Thursday, 22 December 2011

Top 20 Tunes of 2011

Thought i'd better let you know what's been doing the business for me this year in the form of a list. Standard. Like a lot of people in this new age of online MP3 shopping, I find myself listening to less and less full albums and tend to opt more for EPs, singles or just a selection of tracks I buzz for from certain albums where the entire release doesn't inspire. I have of course been enjoying a fair few albums this year in their entirety, but i'll talk about those in a separate post. This is just a Top 20 Tunes thing. Oh, it's in no specific order either. Far too painful, all of that.

Still with me? Here goes...

SebastiAn - Embody

It's difficult not to love this track - electro don SebastiAn taking it down to a quality nu-funk chug beat and laying that great vocodered vocal over the top. It's almost what i'd what from a new Prince record, and there's certainly echoes of the diminutive sex-funkster here. Cracking video too, which always helps.

Joe Goddard - Gabriel (Seiji Remix)

It's been a busy year for Joe Goddard. His Two Bears collaborative project with Raf Daddy has lurched onto the scene with a distinctive brand of wonky, leftfield house and then this tune dropped to huge acclaim. As is often the case for me, the remix packages were where the real interest lay and this Seiji remix just blew me away. When doesn't a Seiji production blow you away?!

Hizatron - Von Glooperstein (Mr Scruff Remix)

One of the stealth tracks of the year for me - didn't seem to make a massive impact but I can't work out why - the legendary Mr Scruff absolutely rinsing the arse out of the dirty bass synths and that relentless driving percussive beat...quality. Nice bit of acid too. More tea, vicar?

Ta-Ku - Hey Kids

The opening salvo from the quite brilliant Brownswood Electric 2 compilation, this is another nu-funk winner from Aussie beatmaker Reggie Matthews. He may or may not also feature in the Best Albums of 2011 post too...

Julio Bashmore - Battle For Middle You

Do I really need to say anything about this one?? Absolutely massive, proven by it clocking in at no's 3 and 1 respectively in the Resident Advisor and Mixmag 2011 charts. Caught young Bashmore DJing at Cardiff's Buffalo Bar recently and it was one of the sets of the year - go and dance to his music if you ever get chance. Which you will, because he's gonna be here for a while yet.

Sepalcure - Taking You Back

I won't say too much about Sepalcure here because they're going to feature in the Best Albums post, but this track from the Hot Flush (*applause*) Back And 4th compilation is a real stirrer. Bonus points for pitch-shifting the old Lolleatta Holloway sample to good effect.

Bottin pres. Tinpong - New Religion (Marcus Marr Remix)

Stick with this one. Hypnotic, chugging, slightly NY punk nu-disco belter. It's all about that drop at 3:35. You'll know the one I mean... ;)

Hudson Mohawke - Thunder Bay

BOOM!! POW!! WHAMMY!! and other words of that nature. HudMo is back and he wants you to know it. From the frankly rude Satin Panthers EP this one tears your face off. There's no other way to describe it. Playlisted by Radio 1, too - the future's looking bright for HudMo. Nice work kidda.

High Powered Boys - Work

High Powered Boys - Work by Surkin

I wish I knew more about this, but to be honest that doesn't really matter when a tune's this good. Lovely broken-up drums in that afro/funky/2-step style and a lovely smattering of vocal effects to punctuate it. Bassline is pure 90s flashback, which we've seen a lot of this year, but this nails it harder than most others.

C.R.S.T - Soul Glo

C.R.S.T - Soul Glo by C.R.S.T

Cardiff's own C.R.S.T. have been making huge strides into the current UK garage scene over the last couple of years, and seem to have really landed in 2011 with a ton of DJ gigs, some big-time remixes and this banging EP on Deep Thrills. Bigged up by none other than Rio Ferdinand. You can't win 'em all boys. ;)

Tall Black Guy - At Ease

I've been grabbing beats off Tall Black Guy for over a year now. He's been my secret weapon in many a DJ set but I'm afraid he's making a name for himself and he's not longer my little secret. Gah. Annoying for me, but brilliant - not to mention much deserved - for him. This is from the Hollyweird 2.0 release, which is worth a place in even the most discerning of record collections. Seek and enjoy.

Martyn - Popgun

Another fella that will be featuring in the Top Albums list, Martyn has been smashing it for a few years but really hit the nail on the head this year with his Ghost People album on Brainfeeder. It's difficult to pick a favourite tune from the album because it's rammed full of out-and-out quality. This is a strong contender though, and considering the amount i've been rinsing it this year it would be a crime not to include it in the Top Tunes list. The icing on the production cake here is that "ugh". And the way he messes with the percussion to keep it varied, but subtle.

GuGu - RockAByeBaby

Another tune that deserves a proper listen: you'd be fooled for thinking this is a standard afro-esque UK funky rhythm for the first minute or so, but it gets proper sexy and sleazy and dirtfunk when the synths kick in. Mine's a courvoisier, barman...

Eric B & Rakim - I Know U Got Soul (Leo Zero Rework)

I Know U Got Soul ( Leo Zero Rework ) by Leo Zero

Some of you are probably going to whine about this being in a Best of 2011 selection, but you'd be both wrong and an idiot. A) it's a classic being re-done to an exceptional standard and B) it WAS released this year so NERRR. As it says on the label: "a bespoke 118bpm number perfect for those Berlin mornings when daylight is poking through your converted power station / toilet / knocking shop and the horse drugs have taken their toll!".

Labrinth ft. Tinie Tempah - Earthquake

Stop laughing. Definitely a stand-out track in this year's largely uninspiring Guetta-dominated dirge pop releases, Labrinth drops the first single from his forthcoming, much anticipated debut album...and it WINS. I've got a lot of respect for a producer who chooses to turn down the likes of Beyonce and Lady Gaga because "i'm too busy working on my own album thanks". Especially when he then comes back with something as good as this. Those big snares could have been stolen from HudMo and Rustie's collections, and the screaming searing synths are as nasty as any you'd get on an IDM release. I'll be sick of it in a few months but for now i'm going to clutch it to my chest like an obsessed teenybopper. See you in the Union!

Onra - Fight Or Die

Easily the stand-out track from Onra's Chinoiseries Pt.2 (his return to Asiatic-influenced beatmaking). Much of the album could be a bunch of prospective Wu-Tang Clan beats, but this is the one that really takes the lessons learned from previous album Long Distance and ties them into the original Chinoiseries sound. Watch your neck when this one kicks in.

MJ Cole - TGV

Loads of producers get undeserved hype just for having been in the game a long time while all their decent stuff was actually years ago and now they're cruising on that first-album gravy train. I'm overjoyed that MJ Cole isn't one of them. Producer of some of my favourite UK garage tracks of all time, this is from his more forward-thinking Satellites EP. Emotional, stirring strings and stabs all underpinned by that wondrous driving beat. HE'S STILL GOT IT!!!

Canblaster - Triple Ring

This track contains several elements that float my boat: crunchy tight drums, intriguing synths, a half-time drop, lush samples and re-pitched female RnB vocal snippets. Sounds particularly good on your headphones, this one. It's all about the spacing. I challenge you to listen and NOT have that "what does she have that i don't" line stuck in your head for hours afterwards. Keeper.

Pangaea - Hex

Smashing and crashing its way to the front of the September releases pile was this absolute stormer on Hemlock Recordings. You've probably got the message with the kind of drums i'm buzzing for right now, and this doesn't disappoint on that front...but that vocal cutting and juggling is great. Unless you hate it - I realise it could be one of those Marmite love/hate things, but it's two thumbs-up from me. If I had a third thumb i'd put it up for a bassline that's reminiscent of Smith & Mighty's "B-Line Fi Blow".

Azealia Banks ft. LazyJay - 212

Jumped on and blogged by all the hipsters in the last few months, and yet the first person to give me the heads-up on this one was MY MOM. Honest - she's got her ear to the ground. She also doesn't mind a completely filthy lyric and hands-in-the-air big room dance beat. Remember Nicki Minaj? You won't after next year. This is Azealia's time. Oh, and someone get her and Missy to do something over a fresh Timbaland beat. And get me her number. Damn.


And that, my friends, is that. Well done if you actually read this far - being concise was never a forte of mine. If i'd thought about it I might have set up a tea and cake table down here at the end as a reward to those who got this far. Maybe next year.

Keep an eye out for my Top Albums post, coming at some point in the next week or so, as well as some news on an exciting new project i'll be embarking on in 2012.

Until then, have a wonderfully festive Christmas break. A very merry one to you and your families. Take care, much love.