second to actually registering as sex offenders—which would be excessive, really—there’s no better way to express the depths of our perversity than by publishing our annual singles poll. We get pervier every year. Do we like misguided Japanese rap? Oh, yes, very much so. It’s been on our desktop since March. Have you ever interrupted the drillwork of an orthodontist to find out what song was playing on the radio? I have (it was Enya). We probably all have. We like fleeting treats. Because sometimes fleeting treats turn into essential vitamins. Sure, sometimes they don’t, but we’re slutty enough to have an epiphany we might regret later. That’s half the fun. We don’t subscribe to “poptomism” and we don’t fear the “apopcalypse.” Shut the fuck up. Our jam is on.


#50: The Fray – Over My Head (Cable Car)

The youth of today don't need their own Vietnam, they need their own Connells. “Over My Head (Cable Car”) provides them with what is effectively the first adult alternative track designed to be picked over and dissected by those fine minds over at SongMeanings.net. The Fray's role in popular music is to play Mozart to Keane's Salieri: wander into the rehearsal studio, show them exactly why their music's so bad, wander out, do some promo work for the “Grey's Anatomy” soundtrack. No wonder Tom Chaplin hit the bottle so hard.
[Watch]
[Dom Passantino]


#49: Nâdiya feat. Smartzee – Tous Ces Mots

Before “45:33,” “Tous Ces Mots” was the de facto 2006 workout soundtrack. And why not? Nadiya, a former world-class 800 meter runner, knows a thing or two about stirring chord changes and solid beats—which is why she runs what’s she got into the ground over its three-and-a-half minutes. (We couldn’t be happier.) It’s like a Rocky workout montage come to life: the grinding guitars, the video whose camera angle echoes Balboa’s soul-searching ride into the night in IV, the apropos-of-nothing rap verse (think “Livin' in America”)? What? You think Nadiya’s punch at the end is a coincidence?
[Watch]
[Todd Burns]


#48: Hello Saferide – The Quiz

The lead track on the Would You Let Me Play This EP 10 Times A Day? EP seems, at first, mere whimsy. The gossamer guitar and handclaps which soundtrack Annika Norlin’s anecdotal accounts of dating and domesticity seem cloying—too cute for comfort. Then: “And if I’d fall, would you pick me up?” It’s an admission and a challenge—a sentiment that cuts to the bone. Pop talks about love 97% of the time, but rarely does it so convincingly capture those moments of painful intimacy that relationships pivot upon. That she would pull similar tricks with needlepoint accuracy another four times over the EP gave ample evidence that a precious talent was in the ascendancy.
[Watch]
[Paul Scott]


#47: Ciara – Promise

Record your debut album as a teenager with one of the biggest producers in urban music. Score some very sexy hits off of it. Follow it up with a few well-chosen guest spots on other artists’ singles. Decide to step it up on your sophomore effort and take some risks to prove that you’re more than another faceless R&B chick. Ciara’s following Aaliyah’s playbook so closely, it’s as though Timbaland sent her his own copy—and while “Promise” may not scale the heights of “One in a Million,” it’s not for lack of trying. Polow da Don pulls every trick out of his formidable toybox on this smoldering ballad, most notably the �80s synth snares he bought at Prince’s yard sale; Ciara supplies the cooing attitude that ties it all together.
[Watch]
[Thomas Inskeep]


#46: Ellen Allien & Apparat – Way Out

The danceability of Ellen Allien’s beats paired with Sascha Ring’s subtler gyrations are a compliment to clubbers and the intelligentsia, which, as it happens on “Way Out,” can be one and the same. The track is, at least rhythmically, the most explosive, audacious undertaking on the album, and fittingly their first single. Allien’s sad, adamant vocals preside over the urgent escalation of synthesizers and about four different forms of percussion, real and fake. Some of The Knife’s spooky landscapes make it into this song in glittering piano details and a dirge-like cello cameo. But Allien and Ring’s history as dancefloor auteurs brings a form of energy to the “Way Out” that few have succeeded in doing with such ornate sophistication.
[Watch]
[Liz Colville]


#45: Lily Allen – LDN

Oh Lily, neglected and put-upon celebrity daughter—the poor thing has so much to whinge about that one could be forgiven for mistaking her for an indie rocker rather than a pop star. Even "LDN," the only bona fide summer pop smash I managed to notice this year, starts with a moan about the "filth" (that's Police to non-Londoners) taking away her (driving) license. But with the impeccable popnous and sassiness on offer, it’s easy to forgive: Not only does "LDN" have a lilting tune and rhythm to die for, going back beyond Mike Skinner to The Specials, but also the rhyming couplet of the year ("Tesco" masterfully voiced against "al fresco"). Though she may moan, she's full of love—that beautiful, climbing chorus says it all. I could listen to it all day.
[Watch]
[Nick Southall]


#44: Momus – Nervous Heartbeat

For someone best known as an unscrupulous, emotionally vacant pervert with a good sense of humor, "Nervous Heartbeat" is pretty damn earnest. By any other measure, it's disturbing. He coos kittenishly about snuggling and other niceties. He says a few things in Japanese or something that sounds like Japanese. They're probably terms of endearment, but they also might also be the names of sweets varieties in heaven. It's auto-tuned to the point that he sounds like a heartsick lil' robot. And the strings swell big. Brittle schlock, like a pantomime of a Nat King Cole weeper—music for people who hate people who fancy their own problems unfolding like some intolerable foreign film rife with quiet insights about melancholy and footage of people staring at trains. Those people. We have our ballad now, and it feels just dreamy, like a good bout of influenza.
[Watch]
[Mike Powell]


#43: Miranda! – Don

Nobody's bothered to make good electro-pop since Terry Butcher was around. They give us too much electro, not enough pop, and make the whole damn sponge cake far too heavy by throwing in the entire contents of a bowl marked “must dance to this.” Miranda! don't care about making you dance, it's beneath them. And “Don” is an exercise in the basics done to sexually ambiguous Latino perfection—supernatant vocal harmonies, stupidly simple guitar school solos, and bleeping keyboards as delicate and urgent as a gang of fairy bailiffs. When it comes to great Argentine works of art in 2006, it's second only to Cambiasso's goal against Serbia & Montenegro.
[Watch]
[Dom Passantino]


#42: Ne-Yo – So Sick

A nuanced, detail-rich heartbreaker that perfectly captures the easily-forgotten yet oh-so-devastating mundanities of romantic dissolution? Sounds like the kind of stuff country’s been doing well (though rarely this well) for ages. The answering machine that says “we” can’t come to the phone. The calendar with a circle around an anniversary date. Ne-Yo’s already brilliant for pointing these things out, but his real genius lies in showing how much we fetishize these artifacts of misery, how we luxuriate in loneliness, so that no matter how many sickening love songs we’re forced to hear, we still can’t bring ourselves to turn off the radio.
[Watch]
[Josh Love]


#41: Teddybears feat. Mad Cobra – Cobrastyle

Of course, the world's full of former grindcore bands wearing bear mascot heads that switch styles, become feted by the fey, gay, and 15-year-olds who make up the online popist regiments, and then get shot to oh-so-moderate fame by being on the soundtrack to a WWE PPV and a Dane Cook movie. That shit happens all the time. “Cobrastyle” happens once in a damn lifetime, the kind of “This sounds like... nothing I've heard ever” track that Basement Jaxx could have been moved to produce if anyone still cared about them. Mad Cobra takes what Kid Rock made a hot line and makes a hot song, ragga spends the entire song smothering garage rock with its gut, and there's even handclaps (in case you forget that Sweden is still the world's indiest country).
[Watch]
[Dom Passantino]


#40: Morningwood – Nth Degree

Like neon reflecting in aviator shades “Nth Degree” is cool almost to the point of contrivance. Its knowing concoction of “rock & roll” and “disco” is light yet propulsive, effortlessly gliding upon shimmering (parallel) lines of sound. Though seemingly produced by mere drum, bass, and guitar it feels almost futurist in its breathlessly sleek perfection. Along with Delays’ “Valentine,” it made 2006 seem like a year in which the hackneyed rock band set-up might, under the pressures of technology, bend into breathtaking new shapes.
[Watch]
[Paul Scott]


#39: Sonic Youth – Incinerate

Sonic Youth's last several albums have marked something of a renaissance for indie rock's models of downtown New York cool: although Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have over a hundred years between them, their 21st-century output feels as alive as any of their early no-wave recordings or even the bright MTV hits that followed. They've also been refining their urgent sense of melody, and despite recent hints at sparkling pop perfection, "Incinerate," with its tight, spindly guitar lines and searing solo, is the band's first solid gem since 1997's "Sunday." Thurston may nonchalantly pretend he'll "burn out anyhow," but it's hard to imagine Sonic Youth not carrying on forever, vibrant all the while.
[Watch]
[John M. Cunningham]


#38: Clipse – Mr. Me Too

On first listen, "Mr. Me Too" sounds like lukewarm Neptunes: spare instrumentation, trap drums, blips, bleeps, Pharrell rapping about being with Puff in Aspen. Then the Clipse enter, creating spirals around the beat and sliding down them. Like Hell Hath No Fury, returning to their verses unfolds the (w)rapping: the beat suddenly seems colder, buzzes and drones layered over one another. And Pusha and Malice? They've rarely sounded as unsure and cocksure as they do here, making "oooooo" lines like "Peel money rolls 'til our thumbs get the paper cuts" and "Choke on ya own spit just as soon as ya mention us," sound downright frightening and frightened. This is bling version 2.0, where the shine fades and where, "tomorrow ain't promised so we live for the moment."
[Watch]
[Tal Rosenberg]


#37: Guillemots – Made Up Love Song #43

There have surely been at least 42 other songs about the power of love to make the ordinary appear wonderful, so it takes a rather special one to stop you in your tracks and convince all over again. Caught mid-song at the exact moment of realization that the one he loves really does feel the same way about him, Fyfe Dangerfield and his band do the only thing sensible. They dispose of woozy vulnerability and throw a party. It’s hard not to feel invited.
[Watch]
[Iain Forrester]


#36: Villalobos – Fizheuer Zieheuer

On paper, it shouldn’t work—a 37-minute single consisting of nothing but Bavarian brass band samples and all manners of percussion. But in the hands of Chilean mad scientist Ricardo Villalobos, these simple elements are mixed in such a way that you hardly notice that 40-minute mark closing in. Skeptics may dismiss this as a mere DJ tool grown too large for its own good, but the key is to loosen your ears and soak in the track as you would a hot tub—motionless, warm, relaxed—and let the magic unfold in kaleidoscopic fashion. If you look for the detail, you’ll miss the magic of the whole. The beats twist and tumble into one another, the horns bleat through different levels of distortion, and bliss is achieved. See—simple, right?
[Todd Hutlock]


#35: Lillix – Sweet Temptation

"1-2-3-4, get yourself on the floor" order Lillix and if I could hear this record anywhere other than my bedroom, I wouldn't be able deny them. A monumental, super compressed square wave block of sound, this should've been an anthem somewhere, anywhere, this year. Here Lillix, previously an attempt to girl-group the Avril Lavigne sound, chew up blood red bubble-gum pop, four-to-the-floor kicks, hissing hi-hat, heavy disco basslines, and sequenced synths that would sound home on a Lindstrøm cosmo-house epic. Then, power chords and group chants inflate the track to its bursting point. Like the impossible staircases of an MC Escher etching, "Sweet Temptation" seems to spiral endlessly and dizzyingly upwards, leaving no option but to surrender.
[Watch]
[Patrick McNally]


#34: Amy Winehouse – Rehab

With a smoky, sultry voice that Phil Spector would kill for (no pun intended) and an updated �60s girl group/soul sound, Amy Winehouse provides the solution to the musical question, “What if the Shangri-Las were a bunch of raging alkies?” Replete with handclaps, horns, bells, and an infectious “No, No, NO” sing-along chorus, “Rehab” is a classic woe-is-me girl group number updated for the druggie generation who can surely relate to the prospect of heading to Betty Ford more so than the soda shop. The secret weapon? The fat bottom end—Winehouse knows that the retro thing doesn’t fly these days without that big booming bass sound.
[Watch]
[Todd Hutlock]


#33: Panic! At the Disco – I Write Sins Not Tragedies

As emo ascends into mainstream culture (in its noun form, it's now a cafeteria tribe like skaters and jocks), it's been fascinating to see which aspects of the genre are embraced by the MySpace generation: pretentiously verbose lyrics are apparently still in, but the lo-fi howls and jigsaw time signatures of late '90s Jade Tree bands have been replaced by garish theatricality and a thick rhythmic crunch. Part of what makes Panic! At the Disco stand out even further among this new crop is that on "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" the makeup-caked band weds the startled cries of male sexual angst to the delicate baroque touches of xylophone and pizzicato strings. It's all pretty ridiculous, to be sure, but the commitment is admirable, and I certainly can't deny the awesome rush I feel every time I belt out that serpentine chorus in the car.
[Watch]
[John M. Cunningham]


#32: Rihanna – S.O.S.

You either thought the “Tainted Love” sample coursing through every measure of this song was hopelessly thick or you adored how it was turned about 45 degrees to place the Pong bloops on new beats. “S.O.S.”’s placement here suggests a clear preponderance of the latter. But as much as for that sample, “S.O.S.” scores for its use of Rihanna’s berry lip-glossed vocals, all sugar and sunshine. And just in case the deal wasn’t sealed, the “ah-la-la” outro repetition was a genius production choice, reminding you to have as much fun with this as she’s having. Obsessive infatuation never sounded so carefree.
[Watch]
[Joseph McCombs]


#31: My Chemical Romance – Welcome to the Black Parade

The uniformed video is dead on; My Chemical Romance wheel out their successive grand gestures with a military precision. The feeling that nothing has been left to chance doesn’t make “Welcome to the Black Parade” any less potent, though. If anything, it makes it all the more awesome to behold as they cover a fizzing pop punk center in glittery glam and widescreen nostalgia.
[Watch]
[Iain Forrester]


#30: Sasse feat. Kiki – Loosing Touch

"It's so easy, when you touch me," goes the beginning of Sasse's "Loosing Touch," a dark italo/electro-house anthem imbued with addiction, loss, and uncertainty. It's all so easy when you're in the moment and the substances kick in, when you've got that translucent euphoria that allows your life to move on to its next pillar. "You're getting out of my reach and I'm loosing touch," sings Kiki in his best Sisters of Mercy impression. One's grip of something can't hold firm forever, but we like to hold on to the illusion that we can keep it that way, just for as long as it matters.
[Listen]
[Michael F. Gill]


#29: The Knife – We Share Our Mother's Health

Just watching this song is half the fun. It bounces around its Plexiglass prison, shedding streamers of clicks and beeps; it crashes through banks of switches; it hits every button in the room at least twice. So arresting are its thermodynamic vagaries that you may forget, until they come, that you wanted vocals at all—and then Karen Dreijer has the first round of insectoid chitters extracted from her throat. The hermaphroditic pranks played on Dreijer's voice are more than gimmicks: they're the brushstrokes of a being, a polymorphous, shivering alien as desirous—and deserving!—of musical representation as any human chanteuse. There's little familiar here, but there's less dishonest—and that malevolence you're sensing is just culture shock.
[Watch]
[Theon Weber]


#28: Peter Bjorn & John – Young Folks

The Swedish trio of Peter, Bjorn, and John, with the help of the Concretes’ Victoria Bergsman, vehemently abolish the bittersweet quest for love with “Young Folks” (on an album that, mind you, is entirely about love—an ode, apologia, critique, and more.) The song is an in-joke on the hipster hookup that everyone is invited to, in which boredom and anticipation, the staples of twenty-something lust, are dealt with in equal measure, and with equal parts passion and self-effacement. A dingy party scene is conveyed through reverbed, nostalgic �60s drum work, and that addictive whistled melody. The song quietly became a 2006 anthem, though, thanks to Bergsman’s rasp and Peter Morén’s scratchy counterpoint, which join at the clincher chorus for its reinvention from Godardian maxim into a pretty, haunting slice of romance.
[Watch]
[Liz Colville]


#27: Kleerup feat. Robyn – With Every Heartbeat

I shelled for cheap copies this summer of A Love Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love under the watchful eye of a clerk who looked like he probably would’ve discussed Pavement B-Sides if my purchase wasn’t making him so … uncomfortable. I mumbled something like, “Mmmm Moroder Moroder mmmm” and tried to appreciate that my girlfriend had decided to not openly question my sexuality. I changed my “Relationship Status” on Facebook to “It’s complicated with…Disco Music” and hid the Summer records in the back of the milk crates. At least until Kleerup hooked Robyn the fuck up, �cause “With Every Heartbeat” is on some kinda pretense-erasing, paradigm-shifting shit. Reports that Madonna was stockpiling doe-eyed orphans to trade for this beat remain unconfirmed at press time.
[Listen]
[Andrew Gaerig]


#26: Nelly Furtado – Maneater

It's not about Hall & Oates, or allure or sex or dancing or even Timbaland. It's about the solemnity, the assured regality, with which Furtado ascends on the cowed back of her beat. It's about the droning chant supporting her boast, a chorus of winged monkeys that's the most disturbingly attractive instance of fascist chic in years. Atheists snicker over how monotonous the Lord must find constant praise because they don't know some songs are worth singing forever. "Maneater" is what the angels sing in Debbie Harry Heaven, the tramp of made-for-walking boots on clouds at once louder and more melodic than you'd expect. And the rest of these songs? Earthbound strivers, doing the best they can waiting for the Rapture.
[Watch]
[Theon Weber]


#25: Justin Timberlake – SexyBack

JT didn't quite bestride 2006 in the same colossal fashion that he had 2003, but, lest we forget, Justified took a few months of bubbling under before his snake-hipped tilt at cultural ubiquity fully manifested. Laid low with nasty nodules on his voicebox for long enough to wreck the career of anyone else, when he re-emerged it was without proper punctuation, but with a fully expressed desire to "bring sexy back". I'm not sure it had ever fully been away, but "SexyBack" itself—cussing, grinding, mechanized filth monger signposting its own g-spots—saw both JT and his architect, Timbaland, effortlessly hitting form, equal parts teenfunk, discopop, and sexpunk. You could barely tell it was him unless you saw the video, but that was the point—with your eyes closed, your other senses come alive.
[Watch]
[Nick Southall]


#24: Lupe Fiasco – Kick Push

Seldom does an artist get such an apt intro—over the warm backdrop of 10-odd-seconds of looped, cascading strings, Lupe narrates his tale of misfits and lovers on skateboards and off of them. As apt for Tony Hawk-wannabes as those who can't stand on four wheels without falling to the pavement, it's the lust for the wild, unadorned joy of youth that provides the real kick here—and it's Lupe's gift for metaphor that surpasses talk of "aerials and varials" and gives it genuine, transcendent push. "Just the freedom was better than breathin' they said." Shit, I remember when hip-hop was better than breathin'—so let's cosign on the moment and just coast...
[Watch]
[Mallory O’Donnell]


#23: Hot Chip – Over and Over

Hot Chip's highly infectious and invective single is like a jam from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Picture Huckleberry Hound tickling the ivories, the Top Cat gang laying down the groove, Yogi chasing Boo-Boo through the endlessly repeating scenery, and on the corner, Shaggy peddling the reefer. "Over and Over" maintains at once a clever songwriting device and a childish double entendre, celebrating a good time dancing, a hot slab of vinyl, the record industry, and a little bit of sex. Little psychedelic touches like the organ and reverbed vocals in the breakdown, the guitar in the bridge, and all the little percussion instruments help turn this track into a fun-loving, funky meltdown. Which just leaves one question: "Did they really just spell POKE?"
[Watch]
[Mike Orme]


#22: E-40 feat. Keak Da Sneak – Tell Me When to Go

I was vaguely aware that there was something going on in the Yay called "Hyphy." I'd heard the Federation's single of that title, but it buzzed past my ear, almost unnoticed. So when the words "The Hyphy Movement 2006" appeared across my TV, I knew what they meant, but I wasn't prepared for what was to follow: the menace-to-an-Alpine kick drum sprinkled with found-sounds; 40 Water juxtaposing hyphy culture into olden times; Keak, a more perfect foil than E-40 could ask for; both rappers gas-break-dippin' around the off-beats, their voices never landing where you expect; a call-and-response crash course on going dumb; and an energy so genuine and unaffected that people feel compelled to collectively lose their shit whenever the song is played in public.
[Watch]
[Rodney Greene]


#21: Camera Obscura – Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken

There’s a word missing from the title—the “Hey” that prefaces it in the chorus—but everyone adds it on anyway. There’s no choice in the matter; when it comes, it’s too strong to be avoided, it feels like Tracyanne Campbell’s twisted it all the way out from her toes through her hips through her guts through her heart and out. She isn’t the most expressive vocalist in the world, but she’s perfect here, because she really can’t see further than her own nose at this moment; the music’s a giddy rush of “girl-group pastiche,” with a deliberately ancient organ and over-sheened guitar solo, and she can’t help herself. It probably won’t happen, but it might, and so she holds on to the high street dream, ready to be heartbroken, expecting it, but at the back of that weak, breaking voice, hope still resides, clawing, biting, persisting. Fuck a genre exercise; this is pop, and it’s excellent.
[Watch]
[William B. Swygart]


#20: CSS – Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above

Yes, but which Death From Above: the Canadian indie duo with a fondness for elephant trunks, or the NYC dance-punk label which forced them to append “1979” to their name? The track’s friskily loping Le Tigre/Tom Tom Club groove strongly evokes the latter, whilst the swaggering rock and roll lurch of its two short instrumental interludes suggests the former—particularly when you clock the accompanying visual references on the video. Since DFA 1979 split up shortly after the single’s release, all we can do is savor the irony as we carelessly disco-dance upon their graves, turning a breezily irreverent tribute into a cruelly pointed epitaph as we do so.
[Watch]
[Mike Atkinson]


#19: Chamillionaire feat. Krayzie Bone – Ridin'

Chamillionaire showed up late to Houston rap's 2005 coming-out party, dropping his major label debut The Sound of Revenge with a resounding thud late last year while his less talented ex-partner Paul Wall thrived. And when Cham rolled out his second single, "Ridin'," a few months later, it didn't seem like a biting critique of racial profiling by traffic cops would reverse his fortunes. Yet somehow it crossed over to TRL, topped the Hot 100, and received one of the most concrete signifiers of pop culture ubiquity: a parody by "Weird Al" Yankovic.
[Watch]
[Al Shipley]


#18: The Hold Steady – Chips Ahoy!

The tension between hedonism and Catholicism driving the Hold Steady’s work resolves itself firmly in favor of the former in “Chips Ahoy!” A clairvoyant contemporary of singer Craig Finn has a knack for knowing which racehorse will finish first, and she lays $900 on the titular equine (obligingly, it wins by six lengths). In true Hold Steady fashion, this good fortune leads to scads of drug use and debauchery, and the band accompanies the festivities with a party trick of their own: chunky guitar riffing and a gigantic whoa-oh chorus. Finn has doubts as to whether his girl is enjoying herself—she won’t even dance!—but the rest of us are having a blast.
[Watch]
[Jonathan Bradley]


#17: Cassie – Me & U

Yes, Cassie could be pretty much anyone for "Me & U" to work, but how is that proof that it doesn't? A "Goodies" for 2006, with slide whistle and "crunk&b" replaced with an ominous synth pad and a sparse production that fits its elements (including the voice) together like an intricate puzzle. You shouldn't be able to get this much space, heat, or propulsion from string stabs, clapping beats, one-finger keyboards, and a leftover synth from the X-Files, but they do; the result is so much more than the sum of its parts that it boggles the mind.
[Watch]
[Ian Mathers]


#16: Juvenile – Get Ya Hustle On

There’s no morality here. If we accept New Orleans’s 9th Ward as thoroughly dehumanized, wild, NOT AMERICA, then what Juvenile does on “Get Ya Hustle On” is nothing but a harvest song.

The rolling instructions (“errybody need a check from FEMA”) and refrain (“Take the pyrex / And we rock with, roll with it”) dominate producer XL’s backdrop of obese, bullfrog bass and patient pipe flutes, but this is not easy ghetto Orientalism. This is desperate, brutal, small capitalism in the face of a government’s failures.

As Reality Check’s opener, it’s indispensable; as a music video, it’s the most impressive dual subversion/exaltation of capitalism ever; and as a historical pop document, “Get Ya Hustle On” is the darkest, bleakest piece of America around.
[Watch]
[Evan McGarvey]


#15: Escort – Starlight

A putative neo-disco cut carelessly tossing post-punk signifiers hither and thither? Would that Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem could sound this buoyant, this sweet. Basing its power on the expert deployment of rhythm guitar, organ licks, bongos, and strings (Chic, “My Feet Keep Dancing”), “Starlight” is a triumph of arrangement and performance, a palimpsest of exquisite delicacy. Whoever Escort are matters only if we’re adducing the band’s anonymity as proof that disco need not concern itself with earthly particulars. Love is a hologram, a pastel-colored shimmer. Listening to “Starlight” is akin to spending an evening with a CD on which you’ve burned 27 copies of Imagination’s “Just an Illusion.”
[Alfred Soto]


#14: The Killers – When You Were Young

The Killers obviously approached the recording of their second album with the intention of becoming the biggest band in the world. "When You Were Young" made it explicit in its first few seconds, starting out with an underwhelmingly soft first chord that rapidly crescendos before transforming into a "Creep"-worthy guitar crunch, kicking the song into high gear. Everyone shouted "Springsteen!" but even moreso, "When You Were Young" shot for the grandeur of early U2, and even if Brandon Flowers lacked the emotional weight to quite back it up, he showed that he knew how to try too hard better than anyone since Bono.
[Watch]
[Andrew Unterberger]


#13: Junior Boys – In the Morning

Last Exit was a lonely, slightly intoxicated drive back home through barren city streets lit by fluorescent and dying embers of romantic flames, so a follow-up single called "In the Morning" would be all about the hangover, right? Wrong. "The night's not over," sang Jeremy Greenspan and we were caught in media res at the party that started it all. A party that could have a Swizz Beatz sawtooth wave, a Quincy Jones guitar lick, and a Moroder backbeat on the guest list and get them all together for the last dance. Blessed with a rhythm so insistent that you really didn't need a hook at all, "In the Morning" closed the book on Last Exit’s viral hype campaign and created an even bigger one that was ultimately justified.
[Ian Cohen]


#12: TV On the Radio – Wolf Like Me

Return to Cookie Mountain is an album full of songs that burn the candle at both ends; a constant conflict of dark vs. light, chaos vs. calm, desperation vs. hope. “Wolf Like Me” encapsulates the entire struggle within its five-minute sonic barrage: Though we’ve heard this formula from the group before (chiming guitars careening towards the edge, beats that sound like small cities marching, gospel-sized harmonies) they have yet to become this unhinged. When the bottom falls out midway through and we are left to float into the nothingness, Tunde Adebimpe’s howls serve as a rallying cry from the beautiful apocalypse and an acceptance that mortal man can (on a whim) transform into carnal beast.
[Watch]
[Kevin Elliott]


#11: Hot Chip – Boy from School

Has anyone yet adequately explained exactly what the fuck happened to Hot Chip? I’m not normally one for alleging Faustian bargains, especially when dazzling synthpop is the dangling carrot, but did anybody really see this coming? “Boy from School” boasts a magnificently itchy groove, but that’s not the real jaw-dropper. I mean, do you realize there’s actual emotional verisimilitude here? The lyrics are somewhat cryptic, but their delivery is genuinely affecting, which is a completely mind-blowing thing to have to consider from guys who brought you “Crap Kraft Dinner.”
[Watch]
[Josh Love]


#10: Bertine Zetlitz – Midnight

The best singles this year from our beloved doyennes of Nordic pop have been micro-seminars in unrelieved tension—Kleerup's "With Every Heartbeat," Annie's "Crush," and Bertine Zetlitz's "Midnight," which queens it over the rest. Featuring Bertine's plangent-yet-sensual tones draped across wintry string plucks and tremors, "Midnight" is akin to sucking on an ice cube while watching old episodes of Knight Rider on YouTube—impeccably retro yet impossibly now. Too much could leave you with a swollen tongue, but while it's on, all thought is lovingly swallowed by a clean, sexless void—especially when, two-thirds in, we hear nothing beyond dulcet key tones, Bertine's voice and the sound of a robot snapping its fingers. The purest and shiniest in pop this year.
[Watch]
[Mallory O’Donnell]


#09: The Research – Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same

It's not just the Research's lo-fi synthpop that makes "Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same" stand out: it's the sentiment. Pop songs are usually so in love with the very idea of heartbreak that when Georgia sums up her lonely heart with "It's not romantic / It's just automatic / I can't tell the difference" it's more profound than just biological literalism. We want to fall apart, to rend our clothes and cease to be, it hurts that much. But what happens? We keep existing, shockingly durable creatures that we are, and our hearts keep beating. The way the Research locate both the sadness and the glory in that fact elevates this into a pop song of uncommon wisdom and beauty.
[Ian Mathers]


#08: Beyonce – Irreplaceable

Welterweight horny hornfest? No. Siren-soaked salvo of the scrorned. Negative. Insufferable flaunted extravagance. Try again. It wasn’t until B-Day’s fourth shot fired that Beyonce finally recaptured “Crazy in Love”’s near-perfection, and she did it with its near opposite, the gentle but defiant “Irreplaceable.” Through some breezy strums and a sweet plaintive melody Beyonce delivers her most genuinely emotional vocal to date, equal parts vulnerable, upset, pissed off, vindictive, resigned, and apathetic; that’s a lot of shit to keep track of. But when she sings, “I can have another you in a minute / Matter fact he’ll be here in a minute” pushing that gorgeous falsetto to the tippy-top of her mansion, seamlessly belting out that emphatic “BAAAAAAAABEEEEYYY,” Christ, it’s like you’re like crazy in love or something.
[Watch]
[Barry Schwartz]


#07: Marit Larsen – Don’t Save Me

ABBA-jacking has proven a foolproof pop strategy for the likes of Madonna and Elvis Costello, so it’s no surprise M2M survivor Marit Larsen could ride a manically bright melodic run straight from the Super Trouper songbook to pure giddy bliss on “Don’t Save Me.” Over the last few years the blogosphere’s become lousy with uber-trendy Norwegian pop sensations, but Larsen seems to stand out from the pack (brunette!) with an appealingly organic (banjos!) approach. Were she from Glendale or Des Moines we might be calling this stuff “singer-songwriter,” but rarely is that tag ever applied to anyone with such charm, joie de vivre, or melodic chops.
[Watch]
[Josh Love]


#06: Justin Timberlake feat. T.I. – My Love

Every time that shivering, stop-start synth line unfurls slowly through my headphones, “My Love” transports me to the exotic isle where JT and whoever he’s singing to frolic on the beach with their “toes in the sand.” More than any other major producer, Timbaland knows how silence works, how it creates breathing room, leaves open spaces for possibility. Though the arrangement is improbably cluttered for such an easy-breathing thing—tongue pops and clicks churn furiously underneath the shimmer—the track glides along like weightlessly. Then, Justin Timberlake opens his mouth and exhales the most ethereal sound in pop this year, a gender- and gravity-defying falsetto that initially sounds like another patch-in on Timbaland’s keyboard. And T.I., heavy-lidded and grinning from the track’s buzz, pushes words into the song’s nooks and crannies, selling a line as ridiculous as “They call me candle guy / Simply cuz I am on fire” with the easy ebb and flow of his cadence. If a song can sound post-coital, this is it.
[Watch]
[Jayson Greene]


#05: Delays – Valentine

Don't let that voice fool you—Greg Gilbert's got massive cojones. How are you gonna make the five most rapturous minutes of 2006 about Hurricane Katrina and then have your sole insight about it be, "there was a lot of water"? He got a lot of help from his band, who rounded up the Cocteau Twins, The Killers, a couple of random "dance-punk" guys and Justin Timberlake and showed them all how to step up their game. And in the most ballsy move of all, they threw in a false ending and tacked on an extra ninety seconds of strobelit glory so majestic, it was almost like staring directly at the sun.
[Watch]
[Ian Cohen]


#04: The Pipettes – Pull Shapes

Once you’ve heard “Pull Shapes” soundtracking a swastika-shaped Peter Crouch descending to earth in a football space-pod, you begin to suspect it can be successfully twinned with anything. In fact, it probably can—and the secret to this universally cozy coexistence is a mind-bendingly self-referential heart. Our narrative (such as it is) follows the pleasing benefits of dancing and of things “being alright”—but the song being danced to within the song is the song itself, leading to the sort of meta-lyrical equivalent of standing in-between two mirrors and looking a bit confused. By some twisted magic, “Pull Shapes” has achieved perpetual reflection of the perfect pop formula; insular documentation. Meaning has been distilled to the simple purity of multiple choruses, middle eight handclap breaks and sassy vocals. Strings and horns, harmonies and snare beats. Forget the contrivance of polka-dot dresses and instead imagine a world where the Pipettes recorded this and immediately broke up. You’re in pop utopia.
[Watch]
[Peter Parrish]


#03: Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland – Promiscuous Girl

It’s hard for guys to sing the chorus of a girl’s song. Call it what you want: weak, sexist, petty, frightened, or just the tragic, insecure vaudeville of the modern man. It’s all true.

Thankfully, Timbaland does all the hard work for us on “Promiscuous Girl,” not only producing the ambrosial smorgasbord of sounds (blistering, clicking drum spree, woozy, humming pseudo-woodwind synths, the chorus’s heaven-sent electric piano), but keeping the verses afloat, turning Furtado’s pouty MILF romp into giddy call and response.

Besides, if a frighteningly ripped Mr. Mosley can find time to sing a chorus on his effortless re-ascension to the rank of pop-production puppet master, we mere mortal men cannot refuse to sing along.
[Watch]
[Evan McGarvey]


#02: T.I. – What You Know

Whales and bulldozers do not need to be nimble or funky or clever and neither does "What You Know." It makes its presence felt. There's something almost royal about the doom-like procession of it, the laserbeam fanfare and faux-mellotron choir all nestled deep in the folds of its velvet (even if half the drama comes from Roberta Flack's vertiginous "Gone Away," which DJ Toomp nicked pretty much note-for-note). His drawl is so thick that winos squint. And he sounds like he eats sidewalk. He says I am great and making money and I regularly deal with people, the likes of whom would make you uneasy. Who cares? Why make this more awesomely painful than it's going to be anyway? Just crush me already.
[Watch]
[Mike Powell]


#01: Gnarls Barkley – Crazy

2006’s most bewildering hit single provides no handrails; we navigate this perilous staircase unaided. This collaboration between producer Danger Mouse and helium-voiced Cee-Lo begins with twang-guitar similar to the one that anchored Mouse’s other song-of-the-summer, 2005’s “Feel Good, Inc” by Gorillaz—and surpasses it. “Crazy” is a joke that chills its intended audience seconds after its teller has stopped giggling. Cee-Lo respects the chorus’ rhetorical question; the subtle harmonies and sampled strings heighten a psychodrama as lachrymose as any by Portishead. This is ridiculous stuff. But trust the singer: keening and soaring like prime Sylvester, his complete immersion in the performance lengthened the shadows across its moribund Top Ten brethren, none of which included in their arrangements a burbled “Bless your soul!” that’s the warmest moment I’ve heard in a pop song all year. Its availability as a ringtone made it scarier.
[Watch]
[Alfred Soto]

Stylus Magazine’s Top 50 Singles of 2006 [Individual Writer Lists]



By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-12-11
Comments (247)
 

 
Today on Stylus
Reviews
October 31st, 2007
Features
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
Reviews
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Features
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews
buy viagra online
buy viagra online
buy viagra online
online casino