As the year rolls on we’ll continue on our musical journey to find the best tracks of each month. We’ve reached the end of February – the shortest month but certainly not short on quality.
30. GRiZ – Vibe Check (Vibe Check – Single)
Cool dub reggae infused electronica from this US dance producer and multi-instrumentalist, first introduced to me by my amazing wife (shout out to Mrs Manley ❤️) via the excellent track ‘Griztronics’ in 2019, this has a sound that puts a massive smile on your face and you can’t help but bounce around to. Probably released in the wrong month (this has got summer vibes written all over it) it’ll be interesting to see what the rest of 2021 has in store for GRiZ, as the full length follow up to 2019’s Ride Waves could make a big splash (terrible pun absolutely intended!!).
29. Spencer Parker – Theme (The Theme – EP)
Epic!! The perfect word to describe the music created here. As hinted at by the name of the track, this could be the theme tune to the coolest space documentary or sci-fi film ever made. This British born/German based producer/DJ has made the track of his career here, a bouncing bassline, sweet piano and a powerful chorus of voices give this a widescreen scope that just sweeps you up in all its glory.
28. George Cosby – Real Love (Real Love – Single)
Ah, now this is a bit of class. Incredibly, the debut single from this British artist, so assured and controlled, like Antony Hegarty being transported back to the early 60s to land on stage with the most sensational full orchestra as backing. They don’t make them like they used to – but clearly they do. If he can capitalise on this then this young man has a very bright future ahead of him. Keep an eye on the name George Cosby, this guy could be special.
27. Culture Shock – Deconstruct (Deconstruct – Single)
From the home of all good things drum ‘n’ bass, RAM Records, comes the latest banger from UK DJ and producer Culture Shock. This has a great pace with loads of busy keyboards sitting on top of crisp drums but it’s at the midway point of the track, after a spoken word interlude, that it reaches that next level and hits you hard. Strangely, elements of this remind me of the Knight Rider theme (no bad thing).
26. 24kGoldn – 3, 2, 1 (3, 2, 1 – Single)
The San Franciscan rapper/pop star doesn’t need any help from me to boost his already huge popularity, scoring a number one Billboard single in 2020 with the incredibly catchy ‘Mood’. What is important for people to know though is he’s no one trick pony. The 90s alternative guitar riff used in the chorus is a new addition to his base sound and is a good fit for him. It’s something I’d like to hear more of but please god no, don’t try and attempt a rock album Lil Wayne style, that was an experiment that did not work.
25. Ghetts – 10,000 Tears (feat. Ed Sheeran) (Conflict Of Interest – Album)
From one of this months best albums comes this laidback track. Definitely one of the more straightforward pop based tracks in Ghetts’ arsenal and that turns out to be a very good thing. Produced by Reiss Nicholas, who writes and produces a few tracks on the album and featuring a guest appearance by Ed Sheeran, who as much as I try to snobbishly dismiss as beneath my musical taste, I actually find perfectly listenable, if released as a single this could end up being Ghetts biggest hit. As long as it leads even more people to check out the awesome album then it would have done its job perfectly.
24. Morgan Cole – Dancin’ (Dancin’/Alive – Single)
For fans of early 90s house, this track from UK DJ/Producer Morgan Cole is a treat. On only his second single he’s managed to pull out a dancefloor beauty. Big rolling piano, a great pace and a thumping bassline are all the ingredients needed to get your arms aloft and your body movin. Look forward to hearing more from this talented up and comer.
23. Logistics – Jungle Music (DRS & Dynamite MC Remix) (H25pital – Album)
From the latest and always consistently great Hospital Records compilation album comes this drum ‘n’ bass banger. Making me reminisce of late nights in the early 90s taping Jungle sets from the radio (”Time check, time check, rinsing out the airwaves” and all that jazz), this is like a theme song to the whole movement. It has all the hallmarks of those original artists but bringing it right up to the present with super tight production and blazing rhymes, this would sound huge blasting from any soundsystem.
22. Biscits – Talk To Me (Talk To Me – Single)
Sweaty!! Slick walls, droplets raining from the ceiling of the club, that’s the kind of images the sound of this electro banger from Southampton DJ/Producer Biscits conjures up in my mind!! Is that a good thing? Probably not the most hygienic thought in the current climate but you can be sure that when the clubs do reopen, this is a track that should be on any good DJs set list.
21. Rinzin – 90s Child (90s Child – Single)
Atmospheric, dreamy techno track, this is less about getting you to the dancefloor and more about the comedown afterwards. The production on this is gorgeous, in particular the build halfway through, which leads to the bass taking a bit more of a front seat, is delightful. Rinzin is an American producer who has been dropping singles since 2017. I think it’s time we get to hear what a full length release might sound like.
20. BURNS – Can’t Let Go (Losing Touch – EP)
Weirdly, even though I’ve always liked dance/electronic music, at a time when the only dancing we can really do is in the confines of our own abodes, I seem to be gravitating towards it even more. Maybe it’s because I am such a bad dancer that throwing a few shapes at home to some of these tracks is preferable to doing so on a packed dancefloor but I think it’s the happiness, the pure adrenaline rush, the release these tracks can give you that really appeals in these times. This track is a prime example. BURNS, best known for the 2012 track ‘Lies’, hits the sweetspot here. A huge house banger, arms in the air, lost in the feeling, letting it all go kind of track, this is euphoric dance at its best. The other track on the EP (‘Losing Touch’) ain’t half bad either.
19. For Those I Love – Birthday/The Pain (Birthday/The Pain – Single)
Just the third single into a young career, this is a refreshing sound. What you might get if you crossed Fontaines D.C. with The Streets, musically this washes over you, sort of danceable but more chilled out, it’s in the vocals where this becomes special. Narrated with a cool Irish accent, it’s one of those tracks where you want to take in every word. The contrast between the dark (but clearly lived through) lyrics and almost sweet sounding music gives this a unique vibe. You’re not sure what to do when listening to this song but the one thing you do know is that when you reach the end, you want to hear it all over again.
18. AJR – Way Less Sad (Way Less Sad – Single)
Electronic alternative pop, these guys from NYC offer up such a sunny, sprightly, joyous sound, the right side of sickly sweet. Really slick, almost hip-hop style production (including a horn sample from Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘My Little Town’) is melded with delicious vocal harmonies and one of the catchiest choruses so far this year. With a similar feel to Fun. and Vampire Weekend but accessible to all, this is definitely worth checking out if you fancy putting a little skip in your step.
17. Kings Of Leon – Echoing (Echoing – Single)
Third single from the forthcoming album, this could be the best of the bunch. Upbeat, propulsive bass, great vocal harmonies, a tremendously addictive chorus and all topped off with almost distorted spaghetti western style lead guitar work, this is the most urgent and alive these guys have sounded in a good while. Going on the form shown so far the album could be their strongest in over a decade.
16. Rudimental – Be The One (feat. MORGAN, Digga D & TIKE) (Be The One – Single)
As popular as Rudimental may be, I’ve always had the nagging feeling they should be bigger than they are, especially after the quality of their first few singles. This song is a great step in the right direction to get to the top of the mountain. Slick, crisp UK garage style production, a catchy hook and a couple of decent raps make this a sure fire winner. Pop done right, I’m intrigued as to what’s coming this year for these guys.
15. Anitta – Loco (Loco – Single)
Talking of pop done right! This is Latino pop done to perfection. Anitta is Brazil’s biggest ever star outside of her home country and this track can only help increase that popularity ten fold. Big production values, deep bass and a rhythm that makes you want to shake your hips, come summer time I expect to hear this blasting from speakers everywhere.
14. Glory – Hold Me Up (feat. Jocelyn Brown) (Riva Starr Tangerine Funk Vocal Mix) (Hold Me Up – EP)
Huge house track with the soulfully powerful vocals of dance music legend Jocelyn Brown and a funky ass bassline, this comes from Junior Jack’s Defected Records presented by series. It never lets up and makes you want to move and jump up and down and lose yourself in the music in the best possible way. Yet another fantastic club record, the quality of tracks coming from these areas of the industry at the moment are outstanding.
13. Olafur Arnalds – Epilogue (Epilogue – Single)
Beautiful instrumental piece from this Icelandic composer that builds to an incredibly moving climax, this is pure class. Alongside his own work he has been contributing to other artists and working in film and tv, including composing the soundtrack for Defending Jacob on Apple TV. Soothing and heart wrenching in equal measures, this sticks with you long after the final note.
12. KAM-BU – Are You On? (Are You On? – Single)
One of the best productions I’ve heard on a rap track in a long time. Dark, dense, intense, this is the sound of the future of UK hip-hop. KAM-BU spits rhymes over the top of this, not letting himself be outshone and even managing to add some hooks in amongst the grime. One to watch this year for sure.
11. Fat Joe – Sunshine (The Light) (feat. Amorphous) (Sunshine (The Light) – Single)
Don Cartagena spitting bars over a sample of ‘Never Too Much’ by Luther Vandross? What is this 2001? This shouldn’t work but Cool & Dre’s sparkling upbeat production, Amorphous’ cool vocals and those oh so familiar raps from the Fat man himself make this one of the surprise successes of the year. Fat Joe has kept busy with a string of single releases but it’s been over 10 years since we’ve had an album from the man – come on Joe, make 2021 the year.
10. Chris Brown – Go Crazy (Remix) (feat. Young Thug, Future, Lil Durk & Mulatto) (Go Crazy – Single)
I hate myself for giving any kind of props to Chris Brown as he doesn’t seem to be the most upstanding of human beings, shall we say. Putting that to one side for a moment though, this remix of the lead single from his 2020 collaborative mixtape, Slime & B, is just too good to deny. Produced by Murphy Kid and KanielTheOne and containing a sample of ‘Drag Rap’ by The Showboys, this is the catchiest pop record Chris Brown has released for some time. The chorus is impossible to shake from your head and the additional verses on this remix adds more meat to the bone.
9. Adelphi Music Factory – People Everywhere (Can You Feel It?) (People Everywhere – Single)
If you’ve ever lost your shit out on the dancefloor to the classic house sounds of Black Box or Inner City then this is the tune for you!! This could have been found in some DJs record box from 1989 and held up as a lost classic. As it is it’s very much a product of 2021 and helping to spread the full on party vibe that we’re all so desperately in need of. This UK collective have been hot since their debut 2018 release and are still only at the precipice of how good they can become.
8. Pink Sweat$ – Heaven (Heaven – Single)
Real soul. That’s the perfect description for this track where every instrument can be felt, played with a human touch separating this from so much of the digitised music classed as soul these days. Excellent vocal performance, natural and effortless and able to switch between the lower register and falsetto with ease, riding a slow but never maudlin groove that reaches its peak with a guitar solo that has a touch of Clapton about it. I didn’t think I would be writing those words in a review in 2021 that’s for certain!!
7. Obskur – Bayside (10 Years Of Eats Everything Remix) (Bayside (Remixes) – Single)
Oh, yes!! Now this is a banger!! The original version of ‘Bayside’ by up and coming electro Dublin duo Obskur was tasty enough in its own right but this remix by Bristol producer Eats Everything is the bomb. Reminiscent of ‘Renegade Master’, this has the kind of bass that makes your booty shake, infectious hip-hop sample and all manner of bleeps and blips keeping everything busy and fresh. Play this loud and watch people start to move – resistance is futile!!
6. Nu: Tone – Sleepwalker (Little Spaces – Album)
Consistently great for almost two decades, it’s great to hear there’s no signs of slowing down on the new album, which is a really good listen. This track shows the two sides of Nu: Tone; beautiful, soulful vocals and gentle passages of music on one side, skittering beats, wicked basslines and fast BPMs on the other, the combination works perfectly. I previously only really knew them from remixes done for other artists but after delving into the back catalogue there’s plenty of quality originals to get your listening lugs around.
5. Christian Smith – Stratosphere (Ronnie Spiteri Remix) (Stratosphere – Single)
Holy smokes!! This is techno with an almost punk edge. Massive, dirty bass and synths, house piano emerging as the song progresses, locked in a battle to try and suppress a bassline that just won’t be denied. It all breaks down to an awesome solo piano interlude, an acid synth bubbling away underneath before everything comes back in, hitting even harder than before. Christian Smith has been producing quality tracks like this for over 20 years and is also the founder of Tronic records, one of the most revered techno and electronic record labels around.
4. Fredo – Ready (feat. Summer Walker) (Money Can’t Buy Happiness – Album)
I am a total sucker for ‘Boadicea’ by Enya, sampled here and recognisable to most as the basis for ‘Ready Or Not’ by Fugees. So when I heard Fredo was going to be the next to use this awesome piece of music I was intrigued but apprehensive as to the finished result. Luckily this track is excellent. Superbly produced, a great vocal from Summer Walker, an earworm of a chorus and Fredo doing what he does best, this has huge hit written all over it. Hip-hop seems to have a strange fascination with giving props to artists that formed half my mums record collection when I was a kid – Phil Collins, Enya, Sting, artists that I grew up hating but seem to have nothing but respect from the rap community. Maybe my mum was an OG and knew what was cool!! I’ve grown to let the hate die down for most of these artists now and actually like a fair amount of their stuff. Please hip-hop, no Carpenters samples though, after being tortured with their Greatest Hits for years that might be where our relationship comes to an end!!
3. slowthai – CANCELLED (feat. Skepta) (TYRON – Album)
Best hip-hop track of the month comes from two of the greats from the UK rap scene. slowthai is carving out a niche as one of the most sonically adventurous rap artists around, he has an aggression and punk-like attitude to his sound that wouldn’t be out of place on a festival stage, igniting mosh pits and the imperious sound of Skepta’s voice is enough to get heads banging. Halfway through the track the beat truly kicks in and the bass is incredible, it has such a groove to it. Check this out and be sure to check out the rest of the album, it’s more than worth it.
2. Deb Never – Someone Else (Someone Else – Single)
I love it when a song like this comes along. I had no real knowledge of Deb Never before I heard this, I knew she was relatively new and I had heard a guest appearance on the slowthai album (‘push’). So I had little to no expectations when I queued this track up. And then I was floored!! This is such a great alternative pop song and so assured and also adventurous for someone so young into a career. It starts as almost a lo-fi indie track before blossoming into something truly beautiful. The song builds, adding layers of production, all whilst retaining a cool guitar based centre, flowing into a bridge that contains some gorgeous vocal melodies before reaching a crescendo in the climax where the drums pick up an almost drum ‘n’ bass pace, making you want to dance, jump, mosh, whatever release takes your fancy!! Definitely someone to keep an eye on this year, she has all the tools to be a huge star.
1. SG Lewis – One More (feat. Nile Rodgers) (times – Album)
Perfect dance/pop floor filler. SG Lewis is an British producer, songwriter and now solo artist. He has worked with a number of artists since 2015 but has now focused his efforts on his own material. After releasing a handful of singles last year (one of which, ‘Feed The Fire’, made the top 20 of my favourite tracks of 2020) he returned this year with this absolute beauty. Enlisting the pop/funk legend that is Nile Rodgers (CHIC) to assist him in his quest to get everybody dancing, they more than achieve their goal. Tight discofied funk beats, an irresistible bassline, a chorus that will get stuck in your head long after you’ve left the dancefloor and Nile’s choppy signature guitar stabs make this one of the most infectious dance records for some time. The whole album is full of quality tracks and there will no doubt be plenty more to come.
Here’s the full 30 Spotify playlist –
Here’s the full 30 Apple Music playlist –