Monday, January 04, 2010

Slight The Power: singles of 2009



John Peel oft-threatened that one year he would broadcast a festive 51-100 rather than the top fifty, dispirited as he was with all the "young men strumming guitars" that displaced the Bhundus and PE tracks to that 51-100 backwater. And as you know, we're slavish devotees of the man's wisdom, so here are ours. For the avoidance of doubt, we're adoring of, and grateful for, them all.

51. Birds Of California / Kristin Mess split (555 Recordings, 7")

"You can't but be reminded a little of the much-missed Lunchbox by the Birds of California side of the latest split seven-inch treat from 555. The three songs (this is a 33 rpm record) on the Birds' side from ex-Lunchbox personnel engagingly intertwine reverb, indie jangle and spirited brass in a way that takes its cue from Lunchbox's "Summer's Over" mini-album but which takes it a little further, giving it a spacey, even dubby vibe. Over on the other side, BC's Kristin Mess provides contrast to BoC's little soundscapey experiments with four acousticky tunes, so fragile you feel they are liable simply to break at any time."

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52. Starkey featuring Durrty Goodz "Gutter Music" (Keysound, 12")

"A twelve on Keysound - trailed heavily by Jamie Vex'd amongst others - which sees more doubletime showboating from the unstoppable Durrty Goodz over some unhealthily frantic riddims, even if DG's quickfire riffing on how all great music comes from the gutter doesn't touch the storytelling highs of Goodz's solo "Ultrasound" set."

There were numerous Starkey collaborations this year but of course -"OK Luv" with Badness was the other one that merited more than a cursory - but this one keeps it *busy*, in doing so giving Durrty's flow the chaotically frenetic backing on which it thrives.

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53. MC Ren "Reincarnated" (Villain Entertainment, download)

"while there's little (ok, nothing) about it that's new or original, we're rather fond of it... we're left in no doubt by the end of the song that Ren is indeed still around, still gangsta, still the same guy who dropped all those memorable second verses, and that as he "started this gangsta shit", he's gonna finish it too."

You'll have spotted our deliberate mistake, because inevitably - given hip-hop's unyielding pun love - it transpires that this tune (and the album from which it comes) are actually called "Renincarnated". Do you see what he's done there ?

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54. Dubblestandart & Lee "Scratch" Perry meet Subatomic Sound System & Jahdan Blakkamoore "Blackboard Jungle" (Subatomic Sound, 12")

That cast list brings back fond memories of overlong artist collaboration names, our favourite from childhood always being Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force. We like the "meet", too: so much more convivial than "with", "featuring" or the overused "vs"...

The tune here, "Respect The Foundation", is a rehash of Perry & King Tubby's "Blackboard Jungle" meisterwerk, but an immaculate rehash curated exquisitely by Austrians Dubblestandart, the guardians of modern dub who wowed our little minds with their single with Ari Up not too far back, and New York co-conspirators Subatomic Sound System, with Scratch - due back at Camden's Jazz Cafe soon - returning to join the newly-surnamed Blakkamoore (only THE Jahdan, who wrought such damage with Team Shadetek on "Brooklyn Anthem", remember ?) on the mic. Very very fine.

55. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart "Young Adult Friction" (Fortuna Pop! / Slumberland, 7")

Few bands have added so much wordage to the indiepop blogosphere of late, but regardless of the debates last autumn as to whether "Higher Than The Stars" saw them upping their game or starting to fall off, we'll always be in their debt for the two London shows they gave us in their first ever week in the United Kingdom. And, of course, for a slew of fabulous singles like this one, the green vinyl number from their primary colours collection that tackles library-related "romance" with the charming vim we've come to expect from the Pains. And as we may make plainer anon, we thought Archie Moore and the band did a sterling job with the production on the sessions that yielded "YAF", even if it's been decried in some quarters of said blogosphere...

56. Salvo "The Info" (King Kong Holding Company, 7")

"Sal is joined by the instantly-recognisable voices of relative heavyweights Kashmere and our local heroes Taskforce's own Chester P. Jehst has a hand in the production, which is still likeably rough, this really being a record about showing off the respective verses of the rappers on board. Nice."

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57. Ital Tek "Mako" (Atom River, 12")

Seductive, futurist sounds that we tracked down in Phonica from South Coast one-man mood merchant Ital Tek (seemingly aka iTAL tEK, which is very bIG*fLAME), this time on his own label, seeing him gently introduce Joker-type influences to the ghostly clicks of prev single "Massive Error" to create an intensely urban dreamscape of gnarly nr-funk synth, and chord changes so sweet you could kiss them.

58. Dap-C featuring L'il Wayne "Ma Money" (NGU Records / Hip Hop Village, download)

"We'd been at least 3/4-expecting the much-trailed Dap-C / L'il Wayne collaboration to be a trainwreck, but it's really very far from that: whatever Wayne got paid was worth it... the man from New Orleans properly turns up, with both Talib Kweli (another neat guest spot, following on from "We Gets It In" on Craig and Marl's "Operation Take Back") and old-stager and metric martyr Royce Da 5' 9" in tow... the beauty of (homestyler) Quincey Tones' vaguely serene, unflashy string-laden backing is that it just lets each MC concentrate on limbering up their larynxes: there are no attempts to interact, and the five minutes, entirely free of wack chorus lines or wholesale Kanye-style song steals, goes by shockingly fast. It shouldn't work, of course it shouldn't, but it really does."

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59. Standard Fare / Slow Down Tallahassee split (Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation, 7")

It's been some year for Standard Fare, but their song here, "Dancing" helps demonstrate why: 'tis clever, cute and catchy yet also angular, interesting and thoughtful. Something about its stripped-down, faintly minimalist dynamic and the group's dew-dripping promise and makes us think of Young Marble Giants, a thought which not too many bands are capable of eliciting. But there's ever a downside for whatever poor sods end up on a split single with a band as aflame as Standard Fare, because they're on a hiding to nothing, even when they get two tracks ("Angel Of Death", which could never deliver on the promise that famous title conjures up, and "Tricks"). Taxi for Slow Down Tallahassee, then.

60. Giant "Drumstick" (Hench, 12")

Demonstrating that there's even more to St. Petersburg's popular culture than the considerable joys of Pitergrind (or that brilliant veggie cafe named after Dostoevsky's The Idiot where they serve their Baltika with ice cold Standard vodka), Russian collective Giant launched this salvo via Jakes' label, Hench. "Drumstick" might be dismissed as merely yr standard wobblestep lurcher, were it not for the fact that it's painted in parts with shades of skank and others with wailing Sino-synth, giving you a little more for your £5.99 or so.

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61. Seven "Drop" (Aquatic Lab, 12")

A darkside 12" from early in the year on Australia's Aquatic Lab, though it's Englishman (we think) Seven spinning stolen D&B tumble amongst the battalions of indelicately fluttering deep-end bass that threaten to unseat your speakers as it rotates. Would have been even better at a minute or two shorter, mind.

62. Glenn Wilson "Another Corner" EP (Equator, download)

Every year needs a signature house-influenced funky techno track *that isn't rubbish*, and for 2009 Glenn's "Coursing Hares" is it. It's part of a tryptych of varied instrumentals: lead track "Mechanics", despite bristling with trademark Wilson elasticity, electricity and elegance, is probably the weakest, whereas "Outdoors" goes back to basics for the kind of intricate yet uncompromising many-BPM pounding that we so routinely fall for. A further reminder that Sweden is more than pulling its weight at the moment, in so many different musical genres.

63. Obituary "Blood To Give" (Tanglade, download)

A slithering beauty ("the quirky single "Blood To Give", a semi-experimental nu-grunge drone with at least three drum-only sections, which we like to imagine as a riff on the Field Mice's "Alone Forever"") from their snarlingly consistent metal-grunge "Darkest Day" album, of which more in here.

64. The Parallelograms "Dream On Daisy" (Cloudberry Records, 7")

First time we heard this, there was a sense of underwhelment in the room, but luckily that was easily cured by spinning it again, and again and again. The final flourish from those excellent Parallelograms (past moonlighters as Fucking Rosehips) is actually a winning 3-track EP in winning Scott C. sleeve, topped by this title track that melds the anorak armoury of thudding bass, jangly guitars and minimalist skin-bashing and threads them into a bathetic little story. Parental advisory: contains TWEE HANDCLAPS. And a GLOCKENSPIEL SOLO.

65. Joker / Pinch & Moving Ninja / Peverelist "Tectonic Plates 2.4" (Tectonic, 12")

"a three-tracker twelve in the series from Pinch's own label Tectonic which starts with Joker's intriguingly-titled (or should that be untitled) "Untitled-rsn". A little less disposable than the Sino stylings of his "Digidesign" 12", it buzzes neatly with pitch-bend and rattling glitch (ooh, new genre alert: viva "glitch-bend"). Moving Ninja and the label honch's joint venture "False Flag" is a different kettle altogether: its charms are virtually imperceptible until about three minutes in, but then a switch is THROWN: Mr Ellis seems to have some left-over robot spiders clinking around in the mix, and there's also space for a nice woodpecker-like rat-a-tat-tat sound as it grinds to conclusion. Finally, as we always said, Peverelist's "Junktion" was the true star of his "Infinity Is Now" 12", and here it gets a pretty comprehensive "Shed" refix, evolving into a chiming, neoclassical workout (whatever speed you play it at)."

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66. Camera Obscura "French Navy" (4AD, 7")

People seem to have this idea that we're not into Camera Obscura, but that's nonsense. Yes, if we're trapped in a room full of frothing-at-the-mouth Camera Obscura disciples then we'll slag them off, but that's just because we're contrary bastards, suspicious of consensus: in reality, they make some great songs and for sweet, melodic, retro charm you never need look too much further. And to think people said they were only a Belle & Sebastian rip-off (they did originally, honestly).

True, it seems that we don't like "French Navy" as much as we liked numbers 1 to 65, but in a world of 6 billion people and nearly as many single releases, that's a pretty minor thing. Of their 2009 singles "French Navy", for our money, just outpaces "The Sweetest Thing" for all-round loveliness: the verses are a touch rope, but the string and brass arrangements, employed just lightly enough, are the best since Chas Hodges'.

67. Hellbastard "Eco-War" (Selfmadegod, CD-EP)

If you'd told us at the start of 2009 that Hellbastard would be releasing a new EP (and album) then while you were still rubbing our lipstick from your bemused smacker we'd have been no doubt forcefully expressing the view that said records would end up right at the top of these our interminable annual "best ofs" a year later. In truth, neither "Eco-War" nor catchily-named longplayer "The Need To Kill... Rage, Murder, Revenge & Retaliations: The Rise Of The Working Classes" quite met our heady expectations, but they were still confident, capable, technical, clinical, angry, dense, oozingly ambitious and occasionally intriguing.

"Eco-War", a five tracker, springs to life properly with the anti-whaling "Sea Shepherd" but peaks, probably not intentionally, with "Massacre", a re-recording of a tune initially demoed by the band back in 1986. There is time before closing for a cover of Slayer's "Die By The Sword", and then a pointless skit, but it's the chunky proto-crust of "Massacre" that best displays Hellbastard's original charm.

68. Raekwon "The New Wu" (Ice H2O, download)

We very nearly OFFICIALLY gave up on Wu-Tang after the aberration that was "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". But actually, we need them more than ever in the continuing war on mainstream rap wackness, and Raekwon's "Yes Sir", "Real Shit" and "The New Wu" all contributed to the war effort. "The New Wu", in comparison to a few of the big hitters on "Only Built For Cuban Linx" revisited, has a slovenly chorus and over-samples a slightly gooey harmony motif, but with R, Method Man and Ghostface on the mic it's still enough to make you go back to your Wu collection. Which can only be a positive outcome.

69. MRK-1 "Magnetic Device" (Earwax, 12")

Hide away your iron filings. Second best single of the year with the word "magnetic" in its title, this is a chunky-as-Yorkie slab of snare, kick and lurching synth that couches the beats in a distinctly radioactive ReadyBrek glow, even as they pound away at you uncompromisingly in the vein of Distance's "Victim Support". (Maths fact: the B-side of this bears the desperately unoriginal title "Revolution 909", making it by our estimation precisely the 909th song to do so. He probably gets a prize).

70. Cause Co-Motion! "Because Because Because" (Slumberland, 12")

"[This] 12" on Slumberland from the increasingly splendid Cause Co-Motion! is a carefully-ordained shambles, more of that Messthetics vs early-14IB thang, the six tracks peaking with side two's frantically-drummed but *um.... special* "Leave It All" and somehow rather heartbreaking closer "You Lose" ("You never win / oh no / And get jealous / Oh yeah / And then you lose..."). No tune longer than two minutes odd, either, which is absolutely as it should be."

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71. Boa Constrictor / The Cavalcade split EP (Cloudberry Records, 3" CD-R)

"It is forever the destiny of Swedish bands, whatever the genre, to be somewhat taken for granted: had Comet Gain released BC's "Out Of Nothing" on the back of "Casino Classics" it would have been hailed as garret-room genius, but Boa Constrictor will remain relatively uncelebrated because they're not British, and are possibly sober. Brits the Cavalcade, on the other hand (who ironically sound a little like they might be from Sweden, but actually hail from Preston) take us back to the days of sweet jangling, days we occasionally hanker for... "Meet You In The Rain" has the kind of twinkly late-80s charm that makes you wish it had been issued on cassette."

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72. Jaydan "Suicide" (Propaganda Recordings, 12")

"While this is barely the sublime stuff of '08's sugary house reinvention "What U Want", Jamie Cope is making a compelling case for joining Speech Ferapy and MJ Hibbett on the podium as Officially Leicester's Finest, and while on first listen quite sober and contained for something of its ilk, "Suicide" is actually deceptively frenetic. And intensely rewarding."

Can't imagine what we were thinking of when we described this as "sober and contained" on any level - must have been the drugs talking. S'pose "Suicide" is more restrained than its predecessor single "King Of Miami" to the extent it doesn't have sirens on it, but then you can recreate the sirens simply enough by listening to this while walking down the Holloway Road. Even on the rare days when Pete Doherty isn't up before Highbury Corner magistrates.

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73. Nicol & Majistrate "Pussy" Killa" (Chronic, 12")

Uncompromisingly agricultural - imagine Devon White and Peter Swan scrapping for a high ball at Twerton (a sight we've witnessed) - "Killa" is another pick from '09's drum n'bass crop, happily and indulgently repetitive as only true floorfillers can be. If only these two were as ubiquitous as David Guetta et al, properly visceral dance music might have a future.

74. I, Ludicrous "We're The Support Band" (Old King Lud, download)

Only seven years since first appearing (on the Bull & Gate comp "The Mercy Killing Of Tarantula Pie") hardy perennial "We're The Support Band" becomes I, L's first digital single, and in a year without an official Fall release it is especially welcome. Listening to "Support Band" is like revisiting an old pub haunt (or, indeed, the B&G, Ludicrous' spiritual home) to find the same drunks still reliably rolling around the bar: it's still scratchy, rough and dronily out-of-tune, a conscious echo of the draining support bands it parodies, but saved by Will Hung's defiant tones ("we go on and on and on and on and on") that perfectly match the Fallish repetition of its lone chords ("the riff's second-hand, we go from the Damned"). Silk purses from sow's ears, and all that.

75. Concrete DJz "Generator EP" (Mastertraxx, 12")

First white-labelled in late '08, this four tracker saw official release this time last year via Mastertraxx. We'd still pick out "Solid State Refills" - "a kind of driving "Limehouse Green"-style cut with female vocal yelp and back-of-the-mix feedback - that we keep coming back to".

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76. Paul Langley and Jamie Bissmire "Clash Of The Titans" (50 Hz, download)

More feverish than "Generator", this vehicle for former hip hop head Langley and ex-Bandulu geezer Bissmire was apparently a "fuzzy-minimalist jack-techery fest", whatever the hell that is. More spookily, this is the only tune that we've ever paid to download only for it to spontaneously self-combust a few weeks later: if the major labels ever get hold of that kind of technology, you can be sure they'll be using it to screw us. A passing wizard reckons that the original song actually came out about a decade ago, but as we've done all the voting now it's probably too late to sort that.

77. Morrissey "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" (Polydor)

I know, Morrissey. How out of touch we are, eh, when everyone else is down with Taio Cruz or Ironik or the various bands with Cats in their name who we just don't get, and we're still finding slivers of joy in the ongoing noodling of a star whose best work was behind him by the time he was 25...

Mozza has now had 37 solo singles chart in the UK. And the vast majority of them, on release, struck us only as ripples from a pond: we think, "oh, that's ok, a bit Morrissey-by-numbers though, lacks a hook, could do with less lead and more froth". But then, five or ten years later we re-listen to a batch of said singles and think, "you know, that wasn't so bad: a bit understated, but listen to that *voice*, and compare that single with the clunking rubbishness of the other big "indie" players of the time..." and even now there are probably only five or ten of the 37 that we wouldn't happily return to.

So yes, this single is ok, a bit Morrissey-by-numbers, lacks a hook, could do with less lead and more froth, doesn't even have the muscle and defiant charm that initially attracted us to his previous 45, fellow "Years Of Refusal" cut "All You Need Is Me". But that doesn't stop it also being a rather cute, whimsical, winsome distraction, welcomely understated musically (almost jangle-pop in construction). And we're likely to enjoy it anew in a few years time, when another volume of the man's greatest hits is spat off the production line by one of the million record labels he's now loved and lost.

78. Mutated Forms "Coppers" (Zombie, 12")

"Mutated Forms are never going to be winning artistic plaudits for their rustically straightforward drum and bass outings, and "Coppers", a single on Zombie, will not be catapulting them any closer to an Ivor Novello award. However, after the obligatory student-friendly speech sample, they sensibly get on with raising the roof with some no-nonsense jump-up which is about as subtle as a night out with England's under-21s."

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79. Signed Papercuts "Of My Heart" (Cloudberry Records, 7")

"Took a while, but its pained-boy and plaintive-girl voices help unfold a shimmering kind of very trebly half-Sarah, half-shoegaze brittle beauty, especially in its last, more fevered, minute where the extra rush sounds like the noisier bits from Aberdeen's "Byron" EP (or that bit off Je Suis Animal's "Secret Place"). Still torn as to whether or not this would have benefited or lost out from better production, but we're definitely in favour of the way both singers stretch so hard to reach the high notes. They damn nearly pull it off, too."

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80. Butcher Boy "A Better Ghost" (How Does It Feel ?, download)

"A smoochable track with that... cultured, melodic, sauntering, breezy Hermit Crabs / Math & Physics feel..." Have a dim feeling we were meant to have seen this lot at the Luminaire, but it's been a kind of hectic year. "A Better Ghost", of course, was one of the jinking standouts on their "React Or Die" album: few records went better with the twelve days of Christmas and a roaring fire.

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81. DJ Honda featuring Problemz "The Big Payback" (DJ Honda Recordings, download)

"Excellent... [Problemz] slaps rhymes against a nicely loose backing track without ever sounding that he's having to try too hard. It's confident, poetic and knowing."

Best of a few decent singles lifted from the pair's "All Killa No Filla" album collabo, which also included "Give It Up" and "NY/NY", Problemz having finally reached the front of the queue to spearhead the legend Honda's funk-flecked downtown grooves. The two would pair up later in the year for "That Knock", a cut from "Honda IV" that also became DJH's 93rd single (approx.) of the year.

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82. Living With Disfigurement "Thrill To The Terror Of Death!" (self-released CD EP)

London trio LWD delivering a four track EP of high and low end vocal (the low works best) over grudgingly Carcass-like guitar buzz, perhaps peaking with final track "Preserving The Guinea Worm" and its positively thunderous looped riff, although you may also have heard the snappily-named "Better Living Through Surgery" on a Fear Candy earlier in the year.

83. 'Allo Darlin' "Henry Rollins Don't Dance" (Wee Pop!, 7")

"intelligent, sassy, witty, tuneful - so what's not to like ? ... AD do this kind of faintly whimsical but many-carat indie-pop thing so much better than most, plus they're the only band with an apostrophe at both the start and the end, which must count for something."

84. KRS-1 with Buckshot "Robot" (Duck Down Records, download)

KRS always tells the truth, so the issue is usually how well he spits and where on the spectrum the beats are at: the answers, as is usual with Kris these days, are (a) quite well; and (b) OK, but nothing to write home over. Lyrically things are fine of course, "Robot" being a KRS-subtle (i.e. not subtle) dis of auto-tune hip-hop that benefits from his evident disbelief at how far the game has shifted and the lack of respect for its past: "Go online, look up Kraftwerk / everything we doing is past work" and a plaintive "we started breaking / so we could stop fighting". Since capitalism tamed hip-hop, nobody will pay him a blind bit of attention, mind.

"Robot" is actually produced by none other than Mobb Deep's Havoc, and it's fair to say you should take it over H's own "H Is Back" single, later in the year.

85. Shirley Lee "The Smack Of The Pavement In Your Face" (hitBACK, download)

A typically complete effort from one of pop's most unjustly unlauded songwriters: "dead romantic... slowly entwines its path into your affections".

86. Wake The President / Je Suis Animal split (Electric Honey / Lucky Number Nine, 7")

"The sprightly and in places frankly irresistible "Miss Tierney"... mingles the brash beauteousness of Felt with some Sarah-ish jangle and only intermittently annoying vocals."

The Je Suis track is the discomfitingly Stereolab-ish "Fortune Map", but "Miss Tierney", saucy and ebullient, is still the belle of the ball.

87. Richgirl "He Ain't With Me Now (Tho)" (RCA / Jive, download)

Does the world really need another Destiny's Child ? Our inclination would be that yes, it probably does, and "He Ain't With Me" brought Richgirl a step forward from their earlier "24s" single, without Bun B to mess it up. The last time we derived such innocent happiness from such a mainstream R&B sheen was when bigging up Mis-Teeq a few years back: but, you know, it's kinda nice to be in that place again.

This was the first time we gave money to the Sony group this year.

88. Anjay "Stimulation EP" (Circulate Recordings, download)

Anjay's style can sometimes veer into somewhat vanilla techno and in large doses wash over you somewhat, but we'd rather that than the dated rave lookbacks that still seem to infect every other Stay Up Forever release, say. On this neat little EP, the rhythm-centric "Earth Mover" picks up where "Old Thought" from "Mechanical" left off, but it's the title-ish track "Maximum Stimulation" that humours us the most: rippling metallic synths patterned around the usual floor-humping percussion.

89. S.Kalibre "Spitrapture" (self-released, download EP)

A couple of usual suspects aside, it has not been the rosiest of years for UKHH, but as we've said before true-to-the-game g-rhymer S.Kalibre is one man who can always be relied upon to *bring it*, and "Spitrapture" is a useful six-track reminder of the Medway man's gruff but effortless mastery of Estuary flow, even if he is unencumbered here by too many beats of truly high quality. You can buy it here, along with the later, down-to-earth, and surprisingly touching "Oh Girl" single...

90. Strawberry Whiplash "Picture Perfect" (Matinee Recordings, CD single)

Styled and arranged quite beautifully, still this latest single from Strawberry Whiplash didn't quite charm us as it should - as we wanted it to - despite ringing catchiness aplenty and oodles of loving layered 12-string. Like Bubblegum Lemonade's "Doubleplusgood" album, there's almost something a little too um, picture perfect about a song which might profit from a little more scruffy charm. Perhaps this is the indiepop equivalent of watching the Islington Arsenal: you find yourself admiring the silkiness of the build-up play but end up wondering guiltily whether the Professor might profit from getting someone just to hoof the pig's bladder into the six-yard box once in a while.

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91. Korpiklaani "Vodka" (Nuclear Blast, 7")

"not entirely sure whether this is so-bad-it's-good, actually bad, or actually good, but the fact it puts a smile on our face every time probably justifies you making that call for yourself. ... for three minutes "Vodka" is nearly as wonderful as weird, the latest inheritor of the mantle of "All The Young Children On Crack" or maybe "The Message Is Love"."

Yep, a truly bizarre piece of beerhall whimsy: even Milking The Goatmachine, on Nuclear Blast's somewhat wilfully "irreverent" Anstalt sublabel, have nothing on this. A gift for late-night drinking games, too.

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92. Very Truly Yours / The Understudies split EP (Cloudberry Records, 3" CD-R)

"A brace on a Cloudberry's new line, the fluffed-up pillows of pop loveliness that are their "800" series), with "Popsong '91" shining the brightest, as it veritably Melbergs-up some 'UK 80s-90s' Brit(indie)pop stylings."

And the unashamed "Popsong '91" is for us still the pick of the pops on this the first of Cloudberry's 4-track CDR splits, all of which yielded at least one fantabulous discovery, and a couple of which outdid even their cousins on proper Cloudberry sevens.

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93. JME "Over Me" (Boy Better Know, download)

The first three or four seconds of this prompt a deep intake of breath - a concern that despite the thoughtfulness of last year's "Famous ?" set, JME is about to join ex-grime compadres Dizzee, Tinchy and Chip Diddy in their tame acquiescence to THE MAN and launch into some trancey crossover nonsense with LibDem pseudo-grime verses aimed at alcopop-swigging thirteen year olds. But as soon as the fractured, gloopy, oh-so-grime click beat comes in, together with Jamie's reassuring London conversational, yr fears are assuaged. What follows is two minutes of sharp rhymes, each ending in the same two syllables, followed by a short instrumental section that at one point goes all "Everything's Gone Green" on us. Nice to have you back, J.

94. Anjay "Mechanical" (Dark Crank, download)

"It's rare for a techno EP to exactly overflow with strong tracks, but three or four of the numbers here from the Polish stalwart would qualify as own-right singles... "Old Thought" rides a rolling drum intro before animating a Shredder-like groove, focussing heavily on rhythm rather than the sonics, and "Steel Emotions" by contrast is built around hovering, minimal blippery (the K-Tech remix of it is a little slower and less austere, stripping the joy from it rather), "Mechanical Brain", the title track of sorts, may be the best of all worlds as it starts off being all about the beats, but some neat blippery then ensues."

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95. Ryuji Takeuchi "The Fixer" (Hardsignal, download)

Slightly surprised that this one sneaked in, but not unhappy: the techno veteran continues to churn out less-than-forgiving poundings like this that remind us of the better hidings administered to our ears by Mr Wittekind & co in recent years. It would be lovely to think that one day someone would dare drop this at Feeling Gloomy or Club de Fromage, emptying out the N1 Centre in the process. We like to watch those students run.

96. Ikonika "Smuck" (Planet Mu, 12")

Original if kooky vinyl outing from the ever-exploring creator of '08's "Millie" and "Please", looped around playful, erratic jumpstarted synth tones, that starts to seriously warp into pleasingly atonal grooves a half-minute or so in. (We really longed to get into its much-touted follow-up on Hyperdub, "Sahara Michael" - not least because it has such a pretty sleeve AND the title sounds a bit like Shalawambe's "Samora Machel" - but in the end it was more a record to admire than reload).

97. 2562 "Embrace" (3024, 12")

I was once forced to endure Embrace's grisly stadium ballad "Gravity" whilst being driven around the Clarkson-friendly twisting roads of the Italian mountainside (unsurprisingly the same landscape from where Mr. Disposable Razors had his watch hewn). The choice between bearing "Gravity"'s hollow platitudes for a few more minutes and jumping out of the passenger door to certain death was one of the hardest I've ever had, and I'm still not sure I got it right given the mental scars driven foursquare into my cerebellum by their plodding, "epic" landfill indie. Apart from the choice of title, however, everything about this single is as pristine as that mountain scenery, as past Tectonic heavy-hitter 2562 scatters warming sprinkles of rushing synth and welcoming pastoral dubstep over carefully layered percussion.

98. Tippa Irie "Bad Boy" (African Beat, download)

"Riding a surprisingly old-fashioned roots rhythm, TI obviously hasn't forgotten how powerful reggae can be as a means of channelling a powerful political message (after all, the roots of "Bad Boy"'s sentiment can be heard more than thirty years ago in "Stop The Fussing And Fighting"). He also manages to mention de Niro and Pacino in the chorus without going the whole hog and rhyming them, for which we're grateful."

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99. Oxmo Puccino "365 Jours" (Cinq 7, download)

"almost-impossibly laid back... casually but brilliantly unfurls over lizard lounge backing until the man is close to comatose, merely whispering sweet nothings into the mix while Hood-like violins collide with jazz vibes to fade."

Actually, just noticed that in this 51 to 99 we've visited England, Scotland, the US, Sweden, Austria, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Holland, Estonia, Finland, Japan (via a couple of exiles, admittedly): now we're in France, we'd like to take this opportunity to dedicate "365 Jours" to Thierry Henry.

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100. Pale Man Made / Leaving Mornington Crescent split (Cloudberry Records, 3" CD-R)

"In 2009, pleasingly, there are no longer severe strictures against sounding honourably indie, and so PMM's Weddoes-Pavement churn makes them one of the best of the new Cloudberry crop for us, especially the way that "In Your Bed" sounds like a meld of a young Andrew Jarrett and the first Candy Darlings single..."

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1 comment:

Subato said...

Thanks. It feels good to be #54. Make sure to check out the accompanying video doc that went along with the 12" vinyl: "Lee Scratch Perry's Blackboard Jungle: From dub to Dubstep" on YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_82ZMRnU0U