25: The Mole – Lockdown Party (DJ Sprinkles Crossfaderama)
DJ Sprinkles had a fantastic year, scoring one of the year’s best mixes as well as a brilliant remix package – and the legendary academic / DJ also found time to knock out one of the year’s very best tracks. If you play this out in a set Sprinkles does the work for you: leaning on the EQs, filters and crossfader, splicing in samples here and there, and on the dancefloors this one brought dancers together like no other.
24: A Made Up Sound – Ahead
AMUS’ unhinged Aheadis an unsettling track. It’s not the lurking threat of the looped vocals or the splintered beats, but rather the track’s utter disregard for dance music convention which makes for such a jarring listen. But from the broken remains of melodic hooks and a 4/4 AMUS builds something brave and new, amazing and perplexing the listener in equal measure.
23: Romare – Hey Now (When I Give You All My Lovin’)
At just over two minutes, the closer to Romare’s second EP is by a long way the shortest track on this list, and could easily be considered a jazzy outro to the more substantial meat on the release. Yet something about that Nina Simone sample and the languid piano gives this track an edge, making for a soupy soul number which is more than just an interlude. When the seedy trumpet bursts through the track’s second half the effect is unparalleled, edging us towards the repeat button every time.
Scandinavian retroist HNNY doesn’t receive a whole lot of praise in music press. Perhaps his tracks lean too heavily on nostalgia, and here on Mys the beat pattern is more than a little functional. But to disregard him would be to ignore the beautiful simplicity of his music: it may not wear cutting-edge techniques but it has soul in spades. Mys is a glorious track, sensuous vocal cries looped over a thundering bass bounce, perfect for an ear-catching opener or a mid-set slow jam.
21: Innershades – That Girl
Our favourite new producer of 2013 burst out of nowhere on That Girl, a Dancemania-indebted track with menacing synths and a mighty kick-drum. The tracks’ simple structure and rough muscle made it a dancefloor bomb every time, showing just how much can be done with a few perfectly-tuned elements.
Editing a disco track into a filtered house cut is the oldest trick in the book – but perhaps the reason so many producers give it a shot is because when done well, the blend of euphoric soul and house muscle has an effect like little else. The addictive vocal of Special
is honey to the ears, while those glorious strings feel like a spiritual successor to New For U
19: FCL – It’s You (San Soda’s Panorama Bar Acca Version)
It’s practically just a vocal, yet it’s not surprising that FCL’s It’s You attracted so much attention over the last year. In a year of industrial sounds and lofi aesthetics this track provided a dose of grace and soul, perfect to open a set or mix over more tougher jams.
18: Jessy Lanza – Keep Moving
Jessy Lanza’s debut on Hyperdub was one of the year’s best pop records, and the disco-indebted Keep Moving was an essential highlight. Lanza’s hook’s are urgent and catchy, while the combination of guitar licks, synth stabs and an elastic bassline make for a seductive package indeed.
17: June – Face This (Deep House Mix)
In terms of nostalgic house exercises, this low-slung workout had it all: the looped ‘house’ vocal, the meandering bass bounce, the delectable acid line. House music at its best, pure and simple.
16: Florian Kupfer – Feelin
The relatively unknown Kupfer gave L.I.E.S. its first anthem on Feelin, an addictive vocal sugar-coating lush synthwork, clattering drums and a a meaty bassline.
Since my friend described listening to this track as ‘like discovering a new world in an underwater ice cave using sonar’ I haven’t really been able to think about it any other way. On Frahm’s triumphant Spaces LP, Says stood out for its majesty and subtlety, fragile piano notes accompanying a glistening arpeggio. The track’s slow build is utterly consuming: by the time you get to that late-game key change you’ll already be lost.
The grand opening to Roly Porter’s cosmic exploration was a powerful force: vocals looped beyond humanity, alloyed to a stammering beat pattern and the glacial movement of string figures beyond.
13: Paul Woolford – Untitled
Paul Woolford owned this year. Under his Special Request guise he released the hardcore revival’s most brilliant record, and then on this one-off for Hotflush he issued a worthy successor to 2006’s smash Erotic Discourse
. The honeyed vocals and anthemic piano line might prove cheesy in other contexts, but married to Woolford’s brawny drums they’re just perfect. One of the few Ibiza anthems that genuinely deserved play beyond the island’s borders.
12: Murat Tepeli – Forever (Prosumer’s Hold Me Touch Me Remix)
Everything came together perfectly on Prosumer’s remix of long-time collaborator Murat Tepeli. The piano line is positively venomous, while the soaring vocal and tight beat patterns open the door to the dark side of euphoria.
If there’s one producer who released more great tracks than any other this year, Pev was he. Across two collaborative EPs and a solo outing, the Bristolian was on finer form than ever, and the combination of the manic, queasy bassline and those jangling keys on Livity is utterly unforgettable.
10: Floorplan – Never Grow Old
The relationship between religion and dance music in Robert Hood’s music is the subject of frequent discourse, partly of its rarity – yet he’s on to something: the ability of the two to allow a person to transcend the physical, to make a group unite and rejoice, is a striking similarity. Nowhere is Hood more likely to make you believe than on Never Grow Old, an Aretha-sampling beast stitching that achingly soulful vocal onto an adamantine 4/4 skeleton.
9: Special Request – Mindwash
Paul Woolford’s attitude towards jungle and hardcore is striking because of his ability to modernise these sounds rather than just ape them. Mindwash is an unhinged trip whose maniacal bassline never sits still, sounding remarkably current even over a field of breaks ripped right out of a 90s textbook.
8: Damiano von Erckert – Hollywood
The ava label-head’s debut solo album was a glorious journey through the sounds of the past, and it was his pitch-perfect disco number that got us most excited. Perhaps Hollywoodcould have been made fifteen years ago, but it sounds as brilliant now as it would have back then. Georgia Anne Muldrow gives a phenomenal vocal performance over Erckert’s production dripping with funk: a utterly timeless collaboration.
Levon took us back with this one: never had he sounded so urgent and floor-focused, conjuring the year’s most distinctive bassline and treating it with his gritty warehouse stylings and a game-changing synth to close.
Rashad ascended to footwork royalty this year thanks to a series of country- and genre-spanning releases, but even on his ace album
he couldn’t quite top Let It Go
. The vulnerability on display is almost unheard of in juke’s macho culture, as delicate strings falter under a desperate vocal plea. Yet even when he gets all emotional, Rashad never forgets his roots, and the stammering breaks added a vital urgency to the heart-tugging vocal cuts.
5: Omar S – The Shit Baby
Another year, and Detroit’s unstoppable Omar S still plays no one’s game but his own. This grammatically-challenged cut was as simple as Omar gets: the percussion is all groove: skipping snares, a solid kick and a descending bassline. But the inclusion of D. Taylor’s improvised piano takes this track into the stratosphere, offering a euphoric lead sure to get the crowd beaming as well as dancing.
I can make you feel better! The kind of track that makes a dance journalist use an exclamation mark is rare indeed, but it’s impossible to not get excited listening to Sophie’s second excellent release. Bipp is a breed of inverted pop, its saccharine vocal tied unexpectedly to pops, fizzes and jittery, drumless synths. On paper it sounds terrible, but a single listen would reassure any listener: Bipp is one of the year’s most brilliant, bizarre tracks, and is absolutely impossible to stop listening to.
3: Tessela – Hackney Parrot
If this was a list of the year’s ‘biggest’ tracks, Hackney Parrot would have no competition for the top spot. There are few tunes that make dancers stop in their tracks, but time and again Hackney Parrot destroyed dancefloors, its monstrous drop driving dancers into a frenzy. The stuttering breaks, the syrup-thick synth notes, that abrupt vocal hook: the ‘parrot is pure gold, and it’s going to be tough for Tessela to top.
2: Oneohtrix Point Never – Chrome Country
When I first heard this track I was walking through an airport. The infinite escalators, miles of plate glass and silenced urgency of travellers made for a stunning mental music video, and the song evoked a reverie of the essential beauty of human interaction even in our involved, over-stimulated age. Coming at the end of Daniel Lopatin’s brilliant new album, Chrome Country is a hymn for the digital age, its synthetic choirs frayed by electronic processing, its blissful strings and keys sometimes drowned by a swooning ambient wash. The track’s conclusion introduces a majestic organ – never before has Lopatin’s music sounded so optimistic, so downright heavenly. But we’re right there with him.
At its best, house music is very simple. Granted, there are many producers who toy with complex rhythmic and melodic structures to great effect, but the old adage ‘gotta have house music’ was extolling something accessible, something universal. Palms Trax’ Equationwears its influences on its sleeve: eschewing the current lofi trend for the polished new-age sound of the Burrell Brothers and Nu Groove. Yet Equation easily transcends its retro trappings: its perfect counterpoint of soaring synths and rolling bassline inviting everyone, young and old, cool and lame, to get on the ‘floor and throw some shapes. No track in 2013 made us want to get up and dance as much as Equation, and for that simple reason, it tops our list.