The 50 Best Tracks of 2016…So Far
#10 Ta-ku & Wafia – Meet in the Middle
Though we first got acquainted with Ta-ku through his many beat sketch tapes, lately the Perth producer has been exploring the songwriting side of his artistry. In Brisbane’s Wafia, he’s found an ideal collaborator.
Meet In The Middle is the first taste of the duo’s forthcoming joint EP (m)edian and 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 and, yes, Ta-ku’s vocals together like the tentative fingers of two young lovers holding hands on a first date. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#9 Anohni – Drone Bomb Me
Anohni’s voice has always been a powerful force, a vivid beauty like no other. Here, it’s weaponised. For the album Hopelessness, producers Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke provide a fractured, techno-dystopic setting for Anohni’s politically charged commentary.
Drone Bomb Me is a confronting depiction of the now. Anohni attunes to global horrors, and brings it all to the fore in vivid, literal detail. Anohni pushes the boundaries conceptually, OPN and HudMo manage to find instrumentation that lend to both the horror and the beauty. [Lachlan Kanoniuk]
#8 Underworld – I Exhale
By now Karl Hyde and Rick Smith are both well into their fifties, but they’re still turning out the sort of music that makes you want to ignore all adult responsibilities and cut shapes in a crowded warehouse until dawn. I Exhale, the lead single from their first album in six years, is pinger music so pure you can just about taste the endorphins. It doesn’t mess much with the classic Underworld formula – those hazy drums and Hyde’s spoken word vocals still have centre stage – but we’re not sick of the ‘90s rave vibes yet. [Katie Cunningham]
#7 Mark Pritchard – Beautiful People ft. Thom Yorke
This moody, implosive, achingly melodic midtempo ballad is a dream-team meet-up between one of electronic music’s most respected and versatile producers and Radiohead’s always-adventurous frontman. It’s a highlight on the first album in five years from the England-born, Sydney-based Pritchard, who’s stayed busy and recorded under many aliases since his 90s heyday in Global Communication.
The cool thing about this collab is the way its influences cut both ways. It’s obviously Pritchard’s loving tribute to Radiohead and their impact on contemporary music. At the same time it lets Yorke get weird for a release on Warp Records – whose glitchy classics from Aphex Twin and Autechre in turn loomed large over Radiohead’s leap into electronica at the turn of the millennium. [Jim Poe]
#6 KLLO – Bolide
There’s been a well of talent in the Melbourne electronica underground in the past five or so years, bubbling forth onto SoundCloud with a loosely intertwining community. Simon Lam has been overachieving with projects such as the now-defunct I’lls, his newly resuscitated solo project Nearly Oratorio, and here with Chloe Kaul as Kllo.
Bolide is their best track yet, a gentle construction of ornate clicks and whirring bass. International success resulted in an extra ‘L’ added to their name due to German translation issues. Bolide will guarantee Kllo continue to be flushed with success. [Lachlan Kanoniuk]
#5 Miike Snow – Gengis Khan
While it’s been four years between drinks for Miike Snow, the Swedish-American trio showed no signs of musical cobwebs when they released their third record iii back in March. The stylish production from Bloodshy & Avant and Andrew Wyatt’s distinct lead vocal still sound super crisp, especially on album highlight Genghis Khan.
Reunited with their frequent collaborator Henrik Jonback (who’s also worked with Avicii and Britney Spears) Miike Snow saunter and shuffle all over this one, reaching genuine ear-worm status with that chorus and the ooh-ooh-oohs. Bonus points for that video clip. [Dave Ruby Howe]
#4 Baauer – Kung Fu ft. Pusha T, Future
“This is one of the missiles. This is one of the ones I guarantee is gonna make some kind of noise,” Baauer said of his track Kung Fu. It’s a statement that’s not to be taken lightly, and here Bauuer delivers a banger that’s enough to cause a snowstorm.
Pusha T delivers vicious verses that build upon his two-decade career of cocaine-based bravado, while the hovering production gains ominous weight for Future’s melodic, drawling hook. And just when you thought that the duo had delivered every drug reference possible, Pusha uses Macklemore as a metaphor for that illicit white substance. Suited to an Atlanta strip club or Miami mega-festival, Kung Fu is the crossover that most producers wish they could craft, and the track that Baauer’s been destined to make in his post-Harlem Shake career. [Christopher Kevin Au]
#3 Kaytranada – Glowed Up
Given that Kaytranada and Anderson.Paak previously connected on the soulfully upbeat Lite Weight, expectations were high for Glowed Up – and it shines with hazy energy as one of the highlights from the former’s brilliant 99.9% album.
Trickling synths are bolstered by thumping, head-nod percussion, with Anderson.Paak’s raps reclining comfortably in between. His nonchalant approach aligns with Kaytranada’s equally relaxed approach to production, and mid-way through the beat flips and eases even further into dreamland territory with rolling bass and drums that hit like sonic skipping stones. [Christopher Kevin Au]
#2 Flume – Never Be Like You
Flume’s most successful single so far, his first #1 on the ARIA chart and a worldwide hit, was, thankfully, a track that you didn’t really get sick of hearing just about everywhere you went. An ideal balance of sugary pop hooks and warped, jagged production, Never Be Like You is, like most of Flume’s work, a lot better than it has to be for heavy rotation on triple j. It’s the type of tune that provokes obsessive fascination each time the chorus climaxes, and makes your spine shiver each time the kick drum does one of those weird, wobbly dropouts. [Jim Poe]
#1 Isaac Tichauer – Higher Level (Bicep remix)
There’s a theme running through the majority of Bicep’s productions: an unashamed love for retro house music. Single out any one of their cuts from the last five years and it’s almost guaranteed to sound like something straight outta 1993. This is no bad thing; ‘90s house is still very much in vogue, and Bicep have a canny knack for making their tracks sound decidedly fresh.
For their remix of Sydney-bred producer Isaac Tichauer’s Higher Level, Bicep continue to play to their strengths. Over a signature ‘90s drum beat and bass line, the Irish duo rinse the living fuck out of a twirling synth pattern, building it up and up until triumphant pads begin to emerge at the surface. It’s a deceptively simple trick that is deadly effective because, before you know it, everything has broken apart at the seams and euphoria is spilling out all over the dance floor. Why change a winning formula? [Henry Johnstone]