So, as some of you know, I make music; I don’t really talk about that as much as I should, considering how much I love doing it. (I’ve included a link to my own work below, if you’d like to check it out.) I’m always listening to new stuff – it’s probably fair to say that it’s one of my quiet obsessions. I thought that I’d put together my top 10 tracks of the year, just in case readers of my work were interested. They’re not in any particular order, but they’re the ones that I keep returning to.
MOTSA feat. Sophie Lindinger, “Petrichor” – I was out for a drink with a friend earlier this winter; it was brutally cold outside, and so we were both hunched over a glass of mulled wine (or Gluhwein, as they call it in Germany). Then this tune drops through the speakers, and suddenly I was scrambling towards the bar staff to ask what it was, so I could buy it from iTunes at once. It’s perfect, really. The bass, the vocals, the build, the drop. And the video is a gem. I then checked out Motsa’s work, and came across “Citadelle”, his excellent track with the similarly brilliant Kimyan Law. Will be following their work closely from now on.
Radiohead, “Present Tense” – I mean, it’s Radiohead. They could have had any one of three tracks from their new album on here, but this is the one that made it – again, they manage to do so much with so little. Those cascading chords, the way Thom Yorke stretches single lines across several bars, and the way the song tumbles to a close…so few can pull that off, but this band pretty much always does.
A Tribe Called Quest, “We The People” – This album is as inspired a soundscape as you will hear all year, and this particular track is its jewel. The highest point is when Phife comes in after Q-Tip has set the table, and then delivers a timeless verse over that raised fist of a bassline. What a majestic way for him and the Tribe to go out.
Kano, “Hail” – It was either this or “Three Wheel-Ups” from an album I have listened to almost non-stop for about half of the year. How this LP did not claim the Mercury Prize I do not know. This track shades it just because it’s so quotable and because Kano even pulls off a gem of an Irish accent (Man’s at your door like/D’you like to buy a carpet?). The most rousing way to start my morning, for months on end.
Porches, “Pool” – Beautifully melodic, this. Every note falls just where it should. It’s so restrained and never does too much – it reminds me of Kaytranada’s best remixes (which means a lot coming from me, as I love Kaytranada’s work). And the final minute or so is triumphant.
Kaytranada, “Track Uno” – Speaking of Kaytranada, he’s responsible for perhaps the best final 30 seconds of music on any track this year. “Track Uno”, the first song on his debut LP, teases you for the first five minutes or so, and then ascends into euphoria. I am not embarrassed – well, maybe a little embarrassed – to say that I have strutted around Berlin many a time listening to this.
Luke Cage Theme Tune – Speaking of strutting around Berlin, I’ve had this on loop for some time too. Netflix’s finest. This is collar-up, kick-door-down music. As the great man famously said, “Sweet Christmas!”
Hugh, “Direction” – This song asks us, as George Michael might have said, to listen without prejudice, and love without prejudice too. It would not work were it not so finely crafted. Gentle, elegant, insistent, it is a uniquely powerful protest song.
Beyonce, “Hold Up” – This was the track of hers that I had on repeat. Maybe it was the righteous, riotous horns, or the defiance of the vocals, the jab of each lyric. The whole thing just had immaculate swagger from start to finish.
Dave, “Picture Me” – My God, this man can write. My God. I have spent a couple of decades either trying to motivate myself to work harder or trying to encourage others to do so, and Dave has produced something which is an exhilarating call to arms – he’s telling listeners to seize the day in terms that are neither cliched nor preachy. This, as any MC, poet or songwriter will tell you with exasperation, is the rarest of feats.
So, that’s my top ten. My first reflection is that it’s a very “male” list, which means that I should probably listen more widely next year. I also need to check out the new Solange and Little Simz records – both of which artists have been producing very strong work of late. Please send me any recommendations you might have, and if you have a moment please check out my music (you can see a review of it here, and stream it here). I’ll be releasing at least two EPs next year, so if you’d like me to keep you posted about those please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add you to my newsletter. Cheers for reading, and I hope you enjoy the tunes.