Wookie - Battle
Garage anthem of the year, apparently.... As Robin pointed out, this has one of the most fantastic tension-building repetitive intros ever (including a somewhat smug Soul II Soul reference), a thrilling combination of pizzicato strings, timekeeper hi-hats and ominous vocals. Unfortunately after that it rather awkwardly segues into a sentimental house/soul ballad in the vein of Joe Smooth's "Promised Land", which is of course very nice and even rather great by the chorus, but not a patch on those first forty seconds, which remind me a lot of the beginning of Armand Van Helden's "Conscience" (although that manages to actually build on the tension for the rest of the track).
It seems a shame that Wookie's productions have been growing progressively less challenging. With "Scrappy" he sort of set himself up as the 2-step answer to New Horizons, using weird, gloopy bass and bizarre, not-quite-tuneful reggaematic melodies. Flipside "Down On Me" was and is the highpoint of his career so far - a disorienting darkside hallucination with compulsive She'kspere snares and distraught divas, it is perhaps the most neurotic groove that garage has yet thrown up.
"What's Going On" was great of course, but by comparison it was much more straightforward, and "Battle", with its self-consciously housey keyboard burbles and full-on vocals, streamlines Wookie's sound that much further. It's an excellent track, but it would be a shame if his forthcoming album revealed him to simply be MJ Cole in disguise. I still reckon it's going to be the definitive underground article among the countless garage albums set to descend this year, but if not, there's a whole host of talented producers (Stanton Warriors, Zed Bias, The Wideboys, Groove Chronicles) just waiting to take his place.