I always make a mix of my favorite songs of the year, but I’ve only posted a few here (see 2006, 2007, and 20 songs from the 2000s). For one, these posts take an enormous amount of time to do, and two, there’s not much you and I can do with them once done. That said, I do enjoy the process and the historical record.

Thundercat · “For Love (I Come Your Friend)” · The Golden Age of Apocalypse

So Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner gets Flying Lotus to produce his new album and then release it on his esteemed Brainfeeder label and the first song they leak is a George Duke cover that just melts my mind every time I hear it? This track has FlyLo’s fingerprints all over it, especially as it goes from seemingly nowhere to everywhere in a heartbeat around 2:30 in. It’s an absolutely epic track and a perfect opening for the mix.

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Plaid · “tender hooks” · scintilli

At long last, after a good four plus years of broken promises, Plaid released scintilli. Granted, there were a number of other soundtracks in between this and their previous full-length on Warp, but nothing quite so profound. I could pull any of the 13 songs randomly and have a gem to share with you here, but “tender hooks” is the one that I play over and over again. It’s such a delicate and deliberate build-up, and I never would have guessed that a stomper of a track would emerge. I can’t imagine a more appropriate name for it than “tender hooks.” Exquisite.

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Battles · “Futura” · Gloss Drop

I’ve written about my love for Battles many times here. I had the great fortune of seeing them perform on the Mirrored tour in 2007 and again just before Gloss Drop was released earlier this year. “Futura” was by far the highlight of the most recent show, and I watched any live performance I could find on youtube until the album was released just to get my fix. Battles is one of a handful of bands that’s actually worth watching play live, as they really do create these sounds on the fly rather than just pressing play on a loop. Check this video from La Blogotheque for proof.

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Hudson Mohwake · “Thank You” · Satin Panthers

I saw Hudson play live up close not too long after Butter came out. He had taken all of those already ridiculously over-the-top tracks to entirely new heights, so I was beyond excited to hear this new EP. I’ll honest though, I thought Satin Panthers was a little flat, but “Thank You” almost makes up for it. It’s exactly what you’d expect from him: it’s dripping with funk, super-sized ideas, comically absurd melodies, and his typically tight percussion. I just wish it didn’t feel like a consolation prize.

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Four Tet · “Locked” · TEXT011 / FABRICLIVE 59

I’ve long had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Kieran Hebden. His remixes are often better than any song he does on his own, and his singles are often better than any album, and his collaborations with Burial and Thom Yorke are generally head and shoulders above all. That said, I was completely blown away by his FABRICLIVE mix from earlier this year, and “Locked” (the last track on the mix) is perhaps my favorite of all. That “womp womp” of the bass at 3:00 just lights me up every time. More like this, please.

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Juk Juk · “Winter Turns Spring” · TEXT012

I saw that Keiran was posting tracks on soundcloud earlier this year, and began following him once he posted this track from Juk Juk before it came out on his TEXT label. I bought the vinyl before the track ended, and continued to play “Winter Turns Spring” almost daily on my walk to work on soundcloud over 3G in SF, which is no small feat. This is such a confident track from such a young producer. It feels like an old friend, but could clearly only be made in this era. I love the way it decomposes in the middle, with the frizzling bass that comes in and then organically fades out to leave just the core rhythm track in its place. If you like this, don’t miss his mix for The Daily Street. It’s every bit as brilliant.

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Rustie · “Hover Traps” · Glass Swords

I didn’t get into Rustie’s stuff on first listen. I bought the two track EP that Warp released before Glass Swords came out, and while I liked it, I didn’t love it. I poked around to see what other people had on their end-of-year lists when I began pulling tracks together for this mix, and Rustie was all over them all. I bought the album and immediately fell in love with “Hover Traps.” There’s so much going on in this track, but it never feels crowded or forced. His production is tight, his ideas inventive even if a bit derivative, and the final product is one of the lighter and more lively tracks on this list. I can’t wait to dive into the rest of it in the new year.

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Rone · “Planet Zoo” · So So So EP

I came across this EP from Rone on bleep.com, and I was sold on it by the description alone. Like Juk Juk’s track, “Planet Zoo” feels both old and new at the same time. It clearly points back to the heady days of IDM but does so in a way that’s genuinely new and novel. Perhaps it’s just the pace of it, but I just love the way it moves so effortlessly. I can’t wait to hear his full-length album when it comes out.

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Burial · “NYC” · Street Halo EP

Like me, you probably bought this three track EP from Burial the moment you came across it without a second thought. This track, though, exceeded my every expectation. I can’t imagine anything more soft and subtle from him. The word majestic comes to mind. It’s so refined and restrained, yet it clearly packs his unparalleled touch and trademark punch on the lower end. I loved the two tracks he did with Thom and Keiran, but I played this track nonstop for days on end, and still can’t get past it without an extra play or two now. It’s as close to perfect as it gets.

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Bibio · “Excuses” · Mind Bokeh

I almost neglected to add this track to the mix, but once I placed it after Burial’s track there was no way it was going to get bumped. I’ve underestimated Bibio before, but even this track in particular and this album in general blew me away. I know of no one else who can so naturally bend genres at will. This is everything a modern electronic song should be: well-composed, equal parts elegant and phrenetic, and informed by what has come before but completely unrestrained by it. I even love the cheeky little “A fragment of time. Which is not recorded. There is a moment of darkness.” sample at the end, mostly because of the way he cuts it up to suit the song rather than that other way around.

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Thank you for listening. If you like what you found here, you will definitely find more in the Songs of the Day tag. Enjoy!

I have a great and lasting fondness for compiling these lists, making these mixes, and writing these posts. In years past, I spent nearly 16 hours doing a simple ten track list+mix+post, and then quietly resolved to never spend that much time again, but chances are I won’t be all that far from it once this particular effort is done. Fact is, this is a painful process, but still something I find much joy in doing.

↓ Download all 20 songs I had no intention of compiling such a lengthy retrospective on the music of the naughties, but once I saw that others were doing it, and then combed through my list, I found a bunch of albums that deserved recognition. However small and insignificant my words may be, these 20 songs from my favorite 20 albums of the 2000s meant so much to me.

So here they are, mixed to perfection. Enjoy!

Jamie Lidell · “Yougotmeup” · Multiply · 2005

I bought this album the moment it came out — without bothering to preview it or read the reviews — even though his previous efforts left me scratching my head as often as waggin’ my booty. “Yougotmeup” is completely out of this world, and not only sets the tone for the rest of the album, it set me on a five year journey to see him live as many times as I could. No one else even comes close to the creativity and ingenuity of Jamie Lidell, especially in front of a crowd.

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Vampire Weekend · “A-Punk” · Vampire Weekend · 2008

Had my friend Maroney not passed along this album, and had Abby not fallen in love with it, I doubt I would have ever listened to it. I’m not even sure it belongs on this list — I have seen countless arguments for The Strokes over anyone else of their type — but there’s something so pure and simple about Vampire Weekend. On top of that, this album speaks to me much like the Violent Femmes self-titled debut did some 27 years ago. No small feat there.

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah · “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth” · Clap Your Hands Say Yeah · 2005

This song and this album (really, everything about CYHSY) just scream New York City for me. I even lost $300 trying to see them play on NYE in NYC (and I always thought I was street-smart) but eventually saw them twice. I credit them with bringing the feel of a dj set to the typical rock show, stringing each and every song together with some sort of whimsical musical transition. Now (almost) everyone does it, but they were the first.

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Radiohead · “Bodysnatchers” · In Rainbows · 2007

I was waaay late to the game with Radiohead, so much so that the first album I purchased was Hail to the Thief. Sure, I complained about the 160kbps thing when they first released In Rainbows, but paid for it anyway and then paid again when the cd version came out so I could have higher fidelity copies. I raved about Bodysnatchers in my list of favorites from 2007, so please go read about it there if you care. Chances are you already feel the same way about this song, it’s an absolute masterpiece.

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Thom Yorke · “Black Swan” · The Eraser · 2006

As I wrote about The Eraser in general and “Black Swans” in particular in 2007:

It’s quirky and downright weird at times, but songs like this one are so completely infectious that I can’t stop listening to them over and over again. There’s that innocence again, and a rawness that runs counter to the polish of Radiohead. This is a definite favorite of 2006.

I still find myself drawn to this album, and finding new twists and turns with each and every listen. It seems wholly unfair that one man should have such impeccable taste and immense talent, but at least Thom Yorke sees fit to share his gifts with the rest of us.

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Plaid · “Masato Shuffle” · Heaven’s Door · 2008

Whereas most of the more traditional bands on this list have an electronic(a) edge, Plaid is the purest expression of that sound. I spent all of 2009 anticipating their still unreleased album entitled Scintilli, and almost slept on Heaven’s Door (the soundtrack for a Japanese film) in the process, but I am eternally grateful I found it. I have no fewer than seven favorites on this album, but “Masato Shuffle” is at the top of my list. It’s the most exquisitely delicate song, so seemingly effortless you might be tempted to ignore it. Take a minute or two and let it pull you in — I can and have listened to this song on repeat for hours on end — you’ll soon go back for more.

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Ulrich Schnauss · “Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn” · Far Away Trains Passing By · 2001

Many, many moons ago, I coined a phrase to describe music not at all unlike Ulrich’s: “a motion with emotion.” Far Away Trains Passing By first appeared to me in the form of what seemed to be hundreds of messages on the idm list-serv I once followed, all of which raved about his enchantingly melodic and indelibly rhapsodic sound. Still to this day I remain in awe that so many loops can be so perfectly placed, never crowded, always balanced. “Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn” — roughly translates to “flower meadow beside the freeway” — is the most pristine gem on an album full of them, one I can’t recommend enough.

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Animal Collective · “Graze” · Fall Be Kind · 2009

Animal Collective and its many permutations so thoroughly dominated the latter half of my musical decade that I have no choice but to dedicate 20% of these songs to them, and I easily could have added more. Fall Be Kind is the only EP on the list, but more than holds its own, even more so as it comes on the heels of the esteemed Merriweather Post Pavilion (found below). All five songs on FBK are instant classics, and light years beyond anything else out there, including MPP. I don’t know how they do it but I hope they never stop.

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Grizzly Bear · “Southern Point” · Veckatimest · 2009

Were it not for two back-to-back Animal Collective shows, including the one in the Big Sur fog with only 299 other lucky souls, Grizzly Bear would have been the show of the year for me, and “Southern Point” its absolute highlight. While the album comes across as soft and even somewhat delicate at times, their presence onstage was anything but and their sound was big, Big, BIG. This was the song they opened with, featuring Daniel Rossen on lead vocals and Ed Droste as his primary backup, and it instantly brought an already revved up Fillmore crowd to a fever pitch. I have a feeling this band is just hitting its stride, and will be back bigger and better than ever with their next album.

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Battles · “Atlas” · Mirrored · 2007

Battles delivered one of the most unexpected and absolutely epic albums of the decade, and two of the most spectacular videos too. I still get chills when I think about the show they played in San Francisco, and remember being somewhat disappointed that they looked like such normal guys — I half expected robots. Tortoise, aka TRTS, might be the only other band that can play as tightly through a subtle change in pace and as frenetically for such lengths of time as BTTLS. I always want to call John Stanier, John Stamos. Not even close.

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!!! · “Me and Guiliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)” · Louden Up Now · 2004

Those ungoogleable bastards, !!!, completely won me over with 2004′s brilliant Louden Up Now, and then sealed the deal with their tour in support of 2007′s Myth Takes. Imagine a high school pep rally gone awry, with a bit of Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies, some New York punk, and late 90′s rave culture thrown in for good measure. Oh, and some killer lyrics too:

People always ask me, “What’s so fucking great about dancing?”
How the fuck should I know? Yeah, even I can barely understand it
But when the music takes over, the music takes control

“Me and Guiliani” was one of my Songs of the Day in 2008, and I’m quite fond of that post if you’re interested in reading more. I love !!! and can’t wait to hear what they do next.

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Hudson Mohawke · “No One Could Ever” · Butter · 2009

Thus far, my list feels fairly conventional, even to me. Sure, there’s a handful of outliers, but nothing quite like Butter. In fact, I think it sticks out like a sore thumb, whatever that means, and “No One Could Ever” is the biggest red blister of all, pulsing with an insatiable beat and ridiculously hyperactive drums. I love, love, love everything on this album, and anything else I have heard from HudMo. To be sure, not all of his music sounds like chipmunks on crack, but his best stuff certainly does.

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Squarepusher · “Tetra Sync” · Ultravisitor · 2004

I can’t say that I ever really fell for Ultravisitor top to bottom quite like the way I fell for Hello Everything and Just a Souvenir, but every time I come back to it I find another gem. Squarepusher is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorites, top five in fact (on the active list at least), and “Tetra Sync” is one of his finest efforts. Tom Jenkinson has a way of making music that in which everything sounds like a remix of one or more of his earlier tracks, but this one sounds like his entire career rolled up in one. I can barely wrap my mind around what a killer track this is, and more often than not am reduced to dropping f-bombs to describe it — it’s *that* good. I have seven other songs posted if you want more: Love Will Tear Us Apart, Star Time 2, Port Rhombus, Iambic 5 Poetry, Iambic 9 Poetry, A Real Woman, and Star Time 1. All every bit as epic.

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Animal Collective · “Daily Routine” · Merriweather Post Pavilion · 2009

As I wrote about “Daily Routine” earlier this year:

Normally, I play a SOTD over and over while I write these posts. Not so with this amazing new song from Animal Collective, in fact I can’t do anything beyond marvel at its absolute perfection: so sparse yet so full, so chaotic yet so incredibly peaceful. And that bass, those drums, the claps, the carnivalesque keys, and that seemingly endless outro, I defy you to find a more spectacular song, at least one that isn’t on the very same album!

I remember this one more than any other song that they played at both of my shows earlier this summer, especially since they extended the doodling at the beginning and let Panda take the outro even further. Merriweather Post Pavilion may very well be the album of the decade, and this song is a big reason why. Is is still sacrilegious to say that Animal Collective is my generation’s Beatles?

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o9 · “Terminal Silver” · Church of the Ghetto PC · 2004

Much like Ultravisitor, I initially found a couple of songs I instantly loved, and more or less stopped listening to the rest of Church of the Ghetto PC. I don’t know what prompted another listen in the past year or so, but ever since then I have been hooked on o9. As best I can tell he dropped off the face of the earth, so if you’re out there, Jesse Legg, and still making music, I want to hear it! If nothing else, please see to it that some 45rpm mp3s of No Delay for Days are added, I can’t stand it so slow.

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Burial · “Ghost Hardware” · Untrue · 2007

It never really mattered whether it was called dubstep, grime, or wonky, I simply didn’t care for it. The entire genre always felt too contrived, too of the moment without any regard for the one prior or post. Somehow Burial came out of the very same movement, only to rise above all else with an album so perfectly situated not in the present, past, or future, but simultaneously in all three. Abby put it best when she said:

It sounds like Jamie Lidell meets Boyz II Men meets Autechre.

Yep, classic.

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Flying Lotus · “Roberta Flack (feat Dolly)” · Los Angeles · 2008

FlyLo burst on the scene as quickly and vividly in 2006 as HudMo did in 2008, and like Butter I could point to any number of songs on Los Angeles that deserve special mention here:

[B]ut for me the one that truly stands above and beyond all others is “RobertaFlack (feat. Dolly).” The sparsely spaced rhythm track shines on its own, but that gives Ellison plenty of room to add Dolly’s beautiful voice for color and depth. And then he tops it off with the most unexpected breakdown at the end, so ridiculously sultry and seductive I could listen to those last 52 seconds on repeat for the rest of my life and die a very happy man

It’s totally and completely unfair to call it easy listening, but whenever I need to find a groove to get something done, I always reach for Los Angeles. The entire album flows so well, and the music itself is neither in my face nor so distant that I don’t notice it. It’s full of songs as eloquent as “Roberta Flack,” one masterpiece after the next.

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Panda Bear · “Take Pills” · Person Pitch · 2007

Person Pitch was my first Animal Collective experience, and at the time it seemed like I was the last to find out about it or them, but it didn’t take me long to want much more. From there I jumped into Strawberry Jam and my first show at The Fillmore, then a deep dive into their back catalog. There’s something so raw and immature about this solo effort from Noah Lennox, it’s such a scattered amalgamation of sounds and themes, but there’s a knowing wisdom about it too, like this is the way music is meant to be. I always imagined that the creatures on the cover lent the music its eclecticism, especially that gigantic sea lion. I bet he plays a mean bass.

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Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan · “Lay Lay Off Faselam” · Pullhair Rubeye · 2007

Believe it or not, this is the only album on my list that I did not personally pay for, and as far as I know it’s not even commercially available in its reversed form. My brother Kevin sent this to me, and it instantly became one of my most cherished possessions, for lack of a better word. The music is flimsy and gauzy, Kria Brekkan’s voice is dainty and wispy, and the lyrics are dreamy and distant. What it lacks in mass is more than made up in mettle, for this is a deeply heartfelt album, one-of-a-kind, and not likely to be duplicated ever again.

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Bjork · “I See Who You Are” · Volta · 2007

Speaking of the heart, I can think of no greater love song than “I See Who You Are” from Bjork and Mark Bell. This is such an intensely beautiful piece — the underlying music itself is perfectly restrained whereas Bjork’s voice is anything but — and each element embodies the message so well:

Let’s celebrate now all this flesh on our bones
Let me push you up against me tightly
And enjoy every bit of you

Do not miss that crescendo at the end with the horns and the pipa (a traditional Chinese string instrument, much like a sitar) played by Min Xiao-Fen. It all adds up to one phenomenal track, and a perfect end to this mix and post.

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If you made it this far, I thank you for reading and listening. I am truly honored.

I would love to hear which ones resonated with you, and please let me know about anything I might have missed from your best of the decade list.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed making it. Happy new year!

Okay, this real-time-mix-o’-mine is really getting good. From Squarepusher, to Hud Mo, to John Tejada, to Plaid, to the ever elusive Jesse Legg’s o9 (pronouced oh nine) moniker. “Terminal Orange” is perhaps the only track in my arsenal that can follow the intricate rhythms and elegant melodies of Plaid’s “Buns” and do so not merely within those terms but entirely on its own trajectory.

o9-terminalorangeThis track is but one of many gems on o9′s massive Church of the Ghetto PC album, certainly one of the very best of its 2004 era, yet still virtually unknown even to this day. I discovered and purchased it from iTunes way back when, but the sound is so incredibly immense and the textures are so full and relentlessly refined that Apple’s 128kbps AAC encoding just couldn’t handle it. Way too much distortion for my delicate ears, which caused me to keep some distance from it for far too long.

I stumbled across “Terminal Orange” again today, and was instantly pulled in and every bit as enamored as my first listen in 2004. Tonight, I repurchased the album from Amazon, getting slightly better sound quality from their VBR mp3s, and the satisfaction of supporting o9 all over again. This particular track defies classification, it sounds like everything and nothing else, so familiar yet entirely foreign. I can’t get enough of it:

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This is the first time I have ever specifically saved an EQ setting in iTunes for a song / album. I finally have the sound just right, with no distortion whatsoever, and I do not want to lose it. And yes, I’m already working on the next track in the mix, and hope to have that sooner than the once a week postings as of late.

As I wrapped up the previous post on John Tejada’s “Bounce” it occurred to me that I had the beginnings of a really good mix. That realization made the pick for the next track even more pressing, it had to not only fit with John’s track but the Hud Mo and Square P ones as well. Hence the slight delay in posting.

plaid-bunsI first promised a Plaid Song of the Day way back in October of last year, then just days into my new experiment of posting one song at a time. Now some 20+ songs later, I finally have the perfect track to share — an absolute epic stomper from 2003′s Spokes.

This album came hot on the heels of the P-Brane EP, which was supposed to have marked a clean break from their more melodic days into something much more forwardly percussive. Spokes has always felt much more true to the Plaid sound I so dearly know and love. “Buns” comes near the end, an appropriate capstone if you ask me, so fast at first blush, yet effortlessly full and lush:

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I have tried repeatedly to find anything as immersive and impressive on their most recent full-length, 2006′s Greedy Baby, but it all falls flat to me, even though their live set in April of 2007 — Yuri’s Night at NASA in Mountain View no less — was the best of the four I have seen. Their new album called Scintilli (derived from scintillare, meaning to sparkle or glitter; to give off sparks) is due later this year, and I can only hope it is a return to classic form.

I am admittedly somewhat late to the game on John Tejada — the one and only Titonton Duvanté had him signed to his Residual Recordings label way back in 1998. I even remember seeing flyers for their parties with him in Columbus at that time, but I don’t think I ever made it to one of his shows. Definitely missed out.

johntejada-bounceJohn’s tracks were one of my earliest discoveries in the then newly launched iTunes Music Store, and I now have no fewer than 30 John Tejada singles and one-offs from his work on Poker Flat and his own Palette Recordings label. To this day, I continue to religiously seek them out.

I was able to hear him play live in San Francisco last summer, and he did not disappoint. His music has such an elegant and worldly quality to it, which is no surprise given that he was born in Austria to an opera singer (mother) and a conductor (father), and he moves fluently in and out of so many sub-genres of techno. As for “Bounce,” his Los Angeles roots shine bright as day with its almost hip-hop beat and measured production:

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While completely different stylistically, this track is every bit as densely layered and expertly sequenced as my two previous SOTD from Hudson Mohawke and Squarepusher. This is shaping up to be the start of a really good mix…

Hudson Mohawke, just 22 years old, has just released his first proper and widely-circulated EP on Warp Records. This thing has been relentlessly hyped as the second coming of hip-hop, with Hud Mo as J Dilla reincarnate, a comparison that isn’t entirely fair or even remotely appropriate.

hudsonmohawke-velvetpeelIt is clear he is talented beyond belief, and his music speaks with an almost innate knowing, like it was always meant to be. I know I have touched on this in the past, but I love the stuff that sounds so of-the-moment, yet clearly from-the-past as well. There’s a familiarity here, and it’s very comfortable too, but with a heavy dose of futuristic Fly Lo funk. How can you argue with his lineage:

At age 7 Hudson fell in love with jungle & rave music and it kick started an obsession collecting as much music of all genres as he could. At age 10 Hudson was making his first mixtapes, mixing between a personal cassette player & a broken hi-fi turntable. At age 12 he started making music, using only a Playstation. At age 14 he was the Scottish champion of both the ITF and UK DMC DJ Championships.

There is absolutely nothing forced or contrived about it, it’s just pure and simple musical genius:

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“Velvet Peel” is definitely my favorite on the six song EP entitled Polyfolk Dance. I both love that it’s just over two minutes long and wish it were an hour or more, and I can’t wait to hear the new album later this year. Between the new Squarepusher EP and this, Warp is tearing into the new year. May I please have a new Plaid album too?