What Else is There

Royksopp featuring Karin Dreijer Andersson

The Understanding (2005)

Royksopp has really become a personal favorite — their first album was decent, but its largely instrumental nature made it hard for me to get into. The second time around they brought in a number of guest vocalists (and explored their own vocals as well), and created one of my favorite albums of the decade with “The Understanding.” This is the strongest song from the disc, featuring the prolific singer Karin Dreijer Andersson, who is probably best known as the singer for The Knife and Fever Ray. Andersson’s distinctive voice — which vaguely recalls Bjork back when she was at her poppiest — is just the right shade of piercing and plaintive. The video –¬†where the white-blonde, freckled singer floats through fields and buildings, dripping, uh, milk the whole way — seems to complement the song perfectly. This is just an utterly compelling track.

Also check out: The one stand-out song from The Knife, “Heartbeats,” which nearly made this list.


The Girl and the Robot

Royksopp featuring Robyn

Junior (2009)

When I first heard this song, I thought it was a pretty solid electro pop song with a killer bassline. But that was about it. Then one line — and only that one line — kept coming back in my head: “I’m in love with a robot.” And I kept listening to the song. Over and over again. And it got better every time I heard it, until I realized that the whole track just nails it. Most pop songs basically hold your hand through the verses trying to get you to the chorus, and then repeat the chorus as often as possible. As with Robyn’s other entry on the countdown, this song has an odd structure that sidesteps that route. It ends up being that slight structural twist that, in a way, becomes the hook. Meanwhile, Royksopp have never been better — I hope they keep churning out material like “The Girl and the Robot.” Their last two albums have been masterpieces, and they deserve being one of only a handful of artists to grace this top 50 more than once.

Also check out: “Song 4 Mutya” by Groove Armada featuring Mutya Buena (also released as “Out of Control”)