My 15 (+1) Favorite Songs of 2009: 12. The Phenomenal Handclap Band, “15 to 20” (2009).

12. The Phenomenal Handclap Band, “15 to 20”

Official website.
– From the album The Phenomenal Handclap Band

The Phenomenal Handclap Band is a music collective / supergroup of sorts from Brooklyn – jeez, aren’t they all from Brooklyn now at this point? – and their debut album is a happy mishmash of different genres, psychedelic soul jammed together with funky proto-disco. “15 to 20” is the knockout single for obvious reasons, but let me digress.

I remember one day trying to convince my friend Luna about the real reasons Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” became such a big hit: not just because of the amazing Bob Fosse-inspired video, but because “Single Ladies”, at heart, was a sped-up jump-rope song, and therefore appealed to people on some subliminal childhood level. I don’t think she was convinced. (For the record, though, one of my favorite things about the song, iffy gender politics aside, are the incongruous synth squiggles running throughout the whole thing.)

Speaking of incongruity (bad segue, I know), “15 to 20” operates on the same principle: take a chorus straight from Schoolhouse Rock (cf. Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.”, already mentioned earlier), plant it on top of a ridiculously funky ‘70s detectives-with-sideburns movie groove, and see if you can get the damn thing out of your head. I couldn’t. That’s Lady Tigra on guest vocals, barely keeping up with the band (especially in the second stanza) – not that her lyrics amount to much more than babble, really. There’s something about the local police, and a savings and loan, and arms and thumbs – whatever. It’s all about that retro-groove and that elementary school chorus. “So what’s it gonna take to get through to you?” A refrain from a multiplication table was all it took.


The rest of the list so far:

13. Speech Debelle, “The Key” (2009)
14. ComaR, “I Want You D.A.N.C.E.” (2008)
15. Michael Jackson, “Happy” (1973)
16. Wonder Girls, “Nobody” (2008)