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Tuesday, December 30, 2014 

The best music of 2014 part 1.

Best Track(s)
Flowdan - Serious Business EP

While album of the year lists tend to reach a certain amount of consensus, with usually four or five albums dominating, the same is never the case of track of the year lists.  With 2014 being a year where I'd challenge anyone to say there was without question one song that dominated, I thought I'd choose something from relatively out of leftfield just to emphasise that.

We must do something approaching a round-up of the best nevertheless, and we may as well start with Mala's sort-of sequel to 2009's Level 9, which is certainly my favourite of his under his own moniker rather than Digital Mystikz.  Level 10 (Expected) isn't quite up to its predecessor's standards, but in a year when dubstep seemed in hibernation it wasn't difficult to be among the finest tracks.  Also outstanding was Proxima's Trapped, and while not yet released, the Nomine tune Youngsta has been hammering for what already seems like months that samples Zatoichi also slays.

Grime by contrast hasn't been in better health since the middle of the last decade, and very few grime tunes reflect the best of old and new as well as JT the Goon's Twin Warriors.  2014 production chops are combined with a flute sample that if not for how clean it is could have come from one of those foundational grime tracks, probably because it err, originated from Jammer's Chinaman.  Other sites have Mumdance's Take Time ranking near the top of their lists and while certainly good, I prefer the cleanness of It's Peak, which edges nearer that Night Slugs sound than it does grime.  Mr Mitch's Don't Leave and Denial are grime at its most beguiling and beautiful, while Darq E Freaker went all trap with the unfortunately named Minger.  Just about fitting in here is Rustie's Up Down featuring D Double E (worth mentioning is Pitchfork chose the disappointing Green Language's worst track for inclusion on their list, saying everything about their appalling as usual taste), with grime's best MC bar perhaps one doing his usual thing over some of Rustie's harking back to hardcore beats.

On the drum and bass side of things Fracture's entire Loving Touch EP was peerless, Tessela's Rough 2 was aptly named and as we ought not to entirely ignore the not digital, St Vincent's Digital Witness (oh the irony) and the Manics' Dreaming a City (Hughesovka) were also difficult to beat.

If you were to take Flowdan's Serious Business EP as four separate tracks rather than as a whole, it probably wouldn't come out as top.  All four are by different producers, and while Coki's work on F About is as excellent as always, you can guess what Flowdan, err, flows about from the title.  Combined with People Power and No Gyal Tune though, the former of which is an ostensible grime track (produced by The Bug) about social justice in general, something as rare as a funny Jack Whitehall joke, and the intensity of the latter, it becomes more than the sum of its parts.  Flowdan might not always have the best rhymes, but no one else can touch his delivery.

Best Remix / Bootleg
Peverelist - Roll With the Punches (Kowton Linear Mix)

This year finally saw a release for Kromestar's inspired retooling of Joker's Tron, one of those deceptively simple remixes which does little more than slightly reamp the melody while adding a synth and yet it improves on the original immeasurably.  On the bootleg front Rabit took Kelly Rowland's Dirty Laundry home and applied his sparse production techniques, complimenting the vocal perfectly, while Cyphr polished Rihanna's dull Diamonds until they finally shone as they should.  It probably came out last year, but I didn't hear it until this so I'm also including Special Request's standardly effective junglist improvement of London Grammar's Nightcall.  Plastician was good enough to hand over a shedload of his old dubs to producers new and established to rework, the best efforts coming from AWE on Safari, Mr. Mitch on White Gloves, with Kahn and Neek on The Search and Wen on Shallow Grave bringing up the rear.

Not content with turning in a superb remix of Paul Woolford's Erotic Discourse, the criminally undervalued Kowton, given access to Pev's minor classic turned it into a straight up dubstep banger, the original's melody attached to toughened drums and more bass than Pev thought it could handle first time round.

Best Reissue
Nana Love - Disco Documentary

The obvious thing to do would be to just write The Holy Bible 20 here and leave it at that.  Just this once let's not be obvious and instead run down some of the myriad other reissues this year.  Original hardcore / jungle label Suburban Base's entire back catalogue was put out digitally and also released was a 3cd comp of its glory years; Led Zeppelin's albums were remastered, if the extras were a little dull; Mogwai's Come on Die Young got the 15th anniversary treatment; and Sleater-Kinney's discography up to now also came out again, although seeing as my local HMV decided not to bother getting them in and I can't really justify the expense in any case I'm yet to hear them.  Sob.  Also of note is Soul Jazz's Punk 45 series, with two discs given over to underground punk from both America and here, with a third dedicated to what came before between 70-77.

In a year of barely known about gems resurfacing, BBE put out Nana Love's lost 1978 album Disco Documentary - Full of Funk, the kind of record that despite being precisely of its time still sounds incredible today.  Nana Love's voice is unique, and while she was never going to give Gloria Gaynor or Donna Summer much of a challenge it just adds to an album that should never have been overlooked first time round.

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