The 80 Best Tracks of 2016
#20 Tourist – Run
Could William Phillips – that’s the dude who produces as Tourist – think of anything more apt to title this tune than Run? Because it’s practically perfect – the title and the song itself, that is. One of many standouts from the London gun’s debut U LP, Run is the kind of song that demands movement.
If the rhythmic beat and the repeated intonations of “ruuuuuuuuuuuuun” don’t compel you to get off the couch and sprint down the street in your joggers, then it might very well convince you to pack your bags, tell your boss to shove it and race across the world and catch the sun setting over as many countries as you can before the euphoric smile makes your face hurt. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#19 Junior Boys – Big Black Coat (Robert Hood remix)
This meeting of minds between Detroit’s minimal-techno master and Toronto’s mavens of dark, obsessive electro-pop made for one the coolest tracks of the year. The tension between Jeremy Greenspan’s hushed crooning – spookily obsessing over the fashion choices of an unrequited love – and Hood’s surging horror-movie strings and brittle pulsating percussion makes for hair-raising feels when Big Black Coat is dropped at peak time. It’s highly reminiscent of Kevin Saunderson’s late-80s/early-90s fusions of techno and sythpop – a welcome nod to Detroit’s expansive, accessible roots. [Jim Poe]
#18 SBTRKT – I Feel Your Pain
D.R.A.M was thrown into the spotlight last year after accusing Drake of jacking his anthem Cha Cha for Hotline Bling, but in 2016 he seems to be moving on from the debacle. Here, he’s featured alongside Mabel on SBTRKT single I Feel Your Pain, the standout tune from a surprise 8-track release.
The staccato production is backed by synths that heighten greatly with uneasy tension, before relieving the listener and building once more. It’s a rollercoaster of sorts that D.R.A.M rides confidently with his silky crooning, and Mabel jumps on a verse before the two tangle towards the song’s cathartic end. [Christopher Kevin Au]
#17 Myd – No Bullshit
Both as a solo artist and part of Club Cheval, Myd has been at the forefront of hard edged electro-meets-hip hop sound. While Club Cheval’s debut album, Discipline, kind of missed the mark, No Bullshit delivers. Sure, Twice and Lil Patt aren’t exactly rap superstars – so you won’t hit play for the novelty of their guest feature – but their verses melt seamlessly into Myd’s comparatively subdued beat. The tropical melody, the moody rapping and the R&B hook all make for one of the best tracks of 2016. [Kish Lal]
#16 Mr Oizo ft. Skrillex End of the World
Oizo and Skrillex couldn’t stop gushing about each other after busting the generation divide and jumping into the studio together (“I could spend a month watching Skillex making beats…”; “Sitting next to Oizo was a priceless experience for me”). It would have been disappointing if the results were any less than super cool, but luckily End of the World exudes an effortless charm. An awkward robot vocoder sets the scene for several super-powered drops and sonic twists. [Angus Paterson]
#15 Mr Fingers – Qwazars
With this year’s Outer Acid EP, Chicago house legend Larry Heard returned for the first time in a decade to his storied Mr. Fingers moniker, under which he basically invented deep house with revolutionary tracks like Can You Feel It and Mystery of Love.
True to the EP’s name, Qwazars finds Heard in deep space, floating beyond the constraints of contemporary “deep house” with a dreamy medium tempo, a gentle kick and pulsating analogue synths. But as trippy as the track is, Heard’s signature jazzy keyboard riffs find that perfect vector between techno and soul. Like all of Heard’s late-period work, Qwazars transcends the dancefloor and is simply one of the best electronic records released this year. [Jim Poe]
#14 RÜFÜS – Innerbloom
To the casual observer, it would be easy to put RÜFÜS in a box as an accessible band with a great live show and a knack for writing direct, feel good hits. So you’ve got to give the trio due credit for really upping their game on their 2016 LP, Bloom, the crown jewel of which stands as Innerbloom.
Across nine minutes RÜFÜS use all their tricks to create a fully immersive experience that feels equally at home at dusk among thousands of punters at an outdoor festival as it does through a set of headphones, as the listener peers out a rain-drenched window contemplating fresh heartbreak. So congratulations to RÜFÜS for a their trademark high energy production with a genuinely meaningful soul. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#13 Mura Masa – Love$ick (Four Tet remix)
Some of Four Tet’s best work has been within the realm of hip hop – check his 2005 EP of Madvillain remixes for starters – and Love$ick continues that tradition in spectacular fashion.
His take on the worldwide smash hit from London producer Mura Musa adds a hot polyrhythmic tropical-funk feel to the original’s already blistering beat, along with a generous helping of his signature cosmic-jazzy chimes and bells. It’s one of those remixes that’s win-win: it retains the original’s brilliant rhymes and hooks while being unmistakably Four Tet. Essential stuff as ever from Kiaran Hebden. [Jim Poe]
#12 Seekae – Turbine Blue
On the surface, Seekae’s first single in two years appears to be a straight-up slice of electronic soul – the kind of sound that is being kicked around almost ad nauseam these days. But as the climax kicks in, listen a little closer, and you’ll notice something kind of genius (aside from Alex Cameron’s brilliant vocals). The pulsing bassline, the euphoric synths…is that…trance? Yep, and it sounds fucking awesome. Old school fans may argue otherwise, but Turbine Blue is the trio’s finest moment yet. [Henry Johnstone]
#11 Ta-ku & Wafia – Love Somebody
You could have a knife fight between this and Meet In The Middle as the pick of the lot, but for its warm romanticism I’ll favour Love Somebody as the standout single from the duo’s joint EP (m)edian.
It finds Ta-ku and Wafia playing to their strengths; a precisely-rendered production full of mood-driven cues and Wafia’s magnetic voice. It’s a fittingly cozy listen on the ears that wraps Wafia’s and, yes, Ta-ku’s vocals together like the tentative fingers of two young lovers holding hands on a first date. Aptly for such a successful partnership you could say that Ta-ku’s beats have never sounded better than with Wafia singing on them, and Wafia’s voice has never sounded better than it does against a Ta-ku backdrop. [Dave Ruby Howe]