Numbered this year so I'm more likely actually to finish this bloody thing for once.
Lots of you are responsible for lots of this, I'll try to remember to shout you out as I go.
― Tim F, Saturday, 10 December 2011 22:49 (seven years ago) link
101. Delilah - Go
A curious feature of what on ILM is called "uk urban" - that grime / R&B / dubstep interzone which seems to increasingly dominate the UK pop world's vision of itself in 2011 - is how serious and emotional it often is. I suspect this is a result of a couple of different trends intersecting: the funereal pace of the typical (pseudo)dubstep rhythmic undercarriage encourages poses of (variously) frustration, confusion, resilience, defiance and and hysteria more than it does the comparatively simple romance-in-the-club charms of, say, prime 2-step, while also demanding a lot of melodic detail to fill in the gaps where the beats might be. Add to that, I think, a sensibility that when asked "what is the soul music of the streets?" reaches for Blue Lines rather than "Return of the Mack", and you get a lot of people trying to make the next "Unfinished Sympathy" or "Safe From Harm". "Go" is what happens to this idea when you remove most of the drums: a tense, synth-driven ballad that liberally interpolates "Ain't Nobody", in the process transforming it into, naturally, a tale of dangerous obsession, Delilah's delicate breathy performance the best indication of the arrival of 90s revivalism you'll find. The most winning quality of "Go" is its unlikeliness, the kind of tune I keep playing back just to check it's how I remember it.
100. 151 Feva Gang - Kush Groove
At first glance a ridiculous record - enthusiastic hazy lazy pimped out party rapping over "Music Sounds Better With You" and, yeah, that's it - "Kush Groove" actually is part of a sadly limited tradition of rap as summery disco throwback which if fate had been kind would have been a big thing again before rap as buzzy euroclub throwback was. The last track I remember rocking this notion this hard was De La Soul's "Simply" - if you have other suggestions please let me know. My love of "Kush Groove" is also typical of modern pop culture, in that I came for the lols and stayed for the vibes; it helps that there's nothing smug or smarmy or cynical feeling about the tune or 151 Feva Gang's lackadaisical (rather than lazy, whatever they say) shoutalong performance. It's precisely the serendipitous ease of this collision that makes it so charming, a happy radiosurfing accident whose sole concern is how enormous a grin it can elicit. Extensive testing suggests its powers crest on the third play in a row.
99. Ms Jaie - Fall Outta Love (Paleface Remix)
Post-Burial R&B vocal cut-ups in British dance music is a thing that seems more prevalent than it actually is, perhaps because as a move it's fairly high-stakes and ostentatious. To my unusually raised (by 2-step) standards this modern practice is fine in theory but often not as functional or as pleasure-centered as I'd like (I do still often like it though, e.g. Blawan's "Getting Me Down" obviously, but also Dubble Dutch's respectful remix of Deborah Cox's "It's Over Now"). By contrast to the high-impact pyrotechnics of such efforts, the trad-housey bump of "Fall Outta Love" might seem conservative and tentative, but I found over the course of this year that this was a slowburner of epic proportions, Ms Jaie's yelps and squeaks stuttering and strobing across the bouncy groove with an irresistible, hypnotic intensity, breaking into the rhythm with the same quality of uncertainty and determination that propels the singer to leave her no-good man forever.
98. Clapz II Dogz - Between The Edit
Rather than sitting in any particular style or trend, most of the slow house/disco stuff I liked in 2011 kind of bled between deep house, slo-mo, disco edits and balearic, in a state too smacked out and bleary to observe clear sub-genre delineations. "Between The Edit" may have a very boring, functional name for what sounds like the gates of heaven inexorably opening to allow a flood of manna to descend, but this also makes a kind of sense. The tune is a love letter to loops, each element in thrall to the rigor of loop-logic: that EQ'd to infinity diva vocal, the gauzy amorphous synth chords, the sweeps of sparkledust, that bumping bassline at the end of every 8 bars that seems to say "here we go again", the intensity ratcheted up on each repetition. "Between The Edit" is one of those rare tunes of which you can say "it seems longer than it is" and mean it as a compliment: for much of its length time just seems to stop.
97. Katy B - Witches Brew (Silkie Remix)
This remix handily solves two problems for me: Katy B's album is fine ,but with the exception of songs released last year nothing on it codes to me as a standalone effort I'd want to write up here, while Silkie's City Limits 2 only makes me think "not as good as its predecessor" when I put it on. Happily SIlkie concocts a standout when he approaches the closest thing to a new standout on On A Mission. Katy's vocals on "Witches Brew" were already amongst her most irresistible, the dovetailing components of its verses and choruses attaining a sense of pop-inevitability that I felt the overly busy, breakbeat-driven arrangement of the original struggled to match. Silkie's remix is no less (in fact possibly more) busy, but its syncopated garage bustle adopts the same logic as Katy's vocals, the endless tumble and skip of the groove demanding its own forward movement, a dance you couldn't bust out of even if you wanted to (which you don't).
96. Paula Cole - Feelin' Love (Psychemagick Reem Mix)
I was actually quite into Paula Cole when I was 14, but hadn't listened to her almost since then, so there was a very odd sense of recognition and rediscovery when Dane pointed me to this amazing new house mix of a forgotten (ahem) Paula "deep cut". This is Paula doing sexed up soul, which from memory only partly works in its original form, but is a perfect foil for the gorgeously warm groove it now floats across. Every bit of this is exactly as it should be and no more: the intensely glowing bassline, the thwacking snares, the unexpected piano vamping. Basically, this is generic house music at its best, the kind of house it's easy to forget still gets made not because it's disappeared but because its charms aren't really suited to dance music's ever-increasing cult of personality and genre-turnover, and, well, the fact that there's not really much to say about the tune except that it's very, very sexy.
95. Nikkiya - When I Was High
The imagined conceit behind "When I Was High" - what if Lina circa Stranger on Earth thought she was Kelis circa Kaleidoscope? - is such a fine one that it's no criticism at all to say that Nikkiya never really moves beyond that perfectly formed "what if" here, the harp ripples and histrionic string riffs and snapping beats and Nikkiya's sensuous but ambivalent performance all suspended in a space of impossible-to-repeat seductive slyness. So many tricks to love here: the eerie harp-assisted echoes of the refrain "life seemed so damn good", Nikkiya's jazzy rhythmic lilt on "I'm in my ma-ma's room, snea-kin her supply", her almost indifferent aside "I'd rather be happy even if it is a lie." All up, it makes for the kind of leftfield one-shot that R&B still seems to excel at (albeit now mostly out of the public eye) better than just about any other genre.
― v-shasty, Saturday, 10 December 2011 22:52 (seven years ago) link
oh shit, where can i get the e-book for this?
― rob (night house), Saturday, 10 December 2011 22:54 (seven years ago) link
Now this is my idea of a holiday tradition!
― Ned Raggett, Saturday, 10 December 2011 22:55 (seven years ago) link
the best thing about the end of the year
― bayou goo, Sunday, 11 December 2011 02:11 (seven years ago) link
101 tracks this year?!
― dayo, Sunday, 11 December 2011 02:32 (seven years ago) link
I wait all year for this.
― Johnny Fever, Sunday, 11 December 2011 02:34 (seven years ago) link
― rob (night house), Sunday, 11 December 2011 03:16 (seven years ago) link
― wil smif, Sunday, 11 December 2011 03:28 (seven years ago) link
― dayo, Sunday, 11 December 2011 02:32 (7 hours ago) Permalink
― just sayin, Sunday, 11 December 2011 10:09 (seven years ago) link
94. Hot Natured - Forward Motion
I assume that making irresistible Chicago male diva throwbacks is actually harder than it looks, because otherwise it makes no sense that there's only about three or four decent efforts each year. The 2011 model isn't quite a "Reckless With Your Love" (let alone a "Music is the Key" etc.), but it hits all the right notes with an insouciant ease that seems to say "well, we weren't even aiming for that you know, we was just cruising." It took me a little while to realise that the idea behind the Hot Creations label was to basically repeat the past glories of Get Physical some 7 years ago, only more obvious than before, but now every track I hear just underscores the point in a way more pleasurable than dispiriting. 90% of the charm here is the way in which the smooth vocalist mirrors the rising and increasingly hammering bassline (or is the other way around) as if to signpost the hook with highlighters and swirls and sparkles; but if "Forward Motion" treats its audience like they're a bit stupid then it also meets them there, as chuffed with its big dumb hook as you would be if it was yours.
93. Chipmunk & Mavado - Every Gyal
If there is a point to UK (post)grime rappers in 2011 beyond straight parochialism (or provincialism, take your pick) then it's the comical seriousness they seem able to bring to even the most cynical of cross-over attempts. "Every Gyal" isn't really cross-over given it basically crosses from one para-urban tangent to another; this was very big on BBC 1Xtra's dancehall charts but I never saw it mentioned elsewhere unless maybe r|t|c recommended it beforehand (and he probably did). But there's always something inherently cheesy and opportunistic about rap/dancehall fusions whether in the US or the UK, dancehall's quasi-religious veneer of righteousness (however thinly this has already been spread within the confines of dancehall proper) grafted onto the local dreams of some rap rising or falling star for a strictly rationed dose of cross-cultural frisson. Which, of course, is one of the reasons to love this kind of thing on principle. Here, the still-aptly-named Chipmunk gets to match his urgency (more pre inter-school football than block war) with the reliable portentousness of Mavado, sounding typically and delightfully lugubrious, while the beat is basically the best fusion of 2011 trance-synth drama and Jamaican strut possible, the bass in particular being fucking on. It's almost too much drama for Chipmunk to master, but perhaps that's what makes "Every Gyal" so winning; the sense of its star grappling with the task of making shit get real in a code he barely can decipher.
92. Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris - We Found Love
I always liked gay clubbing, but my friend Catherine taught me to love it, inhabiting its world of ritualised declamations with an intensity that I would find scary if I didn't know exactly where it came from. I was ambivalent about "Only Girl In The World" right up to the point where I heard it (or, perhaps, witnessed it) on a dancefloor in her presence, and then it became the most fabulous thing ever. By the time "We Found Love" emerged, so indoctrinated was I within this psychological headspace that I got the tune almost immediately, but I understand why many don't: it's like a creature that has spent all its time feeding one obsession until all its extraneous body parts (actual groove, melodic complexity, any kind of meaning, more than 2 ideas over the course of three minutes) wither and waste away; this in itself is a kind of nobility, a full-blooded (if not full-throated) commitment to a very specific idea of pop that is prepared to sacrifice everything else in the pursuit of its cause. I "got" this early, but became sentimentally attached to it a bit later, when I witnessed for the umpteenth time how unifying this music is not for twinks in gay clubs (though them too), but secretaries in middle suburbia (who, to be really real, are basically twinks in betraying thirty year old female bodies; the dress sense and conversations both are pretty similar), for whom, I surmise, "We Found Love" feels particularly, intensely, pure. In the clip, Rihanna imagines herself on a British estate, but the truer video would have been rather more boring, in a check-out line or at a desk temping in an anonymous office, all those hopeless places where you find - not love, but all the shadows and traces and drunken fumblings left in the wake of its rumored passage.
91. JG vs Dev - Bass Down Low (Bassline Remix)
I'm not a priori opposed to brostep or its masculine hi-jinx, but it does seem like a puzzling missed opportunity that brostep rarely if ever does smutty, or at least not terribly well. Even when you get comedy dirge-step remixes of R&B tunes the effect is less robo-smut than a boot stomping on the face of sex forever (though there's one massive exception forthcoming). It would be several bridges too far to suggest that bassline consistently succeeds where brostep fails, but when it does succeed it does so without even seeming to try, which is how you know its constitutively better suited to the task at hand. Dev sounds like she's been pitched for bassline remix purposes even when she's singing normally, so she forms a perfect skeletal structure around which JG can lace stuttering and snapping beats, shrill synth-strings and, of course, turgid rumbling bass (though rather less than you might expect). At its best, bassline is utterly compulsive, by which I mean that there's not much left but compulsion, its febrile jerks and tremors almost the entire point; imagine if Front 242 had made miami bass, basically. "Bass Down Low" captures exactly that feverish but pointless expenditure of energy, its rigidly reticular rhythm and deadened vocal chant the latest in a long line of rave's depictions of stimulation beyond endurance.
90. CJ Hilton - Cold Summer
"Cold Summer" has one of those attention-grabbingly real sounding old school beats that gets heads talking, but in truth this is just the densely woven lattice supporting Hilton's deliriously great vocals, his feathery falsetto skipping across the arrangement like a stone across the surface of a lake, that is if a stone somehow could strut. The build from the bridge to the chorus here is particularly startling, a skyscraper spontaneously erecting itself layer of multi-tracked vocal by layer. The question that usually occurs to R&B skeptics at this point is, "can something so rigorously formalist really feel?", but Hilton is as fine a paragon as any of R&B's eternal truth that cutting loose and binding yourself in ever more tightly are essentially the same gesture. "Cold Summer" depicts the endless winter after your lover has departed as an endless winter for everyone, and if Hilton loses himself in the spider-web melodic strands of genre it's because he'd rather be lost than found, the resulting compensations of craft the only bulwark against desolation. If you can't find such formalised sighs of frustrated longing at least as compelling as a holler of pain, then perhaps you haven't really been through a proper break-up, haven't felt its contours which match the well-sculpted lines of popular myth even from the inside. Hilton sings like he's holding something back, and he is, and it's killing him.
― Tim F, Sunday, 11 December 2011 12:06 (seven years ago) link
Loving that Paula Cole
― pandemic, Sunday, 11 December 2011 12:31 (seven years ago) link
this was my fav chicago male diva throwback this year
― wil smif, Sunday, 11 December 2011 17:48 (seven years ago) link
Yeah the second half of "It Goes On" is totally lovely.
― Tim F, Sunday, 11 December 2011 17:55 (seven years ago) link
does the CJ hilton and the miguel song sample the same song?
― am0n shumpert (dayo), Sunday, 11 December 2011 18:08 (seven years ago) link
xp yeah takes a too long for the chorus to kick in. you're right, male diva house is hard!
― wil smif, Sunday, 11 December 2011 18:10 (seven years ago) link
― am0n shumpert (dayo), Sunday, December 11, 2011 1:08 PM (2 minutes ago)
i was wondering this too!
― k3vin k., Sunday, 11 December 2011 18:11 (seven years ago) link
i think my favourite thing about these lists are the unexpected things that crop up - delilah here. like, i'm sure you didn't mention delilah all year tim! and here she is.
learning of the existence of a balearic paula cole re-edit is too much for me in my current state
― degas-dirty monet (lex pretend), Sunday, 11 December 2011 18:36 (seven years ago) link
(in a "wtf how did that happen" way)
My favourite time of year.
― etc, Sunday, 11 December 2011 20:41 (seven years ago) link
― k3vin k., Sunday, December 11, 2011 1:11 PM (4 hours ago) Bookmark Permalink
Miguel is credited (along w/ Hilton and Salaam Remi) as co-songwriter.
― Andy K, Sunday, 11 December 2011 22:19 (seven years ago) link
you get a lot of people trying to make the next "Unfinished Sympathy" or "Safe From Harm"
the best iterations of this, i find, are when the music seems to make fewer claims to currency or futurism than it does to straight-up TRIP-HOP revivalism: which is why delilah is a success with me (i was on the fence for a while, but it was actually hearing some other songs by her that made "go" finally click for me), and creep as well.
― degas-dirty monet (lex pretend), Monday, 12 December 2011 14:15 (seven years ago) link
Love the Utz potato chips product placement.
― Occidental Rudipherous, Monday, 12 December 2011 16:03 (seven years ago) link
I liked "Go" but I just reviewed "Love You So" and it's rather icky.
― Lord Sotosyn, Monday, 12 December 2011 16:07 (seven years ago) link
That Delilah song would be good if the singing wasn't terrible.
― malcolm the tenth (furnace mane), Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:26 (seven years ago) link
Love You So > Go
― Johnny Fever, Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:32 (seven years ago) link
I think I'm more into Emeli Sande and Delilah as far as MA-revivalism stuff goes.
― malcolm the tenth (furnace mane), Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:36 (seven years ago) link
yayayay. god i love 'kush groove'
― nuhnuhnuh, Tuesday, 13 December 2011 01:24 (seven years ago) link
really really extremely feeling "between the edit," thank you based tim
― Brad Nelson, Tuesday, 13 December 2011 04:27 (seven years ago) link
god damn, this is the most generous thing
― smh mang fusion, Tuesday, 13 December 2011 05:03 (seven years ago) link
89. Alexandra Stan - Mr Saxobeat
It seemed like, in 2010, europop finally woke up (or, at least, in a substantive manner) to the idea that perhaps sounding more euro might be a good idea. So, before the prickly house synth chords take over entirely, "Mr Saxobeat" leads in with a vaguely Balkan horn riff, and something of the riff's sly hip-swivelling inheres in the tune even when it's not there - in Alexandra's rolled Rs as she sings "makes me move like a frrrreak", in the percussive "oh oh oh oh yeah, unh yah" male groans of the chorus, in the tune's general bubby effervescence, floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bad hangover after a lot of cheap champagne. The song doesn't make a lick of sense, of course, but I stopped expecting that from europop at about the time of La Bouche's "Be(at) My Lover" (as per the fashion of the times, though, Alexandra is a far wispier singer). Of course, apart from that tendency towards lyrical inanity and Alexandra's accent there's not a whole lot to distinguish "Mr Saxobeat" from a contemporary R&B single, unless, could it be, a certain innocence about the whole enterprise upon the part of Alexandra and her collaborators: such incorrigible bounciness feels less like a cynical cash grab when this sound already and indisputably is your culture's lingua franca.
88. Icicle ft. Robert Owens - Redemption
I definitely like the idea of the Autonomic sound (a fusion of drum & bass with clean-lined atmospheric dubstep, basically), in large part because of how it transforms what you might call dubstep's penchant for rhythmic suggestiveness, clipping along at a sprightly pace but always tracing the outlines of something even faster, murky imprints of polyrhythms that come clattering out of the fog only to disappear again. Problem is, I haven't really been that bowled over by that much of it in actuality, for reasons that are hard to define; I'd say it all gets a bit tasteful and samey, but in truth that's just the default criticism I nearly always have for a sub-style I haven't immersed myself in, and I've taught myself not to trust it. At any rate, this I love. I suspect that Icicle is some kind of johnny come lately autonomic bandwagonist, but on "Redemption" and its sister track "Step Forward" he has the inspired idea of combining the misty tundra vibez of the autonomic aesthetic with Robert Owens in primo isolationist soulful melancholy mode, and the effect is predictably massive: like if Lexis had handled the rhythm section for the mid-period Main Street Records singles. I also wonder if the edge that these songs have on all the other atmospheric dubstep vocal tracks floating around is their inheritance from latter-day drum & bass of a certain aerodynamic singleness of purpose. Whereas most everyone else is still beholden to Burial's papery messiness on some kind of deliberately-flawed "sound of urban decay" tip, "Redemption" is sharp and clean enough to cut your heart out with.
87. Monique Lawrence - Casanova (Fuzzy Logic Remix)
The perhaps singular talent of Fuzzy Logik is to insert the most uncomfortable, feet-confounding beats into the most flawlessly shiny pop songs: whereas 2009's soulful "In The Morning" seemed constantly to trip and stumble over itself, "Casanova" feels like a Monique (the other Monique) song set to the most complicated game of skip-rope ever, the kicks and snares stabbing relentlessly in the spaces in between where the beats should be as if afraid to pause for breath even for a moment. This restless groove powers Lawrence's ceaseless back and forth between suspicion and seduction, her verses and choruses and middle-eight likewise running into one another until she is agitated to the point of either walking away from her man forever or holding out her wrists for the handcuffs. On first listen "Casanova" seems too unbalanced and jittery to really make it as an anthem, but its freestyle-aping vibe makes more and more sense the more you play it , its nervous excess of energy (not just those beats, but two basslines, spiralling synth arpeggios and a gossamer web of sighing harmonies, all wired up on something) attaining a kind of pop-universalism through sheer effort. I often get stuck in patterns of playing this four or five times in a row, because the grace of the fencing match between it's various ideas is so unexpected and so involving that I feel like just watching it all day. And there I go again.
― Tim F, Tuesday, 13 December 2011 11:04 (seven years ago) link
i'm listening to the silkie remix of "witches' brew" and uhhhhh...it's aight but i have no idea how you could prefer it to the original? takes away all the dynamics and drama, adds a beat that sounds like it'd be okay somewhere else but feels awkward here? and that's really undanceable to boot
― degas-dirty monet (lex pretend), Thursday, 15 December 2011 12:26 (seven years ago) link
and i don't get how you call the original "overly busy" when the silkie remix has way too much going on for its own good!
― degas-dirty monet (lex pretend), Thursday, 15 December 2011 12:27 (seven years ago) link
uh yeah I actually concede that in the review, I just think the groove hangs together a lot better in the Silkie remix. I think we may be able to chalk this one up to the rhythm/sonics divide lex.
― Tim F, Thursday, 15 December 2011 13:18 (seven years ago) link
― Another Suburbanite, Sunday, 18 December 2011 07:18 (seven years ago) link
86. Tarrus Riley - Natural
I think one reason I used to fall for Sizzla's club-centric tracks so hard and so often was in how the more spiritualistic qualities of Sizzla's performances - not the lyrics, but the way in which a certain yearning and righteousness was permanently imprinted in the very grain of his vocals - collides with the despiritualised sexuality of dancehall's best bangers, offering an implied fall-of-Eden narrative in one direction and redemption-through-passion narrative in the other. Tarrus - less idiosyncratic and ruined-sounding than Sizzla, more in the vein of a kindly, charismatic patriarch - offered a number of such collisions this year, with "Natural" my favourite by a small margin. "Me love how ya natural" he extols, "and you no depend 'pon chemicals fi look hot...", invoking a socio-political, educational frame of reference in what is otherwise a sex tune, and adding some dignity to what are essentially pick up lines ("when the most high made you, he must have had me on his mind..."), but Tarrus' voice is better suited to this kind of grandfatherly commendation than full-blooded gangsta seduction in any event. The arrangement, too, treads a fine line between booming physical intensity and a certain simple largesse that offers a nobility beyond its appearance as uncompromising club banger, the cavernous bass aspiring to something bigger and deeper than it is, while the reliably slamming snares keep it always tethered firmly to the earth (see also: the half-uplifting, half-menacing "Armageddon Time").
85. SE62 - Dreaming
Deej put me onto this amazing disco edit, not quite in the same pantheon as "A Lifetime Groove" - perhaps because less heart-tuggingly imploring, and more firmly ensconced within that state of unconcerned euphoria that is so often the disco edits scene's most successful modus operandi - but totally irresistible nonetheless. As is typically the case, "Dreaming" makes magic out of a handful of very simple elements: blissed out guitar, ocean washes, some spectral disco diva vamping and a simply gorgeous liquid saxophone solo that bubbles up and across the groove with a utopian, carefree joy, like Norma Jean Bell trying to make her own "Pacific State". The solo ends too quickly, and the tune soon follows it, making this one of the most replayable edits I can think. Most contemporary disco edits are obsessed with the shamanic powers of repetition - archeologists of the hypnotic groove, uncovering nuggets of endlessly loopable motifs in the most unlikely of places - and "Dreaming" is no different, but it also pays tribute to the chimerical flash and brilliance of that which won't stay still, its e'd up fluidity offering the tune its own running narrative of "I can't believe this is happening" ecstatic wonderment.
84. Maria Minerva - Noble Savage
"Noble Savage" sounds like the kind of rudimentary dirty sharehouse kitchen sink disco you might expect from reading about it, Maria's echoing vocals smeared across ramshackle percussion and stiff snares. Quickly, though, it descends to darker and more machinic territory under the weight of a succession of noisy loops juddering across one another like a giant printing press, creating a vibe that reminds me of all sorts of 90s dance music and quasi dance music - Aphex Twin, Orbital, Bomb The Bass. in other words, dance music from a time when big, pop-industrial noise loops still sounded like the future. The last 10 years of dance music have been thoroughly dominated by retro organicism on the one hand and hyper-detailed digital pointillism on the other (or occasionally both, even) that - the reliable turnover of Detroit techno revivalism aside - it's easy to forget the charms of dance music that sounds mechanical more than anything else. Of course Maria's trademark half-awake bleariness remains evident, even dominant, so the end result sonically (not vocally) is as if Person Pitch took all its cues from Depeche Mode (in "Stripped" or "Behind The Wheel" mode) rather than the Beach Boys. I can't really get excited about the sociological elements of 100% Silk et. al. - indie hipsters discovering dance music - but if one of its side-effects is a further opening up of this sonic space then I'll happily sign up.
83. Ron Basejam - Looter
No idea why this wasn't a massive anthem in house clubs everywhere, sounding as it does like the peaktime moment at a party at the very end of time (this is both typically me hyperbole and also literally true). In fact, I never even heard this played out once, though I guess 2011 didn't seem like a year when DJs were that interested in the killing machine brand of house tune (or the house brand of killing machine tunes). Reminiscent of Carl Craig's mid-00s work, or even Redshape, "Looter" both condenses and sexes up that particular strain of melodrama by dropping it into a patiently grinding house groove, less urgent perhaps but maybe even more ominous because the beat knows you will succumb to it eventually and is content to simply wait for you. I am fond of this trick on principal because the result (if done well) always has a weird resemblance to Nine Inch Nails' "Closer", but in truth "Looter" is both chillier and more clinical than that for all that it's also more firmly-post disco. It works better for that, too, the almost cynically hyped-up vocal samples ("Woo-Wooh! Wooh! Wooh! Baby!"), a single-note bassline and searing mid-range lasers that together could destroy whole cities and the eerie floods of sci-fi synth washes ll registering no purpose or quality except single-minded dancefloor destruction.
― Tim F, Sunday, 18 December 2011 10:58 (seven years ago) link
82. Noisses ft. Serocee - The Don (The Living Graham Bond Remix)
I'm biased on this general issue of course, but it's hard not to conclude that the post-dubstep diaspora (or its critical champions at any rate) consistently underrate rhythm. This statement seems perverse and counter-intuitive given post-dubstep largely has been responsible for the critical rehabilitation of syncopated rhythms in middle-class dance music, but when you look at the stuff that tends to do well, it's clear that a privileging of just about anything other than rhythm - songfulness, bright melodies, R&B vocal samples, atmospherics, genre eclecticism, huge and turgid basslines - offers a fairly easy path to micro-fame, whereas those producers that actually focus on teasing out ever more thrillingly nuanced, energising beats end up being relegated to the purgatorial outer circles of, if not damnation, then certainly faint praise. The Living Graham Bond probably can blame his truly awful moniker more than this distressing trend for the fact that he has almost zero profile to speak of, but either way it's a shame that tunes like his remix of "The Don" don't get more hype: this is like the finest tune that Basement Jaxx and Altered Natives both somehow failed to make, a dancehall/funky/speed garage fusion of gorgeously layered rhythm patterns cunningly disguised behind a patina of no-nonsense party vibes and massive bass. "The Don" isn't even obviously, ostentatiously syncopated, instead twisting its rhythmic perversity like a golden thread around a strong steel cord of house groove. Maybe that's the problem profile-wise, but the percussion is so maddeningly addictive that I can only conclude the entire world has cloth ears for not noticing.
81. Steffi - You Own My Mind
Dreamy deep house revivalism now has been "back" for several years, but even this is underestimating its easy omnipresence; it's only "back" if you can pretend that at some point it went away. Whereas I like to think that I've been paying attention, and that this particular strain of soothing songful escapism is and always has been the gorgeous friend that you can drop into any social circle and know they will always charm everyone present with their generosity. Could you get sick of this vibe? Could I? Theoretically it's possible, but deep house has the dubious advantage of being either brilliant or ignorable, which means that most years I fall in love with about four examples and jettison any awareness of the rest. "You Own My Mind" isn't even the most gregarious Steffi anthem of 2011, but it's the one I return to most, its melancholy sweetness capturing a vibe that it seems only a particular strain of songful deep house can. Think "New Day", "Do It Now", "Moved": anthems of ceaseless yearning, conflicted submission and wistful desire, simultaneously bewildering and nourishing. It's possible that only vocal deep house has fully mastered this terrain, the emotional landscape of being comforted by your loss of control over your life, and the unexpected relief to be found in making your happiness entirely subject to the whims of another. As you might expect, "You Own My Mind", all drifting synth clouds and warmly understated vocals, presents such subjugation as entirely natural and desirable.
77. Shox - Strung Out
Just how dark and eerie can UK funky get? Precisely this much: coming on like Ill Blu with a serious case of social dislocation (and it was via an Ill Blu radio set that I discovered this, naturally), "Strung Out" concentrates funky's rhythmic sensibility into a stiff, proud strut of defiance, around which it laces glassy organs, machine bleeps, urgent string riffs and a successions of ominous bass drops, all designed to announce in strident fashion that shit just got very real indeed, and is only gonna keep getting realer. Apart from spiralling upwards relentlessly through a succession of increasingly histrionic breakdowns, "Strung Out" doesn't do an awful amount; it doesn't need to though, reasoning correctly that sometimes just continuing to burrow ever more deeply into the dark, mysterious core of the groove is enough. In practical terms this means that "Strung Out", like most funky, sounds better in the mix than as a standalone track; but beyond this, for me, it speaks of a certain noble insistence on privileging the physicality of dance grooves over and above any other consideration; rather than ostentatious switch-ups, the listener is gifted with the tune's oh-so-right seeming logic of escalation, the beat pounding its way ever more forcefully into your brain, each measure necessitating the next, and the next, and the next.
― Tim F, Monday, 19 December 2011 13:34 (seven years ago) link
Last one should be 80 obv.
feel like we should set up a paypal for this or something
― v-shasty, Monday, 19 December 2011 15:12 (seven years ago) link
Cannot believe I missed the first week of this. It's like a surprise end-of-exams gift. At 5PM today, I will be putting on headphones and listening to ALL of this.
― lexferenda, Monday, 19 December 2011 16:02 (seven years ago) link
this is gonna be the greatest list of all time
― Mr. Snrub, Monday, 19 December 2011 21:35 (seven years ago) link
OF ALL TIME
― nice catch cuauhtemoc blanco niño (dayo), Tuesday, 20 December 2011 00:42 (seven years ago) link
bookies currently taking bets on whether we'll ever get to number one. odds... are not good.
― "pass me the fucking pheasant", Tuesday, 20 December 2011 02:00 (seven years ago) link
All three Steffi vocal tracks I've heard are fantastic ("Yours" "You Own My Mind" "Sadness"). Sort of makes the rest of her tracky instrumental stuff underwhelming.
― Michael F Gill, Tuesday, 20 December 2011 04:02 (seven years ago) link
this is awesome, tim, thank you! still remember yours text about misguided ghosts.
― moullet, Tuesday, 20 December 2011 10:42 (seven years ago) link
MERRY CHRISTMAS ILX!
79. Creep ft. Nina Sky - You
Much of the charm of "You" is encapsulated by its video clip: the high contrast black and white that could signify stylisation, honesty or deadness, obscuring everything in shadows and bright light, the sudden rhythmic back and forth jump cuts blurring the identity of the narrators, the uncertainty of whether the girls in Nina Sky are singing to, with, or away from one another. Rather than all-out shock, "You" unsettles by its ambiguity. The heavily echoed handclaps and those startling snare breakdowns may be the most immediately noticeable aspects of the arrangement, but "You" ultimately is more of a melodic masterpiece than a rhythmic one, its gossamer web of reversed strings and tinkling piano keys both comforting and filled with a nameless dread. In this, "You" simply picks up and foregrounds intensities already present in R&B; the song is like a very slight gothic twist on Ashanti's "Rescue Me", millennial R&B at its most prettily and eerily bloodless, and wherein the music evoked both desire and fear not by deliberately juxtaposing them, but by finding a certain sonic and vocal space where one merged imperceptibly into the other. What strikes me as most remarkable about "You" is that it is exactly what you might hope for from its concept, neither mocking nor eviscerating the feel of the R&B it serenades, and yet somehow still setting its vantage point quite firmly on the other side of the mirror. To better understand how rare this vibe is, listen to Creep's new single "Animals", which despite having the same basic formula ends up sounding more like Lamb or something. A lot of this distinction has to do with the singer, admittedly, and it's difficult to imagine voices more perfect for "You" than those of Nina Sky, who don't need to switch up their sound for the occasion at all - always already understated and trembling with carefully veiled yearning or desire, they've perfected the art of seeming to think much more than they tell.
78. Dennis Ferrer - Hey Hey (Sabo Remix)
There were (a few) better moombahton tunes this year, but none exemplified the rhythmic possibilities of the style better than this remix. The original "Hey Hey" moves along two rhythmic axes: house's brisk pulse, and the stern, assaultive counter-rhythm that always struck me as sounding like hail on a tin roof. After dutifully slowing down the track, Sabo creates a third rhythmic axis by adding a reggaeton-style dem bow rhythm, around which he festoons whispering hi-hats, drum rolls and a myriad of echoes and rolling bongo patterns. The interaction of these various components within a groove that somehow manages to cohere is a joy to behold, seeming to require at least four hips and seven limbs in order to do its gentle beat-assault justice on the dancefloor. Apart from this, the remix basically abides by moombahton's unwritten rule of changing as little as possible once you've moombaht-ised the original tune, but in this case that is exactly what you want. Ultimately the magnetic rhythmic concept of moombahton is precisely this: slowing down the beat isn't just exciting for its own sake, but also for the way it creates space for the groove to move in so many different directions while still getting where it needs to go. This very sense of confusion can facilitate a kind of anthemism, the giddy pinnacles of a beat that is doing everything at once; when this remix explodes into its final climax about a minute from the end (in a very efficient four and a half minute or so tune), it makes me want to pump all three of my fists.
77. King Louie - Kush Too Strong
Deej got me onto King Louie in a fairly big way, and I had to think pretty hard about which of his tunes I wanted to write up, but "Kush Too Strong" was my first and greatest love, a hymn to kush that sounds half afraid of its subject matter. This sense of fear is less down to Louie - the songtitle is more of a boast than a complaint, though the ambiguity of the double meaning is surely deliberate - than the music, a thick bed of synth chords all engorged and expiring that floats and expands to fill the space like smoke, while the rhythm skips with severe, slowed-down formality in the background. It's simply gorgeous stuff, but it also sounds enervated and frail, spent by the excess it celebrates. It's this which turns Louie's chorus recital of attributes and events ("I take her home / she let me bone / my shoes are chrome") into something more like ritualistic invocation than bragging, a way of controlling and constraining and directing the dense vibe. I'm not a priori opposed to the "cloud rap" I've heard (and I don't hate Drake, though nor do I like him) but I find myself responding to its purported signature sonic impulses much more readily in the context of street rap and commercial R&B, where flotation tank wooziness is less of a raison d'être and more targeted in its deployment, and hence more emotionally affecting. The idea of subsiding into disorienting drift is much more enticing when it's in the context of characters and sounds that had a firm grasp on reality to begin with. After all, no one actually lives all the time like "Kush Too Strong" sounds, do they? Do they?
76. Damu - Breathless
Damu's Unity was basically dubstep's belated but welcome (unwitting) riposte to my perennial complaint that the rush to cut out 2-step garage's girliness in order to meditate on the bass weight had been way too hasty. Well really I guess the debut Joy Orbison single was the opening shot, but listening to Damu's material this year was one of the first times I connected with this kind of trebly, sugary endorphin rush nu-garage in a really strong way - finally, music that seemed to capture the ecstatic magic of prime 2-step rather than merely gesture towards clinically (c.f. most "future garage") - take a bow also Maya Jane Coles, whose thoroughly lovely "Can't Hide The Way I Feel" under the Nocturnal Sunshine moniker could easily have subbed in this spot. The histrionic, cavernous pseudo-grime of "Ridin" was Damu's (relative) "hit" this year, and is fabulous as well, but my favourite of his 2011 tunes was the charmingly frictionless "Breathless", a tune which vaguely and unexpectedly resembles Gang Gang Dance's "Glass Jar" in its swirl of endless promise, a constantly surging anticipation of joy, fulfillment, arrival. It was also (give or take the nearly as brilliant "L.O.V.E.") Damu's most unabashedly girly effort. What do I mean by "girly" in this context? Mainly, a sense of romance and uplift that cannot be contained within an emphasis on depth (or more specifically, "deepness"), but swells up to overtake the music's rootedness in the rigorously physical or spatial. All strobing "Mandarine Girl" trance riffs and chiming vocal chords and rippling faux-xylophone arpeggios, "Breathless" builds its syncopated house undercarriage less for the sake of groove than to provide a foundation from which to lift its climaxes higher, then higher again, then higher still.
75. Raphael Saadiq - Good Man
I like the OG rock moves of much of Raphael's Stone Rollin' well enough, but I have to admit to framing the album in my head as one long build-up to the voluptuous soul of "Good Man", a marvelous condensation of Isaac Hayes balladry into a neat and tidy sub -four minute pop stunner. Those strings! The female vocal refrain! Raphael's falsetto "Without YOUUUUUUUUUUUU!" as elegant horns let out a gradual exhalation of vanity and ego! Most of all - or rather, what all these things combine to create - I love the tune's brooding sensuality, which derives its force from its covalence, the female chorus repeating back to Raphael his self-justifications ("I'm a good man, food on the table, working two jobs, ready willing and able") in a manner which calls his protestations into question even though it's not clear whether they're sympathetic or mocking; the back and forth between these rehearsed recitals and Raphael's almost freeform sorrowing exposes the gulf between the good man's outward face to the world and his crumbling sense of self. Like "Walk On By", whose most slyly seductive moments it echoes, "Good Man" realises that soul, with its juxtapositions of velvet smooth surfaces and sudden eruptions of raw emotion, remains perhaps the best vehicle for capturing the tussle between pride and all that pride attempts to conceal.
74. Sneakbo - The Wave
"The Wave" started off life as Ill Blu's massive stupid bleep-house instrumental "Alright Mate", straighter and trancier than their usual fare, and so also the perfect foundation for a massive stupid pop-grime tune - I wonder if the duo always knew this or the realisation stole upon them slowly. Sneakbo is basically a glorified hype MC here ("jetski's gwan dagadagada!"), which is really all you need given this tune, like so many pop tunes in 2011, is in truth primarily about the dancefloor breakdowns when the ostensible star of the show exits stage left and allows the beat to do its thing. And the beat here is a monster, its inheritance from uk funky the absolutism of the rigid synth arpeggios, whose minor deviations from the stomping 4X4 kick create in themselves a kind of syncopation that utterly contradicts the tune's resemblance to pop-trance. This of course is the great secret of uk funky - the way in which syncopation forms a governing principle not tied down to any particular rhythmic manifestation - and what makes tunes like "The Wave" (and before it Dotstar's "Ransom") most exciting is how they imagine a way-out for the plodding tranciness (or alternatively deadening dubstep facsimiles) of uk urban pop - tunes single-minded and stompy enough for the charts (at least in theory) but captivating in their rhythmic restlessness.
73. Lady Saw - Matrimoney
Some riddim names are quite totalitarian in their determination of the groove's associations. I thought of this twinkly riddim as a kind of wedding procession even before I heard Tifa's "Wedding Chapel" and Lady Saw's title track effort: that said, a tune as jaunty and mischievous really could only soundtrack a shotgun wedding or drunken elopement. It'd be a fun little riddim by itself, but it's Lady Saw who really raises it to the next level with some of the best lyrics of the year: "Matrimoney / ceremoney / testimoney / alimoney / take a hint, it's all about the money / for you and I to live in peace and har-money." The brutal reduction of romance to economic realities is hardly a new subject matter in pop, but it's hard to think of an example quite this blunt and mercantile, not to mention filled with so many puns. Something about Lady Saw's thick-voiced, full-frontal sexuality makes the exchange still sound enticing, a shower of funds just another example of the worship you'd gladly provide for the pleasure of her presence - here, as always, female dancehall stars distinguish themselves from (or, at least, within) the Lil' Kim mode by never even thinking of sounding defensive or defiant; absolute power is simply taken for granted (for more of this check my other favourite Lady Saw tune of 2011, "Wife A Wife").
72. Kelley Polar - I'm Not What You Want
I quite like the idea of Junior Boys' Jeremy Greenspan as some kind of jobbing studio vocalist working with only the most luxuriant of electronic revivalists. There's an occasional glimpse of glittering superficiality in Junior Boys' own work but it seems to really flower when Jeremy works with other people; in such moments he sounds like Martin Gore if Martin Gore spent all his time singing while staring into the mirror (rather than at pornographic snuff films, or whatever it is Gore actually watches), voluptuously sighing and vamping like a body builder flexing his biceps. "I'm Not What You Want" is the best effort in this vein yet, musically taking Kelley Polar closer to the finger snapping electro-pop precision of Scritti Politti circa Cupid & Psyche '85 (though still featuring dizzily gorgeous live strings) while emotionally poised between that tradition on the one hand and the beautifully empty wounded sighs of David Cassidy's "Romance" and Bryan Ferry's "Slave To Love" on the other - songs that gesture towards impossible feelings but also smile knowingly at the arrogant futility of their gestures. I think the last time this vibe was reached for so precisely was on the first Future Bible Heroes album, and there's a startling and pleasurable sense of familiarity about rediscovering it in a different time, place and context: the elevation of an appealing (because) fantastical notion of eighties plasticity to absolute artform.
71. Teedra Moses - Another Luvr
There are few artists I feel as emotional about as Teedra - some of girl's songs are as close to the center of my heart as it's possible for anything to get - but I didn't end up listening to her 2011 mixtape Luxurious Undergrind an awful lot. Teedra's idea of "champagne soul" is great, of course, but for the most part it seemed to translate as smooth and goes-down-easy rather than flushed and headspinning. Teedra, of course, is almost without equal when it comes to holding back and delicately outlining what others would draw in crude strokes, but just because you can do subtle doesn't mean that subtle is always the correct approach. In truth Teedra's finest past moments - "Complex Simplicity", "Backstroke", "For A Lifetime" - are those which take her smoothness out to the precipice, poised delicately over endless chasms of deep feeling. Not becalmed at all, but terrified, delirious, intoxicated, overwhelmed. That all said, "Another Luvr" is as fine a piece of "champagne soul" as you could imagine, so utterly suave and casual and just so, its misspelt name an attempt to capture the faux-careless insouciance of Teedra's pose here, her sinuous vocals curling around the mysteriously bubbly groove (vaguely latin disco-boogie? I love the sanded-back and submerged glower of the bass riff) with a dismissive unconcern that is half totally sincere and half totally a put on, a perfectly executed reverse-psychology seduction; it's a mark of Teedra's peerless mastery of ambiguity that she can simultaneously inhabit both states so utterly. Typical Teedra, then: a kiss-off that sounds like a rain of kisses.
70. Ronny & Renzo - Heartbreak Theme (C2 CinermxMix)
I think Ronny & Renzo hit their creative zenith with 2009's "Me, Myself & Good", which was their biggest and also final torpid darkside disco groove, a steady descent into an endless maelstrom of machine loops and apocalyptic horns. Since then, as if aware that they probably can't top that, they've been drifting in more of a steely grey house/techno direction, and while the results are still unimpeachable, the one drawback is this is a much more crowded field. "Heartbreak Theme" is as reliably epic and widescreen as ever, spending its near eleven minutes gradually shifting from misty dub-house through to eerie Blade Runner synth work, absolutely enveloping and not a little unnerving, and featuring a very very melancholy rave arpeggio breakdown that itself gets swallowed up in a bottomless well of robot hums. It's fine stuff, but this is Carl Craig's home turf, and like a master craftsman coming in to lay the finishing touches - a bruised bassline here, percussive effects so tactile you could almost touch them there - with a minimum of fuss he raises "Heartbreak Theme" to the level of world-beater, its aching synths spiraling out with an intergalactic sense of yearning, the lonely cry of an entire solar system of people about to be lost forever. Rather than ever quite turn into all-out banger, "Heartbreak Theme" broods with ominous disquiet, preferring to fill your head with visions of the destruction it could mete out rather than put on a demonstration - a weapon more scary for never having been used. When that ghostly arpeggio finally arrives again the sense of accumulated dread is near overwhelming, a climax as only Craig knows how to do them.
― Tim F, Sunday, 25 December 2011 12:20 (seven years ago) link
shit did not realise kelley polar had put something out this year!
― judith, Sunday, 25 December 2011 12:45 (seven years ago) link
i'm glad tim likes creep - also agree on what makes damu so surprisingly good
the teedra beat is from an a tribe called quest song - someone on ilx schooled me on that when the mixtape emerged. i did go back to the mixtape quite a bit but it's v much just an excellent taster for the album proper (which i trust will finally emerge in 2012) rather than a thing to rave about in its own right
― degas-dirty monet (lex pretend), Sunday, 25 December 2011 12:53 (seven years ago) link
i have to say i have not heard any moombahton thing that particularly interests me
― degas-dirty monet (lex pretend), Sunday, 25 December 2011 12:54 (seven years ago) link
it completely weirds me that there are people with such similar taste to mine that haven't listened to the low end theory a billion and 3 times
― fireman princess (furnace mane), Sunday, 25 December 2011 13:18 (seven years ago) link
the thing that is so dope to me about moombah other than that beat ticking every box i have is because it's a genre united by beat rather than aesthetic, it has free reign to be completely catholic and embrace anything and everything.
― fireman princess (furnace mane), Sunday, 25 December 2011 13:21 (seven years ago) link
Haha Low End Theory has been on my "to check out" list for about fifteen years.
― Tim F, Sunday, 25 December 2011 13:43 (seven years ago) link
I have Beats, Rhymes & Life tho which I got in about 1997 (after "Got Til It's Gone" ha) but never went any deeper.
― Tim F, Sunday, 25 December 2011 13:45 (seven years ago) link
― fireman princess (furnace mane), Monday, December 26, 2011 12:21 AM (23 minutes ago) Bookmark Permalink
Yeah this is really true IMO. I've seen so many people say stupid things like "when will we start to see real songs and artist from moombahton, it's just all cash-in remixes." When, like, cash-in remixes are a huge huge part of the appeal with this music!
― Tim F, Sunday, 25 December 2011 13:48 (seven years ago) link
― Tim F, Sunday, December 25, 2011 8:43 AM (7 minutes ago) Bookmark Permalink
oh man give yrself a christmas gift, tho youd prob dig midnight marauders more
― Cooper Chucklebutt, Sunday, 25 December 2011 13:52 (seven years ago) link
I envy someone discovering either album.
― Lord Sotosyn, Sunday, 25 December 2011 13:58 (seven years ago) link
― Tim F, Sunday, December 25, 2011 5:45 AM (13 minutes ago) Bookmark Permalink
this is probably their weakest album tbh. low end theory is a desert island disc.
― fireman princess (furnace mane), Sunday, 25 December 2011 14:01 (seven years ago) link
Alright i will remedy.
― Tim F, Sunday, 25 December 2011 14:10 (seven years ago) link
i could see tim going either way on the LET vs. MM thing, to be honest
― joey joe joe junior shabadoo, Sunday, 25 December 2011 19:11 (seven years ago) link
Wow Tim is a Low End procrastinator as well? I feel a little less bad now. Rev lightly chastised me in outloud for not having heard LET.
― tanuki suit, frogbs suit (henrietta lacks), Sunday, 25 December 2011 19:45 (seven years ago) link
Love Movement is their only outright terrible album. I would say IMO but that is actually a fact.
― OH NOES, Sunday, 25 December 2011 19:59 (seven years ago) link
yeah the first one is kinda corny tho in parts, and is def a lot less unique/interesting than LET or MM ; love movement also has one of their best lead singles
― joey joe joe junior shabadoo, Sunday, 25 December 2011 20:25 (seven years ago) link
i mean, the 1st one is classic, dont get me wrong, just a lot more flawed imo
the SE62 is good.
Prefer the bside of the Maria Minerva (a little lonely) but I can't really get with her vocals
― april wowak, Sunday, 25 December 2011 20:39 (seven years ago) link
You make no sense to me sometimes. There is definitely some filler on the first Tribe album but it is unique as fuck.
― OH NOES, Sunday, 25 December 2011 20:53 (seven years ago) link
i just mean the production is pretty standard for the de la era at that point; they took a huge step forward in distinctiveness w/e LET
― joey joe joe junior shabadoo, Sunday, 25 December 2011 21:19 (seven years ago) link
before our time! i enjoyed discovering it this year though
― degas-dirty monet (lex pretend), Sunday, 25 December 2011 21:27 (seven years ago) link
I probably listen to about half and half old and new music but that still leaves a huge amount of room for massive blind spots, especially when I already have a basic idea of what the music in question sounds like.
― Tim F, Sunday, 25 December 2011 22:06 (seven years ago) link
at the very least Tim will fuck w/ "check the rhime"
― joey joe joe junior shabadoo, Sunday, 25 December 2011 22:13 (seven years ago) link
thread needs to end w/megaupload .rar of all 100
― (╯°□°）╯┻━zǝɹɐns sınl━┻ (cccccc), Sunday, 25 December 2011 23:10 (seven years ago) link
― V79, Sunday, 25 December 2011 23:13 (seven years ago) link
btw thanks a lot Tim for all of these, your EOY list is always one of those I look forward to the most!
― V79, Sunday, 25 December 2011 23:14 (seven years ago) link
this is shaping up as my favourite since like 07 which was such a vintage year
― judith, Sunday, 25 December 2011 23:15 (seven years ago) link
69. Richelle - Mascotte
Nominally post-dubstep or "global bass" or whatever, "Mascotte" resembles nothing so much as a megamix of Jammer instrumentals circa 2002, a dizzying mutational melange of reedy pipe synths, urgent strings, lugubrious tuna horn bass and chattering beats somewhere between juke, "Grindin" and "Countdown". That chatter effect is very 2010-2011, but rather than merely deploy it as a nod to the sound design du jour, Richelle seems interested in how giant bassdrum stomp and ceaseless electro snap can interrelate with one another to create rhythms that work topographically, impacting different parts of your body almost violently, while tickling your ears with their intricacy (the b-side "Bendin" betrays an indebtedness to funk carioca, which makes sense in this context - the best Brazilian funk being that which simultaneously explores ideas of rhythm as absolutely rigid and absolutely loose); as with early grime, Richelle gets so caught up in the internal conflict of the groove that the fact of the production sounding a bit cheap and rickety is strictly a secondary concern (that, or "Mascotte" is deliberately fetishising grime's cheap adventurism; I'm not sure which explanation is correct). Beyond the basic sonic architecture, Richelle steals from grime its short attention span in a mix context, with a new motif or idea or sound intruding every ten seconds or so to send "Mascotte" careening in a new direction, in a game of ante-upping that presumably only ends due to sheer exhaustion. I was actually very surprised when I discovered it was all one track.
68. Mr Vegas ft. Teairra Mari & Gyptian - Pum Pum Shorts (Remix)
Tracks which blur the line between dancehall and US rap or R&B aren't merely fun for how they familiarise the former while spicing up the latter; the best efforts create a third space of stylistic ambiguity where the switch back and forth between the different components itself generates a kind of friction, heightening the drama and raising the stakes. "Pum Pum Shorts" (or "Boy Shorts") was already a fine Mr Vegas track from 2010 - topical (sorta), boasting a fantastic sing-song melody from Mr Vegas, and possessing one of those ridiculously sexed-up beats mainly comprising of luridly quivering radioactive synth-bass, the sound of booty actually shaking (does anyone remember Sizzla's "Love & Affection"? Just like that). The remix simply and straightforwardly ups the ante: it would be enough that Gyptian faux-morosely interpolates the Lambada (probably a nod to J Lo rather than Kaoma or the like), but the real star of the show is Teairra, who after several vamps offers a stunning guest verse of her own, sung, but too swaggering to really code as R&B (I'm reminded of Beyonce's version of "In The Club"). In a succession of great bits my favourite is her high-pitched delivery of "Baby make me scream and sho-ou-out / throw me a pillow if I get too lo-ou-oud / but I gotta protect my clou-out / so you better not run your mo-ou-outh". I only noticed several repeat listens in that everyone on "Pum Pum Shorts" is walking a different singjay tightrope, which is maybe one reason why its culture-clash sounds particularly definitive: everyone here is too lust-struck to sing and too lust-struck not to. Some gratuitous extra recommendations: Mr Vegas' stripped down, booming "Certain Law" with Harry Toddler, and Teairra's simply wonderful, massive "Body", a 2010 track too but I think it only got a video clip this year.
― Tim F, Wednesday, 28 December 2011 12:44 (seven years ago) link
I'm heading off to New Zealand for five days tomorrow so no more updates for a bit, but I hope to knock over a few of these on the plane so I'll try to carve out a big chunk of the remainder on my return.
― Tim F, Wednesday, 28 December 2011 12:46 (seven years ago) link
― OH NOES, Sunday, December 25, 2011 2:59 PM
― Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 28 December 2011 15:20 (seven years ago) link
I am partial to "Find a Way" though.
― Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 28 December 2011 15:21 (seven years ago) link