The 80 Best Tracks of 2016
2016 didn’t deliver anthems quite as large as dance fans have grown accustomed to of late, but dig deep and you’ll find plenty of good music came out this year. From maturing North American sounds to stellar local productions and plenty of European fire, the past 12 months have given us house, techno, trap and beats-y delights by the bucketful. So grab your headphones, turn up the volume and catch up with the 80 best tracks of 2016.
#80 Recondite – Warg
German producer’s Recondite’s debut on Hotflush is a melodic techno weapon that’s built from the ground for a powerful impact. Warg goes for unrestrained epic vibes, with its high-pitched synths and menacing drops that rattle and thunder like the apocalypse. It made such an impression in his DJ sets that Recondite had to take to Facebook to ask overeager fans not to rip and share it prior to release, evidence enough Warg‘s packing some serious firepower. [Angus Paterson]
#79 Louis the Child – From Here
In 2016, OWSLA doesn’t just do bass bangers. Case in point is From Here, the feels-heavy, beats-driven tune from the label’s Worldwide Broadcast compilation. It comes from Louis the Child, AKA Chicago duo Freddy Kennett and Robby Hauldren, who are part of the new wave of artists changing the sound of North American dance music. From Here is only their second original, which means you can plant Louis the Child firmly on your artists-to-watch list. [Katie Cunningham]
#78 Major Lazer – Cold Water
Two of last year’s biggest tracks were Major Lazer’s Lean On with DJ Snake and MØ, and Jack Ü’s Where Are Ü Now featuring Justin Bieber. The common denominator of these Top 40 smashes was Major Lazer and Jack Ü member Thomas Wesley Pentz, aka Diplo—which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, given that the Mad Decent boss has crafted hits for major pop artists such as M.I.A., Usher, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and Madonna.
So what happens when their two worlds collide in the form of a Cold Water collaboration between Major Lazer, Bieber, and MØ? More deliciously wonky dance-pop goodness that, when Bieber’s knight-in-shining-armour chorus kicks in, wrings out your heart with each synth-horn blare.
“I’ll be your lifeline tonight,” he sings in the track which seems to hint at his last few tumultuous years in the spotlight—but oddly enough, the lyric could also apply to the state of radio-ready dance-pop, which seems to have successfully matured from its overly saccharine, big-room predecessor with his assistance. Not bad for the once swoop-fringed guy who sang “Baby,” eh? [Krystal Rodriguez]
#77 Fracture & Deft – I Just
Legend of the UK’s 170bpm music scene Fracture teamed up with fast-rising star Deft to deliver a stellar track, perfectly capturing the leftfield sound which is becoming more and more popular in the drum & bass scene.
As always with Fracture, there are tonnes of rare samples and classic breaks all finely diced and re-combined into new, exciting patterns as well as killer bass growls which carry the groove. Deft’s personality shines through in the lush chords, chunky sub bass stabs, and schizophrenic percussion sequencing, which keeps I Just fresh throughout. Footwork-meets-half-time-meets-jungle at its best. [Andrew Wowk]
#76 Vintage & Morelli – Contrasts
Contrasts first fluttered out across the speakers at last year’s Group Therapy gig at Madison Square Garden during the ‘warmup’ set from Above & Beyond, eventually revealing itself to be the Anjunabeats debut for Belgrade producer Vintage & Morelli. Hovering ambiguously in that gulf between house and trance, Contrasts is haunting, and the build-up to its powerful peak is mesmerising. Groove-driven progressive trance that gets it right. [Angus Paterson]
#75 Nina Las Vegas – Ezy
It’s been a healthy 2016 for Aussie linchpin Nina Las Vegas with a whole run of overseas shows under her belt, including the big deal of doing Coachella earlier in the year.
Meanwhile Nina’s NLV Records imprint has been catching fire with big releases from Swick and Strict Face, but we’re particularly keen to single out her own EZY as one of the picks of the bunch. This one struts out on a drumline snare, before NLV swerves into the oncoming traffic of a pounding beat and buzz of noise. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#74 Scraps – Touch Blue
Brissie producer Scraps does everything in the right measure on Touch Blue, easy-going as it meditates on a no-frills groove for close to seven minutes, never feeling undercooked or overdone. There’s noodling melody, a detached yet resonant vocal. It’s a gentle tractor beam, drawing you either to the dancefloor or towards introspection. Maybe a combination of both. A shiny opal from the Australian underground. [Lachlan Kanoniuk]
#73 Gold Panda – In My Car
As is the case with much of Gold Panda’s productions, In My Car is stuffed with so many musical ideas that it could all very easily go tits up. Instead, it flourishes, and therein lays Gold Panda’s adept programming skills: keeping all the madcap elements sounding so beautifully coherent. With its crisp hip-hop template, chopped-up vocal samples and shimmering synths, In My Car ’s magic lies in its power to conjure up wistful, long forgotten memories. [Henry Johnstone]
#72 DJDS – I Don’t Love You
Another year, another entry from power duo Samo Sound Boy and Jerome Potter. Their name might have changed – DJ Dodger Stadium quietly became DJDS sometime last year for reasons still unexplained – but the themes of hometown and heartbreak have not. On I Don’t Love You, the Body Higher founders are still making songs about breakups and videos about Los Angeles. The end result is, as ever, excellent. [Katie Cunningham]
#71 Swick – Offside
To make the most painful of dad jokes, it’s fitting that this song from Swick is called Offside because it’s almost unfair how far out in front of the rest this local producer has been in 2016. Hey, I warned you, right? But still, it’s true and all year long Swick has been dropping golden tracks on NLV Records starting with his Stamina EP which featured collabs with Marcus Whale and Spank Rock, before ending 2016 on a massive high with Offside. Not reliant on a prominent vocal feature for Offside, Swick hammers a hooky sample and lets loose with this starburst of undulating noise. [Dave Ruby Howe]