Toddla T, Watch Me Dance
Like a pop fan's fantasy mixer
Like many successful producer-led records — think Richard X Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1 or Mark Ronson’s Here Comes the Fuzz — Toddla T’s second album plays out like a pop fan’s fantasy mixer, where favorite singers and styles mingle comfortably on the dancefloor. Sheffield-born Tom Bell is a lively, generous host who gives his guest vocalists what they need: the title track’s splashy funk-rock for south London MC Roots Manuva, “Cherry Picking”‘s luscious electro-pop for Roisin Murphy, and the optimistic lovers rock of “Fly” for Ms Dynamite and the Silvertones. Though usually grounded in the rhythms of Jamaican dancehall, Toddla’s production has the knockabout, hybridizing energy of early ’90s rave. “Take It Back” sports the kind of back-in-the-day piano break you might find on an early Prodigy single, while “How Beautiful It Would Be” is reggae electronically buffed to a pupil-dilating sunrise glow. With cheery optimism dominant it’s a pleasant surprise to come across a protest song as gripping as “Streets So Warm” (“Who is to be trusted? The witness or the sarge?” asks Wayne Marshall) but it’s followed mischievously by the boisterous novelty ragga of Badman Flu. As an advertisement for, and homage to, the ebullient patchwork philosophy of British urban music over the last 20 years, Watch Me Dance is never less than brilliant company.