Various Artists

Strictly the Best, Vol. 49

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The VP label's annual overview of the year's best reggae singles continues to arrive at the rate of two volumes a year, with 2013's editions being 48 and 49. The high quality control is maintained and the label's licensing muscle is as strong as ever, but the big difference this year is that the soft and the hard have been split, with Vol. 48 offering mostly contemporary reggae and roots music while Vol. 49 goes for ragga and dancehall. Fans with a taste for the diverse will have to grab them both, but 49 is the one to pick if reggae clubbing is what's required, as Busy Signal ("Bedroom Bully"), Mr. Vegas ("Party Tun Up"), and Aidonia ("Bruk It") all offer hard and hefty dancehall tunes. Mixing up genres is in effect as electro and dancehall joyfully collide on Snoop Lion's "Fruit Juice," but that hooky tune stands in the shadow of Bunji Garlin's epic soca number "Differentology," which gets the skittish EDM treatment from a Major Lazer remix. Add Elephant Man mocking Hannah Montana ("Miley Cyrus [Twerk]") and Macka Diamond making booty calls (she even mentions "This ain't no love song, go to the movies" on "Dye Dye"), and the only problem with the too-cool 49 is that it requires 48 for the full 2013 reggae picture.

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