Mixmag 100.

Well, I blew it already--how about that? Sort of. I have made it through three hours of the aforementioned eight-hour monster MP3, and I have to tell you, I really like it. Parts of it are excellent, just the kind of loopy, insistent, mesmeric techno I like, but it's just about impossible not to be aware, while listening to it, that it's eight friggin' hours long. This inhibits me and probably you: "OK, just act normally, do what you usually do, but remember: you're climbing Everest as you do it." Digital media may rid us the physical dimension of music-as-package, but other kinds of awareness step in to aid inhibition.

So I've cheated, and have downloaded other things that I am, just now, finishing listening to. Namely, I found the Mixmag Top 100 Tracks of 2008 list, without quite meaning to--I was looking to see if any dance mags had put Dubtribe Sound System's "Do It Now (Extended Disco Version)" on their year-end lists, and stumbled across it. (I didn't see any evidence they did. I didn't even know about it till a few months ago, consciously anyway, and I've been replaying it obsessively the past couple days. Tim Finney referred to it as a cross between Studio and Armand Van Helden's "Flowerz," which is spot on. No wonder I like it so much: the beach sun of Balearic with the kind of hypnotic, dark, insistent feel of the house I tend to like best.)

I should explain something about my OCD tendencies. I like lists a lot. I make them, I devour them, and I spent two years writing a column about them for Idolator. And ever since I became iTunes' slave in late 2003, I have been compiling the entries of the more interesting singles lists I come across. This is the third year in a row I've attempted to find everything on Mixmag's Top 100 Tracks; it was in fact the 2006 list that inspired the first Project X. And as with the others I gather together (Pitchfork's, FACT's, Stylus's before they went under, Resident Advisor's), I often don't listen to everything in full, figuring I'll put it on my iPod and listen to it all at once, which happens, but so infrequently that it might as well never, ever happen. I do listen to most of it at some point, often in a disinterested way, letting what grabs me grab me.

I was maybe three songs into downloading what I could find of the list (about three-quarters) before I realized I'd have to play everything I added. So I did, and I had a good time--I didn't like everything, but what I did like sounded especially good.

Not everything did. Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold" (No. 19), Underworld's "Beautiful Burnout" (No. 33), and Tricky's "Council Estate" (No. 66) still don't sound like much, Utah Jazz's oozing-souful "Back in Time" (No. 100) and Deadmau5's google-eyed trance "I Remember" (No. 23) occupy the same basic terrain; I couldn't finish either. The Ting Tings sound mediocre ("Great DJ," No. 85; "That's Not My Name," No. 87). And the two remake/remixes puzzled me. M.A.N.D.Y. vs. Booka Shade ft. Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" (No. 65) struck me as even less necessary than it looked on paper.

No. 34, the Rolling Stones' "You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Soulwax Re Mix)," is thornier. I have no problem wondering why anyone would bother, but I also admired its craft, particularly the way Soulwax splice in split-second earmarks from elsewhere in the song during the verses and choruses, playing on our overfamiliarity with the band. Unless I'm crawling into bed with an old favorite, I try to approach a recording as if I'm hearing it for the first time; I tend not to worry about overfamiliarity as a rule. But the Soulwax "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is one of those instances where all I can think is, "I never need to hear this song again, do I?" No matter how well contrived the reworking is.

The good stuff was seldom revelatory--that isn't going to be news, especially to anyone who reads Mixmag. A few things surprised me simply by bucking their pedigrees. I liked one song off the Midnight Juggernauts album, "Into the Galaxy" (No. 28) not being it, but in this company it makes more sense, just like Heartbreak's "We're Back" (No. 39). Bless them for isolating Flying Lotus's "Parisian Goldfish" (No. 71) and "Breathe" (No. 95), which I somehow managed not to do; now I know what to play at Havana. The Herve mix of Larry Tee & Princess Superstar's "Licky" (No. 58) is so much better than I had any expectations of that I'm a little embarrassed. Italoboyz's "Bahia" (No. 86) is exactly the kind of gimmick I get off on: techno groove morphing into and out of old John Coltrane performances on two sides totaling 19 minutes. (The A-side is better.) I wish I'd caught Math Head's "Turn the Music Up" (No. 81) in time to include it on the Idolator old-skool rave comeback post. Grace Jones' "William's Blood" is a mature comeback to shame most of the folks who get jetstreams of ink for far less, for which read "hot indie rock producer."

Two that I missed outright during the year aren't necessarily my favorites, but they feel like things I should have known about. The Chemical Brothers' "Midnight Madness" (No. 36) is sine-wave feedback-squeal disco-electro that's the best thing they've done since at least "Star Guitar" in 2002, and it may be better. Apparently it was a single in July; I wish I'd known about it. Ditto the Mystery Jets' "Two Doors Down" (No. 39), which is as New Pop-nostalgic as Alphabeat, only its exuberance, as well as its sonic coordinates, crosses C86 twee-shamble with plinky-shiny dime-store Stock-Aitken-Waterman. It's absolutely shameless: "I hear she likes to dance around the room/To a worn out 12-inch of Marquee Moon." I've played it a half-dozen times already.

Along with Alphabeat's own "Boyfriend" (No. 53), the placement of "Two Doors Down" is pretty easy to understand: last I checked the mag's editor was Andrew Collins, a.k.a. The Word's in-house Pet Shop Boys expert. He's connecting the dots between the dance music of the '80s and that of this; the Mystery Jets' record, with its scissoring hi-hats and cheap synths and weedy sax solo, is part of the not-so-electro past that people did, in fact, dance to. Or maybe I'm misreading this entirely, but either way I'm glad I paid enough attention to spot a few new favorites. I will of course finish the 8-hour monster soon, promise. Meanwhile, more Mystery Jets. What an amazingly fizzy record this is.


  1. That Dubtribe track didn't chart coz it is from 2001!

  2. And that's why I was looking at the 2001 lists.