Things are heating up now as we head into the top 10. As these are some of my ultimate highlights of the year, each entry has a few sentences about what is so brilliant about them.
10. Shonen Knife - Pop Tune
30 years into their career, Japanese pop-punk trio Shonen Knife are still able to deliver songs full of the joys of youth. The title track from their 18th studio album, "Pop Tune" exists very much at the pop end of pop-punk, with sumptuous backing vocals and a last minute key change making it a joy to listen to.
9. Eugene McGuinness - Harlequinade
Mr McGuinness appears to be one of the most well-read artists currently operating in the popsphere, if the sound of "Harlequinade" is anything to go by. The lyrics hark back to the time of the commedia dell'Arte, a dramatic form in Italy in the middle ages, where the performers wore masks and improvised the action based on predetermined scenarios with stock characters. Two of these stock characters are mentioned by name in the song, Harlequin and Pantaloon, who are seen as the zany archetypes.
And I think the last paragraph just justified my drama degree. Thanks a lot, Eugene McGuinness.
8. Passion Pit - Take a Walk
It's strange that in a time of economic meltdown, the situations faced by many people hasn't really been reflected in mainstream music. One exception to this however is the wonderful "Take a Walk" by Passion Pit. On the surface, it appears to be a jaunty synth-pop tune with an infectious electronic riff. However, take a closer look at the lyrics and it reveals a dark side, about not being in control of your finances and being unable to admit your faults to the ones you love. If only all pop music would reveal such depth.
7. Django Django - Default
Who'd have thought that the most badass guitar riff of the year would come from a group of architecture graduates? Django Django hit pay dirt in 2012 with their hypnotic alt-rock sound. "Default" was the highlight of the set, with an epic two-chord riff and seemingly nonsense lyrics coming together to make something engaging and suspiciously intellectual. And if that wasn't enough, their lead singer is from Derry.
6. Foals - Inhaler
Is this really the same band that first broke through at the tail end of 'landfill indie' in 2008? "Inhaler" is a tightly produced, confident tune, brushing with intense energy that belies its relatively modest BPM.