Little White Earbuds Year in Music

01. Justin Timberlake ft. T.I., “My Love”

As ubiquitous as it is exceptional, “My Love” is a mighty response to skeptics wondering where sexy went in the first place. Timbaland, Danja and Timberlake recaptured the energy crackling in “Cry Me a River” and spun the tone dial from heartbreak to hearts swelling with passion. Its lustrous synths roughly creep up and down the scale like a jagged chill navigating a spine. Free spaces are stuffed with blushing bass tones. Deep, tumbling tom fills bound down a flight of stairs and dig up throat noise nuggets and fingers snapping along the way. Fully aware of his capabilities, JT’s falsetto is delicate but in control; and when he’s ready to belt, Justin’s engaging harmonies cause widespread swoons, ones not even T.I.’s dubious lines cannot interrupt. I’m still as lovestruck with “My Love” as when it first bowled me over, which seems to be a lot to ask from a pop tune these days.

02. Audion, “Mouth to Mouth”

For me, Matthew Dear and his Audion project are hit and miss in 2006. His Fabric mix was so techy and spare that it was easy to forget I was listening to a mix and not just assorted office noise or the copy machine on an ink binge. His remix of NOMO’s “Nu Tones” has the same M.O. , differing so greatly from the original that it might have been assembled exclusively with samples of him smacking his own ass with a vinyl copy of New Tones. He’s also had a few great releases, like his split with Ellen Allien and of course, “Mouth to Mouth.” Minimal only in premise, this 13 minute monster trapped listeners in a cheap pinball machine and rattled their teeth; or perhaps it’s the new soundtrack to the The Scrambler with the brakes ripped off. Dear’s construction is mildly infuriating and wholly fascinating, using interchangable patterns that never deliver all the elements at once. When each fizzy seizure bubbles up something is missing, only to pop up a few bars later to keep you hoping. Some might argue Villalobos’ “Fizheuer Zieheuer” is the superior minimal track on the year, but applause for being audacious aside, “Mouth to Mouth” is 1/3rd of the length and three times more powerful on the dancefloor.

03. Clipse, “Mr. Me Too”

Minimalism seems to be doing pretty well in music right now, especially if folks like Pharrell who love going overboard want to scale it back. Electric fence crackle motifs and space-aged toms might not have the goofy club-readiness of “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” but this is for Clipse, not Snoop (although that sassy tambourine section is ripe for the ass-shaking). Pusha T and Malice want to know what “the fuck y’all been doin'” while they’ve been lying low, then relay their conquests with the utmost confidence and steely demeanor, all without cracking from their hyper literate flow. Even Pharrell’s clever-for-a-14-year-old rhymes can’t fuck up a track this massive. More on Clipse when it comes time to discuss albums.

04. Basement Jaxx, “Hush Boy” (Les Visiteurs remix)

Just when you thought the Jaxx boys would find a new sound to call their own, they played it safe, and “Hush Boy” is no different. Flush with horns, divalicious vocals and a bouncing beat, it’s typical, but still pretty enjoyable. Whoever the fuck Les Visiteurs are, they saw a lot more in “Hush Boy.” Stripped to its vocals, Visiteurs furnish the tune with dirty synths and more banging percussion to put the stomp on other electro tracks it’s being mixed to and from. The peaked out synth spasm bridge would make Justice proud and ready to put a copy in their crates (just a guess). This is a public outcry for Les Visiteurs to deliver more remixes and some tracks pronto!

05. Zero 7 ft. Jose Gonzales, “Futures” (Rub ‘N Tug remix)

Those Rub ‘N Tug fellas, they sure know how to make the most of what they have. Aside from Jose Gonzales’ stellar vocal performance, “Futures” colors in the lines Zero 7 has followed since their debut. The first three minutes of the remix set the foundation, folding the tune’s elements into a hazy but motivated form. When they finally yank away the built up instrumental and leave Gonzales’ pastoral intonation hanging in the air, you just know it’s about to pop off. Never exactly reaching banger status, this jazzed up remix makes excellent use of the original (something many remixers tend to avoid) and pumps more life into it than found on the entirety of The Garden.

06. Cassie, “Me & U”

I’m still fairly happy with how I described this plucky jam earlier this year, so in the interest of time and space-saving, I’m going to refer you there.

07. The Klaxons, “Magick” (Simian Mobile Disco remix)

Love or hate the new rave scene, the chemistry between The Klaxons and Simian Mobile Disco unleashed the best from both camps. During the latter’s remix of the former’s “Magick,” pitched up coos, cavernous vocals and a shitload of aggressive synth work create musical fission seldom seen without some self-destructive mistake dragging the tune down. No mistakes to be found here, just a face-melter of a track ready for the Armageddon or another tablet of E. Summer of Love part three coming at you soon if this partnership keeps up.

08. Project Pat, “What Money Do”

So Three 6 Mafia and co. are about the last folks I’d expect to do RZA beats in 2006, but “What Money Do” makes me a believer. Mr. Fresh Outta Jail, aka Project Pat gets one of the crew’s best beats since “Stay Fly” and solidly rocks it. Beneath his brass-balled call to toss money in haters’ faces (as well an equally smug self-comparison to Dr. Ruth) are tidal waves of harp strums, sky-scraping orchestral samples and a trembling soul moan Bobby Digital might sneak into his lab when no one’s looking. I can’t think of a better track to celebrate one’s independence than “What Money Do,” so keep it around in case you get nabbed or maybe bogged down by the job/class.

09. Trentemøller, “Always Something Better” (Trentemøller remix)

Though Trentemøller is no Arthur Russell (nor does he sound like ’em, relax), the man knows that one’s work isn’t finished if you can think of more changes to make. So keeping with the title, Trentemøller further submerges the track into deep techno territory, unsheathing twinkling glitches and antagonizing synths looking for dancefloor conflict/contact. Better than The Last Resort and most of its tacked on singles, “Always Something Better” is easily my favorite Trentemøller output to date.

10. Coldcut ft. Robert Owens, “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”

A humble reminder that we’re all human, Coldcut and Robert Owens make this fresh take on a classic soulful enough that listeners might actually take pause. Henrik Schwarz’s remix is also pretty top knotch if you’re into spare African rhythms.

Honorable mentions:

11. T.I. “Why You Wanna”

12. The Infadels, “Girl That Speaks No Words” (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke remix)

13. Islands, “Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby”

14. Digitalism, “Jupiter Room” (Erol Alkin edit)

15. Martin Buttrich, “Cloudy Bay”

16. Ricardo Villalobos, “Fizheuer Zieheuer”

17. Hot Chip, “Over and Over”

18. Guns N Bombs, “Crossover Appeal”

19. Christina Aguilera, “Ain’t No Other Man”

20. The Teenagers, “Homecoming”

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