40. BROADCAST — ‘Colour Me In’

It starts with a lever being thrown on an old calliope machine found in a cave in the middle of an ocean of ice. The frozen gears begin to turn, the painted metal shrieks with stress, rimed lights glow weakly, and a girl sings.

39. THE CLIENTELE — ‘The House Always Wins’

The album (The Violet Hour) won my heart by being comforting late-night background music so picking a track of it seems a bit pointless. (I chose the longest one.) Also listening to ‘The House Always Wins’ I realise I have completely lost whatever powers of description I once had when it comes to this sort of music. Buy the album and leave it in your CD changer is my advice: you may skip it a few times but the moment will come when it is playing and you start noticing the most lovely little melodic turns and moments forming in the fog. Shall I be awful and call it micro-indie?

38. DR. RING-DING — ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’

Kicking off with a read-through of selected Commandments, this stakes its claim as the year’s most righteous song immediately. It’s also one of the funniest, particularly near the beginning, as Ring-Ding’s deadpan dancehall flow makes the most of lines like ‘Flicks from the Wild West really fascinate me’ and ‘Everything must be free / Especially the gas’. Every anti-war argument is sardonically and effectively ticked off, and as Jess has pointed out the matter-of-fact contempt is stinging.

(I think in the ‘blogosphere’ it was me who found this song, an obscure German reggae tune. It has really been great to see it in a few end-of-year lists, which shows the power of Interweb word-of-mouth on a small scale, but more pertinently demonstrates once again the miracle and wonder of file-sharing: I did not go looking for ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’, I plucked it at random from a search on ‘riddim 2003’)

37. THE STROKES — ‘The End Has No End’

As usual the best Strokes tune is the one with the most basic beat — a 4/4 thump with a monochrome bassline, steady all the way, leaving Voice Stroke and Guitar Stroke to ring the changes on top with a succession of pretty quiet-loud hooks and that gorgeously exhausted singing. They still could do with being more disco but even that’s becoming more a quibble than a criticism.
ALSO: ‘What Ever Happened’, ‘Between Love And Hate’

36. BELLE AND SEBASTIAN — ‘Stay Loose’

One last spin around the old block, then. When I first fell for Belle And Sebastian — something that happened hesitantly, publically, on this website — something that struck me was Stuart Murdoch’s talent for building a track, spinning his listeners along, making them promises and then keeping them. Really it’s no more than verse-verse-chorus but if you can do that well then your hooks will always sound ten times better than they are. That’s what happens on ‘Stay Loose’. You accustom yourself to the bass stabs and the organ and the jerky pastiche rhythms; the verse starts, builds; drops out and avoids the chorus; then builds again and finally! ‘What about me…’ — but then another tease! ‘All I want is to stay — ‘, and it cuts off, back to the verse, more keyboard this time, and then a proper chorus, and this time the chorus surprises you with the ‘lights are out’ hook and it sounds ACE! And you hum it to yourself later and really, it’s not all that.

I can remember why I used to like B&S lyrics but I don’t like anything here apart from the ‘play Mother Hen’ bit. That doesn’t matter. And nor does the way the song piddles its energy away in the last two minutes. The first four are lovely, a gleaming Chinese Box of a song and a great way of parting company on amicable terms.