• Basically-halfway 2011 favorite albums / singles

    Giu 13 2011, 12:12

    3 Albums (in order of preference):
    tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l
    Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place
    Dom - Sun Bronzed Greek Gods (UK release this year)

    27 Songs (loosely grouped by genre):
    Purity Ring - Ungirthed / Lofticries
    Jessie Ware & Sampha - Valentine
    Hyetal feat. Alison Garner - Diamond Islands
    Jacques Greene - Another Girl
    Blawan - Getting Me Down
    Addison Groove - This Is It
    xxxy - You Always Start It / Ordinary Things
    FaltyDL - Hip Love
    Sepalcure - Your Love
    Burial - NYC
    Rockwell - Aria
    ASC - Silkworm
    Peverelist - Dance Til The Police Come / Fundamentals / Sun Dance
    Shackleton - Deadman
    Tyler, the Creator - Yonkers
    Nicki Minaj feat. Esther Dawn - Super Bass
    Britney Spears feat. Nicki Minaj & Ke$ha - Till the World Ends (The Femme Fatale Remix)
    Toddla T feat. Shola Ama - Take It Back
    Chase & Status feat. Delilah - Time
    Yasmin - Finish Line (The Mike Delinquent Project Remix) / On My Own (Stenchman Remix)
    NY feat. Giggs - Be With You
    P Money & Blacks feat. Slickman - Boo You
  • Ramadanman / Pearson Sound Album Launch

    Mar 19 2011, 19:47

    Fri 18 Mar – FabricLive 56: Ramadanman / Pearson Sound Album Launch

    My first exposure to dubstep in rave form. Pretty good line-up, right? Some of the leading lights gathered together to celebrate the release of Ramadanman's FabricLive CD. So 'twas of interest that Rama's set, which kicked off the party, moved me the least. Very housey, I thought. You couldn't escape the 4/4. Where did the swing go, dude? The haywire precussion bits were the most energizing, but quite a lot of it plodded. I was pretty grateful when the awkward transition to James Blake's "I Never Learnt to Share" heralded the end of the set.

    Joy Orbison b2b with Ben UFO were next. Joy O may prove to be a bit of a one-hit-wonder, I fear. Was that jazzy noodling I heard on one of the tracks? Ben UFO in action, however, was mesmerizing. My spirits had picked up by the transition to a more garage rhythm, anyways, but the way he pulled the beat back and dropped it... the man's a pro.

    Mala b2b with Pinch was the highlight of the night, obv. One bringing the half-step, the other the wobble. A better fit for the soundsystem as well, I thought. The youngsters with their chopped vox and synths had the the buzz and bubble of their tracks filtered out by speakers that leaned overwhelmingly on bass. That said, I listen to Hessle's audio on computer speakers, so my perspective is probs very skewed. Anyways, once things got down to the gutter rumbles and whipcracks, skanking became an unadulterated pleasure.

    As for the venue, bit of a maze. Looks great, in a superclub pretending to be grimey kind of way. The male/female ratio was really bad, however. The ladies disappeared almost entirely when the old-gen dubstep kicked in. Hessle's take on funky house is perhaps still too muscular for the female contingent to fully get on board. Racial mix was predominantly white, perhaps because of the (very house and techno inflected) music, or perhaps because it's Fabric and it costs a fortune. Very middle class clientele as well. Man, everyone looked just like me! Highlights weren't many. The fat guys with the sunglasses are always the most fun. I swear the guy standing next to (but not in) the dj booth looked exactly like Kieran Hebden. Also spotted a kid with a Tellison t-shirt, for which I was grateful. Not an insular scene, at least. But not a particularly inspiring one, either.
  • Ungirthed

    Feb 6 2011, 13:10

    It's fair to say that my friends are pretty suspicious of P4k, and I can understand their attitude even if I don't share it. Personally, I think parsing thru their recommendations is worth it if once in a while you unearth something like this:


    The review does the song some justice, I just can't help adding some of my own slobbering over it. This is beat and vocal science applied to pop like nothing else. White gusts of chopped 'Aaah's crash against strategically fired 'Boh's over stuttering ticks, starting and stopping, stumbling and lurching. And that's BEFORE the vocal comes in. And what a vocal -- high and clear and light and sweet and sly and pouty and innocent and high and clear, all soft consonants and slurred vowels. Yes the rapidly repeating "ears ringing / teeth clicking" quivers are a highlight, but my fave bit is when the vocal and synth acends dramatically ('the air is familiar...') leaving you momentarily adrift, before everything drops back down. Oh and how it ends! Sharply winding back, leaving a final "ears ringing" refrain. It just makes you want more.

    Whenever I play it, I can't simply listen to it once.

    There is a lot of synthpop here, but also glo-fi's fuzzy colours, southern hip-hop's clattering hi-hats, and dubstep's low-end punch. It's like Purity Ring have picked the best bits moden music has to offer and built this little happy pulsing diamond of a song with them. I really can't wait for what they are going to do next.
  • Robyn

    Set 2 2010, 1:01

    True story. Sitting over cocktails a close personal acquaintance reveals she doesn't really like Robyn. 'Dancing on My Own' (some remix thereof) had been burbling out of the speakers and I had been quietly grooving, hence the conversation. Alas, conversation was not really what was had. The revelation had robbed me of speech. I had never thought about exactly WHAT separates Robyn from the multitude of pop stars that populate our pop culture galaxy, partly because I never thought I would have to justify her in any way. Robyn just IS. She's undeniable. The possibility that she could be denied never entered my tiny mind.

    Over those cocktails I wasn't at my most... shall we say graceful. I didn't EXACTLY weep, but composure was definitely lost SOMEWHERE. Time and blogging may not relieve that embarrassment, but it can accomplish what I couldn't do then: put up a spirited, if not coherent, defence of Robyn.

    Which must start with Robyn, the self-titled album, lauded the greatest pop album of the last ten years by Pitchfork and FACT and other right-thinking publications, give or take an M.I.A. Body Talk Pt. 1 was a bit disappointing for me, but we'll come back to that. First, 'Konichiwa Bitches'. Go listen!

    Starts squelchy, powers up and blasts you in the face like a mushroomed-up Mario. Tinny rimshots cut up the track as a husky vocodered voice starts moaning aggressively. Four big booms, and Robyn enters the ring.

    What I love about this song is that Robyn is basically battle-rapping, but she sounds like an eight-year old, and her verses are as juvenile and silly as can be. I mean, COME ON:

    "I'll handle your toe like a pediatrician,
    Saw you in half like I'm a magician,
    Tear you down like I'm in demolition,
    Count you out like a mathematician."

    This is shit-talk posturing taken to the absolute limit, where aggression becomes ridiculous, hilarious, harmless. I just wish Jay-Z or 50 Cent had to come on after that. What would they say? Robyn's already done all of it so well that the game is over, it has been overturned, rendered meaningless. Robyn destroys mockery with mockery. No more fronting. The rest of the album can move on to matters of the heart.

    'Cobrastyle' is the dark cousin of 'Konichiwa Bitches' -- dancehall aggro modulated by Robyn's cute patois. If there is rage here, it's rage at rage (the Broken Social Scene motto: We Hate Your Hate). Also not being taken seriously as an artist, in part because she's of the female persuasion. But the dark side has an upside: it's a killer tune to shake the behind to, and you get to say "foo" every 30 seconds. THAT'S pop music.

    'Handle Me' bumps and grinds like the first two, but a mournful cello sound drifts in towards the end of the verse, and an acoustic guitar strums through the chorus. We're moving from club banger to ballad.

    Ahh, the ballads. In an interview earlier this year, Robyn talked about singing truthfully -- genuinely experiencing the emotion of the song as you sing it. And you know? I get that. Robyn's vowels ache. Her consonants hiccup. Her sentences choke. The notes sound strained, their passage into the air filtered through feeling. This shit HURTS.

    'Be Mine!' is probably the finest example of this. The despair is brutal. The chorus is basically Robyn repeatedly stabbing herself in the chest: "you NEVER were and you NEVER will be mine!" The spoken word bridge throbs with unrequited affection, before the pummeling begins again. Emotional masochism in three and a half excruciating minutes.

    'With Every Heartbeat' is calmer, oscillating between yearning hope and determined resignation. The entire song is a build to nowhere -- a house anthem that never explodes, only plods along hurting with every beat and heartbeat.

    And then The Knife cut in with those massive drums of theirs. 'Who's That Girl?' has been rather finely written up already http://gillen.cream.org/wordpress_html/?p=1114 (scroll down). I'd just add that if anyone asked me what feminism was and I had an iPod to hand, I would play them this. And, brilliantly, the huge chorus heralds no dawn of realization. There is no answer to the question. The conversation continues one-sided. Robyn remains isolated, but she keeps dancing, because what else is there to do?

    At the album's peak I feel like I should quit, although further treasures await in the second half. 'Robotboy' is built on a clumsy metaphor for aging, but through it... gods does it reach a grace, a wisdom, a compassion when those multi-tracked vocals hit. The bitter beatbox of 'Should Have Known' makes frustration very funky. And closer 'Any Time You Like' gets all quiet and heartbreaking again. Robyn knows she is running out of time, but she doesn't want to let go.

    Needless to say how much I appreciate cleverness, and Robyn is very clever, attacking relationships with a scalpel, showing us its viscera in microscopic detail. Through these songs, she emerges with something still rather rare in our pop universe. A personality. WITH THINGS TO SAY. Things, I think, that are worth listening to.

    The very least you can say about the music is that it is efficient, in that it picks your body up and moves it around. Which is why Body Talk Pt. 1 lacks a certain something. The opener was just limp. 'Dancing On My Own' splits the difference between 'Be Mine!' and 'With Every Heartbeat' without going beyond either. 'None of Dem' lopes but doesn't skip until the very end, somewhat undermining the sentiment of the song. 'Fembot' is better. Robyn forms like Voltron and provides much excitement after a slow start. But really, the EP is all about 'Cry When You Get Older', an epic that can stand alongside the best from her previous album.

    Indeed, I wonder if this is the Robyn song to unlock all others. I cannot be sure, because the lyrics are really rather bewildering. Robyn stands as an elder veteran of many a romantic entanglement, imparting sage advice to those green enough to still seek transcendence in love. You're asking for trouble that way, she says. Reality will hit you hardcore to the brain. That "more than life" feeling is fleeting. It won't last and you will be left wanting again. Love hurts when you do it right. But does that mean you DON'T do it? No. Go on. You can cry when you get older.

    Almost everything that makes Robyn Robyn is here: regret at lost loves, the trap of expectations, masochistic voyeurism. And most of all, wisdom, compassion, humanity. Here, she understands. She reaches out. The music does too. The chorus, unlike in 'With Every Heartbeat', invites you in. The swooshing synths pick up the whole dancefloor, although the song does know when to pull back, get you bootyshaking, and then catapult you once more into that pop stratosphere. It is a song about being alone that includes everyone. And we're back at that most recognizable of Robyn themes. I'm dancing on my own, but so is everyone else. Maybe I'm not as alone as I thought.

    That's about the best defence I can manage, so I'll stop. The above isn't even an argument really, certainly not a rebuttal. The only way you can justify art is by talking about how it makes YOU think and feel. Everything else is meaningless, in the fullest sense of the word. But it's also why Robyn is amazing, because she MEANS SOMETHING. To me, that is. She might not mean anything to someone else, and that's something I'll have to live with. At least next time over cocktails I'll have something to say...
  • Los Campesinos! / Frankie & The Heartstrings / Johnny Foreigner

    Lug 16 2010, 14:08

    I have a shiny new "Witicha Recordings Ltd." pencil, which has been used to record for the sake of posterity the continuing chronicles of Johnny Foreigner and Los Campesinos!'s occasional visits to London. Together this time around! With unknown (to me) interlopers Frankie & The Heartstrings! Fabulous!

    I arrive early, not wanting to miss JoFo's set. My waterbottle gets confiscated by guards outside the venue. Bastards! How am I going to hydrate now? Go in, buy Guinness, move to dark corner and fume. Guinness hardly sipped before Alexei and friends take to the stage. Their opener I do not recognize, but follow up "With Who, Who and What I've Got" was recently released on the webz (http://bloggyforeigner.blogspot.com/2010/05/have-collabullation.html) and is bloody good. Hits follow: "Eyes Wide Terrified", "ShutUpAlright", "Spindarella", "Cloakroom". Alexei tells us "Criminals" is about how rubbish London is, and how it's embarrassing playing it in London. It isn't. Gareth Campesinos! takes over singing duties for (I think it was) "Bullring". Looked pretty nervous and hid behind Kelly most of the time.

    Should say I've never seen the band play a tighter set. Maybe less drink was had backstage, or maybe I was more lucid, but the playing was spectacular. Musicianship in a noisy pop punk band? Go figure.

    Guinness finished by the end of the set. Cup abandoned, Gents beckon. A note for the manager of the Garage: fix yr gorram taps! Out feeling filthy and suspicious of every gent in the room. Go to the charming people selling merch and procure myself a JoFo tee in resplendent black for a respectable £10. Wichita CDs are going for a fiver, and I browse. I own digital copies of like five of them already and nothing else catches my eye. Sorry Wichita.

    Frankie and his Heartstrings roll out. A lot of them look like they belong in the 1950s. The music sounds like it does too. Frankie, who no question receives the award for hunk of the night, strikes me as more of an entertainer than an artist, but what do I know? Retreat to the sidelines and respectfully await the end of the set.

    The Campesinos take an age to tune up, tho there ARE loads of them. Ollie's replacement is a tattooed young gentleman called Jason, who seems to know his way around the songs alright, although they hardly require Junior Foreigner levels of eight-armed awesomeness. "In Medias Res" drifts us in, "Through The Wall" tears us all up. Clarity dissolves. By the time "Beautiful, Doomed" is played, I'm screaming along with everyone else. "You! Me! Dancing!" finds me grooving passionately with my overarm satchel. Top came off just before I melted from the heat of a hundred jumping bodies. Gareth says some heartfelt words about the label that allowed them to switch sound and tone, from twee to noise. JUST DON'T CALL US TWEE! rings the alarm. However, the encore revisits "Tweexcore" and "Parties, Knives". Charming, though after a main set packed with new material, they really do sound like b-sides.

    Thrilled, spilled, danced around. A good evening. Out and away. A text makes me smile. Home. Give the goody bag to my sister, who is well enthused. Keep a badge. And this pencil. Thanks Wichita.
  • Irreplaceable

    Giu 22 2010, 22:03

    Yeah OK, 'Crazy in Love' is great. The driving horns pump you up high, the bump and grind bring you down low. Repeat with increasing returns. Jay-Z's rap makes the beat even funkier, and the brass goes positively shoegaze at the end. BUT. There's something about the chorus that is a bit... uncrazy. It's kinda docile. There is no big ridiculous diva moment where the vocal overloads the track -- where personality asserts itself. The closest we get to that is the bridge ("baby you're MA-AKING a fool of me!") and it's just not enough for me. I need more Beyoncé.

    Hence, 'Irreplaceable'. At first listen a much simpler song -- clever drum pattern, strummed guitar. But its genius is that lyrically it is an enormously inflated and egotistical kiss-off anthem, while musically it is a break-up ballad. Beyoncé isn't shouting, she's crooning. This isn't an argument, it's an internal monologue. She's putting on a front. She's taunting, cruel, invincible -- her next lover will be here in a minute! But her voice is quivering, semi-hysterical. She's falling apart. There is a deadening finality in her resolution to "be NOTHING", and the final jab: "replacing you is so easy" just sounds petty and feeble.

    But this is not where the story ends. The second round of "To the left! To the left!" heralds an almost imperceptable shift in tone. There is a build. The chorus sounds bigger. It's like there is more conviction behind it. Beyoncé starts believing that, actually, she IS invincible. There is no hesitation to "you can pack all your bags, we're finished / You made your bed now lay in it". This IS an argument. The song goes from doubt to certainty, weakness to strength. It ends with a beautifully composed melismatic vocal line. Beyoncé finds serenity. She starts to believe the lies she is telling herself, until eventually, the lies become true.

    'Irreplaceable' is about transforming yourself. Being confronted with how small and insignificant (how replaceable) you are will cripple you. The only way to deal with that is to convince yourself that you ARE, in fact, irreplaceable, despite the evidence. The final twist in the drama is that for Beyoncé to feel this way, she must first begin by denying others the right to feel this way. The lies that establish your self-confidence are about how others are worse than you are. The 'truth' the song reaches is fragile. If psychological serenity is built on destroying someone else's, the cycle will continue. Beyoncé will just have her heart broken again. Buried within the triumph at the end of the song is a dark secret -- humanity's unwavering impulse towards hierarchy, and the impossibility of true love.
  • What Would I Want? Sky

    Giu 5 2010, 18:24

    It is sunny right now in London, a perfect time to get acquainted with this song good and proper. I realize the entire blogosphere has covered this ground already, but oh wow Animal Collective! You boys sure do spoil us.

    'My Girls' was all shimmering anxiety building to triumphant resolve. 'What Would I Want? Sky' is more obviously a song of two parts. It starts with a claustrophobic cacophony -- bruising drums and echoed ululations. You're fighting ghosts underwater, ghosts chanting what sounds like "blue jeans" at you. Freaky. You want to get out. And then the song surfaces, and becomes all shiny and new. And then the sample kicks in. And the beat. And the verse. And it gets difficult again. You cannot get a grasp on the groove, even though you want to: "the point of horizon is hiding from you". The song is reaching for transcendence -- to fit the pieces together into a glorious whole. And it just about manages it when the vocal and the sample join together at the end, but only for a few exquisite seconds. Then the vocal is gone, and the sample cuts out unfinished. What would I want...

    The actual lyrics suggest this is about the band living in the city, and wanting to escape it, geographically and spiritually. What I find interesting is the use of the sample (from the Grateful Dead, a big influence apparently). I can't help getting a little Harold Bloom on that detail -- perhaps the song is also about trying to capture, and match, the music that has influenced the band. The eternity it seeks is (on a more mundane level) an artistic one.

    But all of that is just pointless intellectual diversion. You should be floating, not weighed down by thinking. If you have ever yearned for anything, throw on this song and ride that cresting wave.
  • Slight obsession...

    Mag 9 2010, 18:00

    It's been difficult to escape the clutches of Now, Now today. Like a lot of St. Vincent songs, its about confinement and resistance. Muffled drums like power muzzled. The breezy strings coming up against guitar blasts. But what makes the thing so gut-wrenchingly beautiful and poignant is Annie Clark's voice. The taunting sing-song of "YOU DON'T MEAN THAT SAY YOU'RE SORRY" trying to crush that moment of defiance: "I'm not... any any any any any any any any thing". There's a frailty to those repeating anys. A precariousness. Negating all those categories you get boxed into is so difficult. The effort is incredibly straining. And does the rising swirl of sound, the guitar solo, suggest flight or burial? Or some fusion of the two?
  • Johnny Foreigner / Talons

    Feb 10 2010, 13:57

    Tue 9 Feb – Johnny Foreigner, Talons

    The chronicle of Johnny Foreigner's occasional visits to London continues. This time the venue was my student union, which is swanky as student unions go. The Guinness didn't taste half bad.

    And there is seating, which I made use of during the set of the first (unknown, local?) support act. I refuse to be mean about them, for they look like upstanding gentlemen. I shall just stick to the facts: they played their instruments, and some organized noise came out. Meanwhile, I was reading Niall Fergerson's The Ascent of Money. A little incongruous to be thinking about the history of finance during a concert du rock, but there you go.

    The second (touring) support group are called Talons, and they do violin-encrusted postrock. In a word: heavy. In two: heavy metal. A success mainly because the drummer was mesmerizing. The violins and guitars could just make droning noises and the band would be awesome.

    Another retreat to the couches. Read some more about the development of bond markets and their role in the American Civil War. But I couldn't concentrate. Band prep isn't supposed to be exciting, and yet the build-up gave me the jitters. JoFo gigs are explosive. The tension can be pretty unbearable.

    A pause in the narrative for a confession: I didn't buy JoFo's second album, nor am I familiar with it through extralegal means. Several factors explain my betrayal. First, Drowned in Sound (who can fairly be described as JoFo partisans) gave it a weak review, which stopped me downloading it immediately upon release. Second, it's... concise. £8 was not going to buy me very much, particularly since I already owned the singles. Opportunity cost is important, people. £8 can be spent on a Dismemberment Plan album. Or Guinness. Third, my initial ventures on Spotify were less than revelatory. This was probably related to factor number four. The band (because they are the bestest ever) threw an EP of remixes on the web just before the album dropped. For free, may I stress. Go download! I think the EP wins over the LP, despite the ill-judged Internet Forever track. Compare the busy 'More Tongue' to the aching space of the Cycle Mix, or the stop-start of 'More Heart' to the control of Junior's version. Coati's rework of 'ShutUpAlright' dressed Kelly's voice in a way that punched harder than the thrash of the original. And JOCKS provided a summer anthem that managed to outblast the formidable 'Feels Like Summer'. Napoleon III and Tom Campesinos! don't quite manage to erase the originals, but they had a tough brief, and their contributions are perfectly listenable. Alex laughed at going in a synth-pop direction for the next release, but from where I'm standing it doesn't look like a bad idea. With Grace, I elected to stick with the free remixes and forgo the costly album. Apologies for my mercenary nature.

    So back to the gig and everything. The kick-off was a song I was unfamiliar with, but balloons were soon unleashed to distract me from this. Balloons were forgotten as 'Yes! You Talk Too Fast' came on. Much love for that and the later appearance of 'Cranes and Cranes', neither of which were played at the previous London gig, where they were missed. 'Feels Like Summer' and 'Eyes Wide Terrified' rounded off the opening package, and got everyone in the room jumping. As is proper.

    The band seemed more relaxed than last time, perhaps because the venue was smaller? The tour had been less onerous? Balloons? Whatever it was, Alexei was more conversational, Kelly's face, and smile, were visible, and Junior felt comfortable enough to embrace his role as master of ceremonies, conducting the beginning and ending of songs, and bossing his co-workers when they got too unruly. They looked like they were enjoying themselves.

    Moment of the night was rewarded to 'Spindarella' last time, the best song in the JoFo catalogue, but tonight's performance was overshadowed by what came immediately before. The forgettable 'Chose Yr Side' was redeemed very slightly by it serving as the lead into 'ShutUpAlright'. Instruments were swapped, and Kelly sat down on Junior's stool to sing her piece, arms wrapped nervously around themselves, face turned as much as possible away from the audience. At a gig filled with noise and yelling, Kelly gave us this little moment of frail, unfiltered beauty. Abandonment, heartbreak, and a rousing resolve, all in under two minutes. Amazing.

    The play-every-instrument finale was given extra heft by the inclusion of Talons, who can make a LOT of noise. Awesome, like last time. No encore, again like last time. And like last time, I don't mind. I was pretty tired just standing there. Alex looked like he could drown in his own sweat. I was happy. Go home, write this.

    I'll end on a note cribbed from a FoFo b-side that sums up the above exposition rather well: there's nothing I can say, I got exactly what I paid for. And I did. Thank you.
  • More fave songs of 2009

    Gen 13 2010, 12:57

    Let's begin with the releases by the Grizzly Animal Projectors, which were not very album albums for me, but were dominated by a few magical singles. On Veckatimest, 'Two Weeks' is truly sublime, but I found myself preferring the angrier, rockier 'While You Wait for the Others', which always reminds me of Built to Spill for some reason. Bitte Orca is somewhat marred by the exasperating 'Useful Chamber', but 'Stillness Is the Move' is epic, and I do like the way 'Temecula Sunrise' is always falling apart only to gather itself back together again just in time for the singalong chorus. And the delerious groove of 'Summertime Clothes' is my other highlight of Merriweather Post Pavilion.

    In other news. The xx remix (or is it a cover?) of Florence's 'You've Got the Love' is a slinky, sexy masterpiece. The best thing either artist has put their name to. On The Big Pink's 'Dominoes'. To echo Kieron Gillen, misogyny is OK if you have a big enough hook. Also, this is what Kasabian dream of doing. Camera Obscura's 'French Navy' goes in because the horns flutter, and that is what falling in love sounds like. 'I Am Leaving' by Blue Roses goes in because I love the way she pronounces her vowels. Will have to add Johnny Foreigner's 'Criminals' and Los Campesinos!'s 'There Are Listed Buildings' here, as I became besotted with both bands this year. In general I prefer the stuff released in 2008, but this may change. Also, Johnny Foreigner have put out a free EP of remixes, some of which are pretty awesome. Get it here.

    In pop news. Beyoncé's 'Single Ladies' is kinda like 'Jumpin Jumpin' part two, except with a bridge that makes the experience slightly less horrible. On Lily Allen's 'The Fear'. Hey, is that a reference to Kanye's 'Diamonds from Sier... THAT BEAT! The vocal on La Roux's 'In for the Kill' was too much for me, but the feisty yapping on 'Bulletproof' is undeniably great. Also, it was good to see Elly Jackson acknowledging the debt to Deep Cuts in Q's Albums of the Decade issue. More synth pop was provided by Chew Lips's 'Solo'. Bleepy music with a stupid hook. Perfect for the dancefloor. The obligatory Lady Gaga single will have to be 'Paparazzi'. No "GA GA! OOH LA LA!" Plus the most world-conquering / heartbreaking chorus since Beyoncé's 'Irreplaceable'.

    In glo-fi news. 'Plain Material' by Memory Tapes brings the rave to your smoked out bedroom. On 'Deadbeat Summer' by Neon Indian. Does anyone else find this guy's voice incredibly sexy? Or is that just me... 'In Steps' by Letting Up Despite Great Faults makes up for there being no M83 this year. And Delorean's 'Seasun' is my 'Surf Solar'. You'll never be the same again, either.

    In hip-hop news. The death of the genre may be on its way, but there have been a couple of tunes that are keeping the flame burning. Doom's 'Cellz' is like McCarthy's The Road, only it goes like: "missin wheel, you don't listen, you a feel head / sittin in the kitchen, pissin, twitchin, kissin steel lead". Mos Def's 'Auditorium' can't be anything but perfection -- Madliberata, Defoperata and a genius guest verse by Slick Rick. Big Boi's solo album has yet to be released, but a couple of tracks are floating around on the internet. 'Royal Flush' will get the nod here, because with all the Lil Wayne oversaturation, it's good to hear from Andre 3000 again. You know what? He's the best rapper alive.

    Will have to end on 'Empire State Of Mind'. Even Jay-Z's lame, patronizing social consciousness on the third verse cannot tarnish the magnificence of Alicia Keys's chorus. One of my proudest achievements was putting it on at a New Year's party shortly after the countdown to 2010, which brought the house down. That's the thing, the song isn't really about New York (a city I don't particularly like). It's about triumph, conquest, celebration. It was exactly the right tune at exactly the right moment. I've never been able to nail that before, being a terrible DJ who doesn't believe in the first rule of DJing -- give the punters what they want. This time I did, and it was glorious.