The best singles of 2009: 31-40
31. Davinche "Rider" (Davinche, CD EP)
Eleven versions of the main man's worringly addictive "Rider" for all our delight, including Little Dee's that we mentioned in passing earlier in the year. The lead version, angling for radio, boasts Keedo, Ghetts - with the best bars on the whole CD - and a "Punch In The Face"-reprising JME, but is handicapped by a sung chorus bit (boo). On the other hand, we swear that Ghetts gets a mention of Alexandr Pushkin in, which surely makes it grime's first.
The other ten tracks are a mixed bag of straight freestyles and R&B sung delights. The freestyles are as ever where our true interest lies: there's a full 'style from Keedo but sadly not from Ghetto, and even Wiley's take (much as it's nice to hear from him again: like bumping into an old friend in your local) is overshadowed by fast, flowing cuts from Skepta (a bit Ed Hardy-obsessed, but otherwise better than nearly all of his LP), Tinchy Stryder (best thing he's released in 2009, despite vaguely dispiriting if honest "I'd rather spend my time at the jewellers" line) and a very buoyant-sounding Tinie Tempah. The real credit, however, must of course go to Davinche for making it all happen, and reminding us *again* that when grime's finest are let loose over 64, 96 or more, the end result is better than any crossover dance single they'll ever make.
32. Chris Da Break & Black Art "Bring The Force Back" (Neuroshocked, 12")
After turning up on the earlier Chris Lib / Sterling Moss-led "The Cult" 12" on his own Neuroshocked label, Chris da Break returned - with fellow Polish producer Black Art - to front this one, a premier league slab of '09 techno and a halfway house of sorts between the urgent, hook-led bassery of Mark Ankh's mighty "L and M" and the subtler, if equally insistent, high-bpm intrigues of "The Cult".
As a considerable bonus, the EP also features not one but two new DDR tracks: "Rock Da House" and "Deejay" (we know, you could hardly come up with more unpromising titles, but the songs bely them, being two of his better tunes in recent memory...)
33. The Wild Swans "Liquid Mercury" (Occultation, 7")
In which the Wild Swans decide, perhaps in a bored moment, that since they've reformed and all they might as well chuck in a near-perfect pop song while they're here. Jangling guitars cascade in and out during a number that might as well just be a chorus all the way through, with ne'er a single wasted note or chord... in many ways this two and a half minute compression of elegant pop is the opposite of "English Electric Lightning"'s ambitious wordiness, but in many ways it's very nearly as satisfying. (Indeed, if it wasn't for the fact we hated "There She Goes", we'd say that this was their "There She Goes". We think you'd know what we mean).
34. Tender Trap "Fireworks" (Fortuna Pop!, download)
"A tale of burnt fingers unlucky in love [that] fair stokes our still-simmering hearts: perhaps gutsier and more rooted than previous outings, it still comes over as pure indie pop, but 60s-tinged (not fatally so) and played with a harmonic, almost garage-punk edge half a world away from the drum machine electro-pop of their first, equally (ahem) pop canon-mastering forays. indeed, you could even say it takes tentative steps into "comet gain territory". dame amelia may have once sung that "hopefulness to hopelessness is not very far", but tender trap make the distance seem miles and miles."
Plus, of course, they *killed it* at Baby Honey the other week.
35. Gregory Webster "Promised Land" (Slumberland / Where It's At Is Where You Are, 7")
Our longtime love for Gregory is well-documented, and our anguish at that alleged final Sportique LP never having snuck out has bored many a punter down the Florence and Jorene over the years. So it's *simply thrilling* to have him back on the (ever-more creaking) ilwtt, isott turntable.
"Promised Land", clad in the sweetest sleeve courtesy of Daniel Novakovic's artwork, doesn't so much roll back the years as unfurl a jewel-encrusted magic carpet to transport you back to the happy memories of his "My Wicked Wicked Ways" album: it's a gentle, folksome ballad, an escapist fantasy leagues away from the artful post-modern dischord that Sportique perfected. Instead, it sits comfily alongside Greg's beauteous reinterpretation of "Something's Missing" on WIAWYA's "Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool" Springsteen tribute. We're not quite sure where in Gregory's travels around the southern shires that he located the log-cabin which forms the centrepiece of "Promised Land"'s story, but as we would pay good money just to hear him singing the telephone directory, we could not care one jot.
36. Slayer "Hate Worldwide" (Columbia, CD single)
As venerable and respected an institution round these parts as both Gregory and Amelia, with whom they've been sharing our affections since 1986, Slayer too can still be relied on to set the pulse racing. This an absurdly limited one-track CD-only single (1,000 copies in the UK) that pre-empted their "World Painted Blood" album this autumn. Now as that album makes all too clear, Slayer are capable of some pretty dreadful stuff these days, but "Hate" is a jolly little anthem for sure, the cockles of your heart positively warming as Araya spits "I'm a God-hating heretic, not a God-fearing lunatic" (can't just be us who immediately thinks of Sarah Palin at this point) while that twin-guitar thing drills away enterprisingly in the background. You could argue for hours about Slayer's relevance, but live they are always worth a shot. And so long as they're coming up with shoutalongs like this, their records will also merit the obsessive attention they still receive.
37. Pleasure / Majistrate & Nicol "Mission Statement Part 6" (Nam Musik, 12")
Seriously neat double-header on twelve courtesy of Majistrate and Nicol's own Nam imprint. Pleasure's "Asylum" on the one side is anchored around a wonderfully deep, squashed sound, a little like the sound of people in the flat above moving furniture around, but there's not enough else to it and after a while the repetition does indeed make you feel that the asylum may beckon. "Untouchables" on the other side is as good as we currently expect from Maj n' Nic, building on the easy highs of "Pussy Killa". One of the top tunes of this cloth in 2009.
38. Shrag "Rabbit Kids" (Where It's At Is Where You Are, 7")
Shrag don't always head our list of popstar crushes, but they do come up with some killer individual songs from time to time, which is one of the reasons their long run of singles has been a format that suits them so well. "Rabbit Kids" is neither the echoey retrospection of "Forty-five 45s" or "Hopelessly Wasted" nor the Fallesque barrage of much of their other singles but instead sees the Sussex Heights brigade in a more indiepop mode, belting out catchy, foot-tapping melodies but thankfully without going anywhere near cute or winsome. In our Britpop days in Nottingham at the Cookie Club or the Irish, "Rabbit Kids" would have been a surefire hit, teamed with "What Do I Do Now ?" or that Echobelly one. In 2010, those heady days behind us, it's one to cherish more personally.
39. Mutated Forms "Storm In A Teacup" (Allsorts, 12")
Estonians MF can sometimes either over-wine bar it with their icky mutant D&B-loungecore creations, or over-egg things slightly with mega-jump up ruckus like the earlier "Coppers" (q.v), but when they are *on* form they produce true thoroughbreds, such as this slab of aptly-titled half-mellow, half hi-tensile lizardness, a groover which reminds us of our late-90s days when summer listening consisted of little but Gopher and de Crecy. If, of course, Gopher and de Crecy had found themselves coupled with a smacking post-junglist beat.
40. Kromestar "Bassbin" (Southside, 12")
Kromestar, Bono, Darren MLS* - a growing club of men in music who seem to wear shades all the time. "Bassbin" is south of the river DS churning on Kromestar's own label, with more speaker-bothering bass-end doused liberally in jittering electronics. What's cunning is that all the while there are Star Wars effects flying around the mix, the percussion is quietly doing all sorts of jazzy, syncopated tricks, somewhat defying impressions on first hearing that this is merely a conventional floorfiller.
* Now, of course, Darren Blanche Hudson Weekend - check this.