Thursday, January 31, 2008

best of 2007: singles + eps

it became clear that limiting this list to 10, 20 or even, in the end, 50 singles would have done the year a disservice. because these - gulp - hundred singles, plus many others, continue to reassure us that music *can* be brilliant, no matter how the existence of so much rubbish out there sometimes makes you think that ain't so. indeed, we were on the verge of doing a top 250 (not unaided by the existence of cloudberry) but you'll be pleased to hear that cooler heads eventually prevailed.

1. beatnik filmstars "curious role model" (the international lo-fi underground, cd-ep)

"infectious... raucous... fizzing... breakneck... clattering...the sound of thrilled skinny riding their infamous shopping trolley gleefully off a ravine and landing on top of razorlight... like 'lie dream and the casino soul' boxing 'new boyfriend and black suit' for a place in the world hummability final... in-yer-face and should be in-the-charts... sizzlingly cynical angry pop, raining acid barbs on your parade but only delight into our hearts... as good as anything they've done in the last 15 yrs or so ...and, fwiw, it sounds nothing like guided by voices."

this is also, fact fans, technically the oldest single in this list, as its official release date was jan 1, 2007: but we never got close to tiring of it. 'tis a real shame the hoped-for london gig this yr never came about, and that their new year shows - so far - only appear to be in germany...

2. pocketbooks "cross the line" (atomic beat, 7")

"great little single, with clever lyrical flourishes, lovely vocal interplay and a fizzingly unforgettable hook played out between organ and piano... yes the ambition perhaps outstrips the recording quality, but in our book music should always be that way round."

when we were younger we were lucky enough to see blueboy, many times. and seeing the pocketbooks last night, when it hung together, there really was a germ of that kind of greatness: not least, something of gemma and the much-missed keith in emma and andy's vocal duelling. but more than that, like blueboy, you can really feel this band, and their songcraft, growing. anyway, this is a blazin' song. someone should probably do a ringtone for it.

3. horowitz "tracyanne" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)

"the latest and perhaps brightest example of this band's unrepentantly unblinking indie-pop... the sort of song that would have nestled with supreme snugness on the better late-80s compilation tapes... churningly gets*you*right*there from the moment that the drum machine and the happy shambling bass launch and then ian, from deep within a by-now recognisable morass of vocal distortion, sings sthg like "oh it gets me down but i'm so nervy / these social situations make me giddy" (or maybe he says dizzy). anyway, it makes us giddy (or dizzy) too... there are pavement vs. pastels stylings, there is a bouncing baby drum machine, there is some cracking plinkly-plonk bontempi, there are guitar lines that meander artfully around with extra amplifier oomph for the chorus... supreme mid90s beatniks / boyracer lo-finess... above and beyond all that though, there are golden, catchy as hell melodies..."

all true, y'know. the clincher, though, is the bit where it goes from the first chorus to the second verse. can't explain why but it's just joyous. and, in 2008, this is getting a re-release on a spangly yellowish vinyl 7", "i need a blanket" is now out as a download on thee spc (with v. sparkly video) and there are two great tunes that are going to appear as one side of a split 7" on filthy little angels. so there's more than just the african nations cup to delight us!

4. ed 209 "the stay ex-static ep" (vrd, 12")

basically the "a" of this is 4 stone cold fabulous tracks featuring 3 great artists on the mic: on the "b" you get instrumental versions that give mr 209 the chance to show off without outside interference.

""the majestic"and "inside your mind" are exhilarating fare, as cappo, hardly pausing for breath, manages to wrest control of 209's hectic candi staton and public enemy-sampling accompaniment... [plus] well-worthwhile contributions from manchester's konny kon and notts' own c-mone, whose "the great godz" sees her whisper set - to grand effect - to some very sparse backing from 209... a powerful contrast from the claustrophobic frenzy of the cappo tunes and rounds off what is, overall, a big big single."

ha can't believe we said "big big single". but this is, to coin a similarly lame and dated phrase, well lush.

5. durrty goodz "axiom ep" (durrty goodz / awkward, cd ep)

now, technically you could argue that 10 tracks over the best part of three quarters of an hour isn't really an ep, especially when our best album award has gone, effectively, to 5 tunes lasting 8 minutes. but goodz calls it an ep, so that's good enough for us, and in a world where mixtapes tend to have about 25 tracks, it seems like an ep, especially as it flows by all too fast. "axiom" deserves much better to be lost in the sludge of all things grimey, because it effortlessly covers so many bases (especially on perfect musical history lesson "switching songs 2" or the necessary anti-major label "take back the scene" ("they got lemar singing like frank sinatra / so we forget about afrika bambaata"). several tracks here would have been top ten a-sides in their own right: and the bare, raw and disturbing emotion of closing hidden track "letter to titch" - a reference to the murder in which goodz was implicated and spent a year on remand and for which his colleague crazy titch went down for 30 years - is, however uncomfortable, better than several thousand singles released this year.

6. dubblestandart vs ari up "island girl" (collision records, 12")

tucked away on an import "triple" a-side also featuring the venerable and dulcet tones of ken boothe, this breath of fresh roots-reggae air later turned up in remixed form on dubblestandart's rather neat "immigration dub" long-player. would that ex-pistols were using their time as profitably as the ex-slits.

7. pete green "everything i do is gonna be sparkly" (atomic beat, 7")

while we elected the jevons tune on the flip to our promotion celebration package (this was before he sunk us with a winning goal for huddersfield vs. rovers not too long ago), the a-side is the best of all - even before the added delights of the chorus drum clatter, the strange radio noise in the background and the extra guitar overdub, all of which enhance things further. reassuring proof that you can have "feelgood" music that actually makes you well, feel good.

8. the bug featuring flowdan "jah war" (ninja tune)

ooh, a fantastic discovery. despite having no relationship with the ruts classic, this sees flowdan rhyming on cruise control whilst the bug provides super and superminimal instrumental backing. a decent remix by loefah on the other side, too.

9. robot boy "robot boy" (boot, 12")

"as you'd expect from the diversion tactics stable (zygote produces and arch turntablist jazz-t provides all the cuts) the beats are big and sparse, the scratching is mighty, and the robot boy [aka the divine chubby alcoholic mc] takes about 0.001 seconds to confirm himself, via "virgin galactic", as surely colliers wood's favourite son."

10. sarandon "joe's record" (slumberland, 7")

"a charismatic *splurge* of energy, a stop-start post-peel tour de force of spikiness... completely storming"

11. mark ankh "4th dimension" (hydraulix 13, 12")

"slovene producer mark ankh's eerie "fourth dimension" is remixed by d.a.v.e. the drummer for january's 12" a-side on hydraulix 13... with the original on the flip sounding correspondingly more minimal. tempo warning: the two sides play at different speeds, a bit like slovenia with and without zahovic".

probably a review that didn't recognise how we'd still be listening to "4th d" (especially the original) for pretty much the whole year. or that slovenia would end up finishing below belarus and albania in 2008 qualifying.

12. wiley "50/50 / bow e3" (big dada, 12")

"two terrific uptempo signature tunes, the former celebrating his factory-records style deal with big dada ("it's not 2% after recoupment"), while the latter, courtesy of some fantastic production by maniac, hammers home his devotion to the 'hood."

13. d.a.v.e. the drummer vs the anxious "hydraulix 37" (hyrdaulix)

doesn't look like we reviewed this. anyway, d.a.v.e's solo tune on the "a" consists of two sublime techno adagios linked by a gently simmering interlude, is quite enchanting, and should probably be bought by you. the anxious (who despite the name are a techno duo and not one of those post-britpop haircut bands currently ruling the lowest common denominator indie-roost) furnish a coupla decent numbers on the other side, too.

14. shrag "hopelessly wasted" (where it's at is where you are, 7")

"disconcertingly powerful alt-pop". so there. actually, "hopelessly wasted" really is diamante stuff, an unnerving, carefully-paced, slightly echoey, sparklingly delivered construction. the other side, "talk to the left" is pretty wack, mind.

15. coki "spongebob" (dmz, 12")

"spongebob" is beautiful madness from digital mystik coki, pirouetting on the turntable with all the unhinged ungainliness of an elephant swivelling on a cement mixer: "the end" on the other side is sparse, accidental, experimental, turning into a dark soundtrack for an as yet-unrealised downbeat brit flick.

16. the bug featuring warrior queen "poison dart" (ninja tune, 12")

having been introduced to the bug and warrior queen separately by the recordings at numbers 8 above and 22 below respectively, this is as fine as you'd expect, coming out just in time to warm our christmas. even better, on the second 12" - both with special limited editions on heavy vinyl - flowdan rejoins the bug for "stampin' (poison rhythm)", which is equally tasty.

17. team shadetek "reign" (sound ink, 12")

"i don't know what you got your hands in your trousers for / you ain't got a gun / i saw you get searched at the door". yep, on this mighty tune skepta (who else) turns up and reprises some of his "fuckin widda team" rhymes, as well as a few nods to the transatlantic nature of the collaboration.

18. the faintest ideas "there's no captain on this cruise and we don't serve orange juice" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)

probably the best of the (many) bands who we have discovered solely as a result of the stakhanovite endeavours of miami's cloudberry records this year: imagine the combined insolence and joy of the bright lights, boyracer, sportique, buzzcocks, sportsguitar, and former k records band gravel - even, for some of the vocals on "if i could write spiteful lyrics", (v.) early cure - and you're probably there or thereabouts. all three songs blatantly rule.

19. the pains of being pure at heart "the pains of being pure at heart" (painbow ep)

"the best thing from new york since team shadetek... the press releases have picked out the reference points (for once correctly) of early mbv, black tambourine et al, although there's something about the wavering vox on "orchard of your eye" that gives us a church grims glow too, and there's a hint of the close lobsters' trebly guitar sunshine to "right!"... all 3+2 songs, are well worth a listen..."

see also the pains of being pure at heart "this love is fucking right!" on

20. manhattan love suicides "kick it back ep" (magic marker, 7")

"hinge-breaking, door-kicking-in noise-pop thrills... that follow on from the equally impressive re-recorded title track that manages to improve even on the album version, largely through increased feedback (yay). notwithstanding this, there is still an uncomfortable question out there as to how much better mls really are than pop threat, but there is at least no doubting that they are fairly amazing".

21. boyracer / beatnik filmstars split single (555, 7")

matt skelton might have messed up his title fight, but here was some more heavyweight sparring as these two giants of our world happily collide, contributing 3 songs each to this 7". there was initially, we think, talk of bogshed cover versions, but that may have been pub talk and / or our imagination. the catchy "exs + zeros", a rumination on superstition and yet another lost hit from the filmstars, makes a driving start, while boyracer's "a rockabilly ruse" is an equally, er, punchy beginning to the second side, but it's boyracer's last tune, "sentiment" that nails things most perfectly, as stewart anderson describes "a beautiful dance between / what is expected and realised" over a punctured heartbeat and weaving guitar and bass. fantastic.

22. skream "skreamizm volume 3" (tempa, 2x12")

the second disc is the eye of the storm, as the massive "make me", which was later remixed by distance, is backed by a vocal cut, "check it", on which warrior queen joins the dots. "losing control" and festive 50 hit "chest boxing" on the first disc nicely complete the quartet.

23. bearsuit "more soul than wigan casino" (fantastic plastic)

contrary to popular belief, bearsuit do actually divide opinion at le palais d'ilwttisott quite a lot, but i think they're ace and i've got control of the keyboard right now: bearsuit 'put the others in the shade'.

24. wiley "no qualms (revox)" (big dada, 12")

wiley has nothing to do with this at all for the first 2 1/2 minutes - skepta provides the beats, and chipmunk (self-styled "harry potter of grime" and another sound, so youthful '07 discovery), jme and skepta the vocals, until the eskiboy finally turns up for his verse and slays it. lyrically, it's just another advertisement for the boy better know clothing line, but musically it's a worthwhile, skittering remake of the "playtime is over" album cut.

25. motorhead "overkill (exclusive version)" (cleopatra)

i personally voted this visceral re-recording very high indeed, in a vain attempt to shake the brittle foundations of indie-pop: other ilwttsters sadly failed to, leading to this upsettingly low ranking for something so vital, youthful (even without taking into account being sung by someone in their sixties) and head-crankingly entertaining. should have been top five at least. pah.

26. a-bomb and mindzeye "middle east" promo ep (yard 26 recordings, download ep)

in retrospect, "thoughtful, religiose leicester ukhh" sounds a touch like
damning with faint praise but that was not the intention: this 5-tracker with
rayzabeek and other yard 26 / speech ferapy bods is well rippling and best of all it can still be yours in a few clicks should you just venture here. "sons of adam" turned up on a recent suspect packages comp too, "the suspect files" volume 4, which is worth getting for that and appearances by the likes of (youthful taskforce associate) remus and (all round diversion tactics-stable genius) chubby alcoholic.

27. skepta / jme 4-track ep (adamantium, 12")

"a dark, scabrous instrumental void aching with dusty hints of dubstep"

yay, and as good as that sounds. "missin'" and "autopsy" are the pick.

28. the bodines "shrinkwrapped" (firestation records, cd-ep)

"a lyrically spiky, tuneful 2 1/2 minutes of glistening, highest-notch indie" and we know it was recorded nearly 20 years ago. but it was a single, for the first time, in 2007, and it deserves to be in here. incidentally, it's still
sickening us that we can't call the FST boys "firestation tower" any more. lawyers are idiots.

29. the fall "reformation!" (slogan, 12" and cd)

"comes as close as a song can to packaging the chimera that is ESSENCE OF FALL into one place. as we've hinted before, it is a hulking, bristling monster which basically consists of taking a two-note bassline, and then running with it uninterrupted for the next seven minutes or so. during that period, while guitars twang and crash in and out a little, and mark e. smith esquire interjects the usual series of largely random words. you know the sort of thing - "POST!" "CHEESE STEAKS!" - although our favourites are "ACH!" (an old chestnut, which starred on "hit the north" amongst others), "FALL MOTEL!" (which he seems particularly fond of on this song) and "GOLDFISH BOWL!" (any attempt at explanation would surely just pale)...a riveting, relentless song"

30. milanese "barry dub 2007" (planet mu, 12")

yes, throughout this list there does appear to be an idle smattering of (instrumental) dubstep-type stuff, despite its fairly glaring lack of coverage on these pages generally. the official line is that the scarcity and sparseness of dubstep reviews in this fanzine merely reflects the bare texture of the aching void so vividly reflected in the music. or something.

31. the deirdres "dinosaurs that can swim ep" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)

you will have heard much about the deirdres from other sources - this is where we clamber aboard the bandwagon. "claire are we safe to be on our own ?" rings with all kinds of skewed pop goodness, but the ep as a whole has an almost magical feel to it - as if the helter-skelter hecticness of bearsuit was melded with the slow beauty of those slow-fi folk bands that the indie scene is subtly co-opting right now. also, the songs kind of feign to wind down before springing back into life for a glorious reprise. heady, and extremely rewarding, stuff, especially when listened to on the northern line after having escaped from an office party.

32. tinchy stryder "breakaway" (total entertainment, 12")

"it's the a-side of which we are increasingly fond: davinche produces, rather more lushly, while tinchy's beau laments that they can't "break away", because the streets are all he knows, and tinchy readily agrees in his instantly-recognisable, ever-warming way: "it's a standard ting / that i keep it ghetto"."

33. pinch "underwater dancehall" sampler (tectonic, 12")

possibly aka the "one blood, one source" ep. places here for the rather fetching "trauma", featuring juakali

34. boyracer / mytty archer split single (555 / brittle records, 7")

mytty archer is jen turrell's new project, and their four pint-sized popnuggets will do just nicely thank you, especially sprightly opener "saturn". of the two boyracer tunes, it's the able "katharine" that keeps them the usual distance from much of the chasing pack, a racer 100-ish slab of spinning chords and vocal barbs.

35. manhattan love suicides "keep it coming" (lost music, 7")

more from mls and a great record label debut from the lostmusic posse. the four tracks of the ep are a sequence of knowing steals, although the new version of "thinking is killing me" (the "happy when it rains" tribute") plays the blinder, a reminder that not only do MLS *evoke* the greatest fuzz-bands of the mid-to-late 80s, but gosh, yes, they actually are just as good.

36. burial "ghost machine" ep (hyperdub, 12")

over the course of a whole album, you worry that you can almost feel a laser searing the words "omg i am listening to coffee table music" into your forehead. yet taken in bite-sized (i.e. song length) chunks, everything suddenly comes together and it is much easier to appreciate that there can be few better soundtracks to this our city. let's just hope (to god) that that fool boris johnson never gets his hands on it.

37. n-type "street justice" (3.5 records, 12")

"street justice" has a nuanced, loungey pulse on which it then sweetly overlays a dubstep heart. but "blind fury", the first b-side, almost eclipses it with its looping, determinedly offbeat stride.

38. wiley "my mistakes" (big dada, 7/12")

more selfless collaboration from the big man, little dee and manga assisting this time, while violins kind of swoosh around feverishly in the background. the b-side, on the 7" at least, is the quality rascal-baiter "sorry sorry pardon what".

39. roll deep "celebrate" (white label 12")

"one of roll deep's best for ages, thankfully abt 93 million miles from the feeble "heartache avenue": the ever-vital skepta features, berating those of us who had no idea that he was in roll deep at all and explaining that he's just often a bit too busy to hang out with them, because he's north and they're east, or something. anyway, all the mc spots are as tight as the pirates' back four all season: and the jme remix on the b-side, with super-bouncey garage styling and a slightly more politically correct chorus lyric, just outpunches the original."

nb the flattering reference to the pirates' back four does not apply to its less sterling 2007/08 season performances.

40. von sudenfed "fledermaus can't get it" (domino, 12")

obv ace. from "tromatic reflexxions", of which a little more elsewhere.

41. the nightingales "what's not to love ?" (caroline true, cd-ep)

a 7-track ep of "fabulous artfulness... a swaggering fusion of the shrubs and the fall, the nightingales benefit from doing all the things that you can't get the youngsters to do any more - archly narrated and marginally surreal mini-plots, off-the-wall song structures and beguilingly random guitars that errantly fight amongst themselves..."

42. darqwan "m/a... ximum reespek" b/w "ghost not memory" (planet mu, 12")
43. beatnik filmstars "wild eyed restless and free" (the international lo-fi underground, cd-ep)

another great single from the unstoppable bristolians: the two-minute optimism of the a-side is good enough, but the aa "popular nazis" was our pick: "a jagged, uncompromising kinda "curious role model" part 2".

44. strawberry story "sci-fi guy" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)

i went to a wedding a few years ago and ended up briefly stood next to an ageing long-haired bloke with a leather waistcoat on, whose appearance i put down to the usual mid-life crisis stuff, especially as his female companion was considerably younger. neither of us were particularly interested in, or had anything much to say, to each other and managed to mumble our excuses and go off & mingle elsewhere.

it later turned out that this bloke, the bride's family's next-door neighbour, was one robert plant. it didn't really matter, as i still wouldn't have thought of anything to say to him anyway... zeppelin were never really on my radar - not good, not bad, just not quite my generation, not quite my parents', not someone i had any "in" to. so it's hard for me to understand the excitement that so many feel about their reappearance.

unless, of course, you transpose for "the return of led zep" "the return of strawberry story". for strawberry story definitely are of my generation, my area of (limited) expertise, my memory recall. and their return is probably the indie-pop equivalent of led zep's. er, in a way.

anyway, this ep does of course demonstrate no detectable advancement from their earlier work, and nor should it. it is an attempt to reconnect with an idea of *fun*, it sounds exactly as you would expect it to (even down to the middle track being one of their prescription slowies, in between the two burning fuzzpop ones) and the package works, especially with it being on the phenomenal cloudberry er, "imprint". mind, you do end up thinking how they could probably have rattled an ep like this off every few months for the last decade or so, rather than us having to be subjected to the rubbishness of the indie scene for so much of that period. ah well - they're back now and that's all that matters.

45. android and victor stroganov "my house" (maximum minimum, 12")

"reaffirms what we already know, namely that muscovites are uniquely at ease with chaos. spidery, clinical, clean, clanging and great, it is backed by liberator and mcaffer's textbook, military-drum n'drum min-side "my techno", which represents our city somewhat more capably than fulham, charlton, brentford and west ham are managing at the moment."

well, muscovites certainly proved capable of causing chaos to england's unremittingly overrated serial lumberers. and you can probably now replace west ham in that list with millwall and dagenham.

46. math and physics club "baby i'm yours" (matinee recordings cd-ep)

"math and physics are BACK and they haven't lost it either, with their tender marriage of smithsian tales of youthful indiscretion and delicate, spinning guitars. the a-side of this cd-ep on matinee recordings, "baby i'm yours", pushes all the right buttons, but "nothing really happened" is even better: the smiths-isms combine most happily with the sort of spiralling, echoing guitars that made st. christopher's "cathedral high" soar so."

47. darkthrone "the new wave of black heavy metal ep" (peaceville)

like the "f.o.a.d." album that followed it, this is beautifully arrayed on the outside with sleeve shots of the rolling norwegian countryside: yet on the inside "new wave of black metal" is not a bad description, as darkthrone 'motorhead things up' a little by rolling out their punk influences, to complement the excellent riffage showcased on their "the cult is alive" set from 2006.

48. k.n. "technique on monday" (cluster, 12")

"headspringingly fine tokyo techno, a-side of 12" on the ever-reliable cluster. can't really describe why it's so good, but basically it has that kind of air-raid siren sound, and then that kind of lorry-reversing sound, and then plays them across each other. actually, that's probably why it's so good."

49. sunny intervals "call and response" (weepop, 3" cdr)

"hidden treats don't come much more hidden (or as much of a treat)... with lyrics that entertain and actually reflect on london reality in doing so, while keyboards and guitars dance around them attempting unsuccessfully to rein in the singer's endless pop enthusiasm, this is the kind of thing that could give twee-pop a good name."

appreciate in retrospect that not all of that quote quite makes sense, but we guess you got the gist.

50. bedroom eyes "hand-in-hand grenade" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)

"sublimely confident, tiptop, well-executed scando pop thrills". in one. see also the "valentine vacancy" download ep, available here, which also features the lead cloudberry track.

51. the manhattan love suicides "sycamore peripheral" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)

a very pop threat-ish title! a little lower-fi than their two fine 7"s this year, "sycamore" is still a decent, scuzz-loaded indie-lolloper, while "last stand" is even better, a fired-up ballad boasting a delectable little melody, arrayed in the usually tantalising feedback-flecked way.

52. butcher boy "girls make me sick" (how does it feel ?, download)

we have a dim memory that this was released as some kind of limited download. and that's enough for us, because we wanted an excuse to get BB in both our lists!

53. blak twang "help dem lord" (rotton products, 12")

ah, welcome back mate. a song first previewed on the silent soundz compilation mixed by the last skeptik that came out with hip-hop connection last year, "an excellent, and much more grown-up twang... "help dem lord" is not the cheeky, blokey, ducking and diving tony rotton: instead, he steps back with an incredibly widely-targeted rant, full of the consciousness that fired our past favourites like "fearless"."

54. jamie bissmire presents... "jack trax vol. 1" (50hz)

"a phono-treat which also features friend-of-the-site (in our dreams) paul langley of "sexual predator" (the song) fame. sonico's "alamma" is all layered up with plenty of DOOSHes and bleeps and noises and bass. in other words, pretty fantastic." there's also a great tunes from bissmire / dj bam bam and aaron the pimp, jack fans.

55. the airfields "yr so wonderful" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)

a cracking canadian combo who show off over these 3 tracks the ease with which they can diversify into both melody and noise, finishing with the sweet, pounding title tune and its honey drizzle of light feedback. the combination of tunes and amplifier fog makes this cloudberry records' "come get me".

56. liechtenstein "stalking skills" (fraction discs, 7")

"starts with a blissful thud of just shop assists drum n' bass fuzz which the rest of it can't quite live up to, but while it's lighter and frothier than the shoppies or the frenchmen, say, it still stalks prettily and (with some skill) talulah gosh, early aventuras de kirlian and free loan investments..."

57. sway "one for the journey ep" (dcypha, cdep)

"he's def more than capable of outlasting mike skinner and co, although at some point it is probably worth him releasing a record that doesn't feature a version of "up your speed""

58. public enemy "harder than you think" (slamjamz, 12")

this is the best track from their "how do you sell soul to a soulless people who sold their soul ?" and it's backed with possibly the second best, "amerikan gangster". only released as a single in the u.s., although at time of writing both rough trade west and rough trade west certainly have copies in stock...

59. e.j. featuring elephant man "haters" / "temperature" (more2da floor, 12")
60. skream / cluekid "sandsnake" (disfigured dubz, 12")
61. distance "feel me" (chestplate, 12")
62. hoodz underground "pass the mic" / "history" (trackshicker, 12")

"the savvy "pass the mic" shows that musically, they've picked up neatly where they left off. "history" seems to suggest that the extended absence owed something to their disillusionment with mainstream rap - one shared by all of us - but then that's why we need the likes of the erudite menace, joni atcha & co to fight it."

63. gravenhurst "trust" (warp, 7")

"combines jangly guitar atmospherics with curving, gently rasping bass to positive effect... a 7", well a 7" a-side, of some class..."

the ever-dependable fire escape pointed out the kvatch-era sea urchins parallels as well, which has gotta help.

64. camera obscura "if looks could kill" (elefant)

"one of our favourite camera obscura records since the blast of fresh air that was "eighties fan"... a coming-up-on-the-rails footstomper that would happily have fitted on the fortuna pop! "more soul than wigan casino" ep - recalling kicker, or "strength"-era comet gain, with its walloping goodtime, fuzzing sixtiesish melodies."

=65. cluekid "crazy legs" (bullfrog beats, 12")
=65. gallhammer "beyond the hatred ep" (peaceville)

the pinnacle here is lead track "crucifixion", in which the japanese girls mix proto-punk crust with kinda two-chord slowed-down grindcore. "insane beautiful sunnyday slaughter" has the best song title though, almost cloudberry (in a parallel universe), don't you think ?

67. fireworkz "hold it down (remix)" (w10, 12")

"as you'd expect from a record billing bruza, tiny tempa, hypa & marcie, kelle le roc, scorcher & wretch 32 and wariko - this is something of a channel-u friendly "club banger". in our more sedate world this means another opportunity to pogo around the bedroom smashing imaginary crockery, the same adrenalin rush we got off the exploited 20 years ago... but springtime wouldn't be the same with a bit of blazing garage."

=68. kelman "is this how it ends ?" (liner, download)

"taut, shimmering, dreamy velvets vs. weddoes single from another seemingly perpetually underrated outfit..."

=68. bearsuit "foxy boxer" (fantastic plastic, 7")

Again, can't quite live up to the promise of its opening line, "throw your library cards in the air / like you just don't care", but has a commendable stab at doing so. you get a free badge, too, which should happen more often.

70. chester p "from the ashes" (rawdog, 12"): particularly for the "chessmonster" side

71. my sad captains "bad decisions" (fortuna pop!)

"it's fair to say that camera obscura and butcher boy have laid down some markers this year for marginally polished indie-pop jangle, but my sad captains go for the jugular in ba-ba-ba terms and profit accordingly. any sarah comparisons are, on this occasion, justified - this is fortuna pop!'s "if it kills me and it will"."

72. obituary "evil ways" (candlelight)

"it's true that "evil ways" would be twice as good if it was half as long and didn't have the guitar solo, but then if it was half as long and didn't have the guitar solo, then it wouldn't be obituary." obituary are, of course, in london this weekend - see y'all there.

73. boyracer / the faintest ideas split single (happy happy birthday to me, 7")

it's not often that boyracer are outpunched on a double-header, but we reckoned it was the faintest ideas' marvellous "i felt my soul" that stood out most of the five tracks on this pink vinyl 7". very appetising.

74. lapidus featuring skepta, stanna g and wiley "stop snitchin'" (mcs, 12")
75. the april skies "a picnic in heaven" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)
=76. parson "throw some Ds" / "big killaz" (planet mu, 12")
=76. the hi-life companion "times table" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)
=76. ice pack and rob tryptomene "freeloaders of society" / "247" (cluster, 12")

247: "b-side (but superior side) of ice pack and rob tryptomene's "freeloaders of society" 12" on cluster as liberator and mcaffer collaborate again, with one of their sparsest (and hence best) productions so far this year"

79. saxon "if i was you" (steamhammer, cd-ep)

while "need for speed" could have been recorded any time in the last 30 years, "if i was you", with looping bass and a raw percussion sound, has a surprisingly modern production: not quite their "st. anger", but you get the picture. so if your children or your children's children continue to insist on listening to shoddy faux-rebel stuff like my chemical romance, foist this on them.

80. faintest ideas "your imaginary bullets really hurt" (happy happy birthday to me)
81. jme and trigz "berr quick" ep (white label, 12")

a boy better know thing which stars jme's "african zulu warrior" instrumental.

82. sunny summer day "you're the one for me" (cloudberry, 3" cdr)

from indonesia, it seems (we were a smidgeon confused as the indonesian flag is the same as the monaco flag or, if you hold the sleeve upside down, the flag of poland). sunny summer day are - song titles like "happy in the summer" and "something in your eyes" would suggest - either amazingly idealistic or amazingly cynical. money's on the former, but there's something attractive, if still a little rough, about them - "you're the one for me" itself, coming on like we would imagine some early sarah band demos would have, is typical of sunny summer day's charm.

83. municipal waste "the art of partying (headbanger face rip)" (earache, download single)
84. slow down tallahassee "so much for love" (thee sheffield phonographic corporation, 7")

"take some solace from the sweetness of all three tracks on this the first (we think) slow down tallahassee single. [re "u r grace u r":] the darling buds did not die in vain." "so much for love" also turned up on cloudberry, who you will have noticed have made real inroads into 2007's best singles.

85. the bug featuring killa p and flowdan "skeng" (hyperdub, 12")

yes for a while, everywhere we looked, it seemed that the bug and flowdan were there. and we had no desire whatsoever to shake them. kode 9's remix of this on the b-side better unleashes flowdan's primal, occasionally m.e.s.-like utterings, as he and roll deep's killa p proffer disembodied ragga vocals, broadly to the effect that they pack a skeng and that we don't wanna see them get evil, over a backing of low-end rumble lightly spotted with electronic pulses. edgy stuff.

86. celestial "fragile heart" (skipping stones, 7")
87. syer barz "badboy ep" (label unremembered, 12")
88. celestial "last day of summer ep " (music is my girlfriend, download ep)
89. verb-t and the last skeptik "satisfied" (silent soundz, 12")
90. skream "skreamizm volume 4" (tempa, 2x12")
91. chris liberator and sterling moss "head start" (yolk, 12")
92. tinchy stryder "something about your smile" (total entertainment, 12")
93. zion train featuring dubdadda "life that i choose" (deep root, 7")
94. organised grime "it's gonna be ok" / "next level" (white label 12")
95. lapidus featuring jme, vader, envy and shifty "smugglers walk ep" (smile & cry / tunecore, 12")
96. taskforce "jacked" (white label 12")
97. club 8 "heaven"" (labrador, possibly, download)

"seems veritably to spring out of the blocks, in a manner rarely seen since pine forest crunch did "cup noodle song" (and then fell off really badly, even worse than superrhymes)."

98. helen love "it's my club" (elefant, cd single)
99. iron maiden "different world" (sanctuary)
100. saxon featuring lemmy kilmister, angry anderson and andi deris "you've got to rock (to stay alive)" (steamhammer)

not really a patch on the other saxon single and so mainly here thanks to the ilwttisott motorhead block vote: to my mind whenever lemmy's voice comes in, it's like what people of our generation are pleased to call "the liz fraser moment" in felt's "primitive painters" - blushingly beauteous.

bubbling under: bloody loads. ed 209 featuring earl 16, julian liberator, malcolm middleton, the television personalities, the magnetic fields, the acoustic stories, frisco, e.j. featuring b liive, riko, syer, faction and royal, benny benassi vs public enemy, watoo watoo, von sudenfed's "the rhinohead", tippa irie, d.a.v.e the drummer and dj redmond, a.p. vs. zoid, armed response unit / black eye riot split, dirty diggers, lethal bizzle, tinie tempah, ant vs dj urban, dubbledge, heartyeah, guy mcaffer and alex ferreira...

btw as our year-ends lists only cover 45s and 33s, they still merely really scratch the year's surface, so the tracklisting for our epic new year ilwtt domino all-nighter (as close as we are likely to get to a club night) is here: an attempt to cram more of the best of 2007's music into er, 12 hours (after an attempt at six hours failed).

our fervent but likely to be unrealised hope for 2008 is, of course, that people just slow down releasing music a bit and that our next end-of-year list can be restricted to a top five or something...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

best of 2007: albums + mixtapes

yup, it's that time: the votes all counted, the cut and paste function exhausted. to the extent our choices differ from any other 'best of' lists you may have seen in other publications, this is because the lists in those other publications are wrong.

1. extreme noise terror / driller killer split album (osmose productions)

of course, there is nothing wrong with the five driller killer tracks. it's just that that's not why we're here.

"bliss... whereas "being and nothing" mixed the triple vocal onslaught with quite a lot of muddier metal riffs, as well as out and out thrash, the new e.n.t. have gone right back to basics. we kid you not, if we didn't know better we'd guess this had been recorded somewhere between their earliest peel sessions and the "phonophobia" set on vinyl japan (you know, when them and doom were labelmates to the fat tulips). it's as if, in the sad absence of nasum, who they supported in highbury last, they've decided it's them who need to step up to the plate and just blast the extremely old-school peelcore.

it starts with "religion is fear", one of those songs that says, that frankly just oozes, 'we're back with a vengeance', that demands you listen as it feverishly intercuts hints of "another nail in the coffin" and "retreat to nowhere" into a turbulent bobsleigh of discharge-y guitars, drums clattering nearly as much as on the last boyracer album, and nearly as fast. admittedly the lyrics are marginally sub-slayer, but then the lyrics on the last slayer album were substantially sub-slayer.

no matter. a mini-whirlpool of drumming and feedback sucks you in to more old-skool chord progressions and vocal yelling courtesy of "human waste", which also features a storming mid-song break recalling classic line-up napalm; then, on "short fuse", the instrumental section slows briefly to an obituary-style growled breakdown, more akin to "being and nothing"'s occasional ambling moshes... anwyay, the growl is swiftly punctured by more feedback and spinning drums - there is then a mercifully short guitar solo (just under 5 seconds) before the assault resumes.

track four, "branded" is a beatniks-style rant about our cycle of dumbed-down consumerism ("addicted to shallow trends... a culture of the self obsessed") but is sonically more of the merry same, peaking with a call and response between thundering solo bass a la "bullshit propaganda", and visceral "phonophobia" guitars. "nothing no more" rounds off the event - this time there's lyrically a certain sadness ("tasting tears of pain... lost and incomplete") but don't worry, the soundtrack remains vibrant, fast and feedback-flecked. and then, with one last cookie monster howl, they're done.

waiting six years for new product only to get 8 minutes' worth of tunes may not seem the best of returns, but it still allows us to clutch to our bosom and hug so fiercely for a thousandth time the mantra that in this music game it's all about quality - bobbins to width.

and each of these songs is manic, feral, untouched, untainted, with the vocals dovetailing in and out of each other, and in and out of different registers, in the grand tradition of this fine band. and that is all that we require."

should have been singles: all of them

2. wiley "playtime is over" (big dada)

"it is not a "landmark" album, a "look at me" album, a "please the critics" album, not any kind of concept album: it is just a bloody great grime record, full of briskness and humour, that achieves the near-impossible balance of somehow being both accessible and underground, as well as being a quintessentially english - well, urban english - album to boot... a particularly impressive suite given that, what with all the mixtapes and limited pressings flying around, many of the tracks have already been 'out there' for a while: if anything, this release gives some of them (like last year's slickly-arranged "gangsters", or the magically madcap "eskiboy") renewed vigour."

an even more remarkable record given that 2007 was after all the year that kano, lethal and dizzee all jumped the shark big time. should have been singles: "trust us, any of these songs would be great singles, and most of them, knowing wiley's run-rate with white labels, probably have been."

3. eskiboy "tunnel vision volume 6" (boy better know)
4. eskiboy "tunnel vision volume 5" (boy better know)

"as even the broadsheets have noticed, the eskiboy has released about eight full length cds in the last year, any of which would frankly be a shoe-in for any mercury music prize list we ever produced".

y'know, "reply 2 dizzee" on vol 6 is not only, with durrty goodz's "letter to titch", the most spine-chillingly honest confessional of the year - thus eclipsing the relatively timid "letter 2 dizzee" on "playtime is over" - but it somehow manages to be the funniest song of the year too (more than one line, more than once, made us laugh out loud). this is, our friends, a sure sign of genius. anyway, if you are anything other than insane, the logan sama-compiled "best of tunnel vision" double-cd set, with tracks from the first five eskiboy mixtapes, is a completely essential purchase and thankfully even reasonably-well distributed. plus, right, plus, on the "fwd: rinse - live at the end 17 aug 2007" 6cd box set, listen out towards the end of disc five (distance / karnage) for wiley freestyling various of his hits. it's a bit lo-fi, but that's hardly going to put us off!

should have been singles: sorry sorry pardon what, nan i am london (vol 5); best striker (vol 6). incidentally, "nan i am london" has got to be the best song title of 2007, too.

5. bad brains "build a nation" (megaforce)

"as we've hinted before it not only includes some of the dreamiest, most
perfectly-picked roots reggae we've heard for a country while but also some of the more coruscating hardcore tunes we've encountered since the heyday of the great m.d.c... be prepared for it to place high in our year-ends..."

should have been singles: give thanks and praises, jah people make the world go round, jah love, roll on, until kingdom comes, peace be unto thee...

6. team shadetek "pale fire" (baked goods)

like the von sudenfed album (q.v.), "pale fire" would have been pretty good even if it had just been instrumental, but the various guest mcs take it to another level. should have been singles: well the two that were, "brooklyn anthem" (2006) and "reign" (2007) for starters, plus gully rainjah and knuckles' "wait".

7. boyracer "flickering b+w" (555)

"their latest sizzling collection of imperious slight-fi starts with the kooky
confidence of the wonderful "wingtips" blossoms through the feedback-flecked "excuses" and the clattering pop noise of "let's see some action" then builds via ace brace "the secret fire" and "he told you" to the stunning crescendo of "you banged a married man" and the super-reflective "in my previous life", a subtle but stunning piece seemingly held together by "songs of frustration"-era keyboard shimmer... as is usual, the lyrics across the piece veritably spit, simmer and burn with matter-of-fact anger, hard truths and accusations... if only boyracer were compulsorily piped through supermarkets and starbucks, we can't help but feel that the idiots would soon no longer be winning."

should have been singles: wingtips, you banged a married man, excuses

8. von sudenfed "tromatic reflexxions" (domino)

"there's the single, an old-fashioned "levitate"-lite floor-filler called
"fledermaus can't get it". there's "flooded", a tranche of minimal techno full of cut-up and disembodied smithisms. there's "that sound wiped", the standout, which starts with a "popstar kill" beat and even sees smith lapsing into singing of sorts, rather fetchingly looped to create what sounds frighteningly at times like a vocal hook. there's "serious brainskin", full of maniacal dubstep / grime overtones, that could carry some pretty heavy rhymes if it wasn't already heaving under the weight of smith's hinge-free yelling. there's "the rhinohead", a sort of stomping ultra-modern northern soul construct. and there's a pretty, touching world-musicky closer called "dear dead friends" that has the m.o.m. boys going all shalawambe on us... let's be honest, we bought it for the novelty (and because we are smith addicts, or completists, as some call themselves) but every band on the block could learn from his mastery of how to make music so diverse, compelling and complete."

should have been singles: flooded, that sound wiped, serious brainskin

9. looking for an answer "extincion" (living dead society)

even though none of you have heard it or will ever hear it or, frankly, like it if you did, we can't pretend that this wasn't one of the very best albums of '07. it takes something special to make up in any year for napalm death not having released an lp, but madrid's LFAA comfortably achieve it over half an hour of pristine, glistening, invigorating and otherwise glowing adjective-inviting grindcore.

should have been singles: vuestro respeto es nuestro desprecio, cada nacimiento es una tragedia, los humanos tambien son carne

10. trembling blue stars "the last holy writer" (elefant)

"this new record actually gives us:

- an all-time wratten great in the shape of "this once was an island", with its part-glitch, part "snowball" drum machine percussion, and old skool-field mice, almost "is it forever"-y guitars;

- "idyllwyld", which is a verse worthy of harper lee then eliding into an aberdeen-ish chorus (perhaps not surprising given the involvement of mr howard and ms arzy) all of which makes for a cracking song, with both the pace and the beauty of past treasures like "dark eyes", that cries desperately to be freed from the shackles of a long-player and propelled into our homes as a single (there we go). fact: they haven't hit us with such a chorus crescendo since "made for each other";

- "november starlings", a song which would have been worthy of a place on "her handwriting", as it skips along with the serene breeze of "for this one" et al;

- "sacred music", which echoes the luscious unallayed narrative delights of "headlights" and similar gems from "lips that taste of tears";

- "darker, colder, slower", one of a few moments that lightly tap joy division and the cure for inspiration, and the most appositely-titled, as it brims with bitter undercurrents and welcome hints of seeping noise;

- throughout, lots of very wake-ish keyboards, and a happy glut of lyrical references to sea, snow and the ilk (mind you, if bobby is listening to as much reggae and dancehall as he claims, then maybe next time these will be to sun, sand and sex instead)...

there's more, but you get the picture. there is not a trace of newness here, but maybe that's the point. we've been waiting for no little while for the blue stars to make us sit up and take notice again - perhaps it's to be expected that they'd do it by plundering a little of what was greatest about their past."

should have been singles: we've probably made these clear. ironically, the ep they did end up releasing later in the yr contained four should-not-have-been singles.

11. trim "soulfood volume 2" (the circle)
12. trim "soulfood volume 1" (the circle)

as you can see, virtually impossible to separate these, although the bonus cd nicked it for vol 2. it's not often that mixtapes are this consistent (hence rather lower placings for ghetto, scorcher etc) but trimbal comes across as simply imperious on these happily unslim volumes, and they even now seem to have reasonable distro, if you feel like trying to track them in yr local store.

should have been singles: rudely interrupted and the war report(s), plus badness's "badman" and crunch's "crunch".

13. bracken "we know about the need" (anticon)

"handily fills a hood-shaped gap in our lives - at least annually, we need an album of fractured, introspective beauty which throws violins, guitars and trills of dub against adams' angst-filled, urgent voice... these songs sound almost designed as soundtracks, but to so many things: to slow-motion filming of flowers in bloom, to telegraph poles and pylons from a train window, to the unprepossessing brown-brick blocks and houses that frame our walk home on bright but humid evenings. if "we know about the need" was a new hood album, it would represent, as ever, a single, super-subtle further step to the true greatness they have always been heading for, a greatness unlikely to be recognised for many a year. as it is, it is simply a record that keeps us going, dreaming, believing."

should have been singles: "heathens" was one, last year. otherwise, perhaps "fight or flight". note there are some decent remixes, too, on the bracken remix lp released in november.

14. butcher boy "profit in your poetry" (how does it feel to be loved ?)

"as butcher boy's debut album "profit in your poetry" is a release on how does it feel to be loved ? you will not need us to tell you what kind of musical ballpark we're in, but we won't shy away from letting you know that it's a very strong, and in places quite excellent, record. like math and physics club, they sell themselves the shortest with the occasional belle & seb carbons (although even these are saved with some devastating turns of phrase), but when they get even the merest hint of the young smiths in their sails, all brightens and they breeze across any ocean you might care to name. while the 30-minute length of the album is welcome and just right, it is the title track and "girls make me sick" that really make you wish small labels could afford to put singles out all the time."

should have been singles: we just said (again)

15. forest giants "things we do when we're bored" (the international lo-fi underground)

"an imposing, confident-sounding collection, far away from the minor-league neuroses of the crackling with promise, but lower-fi "in sequence" which first launched them into the upper tiers of the pop stratosphere. "tour of the future" is one of the songs on it ("at the dog track" and "tina's child" are others) that really scream "SINGLE!": 1988-ish indie stylings full of catchy, ear-friendly pop wiles to match any key platter even from that era... much of the album mixes good ol' dean wareham-ish lyrical vulnerability with increasingly-trademark, in yer face swirls of soaring guitar: "leave" best showcases the way that the more slightlydelic numbers have a touch of late-period 14 iced bears, as the 6-string takes to the skies and performs gentle loop-the loops above the bassline that drives the song forward. even "pick up the pieces", which seemed so out of place and throwaway on their "planes fly overhead" ep, suddenly seems to make absolute sense, with its snarling, shouty pocket fallishness. elsewhere, things get more reflective on the slower tunes than was managed by the bulk of "welcome to the mid-west": in
particular, christmas classic "the life i have" is welcomely rescued from the obscurity of only having previously been available as a download from the cherryade records website."

should have been singles: yep, we mentioned them.

16. tippa irie "talk the truth!" (lockdown)

"rumbustious, irrepressible, varied and, given that tippa is still best known for "hello darling" back in approx 1666, surprisingly informed with modern inspirations as his patented-over decades brand of uk dancehall seamlessly takes in all kind of bhangra and hip-hop influences and a number of guest slots and productions".

should have been singles: the neighbour next door, lyric a rhyme, lyric that's my hobby

17. chester p "from the ashes" (taskforce / rawdog)

didn't get round to reviewing this but it's a typical taskforce grower, and the best evocation of north london life you'll get outside of the sunny intervals. take a punt: chester and farma are still the most under-rated. should have been singles: the sermon, rocks bottom, faith

18. darkthrone "f.o.a.d." (peaceville)

look. we agree with you guys that 98% of metal is rubbish: the only
disagreement between us concerns the quality of the remainder. in our view "f.o.a.d." falls squarely within that hallowed 2%, and as you may discern from the song titles it's a touching, almost painfully sincere tribute to their oeuvre that demonstrates that darkthrone are far from merely being untamed black metal monsters. also, in love with these times in spite of these times would like to dedicate the title track to fulham fc's ticketing policy. should have been singles: the church of real metal, canadian metal, fuck off and die, raised on rock.

19. the butterflies of love "famous problems" (fortuna pop!)

"the butterflies of love seem so aptly named to us, in that their songs tend to flutter, in shades of pale and rare colour, so winningly around yr head - the core is the greenes' brokenhearted heard-it-all drawl, with guitars enmeshed in a blissful, hazy, daub of reverb and dissolve, all occasionally overlaid by shimmering keyboards: as ethereal as melodic pop/rock can really be."

should have been singles: act deranged, take action. and the fabulous "orbit around you" was one, last year.

20. skepta "greatest hits" (boy better know)

"aside from 2 or 3 tunes - most inevitably the cringing, perhaps postmodernly bad single, "sweet mother" - this album meets even the unrealistically high aspirations we had for it. not even the fact that skepta, brother of jme and token non-e3 member of roll deep, was apparently employed to play peaches geldof's birthday party can detract from the fact that he is a real talent, and that his confidence is rarely misplaced."

should have been singles: greatest hits. in a corner.

21. little dee "don't let the name trick you" (media gang)

"if you are in any doubt as to how vital little dee is, check not just this song but the run of half a dozen or so tracks that starts, about halfway through this "don't let the name trick you" mixtape, with "calm down" - a pleasing lack throughout of the kind of slushy stuff that pads out most otherwise-arresting mixtapes - the guy is really raw, very exciting."

22. total fucking destruction "zen and the art of..." (bones brigade)

"the actual noise that TFD make is hard to pin down completely: it's kinda stop-start hardcore math-grind with a very tough, serrated lo-fi edge that recalls repulsion in places, but is best summed up by the way a song like "we are all elvis now" mixes the hardcore and grindcore influences - and sometimes, as on "corpse position", we swear we can almost here some melodies struggling to escape from the genre melee. meanwhile lyrically it's "elvis" and "y.a.r.n." (aka "youth! apocalypse! right! now!", one of the best sing-a-longa metal trax since napalm's "cock-rock alienation") that hit hardest, polemics against the creep of consumer culture. what happens after those first 10 tracks is rather strange, as TFD sign off with four straight acoustic numbers. if you were tempted to fast forward through these, well frankly you'd have been right to, although the final cut "nihilism, emptiness, nothingness, nonsense" at least sees them randomly co-opt piano, saxophone and monotone monkish chanting in order to end the album in a pleasingly quaking jazz-folk confusion."

23. public enemy "how you sell soul to a soulless people who sold their soul ?" (slam jamz)

mild return to form, with chuck d's contributions still shudderingly superior to flav's. "harder than you think" is grrreat, and the way chuck d reminds us that "if you don't stand for something / you fall for anything" almost makes us fall in love with p.e. all over again.

24. the fall "reformation! post-tlc" (slogan)

"the best rock songs are those where you crank up the bass, let a scratchy guitar strike up and then just repeat the same riff ad infinitum, preferably with a mad middle-aged bloke shouting over the top. again, no choruses, no unnecessary 'melodies', no jaunty trying-to-be-clever sub-britpop nonsense. and there are a quartet of such great songs on the mighty fall's new "post-tlc reformation!" set. indeed, the album opens with a straight hat-trick: "over!over!", "reformation!" and "fall sound" all drip with that brash, snarling confidence, borne of decades of dominance, which has hallmarked the fall of late - they showcase the same almost-honed machine which thrilled at the sweatfests at 93 feet east last summer, with all the rediscovered verve and bite that followed the crit-acclaimed tableaus "country on the click" and "fall heads roll". the rollicking, glowing, gigglingly enjoyable "fall sound", in particular, a(nother) rant at those who would aspire to the crown, is a marvel: even as we wait for the english spring, we find it hard to imagine there will be many better songs this year. the fourth killer song, meanwhile, tucked away towards the record's denouement, is live devastator "systematic abuse", a vodka-slam cocktail of the three R's (you know, the ones that president carter loves), "bremen nacht" and "stepping out", which lurches at times into pure 1977. at eight minutes 38, 'tis at least two minutes too short."

sadly though, the rest of it was pretty ropey. oh, if "fall sound" had been a single, 'twould have been up with the best of the year.

25. dubblestandart "immigration dub" (collision)

lithe austrian dub, marginally too description-defying for us to expound on at this hour. we are looking forward to euro 2008, y'know.

26. chipmunk "league of my own" (alwayz recordings)

"at 16, chipmunk is fairly old for grime, perhaps, but he seems to have his head screwed on sentiment-wise on this "league of my own" mixtape. there are a few excellent tracks, inlcuding a couple produced by the equally ubiquitous and fabulous maniac, and the more knockabout, wiley produced "consistant" (sic), but you know we're always a sucker for 64 or sometimes 96 straight bars of rhyming, and it's always a good barometer for whether an mc can hold his own. chipmunk does the job."

should have been singles: consistant, where i stay, 64 bar statement

27. the orchids "good to be a stranger" (siesta)

"it's the focus on the basics that assists them in taking a few steps closer to their once-avowed aim of lazy perfection... a smooth collage of indisputably precious melodies and simple, overwhelmingly romantic lyrical notions, all given a sympathetic, almost timid production that somehow helps the songs to hang in the air around you, for the most part only intruding gently into your consciousness, but - once there - refusing to let go... there are plenty of tracks here - breezy, wistful, thoughtful moon lullabies all - that brim with the delicate beauty the windmills achieved on "now is then", say ("down to the ocean", "take my hand"), and then there's "another saturday night" which has rapidly become a new orchids favourite (well, with us) as it stretches the template a little with its rushes of energy and tumbling hope, heralding the stronger second side of the record... the piece de resistance is undoubtedly the closing "you could do something to me", from the word go a song which would happily fit any time, any place, and which melds the crystal trills of the bardots' "sad anne" with the top-drawer aching-vista tunesmithery of the go-betweens: but the whole album - with hackett's voice, even after all these years, still full of, well, yearning - is as much a record to cherish as ever. you know they're fine."

should have been singles: you could do something to me, another saturday night

28. benny bizzie "the business vol 2" (knowledge & wisdom)

"bizzie is obsessed with upward mobility: "moving at a fast pace", "we're moving" and "many moves" being three of at least half a dozen blazing freestyles, a little in the mould of kano's "p's and q's" 12" before the latter broke big, even if the rhymes are delivered over occasionally cheap-sounding keyboards... grime's not dead."

should have been singles: try those three, oh and of course the blistering bonus track "kushbu"

29. beatnik filmstars "shenaniganism (tape hiss and other imperfections)" (the international lo-fi underground)

on "seeing stars": "a song that's itself a bus-top parade of superior quality buzzing lo-fi pop, plucked from the 19 of them that constitute "shenaniganism". an encouragement to look up, up, up the divisions, to stop settling for less. "you gotta take a moment to expand your horizons..." oh yes".

note that at the moment you can still get this from both branches of rough trade in london (each copy has its own hand designed sleeve!), even if the other 498 have been sold...

30. bearsuit "oh:io" (fantastic plastic)
31. the steinbecks "far from the madding crowd" (microindie)

"1984 + 1996 = 2007" should have been a single. of it, we said "... speaking of which, the sugargliders / steinbecks / lucksmiths synergy underlies this marvellous "far from the madding crowd" album on microindie on which tali white features prominently, and this is year-rolling back pop gorgeousness from it, as the brothers meadows manage to keep the vocals sounding slightly pained while the music remains as blissfully light and intertwined as "letter to a lifeboat" or frankly anything from the sugargliders or steinbecks since then. i mean, we're never quite going to burst with the hives of happiness we had on first hearing crumpled cassettes of "top 40 sculpture" or "which part of no don't you understand ?" but this is another song that oozes charm and angst in equal measure, sounding exactly as you would expect and - more importantly, want - the meadows brothers to. can't think of a better closer."

32. airport girl "slow light" (fortuna pop!)

"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"... 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"."

33. haemorrhage "the kill sessions" (emetic)

there's a lot of excellent music coming out of spain at the moment - this on an american label that has nought to do with the uk label that released a few great martyn hare singles a while back. anyway, in 20 minutes, recorded live in the studio at the start of '07, haemorrhage (who have apparently been going since the early 90s!) recorded a kind of "peel session" tribute, featuring some of their um, hits, and yes it does kind of chime with the legendary grindcore peel sessions which presumably inspired it, landing somewhere between that legendary carcass session they did before "symphonies of sickness" and the much faster riffage of the second napalm session, say. not original, but much more enjoyable than anti-folk will ever be.

34. jammer "are you dumb ? vol 2" (neckle / jah mek the world)
35. sss "short sharp shock" (earache)
= 36. obituary "xecutioners return" (candlelight)
= 36. ghetto "ghetto gospel" (j clarke enterprises)
38. hoodz underground "bringing it back" (trackshicker)

"and so the (very) long awaited hoodz album is finally here - it almost has the feel of a retrospective, given the age of some of its component parts... just hearing the sound of [out] da ville's sadly-retired scor-zay-zee on the mic brings back the smiles: as indeed does the whole hoodz album, which fair brims and bounces with brass and horns."

39. boyracer "boyracer jukebox volume one" (555)

on which boyracer rattle off another 15 cover versions, many of which outstrip (and certainly outpace) the originals in the fine tradition of their "nobody's diary" or of course "one step forward". you could have taken any 3 or 4 of these tracks to make a great ep, and if their version of ashtray boy's "vacuum cleaner salesman" had been a single - think *big* chorus, *lotsa* feedback - then it would have ripped through the heart of the singles list we're gonna post tomorrow. and while covering alternative tv, mccarthy and tenpole tudor shows their taste, and covering bonnie tyler and cyndi lauper their range, our other favourites here are still probably the more indiecentric "throw aggi off the bridge", "billy two", "pick the cats eyes out" and the marine girls' "honey"...

another reminder that the bands who've been around the block should never be ignored - and especially with noise-spattered melodic-pop at last coming back into vogue in our circles, if you love MLS or horowitz as much as us it really would be madness to blank the racer.

40. tullycraft "every scene needs a center" (magic marker)
41. celestial "dream on" (skipping stones)
"smiling, perfectly uncertain"
42. the hermit crabs "saw you dancing" (matinee recordings)
= 43. california snow story "close to the ocean" (letterbox)
"melodious and impeccably understated quiet-fi"
= 43. mistress "the glory bitches of doghead" (feto) "in which a pastoral, rainsoaked intro soon gives way to fulltilt metalgrindcrust noise occasionally evoking clanging recent bolt-thrower or even midstream napalm."

45. ted maul "white label" (raise the game)

"there are not many bands like t.m., a london six-piece (can't bring ourselves to say sextet, simply for the kinda jazz fusion images it conjures up in our easily frightened minds) who do thrash with a touch of drum and bass, plus some quieter passages that gleam with idle riches of leftfield noodlism. the more metallic (in)fusions are in truth a little overlong, but the frenzied d&b passages, part-reminiscent of purity, yet then lightly glittered with metal, have a certain irresistible energy."

46. syer barz "side fx section 2" (mom promotions)
47. pig destroyer "phantom limb" (relapse)

"some might be chary of a band so openly aping music [slayer!] from the late 80s, but given that slayer are to thrash what talulah gosh are to twee, we think that this is (a) a good thing and (b) makes pig destroyer the metal equivalent of, say, liechtenstein (which in itself makes us need to lie down for a short while)."

48. zion train "live as one" (universal egg)
49. burial "untrue" (hyperdub)
50. verb t and the last skeptik "broken window" (silent soundz)

bubblers under included frisco, dillinger escape plan, scorcher, gallhammer, the ladybug transistor,, late, malcolm middleton, municipal waste, sparky's magic piano, black dahlia murder, wretch 32, intestinal disgorge, obliteration (just about) and even kano (for the mixtape, not the terrible album he then went and put out on a 'proper' label).

the one that got away, meanwhile, was probably badness' "lava continues", which if we'd managed to track down i fully expect would have fairly wowed us. also, as mick harris is usually musical gold, we know we're going to love the recent scorn record when we eventually find it.

lowlights: well klashnekoff could have done better than "lionheart", while the dizzee rascal and cockney rejects albums were truly atrocious and both, frankly, tarnishing of reps that once deserved better.

plus, the album we were looking to most this year - sportique's - seems simply never to have happened. sigh.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

bits of the best of 2007

ha 2008 is for losers.

live music

2. the fall @ islington academy
3. the fall @ islington academy
4. the fall @ islington academy
5. the wedding present @ ulu
6. forest giants @ cargo
7. the orchids @ kilburn the luminaire
8. the fall @ islington academy
9. manhattan love suicides @ kilburn the luminaire
10. milky wimpshake / horowitz @ brixton the windmill
11. jamc / pastels @ south bank
12. horowitz @ stockwell
13. deutsches symphonie-orchester @ philharmonie berlin
14. sarandon @ buffalo bars
15. the spiral scratch summer splash
16. the nutcracker at sadler's wells
17. pocketbooks / pete green @ buffalo bars
18. cornershop @ queen elizabeth hall
19. belmont ensemble @ purcell rooms
20. jamelia et al @ finsbury park

worst gig: the sex pistols' performance at the brixton academy, more unedifying (not in a good way) than inept, was even more depressing than bristol rovers' christmas-ruining display when being pegged back to a 1-1 home draw by bankrupt, bottom-of-the-league, *eight-man* luton town. which was most certainly inept. and yet, while we bristled at the time (both times), our ardour both for the pistols and the rovers remains undimmed. gah, love is blind.

best non-music live performance stuff: we enjoyed the most wembley (the best result), the millennium stadium (the best stadium) and a trip to scunthorpe united (the best atmosphere); theatre-wise moira buffini's "dying for it" (a take on erdman's "the suicide") at the almeida and "rafta rafta" at the national - a show stolen by harish patel; comedy-wise it was ed aczel at the hen and chickens.

artist compilations

1. beatnik filmstars "a box of light entertainment" (the international lo-fi underground)
2. eskiboy "best of tunnel vision" (baked goods)
3. heresy "20 reasons to end it all" (boss tuneage)
4. the wedding present "the complete john peel sessions" (sanctuary) (there was also their "yé yé: the best of the rca years" on sony bmg - much inferior to early twp but still no bad thing for mid-price fans, as the early-90s weddoes at least stand the test of time a little better than some of their godawful *britpop* contemporaries)
5. even as we speak "a three minute song is one minute too long - the singles 1986 to 1990" (egg records)
6. i ludicrous "20 years in show business" (sanctuary)
7. the lucksmiths "spring a leak" (matinee recordings)
8. lock-up "violent reprisal" (feto): essentially combines their two studio albums, but a wonderful cover of impaled nazarene's "we are satan's generation" is the critical bonus track
9. beatnik filmstars "left hooks (songs that got nowhere)" (the international lo-fi underground) (stop press: there's also a new cd on panda, "cat scan aces", which compiles highlights from their '07 releases)
10. nashgul "humanicidio" (crimes against humanity)

obviously the fall "box set 1976-2007" would on sheer musical merit alone be #1 - in any year - but thankfully the tunes within its 5 cds are already nestling elsewhere in the sizeable "fall" bit of our record collection (the shelves positively groan with the weight). nevertheless, it is a collection that should be statutorily forced upon anyone (if there are still any such people) who wilfully fail to own any fall records and hey, they might even surprises themsleves and enjoy it.

various artists compilations

"the matinee hit parade" (matinee recordings) mugged "honey, the dog's home" (the international lo-fi underground) at the last. some metal and grindcore compilations followed not too far behind, as did rinse fm's two v/a mixtapes (courtesty of geeneus and skream respectively).

live album: ripcord "live at parkhof alkmaar holland" (boss
. some credit also, not least for nostalgia's sake, to the wedding present's "live 1987" double on scopitones

remix album: bracken "remixes" (anticon)

classical album: well a typical ilwttisott soft spot emerged for
mahler's symphony number 5 as performed stirringly by the simon bolivar youth orchestra of venezuela. the adiagetto is almost entirely sublime (don't worry, as we're now from islington we're allowed to sound like luvvies).

classical comp: callas "opera highlights" (emi classics) - an 8cd box from emi's callas30 season. there was an absolutely massive new vivaldi box set too, but we're not ever going to get enough time off work to properly immeres ourselves in an undertaking of that order.


culture "two sevens clash" (shanachie) edges out a.c., discharge, mdc and even the pop group's excellent "y". anyone who didn't already own napalm death's "scum" or "utopia banished" lps should def have gone for the cd / dvd reissues of those, too: respectively boasting an excellent documentary and 50 or so vintage live tunes and promos.

single reissue of 2007 was the white label reappearance on 12" of four excellent "ice rink"s: a work of conservation, really, as it's vital that these superb recordings aren't lost to the mists of time. kano sounds fresh (that ain't happened for a while), tinchy stryder sounds unbelievably young and on the verge of a (non-commercial) greatness that is kind of arcing away: riko - who we've heard little from for a while - then manages to outdo both of them before breeze chips in the fourth. as for the fractured atari junglist alchemy in the grooves, that is of course down to mr. richard cowie. and as for where he be at now, we are afraid this won't be the last you've heard of him in our year-ends. btw demon boyz "vibes" / "northside" on suspect packages a reasonably close second!

lastly, 2007 was also the year that in love with these times, in spite of these times both acquired a goldfish (yep, a comet gain) and adopted a penguin, meaning that the team is at last now represented by mammal, bird and fish...