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Not Fade Away 2010: Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, by The National

"To my mind 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' might be the most perfect thing the band have ever committed to tape." James Skinner, Drowned in Sound

"Overrated indie band. Obscure music for sad emo hipsters." - Metacritic User Review

And now it all comes rushing back to us. After 2009's famine 2010 brings us a feast. Scandipop, Caribbean rude girl pop, old school indie girl pop, prog rock-sampling hip hop, bad-mouthed throwback soul and even - and I find it hard to believe myself - rock music. Yes, with guitars and everything.

And maybe we'll go with that. Much as I'd be happy to choose Robyn again (just for that line on Dancing On My Own - "stillettos and broken bottles" - which sounds like pop poetry to me) or indulge my frankly worrying obsession with Alphabeat's Stine Bramsen, I guess that in 2010 I should recognise that the guitar bands started to make sense again (to me at any rate) after years of dreary, middling indie landfill.

But what flavour? Warpaint's dreamy, sun-dappled diorama or the angular Englishness of Elinor Rose Dougall's Carry On, which carries echoes of everything from Siouxie to The Sundays.

Both have their merits, but I'd be a liar if I tried to see beyond The National in 2010. The National soundtracked my summer that year, a band I'd quietly loved since I caught them playing somewhere down near the River Clyde sometime early this century. High Violet saw them finally delivering on all their potential.

Through June and July of 2010 I'd put that album on in the car and remember the way I felt when I listened to the Smiths or R.E.M. way back when. It's a sad, ringing record, musically restrained but with this deep, dark, melancholic undertow. "We started out trying to make a fun pop record," lead singer Matt Berenger told music blog Stereogum. "I had the word 'HAPPINESS' taped to my wall. We veered off that course immediately."

But the result is a pop record of sorts. When I reviewed it for the Sunday Herald I half-compared it to R.E.M's Automatic for the People in the way that - for its latter half at any rate - it wanted to connect. That's perhaps clearest on this, the final track. On Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks the oppressive shivering hum that powers so many of the National's songs is stepped back a little and the sound opens up and welcomes you in.

The National, five Cincinnati boys - including two sets of brothers - took the long road to success. Years of playing to no one for nothing. Talking to the Guardian Berninger remembered a low point in Glasgow (I wonder if it was after the gig I saw them play): "There was a youth hostel in Glasgow where our cots were filled with wet underwear when we arrived. I was 33-years-old, in a dorm with loads of drunk kids, lying awake thinking 'what am I doing?"

Perhaps he was just experiencing what he's always said he sings about, the "unmagnificent lives of adults".

Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks is an ending of sorts, and not just for High Violet. A culmination is perhaps a better description. The moment when the band became public property,or near enough. It sounds like something the National don't do much. It sounds like an anthem. It has - dangerously - something of the festival singalong appeal to it and maybe if it had become quite as ubiquitous as, say, Elbow's One Day Like This its thrill might have soured for me by now. But that hasn't happened and every time I hear it my heart surges in response to its tidal pull.

None of us are young any more. We are now - all of us - heading out into deep waters. This is a bell to sound our way. This is a bell to remind us - however unmagnificent our lives may be - we are still afloat, and still swimming even as the ocean rises.

Once more, then, with feeling.

Other Contenders

Dancing on My Own, Robyn

Tightrope, Janelle Monae

Hole in My Heart, Alphabeat

One Life Stand, Hot Chip

Rude Boy, Rihanna

Bang Bang Bang, Mark Ronson

Carry On, Rose Elinor Dougall

Forget You, Cee Lo Green

Pass Out, Tinie Tempah

Undertow, Warpaint

Acapella, Kelis

Conversation 16, The National

Power, Kanye West

Alley Cats, Hot Chip

Rattling Cage, Forest Swords

Soldier of Love, Sade

On Melancholy Hill, Gorillaz

Odessa, Caribou

NME Single of the Year: Spanish Sahara, Foals

Festive 50 Winner: Philadelphia, Standard Fare

And the Best-Selling Single of 2010: Love the Way You Lie, Eminem, featuring Rihanna

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