Best of 2020

Happy New Year music fans. As ever I’m pumped to bring you a load of new music this year, but before I do, let’s have one final post on the cursed year that was 2020. Here are my most played tracks of the year courtesy of Spotify. You’ll find some new ones, some old ones, some quick ones and some slow ones. Pop it on shuffle and enjoy.

Quick note – as ever there are a couple of albums on here that I’ve rinsed for chilling out. So expect some abrupt vibe changes. You’ve been warned.

Gomez – Bring it On

All the way back to the 1998 Mercury Music Prize winner for this Sunday’s listen. Gomez are a 5-piece band hailing from Southport (the North West’s eleventh most populous settlement in the North West for those of you who were wondering). Their music sits somewhere between blues, indie and rock. Anyway, it’s a classic, and if you don’t know, then at least check out tracks #1 and #2. Classics.

Airotic – Pallaspeople

This track falls right into my sweet spot.

Things I know about it from researching online:

  • It was released in 2015 on a German label called Footjob
  • Literally nothing else

Anyway, what’s important is what it sounds like. And it sounds like a space disco that has just got fucking out of hand. Turn it up. End of lockdown 2 bitches.

Bonus track: Odyssee is Airotic’s laid back astro-Caribbean cousin

Syncopated City – London Elektricity

Some history: founded in 1996, Hospital Records are pretty much responsible for bringing drum & bass out of the shadows and into UK mainstream dance music. Hospital is known for popularising a sub-genre of drum & bass called ‘liquid funk’*. It is now thought of as the mother of Hospitality events, and the home of Netsky, Danny Byrd, Camo & Krooked, Logistics, etc. but basically it is founder Tony Colman’s baby. When Tony isn’t being the label boss, he produces under the name London Elektricity. London Elektricity is one of the most important drum & bass producers of the last two and a half decades. With me? Basically, Tony Colman is one of the most important people in the history of drum & bass.

Syncopated City is one of LE’s most famous albums – but I don’t think it will it go down as his best, or most impactful – but it is really interesting, and broad stylistically. Anyway, I wanted to post this one because: i) it has some bangers and; ii) it came out in 2008 so has some serious iPod-era nostalgia value for me.

For the tl:dr crew, listen to Just One Second with Elsa Esmeralda. Proper goosebump material. From South Eastern Dream to The Point of No Return (tracks 5-7) the album picks up momentum with some really nice jungle loops. See what you think, and don’t miss the final track – Syncopated City Revisited – which brings the album to a nice jazzy conclusion.

Bonus track: taking Just One Second onto the dancefloor, with the help of Apex. Iconic. RIP Rob ‘Apex’ Dickeson.

*personally, that descriptor really annoys me, but hey, what am I gonna do about it?

Rings Around Saturn – Photek

This one is best categorised under ‘deeper cuts’.

Drum & Bass / Jungle pioneer Photek released this drifty, meditative soundscape in 1995. One of his less-known tracks, it is pretty much impossible to find (Discogs only baby) but it always sends me deep every time. Mad to think it was released 25 years ago.

A couple of side-notes for the nerds. If it sounds familiar, it could be for two reasons. Option 1 is pretty cool, the 1971 jazz track Astral Traveling by Pharoah Sanders:

Option 2, is well, less so. The backing track to FA Premier League Football Manager 2000 on PS1. Yep.

Drop – Mistabishi

Okay, so quite the controversial character is Mistabishi. If you cast yourself back to 2009 you’ll see one of the most exciting drum & bass producers on the scene. James Pullen has left his job in the city, and been signed by Hospital – the biggest label going – and released his first album, the critically acclaimed Drop.

Fast forward another 10 years and he has disgraced himself by fucking off just about everyone possible. Firstly the music-heads, by playing a pre-recorded mix at a gig and trying to pass it off (badly) as mixing live. Secondly (and repeatedly) anyone who isn’t a full-blown racist by claiming that ‘real’ Londoners are white – and blaming rising crime levels on immigrants and ethnic minorities. He then apologised for causing offence in about the least convincing way possible (and partially blaming some residual PTSD…). All in all, the guy is not a good egg.

So, if you want to enjoy this album you have to go through a real case of separating the art from the artist. If you are able to do that (and you want to) then Drop is a real gem. It mixes heavy and light, ecstasy and fear, all with a sharp dark sense of humour.

Drop contains three of my all-time favourite drum & bass tracks: No Matter What, a euphoric belter; The Light’s Really Bad, a cinematic roller full of hope and longing; and Falling in Love, another big’un with the emotional vocals of Danman.

There’s a lot to get your teeth into. Printer Jam will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to admit that the guy has talent. Greed is a rolling dark monster with some hard right wing free-market philosophy thrown in to boot.

If you are listening for the first time, or the first time in a decade, let me know what you think.

Modern Soul (Disclosure Remix) – James Blake

I’ve got a corker of an unreleased number from Disclosure for you right here. I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me that a James Blake / Disclosure combo would work. But it brings James’ haunting vocals together with this blissed out electronic energy and jeez. Just trust me, it works.

Sadly it looks like this track will never see the light of day in a full release so you’ll have to make do with a youtube rip.

This clip is from a full set by Disclosure, as a part of Boiler Room’s Streaming From Isolation series.