MOLOKO – “The Time Is Now” (CD single)
You can sense something from the first 15 seconds. An arrangement of acoustic guitar which vaguely recalls Steve Harley’s “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)”, of all things, but it shimmers. The single, with its string section arranged with a flourish that most pop simply doesn’t understand, and an arrangement where absolutely everything is perfect, is one of the most emotionally affecting Top 10 hits for years. Roisin Murphy’s voice, with its old mock-scary quality under control, makes me feel almost as though I owe a contract to the feelings expressed (especially “Time is upon us, but the night is young” and “Flowers blossom in the wintertime”) and the chorus (“Let’s make this moment last”) makes me feel as though I should never let this excitement and this thrill go. Every chord change moves me, right up to the fade, a piano which seems as though it might stay on loop forever, and sounds cold, icy, middle-European and chilling where most chartpop evokes the endless sunshine of some ersatz America.

I could take or leave the over-exposed “Sing It Back”, and I remember Moloko when they were perceived as among the ultimate runts of the trip-hop litter. But this is one of those indisputably great singles by people who might never again reach such heights, disproving pop’s auteurist theory. Such incredible romance, which sucks you in and makes you feel as though you’ve experienced pop music as great as it can get, on your radio right now. Number 2 in the UK, things don’t get much better.