We were pondering recently on whether this period between Christmas and New Year has a name. We figured it must have one but nobody could think of anything and a quick Google throws nothing sensible up. Somebody did offer up The Valley, as it’s a dip between too high peaks, I like that one.
What I do know is that this is the perfect period for reflection, to sum up the year gone and plan for the year ahead. I’m still summing up, and may even get a blog post up before diving into the new year but one thing’s for sure this has been a massive roller coaster ride, full of peaks and troughs as they say.
Musically it has been amazing, some monstrously good music has happened in 2012, so much so that even the thought of a ‘Best Of’ made me sweat a little. However I kept on coming back to a few tunes that matched the reflective mood of the year’s closing. Many of them I felt hadn’t had anything close to the exposure they warranted and so whilst in Studio 2 of Radio Cardiff studio where I pre-record the Chrome Kids Radio Show, I put this little impromptu selection together.
The general radio equipment has no pitch shift, suitable monitoring for mixing or other DJ friendly bits so each of these is pretty much just played in their entirety, but then they all deserve to be. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have, below is a little more information along with separate links for the tracks for those who prefer it that way (ps. WordPress and Mixcloud seem to have fallen out again but just click the picture of the mirror and it will take you to the mix).
The first single from Pete Lawrie’s new project Until The Ribbon Breaks. Pete’s an old mate of mine since his days as DJ Itchy Fingers back in the early Higher Learning days and he’s also a massively under-rated talent generally. I’ve had a sneak peak at his album (although it has no doubt changed by now) and it’s easily the best thing I’ve heard in a while. Hopefully it shall see the light of day sometime in 2013!
Now I knew the original came out in 2011 but I was convinced the Tensnake remix was more recent (but nope it came out at the same time). Ah well, no problem it’s still a great tune and to be honest I probably missed it the first time as only really caught the Little Dragon bug after Bestival this year. Plus Tensnake’s relatively new on my radar too, though he’s done nowt but good things this year. Check out his FACT mix from July.
Easily one of the best acts I saw this year and one of the few shining graces from the limited life of London Pleasure Gardens. There were a few times when I thought their appearance wasn’t going to happen but fate and obstinence paid off and the Canadian Jazz trio were truly spectacular (and thoroughly nice lads to boot). This James Blake cover from BBNG2 surpasses even the original in my view and you can grab the whole album for free here.
At some point in March my Twitter feed suddenly became jammed with praise for this tune and rightly so. There’s something a little Prince like about it though I can’t quite put my finger on why. Understated yet powerful and highly addictive. I also loved Riz MC’s grim teen tale vocal version too.
This was surprisingly only Jai Paul’s second release, the first BTSU, also on XL Recordings was equally dangerous.
When I first heard You Know You Like It I literally lost my mind (if this was simply a best of then that would be here, but this is more suitable and still beats most other tunes this year hands down). For me it’s probably the best RNB tune to come out in the last 10 years or so and it’s funny that they don’t seem to have crossed over massively to that crowd, finding more favour with the anorak muso crew from what I can tell. That said they no doubt made plenty of waves in 2012 and I was gutted that by the time I turned round to watch them in Swn festival, the place was too packed and all I saw were the tops of 2 heads (I was later told there had been a whole band). Still with rumours of a new album nearly ready to roll I have no doubt that 2013 will be good to them.
Although this dropped on a free EP that served only as a pre-cursor to his Mourning In America album on the ever excellent Rhymesayers label, it’s possibly my favourite track from one of my favourite rappers. Ali’s flow is like soft butter on warm bread and is perhaps the necessary spoon of sugar required to properly digest his heartfelt lyrics which tend to spring from painful places.
How Joey manages to sound current whilst also sounding like the most classic early 90s Brooklyn rhymers is beyond me. Love the fact Huw Stephens (or Huw $tephen$ as he has now become on Twitter) has been championing this track on BBC Radio 1 too. Sadly Christmas Eve saw the apparent suicide of his friend and fellow Pro Era collaborator Capital STEEZ.
I only just noticed that the Metabeats and Vanity Jay track Passport makes an appearance at the beginning of this video. I’ve only just got that track after a year of asking (though it was definitely worth the wait). I’m not sure how long Associated Minds have been sitting on this tune, the Michael Jackson reference suggest a little while, but it still stands head and shoulders above most UK Hip-hop tunes this year (and this has been a particularly good year for UKHH). I had a toss up between including this track and Dubbledge’s tune L.O.V.E. which we gave away on the Chrome Kids Soundcloud for Valentines day but this allowed me to include Metabeats too. Believe me from what I’ve heard of his 2nd solo album it’s going to be one of the musical highlights of 2013.
Honestly now, no disrespect against Disclosure but anybody who chose their remix over this original is trying too hard. Jessie Ware has had some seriously big tunes this year and still manages to straddle the paths between pop stardom and artistic credibility better than most. Her whole vibe reminds me of the classic UK Soul artists of the 80s and I’m realising now that I haven’t given her album anything near the love it deserves. I might have to pop it on after finishing this write up.
Speaking of overlooking albums, why I have I not got this one yet? Not since Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ has such a musical legend come back to pluck my heartstrings so heavily. Bobby Womack may have lost some of his silkiness but he’s certainly not lost any of his soul. Much props to Damon Albarn too for the production, some artists have tried to update to a current sound with horrific effect but this is done tastefully, relevantly and most of all, it’s done well.
Kendrick Lamar is without a doubt my favourite, and dare I say the best, rapper around at the moment. I shall make my arguments for that soon enough but every track on his album ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ is a winner. I’m not entirely sure what made this one stand out more that the rest but it’s been stuck on repeat in my head since I first heard it so here it is.
Although this is far from a debut, I hope it’s a sign of great things to come from Jhene because I love this lots. I’m not sure where the market is these days for this kind of moody RNB, The Weeknd seems to be doing pretty well of it and this is just as good if not better than anything off his first album. After being part of a few families she seems to have settled with the Black Hippy crew of Kendrick Lamar and co, definitely a good move creatively in my opinion.
It’s been a hell of a year for Black Butter Records. As well as topping the charts with Rudimental’s ‘Feel The Love': they had some seriously good underground tracks from the likes of Gorgon City (Foamo & RackNRuin), Woz, Noisses and Hostage; they pushed the boundaries further with The Other Tribe and Stay +; and then there was this one from Lulu James, produced by Hostage and Kidnap Kid. Lulu encaptures the spirit of classic Jazz divas over a smoothed out Jungle / (dare I say) Dubstep production. Both these last two tracks give me goosebumps and deserved to be a lot bigger than they were, although it’s rather nice to have kept them secretly special somewhat.
The pairing of Tru Thoughts stalwarts Alice Russell and Quantic was always going to be a mighty one. This track in particular has a timeless classic feel and hopefully adds a spark of optimism to the end of the selection. I think 2013’s going to be even better than this one. Let’s hope so.