Sunday, January 31, 2010

The best singles of 2009

As you know, we were hoping that 2009 was going to prove a terrible year for music and making it less demanding on our time and purse, but unfortunately it was once again a *brilliant* year. Especially for singles, as the forest of verbiage below might just testify. (You can compare with our top hundreds from '08 and '07, if bloodyminded enough: and our albums of 2009 are still skulking around here.)

In his earnest, histroy-suffused, occasionally maddeningly technical but fabulous book "The Rest Is Noise", Alex Ross quotes Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, no less, as saying: "I can't listen to music too often. It affects your nerves, makes you want to say stupid nice things, and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell."

We can't help feeling there's a truth in there, reflected in part by the name of our fanzine and the thrall to music, new and old, we just can't shake. It's why, whether we're writing about it or not, whether consuming it or not, we'll always be listening to it.

* * * * *

1. The Wild Swans "English Electric Lightning" (Occultation, 10")

Swans' triumphant return shows quality of Mersey

"After a 20 year exodus these Swans have returned and with this wonderful, wonderful single, lovingly packaged on deluxe 10" ... Swan-in-chief Paul Simpson is hardly the first singer from the last couple of generations to put together a song about England at once wistful and defiant, nostalgic and modern, plaintive and sad, but this one ticks all the boxes, helped immensely by the way it builds, the deft piano and touches like the unexpected backing vocals, all topped off by Simpson's elegant yet distinctly vulnerable voice. Flip it over and you get the remarkable poem "The Coldest Winter In A Hundred Years", where Simpson, backed by swells and trills of guitar, piano and brush, fills in the uninitiated (us) on some of the prehistory to the Wild Swans' beginnings. An unexpected, but complete, treat."

And, y'know, I don't want to drag the Swans into our personal politicking, but another reason this song is king of our year is the way that it captures the same essential feeling of Englishness that many of us have: not proud, not ashamed, just *aware* of the good, the bad, the new, the old, the changing. "English Electric Lightning"'s beauty, evenhandedness and intelligence is - to us - a riposte to those clowns who insist on defining Englishness (or indeed Britishness) only as a sense of unruly entitlement, as something in yer face, aggressive, superior, backwards-looking, a one-way street leading inexorably into the gutter. We all know who they are.

PS: Like our buses, it seems that two quintessential and brutally honest observations of this "Englishness" thing have come at once: please do take time to get hold of Hulaboy's "The English Mindset" (from their "Scottish Gentlemen of Speed" EP, on split 12" vinyl with Tunabunny on 555) which comes at the subject from a different angle and on a lower budget, but with nearly as much veritas and grace.


2. Rakim "Holy Are You" (SMC Recordings, download)

He came back to bless the mic

In common with "English Electric Lightning", a near-perfect comeback single.

"*gorgeous*, honestly. We wait a full 45 seconds of looped sample scene-setting before Rakim starts to flow, but when we do it's as mellifluous, as *captivating* as ever. And although the beats nod slightly, unavoidably, towards hip-hop's 21st century, there's no Autotune, no Akon chipmunking, no godforsaken backing wail, no bolt-on chorus to screw up the serenity of his thoughts: only brief, crackling sampled piano and the sung words (yep, sampled from the Electric Prunes) of the record's title. Indeed, the track is sufficiently, satisfyingly old-school that even Mr Farrakhan gets a mention. But the key, as ever, is the flow, some of which made us double-take: "Walk on water ? / No, neither did Jesus / It's a parable to make followers and readers believers". Or this: "we were children of the most high, so we fell / from paradise to holy hell / probably descendants of the Holy Grail / another part of history they won't reveal..." before it ends, with the inevitable sign-off: "Rakim Allah. Peace". And it's hard not to feel, every time you listen to the R, that you haven't, in some small way, been blessed."

And if only Eric B had been, um, "on the cut", this would have probably sneaked up that one place further. "The Seventh Seal", while delayed nearly as long as "How To Look Imploring", is not nearly as bad an album as many would have you believe - any LP that gets slated by Pitchfork and Popmatters must have something to commend it, and Rakim's cuss-free flow (isn't it refreshing to buy a hip-hop CD without a parental advisory sticker ?) still shines way above the rather less inspired backing - but it's fair to day that "Holy" proved to be its peak. *Do not* let the lukewarm reception to "The Seventh Seal" stop you copping this single.


3. The Declining Winter "Haunt The Upper Hallways" (Home Assembly Music, 7")

Pastoral symphony oozes Adams family values

"This is indeed haunting, luxurious, kind of softly spellbinding, its opening flickers of feedback building into a sweep of fluttering drums, polite guitar and languid violins suggesting falling leaves and early dusks, eventually joined by vocals from richard adams... that suck the moisture from the air one syllable at a time ("the / rain / came / down") and send the most exquisite shivers down your spine... the latest chapter in the history of hood and post-hood classic singles... this record is wonderfully *easy* to fall for: yes it soothes, it intrigues, yet it's far from an ambient haze, propelled along as it is by the kind of footsteps-on-forest-floor rhythms that have decorated hood tunes for the best part of one score years."

Cleverly came as a 7" packaged with a ten-track CD, allowing this stunning song to make its mark as a single in the Hood tradition, but also allowing you the luxury of delving into the CD's many instrumental fragments for a more measured taste of the Winter's honeyed healing powers.


4. Looking For An Answer "La Caceria" (Relapse, 7")

Thrill of "The Chase"

Yes, yes, YES, as Peelie used to say while a closing chord faded into flitting, fleeting feedback. We've had the back of Madrid veg-core fiends LFAA for a while now, so couldn't be happier that Relapse have now put their hands across the Atlantic to ensnare them for a 7" and album deal. This 4-track EP @ 45 rpm shows they've lost none of the 89/90-Napalm vigour of past outings (two of which, incidentally, the brilliant "Rupture" and "Humans Are Also Meat", recently resurfaced on a Spain Kills comp) with four tracks of burningly danceable, almost Terrorizer-like, grind. "Estandarte De Huesos" and "Supremacia Etica" on the A side and "La Peste Roja" on the B mix up blastbeats, breakdowns and moshery with uncommon vigour: the final song is a cover, no less, of Repulsion's "Driven To Insanity", presumably to give LFAA an 'in' to their new potential non-European fanbase, but it's the three originals which stoke our fire, float our boat, run the ensign up our flagpole etc etc. You can tell it's a good year for singles when this is only #4, and it's about time animal liberation got a soundtrack this vital: tbh, "La Caceria" may be the best grindcore 7" since "Mentally Murdered" / "Cause And Effect" all those moons ago.

PS it's limited to about 600, which is insane.

5. Endemic and Cappo "The Needle Drop EP" (No Cure Records, 12")

Notts so manic now

Just as in 2008, Cappo turns up on a 12" banger towards the year-end and raps his way straight into contention: this time, it's another Nottingham producer - Endemic, rather than Styly Cee - who's made it all happen. This record came out on 15th December, escaping every year-end list that wasn't made by dilettantes like us, and unaccountably being squeezed out of the race to the UK number one spot for Christmas. As Xmas pressies go, though, it rules.

Ultimately "Needle Drop" is Endemic's record, and he delivers swooning, heavily string-laden beats in the style of an English RZA that ebb and flow to match the virtuosity of Caps and his guests. As Endemic's partner in crime on this occasion, Cappo provides all the vocals for the intro, the jump-off title track and side B cut "Crumbs", but is also joined by Londoners Cyrus Malachi and Iron Braydz (on "Hacksaw") and Cyrus & Iron plus his fellow Notts rhymers Lee Ramsay and Scorzayzee*, no less, on "Eagles", where Endemic switches mood dramatically to provide some piano-backed, more furiously discombob beats, daring each MC to raise his game to compete. (The seven-tracker is rounded off by the contrasting instrumentals of "Eagles" and "Needle Drop"). Not unlike a certain Rakim, Cappo's style now is very much *rise above*, and without ever losing his trademark hunger and aggression he shows off once more the expanded vocabulary, mystical leanings and scientific metaphors that keep him heads, shoulders, knees and toes above pretty much anyone left repping the UK right now. Fantastic stuff.

*You may have come across Scorz more recently via his featuring in Shane Meadows' latest movie, but don't be fooled: the man is no joke (and the Arctic Monkeys should be supporting him). Listen to hall of fame cuts like "Voyage", "Want What's Yours" or "Why I'm Here" before you even dare tell us the man can't flow.

6. Starkey "Miracles (Jamie Vex'd Remix)" (Planet Mu, 12")

American dubstep steps out from the shadows

"Jamie out of Vex'd takes on "Miracles", from Philly resident Starkey's "Ephemeral Exhibits" LP last year, and with a remix burning with the same cinematic vigour that informed his own "In System Transit" 12", he helps bring the original out into the open, all spooked-out edits curling up to cuddle fabulously warm, disembodied vocals."

Since "Untrue", an increasing number of people have been picking up on how the best instrumental tunes really can conjure up depth and emotion, far less cynically and cheaply than many a sung "I love you". (The worst can drain your pocket and your patience, but that's another story). "Miracles" is unpretentious, but a real pepper-upper: a sleek, modern soundtrack for the journey home from the office that can make you breathe contented smiles just as readily and surely as it makes your head nod.


7. DJ Honda featuring Mos Def "Magnetic Arts" (DJ Honda Recordings, download)

Exquisitely cut diamond that might remind you why you loved hip-hop in the first place

"This is peaches and cream... DJH, following his long-player with fellow local Problemz, is here limbering up for his next showcase album ("IV"), and the multifaceted, too-often inconsistent yet still underrated Mos Def deigns to join him for some horn-happy, full-on, no flagging old-of-skool dextro-freestyling that is over waaay too quickly (not even three minutes on the clock)."

Mos watchers will point out that half the lyrics are nicked from "Casa Bey", as if that's a bad thing. Here's a worrying precedent, though - a few months after issuing the single as reviewed, Honda issues an "extended" (four minutes not three) versh as another single, meaning that if like us you're a sucker, you have to buy it again (because the four minute version is indeed one-third more ace).


8. Raffertie "Antisocial" (Seclusiasis, 12")

In which Caspa and Rusko frankly get OWNED

""Wobble Horror!" gained a few broadsheet plaudits, but "Antisocial" is much more interesting: two enormous bouts of big-city wobble from Birmingham's up-and-coming earl of crunk-step which surround a subdued, ambient halfstep middle while themselves being bookended by busy, vocal sample cuts that sound not unlike that "Miracles" remix again."

Yes, interesting. It is possible, and sometimes even scene darlings are scene darlings for a reason. "Antisocial", like "Miracles", speaks a different vocabulary than the Wild Swans or Rakim, but still one that delivers a cosy glow, albeit through the medium of a wobblefest in several distinct parts that's in patches urgent, in others chilled to oblivion. As such, it reminds us a little of the Fall's marvellous, and so overlooked, wonky epic "Chiselers".


9. Kryptic Minds "Life Continuum" (Osiris Music, 12")

DS arrivistes effortlessly secure their place in its first XI

They may have emigrated from the very different world of drum and bass, but Kryptic Minds seem to have effortlessly adapted to dubstep's more gently yielding textures. The Minds' Simon Shreeve is a true music man: someone in it for the right reasons, whose work is always thoughtful, even if this means having to give it the very un-2009 luxury of several spins before the true rewards are revealed. "Life Continuum" is a gently pulsing, bass-led groove, the needle tracing the subtlest dark-of-step signatures while revealing hidden depths and subtexts one listen at at time. And like their Tectonic single "768", this is not on their ripplingly gorge "One Of Us" album, which means that's now three Kryptic Minds releases we urge you to investigate.

10. Socialist Leisure Party "Turktown Saints" (Cloudberry Records, 7")

Return of a couple of Action Painting! peeps with irresistible POP! single

"The swashbuckling debut(ish) of Socialist Leisure Party... a song that just floats along, giddily semi-drunk on a layered combo of fluttering rhythms and breezy flute motifs, but never lacking energy or pace."

This was the point for us at which the Cloudberry project eventually gathered (we hope) unstoppable momentum... our joy at this record confined only by later going on holiday at the precise moment SLP were playing in London (them and Insect Warfare, in the same week GRRRR). The way that "Turktown Saints" cheekily rushes by gives the same inward glow we had when we first got "These Things Happen" home from the record store, a feeling that - like our first taste of tens of Sarah singles - hasn't evaporated to this day.

Can't recall if we mentioned this before, but "Vulnerable Adults" on the other side was very nearly as good, you know: rare to see a song so catchy squirreled away on a B-side, but it's a further treat that does rather make this single a *must-buy*.


OK. We outta here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The best singles of 2009: 11-20

11. The Faintest Ideas "Procrastination of Every Day Tasks" (Slumberland, 7")

As you will appreciate, "Procrastination..." is actually a mere one-third of this excellent 7"-diameter disc (Slumberland's "Searching For The Now volume 5"), teamed with two other landmark songs in Liechtenstein's dreamy "This Must Be Heaven" and the Faintests' own, more plangent "You're Gonna Wake Up One Morning and Know What Side of The Bed You've Been Lying On".

("Perhaps [Liechtenstein's] poppiest track of the year is could-have-been-a-53rd&3rd single-in-day "This Must Be Heaven"... but it's actually the Ideas who come out on top on that platter, with two corking songs, of a quality that only the Bright Lights and Boyracer have really managed at the same velocity, and that remind you that there is no level on which the Faintest Ideas did not make brilliant *POP* music. The consensus seems to be that they are now no more, in which case we can only say that they will be very sorely missed.")

But for us, it's this last song on the platter that deserves elevation, perfectly summing up the trajectory of this sadly-gone band with two minutes of noisy, gnawing pop that seems to cram in every emotion we've ever felt and leave us feeling somehow both churned-up and ecstatic. It's enough for us that Gothenburg gave us its symphony orchestra (ooh, and Liechtenstein), but chucking in the Faintest Ideas as well makes the place even more magical to us. Listening to this final postcard from the kingdom of Denmark, and relating to it so much in this London drizzle, is a sheer privilege.


12. Skream "Burning Up" (Digital Soundboy, 12")

It's fair to say that sometimes we think maybe dubstep darling Skream is a tad overhyped. But then he comes up with singles like this, dabbling delightfully in delectably old-skool jungle, and we throw up our hands and happily acknowledge that he can deserve all the love he gets. Loosely doing the same for us in '09 as Jaydan's "What U Want" did in '08, "Burning Up" artfully takes dubstep, drum n'bass and house influences and sampled vocals but never sounds like a mere reassemblage, a chin-stroking construct. Instead, the turbo-bass and Amen breaks emphasise its simplicity and danceability. The sleeve is not of his native Croydon but instead a shot of the river, split by the Millennium Bridge, facing the gamut of ugly buildings running along Upper Thames Street: you may remember the millennium's "river of fire" not so much dancing across the water as petering out pathetically above it. With "Burning Up", happily, the flames are for real.

13. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart "Come Saturday" (Fortuna Pop! / Slumberland, 7")

Look. We grew up on Factory and Sarah, so the idea of taking singles off albums, especially afterwards, still gives us a little chill. But the Pains can be forgiven because "Come Saturday", one of the more muscular tracks on their debut LP, is such a bouncing, flawless, hook-drenched don't-want-it-to-end song; and partly because previously unreleased "Side Ponytail" on the other side of the Saturday afternoon-green vinyl - a shortform, buzzpop variation on "Come" - still outdoes many an A-side released this year.

There's a school of thought that says this re-recorded version is inferior to the "Searching Of The Now" version, but then there's a school of thought that says the Earth is flat. We reckon this "Saturday" is effortlessly superior to the original recording, as #13 (set against the heights of #58 last year...) might just show...

14. Lomax "Faith Massive" (RAM Records, 2x12")

"Breakthrough single ahoy: Lomax decides to throw us a *mighteous* 'plate with "Faith Massive"... combining dubsteppy wiles with fractured jump-up, a nervous and skittering dish rendered slightly surreal by the occasional crashes of what appears to be Gary Numan's doorbell. It's a double-12", but you only really need the title tune."

In other words: fractured, wintry dubstep shot through with icy blasts of d&b.


15. The Postcards / Yellow Melodies split (Cloudberry Records, 3" CD-R)

Firstly, apologies to the Yellow Melodies: nowt wrong with them, but they are here in what's become known by this fanzine as the "Driller Killer role".

As for the Postcards: well. We've banged on a fair bit about undersung bands from the last decade who've effortlessly turned out nr-stupendous stuff that many an 80s label would have clamoured to release: the Hillfields,Northern Portrait (we've now heard "My New Favourite Moment", too: oh my GOSH yes), Forest Giants, the mighty Windmills. And the Postcards (it appears they take their name from the label, but funnily enough if they were named after the simply smashing Forest Giants tune of the same name that would fit just as well) are another such, a group whose songs surely cry out to be released ON VINYL, as "Postcards" was but sadly the Hillfields and NP have not yet been. "Watch The Skies!" is just *a brilliant song*, a shyer take on the deft epic guitar-pop of the W's "Walking Around The World". It's understated, brisk, melodic, sad, crying out to have been released as an own-right 7". The companion piece, "Nothing Excites Me Like You" is not quite as chic, but it's still a warm, scrambling soup of jangle, one that pricks the same hallowed reference points in us.

What's more, turns out the Postcards are from our very own beloved London - out in SE23 -and we never knew. Sorry not to have picked up on them before they received Roque's seal of approval: like Violent Arrest last year, they're a group we should never have slept on, but who we'll definitely be keeping tabs on now.

16. Cooly G "Narst" (Hyperdub, 12")

"Cooly G drops pure PHYSIC on this monster instrumental... the kind of beat that a wasted talent like Skepta could really do with at the mo... plays out as the soundtrack to a scrolling urban underworld of shanks and steel, a tune that's sinister yet still pregnant with suggestion. "Narst" doesn't actually go anywhere in the end, mind - its clipped, grime-like pulses sound like a crescendo that never comes to fruition - but as they say, sometimes it's better to travel hopefully than to arrive."

Pulsing urban noir from deep house's only Tooting & Mitcham player. "Loved Up" on the flip, featuring G's own vocals, got more love(d up), but for us it was "Narst" that was the deal real. There are so many reasons we prefer autumn / winter evenings to summer days - and so many aborted blogposts on the subject that will no doubt eventually transmogrify into a finished one - but the way that grime and dubstep come into their own when you're wandering the London streets of a crisp, clear night is one. "Narst" is such a song, one that makes you feel king (or queen) of the pavement.


17. Horowitz "How To Look Imploring" (Cloudberry Records, 7")

"What a single their forthcoming 45 on Cloudberry is, two songs that could fight all day for A-side status and you'd never be able to sensibly resolve it without UN intervention. "How To Look Imploring" is even more ridiculously tuneful than [Very Truly Yours'] "Popsong '91", all carefree careering down a luge of snowflake-covered melody, while "The Drunks Are Writing Punk Songs" admits little changes of pace while still anchoring them brutally to Tullycraft-esque hooks the size of the Appalachian mountains... there's no getting away from the fact that when both sides rule as much as this, the humble 7" continues to be one of our greatest sources of joy in this sometimes dark, decaying world."

True that. As brighter blogs than this one have observed, no single record - not even Rakim's "Seventh Seal" - has had a longer gestation period than this 7", first announced in the Cloudberry Bugle as a wax cylinder. Was it worth the wait though ? Oh yes, especially with the original art (front and back) from Andy Hart. And we still can't tell you which track we prefer.


18. Recordkingz featuring Mobb Deep "Heat" (Recordkingz / Creative Entertainment, download)

"Imperious... a sweet summation of the artistry of Queensbridge's most revered veterans... not least as it's so long since the Mobb gave us a single this good on their own... this is a sticky, sultry, scratch-filled banger that manages to sound modern (there are some in-vogue Eastern stylings) but yet not as *plastic* as the new school so often does. Juliano has taken the time to sculpt something that suits Prodigy and Havoc, and they oblige by rocking up some simple QB phrases and spitting them across the piece."


19. Pocketbooks "Footsteps" (How Does It Feel?, download)

Blue riband chocolate box POP! from north London's finest purveyors of well, blue riband chocolate box POP! Like their previous single classic, "Cross The Line", it's not just the coursing melodies or the keenly observed, effortlessly romantic lyrics but simply the way the song is put together, the art of song arrangement having elsewhere rather tumbled down the pecking order in indie-pop's evolution. There have been some interesting conversations about how the London that Pocketbooks evoke is a world away from the spectral, ambient London of King Midas Sound or the cut-throat London of most new urban music as if that was a bad thing, but it hardly makes them any less authentic. If Pocketbooks started to tell tales instead of nights out robbing in Somers Town, that might just be a sign they were slipping. But as it is, they've still got it LOCKED.

20. Horowitz "Super Snuggles" (This Almighty Pop!, CD-R)

"Title ripe for emblazoning on a range of baby-gros ? Check. Supercatchy fuzz-distort pop melodies from the off ? Check. Vocals sung from the bottom of a vertiginously deep lift shaft ? Check. Chorus the size of a colliding galaxy pile-up ? Check. Another great single from Horowitz ? Checkmate."

We understand that those exposed to the greatness of Horowitz in the past twelve months include a privileged handful of the good burghers of Malmo, Jonkopping, Stockholm and Linkoping. And if the restarted Hadron collider proves to have half as much furniture-wrecking power as a Horowitz chorus, then we're all in trouble. For other bands, Horowitz make lesson one quite simple: have tunes. Loads of them.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The best singles of 2009: 21-30

21. Diversion Tactics "Can't Swim" (Boot, 12")

Interesting, really, that surely the UK's most winningly consistent hip-hop crew blaze not from Notts or inner London, but outta relentlessly suburban Guildford: kinda proof of the adage that it's never about where you're from, always where you're at. Anyway, after our appetite for their upcoming LP, "Careful On The Way Up", was whetted by last year's preview of the fearsomely good "No Collaborations", it was about time the mighty DT gave us a single, and this platter handily twins the uberdextrous lager-fuelled lyrical stomp of "Can't Swim" with an overdue return to MC Chubby Alcoholic's schooldaze, "Back To School".

"Swim" sees Jazz-T, whose "All City Kings" was one of the best LPs of '08, and Zygote, whose "Beats To Make You Frown" was one of the best of '06, produce as the inestimable Chubby fronts another fairly complete examination of alcohol addiction which knowingly plays off the confident - "the pub raconteur with the wit to embarrass you" - against the self-examining - "the functioning addict / guilt trip and bouts of panic". "School", meanwhile, will ring familiar enough to any of us revisiting their (strictly non-academic) secondary school curriculum (sample line: "if you can't stand the heat / then you faint in assembly"). Chubby's personality, as ever, fair bubbles into the grooves, but the key to Diversion Tactics remains the construction of the beats. This time it's none other than J-Zone who guests to provide the kinda pounding, funky beat you got on Cube's early "storytelling" cuts.

Looks like the LP should now be out early this '010, meaning it will join a long list of this fanzine's most anticipated (which also currently include Tender Trap, Standard Fare, Richgirl and Looking For An Answer...)

22. Kryptic Minds "768" (Tectonic, 12")

Clever, spinning dubstep from KM, especially when the nervy stringed synth chords propulse around its clicking, hypnotic groove and reverb-happy mid-bass. The flip is worth investigating for its typically considered take on Pinch and Moving Ninja's Tectonic Plates wonder, "False Flag".

23. Beatnik Filmstars "Slow Decay" (The Satisfaction Recording Company, 7")

"The BFs have been knocking out largely left-of-centre pop hits from their Bristol centre of gravity for decades now, but continue to mature like the finest of wines, and their latest slinky 7" ranks - but of course - with most of what they've done since "Maharishi" first crossed our path around the time of the Great Reform Act... a fantastically depressing lyric about the inevitability of disappointment sweetened - no, leavened - by the kind of vintage indie-folk that grows and grows on you until your record player is buried under creeping pop ivy. Or something... The natural follow-on from the mellow harmonics of their brilliant "Fez 72" album last year, this is another very special single."

Yes, Bristol no longer rocks, so much as shimmies by in a slo-fi haze. We mentioned the Inane's vulnerably tuneful "Touched By Time" the other day - a lost gem from 26 years ago - well, "Slow Decay" is also the sort of song we may yet bewail as a lost gem in 2035. So don't sleep on it until then.


24. The Hillfields "Afterburn" (Underused, download)

As is this.

"warm, brooding, with prowling bass and only faintly jingle-jangling guitar before post-thirlwall vocals swoop to decorate the cake with enigmatic slivers of verse, just as on their "a visit" cdr single on cloudberry, it reminds us a little of that first beloved album, indeed so many overlooked late 80s masterpieces..."

Can someone now please release a Hillfields single on vinyl ?


25. DJ Honda featuring EPMD "Never Defeat 'Em" (DJ Honda Recordings, download)

Here's something. Apparently none other than Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith (i.e. the legends that constitute two-man East Coast rhyme machine EPMD) played... wait for it... All Tomorrow's Parties this year, thanks to My Bloody Valentine's reliably eclectic tastes rather than those of ATP's normal catchment. We don't think it would be going out on a limb to install EPMD as the best band *ever* to play that august event, even in the company of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and MBV. Hell, if only we'd known, we'd probably have gone, given that EPMD seem generally to give these shores a wide berth: tragically, the warm-up gig they were going to do in London fell through (as all decent-looking hip-hop shows, it seems, do).

Anyway, in '08 we mentioned - somewhere in here - their "Blow" single and how excited we were about their forthcoming album. That record, in the end, flattered to deceive, but it did contain the Honda-produced (and Method Man-featuring) "Never Defeat 'Em" and there's no doubting that when let loose on the mic over something nicely old skool, Erick and Parrish have still got it. DJ Honda is the man for that, and so this "Never Defeat" gives them an extended verse each, winding up in less than two-and-a-half mins with a curt "it's all over: see ya!".

Contrary to what you might think, we don't salivate at the thought of tearing apart today's more saleable hip-hop artists: if Jay-Z or Eminem were releasing exciting albums we'd be more than happy to shout their names from these pages. But until that happens, we have no qualms about pointing you to songs like this, which *won't* change your world, but *will* make you greet E&P again and make you glad they're still IN BUSINESS.

26. Free Loan Investments "The Last Dance" (Fraction Discs, 7")

Gosh. Is it really seven years since "Ever Been To Mexico ?"

Anyway, the best indie-pop is always worth waiting for. The sort of music that gives you summershine rushes, goosebumps and an inner grin, that makes you feel like you're sprinting through a cornfield shouting "Death To Corporate Rock!" while gaily flicking fingers at The Man. The sort of music that makes you feel *special* that you're in the indie-pop camp, even though none of your friends understand.

"The Last Dance" is a five-tracker which shows, unsurprisingly, that FLI's sound has "matured" over the last few years, but not in a "slowed-down balladry" or "we've incorporated elements of folktronica" sense, oh no. Instead, they are still injecting immeasurable *excitement* into two minute POP songs, but without feeling so constrained to stick to the template Talulah / Tulips trajectory that held "Mexico" together. "BBC", for example, rings with the trebly dynamism of those early Heavenly singles, right down to some gorgeous Amelia-isms, while "Emanuel" positively bounds along, the guitars a little more feral, more *fractious* than before. And the closing sorta-title tune "Anyone Can Dance", despite an offputtingly jitterbugging verse, then assails you with a splendiferous chorus designed to echo between your ears long after you've taken the record off.

27. Pinch "Attack Of The Giant Robot Spiders!" (Planet Mu, 12")

"a biiig plate from Rob Ellis... still lowkey rather than in-yer-face 'step in which the march of the oversized arachnids (a kind of lurching metallic clanking, bringing to mind robot spiders with a collective limp), is broken up by a battalion of bass that rolls in around 2 mins 45."

Later in the year the wheels came off fairly horribly with "Get Up", Pinch and Yolanda's apparent attempt to rival Geiom's um, unrivallable "Reminissin'", but "Attack!" is the perfect showcase of Pinch's signature sound, a song built with constantly developing motifs (the undercurrent of bass, then the plinking eastern synth) but retains the same rich, percussive structure. So there's no doubt that Pinch is a player for real. The real question for us now is whether he's a Gashead, or an '82er.


28. Newham Generals "Head Get Mangled" (Dirtee Stank, download)

It didn't exactly occur to us, when talking with genuine positivity about Dizzee Rascal in '05, or Tinchy Stryder in '06, or Chipmunk in '07, that there would soon come a time when they notched up six genuine UK number one hit singles between them in a matter of months. The tragedy, alas, is that - despite the fact TS produced his ace "Cloud 9" EP as recently as last year - all three have switched between the only two genres of music that count, by moving from the type we commonly know as "good" to that we usually label as "rubbish". In which context it seems no surprise that Newham Generals' surprisingly excellent "Head Get Mangled" (despite being on the good ship Dirtee Stank and under the tutelage of Dizzee Rascal) failed to trouble the scorers.

""Head Get Mangled", especially when coupled with the hundredweight of pure old-style "Run The Road"-esque grime that is "Merked Again", could easily be the single of 2009 so far: interpolating sidewinder rhymes with washes of d&b and experimental instrumental, like a grime "Levitate", it makes having your head mangled a true pleasure. They're probably best known for being proteges of Dizzee Rascal, but DR hasn't made a record this exciting since "I Luv U"."


29. Chris Liberator and Sterling Moss "The Cult" (Neuroshocked, 12")

"The good ship (Chris) Liberator hoists Mr (Sterling) Moss on board for a single on Polish label Neuroshocked, "The Cult", that cuts a fine swathe through the tremulous waters of hard LDN techno, more subtle than melodious, and nowhere near as down-yr-throat as the offerings from A.P. & Mr Farley... a strangely soothing bombardment."

"The Cult" is clean, disciplined, determined, a nice companion piece in feel and tempo to maybe our favourite techno tune this year, Jamie Taylor's brilliant "Loophole" (second best song ever of that title, on the Toyfriend "01" compilation), with the former's energetic to-ing and fro-ing and Victoria Falls drop substituted with a swishing drilling sound which emerges a few minutes in to haunt your inner ear.


30. King Midas Sound "Dub Heavy - Hearts and Ghosts EP" (Hyperdub, 12")

"Unfurls as if labelmate Burial had decided to meld his modern 'urbantech' sonics with the in-day sensibilities of old masters like King T. On palpably heavy-gauge 12" vinyl and oozing with predatory sub-bass, the soooooothing lead track "I Dub" is maybe the most magical, even if the cut-up vocals and distant klaxons that intrude more obviously on "Ting Dub" on the other side provide a little more light and shade, echoing the progression that Burial himself made between "Burial" and "Untrue". "Long Dub" completes the EP, a shimmering haze of elfin, late-evening vibes, this time hung around a deconstruction of a fuller Roger Robinson vocal... Word."

Don't really understand what any of that means, and anyway over the course of the year "Ting Dub" has evolved into our favourite song on this excellent single, a bold, brave new world record that in our view could only have come from this our capital city.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

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.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The best singles of 2009: 41-50

41. Jesus Of Spazzareth / Hammers split (no label as far as we can tell, 7")

The JoS side of this split six-tracker, adorned with a snap of none other than Chas and Dave, just shades it: the fiery, fearless, indubitably sense-filled "This Is Existence Not Living" should be made part of the National Curriculum. Indeed, if it wasn't for the way our copy seems to have warped in transit, it would not only have been further up the list, but we'd probably have been putting it forward as the national anthem. Hammers' contributions peak with the bristling, equally antagonistic "You'll Be Clocking Off In Your Coffin", which thematically comes from very much the same angle.

42. Socialist Leisure Party "Tactical POP! for Coffee Cadets" (Shelflife, 7" and CD)

"Immaculately-clad in artwork by Andrew Holder, the 7" barks into life with the admirably original uptown 'A', "Head In The Hay", which ramraids straight melodic indie pop with nicely skewed post-AP! exclamation. The accompanying CD rates too, the combination of uplifting pop (sorry, POP!) and more cynical / throwaway lyrics, a cut above yer boy-meets-girl shtick, making for something rather refreshing all told: "Scented Crowbar" nicks in first, a cheeky quick kiss before things take off with the excellent "No Tattoos", a collage of spinning strumathons, of spiralling indie-licks. And after the studied shambling of "Mondayland", an inst. of which appears on the single 'B' for any Cloudberry-karaoke heads out there, the spirited "Down With The Kids" nods, at least, to AP!'s rockier past."


43. Hermit Crabs "Correspondence Course" EP (Matinee Recordings, CD single)

"We were probably a little unnecessarily ill-disposed to them for having had the temerity to enter, just as much win, a songwriting competition (with "Feel Good Factor"), because in our minds that brought up images of Rockschool or Orange Unsigned or every battle of the bands we'd ever suffered, and in any case we actually vastly preferred the album debut that followed, "Saw You Dancing", a frothy and clever brew of delicate folk-tinged indie pop, but now with the "Correspondence Course" EP... we have what we think is easily their breakthrough moment. "About You Before" is as warm, as cosy, as cuddly and catchy as "Eighties Fan", while the title track, which we found ourselves revisiting in earnest thanks to Sam's little review, repaid his (and our) faith, especially with the extra washes of guitar that intrude towards the end."


44. The Atrocity Exhibit / Magpyes / Jesus of Spazzareth split (self-released, CD-EP)

Three-way 14-tracker with rather fetching design from up-and-coming titans of UK "deathgrindoom" tAE, short-burst grind merchants Magpyes and riff-crunching speed crusters JoS. tAE launch a quartet of exocets into the murky ether, peaking during the sweaty breakdown of "Corpsehanger" and in the whole of the explosive "Assassination Template". Next, Magpyes spin half a dozen frantic, frayed webs of shoutcore, peaking title-wise with the minute of "Darling, You're A Fucking Sinking Ship" but in intensity with the briefer encounters of "Crashing And Burning" and "Lovers". It's then time for the Mansfield Town-repping JoS to round proceedings off with their longer and marginally less febrile, shambling grind tunes of which "Council Of War" would be our pick, although none of them quite make us pile around as much as "This Is Existence Not Living".

It's usually while reviewing records like this that we mention how they remind us of the venal, visceral high-speed punk white noise of Flyblown and Scalplock, and how brilliant those bands were, so for the sake of good order we'll do that again here too.

At £3 inc p&p, btw, this is a steal: go here.

45. Ital Tek "Massive Error EP" (Planet Mu, 12")

"More justified Mu... an elegant, warped 5-track 'step EP from Brighton's Ital Tek, of which it's the title track's slender burbles, draped in bite-size wraps of laser synth, which slay us most completely."


46. Sarandon vs. the Membranes "Spike Milligan's Tape Recorder" (Slumberland, 7")

There was a time (it was 1984) when every other indie single sounded as crashingly inventive, chaotic and irresistible as the Membranes' "Spike Milligan's Tape Recorder". Hard to imagine now, but everywhere you looked there was a future Ron Johnson band striking up gangly chords and frenetically annoying the neighbours - as Rhodri Marsden once said (to us!), "you should be able to bottle that feeling that you got, the excitement of a new Big Flame record when you were about 16...".

A quarter of a century on, bite-sized anti-twee angular post-post-punkers Sarandon pay tribute to every such single, as well as to the Membranes, by coupling their 2009 versh of "SMTR" with the original on a Slumberland 7" replete with Vinyl Drip (erstwhile Membranes/Bogshed label)-referencing sleeve. They do this despite the certain knowledge that it is not possible to improve on the Membranes' shrieking, Fall-happy, still mastered-from-vinyl original: a truly magnanimous act of evangelism. Sarandon's take is still (as you can see) in the top fifty singles released this year: from the opening Gedge / Salowka-speed strums, it refashions the original as a shorter, blunter, neater, ride, clanging with a need for speed.

47. Cappo "Unwritten Rule (Styly Cee Remix)" (Son Records, download)

On which Styly Cee reverses last year's splendiferous Caps EP out of the garage and does a cut-and-shunt on its final track, adding his own down-to-earth patter to the Condor's imperious flow and tacking on some sunny funk samples. You could say it comes to something when an inferior remix of a 2008 B-side still ranks in a list of 2009's best. But really, all it demonstrates is how superb "The H-Bomb" was the first time around.

48. Taggarna Ut / Madamm split (Cloudberry Records, 3" CD-R)

Taggarna Ut's scratchy, excitable, impulsive and joyous jangle (no plodding or going-through-the-motions a la a few indie-pop types these days) is *just the ticket*, and it was no real surprise to discover later that they include some ex-Faintest Ideas influence, as the Faintest Ideas, God rest their soul, were probably the best thing out of Scandinavia since Bathory. Their mates Madamm, also from Gothenburg, sparkle a little less brightly in this particular winter night sky, but their songs still pay faithful tribute to the purepop side of indie.

49. Rusko "Babylon Vol 2" (SubSoldiers, 2x12")

"Not only are lead tracks "Mr. Muscle" and "Go Go Gadget" especially the bouncing epitome of all that is good about wobble, but track three on the EP, "Soundguy Is My Target" is on another level altogether, being a mighty righteous to-date skeng reggae number (Jah wobble, anyone ?) on which Lutan Fyah lays down imperious vibes. More fire."

Speaking at the end of this long year, the wobblier tunes on Vol 2 have not perhaps aged too well. But "Soundguy Is My Target" continues to bristle with skanking menace and class. Lutan Fyah also managed an album of his own in 2009, which we ought probably to hunt down.


50. Skream / Benga "Trapped In A Dark Bubble" / "Technocal" (Tectonic, 12")

"An all-star double header... On "his" side, S manufactures a very deliberate, layered halfstep number, "Trapped In A Dark Bubble", all twinkle save for the slapped beats, with a melody of parcelled-up synth chimes emerging minutes in. Benga's "Technocal" on the other side of the 12" is a little feistier, a rash of swung dubtech and eerie syncopation that effervesces with a sweet kind of menace, like a bottle of home-made ginger pop that's about to explode."


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."


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.


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 ?


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."


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."


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.

* * * * *

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)."


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."


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.


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".


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."


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."


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.


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.


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.


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."


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."


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.


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..."