Memories of a Half-Lifetime: Top Four Atomic Tourist Destinations

Tourism is an odd business. At worst it’s pure exploitation of nature, at best it’s pure exploitation of human naivety. Yet, even though the industry still vacuums up billions of dollars from the same, worn-out old rug, there are –  thankfully – abundant touristic delights for those of us whose travel taste-buds crave more than just a trip to Disneyland and a photo of a red telephone booth. Perhaps instead of crumbling castles and giant boulders, sir may wish to see radioactive wastelands and the desolate remnants of atomic destruction? Well, sir will be delighted to know sir’s wishes may be granted. Two tickets please!

Las Vegas, USA (circa 1950s)

The winner of the 1947 Miss A-Bomb pageant said she “had a blast”. PHOTO:

The golden age of the isotope (or should that be the pulsating, glowy green age?) was undoubtedly lived out in the barren expanse of the Nevada Desert during the 1950s. A vast and dreadfully unlucky strip of Nevada land was selected by US President Harry Truman in 1950 to commence testing of newer, more powerful versions of the atomic weapons unleashed upon Japan half a decade earlier.

As the military went about their business, some 100 kilometres up the road in the fledging town of Las Vegas, home to a couple of casinos and a bank run my Mormons, people began to gaze in awe at the gigantic mushroom clouds climbing into the atmosphere from the distance. It didn’t take long for the entrepreneurial Las Vegans see dollar signs amongst the fallout from these atomic tests and immediately cashed in. You could even say it was a atom split-second decision, if you are lame. Which I am. Anyhow, soon people streamed into Las Vegas from all over for the best view of a real atomic explosion this side of a top secret military bunker. Between 1951 and 1962, a new bomb was detonated every three weeks and each occasion was heavily advertised and wildly popular. Hotels offered special package deals, bars mixed up atomic-themed cocktails and there was even a regular Miss Atomic Bomb beauty contest. The mushroom cloud was the unofficial coat of arms forLas Vegas, known during the period as ‘Atomic City’. Thankfully, there is a museum today dedicated to this fascninating peculiar period. Definitely worth a visit when you’re done gambling your life’s savings and wedding a stranger.

A particularly intriguing twist in this most unlikely of spectator sports, was that the US government actively encouraged the mass gawking at their military testing project, rather than react with a level of paranoia typical of the early Cold War period. The tests were scheduled for when the weather would allow a good view and not (hopefully) rain caustic acid upon the paying audience. Part of the government’s motivation was to allow the enterprising Vegas hype machine to whip up such excitement amongst the crowd so they would overlook the fact that atomic bombs were heinous creations of civilisation-threatening annihilation. But hey, with a rooftop panorama of the Nevada sky illuminated by the majestic burst of gamma radiation and two-for-one ‘megaton’ cocktails, who’s complaining?

Chenobyl, Ukraine

The best thing about Pripyat Fun Park is the lack of queues! PHOTO: Rare Delights

No trip to the Ukraine is complete without a Hazmat suit, Geiger counter and a hefty stick to protect yourself from possible mutant assailants. Since 2011, the Ukranian government has allowed tours to operate through the ghastly remains of the infamous 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Incidently, the Ukranians’ decision to turn a dollar from the tragic and still radioactive site was made barely two months before the Fukushimi disaster in Japan rocked a world that had almost forgotten the spectre of nuclear catastrophe.

Chernobyl was a colossal disaster, in terms of both immediate human suffering, and mismanaged crisis recovery efforts. Two massive explosions ripped Chernobyl’s number four reactor inside-out and spewed clouds of radiation roughly equivalent to about 400 Hiroshima bombs into the vicinity. Most of the 176 workers in the facility died instantly, the rest died shortly after in hospitals and tens of thousands (some estimate even hundreds of thousands) more died over time from radiation-induced illnesses and cancer. As far as disasters go, Chernobyl is certainly one of the big’uns.

The tragedy and Soviet-era secrecy intrigue absolutely steeps the place in spooky folklore and mystery. The small town of Pripyat which sat almost atop the power plant is now as creepy a ghost town as you could possibly imagine. Its 50,000 residents were immediately evacuated, leaving behind the irradiated city frozen in time. It is now officially located in the B-grade sci-fi sounding ‘zone of alienation’. Tour groups have just begun to take visitors in and out of both Pripyat and the reactor site itself. After waivers are signed, guides whisk visitors around the site, issuing strict instructions not to touch anything or to stay in one spot for too long. At all times the Geiger counters are closely inspected and when the needle starts to jump, its time to leg it out of there. After the reactor site, tourists are then able to stroll the abandoned streets, schools and apartments of Pripyat and see why it is an apt setting for urban legends about citizens who refused to evacuate and now live as twisted, bloodthirsty mutants. If its disaster-zone-nuclear-cold-war-soviet-creepy-as-shit tourism you’re after, look no further than not-quite-cheery Chernobyl.

Hiroshima, Japan

If walls could talk… the A-Bomb Dome’s would probably be still screaming.  PHOTO: Me.

“My God, what have we done?’ uttered Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay after he saw the vile plume of decimation from the atomic bomb that his Commander, Paul Tibbets, had just dropped onto the Japanese city of Hiroshima at exactly 8.15am, August 6, 1945. Lewis, Tibbets and the other flight crew from that world-changing mission weren’t the only ones to witness the frightening power of the world’s first atomic weapon attack, because also in the skies that morning was another aircraft whose sole objective was to photograph the carnage. Unlike the affable, margarine brand-sounding Enola Gay – that plane was ominously christened Necessary Evil.

The infamous mushroom cloud photographs taken from aboard Necessary Evil only told half the story. The blast instantly levelled everything within a one mile radius, and ignited a wicked blaze that engulfed the entire city. It’s estimated around 70 per cent of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed and around 66,000 people died within the first few minutes, meanwhile another 70,000 succumbed to horrible burns and injuries. The suffering dragged on as thousands and thousands more slowly capitulated to the effects of radiation. Some estimate that by 1950, around 200,000 people had died as a result of the bombing. Most of them civilians. Three days after Hiroshima was hit, Nagasaki tasted the same dreadful fate.

America’s A-bomb did successfully end the war, but surprisingly it didn’t end Hiroshima. Somehow the city persevered, even when a massive typhoon swept through merely one month later brining more destruction and misery. The rebuilding effort was valiantly swift – but great care was taken to preserve the poignant reminders of that fateful day. Today, Hiroshimais a thriving, youthful and invigorated city. If it weren’t for the Hiroshima Peace Park memorial, you’d never have expected it to be the place where an atomic bomb had once been detonated. The Peace Park allows visitors to witness firsthand the surviving remnants of the blast, beginning with the ‘A-Bomb Dome’, the twisted manglement of concrete and streel of a former convention hall, which stood almost directly beneath the hypocentre of the explosion. Further on are dozens of monuments lined by trees that miraculously survived and continue to grow with huge scars on one side. Other notable sights include the eternally-burning flame that will only be extinguished when all nuclear weapons on earth are disarmed; the Children’s Peace Monument, a statue that is dedicated to the child victims of the bombing and is festooned with colourful paper cranes in tribute to Sadako Sadaki; and the cenotaph, upon which the names the victims and the words: ‘Rest In Peace, for the error shall not be repeated’ are inscribed.

The general mood, however, is not of blame or lamentation, but hope and peace. The Memorial Museum also carries this sentiment. Amongst the chilling artefacts left behind (such as the watches found stopped at 8.15, and the eerie shadows on walls left by bodies incinerated by the massive pulse of heat and light) are copies of letters sent each year by the mayor of Hiroshima to world leaders, urging them to think twice about nuclear weapons. There is also a very frank and informative account of the Manhattan Project, and the rueful experience it had left on its leading scientists, including Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer.

The  incredible thing about Hiroshima isthat in spite of the sadness and turmoil defining its past, you’ll struggle to find a more welcoming and enjoyable place in all of Japan. The Peace Park and Museum is certainly a poignant, tear-inducing memorial to the atomic disaster, but the pervading attitude of positivity and hope inspires this energetic appreciation for humanity inside you that simply cannot be experienced anywhere else. Beyond the Memorial Park, Hiroshima doesn’t wallow, but bursts with life. The city centre bustles with activity day and night; the beloved Hiroshima Carp baseball team are worshipped by loyal (and patient) fans; and you frankly haven’t lived until you’ve tasted the city’s famous okinomiyaki fresh off the hotplate in a busy little bar. In any case, Hiroshima is an excellent destination but it just so happens to be one of the most important historical sites off all time. At this point I’ll stop myself short of saying ‘it’s the bomb, because that would just be tasteless, which is certainly not a word used to describe okinomiyaki. with its special batter, and tasty sauces…  (Well I managed to be serious and on-topic for a while, but now I’m just hungry.)

Bikini Atoll

Nothing says: ‘tropical paradise’ like a huge gaping crater of radiation.

Ladies, the next time you toss in the old two-piece bikini to your suitcase, be it itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie, yellow and/or polka-dotted, reflect for a moment that the name of your swimsuit exists because of an enormous nuclear explosion on a remote Pacific paradise. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States tested 23 different nuclear weapons in Bikini Atoll, a small sandy islet amongst the Marshall Islands, in middle of the Pacific Ocean. The tests coincided with the introduction a saucy new swimsuit, which split the existing onepiece in two, creating a reaction amongst the conservative public comparable to when an atom is split in two. And so the name stuck. Like radiation particles to an unfortunate Pacific native.

The Bikini population were relocated to other islands for the tests, though some still suffered radiation poisoning from fallout. The tests were more controversial than other nuclear tests because they were not only conducted off the United States’ mainland shores, but on a tiny, innocent, tropical paradise of all places. It was absurd to imagine an idyllic island escape with crystalline blue waters skirting white sands, palm trees, coconuts, and a big dirty mushroom cloud looming up the distance. But it happened. Twenty-three times. It was such a fictional concept that the Bikini Atoll tests even spawned the inspiration for the legendary Godzilla films .

In 201o, Bikini Atoll attained UNESCO World Heritage Site status, however it’s still deemed uninhabitable because of dangerous radiation levels. The native citizens remain displaced on nearby islands, compensated by the US Government. But even though you can’t live there, you can still pay a quick visit. Boat tours from Hawaii operate diving trips for keen scuba enthusiasts throughout the Marshall Islands. One particular tour allows you to explore the waters of Bikini Aroll. The biggest draw for divers is the vast number of sunken American and Japanese WWII ships that were used as targets (including the only submeged aircraft carrier in the world). Many also enjoy seeing the abundant species of three-eyed fish , and the enormous mutated-lizardlike abomination lying dormant in wait for the day it besieges Tokyo. Divers are kindly asked not to poke the beast.


What are you Really Saying? Part II

What’s one of the best things about the English Language? The fact that we often have no idea what we’re actually saying. We’re so dumb like that! See Part I

Chip on the Shoulder

Today’s  Meaning: “To bear a grudge, or to perceive inferiority.”

“I’m gonna go light and tangy on your arse!… wait”

Nope, nothing to do with sculptors sneezing and sending their chisel right through the marble of their statue’s shoulder, this old phrase is actually to do with woodchips and manly men, spoilin’ for a fight. In 18th century America, when two fellas were squaring up to do pugilism on eachother, it was a provocative statement for one of them to grab a woodchip, rest it on his shoulder and dare the other to knock it off. Think of it as yesteryear’s boofhead equivalent to the open-armed ‘come at me bro’ taunt of today – but using a prop from the garden. Strutting about with a chip literally on the shoulder was ye olde badasse’s way of letting everyone in town know he was one angry man and well-prepared to throw down.

Wait With Bated Breath

Today’s Meaning: “To feel anxious or excited while waiting for something.”

“Sigh… I don’t think that penguin is coming back.”

Often spelled incorrectly as ‘baited breath’, you’d be forgiven to believe this was something to do with old sailors lingering about the docks with breath smelling like pilchards. But it has nothing to do with halitosis at all, as the term is actually ‘bated’, shortened from ‘abated’ – meaning lessened or lowered. It originates from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, when the beleaguered usurer Shylock denies Antonio a loan, telling him he won’t bow to him and speak in ‘bated breath’ (a soft tone) because of Antonio’s previous jerklike actions (ie. spitting on Shylock, kicking him and being a general bastard). How the idea of anticipation entered the phrase, though is anyone’s guess.



Today’s Meaning: “Empty, insincere or nonsensical langauge.”

“My god, it’s so good I just have to.. I dunno, bang my hands together!”

It’s easy to sneer down at the great unwashed from the lofty balconies of so-called ‘high-brow’ entertainment, judging them for their reality TV and canned laughter. True enough, the likes of Please Marry My Son and The Kardashians destroy brain cells faster than huffing spraypaint and a career in boxing, but people in glass houses should not throw stones. We may well describe inane television as ‘claptrap’ but the origin of the term lies in the glory age of high-brow snootery. At some point in the mid-18th century, classical composers and playwrights began to purposefully insert dialogue or crescendos designed specifically to rouse reaction from the audience. The kow-towing to the crowd was to spark applause – a trap for claps. The practice influenced a new direction in theatre especially, from Shakespearean plays to bombastic Victorian farce and comedy operas. The claptrap even had competing producers hiring groups of ‘clappers’ to sit amongst audiences and applaud voraciously at certain points to lull the other onlookers into similar reactions. Or they’d even hire groups to heckle and boo their rival’s shows. Cluey enough observers criticised the shameless practice, but cueing a reaction continues today, and effectively. [APPLAUD].

Basket Case

Today’s meaning: ‘Someone or something that is failing to function with little hope of recovery.’

Great for picnics, cute puppies or horribly mutilated war victims…

Every now and again a phrase comes along with just awfully morbid origins, especially when they are literal. And involve explosions.  ‘Basket case’ originates from the depressing halls of United States military hospitals at the end of World War One. It was a colloquial term whispered across the wards that referred to those desperately unlucky soldiers who’d been shot, grenaded, landmined, bayoneted, artillery shelled and mustard gassed to the point that they were left so brutally incapacitated, usually limbless, that they would need to be transported around in a basket. A bit like ET, but way sadder. (Note: Never, ever look up the 1982 film Basketcase, or its sequels if you ever wish to sleep again. Oh god!)


Today’s Meaning “An insane, or mentally unstable person.”

“Oh look, a full moon. Looks like I’d better go completely batty and set fire to stuff!”

For most of history (until relatively recently, in fact) when someone started to go a little cray-cray and lose the plot, the elders and wise men of the  community agreed on the most logical conclusion for the behaviour: it’s the moon’s fault. Yes, the moon, the timeless symbol of mystique, was believed to directly influence certain people by imposing on them strange behaviours through its own cycles. Without any understanding of certain behavioural disorders, such as bipolar or cyclothymia, the peoples of yore simply assumed it was the moon pulling the strings, as it does the tides, and casting people into spells of madness. And so the Latin-derived luna, meaning moon, was used to describe those people who suffered intermittent insanity. The moon was also linked to the female menstrual cycle, but let’s not go there.


Didn’t Pan Out

Today’s Meaning: “Events or circumstances didn’t eventuate as you had hoped.”

“OMG! GOL- .. no, just another yellow lego brick. Dammit.”

When some lucky carpenter struck gold in California in 1848, every man and his greedy dog scrambled to the American east to begin digging up the terrain in search of the shiny stuff. The most common method for the goldseekers was to use a pan to sift through the rocks in riverbeds hoping to uncover small chunks of gold.  The belief was that every cubic foot of gravel would ‘pan out’ to around 20 dollars in gold. But those predictions were a little optimistic and after months spent knee deep in muddy water shaking a pan full of pebbles, most eventually admitted defeat and gave up the gold search – lamenting later that their dreams of untold wealth ‘just didn’t pan out’.


Rack your Brain

Today’s Meaning: “To strain your brain to remember or understand something.”

“Guys, I still can’t remember the names of all the trains in Thomas the Tank Engine! Argh, my skeletal system!’

Medieval life was not all plague this and peasantry that – there was lots of torture going on too. The medieval folk loved their torture, inventing hundreds of sick and twisted ways to cause immense pain and suffering to fellow human beings. One of the favourite devices of the times was the rack, a simple machine that used ropes and cranks to slowly, but agonisingly surely, tear the limbs right off a body. Nifty! Shakespeare, doing what he did best, verbed the word (see what I just did there?) and ‘rack’ became a synonym for ‘strain’. Over time its use as a verb settled solely on mental strain, and is still used often today.



Flash in the Pan

Today’s Meaning: “Something initially impressive and showy, but fails to deliver anything of substance or value.”

“Haha! take THAT! … hang on.. oh PANTS!”

The mention of pan, like the above ‘pan out’, leads many to believe this idiom also has roots in the gold rush days.  Prospectors were supposedly excited by seeing a ‘flash’ in their pans, only to disappointedly discover it wasn’t gold but merely a glint from the sun’s reflection, or something. That’s a myth, but the real origin is equally literal. Old flintlock muskets used in the Napoleonic era and American Civil war were designed with little pans that stored charges of gunpowder to fire the pellet down the barrel, out the muzzle and into the baddy’s chest. Sometimes (well, often) a soldier would pull the trigger and light up gunpowder charge in the pan, but the gun would malfunction and fail to shoot a bullet. When that happened it was known as a ‘flash in the pan’, and also: ‘oh shit, we’re all going to die now.’

Wax Lyrical

Today’s Meaning: “To speak enthusiastically”

“Oh don’t get me started on Xerxes! – what a super-jerk? Amirite?!”

I personally reserve a special kind of hatred for this overused, annoying phrase. It’s not clever and it doesn’t make you an expert on the subject. Anyhow, it is interesting as it’s the only thing keeping the archaic term ‘wax’ from extinction. The word ‘wane’, as in ‘to decrease’ is still kicking about, but everyone seems to have forgotten its direct opposite number, ‘wax’ – meaning ‘to grow/increase’. Technically you can wax a lot of things. You can wax your credit card limit, or wax the television volume or even wax a quaint little herb garden. But for whatever reason, perhaps with a sniff of irony, this dying word survives only within a phrase about speaking with excitement and poeticism. It also just makes me think about eating a candle, which is just weird.

My Songs of 2011

Triple J’s Hottest 100 voting is upon us again. As always it’s a torturous task to take the many amazing songs that graced our ears in 2011 and whittle them into a top 10. It’s been a brilliant year of music, but a top 10? Egads. As I type my list sits at 48, and new nominees are flying to mind like frantic worker bees… 51… 52!

So I figured I’d make an exercise out of it and compile a list with some meaning of sorts. Each song has a purpose, a place where it belongs – whether it’s to compliment a mood, an experience, a feeling or a meal (remember, no heavy bass when eating pasta; nothing rounds off a nice, spicy spaghetti arrabiata  than a smooth, acoustic croon and perhaps some light percussion if you’re feeling adventurous).

So here, in no particular order, are some of the few that broke through the general radio cacophony pervading my ears and found ways into my mind, my heart and my stomach.

(Ps. If Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ doesn’t win this year, I’ll be down $20 and will be made to consume something gross… for real).

1. Song That Pumped Me Up

Santigold – Go (feat. Karen O)

Santigold is a master of those foot-stomping tunes that drip with attitude – uhh huuuh! ‘Go’ has a thumping, militaristic feel, like you’re marching full-speed into battle armed with nothing but some clicking fingers and ‘tude grenades. The cameo by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs  (arguably the only other attitude-seething female vocalist worthy to share the stage with Santigold) is a perfect change of tempo, introducing an ethereal, echoey aside before the march is resumed. Bonus points for a mention of storming the Winter Palace – any song with cool historical allusions wins instant respect in my book.
Special mention: Kasabian – Switchblade Smiles

2. Song That Made Me Happy

Crystal Fighters – At Home

A lot of tracks on the Crystal Fighters Star of Love album could claim this title – but ‘At Home’ clinches it at the line with the clapping and the very upbeat feel. I don’t know why exactly, but it puts me in a good mood. The melody is as uplifting and pretty as a thousand helium-filled balloons – and not at cheesy as that allusion. I can have the most appalling of days to the point where I’m plotting the widespread annihilation of mankind, but this floaty tune will turn up the corners of my lips and bring a smile to my face. It’s saved the world on more than one occasion, so you should all be extremely thankful. The top comment for this song on Youtube sums it up neatly (probably why it’s the top comment…): “(It) Makes me feel like I’m lying on a cloud without a single problem in the world”. I completely agree. Although I find the idea of trusting water vapour to hold my weight at high altitude mildly problematic, but that’s just me.
Special Mention: Ballpark Music – It’s Nice To Be Alive

3. Song That Made Me Sad

Glasvegas – The World Is Yours

I didn’t pay much attention to this at first and thanks to James Allen’s scotch warbling, I actually thought it was in another language. Until one line in particular at the crescendo leapt from the speakers and struck me – “You don’t need me as much as I need you”. I listened to it more and more and eventually discovered the rest of the words to be equally striking and in all tragic, moving and relatable. If the subject matter isn’t depressing enough, the spacious sound and almost unhinged vocals take the tragedy of this song to wallowing depths. Sung by any other band, this would probably come across as melodramatic and pathetic – but the Scottish blues rockers foster nothing but empathy. The finishing touch is the ranting middle section that loses semblance and structure as it gains desperation, all the way to that crescendo that just shatters your heart. That most people now recognise it as ‘that song from FIFA 12’ is almost as heartbreaking as the song itself.
Special Mention:  City and Colour – The Grand Optimist

4. Song That Inspired Me

The Decemberists – This is Why We Fight

Just as much as I love songs with historical references, or a song that tells a story – I do love a good battle-tune. Whether it’s literal or symbolic, there are several reasons why I love songs about putting up a good fight even if it’s all-but hopeless. And that’s why this song just resonated with me the very instant I heard it. The lyrics read like a stirring, poetic speech delivered by a King as he rallies his troops before the charge into battle. It’s inspiring. And The Decemberists, a band I’ve long admired for their unique dramatic sound, perfect it without melodrama. It’s about valour and determination; fighting for what is dearest to you at any cost – be it freedom or love – and never admitting defeat. It doesn’t make me simply wish that I could gallop from here to yonder on horseback, befalling hordes of enemies with my sword with the same ease that I sweep fair maidens from their feet with chivalric charm; it makes me believe that I canI’m sure I’d look pretty damned good in some shiny armour. Though I’d probably end up only injuring myself if given a sword.
Special Mention: The Horrors – Still Life

5. Song That I Couldn’t NOT Bust Out

The Rapture – How Deep Is Your Love?

I’ll get this out of the way early. Yes, it kind of sounds like Sisqo’s timeless masterpiece, ‘The Thong Song‘, but when I eventually overcame that staggering revelation and listened to this song on merit, I absolutely loved it. It bellows out a big sound, and Luke Jenner’s vocals have just the lightest wisp of emotional waver that add immeasurable appeal. Whenever those piano chords start stabbing away, the urge to sing along is too powerful to resist. This is especially true when driving, where without fail my little Nissan becomes Abbey Road itself, a mobile recording studio. I’ll belt out every line with everything I have, which by the time the soaring ‘Hallelujah’s’ kick in – is really not very much. But I don’t care, I blissfully lose myself in the song no matter how lame my voice is, or the number of letterboxes accrued under my front grill. Like the rest of the tracks on In the Grace of Your Love – this one’s got soul. Great big, hefty scoops of soul. I love it.
Special Mention: Papa vs Pretty – Honey

6. Song That Made Me Dance

The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

There’s nothing like good old-fashioned guitar rock with some melody and a catchy chorus to get your hippy-hippy’s shaking – and this song has that exact effect on me. I’ve always thought of The Black Keys to be like the Kings of Leon, doling out some nice southern alt-rock, but taking themselves a little less seriously. I love this song because it’s simple, modest and instantly likeable – it’s pure fun. And, like a young, angry Kevin Bacon, I cannot resist the temptation to dance. If it comes on the office radio, work ceases for three minutes while I do the Charleston around the photocopier. If it plays through my headphones on the train, fellow passengers are treated to lots of pointing, pelvic-thrusts and foot-stomping. (Unfortunately one instance led to a citizen’s arrest, which totally broke my rhythm).  In fact, if I ever – god-forbid – lapse into a coma, just chuck on the ‘Keys and I’ll be up and grooving in seconds – no months of rehabilitation for me! What’s more, the film clip actually compliments the song and isn’t just grainy  footage of people running around in slow motion. Clearly the dude in the clip knows what I’m talkin’ bout.
Special Mention: SebastiAn – Embody

7. Song That Made Me Ghetto Bounce

Modeselektor – Pretentious Friends (feat. Busdriver)

Although I am loathe to say the phrase – I’ll admit the bass on this track is PHAT! No really, when the first wave of buzzing bassline crash lands into my ear drums as Busdriver’s (best rapper name of 2011?) declares that he runs “ shit in this HOUSE!“, I cannot stop my head from bowing down in hip-hop submission. The lyrics are a ridiculous ramble that hilariously take the piss out of the vainglorious impudence of both commerical rappers and generally pretentious jerks (as you’d expect). It’s a silly song I know, but there is something about it that gets me bouncing like a happy budgie on a perch… too bad I can’t find a more streetworthy simile there. Just imagine the budgie wearing a doo-rag a giant oversized clock around its neck… do budgies even have necks? Am I going on a random tangent?
Special Mention: Kanye West and Jay Z – Otis

8. Song That Chilled Me The Eff Out

Metronomy – The Look

What I love most about this song is the little touches that garnish a very minimal, but undeniably charming ditty. The way the bassist ends each chord with a gentle, lingering strum; the percussion scrapper filling the edges of the song; the spare, metronomic snare; the repetition of the word ‘look’… all of these little embellishments make ‘The Look’ so utterly endearing that it’s easily one of my favourites of the year. Whenever I hear this, all stress and worry plaguing me just melts from my body. Give me a sunny afternoon, a comfy deck chair, this song on the stereo and a beer in my hand, and I become the living embodiment of relaxation. Often the only way to snap me back into reality after i go into my state of post-‘The Look’ chillbernation, is to play The Black Keys’ ‘Lonely Boy’. In all seriousness though, I love this song.
Special Mention: James Kelly Pitts – Kettle

9. Song That I Hated at First – Then Loved

Lana Del Rey – Video Games

When I first heard this I wrote it off as another one of those vague, airy-fairy indie fluff songs that invaded the airways last year. But eventually the soft harp and wavy melody grew on me; the lyrics became more meaningful and deep; and the “is that true?” line just stuck out. Add to that the fact it mentions video games and that I discovered Lana is not half-bad looking, and I was won over. But my superficiality aside, this song stands high above the bland, meaningless indie plop that I hastily condemned it as; it’s a truly beautiful song with a truly beautiful message. To be so lucky to be so happy.
Special Mention: Big Scary – Mixtape

10.  Song That Just Sounded Rad

Chairlift – Sidewalk Safari

The eccentric sounds Chairlift conjure up in this song are utterly mesmerising. God (or at least anyone with some musical knowledge) knows how they made them… a Fender Strat submerged underwater? Remixed Sega Megadrive sound effects? Stepping on different-sized porpoises? Matters not does it – because it’s just a joy to listen to. The quirky sounds also do a great job of masking the seriously disturbing content of the song, which I’ve only recently discovered are in fact about mowing down people in a car. Clearly I was too busy indulging the aural delight that I missed even the opening line: “All the bones in your body, are in way too few pieces for me”.  File this one with Foster the People’s ‘Pumped up Kicks’ in the ‘Awesome catchy tune declaring murderous intent’ folder.
Special Mention:  Ghoul – Dreambeat

Bonus: Song that I Blame For Tearing The Threads Right Out of The Fabric of Society

Skrillex – Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites 

Dubstep had been around for a long time before Skrillex. But early in 2011, Skrillex, aka Sonny John Moore hung up his clompy emo boots, got an even more ridiculous haircut, booted up a laptop and dragged dubstep out of its dank London nightclub dungeon and into the mainstream. Literally kicking and screaming. It really should have stayed where it was, but Skrillex opened Pandora’s Box with this, ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’… four minutes of what sounds like Optimus Prime vomiting into a toilet, while a bogan shrieks in the background. It was vaguely novel at first, but now that legions of teenagers are fervently embracing dubstep with open arms only draws us one wobbly step closer to that 2012 end-of-the-world prediction. Please, ancient Mayan bringers of doom, take Skrillex first.