The 80 Best Tracks of 2016
#40 Young Franco – Drop Your Love On Me ft. DiRTY RADiO
From the first few moments of Drop Your Love On Me, you get the feeling that something big’s going to come of this track. DiRTY RADiO’s vocals are wrapped up in some tasteful production before the arrival of grin-spreading piano house pumps. From there, things take off and we’re left with something that’s both soulful, jackin’ and, thanks to a little bit of vocoder, definitely funky.
Young Franco has been making us dance for the last couple of years (seriously, check his tracks with KLP, UV boi and Set Mo if this is your first taste) but this one will go down as the Brisbane producer’s breakthrough moment. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#39 Kenton Slash Demon – Peace
Kenton Slash Demon’s keen sense of melody and emotional groove has always made for accessible dance music, but the Danish duo’s latest single Peace might just be their long overdue pop moment. Possessing a catchy-as-hell bassline (reminiscent of their excellent 2011 track, Daemon) and their first use of a vocalist instead of samples, it’s shaping up to be their biggest release to date. Frankly, it’s about time the newest members of the Future Classic stable received their comeuppance. [Henry Johnstone]
#38 ABRA – Crybaby
The 1990’s revival may be in full swing, but the 80’s is still being deliciously plundered too, thanks to newcomers like the Atlanta-based Abra. Back in July the singer dropped her six-track Princess EP, the highlight of which was the infectious and R&B flavoured Crybaby. An on-point lesson in electro-pop, what’s all the more surprising is that Abra self-produced the cut herself. Be sure to check out the Deadboy remix for a drowsy dose of UK Funky. [Henry Johnstone]
#37 RL Grime, Skrillex and What So Not – Waiting
On one fateful afternoon back in 2013, RL Grime and What So Not sat down for a studio date in Sydney. In one session, they finished the better part of a track and dropped it for the first time that night at an inthemix house party with LA’s HARD crew, where it blew up the living room dancefloor. Needless to say, its name was Tell Me, and it quickly became one of the biggest songs of the season.
In 2016 the A-team reunited to finish off the spiritual successor to Tell Me – only this time, they upped the ante and got OWSLA head Skrillex involved too. In November Waiting finally arrived and proved the triumvirate haven’t forgotten how to craft speaker-rattling bass anthems. [Katie Cunningham]
#36 Luttrell – Need You
One of the standouts that came later in the year from the Anjunadeep camp, Luttrell works with the deep house conventions, though manages to stand out by keeping it soulful, euphoric and fresh. There’s the prerequisite slow-motion R&B sample, though it’s accompanied by some particularly buoyant chords that set a euphoric tone, while Luttrell works in some string harmonies to deepen the emotions. One of the moments where prototype deep house still definitely proved effective in 2016. [Angus Paterson]
#35 Paces – Work Me Out ft. Rye Rye
Of all the guests aboard Paces’ debut LP Vacations – and it’s a star-stuffed affair with artists like Reija Lee, Bonde Do Role and Jess Kent mixing it up with less obvious names like Oliver Tank and Guy Sebastian – the track Work Me Out featuring American rapper Rye Rye is worth particularly high praise.
Work Me Out marries Mikey Perry’s past in Gold Coast bass duo Surcut Kids with the kind of tropical flavours he’s made his trademark as Paces. The vocal from Rye Rye is a serendipitous team-up too, with Rye Rye’s rubbery raps matching the bounce and fizziness of the beat. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#34 Snakehips – Money On Me ft. Anderson .Paak
Snakehips had great crossover success with their 2015 festival favourite All My Friends, and Tinashe’s sing-a-long hook served as one of the year’s most addictive.
On Money On Me, Snakehips collaborate with another West Coast talent in Anderson.Paak, weaving a woozy soundscape that has us floating blissfully through purple space. There’s plenty to love this track: Anderson.Paak’s irresistible “put the money on me” refrain is delivered endearingly, while the animated ad-libs slice through the serenity to inject some unexpected energy. [Christopher Kevin Au]
#33 Vallis Alps – Fading
It had to be one helluva daunting task for local duo Vallis Alps to follow up their breakout hit Young from 2015 – y’know, that song that charmed the pants off everyone last year, got ‘em booked on Splendour with just a handful of gigs under their belts and raced to #27 in that year’s Hottest 100.
More than a year later the pair fluttered back into our lives with the bloody jubilant Fading. Still gazing toward the stars with some sweetly lovestruck lyrics, Fading finds Vallis Alps sounding more urgent than before, nervously approaching the “paradise” in the song’s refrain. Now they’re here, I sure hope these two stick around awhile. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#32 The Black Madonna – He Is The Voice I Hear
“We still believe”: It’s the unofficial mantra of one Marea Stamper, otherwise known as The Black Madonna.
The Chicago-based DJ/producer is unquestionably one of dance music’s biggest up-and-comers, working her way up from, as she told Resident Advisor back in 2014, writing copy for online underwear stores while making music to buying talent at local institution Smart Bar and shining behind the decks at festivals and clubs worldwide.
In the middle of her first-ever American tour last month, Stamper released a new single, He Is the Voice I Hear, her first new original material since 2013’s Lady of Sorrows EP. Already sold out at most online retailers, listeners have but a brief preview to go by—but even its 60-second span radiates a warmth and optimism in its swelling strings and disco bassline. As she wrote in a Facebook post, this track realised her longtime dream of working with a live ensemble of musicians.
How she tops herself next will be as equally exciting, even if it takes another three years. Believe that. [Krystal Rodriguez]
#31 Enschway & Kuren – Taking Hold ft. Turquoise Prince
Between Enschway and Kuren, we can rest assured that the future of Australian bass music is in good hands. Last year the two young guns teamed up on an instrumental track called Taking Hold, catching the ear of triple j and marking themselves as ones to watch. So in 2016 they went to work on version 2.0, recruiting rising Canberra rapper Turquoise Prince for a topline, signing the track to Sweat It Out and re-releasing it as the lead single from Enschway’s new EP. Future bass that slaps. [Katie Cunningham]