Top 5 Tracks for Week Ending 2010-07-09

I love lists. So here’s one that I might – just might – continue to share over time: The top 5 tracks that are hugging my ears in a particular week. Last.fm does a stellar job of tracking raw plays over time, but what follows is not necessarily a list of the most played tracks in a given week. No, these are the tracks that run through my head as I try to fall asleep, and which remain there when I wake up:

The National – “Conversation 16

This track meanders around for a bit, lulling you into a false sense of peace until it notches up and sends you hurtling into an unfortunate corner of self-reflection. Powerful music makes you think, even if the lyrics bear scant resemblance to those thoughts. And with lyrics like, “I was afraid… I’d eat your brains… ’cause I’m evil”, it’s just as well.

Pendulum – “Propane Nightmares

I heard this for the first time on a recent flight and it rocked my world. It’s continued to rock it ever since. An absolute pumping killer of a track, it was released on Pendulum’s 2008 album “In Silico”, and it simply takes you places. Best track off the album, no less. Plus the band hails from Australia, and therefore deserve your love and attention.

Faithless – “Not Going Home

The opening track of Faithless’s recent’n’decent 2010 LP, “The Dance”. Vocalist Maxi Jazz is just the master of cool, with a voice that continues to demand respect. He’s the type of guy you want MCing just about everything. The fact that he’s now aged in his 50s makes him all the more brilliant.

This track will be a dancefloor annihilator (if it isn’t already) with its addictive rhythm, regulation constant bass beat, subtle troughs and lofty peaks. It has shades of Faithless doing dance at their best: it’s one part “God is a DJ”, a smidge “Salva Mea,” with a pinch of “Insomnia”.  And the oft repeated, “It’s not over, I’m not goin’ home till I can take you with me, I’m not goin’ home…” just bloody well works. For me. And many others, I suspect.

Beach House – “Walk In The Park

Some tracks just have it. This is one of them. Moody, airy, sweet, and unwaveringly right. Easily one of my favourite tracks of the year, and if it doesn’t make my 2010 best-of, give me now whatever it is that I would have to smoke to delude myself into omitting it later.

Hybrid – “Formula of Fear

One of the best tracks off what might end up my favourite album of the year: “Disappear Here“, the latest release by one of the most influential electronic acts of the last decade – Hybrid. This is a sugary yet pounding track that serves as the crescendo for the first half of the album. Check out the live video!

Most phenomenally of all, my wife approved of all these tracks. That is a rare and momentous occurrence, so enjoy it while it lasts. Animal Collective’s “What Would I Want? Sky.” and The National’s “England” should probably have made this list. But I decreed that it must contain a maximum of five tracks. So there.

Music endorsement: Ulrich Schnauss – “Monday-Paracetamol”

The artist: Ulrich Schnauss

The track: Monday-Paracetamol

The year: 2003

The reason: Simplicity is a great thing. This instrumental track, has, at its core, just a few simple notes. It’s the brilliant production work that creates atmospherics and a resulting mood that turn this into one phenomenal piece of artwork. It’s so good that it has become my hi-fi reference track – that which is played to test the worthiness of equipment such as loudspeakers and amplifiers. A particular highlight is one particular bass note that, with the right furniture/speaker placement conditions, will vibrate windows in an entire house. A moment to cherish.

Serving suggestion: Lights off or eyes shut, or both. Ears wide open. Sitting upright, centred between two good loudspeakers, placed in a way that subtly and gracefully amplifies the lowest bass frequencies. Best enjoyed loud.

Music endorsement: Chemical Brothers – “The Private Psychedelic Reel”

The artist: Chemical Brothers

The track: The Private Psychedelic Reel

The year: 1997

The reason: Sounds just like the title suggests. The perfectly placed final track off a great album, “Dig Your Own Hole”, this brings the CD home and finishes off any day well – building, building, building, building and fiiiiiiiiiinally….. climaxing. An anthem for the evening.

Serving suggestion: Your chosen three-character substance (H2O?), surround sound, beat-responsive digital visualisation (kaleidoscope-esque), and no other lighting.

Music endorsement: The Bionaut – “Lush Life Electronica”

The artist: The Bionaut

The track: Lush Life Electronica

The year: 1995

The reason: I heard this for the first time just a few hours ago and it immediately took me to a place significant enough to endorse right now. Instrumental big-sounding electronica. Food for your ears. Do it.

Serving suggestion: A worthy listening companion, Bowmore single malt 17 year-old whisky (also hereby endorsed!), dark chocolate, dark room. An artificially bass-enhanced environment may add something but is not essential.

Music endorsement: Eskimo Joe – “London Bombs”

The artist: Eskimo Joe

The track: London Bombs

The year: 2006

The reason: The warmest track off an album (“Black Fingernails, Red Wine”) full of highlights. Check this Australian band out now. Go preview said album on iTunes or Rhapsody or wherever you obtain your music. You will not regret it.

Serving suggestion: Best absorbed with a nice espresso and a reflective mood.

Music endorsement: Faithless – “Insomnia”

The artist: Faithless

The track: Insomnia

The year: 1996

The reason: Most songs by this brilliant British act could (and will) qualify for this column. This anthemic floor-pounder rings in my ears everytime I’m required to be up late: “so here we are… half past three in the morning… let’s roll another one”, lying idle in bed: “Creaky noises make my skin creep, I need to get some sleep, I can’t get no sleep”, and several other memorable lyrics sitting nicely between memorable music and that unforgettable chorus loop. The original version is still the best – though there are many good remixes out there.

Serving suggestion: Best enjoyed in darkness, strobe light flickering, under the influence of a few G&Ts, with a makeshift lounge dancefloor, finished off with gracefully loud loudspeakers with tight and punchy bass.

Music endorsement: The Smiths – “How Soon Is Now”

The band: The Smiths

The track: How Soon Is Now

The year: 1985

The reason: One hell of a depressing song that, for some reason, makes me feel good every time I hear it. It’s one of the few Smiths tracks I can tolerate without needing air and sunshine soon after. That aside, this would easily rate in my top 50 tracks of ‘all time’. The wavy and soaring riffs take the song to another level, unmatched.

Serving suggestion: On a gloomy day, get some good whisky, dark chocolate, and have listen to this track. Just don’t keep anything sharp nearby.