The 80 Best Tracks of 2016
#60 Digitalism – Go Time
If anyone had assumed German electro duo Digitalism were a spent creative force, the pair’s surprisingly epic comeback album Mirage would have set the record straight. Go Time proudly stepped up as the album’s lead single, a piece of crossover radio-pop perfection that channelled – and possibly even exceeded – the exhilaration of Digitalism’s biggest ever hit Pogo. [Angus Paterson]
#59 Classixx – Just Let Go
For their second full length album, Faraway Reach, Los Angelinos Classixx called in guest spots from famous friends including Holy Ghost!’s Alex Frankel, Passion Pit, T-Pain and Future Classic outfit Panama, cooking up another set of tasty and slickly-produced dance music.
Standing out from the LP is the How To Dress Well collaboration Just Let Go, a track that plays to the strengths of both artists – you’ve got the glimmering production that has become Classixx’s trademark, while How To Dress Well delivers a typically emotive and whispy vocal. It doesn’t really matter that Just Let Go arrived after the Australian summer had waved goodbye, this tune is a pop-up poolside getaway all in itself. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#58 Paul Woolfood – Mother & Child
Woolford took a break from the jungle excursions under his Special Request alias this year to work on something a little more emotive, and he tapped right into Halcyon-era progressive house vibes with Mother & Child. Its string sections are more than a little reminiscent of Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, though it’s the dizzying melodic flourish in the breakdown that really kicks things into high gear. Something different from both the Hotflush label as well as Woolford himself. [Angus Paterson]
#57 MayaVanya ft. Maribelle – Caffeine
Oh man, how good’s this MayaVanya track? With a sparkling electronic wash all over it and a beat that just struts through your headphones, this sounds like something R Kelly or Usher would pay big money to call their own. And with Melbourne’s Maribelle recruited for vocals it’s got this dangerously seductive R&B tinge. Now that MayaVanya have bounced all the way from Croatia to New Zealand and finally Melbourne, it’s the right time for Australia to claim the duo as our own. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#56 Justice – Fire
This year has been all about the big electronic album, but one that really towered above the rest was Justice’s third LP Woman. Although the days of French electro-house are now long gone, the LP’s fourth track Fire stands as one of the most exciting singles of the year. By combining trailblazing guitar riffs with their signature bass lines and echoing vocals, Justice’s new, modernised touch on their classic sound is both fresh and nostalgic, and a sound definitely missed in the long, five-year wait between Audio, Video, Disco and Woman. [Hayden Davies]
#55 Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter
Porter Robinson and Madeon have been buds since their pre-teen years, when they used to hang out on the same production forums and trade tips. So for them Shelter isn’t just a collaboration, it’s the culmination of a lifetime of friendship and mutual respect.
Given it comes from two guys with meticulously high standards, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that it took them a good ten years to release a track together – or that they’d go all out and team-up with Japanese anime studio A-1 Pictures for a short film to go with the music. Our only gripe? That Porter’s confirmed Shelter is a one off collab’. [Katie Cunningham]
#54 Midland – Final Credits
Not only is Harry Agius one of the most consistent producers knocking about, he’s also one of the most versatile. Just look at the contrast between his two big releases this year: while the Blush EP boasts three cuts of heads-down, sci-fi techno, the aptly titled Final Credits is a hands-in-the-air summer anthem that just wants to plant a big silly grin across your stupid face.
It’s not exactly wheel re-inventing stuff, but what Final Credits does show off is expert crate-digging chops and a knack for editing, with Agius speeding up the unassuming funk of Lee Alfred’s 1980 cut Rockin-Poppin Full Tilting and marrying it with a bittersweet diva vocal sample. Make no mistake – this one is destroying a dancefloor somewhere in Europe as we speak. [Henry Johnstone]
#53 Cassius ft. Cat Power & Mike D – Action
While the modern age of music listening places a lot of currency on the discovery of brand new talents, there’s a rewarding thrill to watching a couple of old timers bounce back with a reminder of what made them so celebrated in the past. So it was when French icons Cassius broke a six year drought and dropped the undeniably fun and groove-struck Action.
Fittingly, Action comes with the featured talents of a couple of other old hands, including vocals from Cat Power and Mike D of The Beastie Boys. The tune’s accompanying video, overrun with kitsch props and effects, gold bodysuits and synchronised boner thrusts, is obtuse but totally hypnotic – with is a pretty good way of thinking of Action, really. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#52 James Blake – Modern Soul
By now it’s standard to describe James Blake’s music as ghostly, angelic or ethereal, but there’s no denying the primal impressions it evokes. Perhaps the original concept of soul music meant something this spooky and transcendent. And from the cheeky but perfect title of this song, the first single from his third album, The Colour in Anything, clearly Blake ponders these things.
Despite the control he’s gained over his voice, his crooning and pleading is still so ragged and raw – still as astonishing as it was five years ago. And he is, of course, still an awesome producer and composer, still at the peak of his powers with the spare beauty and shimmering weirdness of this one. Not fair how talented some people are. [Jim Poe]
#51 Traumprinz – 2 Bad (DJ Metatron’s What if Madness Is the Only Relief Mix)
Precious little is known about the real identity of German house wizard Traumprinz, AKA The Prince of Denmark, AKA DJ Metatron. What we do know is that for the past five years he’s released some of the most consistently fascinating and beautiful underground dance music (mostly on vinyl only), with uncanny command over multiple modes from bassy minimalism to melody-saturated, ravey progressive and drum & bass.
2 Bad might be his best yet, a jaw-dropping mini-masterpiece of string-laden soulful melancholy and wicked mid-tempo breakbeats. It’s a very deliberate pastiche of party-closing, everybody-hug-now ’90s anthems by, say, Orbital or Massive Attack, but still sounds like the freshest thing that’s come out this year. [Jim Poe]