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  • LWE’s Top 5 Overrated Tracks of 2012 | Little White Earbuds

    LWE’s Top 5 Overrated Tracks of 2012

    In the wake of Anton Kipfel’s 2011 Overrated report, I feel like every post-Basic Channel dub producer has probably felt: inadequate. Of course, this year has ushered in a whole new load of over-hyped music to be examined, but in terms of simply describing how and why certain tracks come to be overrated, it seems as if Kipfel turned all the necessary stones. Thus, like the masses of post-BC producers, all I have to offer is refinement of his original sentiments, and a bit of re-hash. First: by voting with their feet, dancers have as much impact on a track’s popularity as anyone. Too right. With alarming speed, the idea, “But I dropped this in my set last weekend, and the dance floor went nuts!” has become an acceptable rebuttal for relatively objective and well-reasoned reviews. Justin Bieber’s hits make certain crowds go crazy, too. All that statement tells me is that your dance floor could benefit from some education — starting with you, the DJ, playing them some decent music.

    Second: while music journalists still have a useful role, we remain fallible. There are any number of reasons for this. Deadlines are one: just try fully absorbing an LP like Unicursal Hexagram in 48 hours, or more pertinently, listening to an album that’s only superficially good and quickly recognizing it as such. A reticence to bite the feeding hand, whether personally or editorially enforced, is another such reason: a bad review might result in the suspension of important promos. Perhaps the least obvious motive is kindness: a desire to sugarcoat things so that a particular label/artist are not hurt, emotionally or financially. None of these items are excuses or apologies; they simply illustrate that music “critics” contribute to the overrating process as much as DJs, dancers, and chart-makers. (Sometimes, they just have shitty taste in music to begin with, too.) With that clarification out of the way, here are five tracks of 2012 that got way more praise than they deserved.

    Tom Trago, “Use Me Again” (Carl Craig Rework)
    [Rush Hour Recordings]

    How remiss of me to spend two paragraphs explaining hype, and not mention the impact a name can have. They don’t get much bigger than Carl Craig, one of the most credible and revered artists Detroit has yet produced. Consequently, his work tends to be judged rather less harshly than that of the unknowns. It’s natural — we pit our own experience and taste against that of someone as legendary as C2 and think, “It must be me who’s got it wrong, not him,” or else, “All his stuff has been good thus far, so this is, too.” But in the case of his rework of Tom Trago’s “Use Me Again,” no amount of experience or talent can hide the laziness of his approach. The original is a neat piece of string-laden, beefed-up disco. Craig’s version is a neat piece of string-laden, beefed-up disco…with filters. It’s the kind of simple modification most DJs do live — with one hand, no less — to induce a touch more euphoria on the dance floor. They might even record themselves doing it at home, then keep the result for use in their sets. But commit it to record as a legitimate rework? That’s a step too far; the equivalent of adding a shonky body kit to a car and calling it a new model altogether.

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    Try instead: System 7, “Positive Noise” (Carl Craig remix) [A-Wave Records], in which he converts a somewhat boorish pumper into a low-flying, 12-minute journey into the abyss.

    Paperclip People, “Throw” (Slam’s Rtm Remix)
    [Planet E]

    As it turns out, not only does Carl Craig like doing stuff to other people’s stuff, he also likes other people doing stuff to his stuff, too. In 2010, he let Christian Smith pillage his classic track “At Les,” and this year, allowed Scottish duo Slam to stomp all over the even more eternal “Throw.” It almost seems pointless to outline why this remix is so bad — isn’t it obvious? — but seeing as LWE’s Per Bojsen-Moller let the duo off so lightly, here goes: the bass line, the track’s most pivotal element, has been smoothed out, losing its essential roughness; stupidly large drums have replaced the original’s tight, I-could-listen-to-these-for-the-next-fifteen-minutes ones; all the new percussion is utterly hackneyed; superfluous and unimaginative white noise has been added at several points; the original’s shimmering pads, cucumber-cool tootling organ and improv-style breakdowns have been excised, as have the surprisingly important hi-hats which keep only half-time, ensuring the pounding journey never gets too tiring. In short: nothing at all to do with purist bleatings of, “They changed this timeless track I have strong feelings for!” and everything to do with good music being turned into absolute dross, even if you were born in 1993 and just heard both versions for the first time.

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    Try instead: the original, naturally.

    Pirupa, “Party Non Stop” [Desolat]

    They say one should never judge a book by its cover. It follows that one should never judge music by its cover art, nor its title. Silly sentiments, the lot of them. I would have given up searching for decent music long ago, were it not for my expertly-tuned dreckdar, which is calibrated using track names and cover art. Unsurprisingly, alarm bells were ringing before I first put on “Party Non Stop.” A vast majority of the music reviewed on this website is intended to make people dance — or “party” if you will — but it’s not so crass as to spell it out, and in the title, no less. Accordingly, “Party Non Stop” wallops listeners over the head with its half-baked ideas, and it’s fit to burst with Ibiza-pandering gimmicks. There are plenty of offensive aspects to the composition, but the sheer nothingness of the actual music surely takes the cake. For whatever reason, I listened to the instrumental mix on YouTube, and while it’s no doubt pleasant to be free of the unbearably tacky vocals commanding me to “party non-stop” — via vocoder, no less — there’s precious little in the song that makes me want to do so. Not only is the percussion anemic, it’s arranged in the straightest, most conventional of ways. The bass line, arguably the only thing to latch onto, leaves the proceedings for minutes at a time to create silly crescendos, and the effects sound like a five-year-old experimenting with my Korg Monotron. In short, there’s a very distinct lack of substance, especially in the realm of the chord-based.

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    Try instead: Fort Romeau’s narcotic “Theo” [100% Silk]

    Matthew Dekay & Lee Burridge, “Lost In A Moment” [Innervisions]

    Dekay and Burridge actually had two hits this year, the first being “Für Die Liebe.” The two tracks are very similar, in fact, both trading in floating, heavenly timbres and extremely static percussion. Compared with the other selections on this list, it’s much harder to pinpoint what makes “Lost In A Moment” so disappointing, apart from sheer similarity to its predecessor. Its gossamer chords and violin-like synths are possessed with undeniable beauty, and the whole thing has a patient, almost cinematic approach to progression. But listen to the percs, and things begin to come unstuck. They sound like a metronome, utterly devoid of groove and swing. Furthermore, there’s barely a change from start to finish; just the same bored, detached clave beat ticking away. I can’t see myself doing anything to this track other than swaying on the spot. And while that may be perfect for Burridge’s spaced-out All Day I Dream Parties, for most other situations it feels like a dose of dance-floor Valium: pleasant, but ultimately lacking in excitement and energy.

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    Try instead: Nhar, “Innerplace” (John Daly Mix / Dub) [Perspectiv]; Matthew Dekay & Lee Burridge, “Lost In A Moment” (Dixon remix) [Innervisions]; Bipolar Depth, “Vessel” [Udacha]; Oskar Offermann, “Do Pilots Still Dream of Flying?” [White]

    Duke Dumont, “Street Walker” [Turbo Recordings]

    It’s been a slog, but after a few years of releasing “serious” techno, people are finally starting to stop thinking of Tiga’s label as a haven for gimmicky electro house/clash, and more so as a pillar of the Canadian scene. Duke Dumont’s “Street Walker” is fairly typical of the label’s current output; aggressively big-room, functional, and generally averse to anything approaching traditional melody. It’s a style which has grown increasingly popular of late, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s simple to make, simple to DJ, and most of all, simple to dance to. As the intro to this article alluded to, however, getting a floor moving is far from a reliable indicator of quality. With its bulky yet nimble beats, “Street Walker” has stirred up many a dance floor, but as a kind of yin to “Lost In A Moment”‘s yang, it does so without much to offer for the heart or head. Apart from being hard to make out — and ergo, get involved with — its dominant vocals lack the rhythmic spark which so many other producers have used to turn voice into instrument, and their frequent re-pitchings sound inane, rather than interesting. Underneath, things aren’t much better, with only a prosaic, swaying organ on hand to entertain. Like Turbo itself, “Street Walker” does have its moments here and there, but judged as a whole, it doesn’t feel particularly convincing.

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    Try instead: Blawan, “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage” [Hinge Finger]; Conforce, “24” (Gesloten Cirkel Remix) [Clone Basement Series]; Delroy Edwards, “4 Club Use Only” [L.I.E.S.]

    Peter  on December 14, 2012 at 1:47 AM

    “They might even record themselves doing it at home, then keep the result for use in their sets.” I imagine this to be the case with Carl Craig’s version of “Use Me Again.” It is only billed as a “rework,” after all. I would even bet the rework wasn’t commissioned and/or he wasn’t paid for it. It’s just cool to have a Carl Craig revision for DJ sets.

    I also don’t mind “Street Walker” at all, although all the “try instead’ tracks are some of my favorites of the year.

    The hatred for the Slam version of “Throw” is entirely warranted, however. What a truly awful version of such an incredible track.

    Richard Stokes  on December 14, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    Good shout on Slam’s remix of Throw, complete garbage. I respect Slam enough to have thought they wouldn’t agree to something as tasteless.

    Would say that for the ‘Try Instead’ blurb under Party Non Stop, you should have included the DJ Qu remix on the flip. Turns the lifeless shite on the A into a different monster altogether.

    willard  on December 14, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    indeed – turbo has ceased to be a label for gimmicky electro house/clash and is instead a label for gimmicky techno.

    those in the techno/house community tend to (wrongly) fetishize authenticity, but the blatant bandwagon jumping of turbo (from the stamped white labels to ‘for club play only’ to their recent ‘Birmingham-esque industrial techno’) leaves a real bad taste in my mouth.

    LWE Voyeur  on December 14, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    Not one to knock LWE as often you’re reviews hit the nail on the head but what benefit does it provide highlighting 5 quite well produced tracks as overrated? There were so many amazing records released in 2012 why waste time and site space on the mediocre.

    A number of the records mentioned were at least trying to be a little different compared to the barrage of half decent old skool drum machine jams and nintiesesque(check the dictionary I’m sure it’s there)garage which although I am partial too has flooded the release schedule through the year often to rave reviews but never really innovating.

    All I was getting at is you are a site which prides itself on quality journalistic reviews you don’t need to resort to highlighting the mediocre. We’re all in this together.

    Sorry for the rant but bring on a positive 2013.

    PS Im not associated with any of the artists or labels.

    littlewhiteearbuds  on December 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    @ Voyeur

    You’re right, there is a fair bit of mediocre music which isn’t worth much discussion. That’s why LWE doesn’t spend much time addressing it during the year, or even during year-end season. The reason we chose to call out these tracks is two-fold: As no one actually lives in a world where they only hear the most excellent tunes, this music exists in our world, too. These were tracks that got played in otherwise good sets but raised no ire. Even worse, these particular mediocre tracks were celebrated as examples of good music by our nominally critical peers. If anyone has the guts to point out these discrepancies between quality and reception, it’s us.

    Fredrik  on December 14, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    Pure awesome. Great. I agree with everything. Great list.

    adit  on December 14, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    my shout to the first choice. the original isn’t good either.

    Kyle  on December 14, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    @ LWE

    lol that was a pretty bogus defense, guys. please stick to covering music you believe in and leave the unwarranted negativity to the trolls over at XLR8R.

    Paul  on December 16, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    In fairness Kyle, i think negativity towards the likes of Slam´s remix of Throw is very much warranted. Hopefully the parties involved in the release will take a hint from the negative feedback and think twice before putting out such garbage. In my opinion some tracks should not be remixed and Throw would be one of them.
    It´s a beast of a track that should be left untouched. Paul

    Kenny  on December 17, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Carl Craig has been below auto-pilot for ages, why suddenly mention one now? Also, did ANYONE with any sort of half decent taste rate that Slam version of Throw in the first place?

    Kyle  on December 17, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    My point is why even MAKE this list? And why THESE five tracks? There are far worse tracks being “celebrated” this year.

    It just seems like a slippery slope to just start “calling out mediocrity” in dance music, especially when dance music is becoming more and more mediocre given it’s growing popularity.

    littlewhiteearbuds  on December 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    We’ve been running “overrated” lists since 2008. We regularly give less than positive reviews to records that deserve as much. So the whole thing is very much in line with the M.O. of LWE.

    Kyle  on December 17, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Respect for doing your thing, I still love the site, as you put out a great product. It’s just disheartening to see so much of these “bad” lists crop up this year, like there isn’t enough negativity in the scene already.

    alberto  on December 17, 2012 at 8:51 PM

    Kyle, if you’re so concerned about dance music’s slide in mediocrity, why are you trying to ward off criticism of mediocre music? Wouldn’t a robust critical infrastructure help to combat this slide by calling it what it is?

    martyn  on December 18, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    you know if you slag off a rush hour record, a label that has done a tremendous amount of great things in the last few years, and let something like Bicep as obvs ripping off Kerri Chandler just slide, then why would I take this list seriously?
    In general though, people often think that quality journalism means you have to at least hate on some things because a “critical journalist can’t possibly like everything”. Quality journalism means you are able to express your honest opinion about a record in an enticing, well-written, maybe even lyrical way. Why surrender yourself to a negative approach like this? I’m sticking this one in my top 5 most unappealing articles on LWE 2012.

    onefoursevenone  on December 18, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    the matthew dekay & lee burridge track is the most uninspiring nonsense i’ve heard all year. if i had to sum it up: blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    littlewhiteearbuds  on December 18, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    @Martyn

    I get the sense from your comments you might have had a different reaction to this piece if it had included more tracks you thought were overrated. I could definitely understand wanting to see Bicep on here, and had I written the list myself “Vision of Love” might well have been. I also think it’s important to distinguish between disliking one remix Rush Hour put out and slagging off the whole label, especially since we’ve gone to some lengths to highlight so much of the great stuff they’ve done this year (eg. being #4 on our top labels list).

    I feel that in order to express our honest opinions as part of quality journalism, we have to be free to be negative when the need arises. We take being negative seriously and only target records we feel worthy of the opprobrium, not just to have something to shit on. As in years past, this is one of those times.

    martyn  on December 19, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    You keep using the fact that you’ve done this list for a few years now as an argument for it. In regards to “The need to be negative” I understand a quality journalist needs to be negative when he/she feels it’s necessary as part of a larger piece. I don’t understand why you would write an entire article based on negativity (being overrated).
    And about the Rush Hour / Bicep thing, I’m just giving an example. Your assessment that my reaction would be different if other tracks were included I find a bit insulting to be honest. You really think I’m that shallow? You should know I’m not the person to feverishly defend my best mates on forums or websites, I am more of an outsider that believes in less moaning and more caring.

    littlewhiteearbuds  on December 19, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    @ Martyn

    No one would accuse you of being shallow. It just sounded like there was some openness to pointing out overrated tracks.

    b  on December 20, 2012 at 5:45 AM

    Nice list. Carl Craig lost it, we knew that but it keeps getting worse..
    He even disrespects his own music made in the past…
    Taking the aim was easy of course.

    It’s rather funny instead than negative to read these lists.

    andy  on December 20, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    No need to get all huffy Martyn.

    Just count yourself lucky some of those dodgy 3024 releases didn’t make it here. Jon Convex…really ?

    LWE Voyeur  on December 28, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    It’s highlighting the overrated I find a bit pointless especially coming from a positive journalistic outlet for electronic music such as LWE. It’s probably worse than actually identifying a really bad record which actually serves a purpose.

    I’d guess that there are approximately 200 vinyl releases everyweek in the main genres of house orientated electronic music (thousands more if you include downloads!!). Id guess that maybe 90% of vinyl and 99% of download releases are mediocre and middle of the road so why bother highlighting 5 records out of the thousands that are overrated?

    No doubt, Desolat, Rush Hour, Innervisions, Turbo and Planet E can take it on the chin but what do you gain from highighting a lower profile underground artists such as Duke Dumont or Pirupa who like the rest of us are most probably grafting to earn a crust from this industry we all love and more than likely need all the support they can get. This is where the negativity can cause damage.

    Imo if you don’t like it don’t review it. All 5 were hardly huge club smashes.

    Brenn  on December 28, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Absolutely love this. So good to read honest critique. Fair do’s for calling these all these average tracks out. Stand by your guns, people!

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