2003 was a big year personally – I got married! – and in terms of writing – I started Popular! – and at least at this point the new focus on pop’s past didn’t push me too far off the present. As ever, I’m working out which tracks from the longlist I want to include on my shortlist.

T.I. – “Rubber Band Man”: T.I.’s public pronouncements give the impression he’s a bit of a dickhead, but the music on “Rubber Band Man” is irresistible to me, Escher stairs of fanfares giving the impression of a song that’s perpetually peaking, T.I.’s casual, drawled flow stretching languidly over them. YES.

JAMMER ft D DOUBLE E – “Birds In The Sky”: Only ever on a white label, this is the early grime tune that’s really stuck in my head all these years, D Double E’s “mwui mwui” sound and the chiling faux-oriental melody combining to make the song feel strange and heartless. YES.

BEYONCE ft JAY-Z – “Crazy In Love”: My Beyonce pick is probably sealed but there’s at least a chance I’ll switch it and pick her early landmark – Rich Harrison’s production still a diamond even in a very expensive sample/production era. YES.

WIR SIND HELDEN – “Guten Tag”: Sentimentally added to the longlist this bouncy early-DJ-set staple by Neue Deutsche Welle revivalists WSH. Those of a harsher disposition might suggest “Guten Tag” bears some similarities to what you might call Mülldeponie-indiemuzik but I think Judith Holofernes’ hoarsely cool voice and the language barrier help head that one off. NO.

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN – “Stay Loose”: I mentioned I got married – well, we went to Poland on honeymoon (in November, in some ways not the wisest of options) and we had a long, cramped bus journey where we had to perch in separate bits of the bus. I had a CD-R of recent MP3 grabs, including this, and played it a few times as we crawled through the Polish countryside. Happy memories, then, which elevate this – apparently either forgotten or despised – Joe Jackson esque throwback into one of my favourite B&S tracks. Though that can only get it so far. NO. (I do wish they’d done more like this, though).

DAVID BANNER – “Like A Pimp”: I think I meant the screwed & chopped version of this! But now I listen to that it doesn’t sound as slow or woozily fucked-up as I remember it. So this shouldn’t really be on the list – on the other hand it is a good track, and representative of a strand of heavy, hooky Southern rap I spent a good bit of time listening to in 03-04. So it’s nice to be reminded of it anyway. NO.

LUMIDEE – “Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh)”: Hurrah, it’s the Diwali riddim at last! Hypnotic for the beat, obviously, but also for Lumidee’s low-key performance, like we’re eavesdropping on something she’s singing to herself. After the maximal R&B of the first few years of the 00s there was something of an interior turn going on, with tracks like this and Tweet’s awesome “Oops (Oh My)”. YES.

A.R.E. WEAPONS – “Hey World”: A.R.E. Weapons were mostly treated as a joke and this was not in general unfair (their pub designation: “Arse Weapons”) but there’s something alchemically great about this anthem to/for fucked-up kids, partly that it sounds like Suicide (well, Suicide wannabes) trying to write a Bruce Springsteen song, partly that on the second verse the cool why-hello-there posturing drops away into a relatable anguish at how screwed his protagonist is. NO.

N.A.S.T.Y. CREW – “Cock Back”: Annoyingly the only version of this on Spotify is a later (2006?) remix with new verses from a new incarnation of the NASTY Crew. It keeps the none-more-aggro chorus, though, which is the second best thing about it, and D Double E’s verse, which is the best: “Think you’re a big man cos you got a beard? Bullets will make your face get weird”. That said, I’ve already got a better D Double tune and the all-time king track of shouty grime is up in 2004 so NO.

THE KILLERS – “Mr Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont’s Thin White Duke Mix)”: Jacques Lu Cont remixes were a mainstay of my listening and DJing – this and Coldplay’s “Talk” were the big tunes, turning tedious originals into drawn-out synthpop playgrounds. Listening now it’s a tricky one – “Mr Brightside” has become the longest-lived hit of the 21st century and while the remix vaulted cheekily out from under its shadow in 2003, that shadow has drastically lengthened. I’ll bin it, but add “Talk” for consideration in 2006. NO.

Look at that, only 4 YES picks – this might get more manageable. 2004 is an absolute beast of a year, though, so perhaps not.