A lot can happen in a year. Burial's debut LP showed up with only a little fanfare on the Hyperdub label in 2006, and while it was justly lionized in the must-read Wire magazine and the fervent dubstep fanatic population of Great Britain, it wasn't until the regular round-ups of music criticism that showed up in December and January that most people even tracked the CD release down. (While we could try to plow the roads of our own pride by mentioning that we threw it in last years music countdown, the truth is that it was the Wire that turned us on to it. Still, we did beat a certain music website we'd rather not mention. Sounds like Clitfork.) Since Burial's coronation as dubsteps coolest practitioner, in no small part due to his Salinger take on publicity, he's dropped a couple of brilliant EPs, some of which ended up making it's way onto Untrue, his second "official" LP release. Happily, Burial didn't stray to far afield from what made him so successful--Untrue is just as strong as his first release. If it suffers at all, that comes from now knowing what to expect: there was so much underground (and we mean real underground) noise regarding what Burial had created in 2005, that the first experience of the sound was a total surprise. Still, Untrue made it's way into a lot of hearts this year--it's all over every major list of the best albums, it's (at the time of this writing) the highest rated album of the year on Metacritic, and it's actually selling copies, as opposed to what just about every other CD currently does. A lot of that acclaim stems from people missing out on the chance to join the choir when the first Burial album appeared, but just because everybody didn't get their hand stamped at that first party doesn't mean they can't stay up late and cram now.
It would be a bit odd to refer to Untrue as "classic" dubstep--does a music subgenre get to start throwing the "c" word around when it's not even as old as it's major players? Still, there's little in the field that's comparable. While the technical similarities of Untrue and anything from Benga, Kode9 and Boxcutter are certainly apparent, there's a textural individuality to Burial's sound--unlike the rest of the Hyperdub crew, Untrue bleeds a certain warmth to it, even as it's constructed of cold, surgically placed beats. It is, at times, a sad piece--phone recorded a capppela vocals spliced into pieces and reconstructed into muted howls don't bring about a lot of joy--but at its heart, Burial has pulled off the same magic that he struck last year: this is an album that is incredibly subtle, intensely life-affirming, and almost indescribably exotic. Nothing on this list sounds like this--and while it may be outside of the top ten here, that's only because it's the sort of music that demands a listener willing to give oneself completely over to it--preferably, with some massive, fuck-off 40 pound headphones, a copy on vinyl, and an understanding partner who doesn't mind the listener staying up way too late. You can have this as the soundtrack at an Urban Outfitters, sure. It just means you're going to hell afterwards.
-Tucker Stone, 2008