This week a crapload of festival lineups were announced, along with a bunch of tours. It’s that wonderful time of year, I guess. If you’re looking to see some of your favorite artists, I’d recommend doing a bit of googling, because it’s likely they are playing at a festival near you. I didn’t have the stamina/skrilla/dedication to hit any festivals last year (also I wasn’t a huge fan of most lineups), but this year is looking fucking awesome. Every festival I’ve seen has a great lineup. Related: anyone wanna buy me a ticket to Detroit for Movement fest?
What a fantastic year for music. I listened to as much of it as I could. Of course, it’s never enough. But I’ve made you a playlist of the 25 best songs of the year. And I wrote about the top 10 of them.
#1: “Fight” by Nicolas Jaar
I could write an essay about this song. I have an entire page of notes just from one listening session. I may just write one. Nicolas Jaar is one of the best producers of our time, and if anyone is deserving of an essay, it’s him. But while there’s so much to say, this song is also the example of speaking for itself. So maybe I’ll just let it do its thing.
I will say this: give this your full attention for the entire 8 minutes and 30 seconds. I know it’s hard. But once you do, you’ll want to listen to it again. And again, and again…
#2: “Tearing Me Up” by Bob Moses
Bob Moses (two guys from Brooklyn) hit the scene hard last spring with the release of “Talk,” a lovely Radiohead-esque song. I fell in love. Later my love was rewarded with the release of Days Gone By, their first LP. It is a wonderful LP, with many wonderful songs. While they have a cohesiveness that somehow ties everything together, they aren’t afraid to be different across the album. Tearing Me Up is one of those, a bit different from the rest, ever-poppy, fun, with a classic sound spanning genres and decades. You’re going to be hearing a lot more about these guys in the coming years. They’re going to be huge.
#3: “Digital Arpeggios” by Percussions (aka Four Tet)
There’s really not much to say about Four Tet that I or thousands of others haven’t said before. Since I first heard him around 10 years ago, his style has morphed and adapted and dipped in and out of genres, creating a pretty fucking thorough catalog of fantastic electronic music. He’s killed it, in the studio, on remixes, and behind the decks, basically forever.
So the fact that 2015 was *by far* his best year yet should say something. He released a slew of productions and DJ mixes that had me flopping around on the floor. This one is my favorite, although his remix of CHVRCHES’ “Leave A Trace” gets an honorable mention.
#4: “Just” by Bicep
The first time I heard this track, I knew it was going on this list before I’d even finished listening to it. It’s strikingly different than anything Bicep released in the past one or two years, with a catchy synth melody layered over a deceptively simple breakbeat. It’s a testament to their production skills that they can make such a simple song sound so new. This one will worm its way into your brain and you’ll be dancing to it all day long.
#5: “Something About You (ODESZA Remix)” by Hayden James
What a year for ODESZA, eh? I gotta say, I spent about a bajillion hours listening to them this year, and saw them live twice, both at a club and an auditorium, and they are the real thing. They undoubtedly will continue to explode in 2016 and beyond. But while their studio stuff is great, and original, to me what really stands out are their remixes.
The original track by Hayden James was one of my favorite songs in 2014. It is brilliant. This remix is a whole other beast. ODESZA takes something great and makes it something completely different. The lyrics take on a whole other meaning in this take, a sadder, heavier feel. The result is an emotional, full, heavy synth’d sound that overwhelms your ears and your heart in the most wonderful way.
#6: “Dollar Sines” by KRNE
KRNE (pronounced ‘krane’) is my #1 pick for artists who are going to blow the fuck up in 2016. How this guy is still flying under the radar, I do not know. Although he will need to start touring to really gain widespread attention. He had so many great tracks this year, and I could’ve included any of them, but this one, released last winter, is by far my favorite. Just hands down some of the best beats/bass/trap/whatever shit I’ve heard in a long, long time. It’s a heavy, glitchy, percussive song, but it speaks to his skill as a producer that he’s able to keep it balanced, by swinging some lighter sections in and out. It’s impossible not to dance to this song.
#7: “They Don’t Know (Justin Jay Remix)” by Disciples
Disciples blew up in 2015, all thanks to this song, and the whole slew of remixes it provoked, and then a bunch of other top notch releases. Likewise, Justin Jay came out hard with a ton of fantastic remixes, and yes, some great original productions too. Both are some of my favorite artists of the year, and on my predictions list for crazy worldwide hype train in 2016. It just so happens that Justin Jay made my favorite remix of one of the best songs of the year. Dark, heavy, and industrial, with a pop sensibility that draws you in, it’s a superb remix of a superb track.
#8: “I Had This Thing (Joris Voorn Remix)” by Royksopp
This song is the result of two of the biggest names in electronic music, ever. Joris Voorn takes this already wonderful track and makes it into something so precious and beautiful, I’m pretty sure I cried once or twice during my approximately thousands of listens this year. This song is so lovely that I will *literally* listen to it on repeat for hours. I’ve actually done this. More than once. It’s not one of those songs I’ve shouted about from the rooftops — it’s so much more intimate than that. It’s been a salve for every problem I had this year, and that’s no easy task.
#9: “Szikra” by Kornél Kovács
“Let’s get fucked up.” Those are the only lyrics in the song, to me, a confirmation that he knows very well what kind of song he made: the song you play after the club at 3 or 4 or 7 in the morning, when you’re washed out, but still going, in that weird peaceful state post-party. Kovács was a huge hit this year in underground circles and mark my words, will break out in 2016. He released many, many tracks, which have been duly appreciated, but I’ve never seen any love for this song, which is by far my favorite. So, here’s some love.
#10: “Moment” by Matt Karmil
I had a hard time choosing between this and 20syl’s “Back and Forth” for #10 on this list, but I *think* this is the stronger track. This is one of those songs that, as soon as it debuted, people took notice. Like, people freaked out. Karmil was a fairly unknown producer before that, with a few remixes that had garnered attention, but he still only has 5k SoundCloud followers. This song manages to sound so… different, while at the same time sticking to a familiar space, it comes off so refreshing. It’s a hard one for me to describe, you’ll just have to listen to it. This is another guy you’ll be hearing more about in 2016. That is, if he keeps producing new tracks. Please do, Matt!
Here’s to much more music in 2016.
Mixes and sets are what make the electronic world go round. I don’t normally share them with you guys—this is Songs to Dance to after all—but I spend a large chunk of my time listening to them, zoning out to them, dancing to them, smiling to them, working to them, et cetera. Mixes are a great way to discover new music, both because of the DJ’s tastes and their friendships with producers who’ll slip them a track before release (sometimes years before they are available even, cough Joy Orbison cough).
There were thousands upon thousands of sets, mixes and podcasts this year, and I heard maybe 1% of them. Of that 1%, these are the 15 that I liked most. Enjoy.
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US so I’ll be busy eating all of my mother’s cooking and making deviled eggs (yaassss) and getting really drunk. Aka, I will not be sending out an issue of S2D2. I will be making my mother listen to dance songs instead.
(Fun story: once I was with her in the car and I put on Death Cab’s Transatlanticism. After about a minute she goes, this is way too intense, can we put on something calmer? 😂)
Anyway, American friends, enjoy Thanksgiving. The rest of ya, feel free to join in by getting drunk and fat next Thursday. I’ll see y’all in December.
Today’s mix starts off with a new Four Tet production under an alias I’d never heard of before, Percussions. I know I shared a Four Tet remix last week but this song is just too good. Four Tet is honestly one of the best producers of our time and we are lucky to have him.
We’ve also got a new Scuba track remixed by Tuff City Kids, a juicy, funky track from Beat Fatigue that I was shocked I’ve never shared before, some chill and hypnotic tech house, and a couple of house bangers to round it out.