Tuesday, January 30, 2007

airport girl @ the buffalo bars, islington, 26th january 2007 (or not)

it says nearly as much for the organisational skills of the in love with these times, in spite of these times massive as the evident punter-pulling power of recently reinvigorated east midlands tunesmiths airport girl that by the time we had congregated outside the low-slung seventies concrete of the rebuilt highbury station, the board was up to tell us that the gig had sold out. so we settled in for an altogether quieter night in the compton arms, and ended up reminiscing over j2o and shandy about the days of sarah, in particular the time we saw blueboy at sound city in brizzle and really thought they were about to break big... ah well. shows how much we know about music.

still, while you're here, airport girl's new, wintry evening set "slow light" is one of the best albums on fortuna pop! for ages, despite sharing hardly any genes with the desperately-unacknowledged greatness of the band's finest moment, 2004's "salinger wrote". stepping knowingly away from the breezier, more shambling (but less consistent) "honey i'm an artist" lp, their second full-length takes much of its cue from country-tinged americana, with the tunes managing to sound somehow more austere even as the number of instruments multiplies. and whereas we have really tried (but failed) to enjoy slower-fi, tradition-soaked albums in the past, from bands from sodastream to gravenhurst, "slow light" is just melodic enough on one hand, and unassuming enough on the other, to mean that it can even overcome couplets like "hold me through the night / hold me until it gets light". indeed, the authentic world-weariness of the opening brace of tracks is something that youthful pretenders - you know, all those 20-year old students with beards doing anti-folk by numbers - daily fail to emulate. ever-welcome go-betweens comparisons force themselves on you too, most eagerly (and perhaps deliberately) on "don't let me down again" and "show me the way", and there's even the ghost of airport past in the shape of a revisited "mexico". on occasion ("the weather song"), the cleverness of the arrangements slightly gets in the way of the songs themselves, but overall the sound of this girl growing up is far more rewarding than we could have dared contemplate.
"AND THE BAND PLAYED ON...."

oh, even with singles here and albums here, i feel we still haven't gone on about 2006 yet... so.

the top gigs of the year were probably.

fucking rosehips in stoke
sportique in ladbroke grove
bolt-thrower at camden underworld
the wedding present at camden koko
obituary at the mean fiddler
the fall in brick lane
morrissey at wembley arena
secret shine at the water rats
the loft at pow! to the people
british sea power on a boat

the best compilations were possibly.

nasum "grind finale" (relapse)
heresy "1985-87" (boss tuneage)
brighter "out to sea" (matinee recordings)
beatnik filmstars "barking (a collection of oddities)" (the international lo-fi pop underground)
manicured noise "northern stories" (caroline true records)
the chesterf!elds "electric guitars in their hearts - the best of the chesterf!elds" (cherry red)
aberdeen "what do i wish for now ?" (ltm)
sarandon "the completist's library" (wrath records)
various artists "still unravished - a tribute to the june brides" (yes boy ice cream)
nivens "from a northumbrian mining village comes the sound of summer" (firestation records)
deviated instinct "welcome to the orgy" (peaceville)

also please note that.

best single re-issue: hardnoise "untitled" (suspect packages, 12")

best album re-issue: a witness "i am st john's pancreas" (euphonium)

best live album: lock-up "play fast or die" (feto records)

best dvd: heresy "1987" (boss tuneage)

best b-side: the nightingales "seconds" (from "let's think about living" 7" on fake product)

best remix: geeneus' remix of scratchy's "shangooli" (b-side of dumpvalve 12")

discovery of 2006: looking for an answer

finally, as we're talking about old music, we hope that this site don't mind us linking to them, but we are unable to keep to ourselves any venue where you can download a JACKDAW WITH CROWBAR PEEL SESSION. even aside from that, you'll soon see that the whole blog is a goldmine. for the record, we owe discovery of the link to indie-mp3.co.uk, still probably the best place to catch up with the very latest on the indie-pop / side of things.

in our next post, we will acknowledge the existence of 2007.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

singles of the year - 2006

(i know, like buses, isn't it ?)

after last year's round-up by the turncoat agogo, which we managed to do before having tracked down great records by lowkey, comet gain, martyn hare, tullycraft etc, we vowed to hold on a bit longer before bringing the 2006 round-ups to you. 2006 maybe edged 2005, if not quite as mighty as 2004 (looking at that list of top singles makes us shiver with excitement even now)...

should you wonder why we labour so over the year-ends, well it's basically a great excuse to remind ourselves that in any given 365 there are hundreds of songs that inspire, and gives us something to look back on in our dotage when we'll be way too feeble to plough through the blog properly. the final ranking points for these (and the albums) were fiercely debated over some lager tops in the devereux arms off fleet street, and painstakingly assembled in the highbury barn t'other night. all proceedings were, of course, observed by the electoral reform society, and the lists moderated by a crack team of external advisers.

1. harper lee "he holds a flame" (matinee recordings)

if this is, as we understand, really their last record, then we should cherish it all the more.

""he holds a flame" is actually pretty uptempo, even if tightly corralling familiar, controlled layers of misty keyboards and a handful of carefully picked, repeating guitar notes.... and so, tied up in the trademark harper lee melancholy, we have a pathetic, aching paean to the girl who's moved on, a theme not unknown to us avid harper lee monitors. the hopelessness of the sentiment doesn't make the song a scintilla less moving: indeed, the "longer" second version of the tune is much the better, simply because you need more time to fully bask in the joyous glow of a new harper lee single before it gets laced with the acres of regret hewn by keris howard's relentlessly determined and unrequited words..."

never quite achieving the respect they deserved, harper lee signed off with this upbeat (musically) gem of a tune, although the beautiful "william blake" would have been an equally devastating single. we'll miss them.

2. television personalities "all the young children on crack, all the young children on smack" (domino, 7")

"Love it or hate it, as surely all who listen to it will, this is an extraordinary single... [Like the LP] it's as if Mark Perry got really really hammered and then met up with Vic Godard and then they both set about roughing up Gregory Webster around the pub piano. In 1986. And somebody was recording it on the least expensive condenser microphone ever commercially available."

in other words, essential. listening to it, you do need to put behind you past tvp standouts / standards like "where's bill grundy now ?", "a sense of belonging" or even "paradise is for the blessed": this is a different dan treacy, stripped to the core and defiantly frail. but still as remarkable a record as it appeared to us on first listen.

3. chris liberator and k.n. featuring dj cydeboard and dj 2003 "soba grey" (maximum minimum)

when chris liberator was knocking out indie tunes with we are going to eat you - we even dug out a copy of their video for "heart in the hand" from snub tv of yesteryear, which shows them all smiley and miming to fireworks - you wouldn't have put much money on him ending up as a mainstay of the london techno scene, bashing out singles every other week at a rate only matched by jme (well, and guy mcaffer). but anyway, in a mildly disappointing year for such records - those in this list honourably excepted - "soba grey" not only bucked that trend but boasted both top-drawer "maximum" and "minimum" sides, which run perfectly together: the former, featuring japanese rising star k.n., is a simple coarsing, pulsing riff, which sounds like a number of tectonic plates doing pirouettes - the latter, which as with the excellent "classic silver" on the same label sees dj cydeboard and dj 2003 turn up, kind of rolls into deep house territory. with chris lib's own label max / min tending to press up only about a thousand copies of singles (a bit like matinee recordings), it's worth keeping your ears to the ground in 2007.

4. the butterflies of love "orbit around you" (fortuna pop!, 7")

this, slightly unexpectedly we are ashamed to say, proves to be as good a grown-up pop song as we've heard all year - pace and poise and panache, a very go-betweensy feel, careful lashings of reverb. the fact that you can get it on 7", the perfect format for such treats, only doubles the joy: yes this record can still be found at our local hmv, inamidst quite a lot of major label tosh, and we need not say more, surely ?

5. secret shine "elemental ep" (razorblade, cd-single)

as you know, we are still great fans of secret shine and, catching them live, noted that "the decade of inactivity doesn't seem to have done much to dampen the impact of their double vocal attack and spiralling guitars, and the mix of delicacy and fire in their songs remains, um, untouched. hurrah for that..."

our personal favourite on this their 3-track comeback ep was the mid-to-early mbv fuzzing vocal collision of "evermore", but lead track "you are inside" also hits home with powerful, driving guitars. their subsequent "beyond sea and sky" ep was still pretty good, we thought: but just not this good. there's an album in '07.

6. kryz "return to libc (dysconform)" (wah wah, 12")

i'm from barcelona weren't actually from barcelona, of course, but kryz is. more importantly, he knows his way round a 303. these days there isn't enough instrumental music that goes for the jugular, that messes around with frequencies and key changes, that basically aims to rise above the modern curse of dance music as background noise. but "return to libc" squirms and messes admirably, sounding in the process not unlike squarepusher shoving the chemical brothers off a cliff, even if the geezer remix on the flip - while it would make a perfectly good RAW a-side - doesn't do enough with the same ingredients. kryz now vies with another intensely exhilarating recent discovery, madrid's looking for an answer in being our favourite music of spanish origin since vacaciones...

7. deicide "homage for satan" (earache, download-only)

we've always hated reviews of the "this will blow you away" ilk, but it's hard not to be struck by the ferocity of this particular comeback record.

"glen benton's guttural rasp makes the tom araya of 2006 sound like amelia fletcher in comparison... "homage" comes roaring out of the blocks in a way that not many lps of this ilk manage, and even manages to incorporate some overextended guitar solos without causing me to rush for the exits (while guitar solos, in general, are of course a *BAD* thing, there are exceptions: carcass sneaked some in to later releases, while there's even one of sorts in bubblegum splash's "the 18.10 to yeovil junction", and that's one of the finest tunes kind of ever. drum solos, on the other hand, are unacceptable, unless you're lindy morrison). anyway, brilliantly produced, with the hooks and clean lines to the fore notwithstanding the onslaught of benton's gargled growls, this single was a very pleasant surprise."

deicide are no less dogged than the aforementioned bubblegum splash! in sticking to their guns and pursuing their trademarked themes: and the production here removed any trace of the mud or sludge that can mask some death-type tunes (hello scott burns, goodbye "harmony corruption" for example). forget the demonic stuff - deicide, like slayer, even let catholics in now - but this is just a powerful rock record, at a time when rock music seems otherwise to have retreated almost entirely into self-parody.

8. dj geraldine and d.a.v.e. the drummer "untitled (hydraulix 35A)" (hydraulix)

the a-side here is again the pick, despite being described by one of the in love with these times, in spite of these times cliqua / squadra as "shit" (they have since been disciplined). minimalist and very modern, "untitled" is a great example of the alchemy of the techno underground, taking very simple phrasing and converting it into music that really coarses through yr veins.

9. darkthrone "too old, too cold" (peaceville)

if any of you remember lorimer (the band), in which case you were probably in them or mates with them so please could i borrow all their stuff, well that's basically what darkthrone sound like to us, and that's why genre labels in music are teh suck. this is the highest placing a black metal tune has ever achieved in our end-of-year rankings, but then that's because we never realised before that black metal can sound like thrilled skinny! going toe to toe with slayer in a dark alley.

10. chris liberator, k.n., dj cunt, dj cydeboard and dj 2003 "classic silver" (maximum minimum)

not far short of the easy attraction of "soba grey", "classic silver" goes slightly more overboard on the wheezy catherine wheels of sequencer and hence ends up being another eight minutes of music which could happily have soundtracked any new year fireworks display. it also rehashes the neat trick of fading almost to oblivion not long after halfway through, before regrouping and pulling the drums back in for a final attack.

11. arab strap "speed date" (chemikal underground)

they threatened to achieve minor success every so often, but in the end were a little too sharp and knowing for their own good. but arab strap have provided plenty of happy memories over the last decade, and we will wave goodbye to them with fondness too after this single, a busy, wedding present-ish thrash, with lyrics detailing the desperate and depraved sides of modern relationships but that still turn out, typically, to be rather romantic too.

12. paul langley "sexual predator" (4x4)

this is here mainly for the excellent "hard" version of the tune (in patented 4x4 style there are of course a quartet of interpretations), which is a killer techno throb of a bassline that goes BOING BOING BOING and joyously pulses its way through a gradual, layered, unremitting build-up of beats. it will be very interesting to see where mr. langley goes from here.

13. the lucksmiths "a hiccup in your happiness ep" (matinee recordings)

"the title track we already know, but any excuse for new Lucksmiths product in this particular very small corner of south west London is worth raising a VB to..."

the 'smiths repay every repeated visit, and should never be taken for granted: we fear that they will never get the credit they truly merit until they lay down their instruments and retire, but we earnestly hope that will not be for some time yet.

14. forest giants "planes fly overhead" (cherryade, download-only single)

we overdid the verbiage on the review, and it's in the context of the album that you really need this, but yes, it's

"a three minute runway of sound: a huge hulking fuzz of reverb, brilliantine keyboards and faintly hazy guitars, anchored only by some staccato Fall riffs and a pacy throb of a bassline, which culminates in an extended fade, hewn from a mazy tagliatelle of frazzled chords and vocal "aahs".... a marginally more boho younger brother to "Postcards", still identifiably an indie-pop song rather than a head-in-the-clouds shoegaze anthem, mainly thanks to the matter-of-fact timbre of Tim's voice. "Tell me once again what constitutes failure", he asks, possibly mindful of a world in which getting a street team to rustle you up a few thousand downloads might catapult you into the mid-reaches of the top 40 and (ephemeral) success in the eyes of your fickle coterie, whereas simply making great records to fervent but limited acclaim, as frankly many bands are doing on a semi-regular basis, is regarded as something akin to eking out the bins round the back of Sainsbury's."

15. lovejoy "england made me ep" (matinee recordings, cd-ep)

like arab strap, lovejoy have flattered to deceive from time to time (and have been teasing us now over a longer period than you might think) but thankfully they are still churning out new releases even when some of their labelmates seem to have fallen into extended hiatuses (hiaiti ?)... you'll be hard-pressed to find a more perfect mix of electronics and indie-pop than lead tune "brightness falls" - nor an epic like "made in england", all churning and yearning. we even called this ep 'delectable':

""brightness falls" is the epitome of this, a thoroughly modern apotheosis of indie-pop topped off by richard preece's ever-vulnerable vocals, which manage to sigh and swoon at the same time. around them, beaumont-ish acoustic guitars (presumably paul stewart himself ?) trip in and out of softly layered beats, and trim little guitar motifs that could have graced any indie classic of the last quarter century caress yr ears, like waves lapping on the shore at hove."

16. sarandon "the june bride" (wrath, 7")

seven tracks of the sort of thing we would call "angular bite-sized post-c86 bastard pop", if that meant anything - it doesn't, mind. the pug-funk jangle of "kitten" typifies its minimal splendour, but any record boasting star turns from phil wilson and alan brown is always going to appeal to sentimentalists like us. "virginity", "dance", "meet warren"... a cavalcade of could-be 'a' sides, all in a row.

17. jamie taylor "robin hood" (cluster, 12")

more probing than taylor & gold's "sycophant" on the b-side, "robin hood" is a merry sherwood forest of sweeps and beats which also breaks down halfway through to standing pace, before resuming its skittering way. coming out only in november, "robin hood" helped with the late, if partial rescue of what was not proving to be the greatest year for minimalist dance music.

18. morrissey "you have killed me" (attack, 2xCD, 7", etc, etc)

lightweight, inconsequential and obvious, but still somehow a work of easy genius, more so than much of "ringleader of the tormentors" or any of the other singles spawned by it.

"it wasn't so long ago I was talking about how Jim Reid and how that even at his most pedestrian, he still seemed to have a warm songwriting knack that he couldn't shake off, no matter how he tried. And now Morrissey, a potential treading-water gold medallist, returns with minimal effort, with a song that he could have easily have penned in a bored moment or two whilst blithely plucking gladioli from his windowboxes, or perhaps gazing reverently into a mirror. And yet its ineffably easy majesty is handsome and arresting, his voice still a beautiful instrument more than a blunt one..."

as such, we're not ashamed to have spent good money on seeing him twice more this year.

19. the slits "revenge of the killer slits ep" (only lovers left alive, 7")

were you expecting this to be any good ? us neither, but it was, even if in 1978 it might have struggled to make an end of year best 100... resplendent on pink vinyl, all three tunes have something to offer (us, at least). "slits tradition" is basically a foundation-shaking bassline tethered to first chapter feminist theory delivered by combination of nursery rhyme chant and v. basic rapping. "number one enemy" is utterly bog-standard pistols / rejects fare, but as such is still several notches above much "nu-rave", and anyway after watching "the filth and the fury" again recently we are starting to think we haven't been aggressively pro-punk enough recently. track three "kill them with love" is probably the best of all, a kind of original slits / rip rig / maximum joy / dennis bovell jungle-funk dub workout thing which could almost be a dreamier out-take from "cut".

20. shredder "32930 miles there and back" (cluster, 12")

while chris liberator was smilingly bashing out the drumbeats for certain indie hopefuls, guy mcaffer was in grim crusties back to the planet, and we'd have found it hard to believe we'd ever be bothering with any of their solo projects. but "32930" is our favourite of his this year, over 8 minutes of carefully layered drum n'drum topped off marvellously by humming bees and sirens.

21. supar novar "all the way" (kemet entertainment, 12")

our first knowledge of north london's supar novar came courtesy of an interview by that not-quite legendary new music journal the islington tribune, who picked up on him about the same time as hip-hop connection: anyway, we've since heard some tunes, "all the way" being one of three slept-on singles sneaked out during the year as a preview to the "from the beginning" debut. as you can tell, our view is that "all the way" trumps "reppin'" and "tomorrow": a neat hello which hovers not too far from the territory of his alleged mate skinnyman. of course, if supar novar had released the joe buhdah-produced "explosive", or our personal favourite, from his album, the excellent "what do you wanna hear" as singles, he'd have been much higher up our list: like lowkey last year though, he has implanted himself firmly on the (famously unreliable) i.l.w.t.t.i.s.o.t.t. radar.

22. monkey swallows the universe "science" / "happiness" (thee sheffield phonographic corporation, 7")

folk-pop (surely the easiest genre to do wrong) is not, these days, always our sort of thing, but this elegant, thoughtful double-header, on deep blue sea vinyl, showcases two really charming tunes, disarmingly so, that succeed in whisking you away from the travails of the daily commute and the increasing stresses of modern office life. this is beautiful stuff, and together with the recent 7"s from the likes of champion kickboxer and smokers die younger, it is clear there are some very interesting things going on in sheffield, even if we'd still file most of them under "promising", rather than "amazing". bearing in mind that we file most records we hear under the nearest steamroller (the reason the kooks or the paddingtons or the subways or razorlight or the feeling or babyshambles aren't in here isn't some administrative oversight, you know: we do listen to their tunes as well, just without any glee whatsoever), we hope they'd take that in the spirit we intend...

23. the gresham flyers "shiftwork" (barryland, 7")

"a keyboards-to-the-fore indie pop song of seemingly indeterminate vintage that starts with the clean melodies of early mighty mighty and, when the boy vocals come in, seems to jump back through time to become a new wavey paean to the listlessness of clocking on, and off, and on.... but always informed by the more contemporary knowing pop wiles of the likes of bearsuit. a highly enjoyable single."

24. slayer "cult" (columbia)

the best single from "christ illusion" would probably have been "flesh storm", or at least the vaguely contemporary "jihad", but "cult" was one of the more entertaining tracks, and you still can't really argue with the guitars. or, of course, the somewhat amazing drumming.

25. lethal bizzle vs test icicles "mind your head" (v2, 7")

a guitared-up remix of one of "against all oddz"'s bearable moments: on the down side, this was a precursor to 'grindie', one of the worst musical movements ever-coined by the japing, joshing, joking juveniles at new musical express. still, apart from dj twista's mixtape, this was all we got to hear from the fire camp stable in 2006.

_________________________________________________________

26. wiley "eskiboy" (white label)
27. secret shine "beyond sea and sky ep" (razorblade, cd single)
28. terra firma "new era" (kemet entertainment, 12")
29. ant and ddr "part of the union" (super conductor, 12")
30. fanfarlo "talking backwards" (fortuna pop! 7")

31. kelman "the heart is a useless ally" (linear, cd single)
32. micall parkinsun featuring dubbledge "hungry" (sit tight records, 12")
33. ninehundredand9 "x-force" (powertools, 12")
34. the loft "rickety frame" / "model village" (static caravan, 7")
35. kektex "i kill everything i fuck" / "i fuck everything i kill" (apex, 12")
36. scratchy "shangooli" (dumpvalve, 12")
37. skepta "duppy" (white label)
38. jim reid "dead end kids" (transistor records, cd single)
39. wiley "gangsterz" (white label)
40. syer "syernide ep" (white label)

41. scorcher / wiley "chance us" (white label)
42. the nightingales "let's think about living" (fake product, 7")
43. camera obscura "let's get out of this country" (elefant, 7")
44. dcoy ft. wiley "johnny was a bad boy" (white label)
45. ant and nick grater "our broken toy" (cluster, 12")
46. moorish delta 7 "levels ep" (7even entertainment, 12")
47. give up all hope "nowhere to hide from yourself" (never healed, 7")
48. d.a.v.e. the drummer and k.n. "work the groove" (apex, 12")
49. mr. ti2bs "inner city rap" (kemet entertainment, 12")
50. tiger force "syntax error" (marquis cha-cha, 7")

Sunday, January 14, 2007

albums of the year - 2006

er, happy new year.

1. forest giants "welcome to the mid-west" (cherryade)

selecting the album of the year was a real bastard. at different times we were tempted to go for the brevity of narcosis or pipas, the excitement of tinchy or scorcher, the winning pop qualities of the hit parade, the sublime fuzz-noise of the manhattan love suicides, the no half-steppin' of zygote, the eclectism of the beatnik filmstars, the consistency of taskforce or math and physics club... you could make a case for anything really, except body count's "murder 4 hire".

where we eventually settled was on an album, (more in here), that has hung on in our playlist all year, by virtue of the simplest quality - being a record with a uniform feel, that doesn't flag, but that has a touch more weariness and anger than some of the newer bands could quite manage. so,

"the year's brightest reminder that guitars can still sound great and ache and echo and contort and dance and summon up all kinds of feelings to reflect love and life and pain. Yes, guitars, the same instruments used by Dirty Pretty Things, Kaiser Chiefs et al: I certainly needed reminding of it. And "WTTMW" is a dense, fuzzy er, forest of the things... "In Sequence" saw them feeling their way, and had some great songs, but "Welcome To The Mid-West" attacks in formation, hints more at darkness, and well repays a few listens ... When a whole generation is giving up on guitar music because of what the NME is pushing these days, it's as well to have such moments of rediscovery."

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: closure. namesakes. so you think you're unhappy ? planes fly overhead. stars. etc...

2. zygote "beats to make you frown" (boot)

this is just marvellous, frankly. while the cd version, with the full 19 tracks, is the proper "full length", the only thing you really need is the 8-track lp which has all the previously unreleased cuts: as dj zygote, once of diversion tactics, lays down a series of very old-school backing tracks - an open goal for the various guest mcs, who include bobba fresh (a nom de plume of the great chubby alcoholic, one of our favourite uk rappers of all time), old pal hug, kashmere, verb-t and lewis parker, who all rise to the occasion, with good grace and bad language: the baddest on the splendidly entertaining tim dogg / chubby alcoholic collabo "spit fast".

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: spit fast (remix). bobba fresh. zygote on the beat.

3. the manhattan love suicides "the manhattan love suicides" (magic marker)

an offputting name, which conjures up images of an nme-friendly combination of spiky-haired kids doing tenth rate new wave. but hold your horses, for it appears that m.l.s. are arisen from the ashes of glamorous leeds feedback popsters pop threat, authors of "filth", "amarantal meltdown", "ingrained"... these credentials enhanced even further with a production credit for matt robson aka the great randomnumber. and this eponymous debut lp is cracking old-skool indie fuzz pop, the golden dawn of "my secret world" taking tea with jamc and the shop assistants, that brew being sassy girl vocals (think bubblegum splash! after assertiveness training) and many hues of smouldering guitar. it is a sign of their confidence that even beat happening!'s lo-fi standard "indian summer" becomes a pacey three-minute indiepop thrash. the slower tunes lack a little of the instant apeal, but the record as a whole is pretty much what you've heard it to be, a refreshing cobweb-blaster par excellence, a great companion piece to the forest giants' guitar paintings. and, having given us that marvellous tullycraft lp last year, magic marker are really going for it right now.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: kick it back. suzy jones. things you've never done. negative push.

4. taskforce "music from the corner volume 4" (music from the corner)

the modest album titling might suggest there is nothing all that essential about taskforce's fourth "official" lp outing, but volume 4 is a terrific, andy tillson-consistent set of dark, cold, thoughtful hip-hop from the kings of the simile. much as we think that sway, from the listed candidates, should have walked away with the mercury prize, "mftc 4" is the sort of thing that the broadsheets should really be wetting themselves over, but which is probably just too subtle - and too far from the shoehorned mass-appeal template of homegrown rap music today - to register. a plague on their overpriced landor road flats.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: 3 fingers. house of the flying pens. better off dead. cyanide sound.

5. tinchy stryder "i'm back u know!" (boy better know)

"there is at last a tinchy stryder mixtape, which wiley [edit: we meant jme] has got into the shops, and it is refreshingly raw - a point driven home when tinchy hits kano's "mic check" with a style about three galaxies to the left of the much tamer territory which kano now inhabits. best tunes "stryder", which loops back wiley's "next level", on which he previously guested a bit, "ground-under" and "new mc's" are all unencumbered by production values and much the better for it - and wiley turns up too, on a copyright-defying "uptown girl". the main thing about "i'm back u know" is that it's odds on that if a proper label had signed up tinchy, he'd no doubt have released the usual lily-livered sell-out record that all the other grime mcs have done. as it is, you get to hear him while he's still street, and the sinking basslines reiterate that this is still garage at least as much as hip-hop..."

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: new mc's. stryder. 1 of them days. hustle grind.

6. scorcher "simply the best" (adamantium)

while bragging won't get you nowhere, "simply the best" is pretty exciting stuff. to the scenesters, its main selling point is probably the wiley-produced promo "chance us", scorcher's story of the 'proper' labels that cluster uncertainly around vocal grime artists, but there are a slew of other songs that would easily have justified 12"s of their own (do tell us if they actually did, as our inside knowledge is on the low side), like "what we do", "no base", the menacing "do me a favour", or one of 2006's classic tunes "talk of the ghetto", where scorcher goes up against the brilliant ghetto himself - yes, it's the same version as also turns up on one of eskiboy's mighty "tunnel vision" mix outings.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: the ones we mentioned just there.

7. boyracer "a punch up the bracket" (555)

we need to do a bit of a u-turn here, because our praise of "a punch up the bracket" was perhaps pretty faint, yet it's turned out to be an album which has rarely left the cd player here.

to these ears, the drums do still clatter, and we'll still take feedback over keyboards every time, but while there are a fair few tunes we can't really get into, we can't overlook that there are at least a dozen brilliant songs here, which is a dozen more than on many a new album in 2006, and that it is a disgrace that the alleged worldwide sales of this are in the low hundreds. so if you haven't bought this, you should, and we hereby promise that you will not be disappointed.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: contradictions. second hand youth. pleasantries. the toilets of northern europe. the man the myth. yr silent years. tactile. yr love it lies to you.

8. beatnik filmstars "in great shape" (the track and field organisation)

having said what we've said about hardnoise and caveman recently, there's a little great scratching on this lp too. but again, the real detail is in here somewhere.

again, after giving us the fine comet gain record, props to track and field for going out on a limb and chancing a 23-track comeback. in quality, if allegedly not in sales terms, it came off.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: really quite bizarre. when you're dead. ocean breeze. wonky music. the greatest of minds.

9. life ? "realities of life" (zebra traffic)

like taskforce, phi-life cypher's life ? has been overlooked by the media kingmakers, but this is the best record he's been involved with. the trilogy of battle raps, "you know who", "come on" and "rebel soul" are all really strong, but that's even before you get to all the conscious choons - "bush and blair" and "i really care" from previous 12"s are reprised, domestic violence, child abuse, crack use and paedophilia are treated with fairly withering anger, and the bruising "what our estates have become" remains a landmark protest record, relentlessly depressing though it is.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: what our estates have become. you know who. come on. rebel soul.

10. the hit parade "the return of the hit parade" (jsh)

in other 'old band' news, it's the return of the hit parade, with "the return of the hit parade". now unlike some others in this game, we have not always been a particular fun of straight-down-the-line pop, or "Pop!" as some would have it, as opposed to shambling popsongs in a fuzzy stylee - but again this album has crept up on us, because it's self-conscious yet witty, determinedly melodic, and has great tunes like "sugar" that are nearly as cute as "in gunnersbury park" ever was, as well as rockier outings like "you're bloody rubbish" and "my stupid band" which is - well, tuneful and smart and knocks spots off razor-lite.

while there are some records that make you dance like a maniac, some records which make you feel like you're the luckiest or the most important persons in the world, some that make you sigh or go sad or reflective, some that make you want to mosh insanely, some even make you want to emit wry smiles, many many which make you feverishly excited or hyperactive (tinchy stryder we mean you) "the return of the hit parade" just makes US want to *smile* and oddly enough that's quite rare these days.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: my stupid band. you're the girl who always gets her own way. you're bloody rubbish. the new woman. sugar.

11. math and physics club "math and physics club" (matinee recordings)

apparently voted "best band" in the twee net year-ends, math and physics club are really very good indeed, and have delivered an optimum lp - just the right length, with ten spiffingly constructed, dreamy pop songs and no filler, and should be commended for not plundering their previous eps to make up the numbers. it's an album with the rare consistency of "george best" or "kettle", even if there aren't maybe so many sherbet highs. more importantly, although some tracks more obviously betray a legion of influences ("cold as minnesota" is hewn squarely from the same rock as belle and sebastian), they are starting, we think, to develop a sound of their own, typified by the sumptuous opener "darling, please come home" which builds on last single "movie ending romance" (their high point to date - if you like, their "train not stopping"). and we would also defy you to find a better pure pop song in 2006 than the "escort crash in marston street"-evoking "april showers".

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: april showers. darling, please come home. la la la lisa.

12. ruff sqwad "guns and roses volume 2" (ruff sqwad recordings)

very, very eagerly awaited by all kinds of randoms, we're certainly not going to take the risk of observing that last year's "volume 1" was, possibly, a little better (although it was). on the other hand, when dirty danger, fuda man, slix, rapid, shifty, maxi and stryder, amongst others, are congregating around the same microphone, it's always worth giving the results the courtesy of a few listens. so while the "da 2nd phaze"-lite slowies, the wailing 'soulful' hell of "wot would u do ?" and the crossover bastardisations of wack tunes like eighties horror-show "i died in your arms" help deny them a place in our top ten, ruff sqwad can still light the place up when they pick up the pace, pick up the momentum and lock into something a bit more punishing: like "f'in riddim", where the garage loops loom high over their interweaving voices, or "rebore". "sound man" gained them points by sampling musical youth, but then squandered them with an inappropriate reference to voluntary phil collins-listening.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: the fast ones.

13. napalm death "smear campaign" (century media)

latest from a band that needs no introduction to you our readers!

"the m.o. of "smear campaign" is still political anger, channelled mostly through alternately high speed, and groove-heavy, metal epitomised by the tracks listed below - but as a sign of the band's power right now, the willingness to keep testing their audience is welcome. i hope they don't find us wanting."

ilwttisott standouts: fatalist. freedom is the wage of sin. shattered existence.

14. pipas "sorry love" (long lost cousin)

though released to little fanfare, "sorry love" is a pinpoint demonstration of the duo's talents, another petite and welcomely winsome collection of whispers and happy melodies, continuing a tradition of less-is-more that seems to us more in the mould of "pink flag" (utterly concise, and not a second wasted) than the greyer indie-popsters who pipas are often inexplicably compared to. "sorry love" shows they haven't lost any of their uniqueness: and while there is, wrongly, a distinct lack of mark's vocals, the likes of "windswept room" still display most compellingly the acceptable face of 21st century feypop.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: windswept room. boxes. basements.

15. blade "guerrilla tactics" (691 influential)

"Don't be fooled by the only ok-ish, too eager to please taster single "It's Your Time": "Guerrilla Tactics" is really very strong, w/ tonking production throughout from Baby J, the odd guest spot from the likes of top-drawer up-and-comer Manage (on the posse cut "Army Of Barmy Rappers"), [note: ironically, mr manage's own solo album just somehow wasn't that strong, despite the greatness of "rise up" and "riot"] and adorned with some proper uptempo slamming samples (opener "Mumps"). The last cut, "UK Hip Hop", a history lesson from one who knows, actually reminds you how UKHH has actually been pretty brilliant for 20 years odd (and how it's a bastard that you can't get any Hijack, Caveman, Hardnoise, etc etc on CD for love, money nor threatening record store employees). "B.L.A.D.E.", where Blade gets to go on about how great he is, is frankly spot on: I would encourage him to big himself up even more in future, as he has done as much for UK Hip Hop as anyone. Like he says, he just wants to rhyme."

actually, we notice that the bbc used "it's your time" as the play out music after manchester (united) fluked past aston villa the other day - some well overdue royalties for mr. blade we trust. best choice of match of the day music since joy division's "atmosphere" was used to preview england vs portugal - fairly obvious they knew what was going to happen.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: B.L.A.D.E. uk hip-hop. system of a damned. mumps. army of barmy rappers.

16. frisco "back 2 da lab vol. 1" (boy better know)

like so many mixtapes, "back 2 da lab" was punctuated only intermittently by real highlights, but what highspots those were. strongest, perhaps, on the tracks where he hooks up with skepta - "we don't believe you" (as produced by plastician) and "dare you" are particularly searing. wiley turns up for vocals on a clutch of tracks, including the fiery "can't test me", and frisco's own strongest performance is probably on the freestyle, "crash", one of the handful of tunes actually produced by wiley - there is a host of production talent in frisco's laboratory. while we're joining up the dots, it's worth mentioning that this is also where you can find "fully grown" (again with skepta), which also turned up as a bonus track on jme's "poomplex" set.

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: all the ones with skepta.

17. horowitz "frosty cat songs" (kitchen records)

standard-bearers for a new kind of feisty homespun indie-pop, stoke-on-trent's horowitz came out of the shadows in '06 and, despite its lengthy gestation period, their first lp (proper 180mg vinyl and every ting) sparkles with fresh, tune-filled popsongs like "meet me after dinner" and "making time", as well as the kitten-cute 'wonky music' of the addictive "sister" or the very fabulous "i need a blanket".

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: we just said them.

18. c-mone "the butterfly effect" (son records)

"While most albums these days would only really justify an EP, the rest of the songs here would have made, ooh, a great Sarah 10"... C-Mone's East Midlands lilt gives the songs a bit of extra range, a homely dynamic which stateside accents can't provide in this genre any more... as she later cheerfully admits, "I'm not quite ready yet... but I got a lot of heart". Aah. And yes."

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: inside out. article 5. second after second. catch me if you can.

19. tender trap "6 billion people" (fortuna pop!)

"the new tender trap record also feeds in to the recent, very welcome tradition of albums that are actually solid all the way through. purged of the electro experimentation that fosca-ised their first album, the easy hooks and winning harmonies make me think of marine research, whoever they were - the single "talking backwards" is an obvious highlight, but it fits seamlessly in to the other would-be hits ("fahrenheit 451", "ampersand", "applecore") nestling in a lovingly crafted mix of scrummy girl group wiles and more modernist swooning indieness. the only disappointment is that the title track is merely a sly update of "c is the heavenly option" rather than a cover of the great song by doom."

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: ampersand. talking backwards.

20. narcosis "romance" (calculated risk products)

"..."romance" is an instantly appealing record, a score of songs in as many minutes, a high-speed collision of a.c., flyblown and "reek of putrefaction" that rarely settles into a groove for more than about 4 seconds before its stop-start drums and breakneck guitars regroup and then recommence battle with the shrieking vocals. invigorating, challenging and most of all fast, i commend "romance" to your record players utterly."

in love with these times, in spite of these times standouts: close your eyes. a work related murder spree. an accident wanting to happen.

21. jme "shh hut yuh muh" (boy better know)

first instalment of the four this year, with plenty of flourishes. our tune: don't get rude.

22. demiricous "one" (metal blade)

"old style slayer thrash worthy of serious veneration". our tune: withdrawal divine.

23. supar novar "from the beginning" (kemet entertainment)

laid-back and sometimes scintillating north london ukhh debut. our tune: what do you wanna hear.

24. tinchy stryder "lost and found" (boy better know)

mail order only, i think, but then was c86. and that was before stryder man was even born... our tune: nah fam.

25. jme "poomplex" (boy better know)

this was volume two of jme's world domination enterprise. our tune: the meridian / westwood clips.

26. newham generals "best of newham generals volume 1" (hotheadzpromotions)

dizzee's proteges' mixtape - alleged preparation for an album proper. our tune: prang man ft bruza & eskiboy.

27. eskiboy "tunnel vision volume 2" (boy better know)

"tv3" tailed off badly, so "tv2" outranks it we think - oddly, but distinctly, more satisfying than the big-selling "da 2nd phaze". our tune: trim freestyle.

28. stig of the dump "the homeless microphonist" (beer & rap)

entertaining debut from exiled geordie stig - much more focussed and less cartoonish than you'd fear. our tune: the journey.

29. terrorizer "darker days ahead" (century media)

"a thick, earthy, hulking mass of death metal... terrorizer are laid to rest having covered all the bases". r.i.p. our tune: victim of greed.

30. wretch 32 "learn from my mixtape" (self-released)

bold and pretty slick mixtape from north london, built around the sampler 12". our tune: combo and chain gang, featuring y.wizz and mumbles.

31. morrissey "ringleader of the tormentors" (attack)

some kid from north-west england. we like his style. our tune: i'll never be anybody's hero now.

32. dj twister presents... fire camp "living legends volume 1" (lethal bizzle records)

chaotic bizzle shoutfest, free of r&b filler, although not free of the rakes. our tune: if i couldn't buss.

33. syer "boy with the fire" (self-released)

roll deep's syer with very bullish solo mixtape - varying quality but some real fire. our tune: rag n' bone man.

34. pete dale and the beta males "betrayed by folk" (fortuna pop!)

optimum folksy politicking from underexposed wimpshake mastermind. our tune: music rules.

35. deicide "the stench of redemption" (earache)

a torrid, torrential hail of guitars - the quintessential "return to form". our tune: homage for satan.

36. sway "this is my demo" (dcypha)

cheering but overlong statement of intent from verbally supah-dextrous ukhh posterboy. our tune: hype boys.

37. slayer "christ illusion" (columbia)

entertaining polemicism which veers between pseudo-comedy and real, brutal laceration - the contrast makes the latter all the more powerful. our tune: flesh storm.

38. east river pipe "what are you on ?" (merge)

still occasionally engaging tales of lowlife from queens' lone ranger. our tune: absolutely nothing.

39. darkthrone "the cult is alive" (peaceville)

dogged scando riffmongering from alleged death metal duo. our tune: cult of goliath.

40. eskiboy "tunnel vision volume 3" (boy better know)

a few more slamming specials from the ubiquitous wiley kat. our tune: nightbus dubplate.

41. pariz-1 "uncomplicated vision" (self-released, we think)

mouthy, spirited mixtape from relocated-to-london gal (though some duffers). our tune: notts city.

42. the elementz "elementz universe volume 2" (eu entertainment)

more from nottingham featuring the ace mr 45 - karizma, taskforce and others also star. our tune: warriors, featuring shifty spirit.

43. decapitated "organic hallucinosis" (earache)

former child prodigy metallers from poland, with more grown-up though slightly barking concept metal. our tune: day 69.

44. jme "derkhead"(boy better know)

accompanying the summery house instrumental set "tropical", "derkhead" loaded yet more new jme melodies on us. our tune: 96 bars of jme.

45. minimum chips "lady grey" (baked goods)

doyens of melbourne indie-art-pop scene, still laying sultry post-stereolabisms on us. our tune: cold afternoon.

46. jeff walker and die fluffers "welcome to carcass cuntry" (in grind we trust)

country and western covers album. yep, you heard. our tune: the end of the world.

47. manage "(live) in protest" (merciless)

sporadic headnodders from speakers corner veteran, south of the river's mr. manage. our tune: rise up.

48. asaviour "the borrowed ladder" (lowlife)

while still sounding like he could do with some honey menthols, there is at least a top ep in here. our tune: borrowed ladder.

49. beaumont "no time like the past" (siesta)

lush latest from brighton's breathiest should get you dancing (well, swaying) louchely on yr coffee tables, even if the slower numbers make it sound like your batteries need recharging. our tune: closer.

50. the berzerker "world of lies" (earache)

rawest yet from the lucksmiths of 909-metal - edging out cannonball jane, tvps, sick of it all and public enemy! our tune: all about you.

over and out.