Top 50 Songs of 2006 (10-6)
Either Jive Records really are the numbnuts that Pusha and Malice claim they are or they really do have unbelieveable faith in the duo. Only the most forgiving label, or, indeed, the stupidest would allow a diss aimed at the label on the lead-off single from a high-profile album release, but that's exactly what Jive did here. Pusha proclaims, "I'm sorry to the fans but them crackers weren't playing fair jive" at the end of his verse. It's hardly subtle, but sometimes that's the beauty of Clipse; that they can't help but open their mouths when they feel wronged. I guess this makes them the Larry David of hip-hop.
It makes for great listening though, as Pusha and Malice are two of the most fearless MCs in hip-hop and 'Mr Me Too' is a fantastic, thrilling throwdown track to the new pretenders, who've been "dunce cappin' and kazooin'" while Clipse have been away. The simmering violence (almost never fully resolved in Clipse songs, creating a powderkeg tension) and gritted-teeth braggadocio is matched by the soupy, slo-mo synth track laid down by Pharrell and Chad Hugo, making for one of the most perfectly realised hip-hop tracks of the year.
Clipse feat. Pharrell - Mr Me Too (mp3)
Peter Prescott owns this snarling monster of a track from the kick-off by hitting his drum kit like it's just tried to molest his mother. The fun is then had by hearing Clint Conley and Roger Miller try to wrest control of the song from him. Conley's depth-charge bass pummell and fierce, spitting vocal try gamely to top the relentless, marching beat, even going so far as to throw in a well-timed "fuck", with the "f" and the "ck" body-slamming each other in mid-air.
Miller mutilates his guitar, creating a vicious squall and tries the tender persuasion trick by backing up Conley with sweet falsetto and wonderfully incongruous "la-la-la"'s, but Prescott still hammers away in the background. The three end the song on the floor in a bloody mess, laughing at each other through the loose teeth, clearly too old for this shit, but loving the adrenaline rush all the same. In three-and-a-half merciless minutes, Mission Of Burma prove themselves tougher and more relevant than most other rock bands in 2006.
8. Field Music - In Context (Memphis Industries)
A past Single Of The Week on these very pages, 'In Context' was one of those songs that I thought I'd be really hyped about for a short while, before cooling on, purely because I get excited about songs that are seemingly indie-rock, but subtly fuck around with that genre's very framework. Then, the more I listen, the more said framework looms into view and I end up conceding that, actually, it isn't very different at all. But, here we are, at the end of the year, and 'In Context' takes its completely deserved place in my top ten.
That's because, on repeat run-throughs, 'In Context' doesn't take familiar shapes at all, in fact, it becomes even weirder and more startling. Essentially, it's just a nice groove and a winning melody; a clipped, sustainless bassline anchors the song, while violins swoon and sway all over the place and the backwards/forwards beat messes with your receptors. Half the time, you're just won over by the loveliness of the hooks, but the other half you're wondering what the hell is going on. Above all else, 'In Context' is more natural, less calculated and methodical than anything on their, admittedly brilliant, self-titled debut. And you know what? The new album has ten more songs just like this.
7. Love Is All - Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up (Parlophone)
Dripping in remorse, but dancing away the hangover, 'Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up' is one of those morning after the night before songs, but rather than wallow in the stale cigarette smoke and self-loathing, it makes that feeling of "Oh, what did I do last night?!" seem like something worth celebrating. It's mostly down to Josephine Olausson's brash, bratty vocal that perfectly complements the unreconstructed, messy music from the rest of the band.
I say messy, but that's just shorthand for saying that it sounds like a bit of a riot. What's really going on here is Phil Spector by way of Life Without Buildings and it's completely, utterly addictive. I first heard this twelve months ago, but just too late for last year's list (so I'm cheating, sue me), but it has been one of the few constants on my mp3 player since then. A rambunctious, but ultimately quite touching gem.
6. T.I. - What You Know (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)
The best hip-hop, it seems, is created whilst completely mashed in the studio. At least that's the only reason I can give for when producers come up with something that sounds so not-of-this-planet as 'What You Know'. DJ Toomp pulls an absolute what-the-fuck stormer out of the bag here, that led someone on ILM to tag it as "shoegaze crunk". This might seem a little wide of the mark to most, but there's a nugget of truth to it. The buzzy synths that never die out from the first note to the last, just changing pitch and key, as if playing one long note, not totally dissimilar to the guitarwork of Kevin Shields.
Maybe that's disgustingly rockist to use a rock reference point when writing about a rap track, but the production here is totally outlandish and new-sounding for hip-hop. Not that rap producers haven't been pushing the envelope for years, they have been at the vanguard when it comes to new sounds, but there's a seriously fuzzy, druggy edge to 'What You Know' that we haven't really heard before. What of the vocal, though? Well, T.I. rips it, even when he's getting nonsensical (I still don't know what the fuck all the "squarey cube" business is about), purely by just detailing the mundane (for him at least) and going drawl-for-drawl with the aforementioned synths. The most forward-thinking and enjoyable hip-hop tune of the year and also one of the most ubiquitous.