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Thursday, December 30, 2010 

Best music of 2010 part 1.

Best Song / Track (Yes, I'm going for two as a cop-out):
James Blake - CMYK
Girl Unit - Wut

At the end of 2010 dubstep in its original form at least as a mutation of the darker side of UK garage looks to be close to running out of ideas. When no less a person than Martin "Blackdown" Clark, someone around from the very beginning and who has chronicled the scene's growth like no one else wonders just how much mileage there is remaining in "dark 140bpm halfstep beats" the end does indeed seem to be nigh. This has been especially reflected in how there really hasn't been a "true" dubstep track from this year to have united the deeper DJs and those who tend to favour the more aggressive side of the genre, as Hyph Mngo by Joy Orbison did to such great success last year.

One thing that has flowed through this year's biggest tracks has been the influence of Chicago's own mutant variation on house, Juke, whether directly in Addison Groove's Footcrab and Ramadanman's Work Them, both released on Loefah's Swamp 81 imprint, or slightly less obviously in both CMYK and Wut. While CMYK pays just as great a debt to R&B (it samples both Kelis and Aaliyah), it's the distortion of the vocals, cut up and repeated throughout to euphoric effect along with the outstanding eye for melody that Blake has that make it such an astonishing piece of music. Wut pays tribute in equal measure to early rave, complete with airhorns, while remaining indelibly despite its influences a dubstep track at heart. If such tunes are dubstep's future (especially if this is the alternative) then while the straight-up halfstep that introduced so many to it will be mourned, there's no reason whatsoever to resist the progression.

Best Remix:
Magnetic Man - Perfect Stranger (dBridge Remix)

2010 hasn't been an exactly stellar year for remixes, with there certainly being nothing to match the sheer simplicity, brilliance and majesty of Skream's perfect reworking of In for the Kill. We did finally get our hands on the simply staggering Burial remix of Commix's Be True, although as it's been knocking around for nigh on 2 years it doesn't somehow seem right to recognise it as this year's best. The last couple of weeks oddly have seen some of the best material released: Pearson Sound's (aka Ramadanman) refix of M.I.A's It Takes a Muscle, French Fries' astounding edit of One Thing by Amerie, and Kryptic Minds' tightening of the already highly taut Afterlife by Lung.

Only dBridge then could have taken Magnetic Man's Perfect Stranger, mentioned yesterday in the round-up of 2010's most disappointing, and turned it into a truly outstanding pop song. Making Katy B not sound whiny is difficult enough; to have taken her vocals and arranged them in such a way as to bring out the beauty hidden within is close to requiring the power and skill to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. That feat alone is worthy of a prize.

Best Reissue:
The Fall - The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall - Omnibus Edition

No real competition for Beggars Banquet's painstakingly complete 4-disc box set of the Fall's 8th studio album. The album itself remastered, all the singles, b-sides and rough mixes collected, BBC sessions from the time, a complete live set from a festival, a 50-page booklet stuffed with interviews and memories and best of all, available at a sensible price. Roll on the similar treatment due for This Nation's Saving Grace.

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