I really am, but depression is genetic."
* MP3: "Take Pills" - Panda Bear from Person Pitch [Buy it]
27) “No Pussy Blues” - Grinderman
Grow that spaghetti-western mustache for twirling. Gather enough grease in your receded hairline to fry a hash brown. Fill your jade pipe with a private blend of Moroccan tobaccos. Subscribe to magazines about body modification just to fan across the coffee table. Initiate conversations with lascivious, blade-sharp grins and come-hither leers. Let them know you're hungry for it, that you'll pay, that they'll pay you, that you've been to Berlin and the Reeperbahn on two separate occasions. Occupy alleys with a desolation cologne and tufts of your chest hair protruding. Lift the skirts of passing women; look up "frotteur" in the dictionary; linger by the playground fence just to watch.
* MP3: "No Pussy Blues" - Grinderman from Grinderman [Buy it]
26) “Mistaken For Strangers” – The National
It was just for the winter, I told myself. A Long Island City sublet, six hundred bucks a month for a fully furnished studio. It was just north North Brooklyn; I could see the constellations of Manhattan's skyline across the water whenever I wanted. But then Reggie never returned from Portland; by the time April had trickled in, I already had a bookcase and a coat rack and a hi-def TV on the wall. The 7 train wasn't so, so bad, I decided, just one measly stop into Queens. Besides, I couldn't give up the hanger steak at Tournesol; the dry cleaner on 44th Ave. had just learned my name; I could still go down to the city anytime I chose. By July though, I was browsing my cell phone directory like a thief. Who the hell were Matt and Matt F. and did I really ever know a Bridget?
25) "Flex" - Dizzee Rascal
House party over at Yauncey's. The kind where the only question is when the cops will arrive to bust it up. Guzzle scoopfuls of Chex Mix. Intercept the nubbin of a spliff. Puff, puff and do not pass. Cling to the grimy lungheat like a prejudice. Through the blanket of smoke, spy her shaking it across the room. Ridiculous, glorious, thigh-high boots and a silver lamé spacesuit. She throbbed to the bassline, doing spastic, extraterrestrial karate. Dance routines that spanned cultures and centuries. An ass that jiggled flirts in Morse code. It was either the weed talking or you would never love anything as much as you loved this girl. By the time the cops got there, she was gone and nobody knew who you were talking about.
24) “No One” – Alicia Keys
The unilateralism of love. The trembly exuberance of this-is-it-I've-made-it-finally. You sever your family name and stitch his on like a patch. You audition caterers and select magneta bridesmaid gowns and flip through fat books of napkin patterns. You puke and don't sleep much and spend whole weeks penning elaborate vows that, at their root, just want to say, Please be normal and sane and make me chicken soup when I'm sick and reciprocate this immeasurable love I have for you for the rest of our natural lives.
23) "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo" - Jens Lekman
O64. We were aiming for a plus-shaped configuration, center row-center column. Rita had just confessed she'd be leaving for Bergen next month. We weren't talking about it, only because I didn't know how to yet. N33. Instead, I looked over to Mrs. Guterson, the fat moles peppering her jaw, the green sweater tight on her bosom. She was the mother of my best friend in primary school. B7. Marcus Sköle sitting with his three sisters. The town drunk by a mile, he'd tell jokes so fantastically dirty, you needed a Q-Tip afterward. I27. My maternal grandparents, prunefaced saints married fifty-three years, conspiratorially huddling over their gamepieces. N31. "But maybe this place, it's not so bad either," Rita whispered, covering the square. "Bingo!" I cried.
* MP3: "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo" - Jens Lekman from Night Falls Over Kortedala [Buy it]
22) "2080" - Yeasayer
Young and inevitable, they scaled the fence. Tiny flowers of panic bloomed in the pits of their stomaches. Second semester was on the horizon; the air had lost its chill, turning mild and balmy. They took off their clothes item by item, acting brave but suddenly shy. Breasts were still novelties. It still felt thrilling to be this reckless. Racing into the water, it rushed up to their necks. They felt stupid, impractical things like freedom and eternity but also the caress of cool liquid on skin. Six years later, Rick would cannonball through a windshield after too many Coors Lights. Twenty-one years later, Anne would get cervical cancer and not recover. Seventy-three years later, Mark would look up at the hospital ceiling and thank God it was over.
* MP3: "2080" - Yeasayer from All Hour Cymbals [Buy it]
21) “What’s A Girl To Do?” – Bat For Lashes
A blue room in a stucco house, a vase with gladiolas, a pinewood table. We sit at opposite ends and slice up our breakfasts. We have a conversation of clinking silverware and swallowed Tropicana. The runny eggs look like abortions. The view outside is a muddled gray, bleary as an erase mark. "Are you all right?" he asks, planting his elbows on the table end. In a softer voice, he adds, "Are we all right?" I pick up the plates and rinse them in the sink. I let the gush of water and scraping sponge answer for me. He walks up behind me, scoops his arms around my shoulders, asks again more anxiously. Every muscle in my body tenses at his touch. Reflexively, I nod, but then I hear myself answering, "No... I don't think we are."
20) “Bloodstone” – Amon Tobin featuring the Kronos Quartet
A mechanized ballet, watch how they twirl and curl and demi-plié. In time to the twinkly piano, every gliding step is synchronized to an eighth note. In their spangled leotards and perfectly golden coifs, they dazzle every spectator. But in just a few years, the circuits in the music box have fried. Its gears have ground down and they click when they turn. The fifth ballerina can barely keep up with the first, her legs kicking out in furious, desperate thrusts. For the first time, the dancers feel individual and free and patently terrified. Now they never get visitors to the attic and no one ever hunches over them to marvel how beautiful they look.
* MP3: "Bloodstone" - Amon Tobin from The Foley Room [Buy it]
19) “Diamond Dancer” – Bill Callahan
This was her moment to glisten. A twenty-four-karat beauty and she knew it, awash in sky-blue spotlight. Every arm in the crowd raised to catch her, just hoping to get to touch her. She executed the choreography exactly, every last pivot and shimmy mathematically precise. She launched into another verse-chorus-verse, feeling the heat of their adulation, feeling the lustrous religion of fame. Her sequined outfit was impregnating the light, birthing an endless population of rainbows. A solar system of adorers. Love as raw as ore. Then when she heard the downstairs door slam, she turned off the radio and put away the hairbrush microphone. She opened the nearest textbook and pretended to do her homework again.
* MP3: "Diamond Dancer" - Bill Callahan from Woke on a Whaleheart [Buy it]
18) "We Celebrate" - Ghostface Killah featuring Kid Capri
Yeah, it's been a tough-ass year. A stone around your neck. A long, interminable slog. You've watched long-held plans fray at the last minute and the disappointments mount. You realized you weren't the person you long advertised you were. You had that breakdown in the bathroom stall of a Burger King after work. You renounced a dream or two, because it was easier than failing. But tonight is about shoving all that shit to the side for good. Popping cork after cork, smoking deep, macking on every girl up in the spot, living to the extreme. A hangover that will last all through January, a momentum that will spill over into the next twelve months.
17) "Roc Boys (And the Winner is)..."- Jay-Z
From the corner to the corner office, from the boarded-up tenement to the boardroom. The numbers had just arrived; it'd been another boom quarter. At the shareholder meeting, he gave a speech detailing his hardscrabble upbringing. He walked the cubicle halls and shook hands with his low-level employees. He supervised the signing of the holiday bonus checks. He reminded himself of his famously steep climb to success: the youngest CEO in company history, a doubling of the stock value since he took over. On the ride home, he basked in his achievements before noticing how irrelevant it felt. On Park Avenue, he told his driver to turn back toward the old hood. To its vial-dotted alleys and dead-end streets just this one time.
16) “The Piano” – PJ Harvey
Dusty Victorian gift-wrapped in cobwebs. She pushes past the creaking gate to take one last look. Tomorrow, the demolition crew will knock this house down. Floorboard by floorboard, wall by plaster wall, they’ll reduce it to uninhabitable debris. The parlor room where Mother hosted her bridge club, the bedroom case where John collected his shimmering athletics trophies, the cellar where Father stroked her hair and silently unbuckled her belt before his.
* MP3: "The Piano" - PJ Harvey from White Chalk [Buy it]
15) “Hustler” – Simian Mobile Disco
Back in the day, we used to wear jeans drooping off our hips. JNCOs with flared pantlegs and patches featuring flaming crowns. We'd invade the Sam Goody aisles in packs, looming over the racks like stormclouds. When the cashier turned his back and the guards were busy looking bored, we'd stuff CDs into sidepockets. Usually hip-hop or punk, whatever was the freshest, angriest shit that week, but it didn't really matter. We just did it to reaffirm our might and our fearlessness, our staggering superiority over the law. Nowadays, we all sit at home alone, Googling the album title + "mediafire," "rapidshare," "megaupload" or "sharebee," thrill-less and wearing jeans that actually fit.
* MP3: "Hustler" - Simian Mobile Disco from Attack Decay Sustain Release [Buy it]
14) “Giddy Stratospheres” – The Long Blondes
That fuck had started drinking tea. And not just any tea, but something organic with anti-fuckin-oxidants. Since her introduction, with her tight, pencil-pierced bun and sexless button-downs, he'd become as fascinating as the Dewey Decimal system. I tried to tell him, tried to subtly point out that he was forgoing whole weeks of earth-quaking parties. But he mumbled an excuse about seeing a Romanian film and a show at the Whitney. I stammered and punched him in the mouth and stormed out like the vixen I was. I seethed at the thought of him among all those pretentious pricks, admiring those postmodern splatters like he'd ever figure them out.
* MP3: "Giddy Stratospheres" - The Long Blondes from Someone to Drive You Home [Buy it]
13) “It’s The Beat” – Simian Mobile Disco
Slippery and electric, synthetic and luxurious. Hidden under our gaudiest costume jewelry, our vintage-shop Halloween masks, our ballgowns and tutus, our nothing but our tattoos. We were orphans, freaks, maniacs, heartthrobs, closet accountants. Shadow figures consigned to somebody else's periphery. Here, we could invite the music to slither through our veins, to snake into our systems, to make us into something incredible and permanent. We could build towers out of every brick-like beat, construct nests and igloos and shelters for ourselves out of every sanctuary pulse.
12) “Stronger” – Kanye West
Bottle service, banquette behind a velvet rope, mononomial models from the Ivory Coast or the Eastern Bloc. Wearing shades in the darkest corners, Tokyo-imported kicks, an outfit sporting more designer labels than Fashion Week. Everyone knows you're here and feels cooler by association; you can hear the self-congratulatory whispers even over the impossibly loud bassline. One of your singles obviously, followed by two or three artists just signed to your label, followed by two more known to run in your coterie. The world is yours, as tangibly in your possession as a diamond record and a storeroom-new Lambo. Your phone--one of your phones--rings, and strictly as a lark, you decide to answer. Over the noise, a voice as cold as metal says he's sorry to bother you at this hour. He's sorry, but your mom has passed away.
11) “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem
It was lines on our faces now, not lines of blow in dive-bar backrooms. We were bald or fat or both or maybe somehow even neither. We had kids at home or we would never get to have kids. Careers instead of temp jobs, pensions instead of assembling the change from every set of pants pockets we owned. Our greatest affairs were behind us, the wild, wobbly rendezvouses with leggy brunettes in trenchcoats, vacationing in Bordeaux with the poet with the silk-soft skin, or else they never even happened. Now is dreary and painfully comfortable, a life with the texture of pudding. Now is getting voicemail message after voicemail message, and all our friends sound just like our real estate agents.
10) "Crimewave" - Crystal Castles
The bleep-blop-boop of climbing ladders in Donkey Kong, Pacman chasing pixels of Adderall, a Pong dot bopping frantically between funhouse mirrors, 8-bit Mario with a case of the hiccups disco-dancing with Koopa Troopas and Lakitu's spinies. A pinball epileptically flashing in the clutches of a bonus zone, the digits of scores skittering upwards, the whole machine pulsing with frantic stimuli. Deep Blue during his precocious teen years. The robot from "Fitter, Happier" before he suffered his midlife crisis.
* MP3: "Crimewave" - Crystal Castles from "Crimewave" EP [Buy it]
9) “Guinea Pigs” – Desmond Reed
I cried in my room for days. Mom let me miss school or it was the weekend, I don't really remember. But I know that when I finally left the bed, I came out armed with smiles as sharp and reckless as U-turns. Ludicrous Joker grins, lips nudging my cheekbones up toward my eyesockets, chuckles and giggles and hearty guffaws at the most ordinary of comments. Publicly, I looked happier than Ronald McDonald. But deep down, I kept asking myself, if a guinea pig can die, what about my sister, my parents, my best friends Peter and Chris, or even me?
* MP3: "Guinea Pigs" - Desmond Reed from "Guinea Pigs" EP [Buy it]
8) “Set Fire to the Face on Fire” – The Blood Brothers
Pink slips weren't actually pink, it turned out, they were your boss flatly telling you to pack up the crap on your desk and hand in your laminated ID card downstairs. Who would he be now, he wondered, without a barcode to swipe, without five weekdays to prostitute, without a place to locate his loathing? Driving off, he felt like a weapon unsheathed. His neck was a baseball bat, his legs gun barrels, his fists lit rags. Every pedestrian looked like a walking dare and the long road home was nothing but a firing range.
* MP3: "Set Fire to the Face on Fire" - The Blood Brothers from Young Machetes [Buy it]
7) “Jimmy” – M.I.A.
There was something unmistakably erotic about sample-size soaps. Plastic-wrapped shower caps and daily changed towels. They stayed in three-star hotels and made love with the curtains open. After dinner in the lobby restaurant, they would venture out into the streets. They were immediately mobbed by beggars, by limbless combatants, by starving, hollow-eyed evacuees. The carnage seemed to bleed into every shack and every abandoned field. It was impossible to cross the road outside the hospital now, because the ropes of waiting, wailing victims had become unbreakable. Back in their room, they undressed again, either as a tribute to the horrors or an antidote to them. The chemical slaps of Clorox and Lysol washed over them, reassuring them that there'd be many more warzones to visit in the future.
6) “To Go Home” – M. Ward
He had neatly written his eulogy on index cards. The burial plot had been selected, a shady little rectangle under a cyprus grove. He had written apologetic letters to long-ago lovers, settled his outstanding debts, and updated his will generously. The house had been sold to a young couple, the four rooms swept and deodorized of its associations. He hugged his sons goodbye and kissed his grandchildren's foreheads. Oh, how he kissed their smooth, smooth foreheads! Most of all, he asked everyone he visited not to cry in his memory. To instead honor his legacy by recalling a life characterized by lush and incessantly wondrous joys.
5) “D.A.N.C.E.” - Justice
Sixth-grade dance, gross purple streamers and some indistinguishable theme they called "A Night Under The Stars." They splintered into clusters quickly, boys with boys, girls with girls naturally. They did their best impressions of coolly aloof, hoping that somebody would notice their brand-new Nikes or haircuts. They double-dipped chips in salsa, drank unhealthy amounts of colas, scooped handfuls from the M & M bowl to look preoccupied. Justin Regan of class 6-3 loudly proclaimed to his group how embarrassing this shit was, and for a while, he was exactly right. But about an hour in, some brave boy led some brave girl to the center of the gym floor. Everybody gawked, whispered, reluctantly joined in by the next song. By the end of the night, Justin was ready to concede that maybe that shit hadn't been so bad.
4) “Wet and Rusting” - Menomena
Go to parties in monstrously large sunglasses and a ketchup-red bowtie. Hang out on the fire escape, bullshitting about philosophy and whatever you think Keynesian economics means. Accuse Kierkegaard of being a dick just to do it; adamantly pontificate on the pleasures of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Tim Burton movies. Streak the neighborhood in your socks, play beer pong and foosball really badly, make up elaborate stories about your friendship with three members of Grizzly Bear. Laugh like a villain so everybody knows how terrific things are. Talk to every person in sight, including the Domino's guy and the upstairs neighbor who came to bitch out the host. Plan collages you'll never actually create, maybe feel up a girl in the basement, feel tremendous and tiny in equal measure. Be ceaselessly hilarious. When you come home and she asks how your night was, say in a convincing voice, "Nothing special."
* MP3: "Wet and Rusting" - Menomena from Friend and Foe [Buy it]
3) “North American Scum” – LCD Soundsystem
They sewed maple-leaf patches onto their backpacks. They weaved "eh?" and "aboot" into their parlance, until the words fit as naturally as slippers. When the plane landed, when they were bombarded by some much otherness, it didn't feel like enough anymore. So they picked out new origins, adopted new, equally absurd accents. In every country, they were from somewhere even farther and less plausible--Hamburg, Bratislava, Vladivostok, Ulaanbaatar. At the Louvre, they cringed when the plump Midwesterner pronounced the painters' names "Mo-nette" and "Dee-gass." In the 1st arrondissement, they avoided eye contact with anyone they suspected was their countryman. But the truth, the dumb secret truth of it, was they weren't homesick for places that didn't exist as they liked to claim. No, even steeped among all this beauty and art, they were just homesick for home.
* MP3: "North American Scum" - LCD Soundsystem from Sound of Silver [Buy it]
2) "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)"- UGK ft. Outkast
Yeah, you could practically hear them swooning to the floor, their alleycat wails of disappointment. A hundred women tearing open the seals on the save-the-date envelopes. Then furiously tearing them to meaningless shreds. Yeah, it was going be a historic event, right alongside the Beatles on Sullivan on the moon landing. The bachelor no one could tame finally setting down moorings, getting himself hitched. Yeah, they'd all come from distant zip codes to mourn and howl madly like Sicilian widows, maybe even barricading the altar so that no vows could be exchanged. Or else they'd all fly up when the priest asked for objections, yelling over each other like a talk show audience. Something like that would happen no doubt, something that would keep the event from actually happening. At least that's what he kept telling himself as he buttoned up his tux and wiped the flopsweat from his brow.
1) “Ice Cream” - Muscles
All I wanted to do was leave this town forever. Perching over the yellow line, willing the F train to drag its stocky ass through the tunnel, loathing the world for being the world. I was late for work again, late as always, as more and more people congregated around me. Usually, I found some solace in crowds, but today, they just felt like lead ballasts on my feet. Finally, by nine-forty, the subway's milky yellow beams were painting the walls. The silver eel of the F was asthmatically chugging into the station. But of course, each car was already clogged with bodies, stuffed as a clown car, so laughable it was tragic. By now, I didn't give a fuck though; I shoved my way in as did the fifty people behind me. This was what reasonable people like us had been reduced to: faces pressed into strangers' armpits, elbows in ears, a zoo of smells. The anarchy of our everyday lives. Then, on the verge of snapping, I slipped in my headphones and I shut my eyes. Suddenly, I felt ecstatic and singular, sprawling and giddy. I drunk up every sugary blip and electric burp that the song served up. I started bobbing my head and tapping my toes to the beat, feeling eloquent and halfway human again.
* MP3: "Ice Cream" - Muscles from Guns Babes Lemonade [Buy it]