The 80 Best Tracks of 2016
#30 Roland Tings – Eyes Closed
Melbourne house maven Roland Tings (née Rohan Newman) followed up his 2015 self-titled debut LP on Prins Thomas’s Internasjonal label with this burst of melody and good vibes on the New York-and-London-based Cascine imprint, the first release from a forthcoming EP.
Reminiscent of Todd Terje’s analogue bubblebaths, its mood was influenced by Newman’s move from Melbourne to the Central Coast of New South Wales. “I wanted to make something that sounded like total release, coming out of a dark place into somewhere filled with light.” He certainly succeeded: the track’s warm, cascading synth melodies and tingly buildups and breakdowns definitely sound like something you’d want to hear at sunrise on a remote beach (eyes open or closed). [Jim Poe]
#29 Skrillex & Rick Ross – Purple Lamborghini
Supervillain flick Suicide Squad was a bit of a turd, but its saving grace (Margot Robbie aside) was the soundtrack. Lil Wayne, Grimes and Kehlani all leant their music to the movie but the biggest song on the soundtrack came from Skrillex and Rick Ross, who paired up on a tune custom made for the silver screen. Purple Lamborghini is Sonny Moore in blockbuster mode, from the throwback “Ohmygod!” sample to the 2011-esque bass screeches and Ross’ barking topline. There’s more than a little Bangarang to this, and that’s a good thing. [Katie Cunningham]
#28 Floating Points – Kuiper
Leave it to Floating Points, AKA Sam Shepherd, to follow up the triumph of his universally acclaimed Elaenia – an album of gorgeous, mathematically refined electronica – with an EP led by an 18-minute live experimental rock jam.
Recorded with Shepherd’s touring band, Kuiper ranges through influences from Krautrock icons like Neu! and Can to Godspeed! You Black Emperor to LCD Soundsystem to (not joking) Led Zeppelin. Over its sprawling length it dips and soars from quiet to loud and through different moods and tempos, all held together by Shepherd’s precise dynamics and his synth work. It’s not like anything you’d call dance music, but it’s stunning as it is unclassifiable, and quite in line with the genius that is Floating Points. [Jim Poe]
#27 Boys Noize ft. Benga – Dynamite
This year dubstep pioneer Benga made his welcome return to dance music, some eighteen months after taking time out to focus on his mental health. While the Londoner’s solo EP Future Funk wasn’t quite a homerun, Boys Noize collaboration Dynamite was a sure winner.
Alex Ridha says Benga helped him take Dynamite from something “too busy and hectic” to the sleek, bassline-driven banger that arrived on his fourth album Mayday – and for our money, it’s the best track on the LP. (The uncredited vocalist laying down those howls, by the way? That’d be Don’t Wait singer Mapei.) [Katie Cunningham]
#26 BUOY – Clouds & Rain
There’s an ominous undercurrent that carries throughout Clouds & Rain, often clearing for flashes of legit brilliance from Sydney’s BUOY. The repetition of the vocal hook is emboldened by some fearless production tricks, with a modus operando that never settles for ‘good enough’. It demands repeat listens, and rewards each time with dense and deft craftwork. [Lachlan Kanoniuk]
#25 Massive Attack – The Spoils
Unfinished Sympathy, Protection, Teardrop, What Your Soul Sings, Paradise Circus. With each Massive Attack album cycle comes a centrepiece; a female-led, post-modern lullaby, often draped in a heartbreaking string section. In a sense, it’s become the long-standing Bristolians’ calling card.
2016 didn’t yield a new album from 3D and Daddy G, yet a gorgeous lullaby still emerged from a flurry of EP releases in the form of The Spoils. Quintessentially laced with melancholy and steered by Hope Sandoval’s fragile vocals, it’ll do just fine until that long-awaited sixth LP eventually surfaces. [Henry Johnstone]
#24 Tiga & Hudson Mohawke – Planet E
It’s no secret that Tiga has a strong love for early 90’s rave music, regularly taking staple elements from the era and reworking them to fit into a contemporary underground framework, but still keeping that cheeky, playful attitude that characterised the early hardcore sound.
On Planet E, he pays homage to those vibes with a nasty lead hoover synth that filters in and out of the mix throughout the track, while adding his trademark catchy, irreverent vocal content and underpinning the tune with a relentless TR-808 groove and gritty electroclash style bassline.
#23 Sasha – Bring On The Night-Time
The PR campaign for Sasha’s latest album Scene Delete promised a side of the dance music titan that “you’ve never heard before.” Truth be told, if you slapped a 4/4 beat under most of the album’s ambient and modern classical passages, you’d wind up with the same emotionally driven club cuts that we’ve come to expect from The Man Like. Still, for all its hit-and-miss familiarity, Scene Delete possesses moments that are up there with some of Sasha’s finest. His sublime collaboration with Ultraísta, Bring On The Night Time, is a shining example. [Henry Johnstone]
#22 Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Theme (Luke Million remix)
If you were a producer looking to raise your profile overnight, you might consider the Luke Million method. Step 1: Tap into a trending cultural phenomenon, i.e., the mainstream’s renewed fascination with 1980’s synth nostalgia. Step 2: Craft an irresistible remix of a hit TV show theme that lovingly nods to the original while injecting it with plenty of neon funk swagger. Step 3: Reap the almost instant career rewards that result from creating one of the most loved tracks of 2016. [Henry Johnstone]
#21 Skepta – Man
The UK grime scene roared back into the greater cultural consciousness last year, thanks in part to Skepta and the Godzilla-sized stomp of his single Shutdown. That one was inescapable in 2015 and it set a pretty lofty bar for Skepta’s fourth record, Konnichiwa. Luckily the album delivered and this year, the UK don has continued rattling with speakers with Man.
Adjusting to his newfound ubiquity on Man, Skepta bosses the would-be hangers-on trying to ride his coattails, hitting ‘em with a line like “told me you was a big fan but the first thing you said was can I get a pic for the ‘gram?” That’s gotta sting. [Dave Ruby Howe]