Part 1 is over here.
15. Friction & Skream feat. Scrufizzer, P Money & Riko Dan - Kingpin
Three generations of grime MCs on a track, although it's a shame that Riko only gets hook duty, as he could easily have wiped the floor with a bored-sounding P Money. Scru brings his best Dizzee impression at the front before speeding up to his trademark Twista-paced flow. It's a sad state of affairs when grime legends are reduced to vocalling dubstep and house tunes - and this is about as fun as it gets.
14. TC4 - Mango
The minimal strains of grime have captured people's interest this year, leaving TC4's omnivorous genre perversions unfairly overlooked. Their Alpha EP came out on Logan Sama's Earth 616 label, and I think they deserve as big a profile as Logan's previous protégé Preditah. Mango takes ideas from funky and bassline, but rather than producing a hybrid they've created a hydra, multiple heads snapping at your feet from all different directions. A cut-up vocal sample is there to guide you through the snake-pit.
13. DJ Mustard feat. TeeFLii, Constantine, Ty Dolla $ign & Tory Lanez - Fuck That Nigga
DJ Mustard's Ketchup is probably my most listened to hip hop mixtape this year, and although Lil Snupe's Intro, Burn Rubber, and Paranoid have been picked out as highlights, I've fallen hardest for this compilation of outrageous seduction techniques. It's almost as if cuckoldry adds an extra amount of spice to the liaison: the status-boost of being able to sleep with another man's girlfriend becoming the source of sexual arousal itself. The whole thing is horrible, of course, but its shamelessness is weirdly compulsive.
12. Ciara feat. Nicki Minaj - I'm Out
Ciara's self-titled album this year is probably her most consistent in what has been a long career, although it lacks the highs on 2010's Basic Instict. The opening track is a powerful introduction, particularly when the bass drops in the second half of the verses. Nicki is priceless, as pretty much always.
11. Walton - Homage
The swung drums are El-B to the core, but that gnarly bassline sounds like it was unearthed in an archaeological dig. "Maybe we'll find a different way" goes the chanting vocal, pitched half-way between hardcore chipmunk and sultry garage diva. The track is called Homage, to the nuum more than anything. I first heard it in a Logos set at one of the Boxed nights, and it stood out then as an arresting piece of demented 2-step. It's my favourite thing thing Keysound have released this year, which as noted above, is saying something.
10. Angel Haze - Echelon (It's My Way)
I like Angel Haze best when she's bullshitting, although even then she brings an outsider's twist to rapping about cars, clothes and clubs (she prefers to "get high and dance alone" apparently). Personal fave bit is her finding the religious fervour her parents tried to impose on her in a new and all-consuming love of hip hop: "me I spit that Gospel, that... LYRICAL BIBLICAL HOLY GHOST PENTECOSTAL"
9. Jon Hopkins feat. Purity Ring - Breathe This Air
Jon Hopkins's Immunity was impressive, although while most listeners alighted on the thumping techno of Open Eye Signal or Collider, my stand-out was the (now vintage) Burial-esque 2-step of Breathe This Air. And the fact that my favourite act of 2011 and 12 thought the same made the song just that bit more perfect.
8. Kahn feat. Flow Dan - Badman City
A persuasive argument could be made for Flow Dan being the best dubstep MC of all time, taking into account his work with The Bug and, more recently, Jubei. In fact, Jubei's follow-up to last year's Say Nothin' (which I loved) was pretty good, but this track with Kahn is even better. Wreathed in groaning vocal samples and sinister strings, Flow Dan evokes a nightmare world where "even the gyal-dem are trained to assassinate".
7. CHVRCHES - Lies
The album is stuffed so full of bangerz (The Mother We Share, Gun, Recover, Lungs), it makes choosing one song difficult. In the end, I settled on Lies because of the uncomfortable resonance "I can feed your dirty mind" has acquired given the stuff Lauren Mayberry had to deal with this year. A song about idolatry in pop music, the frontwoman becoming a master manipulator of her audience, and the ambiguous nature of that victory - themes that would have made it perfect for the Catching Fire soundtrack.
6. Charli XCX - Grins
An ecstasy-powered cosmic-sized night out compressed into Charli's bedroom: cliches suffused through the shimmering glamour of pop music to emerge as the real anchor of truth in your life. Charli XCX's music is a private, insular take on a genre that strives to be universal. Best bit is the whispered "Oh My God!" buried partway through the chorus.
5. Dawn Richard - Gleaux
Goldenheart takes a while to unveil its treasures - taking its cues from epic fantasy films rather than sweaty club music. Dawn Richard plays out her personal triumphs and tragedies on the mist-shrouded battlefields of myth and legend. Again, very difficult to pick one track out to exemplify the whole album. Gleaux's hand-claps and fist-pumping chorus is the current favourite.
4. Paramore - Last Hope
I didn't find Paramore to be a perfect album, but I've kept a good ten of its songs in my music library, which is an improvement on the six I retained from Brand New Eyes. The band lost members but emerged with an expanded palate of sounds, and it's surprising how many of their experiments have been successful. Last Hope is my favourite, a stadium-sized ballad large enough to accomodate a choir without collapsing.
3. Congo Natty feat. Rebel MC, Tenor Fly, Top Cat, General Levy, Tippa Irie, Sweetie Irie, Daddy Freddy - UK Allstars (Congo Natty meets Benny Page Mix)
I have a soft spot for jungle or grime posse cuts, at their best they can capture the sense of what it must have been like to listen to MCs chatting on pirate radio, which is a thrill-ride like nothing else in pop music. And when old school jungle survivor Congo Natty assembled the brightest sparks from twenty years of UK-based ragga/dancehall to toast over a propulsive track from Benny Page, the results are nothing short of spectacular. The album is great too.
2. Stylo G - Soundbwoy
My summer jam, which crossed over quite a bit when it came out but has been largely forgotten now that the end of year canons have been drawn up. Great because the build in the verses does not lead to an EDM explosion in the chorus. Instead the midrange buzzsaw baselines and piercingly high synths maintain a skank-comfortable tempo, as if everyone in the dance is moving in slow motion. A peak-hour epic.
1. Cassie feat. Jeremih - Sound of Love
Not the most loved r&b duet this year - for some reason Miguel's dorkiness doesn't appeal as much as the ridiculously depraved croonings of TeeFLii or Jeremih. The Cassie bandwagon has rolled on for so long without making an impact that it's not even cool to be on it anymore. And it's true that the mixtape this is taken from was mediocre, but Sound of Love is a gem nonetheless. The digital moans woven into the beat are soaked up by sleazy 80s synths, as the two voices writhe around each other, creating a deeply sensual declaration of devotion (indeed, post-climax Cassie says she actually isn't ready for love just yet). This is superior to things like Dawn Richard's Frequency or Nina Sky's Comatose because of the pleading tone of Jeremih's voice, and Cassie's gasps for air after admitting that "you make it hard for me to breathe".