i know i should've got this done sooner, but i've been arsing about and umming and aahhing and generally being a bit hopeless in whittling it down to just 10 ( i'd say that's down to the sheer amount of quality music that's being put out there now really). anyway, now i finally have and here they are - in no particular order...
Kinny – Forest of Idle Chit Chat [Tru Thoughts]
we've been spoilt for choice in terms of new material from Tru Thoughts in this, their 10th anniversary year. this release really stood out for me, though - no doubt due in part to the production approach. in simple terms "Forest of Idle Chit Chat" sees Kinny belting out some brilliantly-conceived modern soul vocals over a selection of beats crafted by the finest of the Tru Thoughts production talent (along with a few friends). familiar names Quantic, Hint, TM Juke, Nostalgia77 and Diesler all feature, as do new "ones to watch" Souldrop and Unforscene. the variety (and quality) of the producers, along with the incredible talents of Kinny herself make for a fantastically varied and entertaining listen.
BUY IT HERE
Julien Dyne – Pins and Digits [BBE]
i've said more about this very recently here, so i'll keep this brief: electronica, soul, funk, disco and hip-hop all collide in a wonderful brew of sheer listening pleasure. there's echoes of past sounds mixed very cleverly with modern, dusty, wonky, slightly glitchy head-nod stylings. can't stop listening to it!
BUY IT HERE
Pseudo Slang – We’ll Keep Looking [Fat Beats]
according to the (relatively sparse) Wiki page on this hip-hop duo, the Chicago Times say Pseudo Slang are "the thinking fan's kind of hip-hop". and i'm inclined to agree. there's not too much "new" in terms of production style on this long-awaited full-length debut, but if you're already content with jazzy, melodic, unobtrusive beats and intelligent, thoughtful lyrics then you're bound to appreciate what Tone Atlas and Emcee Sick have to offer. i'm yet to encounter a hip-hop fan who doesn't like it!
BUY IT HERE
Tanya Morgan – Brooklynati [Interdependent Media]
i think these guys might be on the verge of hitting the big time. then again, i also insisted Olly Murs was going to win X-Factor, so i wouldn't necessarily trust my musical predictions all the time. originally hooking up through an internet message board back in 2003, Von Pea, Donwill and Ilyas put their first album together sitting in different parts of the US, swapping their production and vocal files via AOL. by the sounds of it, things have moved a bit on since "Moonlighting" and this year they released "Brooklynati" to much applause. sounding both familiar and fresh, quirky yet accessible, this release really struck me. it's got a concept album feel, with small skits dotted throughout which help bring to life the fictional city implied in the LP's title. chock full of infectious tracks, it's a real treat of a listen - and i dare you to listen to "So Damn Down" and not get yer groove on.
BUY IT HERE
Dorian Concept – When Planets Explode [Nod Navigators]
an often-challenging but ever-rewarding journey through glitched out synth-led soundscapes, sub-bass filth and messed-up beats. quite simply one of the best electronic music albums of 2009...which is why it's in this list. unmissable for fans of FlyLo, Dabrye, Dilla et al.
BUY IT HERE
Jon Hopkins – Insides [Domino]
i'm just going to get a few compulsory words out of the way first: Brian Eno, Royal College of Music, Coldplay, world tours. right - sorted...on we go. Jon Hopkins has been knocking out incredibly stunning, melodically jaw-dropping electronic music for a fair few years now. if you've already had the pleasure of previous albums "Opalescent" or "Contact Note", you'll know exactly what i mean. "Insides" sees his sound evolving in a very satisfying way. the lush, achingly beautiful melodies are still there (if opener "The Wider Sun" doesn't take your breath away, you have no soul), but there's also the incorporation of some frankly excellent glitchy, dub-stepesque nastiness amongst it all. second track "Vessel", for instance, feels like being taken from the warm comfort of the womb and plunged into a piranha infested ice-bath. but, y'know, with less actual pain. just do yourself a big favour and go and buy it.
BUY IT HERE
Rupert – Just Woke Up [Hear Today]
in a year where there's been increasing volume on the "hip-hop is dead" murmurings, this album from London MC Rupert waltzes in and plonks itself in the middle of the nay-sayers' table. and flicks the v in their faces quite spectacularly. Rup had already established himself as a fine wordsmith and talent worthy of recognition in "Rup On Zebra", put out on Tru Thoughts' hip-hop sublabel a couple of years ago. since then Zebra Traffic ceased to be, and Rup moved onto Hear Today records to continue developing his sound. it's a move that seems to have paid dividends, as a range of producers have contributed to make an album which is both varied and coherent. Opener "Moves" is a crunchy, bouncy synth-stabbed statement of intent - hats off to Steve Clear. the Naim-produced "Something That You Like" wins my award for catchiest beat/hook/bit of brilliance of 2009. getting Bonobo in to run the beat for album-closer "Geography" is a touch of programming genius. tying it all together though, is the main man - Rup. people say "he sounds like Mike Skinner", and while i can see the comparison, it's fair to say he weaves a much more complex, well-thought, intelligent, witty flow than anything The Streets' man has achieved yet. sorry Mike, if you're reading. one of the best UK albums this year, if not this decade.
BUY IT HERE
Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue [Warp]
Bibio has been doing a fine trade in quirky, scratchy, wonky acoustica for a while now...but this year he really seems to have made strides in both adapting and progressing his sound, as well as winning wider praise for his work. i can't really do any "it sounds a bit like", because it's so far-flung in the influences and contributing elements that it's difficult to put a finger on it. it's tempting to say "there's echoes of Mike Oldfield" or "if you miss Lemon Jelly...", but i don't want to put you off. overall the sound has a summery vibe and there's tracks (such as "Jealous of Roses" or "Lover's Carvings") which will help to put a skip in your step on the coldest of winter days. there's also some blinding low-slung wonk-hop lurking in there too - album closer "Dwrcan" plods along like a malfunctioning toy robot, and "Fire Ant" wins my award for beat of 2009 - no contest there at all. everyone should have at least a bit of Bibio in their lives, and this is as good a place as any to start.
BUY IT HERE
Dam Funk - Toeachizown [Stones Throw]
i never thought i'd find myself bigging up an 80s-inspired gloriously sleazy boogie synth release...but then i suppose that's the joy of music! my good friend James Remote insisted i give Dam Funk a try way back in the spring, and his excitement for the sound proved infectious. initially confined to just a couple of EPs, eventually the "Toeachizown" album has been released. all 5 parts (or 2.5 hours) of it. this is one of those brilliant releases that says "yo - remember the past? now look at the future" without ever feeling too pretentious or twattish. surprisingly varied and texturally outstanding, this is definitely a listen for anyone who might be feeling a bit lost or disillusioned with the same old funk sound. oh, and can someone take me to Dam Funk's club night, please?
BUY IT HERE
Beem - The Future
yet another shout of thanks going out to James Remote for putting me onto this - and it was FREE, too! Beem is a resident of Sweden and produces a fine line in futuristic, synthy funk. in a similar way to Dam Funk, Beem manages to harness a familiar old sound and apply some modern production techniques and sounds to make it feel a little more progressive. and of course, pleasing to listen to; opening track "Muni" is a chirpy, broken-beat styled funk number, while "Mouth Everest" has a more wonky, spacey hip-hop sound. the penultimate song, "Days", is an absolute peach of downtempo, lush, piano-string-deep-breath-loveliness. i don't know how you can possibly say no to this album - it's free and you can still download it over at Beem's website, HERE.
hopefully you'll find something to please you amongst that lot. oh, and there's a few other albums which didn't quite make the top 10 cut, but are definitely worthy of a mention nontheless:
Architeq - Green & Gold
yet more wonky chuggy deep spacey electronica.
DOOM - Born Like This
MF returns with a damn fine album. if it hadn't taken so long to click with me, it probably would've made the top 10...
Mochipet - Bunnies & Muffins
definite contender for "album title of the year", this is another mish-mash of a huge variety styles, underpinned with some fine electronic production.
DJ Frane - Journey To The Planet Of The Birds
the only reason this doesn't make the top 10 of 2009 is because it was released in 2008. and while i'm gutted about that, i'll just give it its own post at some point very soon. you need this in your life.
right, i think i'd better stop there! here's to plenty more fantastic music being released in 2010. if it's anywhere near as good as this year has been, we're in for a treat.