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 77

1. Fishing – Yuwa
Loving this groove by this duo from Sydney!

2. Kornél Kovács – The Bells
Beyond excited to hear this album in full. Check out my post on this song here.

3. Piecey – Junust
Gotta get a chill track in there. Give this one some time, it had to grow on me, but I love it now.

4. Sage – Think About Me
Just a gorgeous tune! Love the vocal mix.

5. Hayden James – Just A Lover (Karma Kid Remix)
My favorite out of the slew of remixes of this track that have surfaced this week.

6. Guy Gerber – Secret Encounters
This has been on repeat all week. Loveeeee

7. Noir – Obsurité.chno (Thomas Schumacher & N.M.M.D Remix)
A little banging techno to round out the playlist…

8. Moby – Porcelain (Above & Beyond Remix)
Whew! Huge remix.

9. What So Not – Divide & Conquer
Banger of the summer. Check out my post on this song here.

10. Cavalier – UNIVERSE
Ending it off with a BANG. Love this track. What brilliance from Cavalier.

Kornél Kovács – The Bells

Kornél Kovács drops some heat in the lead-up to his long-awaited debut album, The Bells. This track is also “The Bells,” and it is another sign that the upcoming LP will launch him from the underground into the much-more-known-but-still-underground with a flourish. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a few years now, and his consistency and the volume of work he has produced since 2014 — creative, genre-pushing electronic music that pleases the ear, the heart, and the dancefloor — all of this will continue to catapult him to fame. Because no one is doing it like KK.

I hope he continues to make spectacular music for years to come, but for now I will enjoy his offerings, which are grand.

Listen, and move, because this track begs you to:

S2D2 Vol. 56

Tunes for rainy days… got some bass, techno, and progressive house for you.

1. LTHL — XXII
Dug into the bass genres this week looking for new stuff and oh did I find some. This guy, from the UK, only has around a thousand followers on SoundCloud but that’ll change soon. This one is setting the mood for you…

2. H&D — Special (Cresce Remix)
Found this producer, Cresce, this week while digging through some tunes for one of my A Song A Day listeners. Fell in love immediately. One of the better hip hop remixes I’ve heard lately, and I can’t stop listening to it.

3. Eric Prydz — The Matrix
Could only find a rip of this on SoundCloud (be sure to check out the proper track on Spotify), this is my favorite track off Eric Prydz’s new album Opus. I saw him last week in San Francisco and had a special moment to this track. Classic progressive house — don’t know how he does it. Both old and new at once.

4. Rodriguez Jr — Mistral (Stephan Bodzin Remix)
My favorite tune of the week. Truly cannot stop listening to this one, all nine minutes of it. Come for the complex percussion, stay for the haunting atmosphere.

5. Holy Ghost! — Crime Cutz (Eli Escobar Remix)
Whewwww! Another long track, this one’ll suck you in if you haven’t been already. That one riff is so dope, I can’t wait to hear this live.

6. Reinier Zonneveld — Sharp Bust
Ready for some techno??? This is HUGE. Adrenaline!

7. Benga — Future Funk
And for some more techno, I had to share another new Benga track with you, off the new EP. So glad Benga is back, healthy, and making dope music again. This is unlike anything I’ve heard lately.

8. Digitalism — the_ism (44 kHZ – what the f__k u expekt)
Digitalism is back! They pop up so randomly with the randomest tunes and this is no exception. This track isn’t even three minutes long, but it’s a fun one.

9. Human Machine — 146
A lovely snippet of progressive house — it’s really made a comeback lately, hasn’t it? This song is more than the sum of its parts.

10. Serge Devant — Always On My Mind (Kornél Kovács Remix)
Time to bring it back to reality — Kovács’ speciality, though his is a gentle version of reality… godspeed.

 

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.