Every Burial Song, Ranked

Every Burial Song, Ranked

Forget the mystery and the fame, the producer born William Bevan's always been "about the tunes." So we ranked all of them.
Lia Kantrowitz
illustrated by Lia Kantrowitz
November 6, 2017, 7:01pm

Sometimes the music is enough. That's been Burial's operating philosophy since he first started producing misty-eyed memories of club music's past a little over a decade ago. He pretty much even said as much, after one of the many attempts to "unmask" the producer behind the moniker, writing on Myspace in 2008, "I wanted to be unknown because I just want it to be all about the tunes." Save for a few quasi-anonymous interviews early on in his career and a now-infamous selfie, it's mostly stayed that way.


But for the producer born William Bevan, there's always been suggestions of more worlds in his work than anyone could exer properly explain anyway. As has been constantly described in the years since its release, Untruewhich turned 10 on November 5—is one of the 21st century's preeminent documents of nightlife loneliness, charting the internal spaces between club and domicile. There and throughout his work, he conjures blurry visions out the windows of late-night public transportation, stocking a world with characters both benevolent and malicious, courts visits from extraterrestrials and makes time to grab some fast-food before he returns back home, bleary-eyed.

Untrue gets the most love from casual listeners—and understandably, few full-length records in any genre create such a vivid world—but so much of Burial's work outside of that record strains for those same peaks. But because it's often read as mood music, consumed in long, uninterrupted settings, spliff in hand, it can be easy to miss out on how good Burial is at making straight-up songs—whether they're shadow-world pop tracks or tightly composed ambient pieces. So in honor of the 10th anniversary of Untrue, his greatest longform statement, we decided to zero in on what makes him work so well moment-to-moment too.

Below is a list of every officially released Burial song—including collaborations, but excluding remixes, as blissful as some of those are. This is ostensibly ranked from worst to best. But from the dubby blips of his first love letter to his hometown South London Boroughs to the rave refractions of Pre-Dawn / Indoors released just last week, each of his releases offers the possibility of transportation to other realms. Not bad, considering they're just tunes.

63-61. "Untitled" ( Burial and Untrue, 2006 and 2007)

The brief moments of hushed ambience that open both Burial full-lengths (and close Burial) that don't seem crucial when plucked from their context. But their spoken samples (from David Lynch's Inland Empire among other unsettling sources) foreshadow the urban uncanniness that hangs in the margins of every moment of Burial's longform releases.— Colin Joyce

60. "Spaceape" ( Burial, 2006)

The novelty of a Burial production featuring a live vocalist quickly wears thin as "Spaceape," (named for its featured MC, who tragically passed in 2014 at age 44) feels oddly inert. It's stark, with sharp drums and the Spaceape's slyly guttural talk-growl, but in just four minutes it slows Burial's debut to a crawl before it's barely started.— Dan Weiss

59. "Exit Woundz" ( Ghost Hardware, 2007)

The crackling rain sounds that open this early EP cut feels like a bit of a crutch for Burial's overcast bluster, but the breaths and hums that make up the rest the track lend this one a subtle terror. It's the sound of another night spent running through the fog in
Silent Hill as the sky opens up outside.—Colin Joyce

58. "Beachfires" ( Subtemple / Beachfires, 2017)

No map will help you track this early 2017 exploration of the ambient outerlands around Burial's usual urban topography. The A-side of this release is a bit more self-assured than this one, but sometimes directionlessness can be the point.— Colin Joyce

57. "Young Death" ( Young Death / Nightmarket, 2017)

Between the intermittent sitar-like strums and the "I will always be there for you" refrain, the A-side of Burial's 2016 Young Death/Nightmarket single plays like an afterglow to the 2013 Rival Dealer EP. It's about as gentle as Burial comes, simmering in the background rather than radiating at the forefront, but it works as a beautifully textured intermission between more distressed tracks in the producer's discography.— Sasha Geffen

56. "Nova" (with Four Tet, Nova, 2012)

There's not a ton of dynamic movement on this 2012 single with Four Tet, but it is their most celestial collaboration. It's also a rare case of a midtempo head-nodder with a center of gravity somewhere past the stratosphere. It floats, and that's enough.— Colin Joyce

55. "Temple Sleeper" ( Temple Sleeper, 2015)

Every so often, Burial remembers he's technically making dance music. On "Temple Sleeper," he strings together measures of a scratchy, high-BPM drum sample augmented by trebly synth progression. Having the melody move the beat along even more than the drums is one of Burial's best tricks, and on one of his most agitated tracks, he has some fun with it.— Sasha Geffen

54. "Unite" ( Box of Dub compilation, 2007)

A relative rarity from a 2007 comp called Box of Dub, "Unite" feels like the missing link between his hauntological vocal contortions and the heavy-lidded R&B it'd inspire in the years to come. He imbues a sample of Brandy, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and Tamia's "Missing You" with a sleepy propulsion uncommon of other Burial tracks from the era. It's the night bus rolling at down tight city streets at a speed slightly higher than what you might consider safe.— Colin Joyce

53. "Subtemple" ( Subtemple/Beachfires, 2017)

This seven-minute piece goes concréte, stitching together vocal drones, dial-up synth sounds, chattering found samples, and disembodied whispers. It's an out-there effort by Burial standards, but there's humanity in the little fragments. Listening to it's like flipping through a dusty scrapbook in an abandoned farmhouse, trying to put a voice to all the unfamiliar faces.— Colin Joyce

52. "Sweetz" (with Zomby, Sweetz, 2016)

The masked man whose album this cut appeared on insists that on a proper soundsystem this track can cause "minor earthquakes and airplane turbulence." But even if that's an exaggeration, it's probably the most extroverted track Burial's had a hand in—a banger as an argument against club solipsism.— Colin Joyce

51. "Indoors" ( Pre-Dawn/Indoors, 2017)

Burial's tracks away from his usual homes on Hyperdub and Four Tet's Text tend to be pretty unpredictable and this November 2017 outing for Boddika's NONPLUS records follows suit. This one's all slivered techno fragments, relayed in pirate radio fidelity, with a junglist's affinity for endearingly annoying vocal samples—it's William Bevan looking back at raves long passed with the aid of a shattered mirror.— Colin Joyce

50. "Hiders" ( Rival Dealer, 2013)

A pop song! And not a moment too soon; by 2013 Burial had tried just about everything else. When the drums finally kick in, you may even pump your fists—if you're not wiping away tears with them, anyway.— Dan Weiss

49. "Vial" (with Breakage, Foundation, 2010)

A bit like a black hole, Burial has a way of pulling anything in his orbit into his dusky world. Even Breakage, a dubstep forerunner and drum and bass producer whose work is generally a bit more ambulatory than Bevan's, slows down and spaces out here. It's a testament to how distinct a voice Burial has.— Colin Joyce

48. "Versus" ( Warrior Dubz compilation, 2006)

Burial's a master of whispery dynamics, spectral atmosphere, and desolate spaces—but this track from Mary Anne Hobbs' Warrior Dubz comp throws all that out the window on this one in favor of relentless forward momentum. Remember when Skrillex released that EP of Burial rips? They mostly sound like variations on the double-dutching drops on this cut.— Colin Joyce

47. "South London Boroughs" ( South London Boroughs, 2005)

Talking to the critic Mark Fisher for a rare interview with the Wire in 2007, Burial explained the importance of his hometown to his work. "London's part of me," he said. "I'm proud of it but it can be dark, sometimes recently I don't even recognize it." The South London Boroughs EP in 2006 was his first attempt at capturing the city in song, and its title track does so brilliantly, channeling that darkness and the crackling potential energy of a long night out through basslines that ripple like gutter puddles and synth pads that gasp like a fall's fog.— Colin Joyce

46. "Pirates" ( Burial, 2006)

Its foreboding crackle seems a nod to the airwave swashbucklers that give the track its title, but even that's just one layer of the eerie unpredictable collage that make up this piece. Its one of the more dense tracks on Burial, but that makes relistening all the more worthwhile—there's new rhythmic details to find every time.— Colin Joyce

45. "Homeless" ( Untrue, 2007)

The voices that populate "Homeless" interact with each other in such a way that it's often hard to make out exactly what they're saying. Instead of using vocals lyrically, like on Untrue's "Archangel," Burial uses them texturally, stitching together the feeling of a crowd joined in darkness, murmuring to itself.— Sasha Geffen

44. "Mirror" (with Thom Yorke and Four Tet, Ego / Mirror, 2011)

This 2011 12-inch with Four Tet and Thom Yorke is just about as close as Burial's gotten to making proper pop music, and "Mirror" hints at an alternate history where he could be producing for all the heavy-lidded R&B he's inspired. As Yorke whispers about fog and memory, it's easy enough to imagine someone like Jeremih or the Weeknd weaving delicately around him, luxuriating in the darkness.— Colin Joyce

43. "Nightmarket" ( Young Death/Nightmarket, 2016)

Those are full-on Depeche Mode/Alphaville/Vangelis synths. After all, why shouldn't he experiment with his progenitors' formulas for sadness? The old guys are more linear, though, and "Nightmarket" is one of Burial's most impressionistic hazes yet.— Dan Weiss

42. "Pre-Dawn" ( Pre-Dawn/Indoors, 2017)

Burial's best at taking throwback ravers, crumpling them up into a wad and leaving them out in the rain to repent. The enigmatic antihero's November 2017 A-side does get bonus points, though, for cobbling its melody together out of what sounds like a pitched wind howl.— Dan Weiss

41. "Southern Comfort" ( Burial, 2006)

This hypnotizing early cut wields slicing hi-hats that legitimately sound like Burial sampled knives being sharpened. Meanwhile, the low-end elements clack and clash each way and a buried, circular bass organ hook never stops for the duration of five minutes. It's tough and fully in focus, two qualities he'd go on to find far less important with time.— Dan Weiss

40. "High Road" (with Dusk and Blackdown, High Road, 2012)

William Bevan pitches percussion like he's on a baseball diamond, throwing various curves and knuckleballs with his alternating, chopped snares, so that his collaborators Dusk + Blackdown can lay a modestly distorted dial tone over top and stay true to UK garage's past. They know the drums will sing for them, and Burial leads the congregation.— Dan Weiss

39. "UK" ( Untrue, 2007)

The penultimate dirge of dubstep's dreariest dog funeral, "UK" is all uncoiled glitch, spilling out of the container that Untrue's bone-serious drums held it in, just dead melodies and echoes drooling into the grates of the pavement before "Raver" takes the masterpiece out on a loving and surprisingly traditional note.— Dan Weiss

38. "Prophecy" (with El-B, Nu Levels, 2010)

"Prophecy" derives all its power from that steel-driver snare hit, which becomes all the more impressive for stealing the show from a fairly complex sway of sawing chords on top. Bonus: When the percussion starts glitching and doubling back on itself, "Prophecy" becomes one of the few times Burial actually sounds like—remember when we called him this?— dubstep.— Dan Weiss

37. "Four Walls" (with Massive Attack, Four Walls / Paradise Circus, 2011)

Side A of Burial's collaborative EP with Massive Attack ranks among the most sensuous tracks he's ever produced, filling the space between slow, creeping beats with vocals that hang in the air like mist. Featuring Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval, "Four Walls" is rare among Burial tracks in its vocal continuity — rather than getting chopped up, Sandoval's voice flows through the song like honey, amplifying both its hypnotic quality and its menace.— Sasha Geffen

36. "Stolen Dog" ( Street Halo, 2011)

When "Stolen Dog" landed in 2011, it was (unusually for Burial) in step with contemporary UK electronic music trends. Its chipped R&B samples (like the work of Xxxy and Jacques Greene), searching melodies (like Zomby and Levon Vincent), a fog of greyscale melancholia (like Shackleton, Clams Casino, or Andy Stott) were the tropes of the day, as was his general move from the half-time lurch of dubstep to the steady thud of house. Coming back to it after a few years away though, and it's aged well enough to feel low-key timeless.— Gabriel Szatan

35. "Night Bus" ( Burial, 2006)

The song that inspired a mix series, a genre, a concomitant net subculture, and the lasting visual impression of Burial's singular sound—not bad for a relatively unremarkable two minutes of ambience. But few other beatless interludes manage to evoke both a slow double-decker crawl through a concrete jungle, and a night out in stark Arctic Tundra—in both situations, totally alone.— Gabriel Szatan

34. "Lambeth" ( Hyperdub 10.4, 2014)

This nice little lark of a compilation cut is deceptively comforting. Swiveling pendulum drums massage the tendons of a melody that sounds like Depeche Mode tucked away inside Jamie xx and Gil Scott-Heron's We're New Here.— Dan Weiss

33. "Gutted" ( Burial, 2006)

Appropriate to its title, "Gutted" is just about the most heartbreaking moment on Burial. Built around a sample of Forest Whitaker's dialogue from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, it's a solitary sort of experience, with twitchy percussion and yearning vocals echoing with the itchiness of outsiderdom.— Colin Joyce

32. "Raver" ( Untrue, 2007)

Untrue's grand finale is the song that connects Burial most firmly to the art forms of his predecessors, an unwavering four-on-the-floor bounce that ricochets like a basketball skidding against linoleum, with turntable scratches for the 3 a.m. bridge taggers and glistening thumb piano for any newcomers fondly reminiscing about, say, Tricky's "Ponderosa." Untrue's message is that emotion need not be excluded from rhythm, and "Raver" is the period at the end of that sentence. Its hookiest sample appears to claim it's "easy," but suspiciously, no one's managed to do it like this in the ten years since.— Dan Weiss

31. "Loner" ( Kindred, 2012)

Burial may be music's greatest-ever purveyor of three-song sets, in part because he knew so well what to do with the middle cut. On Kindred, his fastest-paced release, the seven-minute "Loner" divided the two 11-minute-plus bookends with what could only be described as pure energy. Never is he less reluctant a DJ than during this pump-up-the-jam tension-stroker between pulsing rave synths and full-on house tempos.— Dan Weiss

30. "Wolf Cub" (with Four Tet, Moth/Wolf Cub, 2009)

William Bevan and Kieran Hebden declined to provide credits for their excellent 2009 single, so we have no idea what song either worked on. Its likely that they each had a hand in both, though the B-side's got Hebden all over it; all liquid warp zones and optical-illusion trap-door percussion. The result is hypnotic as a lava lamp and pushes both visionaries further into genius territory.— Dan Weiss

29. "Near Dark" ( Untrue, 2007)

Few imagineers can program a drum machine as fiercely as Burial, who imbues "Near Dark" with one of his easiest hooks (sing along: "I can't take my eyes off you" and, uh, "I can't stand you girl") to match with his strangest-ever beat. Then there's that odd scribbling sound that occurs two minutes in, and those lighters clicking, not to mention the shell casings nicked from video game dystopias. For all the mourning you can hear in Untrue, it's just so damn lively.— Dan Weiss

28. "Broken Home" ( Burial, 2006)

The most melodic song on Burial contains many intact elements that the producer would go on to break down much further: distant bells, scrambled percussion that snaps and bites, and a toasting deejay, plus some kind of lowered flute-synth hook. These sounds brush by so fast you'd miss them if they didn't recur again and again, like broken-beat déjà vu. Yet even with them on repeat it's a challenge to identify sounds you'd swear are so familiar. That's part of the fun with this guy.— Dan Weiss

27. "Shutta" ( Ghost Hardware, 2006)

Though Burial would eventually move away from the dead-eyed dub that people first associated with him, this track from the "Ghost Hardware" single is one of his best in that vein. Vacant R&B scraps dance in the air around a fiery bassline—scraps of humanity floating amid the otherwise uncaring void.— Colin Joyce

26. "Distant Lights" ( Distant Lights, 2006)

Though it's not Burial's most famous warping of a Beyoncé vocal stem, the Destiny's Child sample on "Distant Lights" is an easy illustration of what he does best—transforming an excerpt of "Emotion" into an unfamiliar voice echoing down a dark hallway. With its distorted bass rumbling ominously, "Now that I need you" becomes a call from an underworld rather than a message of yearning.— Colin Joyce

25. "In McDonalds" ( Untrue, 2007)

Few Burial songs get explicit physical locations—most of them feel like they take place in liminal spaces, between the club and the cab or in the bathroom of a bar—so for this ethereal, piano-spangled Untrue cut to be set specifically in a McDonalds adds an extra layer of resonance. You can almost see its two vocal characters sitting across from each other under the pale fluorescent light of a 24-hour McDs, suspended in a reality just adjacent to the one they occupy during daylight hours.— Sasha Geffen

24. "Dog Shelter" ( Untrue, 2007)

The only thing more sad than an artist calling himself Burial is titling a song "Dog Shelter." He turns up the gloom with all sorts of down-the-hall voices, pittering drops on the windowsill, and the sort of hopeful/hopeless ambience he'd go on to flick back and forth like an emotional lightswitch for many more career-defining tracks to follow.— Dan Weiss

23. "Truant" ( Truant/Rough Sleeper, 2012)

At the time, "Truant" felt almost unnatural in its straightforwardness. It cuts to the quick with a descending, definitely composed synth-string riff and a stately tempo that made it sound like a soundtrack to something else rather than a true Burial cut. But as with all Burial, any expanded territory becomes a new sonic signature: those congas undergirding the sampled exclamations of "I fell in love with you," the toothpick-skinny synth pings that take over around six-and-a-half minutes, the straight-up 36 Chambers beat-cutting at the end. No one else repeatedly stretches our sensibilities with two-song releases every 6-12 months.— Dan Weiss

22. "Forgive" ( Burial, 2006)

Some of Burial's most transcendent tracks don't rely on a beat or even a progression. Sometimes, like William Basinski, all he needs is the right mix of loops and an evocative title to build a full emotional narrative.— Sasha Geffen

21. "Etched Headplate" ( Untrue, 2007)

As well as being an exceptionally bittersweet heartbreaker in a career full of them, this is a great highlight of Burial's alchemy. Should the composite parts of Metal Gear Solid ammunition sound effects, the vocals of India Arie and Erkyah Badu, and an inverted, ultra-dark Reese/Groove Chronicles bassline mesh? No. Do they? Of course.— Gabriel Szatan

20. "Fostercare" ( 5: Five Years of Hyperdub compilation, 2009)

Even when Burial stretches and pitches vocals, they usually retain some sense of their humanity, however faintly. But the brilliance of his work on "Fostercare," from a comp celebrating five years of his frequent label Hyperdub, is in the strange artifacting that attends the Brandy sample employed throughout. It makes the voice feel digital and cold, but doesn't undercut the sense of longing—a sign maybe, that ghosts can haunt machines too.— Colin Joyce

19. "Nite Train" ( South London Boroughs , 2005)

Nocturnal energy has always been a big part of what Burial's about. He famously once said that his music was meant to echo the feeling of "being on a night bus, or with your mates, walking home across your city on your own late at night," and this one captures the jittery emotion of those sorts of experiences—using skittering percussion and unpredictable synth sounds as mirrors for the feeling in the hours after your night's ended but you can't quite stop your brain from spinning.— Colin Joyce

18. "Ghost Hardware" ( Untrue, 2007)

The beginner's guide to William Bevan: a clanking, mechanical skip and forlorn mood palette communicating the complexity and weight of human sadness better than 99.99% of love songs that try to tread a similar path.— Gabriel Szatan

17. "Kindred" (Kindred, 2012)

The slow-building title track to Burial's Kindred EP works as a kind of mirror to its full-blown conclusion "Ashtray Wasp." Drums clatter in the foreground of the mix while vocals slowly drip in, at first wordless, then articulating the longing that saturates the whole EP: "Baby, you are the light." Like a lot of Burial samples, it's not clear whether these phrases were pasted in already complete or whether they were sewn together from different lyrics; either way, they cast a spell against the song's chilly ambient environment.— Sasha Geffen

16. "Prayer" ( Burial, 2006)

Burial's eponymous debut is where he truly stuck to rhythm and figuring out how it comes and goes, while his increasingly sparse later efforts would keep the listener guessing where it went. But much of the claustrophobically minimal "Prayer" simply sounds like he's banging on various walls and items trying to nail the perfect boom, woof, and rimshot. It's like the world's tensest solo ping-pong match.— Dan Weiss

15. "Street Halo" ( Street Halo, 2011)

Blaring in like a distant siren, the synths that roil through "Street Halo" accentuate one of the more restless beats from Burial's turn-of-the-decade material. His work always conjures a layered sense of space, but here, he stirs up a feeling of motion, too, like watching city streetlights whiz by from the back seat of a car.— Sasha Geffen

14. "Endorphin" ( Untrue, 2007)

Sometimes stillness is the move. The only bottom end to "Endorphin" is the skitter of various records crackling over each other, while a pleading synth bubbles up from under the voices rendered electronically childish by our too-humble host. Don't get me wrong, there's lots of movement. But rarely does a drumless piece have such a grand, desperate pulse. Not dance music at all. But the 4 a.m. walk back from the club is written all over it.— Dan Weiss

13. "Rodent" ( Rodent, 2017)

With all the solitary feelings and insularity projected upon Burial as a result of his wispier recordings, it's easy to forget that all his tracks are born of club music. The bass-heavy shuffle of "Rodent," released earlier this year, is a pointedly fun reminder, sneaking in delirious vocal synth experimentation and fluttering trumpets amidst the typical sample-flipping joy. The main vocal repeatedly wonders, "What would I do without you?" which is a question you could just as easily pose to the track's creator.— Colin Joyce

12. "U Hurt Me" ( Burial, 2006)

One of Burial's greatest talents is making just a few words feel like a whole lot more. Despite the vinyl pops and other markers of lonely intimacy, the titular vocal sample of this track from the self-titled record comes off as much of as more of a warning than a plea. Snare rim rattles shatter the gentle placidity as "You hurt me" echoes apocalyptically, the unspoken bit being "…and now you're going to pay."— Colin Joyce

11. "Rival Dealer" ( Rival Dealer, 2013)

Rival Dealer is maybe the most complete and concise-feeling Burial EP, since its three tunes fit nicely into an archetypal three-act structure: beginning, middle, and end. But he'd also tightened up his tunecraft and matured considerably as a songwriter; even this token non-ballad snakes through its nearly 11 minutes with a pulsating jungle throwback beat and some kind of treated horn or string riff that sounds like it's emanating from an elephant's trunk. The foregrounded lyric? "I'm gonna love you more than anyone." He has a point.—Dan Weiss

10. "NYC" ( Street Halo, 2011)

How many instrumental electronic love ballads do you know? Burial hardly invented the form—this isn't LL Cool J lowering his bark for "I Need Love" in 1987—but like James Todd Smith, William Bevan mastered it the moment he epitomized it. The centerpiece of 2011's quietly received Street Halo is a swirling tangle of gauze in the city wind, where the spindly two-stepping drum figure is stationary and one pitched-up voice alternates between declaring "Me and you know this is love / When I'm around you" and "NYC / nobody loves me / no." New York is great at making you feel unloved, but the love you do find feels more significant there because of that desolation. And Burial is nothing if not the guy to let those contradictions blow around each other in song.— Dan Weiss

9. "Untrue" ( Untrue, 2007)

On the title track from Untrue, Burial manipulates and stiffens one of Beyoncé's best vocal performances, "Resentment," into an unrecognizable sledgehammer of former empathy for one of the many unnamed liars who inhabit her tunes. What happens when her DNA is spliced with Burial's wobbling, noncorporeal vulnerability? More strength of course. "And it's all because you lied"—six of the least refutable words in English, all the moreso when an alien Queen Bey is presiding.— Dan Weiss

8. "Ego" (with Thom Yorke and Four Tet, Ego / Mirror, 2011)

As his various collaborations outside of Radiohead have shown, Thom Yorke's voice works best when it's cast over a full-blown dance track, almost as a synth patch in its own right. Here, he locks into a beat Burial co-produced with Four Tet that's a perfect hybrid of the two artists' strengths; Burial presumably supplies the washes of drone and the clacking drum samples, while Four Tet accentuates the beat with crisp, trebly synths and auxiliary percussive sounds. Yorke, harmonizing with himself, fits lyrics about an anxious night on the dancefloor into a meter that meshes precisely with the song's rhythm, literalizing the nervousness that runs through Burial's more lyrically sparse work.— Sasha Geffen

7. "Wounder" ( Burial, 2006)

Burial has spoken at length at the place euphoria has in his work—or rather, he's spoken of what lies in the fog around it. Those moments of otherworldly gleam only work so well, he surmises, because there's also room for the harrowing stuff too. "When something's glowing, if something's nice, it doesn't mean that it's not surrounded by cold things, bad things," he told the Wire in 2007. "Wounder" is one of his best cold, bad things. From the opening monotonic synth stabs, plucked ominously before the onset of some pitch-black sub bass work. Some string-like samples come in approximating dubby rhythms, but even its presences is unpredictable, an untrustworthy flicker in an unfamiliar landscape. And rare too for his work of the era, no vocal samples ever creep into the frame, just a lifeless, industrial atmosphere that sucks in all the light and heat that surrounds it.— Colin Joyce

6. "Rough Sleeper" ( Truant/Rough Sleeper, 2012)

One of Burial's favorite tricks is concealing his fastest tempos; "Rough Sleeper" sounds like it's made up of bits we're overhearing from another room: shuffling house percussion that's been filtered down to dirty fingersnaps, errant saxophone beamed in from another apartment, disembodied voices of course. And the cleverly changing chords of the low-passed organ refrain are one of his best riffs ever. But of course, it's a whole different tune by the four-minute mark: bells whose signal is decayed to ring much faster than physically possible, harmonized voices seemingly begging "stay," in a seemingly gospel fashion. Another of his favorite tricks is hiding an entire batch of new songs under one sub-14-minute title.— Dan Weiss

5. "Shell Of Light" ( Untrue, 2007)

Untrue has its share of blissful moments, but few are quite as unrepentantly ecstatic as "Shell of Light." Part of its joy is in its diptych-like structure—the first two-thirds are a latticework of sunny R&B samples, breathing and wriggling over one another in dizzy euphoria. But just as you thing he's wrung all of the pleasure, the final third strips the skittering percussion to allow a heavily reverbed snippet of a folk pop vocal to ring out like an organ in a cathedral, sunlight streaming through the stained glass. Each of the two sections is alone are among Burial's most awe-inspiring passages. But by forcing them together it functions like a montage of sun streaming between stormclouds—unconnected moments of beauty strung together to make something even more astounding.—
Colin Joyce

4. "Moth" ( Moth/Wolf Cub, 2009)

Separately, Burial and Four Tet each make music that's geared toward reflection. Even when they're in dancefloor mode—as they seem to be on this kick drum-heavy single from 2009—their music evokes inner spaces, full of circular melodies and recurrent samples that swing back and forth like a hypnotist's pocket watch. The central synth lines of "Nova" last a little longer than you'd expect, repeat just a few too many times—functioning both as a guide into an insular headspace and as a mirror for the swirling regrets you might fixate on once you get there. It's the soundtrack for the sinking loneliness you might feel on an early morning on a crowded dancefloor, when you've lost your friends in the roiling masses, and know you should go home but can't. So you just think—and think, and think, and think, and think—to the rhythm of a kick drum that feels like it'll never end.— Colin Joyce

3. "Come Down To Us" ( Rival Dealer, 2013)

The stunning 13-minute closer to the Rival Dealer EP finds Burial at his most optimistic. He mixes samples of voices who speak alternately about self-love and alien encounters, as though the search for both involves a reaching beyond the atmosphere. A sitar riff hangs among frosted soft-rock synths, bells crash in like it's Christmas, and the anxiety and desolation that haunts so much of Burial's music ebbs away. "Come Down To Us" is an invocation to a higher power, whether that's literal extraterrestrials or just humanity in its best and most realized state. The spoken word sample of a speech by Lana Wachowski indicates the latter—that to find our way to better worlds, we first have to activate the worlds we keep hidden within us. —Sasha Geffen

2. "Ashtray Wasp" ( Kindred, 2012)

Pound for pound, Kindred is a solid choice for the most impressive Burial release. He had a keen eye for composition before, but on this EP he went full-on symphonic, conducting a world of sound with unrivaled attention to granular detail, most notably on "Ashtray Wasp." It sounds as if there's a swirl of detritus sweeping through the arpeggiating synths and coating every miniature crack in the groove with a fine layer of dust. It takes risks, too: twice in quick succession the song is subsumed by fuzz and a new form emerges, the last stage of which stands up as the most pure, pristine and powerful few minutes in his whole catalog.— Gabriel Szatan

1. "Archangel" ( Untrue, 2007)

Ten years later, you've still never heard anything like the beat, skipping and hurrying through the history of 2-step and UKG, picking up its most uncanny and otherworldly rhythms. After a mix of low, crunchy filtering there's a final snap-crackle-pop he may as well have sampled from a bowl of Rice Krispies, a testament to his omnivorous mastery of Anything Goes experimentalism and the low-key playfulness in even his most heavenly works. Then somehow, that rhythmic cryptography becomes the basis for deep, spiritual beauty rising from the ashes of a whiny Ray J single ("One Wish"). Burial makes a solid case that the singer was always using his voice wrong and turns his platitudes into one of the defining tracks of the last ten years. But "Archangel" remains unparalleled in Burial's discography as a fiercely unsettling yet powerfully comforting work that hovers over both R&B and dance music as true peak for others to scale.— Dan Weiss