MJ Cole

Cut to the Chase

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A pioneer of the U.K. 2-step garage scene, London producer MJ Cole bagged a Mercury Music Prize nomination, a Top Ten single, and the acclaim of both the dance and indie music press with his 2000 groundbreaking debut album, Sincere. Three years on, and the sound that he helped to break through to the mainstream has started to retreat back into the underground, with some of its most famous exponents, Craig David, Mis-Teeq, and Ms. Dynamite, opting for a more R&B flavor on their most recent output. Rather than jumping a sinking ship, Cole has valiantly decided to attempt to resurrect the genre's fortunes, sticking to his trademark sound for follow-up Cut to the Chase. Like its predecessor, there are flashes of other musical influences. Controversial Jamaican rapper Elephant Man turns up on the dancehall-inflected "Mad Man," soul singer Shaun Escoffery lends his dulcet tones to the shuffling jazz-pop midtempo "Lost Our Way," and "Caught You Out" is a sassy slice of staccato-led R&B featuring Basement Jaxx vocalist Vula Malinga. But it's his multi-layered garage sound, which effortlessly combines his classically trained background with his dancefloor sensibilities, where his unique lush production really shines. "Perfect Pitch," full of squelchy basslines and an '80s-style synth solo, is an uplifting slice of vocal 2-step featuring nu-soul star Jill Scott; "Honesty," a warm pizzicato string-led number in the vein of his biggest hit, "Crazy Love," showcases Xenomania songwriter Niara Scarlett's laid-back soulful vocals; and Shy FX cohort Fallacy provides an authentic urban edge to the bouncy Basement Jaxx-esque club anthem "Live My Life." However, the acoustic-led "Ghetto Queen" is garage-by-numbers, while the chaotic "Take Flight" is an ill-advised attempt at pirate radio-style hip-hop that sounds hopelessly out of place amidst the rest of the album's more refined nature. Cut to the Chase may not be the huge musical step forward needed to prevent the 2-step sound from disappearing from the charts, but considering that most garage artists have struggled to sustain a career past one single, it's quite an achievement that two albums on, Cole is still finding ways of making the genre sound fresh and exciting.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:30
2
feat: Jill Scott
5:39
3 3:36
4 5:52
5 3:46
6
feat: Lyric L
4:04
7
feat: Elephant Man
4:43
8
feat: Rodney P
1:26
9 3:34
10 4:15
11 5:36
12 3:57
13 4:12
14 5:01
15
0:05
16
0:05
17
0:05
18
0:05
19
0:05
20
0:05
21
0:05
22
0:05
23
0:05
24
0:05
25
0:05
26
0:05
27
0:05
28
0:05
29
0:05
30
0:05
31
0:05
32
0:05
33
0:05
34
0:05
35
0:05
36
0:05
37
0:05
38
0:05
39
0:05
40
0:05
41
0:05
42
0:05
43
0:05
44
0:05
45
0:05
46
0:05
47
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48
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49
0:05
50
5:21
blue highlight denotes track pick