S2D2 Top 100 Tracks of 2016

It’s always a bit weird compiling a “best of” list, because there is so much music out there that there’s no way to listen to all of it, let alone judge it objectively.

2016 was a special year for music. When the world trembles and quakes, we turn to music to say the things we cannot say, and feel the things we so desperately need to feel. Music is an escape, but for me at least, it’s more than that. Music is the ultimate form of expression. This year, I’ve felt so inundated with words, and media, and social media, and felt like I’ve been drowning in all of the terrible things that have happened to humans all over the world. Music has been, as always, my salvation from that. There is magic in a song that hits you just right, in the moment that you need it most. Music makes us transcendental. In those moments we are lost in the music, we cease to be, the world melts away, and we dance, and we come away refreshed and strong.

In a year that was mostly shit, most of my highlights had to do with that magic: Eric Prydz dropping “The Matrix” at the Armory in San Francisco; DJ Shadow playing the old and new seamlessly, casual scratch wizardry on display; losing my shit to new tunes, always, whether I’m at my desk or in my car or at the club; Scuba getting dark in the rave cave at Monarch, praying to Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book after dosing in Golden Gate Park; taking a time machine to my teenage emo years and seeing Brand New at the Greek; and even still, I spent most of the year listening to A Moon Shaped Pool over and over.


Trends: techno, deep tech, disco/tech, lo-fi house, acid house, wave, future funk

It seems like everyone hopped on the techno bandwagon this year, whether it was straight up banging tech, deep tech house, or this kind of disco/tech hybrid that’s been taking off in the underground. Disco is bigger than ever, and that’s saying something. House was pulled in one direction to become very, very techy, getting deep af along the way, and in another direction towards to the lo-fi house realm, a la Mall Grab, Seb Wildblood, and the Church records crew. Future bass is alive and well, and wave has split off out of that, essentially trap without the beats — luscious and atmospheric. Future funk, the jazzy, funky, and banging sound out of the West Coast and Colorado, is also huge out here, thanks to Griz’s domination.

I had a lot of fun making the top 100 this year. There was so much great music! The whole point of S2D2 is to highlight music that you might not otherwise hear about, so while there’s some overlap with other lists like Thump’s or Mixmag’s, there’s also a bunch of stuff that just doesn’t get talked about in the “underground electronic media” or whatever. So hopefully you will find lots of new tunes and artists from all over the map, literally and musically 🙂

I made a Spotify playlist, but there are a few songs that aren’t on Spotify, so I’ll be releasing a SoundCloud playlist as well. Enjoy!

Edit: Real quick, I want to call out the tracks that aren’t available on Spotify, because they are VERY IMPORTANT, and are all in my top 10 for the year:

 

S2D2 Vol 79

Occasionally, I’ll skip a week of the S2D2 Thursday playlist/email and I send out a different playlist I’ve been working on instead. When I do this, it’s because I can’t find enough great songs to make a playlist for the week. Part of me feels lazy when I do this, but — good music does not come out on a regular schedule. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes there’s a ton of great releases all on the same day, and sometimes there’s nothing noteworthy for a week or two. And believe me, I spend a lot of time looking for music. I’ll throw in older songs too, but I like to keep it pretty fresh. Last week I skipped S2D2 and sent everyone a Songs To Chill To playlist. And I’m glad I did, because the music piled up, and this week’s is a DOOZY. It was hard as hell to narrow it down, which is always a good sign. Anyway, that’s my rambling way of telling you this week’s playlist is fucking great.

1. Big Makk & Sage Armstrong – Tabasco Sawce
Rest in peace, Big Makk. Thank you for your music! This song (like so many of his) is so. dope.

2. HNNY – Sneeze (Justin Jay Edit)
I still can’t get enough of Justin Jay. It’s kind of a dumb song, but fun as hell. His stuff is so energetic it makes me entertain the idea of using the word “dynamic”, which I’m usually against in all cases. I love that slowdown halfway through the track and then re-up of the tempo, whoo boy that’s gonna kill on the dancefloor.

3. Marquis Hawkes – Doornroosje
A bumper from Marquis Hawkes, a bit faster tempo than he usually plays with, and I’m into it. This is like techno meets disco, which, despite sounding like a strange combo, has been huge lately.

4. ANNA – When It Rains
Brazilian producer ANNA has dropped two songs off an upcoming EP, Artha, in the past week, and they are both superb. Pulsing upbeat tech-house right here. I get lost in this one. Title track “Artha” was released yesterday and is worth checking out as well.

5. Karmon – Outline
Loving this so much. Wow. A classic straightforward progressive track, it could honestly be made in any decade, and could be analog or digital. I know nothing about it, all I know is that I love it. Definitely reminds me of the stuff Simian Mobile Disco plays live (with a huge analog setup where they are twisting knobs and moving cords around on some boxes that are bigger than they are, it’s fucking awesome). Just wait too, it starts off great and gets even better. Massive.

6. Man vs Indian Man – Ice Accountant (Pontchartrain Remix)
This track perfectly strikes the balance between being catchy and high-quality production. No cheese here, just good summer fun. Love those keys!

7. Raf Rundell – Right Time
One half of 2 Bears, Raf Rundell just released his first solo track, off an upcoming album, The Adventures of Selfie Boy. This is a chill poolside song, perfect for that end of summer glow. I can see myself listening to this all autumn.

8. Infinity Ink – Full Capacity (Joris Voorn Remix)
Another fantastic remix from Joris Voorn. Killer groove, gorgeous bridge/buildups!

9. Fur Coat – Interstellar
Fur Coat can do no wrong in my book. This track is deep and dark, with glimmers of light, a slow-burner, give it time and it’ll reward you.

10. Ost & Kjex – Heatwave
Really enjoying this song. At almost ten minutes long it’s a good one to ease you off onto your day. As per usual with tracks this long, the last few minutes is the best part.

S2D2 Vol 74

1. Fatboy Slim – Praise You Right Now (Dunisco Remix)
A mashup of two great Fatboy Slim songs to get this week started off on some hype!

2. Andrew Luce – Babygirl
Heavy, bass-driven remix of a classic. Turn the volume up on this one.

3. Rihanna – Bitch Better Have My Money (Claude VonStroke Remix)
If you’re sick of this song, feel free skip it. But if you aren’t, this is a great remix with the classic CVS West Coast acid-house sound. A harken back to the old days of Dirtybird.

4. Doc Daneeka – Never Wanna Lose You
A disco + breakbeat hybrid, this is fabulous.

5. Mount Liberation Unlimited – Maiden Voyage
Wait until the real groove gets started around 3 minutes in. For some reason, this track makes me feel so hopeful, like anything is possible.

6. Lane 8 – Crush
You all know how much I looooooove Lane 8. So I’ll spare you the gushing. Safe to say, this kid is gonna be HUGE.

7. Bruce Trail – Bridgework
Reminds me of Nicolas Jaar a bit, with the patience in the build up, and the way everything weaves back together at the end.

8. Sandboards – Duneboys Theme
Just a chill deep house track that’ll make you wanna move.

9. N.Y.T.A – Two Know
Entrancing, beautiful.

10. Bob Moses – Like It Or Not (Joris Voorn Remix)
The best for last! One of my favorite songs from last year gets remixed by one of my all-time favorite remixers. Voorn gives an emotional, deep treatment to an already stellar track.

25 Best Electronic Songs of 2015

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.