Before we embark on a new year of music, here’s our rundown of the best tunes from 2016. We’ve got 52 selections, one for each week of the year, with genres ranging from house and techno in a classic mould through to ambient, disco and experimental sounds.
Check the full list and comments below, or listen to the whole selection in our handy Youtube playlist:
52. Miagma – You
DJ Boring’s Winona attracted a lot more hype, but this rave-soaked thumper on the B-side was the one for us.
51. S Olbricht – 137x3brk
A gloriously delicate Detroit techno construction from one of the leading lights of the Budapest scene.
50. Minor Science – Naturally Spineless
UK-steeped bass dread from a relatively fresh producer who seems to get better with each release.
49. Prince of Denmark – Latenightjam
Our pick from the Giegling overlord’s latest three-hour opus, a fathoms-deep dub techno alarm.
48. Quavius – Love The Way
Not many mine the territory between house and hip hop, but newcomer Quavius looks set to shine, if this impossibly smooth slice on Galcher Lustwerk’s label is anything to go by.
47. Shanti Celeste – Being
Bristolian Shanti is just starting to drum up the attention she deserves. This taut slice of house encompasses lush melodies, bone-cracking drums and a showstopping church organ.
46. 33.10.3402 – 13
The best tool of the year came from an anonymous L.I.E.S. producer, a metallic drum track that unravels in slow motion, commanding all to the dancefloor.
45. Willow – Untitled A2
Willow’s welcome return to Workshop capitalised on her practically unique approach to dance, expressing itself through negative space and spare, moody details.
44. Fabio Monesi – Palladium
An absolute stormer from Monesi on Russian Torrent Versions that welds steel-toed drums to a sepia-tinted vocal clip.
43. Bianca Chandon Presents &Co – Wine Cooler
Feel good chiller heavy on the keyboard noodling from pro skater Alex Olson and a few friends.
42. Midland – Final Credits
Veritable summer anthem from the UK stalwart that packs a dangerous Gladys Knight sample for the lovers on the dancefloor.
41. Pangaea – Skips Desk
Pangaea tried on a new style here to bedazzling effect, decking a tumbling rhythm in searing synthwork that veers close to trance. Demolishes the dancefloor.
40. KiNK – Valentine’s Groove
Heavy-hitter from the Bulgarian synth wizard, perfectly combining fleet-footed drums and outlandish melodies.
39. DJ Slyngshot – Ain’t Got No Time
Slyngshot perfected his hip hop approach to house this year with this gloriously choppy shuffler.
38. Steven Julien – XL
Funkineven got real on his debut album, and nowhere more so than on this colossal piano house cut that breathed new life into a weary style.
37. Unknown Artist – What A Day
This dangerous club weapon combines a thumping minimal house beat with a perfectly deployed Erykah Badu sample. Few tracks detonated the ‘floor like this one in 2016.
36. Èbony vs ‘R’ – Real Truth
The perfect combination of light and dark can work wonders, just like on this techno behemoth illuminated by a sensuous gospel vocal.
35. Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda – Priestess
Australian synth maestro Mike Katz finally stepped into the limelight this year, offering an uplifting slice of disco perfection with his band on the epic Priestess.
34. DJ Sotofett meets Abu Sayah – Houran (Percussion Mix)
We loved it at the beginning of the year, and we still love it now – nothing sounds like Sotofett’s flip of Abu Sayah’s yarghol recordings. Pure trance for the dancers.
33. Ondo Fudd – The Fludd
Call Super just gets better with time. He put out a lot of great music this year, but our favourite was the wistful, swampy stomp of The Fludd on his ace Trilogy Tapes EP.
32. Mr. Fingers – Qwazars
Larry Heard made a very welcome return this year, and his star-gazing productions sound as relevant and unique as ever.
31. Mount Liberation Unlimited – Eerie (For Your Love)
The cult Swedish outfit landed with a bang for their third release, this time on Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space imprint. Eerie is a maximalist trip through house music’s brightest colours, and we love every second.
30. Pearson Sound – XLB
After his stark, somewhat difficult debut album, David Kennedy returned to club future with this manic slice of fizzing dancefloor dynamite.
29. Rising Sun – The Light And The Dark
Berlin producer Rising Sun’s latest LP didn’t draw too much attention, but he got the complex emotions of old school breakbeat down perfectly.
28. Hi Mount & C.K – I Know (First Mix)
Denmark’s Regelbau crew were one of 2016’s biggest winners, and they had their first true anthem with this IDM-referencing club cut.
27. Sleep D – Bush Snake
The Australian duo made their most impressive statement to date with this confection of serpentine synthwork, pummelling rhythms and thick, treacly strings.
26. Tessela – With Patsy
The architect of Hackney Parrot refuses to let himself be defined by one song, venturing into more refined bass-techno hybrids such as this tightly-coiled cocktail of polyrhythms and deoyxgenated gasps. It’s a marvel how much power this track commands considering how restrained it sounds.
25. Byron The Aquarius – Aquarian Voyage
Byron returned with a bang this year, reaching a career best with this silky trip into jazz territory for Theo Parrish’s Sound Signature imprint.
24. Raw M.T. – Richard’s Revenge
Gnarled acid techno in a lofi mould from Raw M.T. already has us salivating, but the mournful strings over this track’s second half take it to the next level.
23. DJ Sports, C.K. & pH 1 – Second Wave
It’s almost impossible to choose a highlight from Danish label Help’s superb Irrelevant Material EP, but this glossy burner made all the right moves, topped with a nod to classic electro in its snapping drum patterns.
22. Four Legs – Aguirre
Ultra-taut techno injected with a serious bounce on this collaboration between Samo DJ and Skudge for Trilogy Tapes. As simple as they come, but lethal on the floor. Oh, and gotta love that ghostly Luigi’s Mansion synthwork.
21. Nebraska – What You’ve Done To Me
Every year since his return Nebraska has knocked us out just a little bit. This low-slung burner packs a serious groove that belies its 104BPM speed, all pulled together by synths that sound like some kind of funky seizure.
20. Traumer – Classroom
Minimal is definitely back, and one of our favourites this year came from French producer Traumer, who paired impeccably textured drumwork with wordless exotic vocals and a daringly long breakdown.
19. Ross From Friends – Talk To Me You’ll Understand
There’s a lot of hot air blowing about the web as a result of the lofi scene, but all we know is that this track is absolutely gorgeous. Scuffed kicks tumble, prog guitar squeals out, we cry a single bittersweet tear. Forget the haters.
18. Project Pablo – Closer
If you judged Patrick Holland based on his music alone, you’d assume he always has a huge smile on his face. This year’s Closer was another soulful jewel, its optimistic melody only the icing on a richly detailed cake.
17. Art Crime – Dead Carnation
This noir showstopper paired a tunneling bassline with piano keys that glisten dangerously in the breakdown. Rarely has something so menacing sounded so seductive.
16. Red Rack’em – Wonky Bassline Disco Banger
A great sense of humour isn’t essential to make a killer dance track, but it can certainly help. The track’s title says it all, when that wonky bassline ripples across the simple disco-house drumtrack, all hell breaks loose.
15. Fantastic Man – Trance Sexual
Melbourne’s Fantastic Man produced a total winner with this year’s Rhythm Algorithm EP on Superconscious, the highlight being the tinny drums, synthetic birdcalls and hearty acid wiggle of Trance Sexual.
14. Avalon Emerson – The Frontier
Whities came out with their best release to date on Emerson’s homage to her desert homescape, all thundering drums and ghostly synthwork floating high above the mesas.
13. Tzusing – Face of Electric
This techno cut from Chinese producer Tzusing on L.I.E.S. took no prisoners, pairing brutal breakbeats with a melody that sounds like the furious buzzing of mechanical bees.
12. Rezzett – Doyce
The mysterious Trilogy Tapes duo got together for their sweetest offering to date. Doyce is a meditative trip through detuned piano keys, unusual drum textures and woozy ambience – a consuming piece for club dreamers.
11. Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy – Darraje
The stunning product of a collaboration between German trio Carl Gari and Cairene Sufi singer Abdullah Miniawy, Darraje is one of the most unique pieces of music we heard all year – compelling, dark and devotional.
10. Will Long – Chumps (Sprinkles Overdub)
This timeless slice of deep house from ambient producer Will Long received a loving remix from the legendary DJ Sprinkles, filtering the vocals so they flowed like water and contributing a scything horn melody that reaches out towards eternity.
9. Folamour – Novalaise
House music rarely comes as bittersweet as Folamour’s Novalaise, which saw light this year on excellent new French label Moonrise Hill Material. A lonely piano figure twists above a gravelly bassline and fuzzy, relaxed drumwork. Few producers can conjure such feeling with so few elements.
8. Omar S feat. John FM – Heard’ Chew Single
The crowning achievement of Omar S’ excellent new album was this collaboration with John FM, a lush ballad of military drumwork, swirling piano keys and a vocal line full of longing.
7. Floorplan – Tell You No Lie
The resurrection of Robert Hood’s Floorplan alias over the past few years has been a constant source of joy, and he came up with one of his best club killers to date on Tell You No Lie. The tension created between the soaring strings and a taut, relentless rhythm brought smiles to countless dancefloors this year.
6. Lemme Kno – 1234567
An excellent slice of rave revivalism from Future Times’ Max D and Dublin producer Morgan Buckley, its rollicking breakbeats and smooth Detroit synthwork conjuring the optimism of 90s dance without ever sounding like pastiche.
5. Traumprinz – 2 Bad (Metatron’s What If Madness Is Our Only Relief Mix)
Traumprinz is as close to a king as the dance world has right now, from the diversity and emotive pull of his productions to the sheer volume of music he puts out. The highlight of this year’s excellent 2 The Sky EP was this 10-minute slice of club yearning, its razor-sharp breakbeat overlaid with a wounded synthline and a pitch-perfect vocal. In a year many are calling the most catastrophic in recent memory the simple message of this song, to acknowledge the bad and move on, was lent a special power.
4. O’Flynn – Oberyn
Blip Discs is rapidly proving to be one of the UK’s most exciting new labels. You need only listen to this furious onslaught of Latin drumwork from O’Flynn to understand why – it takes a talented hand to conjure this kind of energy.
3. Tolouse Low Trax – Rushing Into Water
The main man from Dusseldorf’s cult club Salon Des Amateurs held us spellbound with this stark tribal rhythm from the beginning of the year. The downtempo drumtrack is rich in timbre, taking in metallic clanks, rubbery toms and skittering hand percussion. A smattering of quasi-mystical vocals over the top send us into full-on trance.
2. Samo DJ & Tzusing – Hollabackboi
Munich’s Public Possession crew are one of our favourites for leftfield house excursions, but they don’t release that many club bangers. Samo DJ and Tsuzing turned it out with typical humour on their latest effort, recreating the drums of Gwen Stefani’s pop pleasure alongside technicolour vintage synths. It’s under three minutes long, but nothing else this year has been half as much fun on the dancefloor.
1. DJ Sotofett – Current 82 (12 Mix)
Two years running Sotofett has topped this list, and we don’t feel ashamed one bit. This year the Norwegian Sex Tags maestro put out a string of great tunes, none better than this 14-minute voyage into house hypnagogia.
Everything here is brought in gradually, starting with a few minutes of radio chatter that gives way to a frayed, glittering synth motif, at once celestial and sci fi. A deep, dubby bassline anchors the track, preventing the arrangement from drifting off beyond the o-zone alongside a hefty downtempo rhythm. Over the next ten minutes ambient washes sway in and out, emotive synths swell and fractured breakbeats spray out, but it never feels indulgent. Sotofett cuts a fine balance between grand and digestible, his natural knack for structure spinning a reverie that can enchant on and off the ‘floor.