Decadal 10 (jeez): the also-rockers
Of course I didn’t choose the 10 in splendid isolation, there were always several candidates for each place. So to truly sign off the overview (please) it’s only fair to mention the contenders.
Miss E’s Get Ur Freak On I thought always stood out in an r&b genre whose innovation had been overstated. My other main generic candidate, Mary J Blige’s Family Affair, was a much more conventional Dre-produced come-togetha-’pon-da-floor number, while Outkast’s Hey Ya was in the mix but ultimately deemed too popist to be truly reflective. Hip-hop-wise, I was a honorary backpacker by being one of the few to like Cappo’s ATCQ-sampling and string-heavy Learn to Be Strong, representing Nottingham at a time when MC Pitman was sending up the East Mids accent, and Jaydee’s remix of the Ummah’s Put It Down, on the AKA J Yancey comp that appeared before he passed away, is a work of woozy genius with currency now to the new school of LA producers.
Rivalling Hiem and Isolee was a slew of sophist house, most of it with roots in the German metropolis and the Kompakt label, among them Superpitcher’s Happiness (Michael Mayer’s rmx, oh those sweeping chords), Justus Kohncke’s After 909 (nice moment when someone shazamed that while I was playing one of our Extropias) and The Field’s romantically circular Love vs Distance, a close relative of On My Own by Ulrich Schnauss on City Centre Offices. Saw him on a daytime Bestival stage and he really disappointed but that tune with its mix of new wave bassline and sonic cathedral, was his moment. Maurice Fulton as Syclop’s Where’s Jason K on DFA was another biggie.
Vitalic I put in a specific digi-clash category with others that really grind their arpeggios in the pursuit of leaving an impression: Fischerspooner’s Emerge, Anthony Rother’s Back Home, like Happiness unearthed via Damian Lazarus’s Rebel Futurism 2 comp, and David Carretta’s Vicious Game, which I always thought was an anomaly in the emergent ‘clash field as it appeared on another Lazarus comp, Futurism, as well as a Miss Kittin Mixmag giveaway uncredited. Was Caretta the joker in the pack – not sure, but I always want to get in the car and bomb it round La Peripherique, dans le nuit, when I hear this. Bigger and brasher in this territory are Spektrum’s Kinda New (the Tiefschwarz rmx, and what a great gig that was back then) and, yeah why not, Bodyrox’s terribly commercial Yeah Yeah, as the masses began to get electro house. While French, but not really a relative of Justice, was Joakim’s Lonely Hearts, on a Music Week French Talent freebie (surprisingly never did make good on the aim to get the Joakim album).
DJ Zinc’s 138 Trek repped my hanging-in-there with jungle at the turn of the century, and just about the only other candidate was the one people never mention from V’s Brazil ep, XRS Land’s Secrets of the Floating Land, surging tropicalia drum and bass. Soon it was time to go down a beat or two and dubstep had made a big impression by mid-decade, scene-stealers like Skream’s Lightning (stop-start amens, squidgy fx, nightrider-esque synth line – lovely!) and the cold wobble of Deep Concentration, Digital Mystikz’s rattly Haunted, Loefah’s percussive paranoia in Twisup VIP (Youngsta & Task rmx – another DMZ). As it then stepped back up Cooly G’s Love Dub and a slew of Untold productions, Just for You, I Can’t Stop This Feeling, Sweat and take your pick from his Gonna Work Out Fine ep, were also all vying with Appleblim.
A close relative of Kode9’s Sine for dark narrative and mood was The Bug’s Night Steppa ft Roger Robinson, and leaving even more post-rave traces was Burial’s Forgive. Was Wiley’s Eskimo from the 00s? It’s hard to be sure, but it reverberated for the whole decade (my grime smash otherwise would be Durrty Goodz’s claustrophobic skank Boi Dem, or Dizzee’s clattering I Luv U). Quick mention also for M.I.A’s Paper Planes, probably not my favourite Arulpragasam but the whole family like it (and indeed my wife got her fellow PGCErs to cover it at Goldsmiths). Another uncategorisable (on my terms anyway) would be Rascal’s Bonkers – it’s all about the Van Helden riff for when you want to feel 25 again and the concept of going to a club doesn’t fill you with dread.
Supporting the theory that gems were apparent among the mass of landfill indie, many indie-rockers vied for Bloc Party and CYHSY’s mentions in the 10. Corky and Marc have already accounted for Strokes’ Reptilia and Rapture’s Jealous Lovers, and to those I add Gossip’s Standing on the Edge of Control, Vampire Weekend’s A-Punk, Foals’ Cassius, Arctic Monkeys' Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor. Finally, The Big Pink’s first declaration brought beautiful scuzz back with Too Young to Love. All in all a killer set, I reckon.