The first lady of the Flipmode Squad. Amazing. Her voice is deep and rasping, tough and hard. She doesn't fall into the traps set for so many other female MCs - "looking pretty in the video", to quote another of her songs - or coming across uber-sexed, or singing any bloody ballads.
She rhymes with precision and with more than a dash of humour. Sounds as fresh as it did 4 years ago, and makes me frustrated for that long overdue second album.
from Dirty Harriet (Elektra 7559-62386-2), available on CD
Always a marriage made in heaven: the voice of Karie, a J-pop queen with a whispery, heavily accented turn of phrase and the convoluted, utterly expressive lyrics of Momus.
She positions herself as Tudor successor to Catherine Parr and, although adopting a cavalier attitude to the facts of English history ("his first six wives had their heads chopped off" - er, no they didn't) the image of a vastly overweight and gout-ridden Henry playing Greensleeves on a lute to a waifish Japanese woman is charming.
Plenty of what I'm presuming are geniune Tudor instruments such as the Hand-Pumped Regal, Sackbutt and Dulcion, performed by the Dufay Collective.
from Journey To The Centre Of Me (Polydor POCH 1927), available on CD
Before the Sugababes became just a catalogue of "epic" ballads and stylist errors they were a phenomenally good UK pop band. Not marketing themselves as slappers or party girls, they exhibited an edginess not commonly associated with mainstream chart acts. The whole first album is a miraculous hotbed of beats and songwriting that gels so unbelievably well with the girls' image that you can believe their contribution to the process was more than just the "change a word, take a third" Spice Girls school of songwriting. Overload and Run For Cover are two of my favourite singles of the last ten years.
Equally commendable (and something else, along with member Siobhan and nice clothes, that fell by the wayside come second album time) was their attention to B sides and bonus tracks. Most had a quality that rivalled the album songs and singles - and Sugababes On The Run is even better. I can see why it wouldn't fit on the album - too novelty-ish, few people can pull off a track with their own name in it - but it works perfectly as a flitty ditty about the best teen subject: being pissed off at your parents.
Nevertheless, it does has a depth to it. In its own pop way, it's examining the precipice between youth and cynicism - does getting older always mean losing your ideals?
The sweetness of the vocals (particularly Keisha's) and the general kid sister affection of the 'Babes mean that, however much crap they release I'll still be there every new release Monday hoping for another B-side of this quality - and getting a god-awful remix instead.
from New Year CD Single (London LONCD455), available on CD