The 80 Best Tracks of 2016
#50 Feki – Thankful
Feki had a pretty fantastic 2015 thanks to tunes like Remember and Quiet Minds and now, the Brisbane genius has started his 2016 on the right note with the excellent Thankful. As has quickly become the producer’s calling card, Thankful is brimming with warm, starry chords – drawing a few comparisons with Porter Robinson, which never hurts on the internet – and a real emotional depth even without lyrics.
Thankful never pushes too hard or tries to be too clever for its own good; it’s a steady tune in BPM and by nature, but it’s got Feki’s multi-textured layering as well as a lightness and adaptability to it that’ll likely have it on playlists for both the Northern Hemisphere summer and an Australian winter. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#49 Recloose – Honey Rocks
Funky-house producer and bandleader extraordinaire Matt Chicoine, originally from Detroit by way of New Zealand, now based in New York, has held off on releasing music for the past three years, much to the chagrin of fans who fiend for his unique, thoughtful strain of jazzy deepness. Give the guy a break, he’s no doubt been busy raising his kids and moving house.
Now Honey Rocks comes along, and woah, was it worth the wait; the title track from his new EP is one of his best yet. It’s a highly textured marvel of effervescent percussion, spacey atmosphere and spine-tingling chord progressions; one of those tracks that makes you think that house music keeps getting better. [Jim Poe]
#48 Cubicolor – Dead End Thrills
One of the surprise homeruns this year came from Cubicolor and their debut album Brainsugar. Actually the deep house side project of progressive veterans 16Bit Lolitas, the duo developed their sound into something very special after linking with British vocalist Tim Digby Bell, and Dead End Thrills is the perfect showcase. Its lush melodies swell to fill the speakers, though its crackly organic vibes bring an earthy charm, the final result evocative and emotional. Bell’s vocals offer a Radiohead-style melancholy that transmits perfectly into the club. [Angus Paterson]
#47 Stereogamous ft. Shaun J. Wright – Where Can We Find Love Again?
Sydney-based dynamic duo Stereogamous – the team of Jonny Seymour and Aussie electronic-music legend Paul Mac – have been on fire lately with a string of collaborations with Chicago vocalist, dancer and DJ Shaun J. Wright, formerly of Hercules and Love Affair.
The resulting supergroup mines the rich tradition of house music’s queer underground roots to create future soul for the dancefloor that sounds unlike anything else out there. This superb track is crisp and hauntingly melodic, with a sinuous bassline anchoring dramatic breakdowns and soaring buildups; Wright’s silky vocals make heartache sound seductive. It’s a pitch-perfect cross between sophisticated electro-pop and chunky soulful house at its best. [Jim Poe]
#46 Golden Features – Wolfie ft. Julia Stone
While some of his peers are pumping their SoundClouds full of new material as fast as they can, Golden Features takes a different approach. His releases are few and far between, and you can tell that each of them is deeply considered – the Sydney star’s last EP came out a full 18 months before Wolfie/Funeral, the double A-side that arrived just over a week ago and has already made a serious splash.
Part of Tom Stell’s charm as a producer is his ability to pull in vocalists from outside the dance world and make them sound perfectly at home – it’s what he did with folk singer Thelma Plum on last year’s No One, and it’s what he’s done with Julia Stone on Wolfie. Bring on that debut album. [Katie Cunningham]
#45 RL Grime – Aurora
RL Grime shoots for the stars on Aurora, and what results is a track that pairs his ability to craft gargantuan production with tasteful restraint in the right places. The video for Aurora couples perfectly with the colossal nature of RL Grime’s production – showing vast and isolated stretches of desert from outer space, making this track sound like a precursor for a mysterious alien invasion. [Christopher Kevin Au]
#44 Deadmau5 – Snowcone
2016 saw dance music’s serial antagoniser give us a lot of SoundCloud experiments and, eventually, an album by the willfully-difficult title of W:/2016ALBUM. Snowcone was the first taste of that new LP and it’s Deadmau5 in downtempo mode – there’s no vocal, there’s no drop and the Boards of Canada influence is strong – but it’s a side of Joel Zimmerman we thoroughly endorse. [Katie Cunningham]
#43 Jim-E Stack – Deadstream
Jim-E-Stack’s productions are like copping a southerly gust of nostalgia right in the face. It feels really good, even if you can’t exactly pinpoint why. Take, for instance, the sample-heavy Deadstream – the Brooklyn based producer’s most recognisable track thus far. A delightfully giddy hybrid of breaks, garage and kiddy-rave, it has the power – as great music often does – to make every joyous, heartbreaking and ecstasy-fuelled moment of your life whiz by in just four minutes and 27 seconds. [Henry Johnstone]
#42 Moderat – Reminder
Over the course of seven years and three albums, Modeselektor and Apparat have strived to master the synthesis of their distinct sounds. On III, their goal has come to fruition. This is immediately apparent on the first single, Reminder; staccato breakbeats pummelling their way through glorious, triumphant synths, with Apparat’s image-evoking chorus line (“Burning bridges light my way”) elevating it all into glorious pop territory. [Henry Johnstone]
#41 Alan Fitzpatrick – We Do What We Want
Alan Fitzpatrick has been one of the strongholds from the Drumcode stable for years, though he struck out on his own and established his We Are the Brave record label this year. Fittingly, he came roaring out of the gate with a record timed perfectly for the summer.
It illustrated Fitzpatrick had little interest in techno purism with his new venture, and was welcomed accordingly, with a teaser clip posted In July that was recorded at Hideout Festival quickly racked up hundreds of thousands of listens. We Do What We Want is a rip-roaring crossover record that’s dripping with rave, with its jungle drum breaks mingling nicely with the same techno pulse Fitzpatrick cultivated playing alongside Adam Beyer all those years. [Angus Paterson]