10 books in 2011

Might as well continue to do this roundup. I have read more this year, but more was focussed around the dissertation I had to write to complete my degree. Work means I haven't been thinking (and thus writing) about what I have read as much on this blog. I'm hoping to correct that in the new year. We'll see if I actually manage it. (Maybe my new Kindle will help!) Divided by genre, otherwise no order.

R.G. Collingwood - Autobiography [link]
Peter Singer - How Are We To Live? [link]
David Hume - Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Friedrick Nietzsche - The Birth of Tragedy
Aristotle - Politics [link]

William Gibson - Neuromancer [link]
Steph Swainston - No Present Like Time

Grant Morrison / others - Final Crisis [link]
Alejandro Jodorowsky / Moebius - The Incal
Sam Kieth - My Inner Bimbo [link]


Favourite songs of 2011: 10-1

10. JoJo - Marvin's Room (Can't Do Better)

Drunken self-delusional 3am desperation. Should have ended Drake's career by now.

9. Nicki Minaj - Super Bass

Rap meets bubblegum pop and crushes everything in its way (Gaga the first to be pulverized). Not a lot of bass to the heartbeats, but never mind. ‘When he make it drip, drip, kiss him on the lip, lip!’ keeps it filthy as well as sweet.

8. P Money & Blacks feat. Slickman - Boo You

Blacks's verse at the end jarred a bit after reading a piece about the prevalence of gang rape in London. Gave an uncomfortable ring to 'oh yeah fam, when I'm done with your girl, might pass her on to the bredren as well'. Got over it by convincing myself that the sentiment is much more childish: fantasies of saying boo you, you’ve been cuckolded added to impotent dreams of fucking 'too many, too many hoes' across the length and breadth of England. Receives extra bumps because Royal-T’s Hot Ones remix from 2009 was probably my most played grime track this year, and because the Blacks & P mixtape was really very good.

7. Araabmuzik - Electronic Dream

A stand in for the entire album really, the opening 15 seconds one of the best intros to a record I’ve ever heard. ‘My love may be invisible, but I inspire the dreams that guide you’. Trance diva as muse singing to the inspired producer. Reminds me a lot of FSOL’s Papua New Guinea, but slowed to hip hop tempo, the prescience replaced with reminiscence.

6. Katy B - Power On Me

Another stand-in for the entire album, which is one of my favourites released this year. The opening track has a similar sound and theme to the now classic As I, but it is more suspicious, accusatory. Katy's a wary lady. ‘So glad I knew not to rush things with you because now you've grown on me so naturally’. Something you could say about the whole album, actually. It’s a grower, crammed with delightful embellishments only noticed on the third replay: the descending 'bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop-bloo' in Movement, the Charly sample that bookends Go Away. Personally, I don’t understand the accusations that Katy’s voice lacks personality. Robyn’s voice has also been described to me as flat and unremarkable, which I find insane. Powerhouse technical performance is not what either songwriter is about. Instead they go for truth. And Katy’s has an earnestness that conveys her character very clearly to the listener. Personal favourite vocal moment: the coquettish ‘oh’ that caps the bridge in Why You Always Here.

5. Johnny Foreigner - (Don't) Show Us Your Fangs

I love it when my fave indie band of recent times reminds me of my fave indie band of all time. Belle & Sebastian left behind for harder guitars at the end, of course. Includes a faint ringing sound that comes in at the chorus which always makes me reach for my phone. Johnny Foreigner are building a career on singing about travel, random people you meet on the way, home-sickness and love at long distance. This year I’m finally where they are and the connect is even harder. ‘Every leaving means heading somewhere new’. Shivers each time I hear it. The band leaked the mp3 for free, so you have no excuse. Extra bumps because the new album is really very good.

4. Rockwell - Aria

See here. Hopefully Untold will bring this guy to the attention of non-d&b heads. Undoubtedly some of the most exciting ‘bass music’ {{what a horribly bland name for it}} coming out of London right about now. I mean, just check out this weirdness.

3. Kozzie feat. Marger, Merky Ace, Rival, Ego, Scrufizzer - Spartan (Remix)

‘That's how you do an 8 bar riddim!’ Someone should have told Lethal. Call to arms from the new wave of the grime scene. Here’s to exciting times ahead.

2. tUnE-yArDs - Bizness

Blues for a brighter 21st century. Also dance music for a brighter 21st century, featuring the drop of the year. In my dreams, DJs mix this in next to a lot of the other stuff on this list. Extra bumps for the album, obv. One of the most energizing records to come out this year, burning with the (often self-directed) anger of victimhood. But the music is celebratory, colourful and fun -- giving us a way out, pointing to happier times ahead.

1. Purity Ring - Ungirthed

See here. Still sounds fresh at the end of the year. Music made by polyglot creators for polyglot listeners. In fact, I recognised it being blasted out of a Mercedes on Great Russell Street and thought: now that’s an interesting choice for ridin’ out music... But rather than gluttage or hyperstasis, this evokes something very particular and private: cold bedsits, blue mornings, the passing of time, the way the banal can be transformed by a sense of the unworldly. 'Girth' is an archaic word for encircle, and this song seems to be about everyday surroundings being stripped away. That uncanny numinous feeling that leaves you shivering, teeth clicking, ears ringing, all moorings lost. It’s at number one because it shows that overexposure to the mass of stuff out there doesn’t limit the crafting of something singular, and because I can play it on repeat forever without tiring of it.


Favourite songs of 2011: 20-11

20. Rustie - Globes

I like a lot of the more lively parts of Glass Swords as well, but I found that this glowing sunrise of an interlude builds the endorphin rush better than the singles material.

19. Ke$ha - Shots On The Hood Of My Car

Going down and out while burning bright and happy... When last call feels like the apocalypse. Simon Reynolds will be able to bring in Bataille here, if he hasn't already. Someone needs to give me a proper copy so I can hear the twinkling synths actually twinkle.

18. Trim - I Am (Preditah Remix)

The Wire thought this version was too poppy. As opposed to Skipping Rope? Idiots.

17. dom - Burn Bridges

Chillwave that kept the drums

16. Burial - NYC

A.k.a Fostercare Part 2. Vocals clearer than ever before. ‘Didn't you know this is love when I'm around you... Now I see... Leave me... No.’ Burial reaching beyond London? I can't hear it, apart from a sample of what sounds like Method Man at the end.

15. Blawan - Getting Me Down

Blawan's version of chopped r&b uk dance is predictably awesome. A track built on the dual meaning of getting and being ‘down’. ‘Maybe all you need’s a shoulder to cry on’... the club providing that shoulder. The uncomfortable bass grinding underneath the dance, pain not completely numbed, remaining when the night is over. A shame the guy dropped the ball a bit at the end of the year.

14. Damu - Be Free

The hiccups that accent the end of each 'just let go don't be shy' -- the music demanding a transport to arpeggiating kaleidoscopic bliss, the dancers panting, stumbling along, trying to keep up.

13. James Blake - Unluck

Didn't have the patience for the whole album, I'm afraid. Apparently, this started off as more of a club-oriented track, and I wonder if there’s something left there which makes it a standout. As with his other songs, there are only a few endlessly repeated lines, but the song's shifting elements, builds and drops, ensure they never get boring. The words themselves are difficult to distinguish, and may perhaps shift as well, but 'care for me' and 'playing, falling, there' are clear enough: the freedom of childhood, under the protective care of family, now lost.

12. Rival feat. Discarda, Jammin, Nasty Jack, Kozzie, Badness, Merky ACE, Sharky Major, Danny D, Kwam, Big Narstie, Blacks, Dark Boi, Ego, Diesel, Jammer, Jamakabi - Lock Off The Rave 8 Bar Remix

Darq E Freaker unleashes a migraine-inducing barrage of clanging, while Discarda, Merky Ace, Big Narstie, Dark Boi and Jammer provide the lyrical peaks. Rival and Jamakabi wrap up the whole thing nicely. Unevenness is inevitable with so many MCs, but when it hits, it hits harrrd.

11. Azealia Banks - 212

This year's Like A G6, with any justice. Ribald, irreverent, irresponsible, bitchy, self-obsessed. ‘I’MA RUIN YOU CUNT!’ Ms Banks sounds like she might be insufferable in real life, but she also sounds like a really great time.



Favourite songs of 2011: 30-21

30. Bok Bok - Silo Pass

Slim pickins from Night Slugs this year, but this one kept the neon green flame burning. Sounds like a bus full of kids bumping and grinding on Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road.

29. Beyoncé - Schoolin' Life

State of the world address from its biggest R&B star, weirdly off-kilter with the economic dustbin a lot of her listeners are in.

28. Pritch & Trim - Stereotype

Trim’s on a badboy thing, as always, except here he doesn't say that in so many words, instead playfully baiting you to do the assuming. Plenty of space for him to weave around on this gloopy hip hop beat, which is how he likes it. And it shows.

27. Ny feat. Giggs - Be With You

Davinche going for pop gold, that awful hair in the video. There's always a will-to-glamour failing to disguise the girl-next-door about Ny. Great songwriter, regardless. Giggs kinda goes his own way with the concept, but when the 'be with you boy' vocal meets the 'b-b-b-b-be with you' sample, I tend to stop caring.

26. Terror Danjah feat. Ruby Lee Ryder - Full Attention

Danjah’s resurrection of R&G sea-saws between the R and the G. Ruby Lee’s static-drenched swoons are met with heavy drum and bass stomps. Apparently, the idea was that MCs would spit over it. Unsurprisingly, no one was crazy enough to try. I mean, where would you fit in?

25. Kelly Rowland - Motivation

Big up Shark Attack for this one. Kelly finally stops playing the asexual house goddess and asks you to make it rain, no less. Lil Wayne's sex raps are always arch in the extreme, but it's not like the rest of the song lacks the silly. 'Baby I'ma be yr motivation' is hardly what I wanna hear in an amorous context, not to mention 'make mama proud'. The absurdity is what makes the song such a winner. That and another truly astounding vocal performance from Ms. Rowland, who deserves better than a desk job adjudicating the X-Factor.

24. Jacques Greene - Another Girl

Learned recently that this is a shameless rip-off of this, with a lot of the personality of the original ripped out. But a breezy summer r&b-flavoured jam is a breezy r&b-flavoured jam. That is to say, always welcome.

23. Britney Spears feat. Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha - Till The World Ends (Femme Fatale Remix)

Another star turn from Minaj, plus clucking. Plus Ke$ha not being annoying. Plus lopsided structure -- guest rap, chorus, THEN verse one. Plus another chorus, plus obligatory dubstep breakdown. Eletro-pop gets a bit unpredictable. And the burning up / burning out motif that we'll talk about more when we get to Ke$ha proper.

22. Balam Acab - Oh, Why

This gets the Perfume Genius / Youth Lagoon thing right by avoiding any and all resemblance to Coldplay. Its upward climb is built on tape hiss, sampled radios, pitch-shifted vocals. The track's peak is distant and blurry through the onrush of sheets of rain. It's epic yes, but neither obvious nor bombastic.

21. Faze Miyake / P Money - Blackberry

Like this more than Take Off, plus it has P Money talking over it about how his girlfriend is ignoring him because her nose is buried in her smartphone. Which is hilarious.



Favourite songs of 2011: 40-31

40. John Talabot feat. Glasser - Families

Delorean has been missed. Luckily we have this instead. ‘Strangers in your home’, but ‘it’s the beginning of us and the end of them’. You make your own family.

39. Pandr Eyez - Little Bit

Bass squelch, wall of sound haze, vocals buried under the noise. Weary wisdom about the futility of chasing success. Worth five Video Games.

38. J Majik & Wickaman feat. Dee Freer - Ritual

‘I can't get through to you. You never should have let me go’. Where did those '90s days go? Shout out to my sister for this one.

37. Julianna Barwick - Bob In Your Gait

The massed choirs-of-one dialed back to reveal a lone voice following a simple piano line. Sometimes that’s all you need.

36. Addison Groove - This Is It

O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K build to THIS IS A PROFUSION OF COLOURFUL PULSES. About as playful and fun as the Swamp-Hessle sound gets. And we need more of that.

35. Pistol Annies - Hell On Heels

Shout to Lex for this one. Probably the first country music I've really enjoyed. Interesting hip hop comparisons being made. Argument is that this is also post-recession working class music, except that it comes from white females who live in the Republican-voting South, so are unfairly marginalized by liberal (male) music snobs. I fear that line can sometimes degenerate to more-hip-than-thou posturing, but hey, one-upmanship is an ever-present feature of internet discourse. All I can say is the album is the perfect distillation of what Drive-By Truckers have been trying to do for an entire career, and the title track's smouldering menace is the best example of the Annies' mixture of defiance and desperation.

34. FaltyDL - Hip Love

‘It's getting insane I know... Don't you see I don't need you around... True... Spend more time with me...’ Bad break-ups over muffled clattering 2step drums.

33. Toddla T feat. Shola Ama and J2K - Take It Back

‘Can we take it back to how it used to be, baby’. Where did those 90s days go?

32. Shackleton - Deadman

Same old same old genius.

31. Champion feat. Ruby Lee Ryder - Sensitivity

Kingdom and Funkystepz didn't really hit that funky-vocal sweet spot this year, but Champion did. Ruby Lee is on youtube doing Aaliyah covers, and she brings a bit of the lost legend’s unshowy sensuality to Sensitivity. Producers must love her -- how she blends with the track rather than just sitting over it. And Champion excels here. The beat withholds and teases as much as Ruby Lee’s whispered nothings.



Favourite songs of 2011: 50-41

50. Wiley - It's Wiley

‘Back to the bars that I wanna hear playing in the back of the car. We already know that's not for the charts. But it's what I done back at the start and I still feel smart.’ Yeah, keep the grime fans happy while you chase success, with a rework of Eskimo no less. It WAS smart.

49. Jessie Ware and Sampha - Valentine

Saturday morning Guardian-reading electronic pop music. So I guess I have to like it, right? So grown-up, so middle class, but it’s charming in its mannered daintiness.

48. D.O.K - East Coast

Interweaving synthy hooks to gutter basslines and ringing sirens. Energy off the scale. Comes close to the still unsurpassed Chemical Planet, which is probably the best single Butterz have ever released. Danjah schooled him well.

47. Yasmin - Finish Line (The MIKE DELINQUENT PROJECT Remix)

The mercenary garage remix alive and kicking. The original receives a short nod at the 2:30 mark, but then it’s back to skippy kiss-offs. Good break-ups over crisp swinging 2step drums.

46. Pangaea - Hex

Badman gets mistreated: chipmunk'd till he's hoarse, compressed into grainy digital squiggles. Pangaea's vocal slicing completely overpowers the thumps and grinds he lays down underneath. There are two riddims going on here, and the syncopation / disorientation that creates makes this track absolute dynamite.

45. Starkey feat. Merky Ace and Kozzie - PC

How much effort goes into sounding effortless? ‘You're working so hard...’ at what? For what? Beefs waged online, youtube views, twitter followers. ‘What have you done for the scene this week?’ Grime as hungry and competitive as ever, but everything is now channelled through your PC.

44. Chase & Status feat. Delilah - Time

Delilah goes for ravey diva in the verses, but then in the chorus she actually starts raving. An edge, a rawness. Pleading to lashing out to self-hatred when you love someone that doesn't love you back. (P.S. video completely ruins the song and everyone involved should rethink their career choices.)

43. Peverelist - Dance Til The Police Come

Finally, Tom Ford gives us something you can really lose your shit to. I swear at some point there’s about seven things going on at once. Expertly crafted dance floor madness.

42. St. Vincent - Surgeon (Live)

By which I mean her performance for Spin (linked above... it's better without the 'dance jam' at the end). Whoever thinks this song is about sex needs to listen to it more closely (srsly, now!) With St. Vincent it's all about the space stretching out between each note -- the tension and the pressure and the final SNAP into utter collapse. New album sounded like curve-balls for the sake of curve-balls and I didn't give myself time to absorb it.

41. Royal-T - Orangeade V.I.P

Cherryade is great, but Darq E Freaker will be represented otherwise below. This is also big and dumb, but the way it constantly morphs into new forms puts in on another level. Bashed piano chords, whistles, countdowns, screeches, YEAHs, layered expertly over the background fizz of a soft drink waterfall. Over-caffeinated grime banger.



The Devils

Another case of watching something so stunning and timeless it becomes difficult to talk about. Shout out to Mark Kermode for this one, he has said many kind words about Ken Russell recently. I had never seen any of his films, so I thought I should start with the early, controversial, heavily censored one (obv). The Devils is actually very humane and poignant, and quite clever about the nature of sexual sublimation and religious frenzy. It's also incredibly well designed – creating a kind of hyperhistory that punches all of the weirdness to the forefront. Unlike a lot of modern historical dramas which tend to underline how similar the past is to the present, Russell aims to show us how different it was, and how lucky we are.


The Ides Of March

Breaking news, everyone. Politics kills ideals fast. Oh, you knew that already? So did I. In a scene at the beginning of the film, Maurisa Tomei's plays Soothsayer (her character's name is Ida) and makes the point that no successful candidate is clean. Gosling's protagonist doesn't believe her. He is still infatuated with Clooney and what it will mean when he's in the White House. Predictably, Ida is right, and the film tracks the history of Gosling's fall from innocence.

However, that history is pretty unpredictable, almost to a fault. The power plays and double crosses become so extreme that it's hard to work out how we got from point a to point b. But Gosling, and Clooney's direction, save the day. From the very first shot, there is something uncanny and unsettling about Stephen. The steely focus, the not-quite-there look in his eyes, hint at a ruthlessness that explodes into action midway through the film. Clooney also plays smooth with increasing flashes of callousness. By the end, both are thoroughly disagreeable and really quite scary. It's left to Paul Giamatti's shadowy cackling demon to spell out exactly what addiction to politics does to the soul.

Clooney direction is economical but assured, aimed squarely at capturing the mercurial nature of the characters. Several key turning points in the film occur off camera, being reported second hand and after the fact. Characters keep having their questions thrown back at them, even in the most personal of conversations ("How old are you?" "How old do you think I am?") Philip Seymour Hoffman is thrown out of the car because you don't win by relying on trust and loyalty (indeed, the film makes you wonder how he got that far). Again, Paul Giamatti is there to explain: politics is about having that undefinable poise that makes even your enemies love you. Machiavelli was right: virtù is not about being virtuous.

One of the final shots tracks a new intern as she delivers coffee to the staff. Her conversation with Max Minghella is wonderfully ambiguous, recalling the first exchange between Stephen and Molly. Will the new recruit be killed by sleaze and blackmail, or is there a chance that Ben will be different? We don't know, just like we don't know what kind of people our politicians really are. This is a much bleaker film than the feel good supercool Good Night, And Good Luck, and it's much better for it.



This piece says it better than I can. Rubicon is really two shows, each one has its own plot, mise en scène, themes. It practically had two different creators. And the stuff from the 1970s just isn't as interesting as the stuff post-9/11. What was most disappointing is that the season ended on a flourish influenced by the former rather than the latter. Truxton Spangler's motive is some conspiracy beyond even his control, rather than the much more chilling revelation in the fourth episode, where he switches off a call from his nagging daughter, and tells Will about the "gift" of distance. Intelligence, government as a whole, is about seeing people as patterns and numbers, not as people. This is all Spangler knows (I wonder if the name is a reference to Spengler?) There is no empathy there. Just the joy of seeing the connections, manipulating the actors, executing the most daring and audacious plans, and impressing his cabal of school-friends.

Pace-wise, Rubicon has its moments, but it can sometimes be a slog. The nonsensical plot and the absurd institution at the centre of the show (where everything is on paper, and everyone has too much time on their hands) doesn't help your investment in the story. The opportunities for extremely rewarding character work were not taken. Instead, Grant starts off an asshole and inexplicably morphs into dependable rock. His infidelity, Tanya's substance abuse, and Miles's failed marriage get perfunctory treatment. They are little asides to add a couple of extra dimensions, before we get back to Will's quest for answers. I would have preferred it if the show abandoned the season-wide narrative, and instead did standalone episodes testing the characters' personal, ethical and political mindsets -- like the episode midway through where the team have to decide on whether to order an air strike in an area full of civilians, or when Tanya and Miles witness U.S. sanctioned torture.

...but if I wanted that, I might as well have just gone and re-watched my West Wing DVDs, right?


Favourite songs of 2011

Once again, would like to get this over with before all the other end-of-year lists go up, because I get horribly, irreversibly corrupted by them.

There’s a change of presentation from previous years where tracks were divvied up into genres. For the first time I’ll be counting down like other music nerds. I tried dividing them up, but realized pretty quickly that this didn’t work anymore. Pop has cross-bred to such a bewildering degree that setting up boundaries has become hopeless. It doesn’t help that the list is even longer this year, which makes the mess all the more evident. I ended up with five massive catch-alls: pop-r&b, hip/trip hop, grime-funky, post-dubstep-drum&bass and indie-chillwave. But where do you put the hip hop chillwavey stuff from Tri Angle, the rave-indebted pop coming out of the UK, grime MCs on dubstep tracks? Not only that, but I get the feeling that my musical tastes have narrowed somewhat. I could only find three entries for the hip/trip hop category, only one a recognizable rap song (it kicks off the list). My consumption of music broadly defined under the indie banner has also declined (about 11/60 on the list). Focus has zeroed-in more than ever on UK dance music of all descriptions (39/60 on the list), a testament to the richness and diversity of the various scenes, for sure. But there’s also a personal connection that I’ve increasingly become aware of and treasured, a change from the days where I largely looked to the USA and Pitchfork for relief from landfill indie. Actually, the fact that the people making this stuff also grew up or live in England (that I’ve even seen some of them!) adds a salience to their productions that’s ineffable but powerful.

Simon Reynolds and Martin Clark have continued to be much-relied-on guides through the glut of sonic material out there. The guys from Butterz have single-handedly restored my faith in grime, for which thanks are due. Alex Macpherson’s enthusiasm has pushed me further into long-forgotten pop and r&b areas. FACT, Resident Advisor and The Quietus have joined Pitchfork as go-to publications for new emissions. The many contributors at ILX and Dissensus have also become key sources for exegesis and cutting edge developments. Sometimes I get the feeling that I spend as much time reading about music as listening to it, which doesn’t worry me too much, since music is there to be shared and thought about. A four-minute pop song is a compact package of ideas and emotions that can represent the most non-verbal aspects of being human better than anything we have. Thinking about how you react to it, and learning about other people’s reactions, are both valuable instruments in the search for ever-greater self-awareness.

Lists have rules (which are of course bent and ignored at the discretion of the list-maker). This one steals a few from Kieron Gillen, which are adapted to suit my now rather different tastes. One track per artist becomes difficult when you get to collaborations, particularly between producers and vocalists in grime tracks, so I've made many allowances. One track per artist also means that the other work the artist has done this year that I’ve liked gets factored-in by higher placements, which is usually noted. A couple of entries are thus stand-ins for the albums they have released, which saves me the trouble of doing a separate favourite albums list. Since my attention has been mostly occupied with electronic dance music, a singles genre if ever there was one, I can count the albums that I've stuck with through the year on one hand. Finally, I’m not posting the whole thing immediately, because sixty write-ups is a lot of work. Plus, it helps pad the blog out a bit. And for those reading, part of the fun of lists is the anticipation, right? Top sixty to fifty appears today, then I’ll post batches of ten as and when I feel like it. I make the rules, after all.

Compiling lists like this looks daunting from the outset, but actually modern technology makes it pretty easy. Sort by date on the iTunes (your library should of course be kept fastidiously tidy). Pick out your faves from the current year, lob them in a playlist, and compare tracks to their neighbours, which quantifies quite clearly how much something means to you. Check Last.fm to see if anything is missed out or misplaced. If yr really mental, you’ll listen to the playlist bottom to top a couple of times to be absolutely sure of the running order, but I didn’t really have the time to do that. Nor do I care thaat much about what comes after what, so long as it gives a pretty good idea of what I value the most.

Favourite songs of 2011: 60-51

60. Young Bleed - Holla At Uh Dog

With the video: True Blood alternative credit sequence if the show was about Lafayette. As it should have been.

59. Vibezin - Mad Sick

The vocal is blurry around the edges, the synth bleets muted, the drums reverbed. Cobbled together from the crates, and the crates are dusty. A funky roller from another time and place.

58. Dauwd - Ikopol

Stood out from the more established names on the [unclassified] Adult Swim mixtape. Perhaps I’ve just been missing my regular dose of Mount Kimbie? The track is breathless, unsure, a male voice croons, repeating 'want you to...' And at around the 2.55 mark he finally gets his answer, impossible to decipher, but aching with enthusiasm.

57. Elite Gymnastics - So Close To Paradise

Jungle, meet noise pop. I think you'll get along. Hushed confessionals over sweeping vistas -- the personal becoming cosmic.

56. S-X - Bricks

Riding in triumph. Crown on your head. Slaves at your feet. Glory all around.

55. Hyetal feat. Alison Garner - Diamond Islands

I didn't have time to involve myself with M83's new double album (the reviews, even when good, suggested that it was a bit of a chore). But I had this instead, which served adequately. That booming drum sound and the swelling chorus is so 80s, it’s embarrassing. ‘I don’t remember... your eyes, your face’. Yeah, but you remember the soundtrack.

54. ASC - Silkworm

Kills everything Boddika has done dead. The Autonomic sound doesn’t get better than ASC, I think. Silkworm is a smooth roller, but its edges crackle with intercepted transmissions, striking a nice balance between serenity and paranoia.

53. The Chain - Lostwithiel

Post-dubstep that kept the drums.

52. xxxy - You Always Start It

Stepping into the shoes Joy Orbison kicked off. Swirls of synth spin you around as ‘you... you-yup-you...’ hiccups along. And then the groundswell, the pathetic ‘you ALWAYS start it!’. The sound of all your arguments running out and being too confused to be reasonable anymore.

51. Clams Casino - Illest Alive

As close to a club banger as this Tri Angle hip hop stuff gets. And thus, awesome.