Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Best Music Of The Year - Songs

A guide to what I think were the ultimate tracks that made this year brilliant. I was going to do a top 50 but it's Christmas, and believe it or not I sometimes like to get out of the house and off the computer. Shocking, but true.

There isn't one iTAL tEK or Eleven8 tune I've just realised, which has made me sad, but I'm not changing it now. Also - it's not hugely obvious, but all the titles are links so you can hear the music for yourself innit. Genius. Enjoy!


1. The XX - Shelter (Alix Perez & Khanage rmx) - Bootleg
My tune of the year without a doubt. Sometime in the summer it was the soundtrack to everything I did. I was caught out on Twitter saying I had it on repeat because it was "the closest I can get to listening to endless perfection". A bit much, maybe, and somewhat embarrassing when Khanage read and replied...but I meant it. Everything about it really is perfect.

A brilliant track from one of my favourite labels around at the moment. Understated, classy drum and bass, and oh, that ever-so-slightly wonky vocal over the top of the sexiest bassline I think I've ever heard. I first heard this on an Alix Perez Shogun Audio podcast back in the Spring (I think), and waited not-very-patiently for it to be released, which it finally was two weeks ago. I bought it on vinyl just to hold it. Is that weird?

A slick roller with an ever-so-slightly cheesy synth and crisp claps that takes it from your standard Reese-based track to something really quite special. This came around about the time I really started hitting DnB hard, so for me it's pretty important. Krakota also very kindly offered up the equally brill (if  not better) VIP version for free recently. Get it here.

4. Break - Framework - Symmetry
Beastly. Ever since Friction dropped this on a Shogun podcast back in August I think it was, I needed it. However I was convinced it was called "I'm Waiting" like a total plonker, and so relentless searching proved fruitless until I heard it again on a handily tracklisted mix somewhere. Can't get enough of that WUGH UH GUHHH WUUURGHA WUGHH WUB WURRB UH WURB WURB. (Sing along, it's pretty accurate, actually.)
I'm not sure Demand have ever released a track I didn't like, and the Xiphactinus 12" is a case in point. Picking the Lenzman remix was a no-brainer though; such clean crashes and swells - I hate to get all visual on your collective arses, but the old synaesthesia dictates that I see ocean when I hear this. Maybe that has something to do with the name of the track however, which I don't understand. Nothing about it is monstrous, fishy or terrifying - quite the opposite in fact. It's a gorgeous wash of sounds with an unmistakable Lenzman hook that in my personal experience can be played five times at a BBQ before people get angry and change the playlist.
A beautiful exercise in just how perfect nearly everything S.P.Y touches is. A bassline you could eat, a pretty, otherworldly synth sound that reminds me of crystal balls for some reason, and the smoothest vocals this side of a Galaxy caramel crooning competition. The whole EP is fantastic, but this is definitely the standout track by about fifty thousand lightyears.
You all know everything about this track already, and there really isn't anything I can say that hasn't already been retweeted by Strategy at some point anyway... The defining tune of the year for a lot of people, it had to be included. I was toying with putting Bateman in instead, but then I realised I'd just be being contrary for the sake of it. A huge track, and a real benchmark in the rise of intelligent, interesting and innovative drum and bass.
Proud owner of probably the fittest synth bass in the universe, Triband always surprises me with how simply brilliant it is every time I put it on. There's not really much else to say about it other than I wish it was about thirty minutes longer. The only reason it's not higher in my sort-of-chart is the sheer amount of solid releases there have been this year - a sentence I really enjoyed writing. Smileyface.
I'm fairly sure this track singlehandedly made my summer amazing. I especially love the looped flute-like mini-melody; it reminds me of birds singing. It's impossible to be unhappy while listening to this. You can try and prove me wrong, but I don't know why you'd want to. Quite simply, it's sunshine and a cold Corona in music form. God damn, I wish I'd been lucky enough to hear it at Sun and Bass this year. I can't really think of anything better.
And now for something altogether more mournful. Anybody who knows me even vaguely will have probably been subjected to at least one conversation on just how amazing Burial really is. He is though. He's just fantastic. This year saw him release a number of tracks on Text, Hyperdub and Inhale Gold much to my manic overjoyment (not a real word, don't care), but Street Halo just tips it into the list by being an incredible and intoxicating mix of sinister and beauty. I always say this about Burial tracks, but listen to it at night on a bus in a city, and it becomes something bigger than music should be able to. Here ends my Burial wax lyrical-ing for the day.

I know a lot of people who were distinctly underwhelmed by Icicle's album Under The Ice this year, but I wasn't one of them. Breathing Again is a cold (yeah, cold, I know, lazy, he's called Icicle, etc), calculated sway into some really quite interesting dubstep territory, which I find extremely appealing. The crack of the drums (I was going to use some twig-snapping imagery, but I'll spare you) pulls it forward, and the whole track is saved from the brink of desolation not by the vocals, but by the haunting sound of what reminds me of a hunting horn. I've made it sound really odd. It isn't, it's really good.
I love this track. It reminds me of Phace and Misanthrop in a strange way, I can't put my finger on it, but there you go. I wrote a very silly fake review about it earlier this year involving a futuristic post-apocalyptic world based on Mars which was supposed to make no sense, but weirdly the more I listen to it, the more it makes sense. Maybe I'm just losing the plot. Rapid firing drums and some plainly evil bass, it seems like an outsider but I really honestly believe it deserves to be in a list with some big players.
One of the most beautiful and touching examples of future garage I think I've ever heard, Equis skips along on a fairly basic 2-step base but adds so many of my favourite musical techniques that it ends up being a scrapbook of my most-loved noises. Radiohead-esque synths, pitch-shifted vocals and almost-missed beats that feel like you missed a step all combine together to make a work of stunning electronica. It was either this or the Submerse remix of 'Oh Lord' - I felt I had to mention that simply because it deserves to be appreciated too. Gorgeous.
A completely ridiculous intro by some completely ridiculous producers, Micro Organism is just bonkers. The pregnant wait before the satisfyingly squishy kick drum starts some momentum got a bit long after the whole world and his robot dog started using it as the start of their mixes for a while, but the way the hi-hats skip across the surface of the track like a really nice flat stone on a lake (see, neurofunk can be pretty) makes me smile no matter how many times I listen to it. There's something really satisfyingly rotary about the whole thing; it's got movement, you can almost see it spinning around in front of you. I love that. It doesn't go anywhere, but I like that about it too. Can't tell you why though, it's just one of those things, I suppose.

There is something about a Blu Mar Ten bass that twitches my synaesthesia like no other. This track, quite frankly, is an absolute joy, and as part of the Blu Mar Ten and Inside:Info Summer 2011 Mix it made my seemingly endless Megabus journeys not only bearable but enjoyable this year. If you're at all interested, this track is turquoise, fuschia and purple, and has a texture like cornflour. Imagine poster paint powder - it's like that. Synaesthsia doesn't make any sense, but I thought you might like to know anyway. The most fun thing about this tune is that you can air piano vamps, and when you get it perfectly in time it's really satisfying. I know. Get a life, Taylor.
I was surprised that this track didn't receive much in the way of hype - I suppose most people already know about Spectrasoul and would buy it anyway, but for such a gorgeously brooding confection with an absolute hurter of a bassline, I thought it deserved some sort of medal. A badge perhaps. Something to show a bit of appreciation. An interesting vocal makes this track stand out for me, making it the perfect mixture of deep and soulful while still retaining some of its general malaise.
A digital only release from Slovakian bass maniacs SoundNBeats, Industry has to have one of the most ridiculous basslines on this list. I find it impossible not to pull my best war face when it's on, much to the general panic of my fellow commuters. Deep without forsaking interest, I actually predict big things for these guys.
I couldn't make a list of my favourite anything from this year and not mention the Time Change EP from IM:Ltd - yes, I'm banging on about them again. Another deep minimal track that manages to be sparse but retains interest, and with a bass so heavy it could crush other very heavy things if it wanted to, Grilled is my idea of a perfect example of the type of really arresting and intelligent DnB that's appearing on the scene at the moment. And that's really exciting.
I first heard this on the Blu Mar Ten/Inside:Info Mix I mentioned earlier, and it's been a favourite of mine ever since. A stepper that's not just good for the dancefloor, I like this track because it reminds me of sticklebricks and because the weird vocal sample really feels like it's driving the whole thing forwards. The electronic blips are pretty cool too. This was one of the tracks on the mix that made me listen to it over and over, but this year I've obsessed over every single release Break had, so maybe that's not surprising.

20. Genotype - The Director - Ingredients
Last but by no means least, this track basically sums up Ingredients for me, and hopefully goes some way into explaining why I'm such a fan. Big heavy bass, a vague sense of impending doom, and the ongoing feeling of momentum, it's tunes like this that showcase why deep drum and bass is gaining such a following - and so it bloody should be. There's an amazing amount of incredible, heavy DnB around at the moment, and this tune was one of the first ones that turned my attention towards it.

In the next few days I'll be posting my Albums, EPs and mixes of the year, and a list of all the people I reckon/hope will get super duper famous in 2012. So look forward to that.

1 comment:

Bailey's Beads said...

I thought I'd check this blog again. Didn't disappoint. Would read again.

1. 4.
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