It just takes one sample, one snare, one drum roll, maybe a piano riff. It just takes something to stand out from the last tune and hit you in the face. Outside of clubs, single songs don't mean as much, inside, the first 3 seconds of them mean everything. Big tunes always have those little triggers, something that you might hear long before they've come into the mix fully. Wherever you are, in your car, on a beach, it never matters.
So if you haven't guessed yet, this article is a going to tell you what tunes and albums are essential listening, in the club on Saturday after you've been drinking all day, or in your car speeding down the motorway (don't speed kids!). It's a cliché of course, this "sound of the summer" article, but it's a necessary one. I know telling you how good Tim Deluxe's 'It Just Won't Do' is in July may be similar to telling you that two planes hit the World Trade Centre last September, but I think there's something new for everyone here.
Various Artists - "Cream Beach 2002" (Cream/Virgin)
Guess what! This year Cream has released a beach CD for us all. No more agonizing over what our favourite tunes of the summer are, we can simply look at the track-list. Cynicism aside, though, the Cream Beach CD is not a terrible compilation provided you throw the second CD in the bin. Well, if you're into trance, keep it, and then stop reading right now! The first CD is a collection of almost all the tracks that hit the charts this summer. It's all about as subtle as doing ballet in 30-pound clogs, so if you're looking to be challenged, stay well clear.
Best Track: X-Press 2 featuring David Byrne - 'Lazy'
Tom Middleton - "The Sound of the cosmos" (Hooj Choons)
Anyone who can read has probably noticed that articles that moan about the constant flow of "generic" chill out albums became as annoying as the albums themselves were very quickly. Anyhow The Sound of the Cosmos is not a chill out album or indeed a mix album straight out of the strobe-lit clubs. Instead, Middleton has put together a 3 CD collection of subtle house gems, jazzy breakbeats and some of "this nu-electro stuff". It's the perfect album for summery optimism, for going out and changing your life in the 3-month or 3-week break you have from whatever it is you do. It's also good music to smile to, loaded with a sunny, sugary groove. If you are genuinely looking for something different, as opposed to using that phrase to make yourself sound clued in, you could do a lot worse.
Modaji - 'Shocka's Joint'
Herbert - 'The Audience'
Roots Manuva - 'Dreamy Days (MJ Cole London Dub)'
Subliminal Records - The story so far (Subliminal)
Ok, so I haven't got Erick Morillo's "Subliminal Sessions 3" yet, but I do have this fine collection of Subliminal Records favourites. Subliminal is one of the best house labels around currently, and it's nice to see they've let some of their lesser-known DJs do their thing over 3 CDs here. The result is 3 fantastically fluid mixes of summery American house music. If you are a true house fan, then this is without doubt the album for you. It's the sort of mix that will educate you without ever becoming difficult. It also has a large dose of proven dancefloor atom bombs, like Par-T-One's 'I'm So Crazy', the INXS-sampling monster, in all its glory. There's even room for an old classic like Pete Heller's 'Big Love'. Simplicity is so often what makes house music so effective, and this is flawlessly simple stuff. Don't be surprised if you find yourself feeling the urge to dance your ass off in train stations and restaurants across the country while listening to this on your headphones.
Best Track: Par-T-One - 'I'm So Crazy'
This is where it's really at, obviously, if you're not screaming and jumping by the first 4 seconds of any of these this summer, then you're not a proper trainspotter, are you? There are some songs that are just meant to induce total hysteria, songs that make dance music the sparkling dream machine that it is, where every warbling synth and kicking snare seems crafted with total dedication. Here goes, in no particular order.
Tim Deluxe - 'It just won't do' (Underwater)
If there is a more exciting, original, or downright funky, new house prospect than Tim Deluxe, then bring me it. Last year's "We all love sax" was a scandalous romp through tough house grinding and screaming saxophone climaxes. 'It just won't do' is more of a pop thing, with Sam Obernik lending her vocals to a trumpet riff that is more insanely catchy than anything that's been in the charts all year. Yes even the "ay, ay, ay ay" in Sophie Ellis Bextor's new single!
Shakedown - 'At night' (Defected)
If you haven't heard this, you've probably been living in a cave, a shame then that bin Laden misses out on this piece of Swiss cheese. Terra Deva's vocals are ear-piercingly beautiful, and the steady disco wibble wobble of the whole track begs you to dance to it. This is not only one of the best dance songs of the year, it's also an absolute pop gem. It's becoming increasingly clear that Kid Kreme is one of the best remix artists around at the moment, his mix of this is typical, rip it all up and start again!
X-Press 2 - 'Lazy' (Skint)
You know it, I know it, this song has already been the soundtrack to more of the best moments of people's lives than the National Lottery theme tune. It's some mind-bending combination of the sugary escalating piano riff and the gushing synths in the background that does it. Of course, David Byrne gets full marks for lyrics that make crap clichés like bittersweet actually seem to mean something. "Imagine there's a girlfriend, imagine there's a job, imagine there's an answer, imagine there's a god", alternatively dance your ass off instead, you wicked lazy motherfuckers!
Layo and Bushwacka - 'Love story (Tim Deluxe remix)' (XL)
If basslines were footballing nations, then the bassline in this song would be Brazil in 1970. When the rolling snares kick the proggy intro up the ass and bring in the locomotive piano riffs this one really goes off. Sampling Nina Simone's "Rags and old iron" may seem unusual, but it does work. The original isn't half bad either, but don't be fooled into thinking this is anything other than a rare stroke of genius from prog dullards Layo and Bushwacka. Still, as it is, this is dance music's equivalent of a 9-minute Jimi Hendrix song, a giant rollercoaster of a track that is completely epic. Stadium house? Oh yes. Dad house? Without a doubt. Good tune? Absolutely.
Space Cowboy - 'I would die 4 U' (Southern Fried)
This Prince cover is possibly the cheesiest song of the summer, you can practically see it dripping off the walls and melting out of the speakers when DJs play it out. But that's no reason to slate it. It's actually a case of total euphoria being chosen over any substance whatsoever, a little DJ trick really. This has not yet been released officially, but when it is you can expect it to go top ten and get really irritating.
Josh Wink - 'Superfreak' (Ovum)
Good old Josh has always liked his massive breakdowns, not to mention his slightly eerie bleep collection. Sometimes in dance music, 5 minutes of what might be boring and crap is made fantastic by the one minute of climax. No, I'm not talking about sex in the toilets of the Red Box on student night, but rather the interdependency of the two parts in this song. Sit back and listen to the paranoid sample repeating the word "freak" and the sporadically pulsing bleeps and then get ready for takeoff. This is a bit special, even if it's not 'Higher state of consciousness'.
Narcotic Thrust - 'Safe from harm' (FFRR)
All the way from World DJ Day in Miami, this is a massive tune. It's total cheese and sounds like something from the early '90s given a bit of a makeover. Don't let that ruin your fun though, because 'Safe From Harm' is a total crowd-pleaser.
Fischerspooner - Emerge (FS Studios/Ministry of Sound)
Fischerspooner are known for taking members of their audience onstage mid-show and giving them a good spanking. This is the sort of behaviour that might have made the likes of Elton John far more interesting in his heyday. However, if it's efficiency the New York electro duo are looking for, then they can spank everyone in the face by just playing this tune. This has more bite and more growl in it than any rock song released this year. The pounding bass drum pulses, the synths bleeding into earshot and the breathy vocals make this an absolutely massive tune. This says "fuck you" to all the idiots questioning the nu-electro scene and then it draws some blood.
And that's it, it's obviously time to start downloading. Expect regular updates on the tope tunes of the moment too, as well as gig reviews, free drugs, and sex with supermodels.