1. Taylor Swift – Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)
Having only recently heard Taylor Swift’s debut record, I’ve been listening an awful lot to this little gem which tells of a lifetime of love and romance between childhood friends in rural America. It’s catchy and sweet and harmless but also evokes false nostalgia and is a 10 on the adorability scale.
2. Johnny Flynn – Cold Bread
Johnny Flynn plays some seriously straight-up folk music and this track is insistent and rambling as if Flynn was riding in the back of a box car when he wrote it. A driving beat and some angry anti-romance, I felt empowered and enraged while listening to this today. And you will too.
3. Fun. – Some Nights
I’m a huge fan of ‘anthem songs’, the kind that make me want to start my own little revolution the moment I hear them and this is truly one of those songs – in fact, of all the anthemic songs I know, this one is tops – soaring choruses, rapid-fire wordiness and an undyingly pretty and simpering, sweet bridge make this worth repeated listens just to take in all the empowerment.
4. Ryan Adams – Shine Through the Dark
A bonus charity track on the Live From Nowhere Near You charity compilation that could have easily fit on Adams’ latest record Ashes & Fire but Adams says it was “the first song [he] wrote after [his] retirement. It is simple and beautiful and skeletal and speaks volumes about his own head space; and perhaps mine too, given how I feel about it today.
5. Michelle Branch – If Only She Knew
Michelle Branch was one of the first ‘artists’ whose entire catalogue I truly loved and I’ve been revisiting said-catalogue and its poppy, singable early 2000s jams, including this one, an old favourite of mine. “I know she loves you so I can’t interfere/so I’ll just have to sit back and watch my world disappear”, Branch sings with this note of passionate pining that, even about twelve years later, still kicks me in the guts, only a little. The Spirit Room as a whole really captures how it felt to be a teenage girl, yet the songs are still relevant to my girlhood today.
6. Wilco – Capitol City
This song is Wilco’s Penny Lane; the goings-on of the city told with Vaudevillian swagger captures Wilco at a moment where they meet their experimental routes and pure pop perfection of their latter records in a way that is absolutely wonderful, sweet, a little sad, and catchy and interesting as hell.
7. The Arctic Monkeys – RU Mine?
Garage/pop gurus the Arctic Monkeys are releasing a new record shortly and one of their later tracks, RU Mine? is a good precursor to what the record might actually sound like; ie: not too dissimilar from their previous material but nonetheless, a fresh take on a sound that can cut through glass and make all the kids with their pumped up kicks wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care.
8. Norah Jones – Happy Pills
Norah Jones is back with some angrier and slightly darker material than songs like Sunrise and Come Away With Me; a lovely kiss-off with a title dredged from a verse line rather than a chorus line, Jones is demonstrating her journey into a fuller sound and a more soulful story to tell: “Oh, how does it feel to be the one shut out?/You broke the rules/I won’t be a fool for you no more my dear” sings Jones in her husky jazzy voice. It’s like mixing bullets with velour.
9. Calvin Harris – So Close
At the turn of almost every decade since there were DJs, there have been songs by DJs hitting the charts, which is a really good thing. This decade the movement seems pioneered by David Guetta, but along comes Calvin Harris, first featured on the monster track “We Found Love” by Rihanna, and now with his own “So Close”, a trippy, Ecstasy-fueled rave crossover song that’s reminiscent of Moby’s Play with a modern 21st century makeover.
10. Van Morrison – Brand New Day
The most perfect song ever to welcome in tomorrow’s first day of spring, Van Morrison’s Brand New Day truly is something to beheld; melodic, lulled and brimming with symphonic, naively perfect optimism, it’s one of the standouts on the Moondance LP and a great song to sing while you’re waiting for those poppies to open up and green foliage.