Art, Events, Gear, Music, Reviews

Year-End Look-Back

XLR8R Dec 07 CoverXLR8R magazine asked me to contribute to their annual Best Of poll this year and some of my comments are published in this month’s issue. I thought I’d share them — plus a bunch of the ones that didn’t make the cut — with y’all here:

Best Artist
South Rakkas Crew

I’ve been digin’ these guys dancehall productions for a minute but their “Mix Up” release on Mad Decent is completely untethered.

Best Album
Durrty Goodz; Axiom EP

Durrty is one of the most dynamic and talented rappers in the grime game, and many of the beats on this EP are stellar too.

Best Single/12″
Dude N Nem; Watch My Feet

The emerging juke sound has quite a few bangers bubbling up around Chicago, but this one is a true piece of pop-genius. It’s got the classic half-time/double-time, hip-hop/ghetto-house combination, and really fun party lyrics.

Best Record Label
Fools Gold

Nick Catchdubs, A-Track, Kid Sister, and Cool Kids are some of my faves.

Best Live Event/Festival
Glade Festival

It was beyond mud-fest (right in the middle of England’s worst flooding in forever) but the lineup was tremendous and I had a blast.

Best City and/or Scene
3-way tie

The club scene is on fire. Every night there are so many good parties that it’s hard to decide which ones to hit.

Just a stellar music town, full of great artists, labels, parties, record stores and people.

The best party and culture city in the world (besides Chicago and Bristol). Because it’s a major metro area, the cost of living is cheap, and it’s in central Europe, artists flock there. Because it’s uber-liberal the parties go all night every night.

Best DJ (s)

I came across these guys’ mashup of Sigur Ros and Twista on their Myspace page a couple years ago and was like “heck yeah!”. Since then they’ve obviously blowd up, but I had the opportunity to see them at a Thunderdome party in Boston a while back and they completely rocked the crowd. Their mix of mashups, hip-hop, pop, electro, etc is right up my ally.

Best Music Trend

DJ /rupture, and later Diplo, have both played a big role in sparking off the new wave of radical-inclusion in DJ music. Add digital tools like Serato and Final Scratch to the mix and you’ve got an exciting and healthy movement combining old and new musics from every corner of the globe.

Worst Music Trend

This whole French-electro-house-rock-star thing is fun for a few minuets. I mean I like squelchy/distorted, poly-rhythmic synth-lines a lot, but there are a bunch of trendy DJs out there getting stuck in a one-genre rut, and it bores me.I’ve become more optimistic as DJs have been playing a broader range of music in their sets, but it still often seems that the lowest common denominators in club music like B-more and electro-house wind up getting over-played. There are other exciting forms of music out there, folks!

What will be big in 2008?
Hip-hop that’s fun, like Cool Kids, Dude N Nem, and Kid Sister should, and hopefully will blow up.I’m also looking forward to seeing how emerging localized musics grow and develop, as well as discovering brand new, perhaps yet-to-be-created musical forms.

Biggest/best music-related beef of 2007
Kanye vs. 50, and It’s quite obvious who won. I actually tend to prefer 50’s beats, but lyrically it’s creativity over thuggery, innit? Yay!

Best Music Technology of 2007
Although I’ve been using it for a couple years now, I’m still a big fan of Serato Scratch Live. I recently got a keyboard cover for my laptop with Serato key commands marked on it, which has been an incredibly useful best new addition.

I’ve tried a couple of the new USB DJ controllers out there and not been completely impressed. The Vestax VCI-100 with its touch sensitive jog wheels looks like it could be the one, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet.

Best Music Hardware

  • Laptop: MacBook Pro (for obvious reasons)
  • Turntable: Vestax PDX 2000 (There are other good ones out there, but I’ve been using these for 7 years and I like ’em)
  • Music player: iPod (for obvious reasons)
  • Controller: M-Audio (these guys have been making a whole slew of fun controllers)

Effects, synth, drum machine
MacBook Pro with Reason and Live (I used to haul a bunch of synths, drum machines, effects, and mixers out to gigs. Now all I need is a laptop and a controller)

Best Music Software

  • Sequencer: Ableton Live (I’ve been using this since version 1 and have been a convert ever since.)
  • Virtual instrument: Propellerhead Reason (It’s got synths, drum machines, effects, mixers, samplers. What more do you need. Rewire it in to Ableton Live for audio tracks and you’ve got a full blown production house. Just make sure you’ve got good speakers and headphones)
  • Music Playback: iTunes / Serato (I use iTunes to organize and tag my audio files. It’s a great librarian tool. And Serato to play the tunes out at parties)
  • Effect processing: Logic Pro (I often use Logic for mastering tracks. It’s got some nice processors for that kind of thing)

Electronic gadget (or non-music software/hardware) you can’t live without
Blackberry Pearl

It’s a phone, it’s a PDA, it’s a media player, it’s an internet devise, it’s a camera. What more do you want? An iPhone?

Best visual artist (graphic designer/fine artist/photographer)
Paper Rad


Best media item (book, movie, DVD):
Paper Rad; Trash Talking DVD

See above description. People tend to love it or hate it, but either way, it’s mind-blowing and hilarious. Just watch it. You’ll know what i mean.

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3 thoughts on “Year-End Look-Back

  1. Out of interest, what are the obvious reasons for the Mac Book Pro? Just Cult of the Mac? 😛
    Given that the only software you mention that can’t be run on a PC is Logic Pro, because Apple bought it… and it’s not as essential as the other stuff to your setup. Or maybe it is.

  2. “fun for a few minuets” is my new catchphrase! perfect for describing french dance music, non?

    nice picks overall, jake. i’d second/fwd most of em —

  3. Yup, just Cult of the Mac. I’ve been using them since their inception in 1984. Plus I’m a design-nerd and Apple’s usually a leader on that front.

    You’re right, though. Microsoft and Linux machines can do many of the important tasks just as well. Guess I’m just a Mac-snob 😉

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