To help build up the excitement for Reading and Leeds, Strictly Festivals will be counting down our Top 100 Reading Anthems for 2012. It’ll be a tricky task; anthems may appear obvious (who doesn’t know “Monkey Wrench” right?) but there’s more than one way to write a classic festival tune. Sometimes a crunching riff is all an anthem needs, often it’s just a chant-able chorus, and occasionally, it’s a beautiful moment that brings a crowd of thousands that little bit closer together.
So what exactly is a Reading anthem?
Well according to Google, an anthem is “a rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body, or cause.” That’s a pretty good starting point, but wouldn’t that rule out Radiohead’s entire back catalogue?
Forget rousing sing-alongs, what about track’s we haven’t heard live before? Reading 2012 is full of debuts. Do we take a risk and include the debutants who are sure to take the festival by storm, or should the established names win the day?
What about lyrics? Can an anthem have no words? Of course it can, anyone who has been watching Euro 2012 will tell you that “Seven Nation Army’s” riff is an anthem in itself.
As you can see, pinning an anthem down is tricky enough, let’s just hope we get it right, as we embark on a weekly countdown of The Top 100 Reading Anthems 2012.
100: Zulu Winter’s ‘We Should Be Swimming’ is a track that hits on everything a person could want from an indie-dance track. The combination of a dark feeling and a strong, steady, and easy to dance to beat creates an instant classic, and a Reading and Leeds anthem in the making.
On top of this, the live performance that Zulu Winter exhibit almost puts their studio efforts to shame. Having seen them, knowing a minimal amount about them, I couldn’t help but be transfixed and drawn in by their spellbinding presence. Kyle Prangnell
99: 2012 has been loaded with it girls, be they pop (Lana Del Rey), soul/folk (Lianne La Havas), or arty (Frankie Rose). Not be left out, Indie has it’s own darling; stepping out from the shadow of Bombay Bicycle Club is Lucy Rose. Strongly recalling Emmy The Great, Lucy is a little faye, with swooning vocals and absolutely devastating lyrics.
“Middle Of The Bed” isn’t a traditional anthem, it won’t be bellowed by devoted fans, instead, it will hold the Festival Republic tent utterly transfixed. Expect handclaps as scornful women softly chanting “You Should All Know My Answers” David Hayter
98: Sweden’s Niki And The Dove may look like the latest folk/goth group rocking thick beats, but they’re more daring than that. Their arrangements are often dense and challenging, and they rarely serve up straightforward scream along choruses.
Instead they make off kilter dancefloor anthems like “The Fox” and “The Drummer”. The latter woozes and slides across the floor, before exploding with a great 80s style hook. David Hayter
97: Anti-Flag’s ‘You’ve Got to Die For Your Government’ is a floor filler during any punk rock DJ set, on any punk themed night, and seeing as Anti-Flag are such frequent visitors to Reading Festival’s Lock-Up it’s become an anthem for the Lock-Up too.
The key to the song is its simplicity. Anti-Flag don’t do deep cosmic soundscapes even in their most progressive moments, but this one’s more chantable and fist pumpable than most. “You’ve got to die, got to die, got to die for your government, die for your country, that’s shit”, repeat ad infinitum and jump while you do it. Adam McCartney
96: Reading Festival has a dirty little secret. As much as festival diehards may deny it, this festival loves a bit of pop punk. From Blink-182 to Fall Out Boy and Sum 41, Reading has always fallen for those angsty and cute little American sing alongs.
All Time Low are the band of the moment (in pop-punk terms) and they’ve got a splattering of irresistible numbers. “Weightless” is a perfect FM Radio anthem, and “Dear Maria, Count Me In” will be the big fan girl pleasing closer, but “Lost In Stereo” is the stadium sized anthem sure to get even the begrudging boyfriend’s toes tapping. David Hayter
95: Random Hand seem to embrace the dubious honour of opening the Lock Up Stage. Mid day circle pits aren’t the easiest thing to spark, but Random Hand have never had a problem inciting a riot. “I, Human” is their secret weapon, often held in reserve till the last, it’s insanely dance-able, infinitely mosh-able, and for ska-punk, surprisingly epic.
It has a little of everything a great anthem needs, including a shout along chorus (“What’s The Point In Restricting Yourself?”) and a hummable main riff. Expect bodies to be flung, sweat to fly, and some truly atrocious dance moves when “I, Human” remerges at Reading 2012. David Hayter
94: Of Monsters And Men have had much success since winning the Músíktilraunir battle of the bands competition in their native Iceland. This success has yet to translate over to these shores. However with tracks like ‘Dirty Paws’ amidst their nordic clutches it seems hard to imagine the British public resisting their charms for much longer. This particular song sees the Icelandic folksters introduce themselves in an earnest and typically baroque nature. The song initially plays out as the most charming piece of sincere folk music released in a good while, with the duet male/female vocals creating a romantic and increasingly picturesque aura. It evokes romantic images straight from story books and fantasy, and the joyous eruption of the chorus brings warmth to the ears and heart, and will no doubt have crowds swaying and ‘hey’-ing come Sunday morning at the Festival. This song is the nordic folk equivalent to Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’, and we all know how well Arcade Fire have done for themselves. They have in fact been tipped as the “new Arcade Fire”, now we don’t to replace the old Arcade Fire, but there is certainly room for Of Monsters And Mens’ beautifully crafted folk as well. I see no reason why this band won’t make themselves a success on these shores, and Dirty Paws will be the overture to their success. Adam Grylls
93: You have to give it to Cambridge’s (USA) finest export. Passion Pit not only returned with the brilliant maximalist-indie experiment “I’ll Be Alright”, but with the catchiest and most direct single of their career to date.
“Take A Walk” is a huge Reading anthem in the making. Expect a giant clap along to its thudding bass drum before a soaring sing along gathers pace. Best of all, expect some fist pumping outrage to this tale of financial ruin and cowardly speculation: “We can rip apart those socialists and all their damn taxes, see I am no criminal, I’m down on both my knees, I’m just too much of a coward to admit when I’m in need”. David Hayter
92: A few years ago it seemed impossible to imagine Bullet For My Valentine getting prime time air play on Radio One, it seemed even more improbably that a bruising riff and scream-along anthem like “Your Betrayal” would ever make the vaunted main playlist. Nevertheless it happened, and Bullet have become one of Britain’s newest arena headlines, conquering Wembley Arena and churning out hit after hit.
“Your Betrayal” mixes a pummeling beatdown and a next to unavoidable main melody with some ridiculous screams and a flair for the melodramatic. At it’s best, the track gallops downhill concealing all those silly ticks and pompous moments. David Hayter
Katy B – “Perfect Stranger”
91: Katy B’s debut album was a love letter to music itself. While “On A Mission” and “Lights On” were dedicated to the club, the sensational “Perfect Stranger” was about the magic of music festivals.
Written after attending a festival, the track celebrates the anonymity of the crowd and the random coming together of individuals. The beautiful strangers that can transform a good festival into a great, whether it’s a pulling someone out of the blue, bellowing along with a new best mate, or throwing yourself into a shirtless nutter in a pit – this is the stuff festivals are made of.
“Perfect Stranger” also happens to one of the best and most incendiary pop songs of the last decade. Expect this anthem to set it off. David Hayter
The next instalment of the Top 100 Reading Anthems 2012 will be revealed on the July 9th.