Friday, December 23, 2016

Top 100 Tracks of 2016: 33 - 1

Continuation of the list started Wednesday: From 100 - 67, which also includes my disclaimer/preamble. The middle third of the list can be found here: From 66 - 34.
Soundcloud playlist can be found at the bottom.

#33: Maduk - Got Me Thinking ft. Veela
(As featured on EFYE) From those first strides of warm synths, and the accompanying bass grooves, the track picks up and continually gets steamier. It almost feels like a real band could play this, although they'd have to be operating at an incredibly high rate of speed. And boy would I love to see it played live. From Veela's strong yet ethereal vocals, through the endless groove, fabulous drum fills and playful progression, this track has everything. It gets me going and makes me hella happy.

#32: LDRU ft. Paige IV - Keeping Score (Cut Snake Remix)
(As featured on EFYE) When I wrote about the remixes of "Keeping Score," I called Oski's my favourite, since then I've changed my mind. Cut Snake have absolutely crushed and perfected the original (which too is brilliant). The foundation laid out by LDRU and Paige IV is beautiful, but the additional piano and fluid movement Cut Snake have injected is simply sublime. It's become the kind of all night party track that takes listeners through the gamut of emotions. It's smart, groovy and enchanting.

#31: A.G. Cook - Superstar
This track is built for lists like this, it literally has everything: beautiful vocals and lyrics, brilliant production, all wrapped together in an epic 5 minute journey of emotions. It's no secret how I feel about PC Music and their aesthetic, so clearly I'm a fan of the sounds their leader A.G. has used in this track, despite not being your typical PC Music track. Leaning more heavily on piano, live instrumentation, and Cook's voice, this track is an ode to true musicianship, that often seems absent in electronic music. Its beauty will have you reaching for the sky, hoping to grab a ride into the cosmos.

#30: Courts - Feel My Love
Right from the groovy pickup, Courts have crafted an absolutely captivating track. While it's a true electronic dance track, it (like many of the others on this list) features a ton of live instrumentation. That live element is so incredibly powerful, it's infectious from the fingers to the toes, and the head to the heart. It's one of the most fun tracks in this list, it has me grabbing for my air guitar and hairbrush microphone just to be a part of the band. It's impossible not to feel the love Courts are sharing.

#29: Stormzy - Scary (Slumberjack Edit)
(As featured on EFYE) This Slumberjack production is light years away from their other track on this list. Where "Open Fire" is kind and insightful, "Scary" is merciless and blunt. It absolutely hammers away at your senses, in the best way possible. It takes Stormzy's grime original and turns it into one of the most fire bangers of the year. It's diabolic is its delivery, leaving you stunned, stupefied and floored.

#28: Vera - Eeva (Sketch)
The beautiful tranquility of the flowing water in the opening, lays the foundation of this fresh and fully alive future bass track. It's at once like nothing I've ever heard before yet also so familiar. What would seem to be a cacophony of sounds couldn't be further from the fact. Vera is able to incorporate so much into one track, crafting unbelievable harmonies. Imagine Lido, Cashmere Cat, Ryan Hemsworth and Tennyson all worked together on a track, even then it might not match "Eeva."

#27: Jay Sean ft. Sean Paul - Make My Love Go (Cory Enemy & Syre Remix)
As soon as you hear that jazz flute you'll fall in love. The soaring beauty and fervent flow of this track is as mind-blowing as it is groovy. Add a little sprinkling of Sean Paul and you've got one of the coolest tracks of the year. We're getting to the point in the list where just about every track warrants repeat listening sessions. Set your iPod/iTunes to one track repeat and each and every second of this groove.

#26: Easyfun - Monopoly (ft. Noonie Bao)
(As featured on EFYE) Uh oh, I just looked at the soundcloud comments, and saw someone say "cool remix of Africa by Toto," and now that's all I can hear. That being said "Africa" is a hell of a track and so is this one, however I'd venture to say that "Monopoly" is better. For my ears, it has it all. The sharp synth stabs, wanton, wavering vocals and magnificent melodies make this a track I will no doubt be playing deep into 2017. I'm truly overwhelmed by its genius, left a mess trying to quantify each facet that combines to create the overall majesty. All I can say is "I want it all."

#25: Steve James - In My Head (ft. RKCB)
If I had to use a picture to describe this track I would choose the album art. After that incredible drum slap ahead of the drop, my brain explodes in a rainbow of emotions and thoughts. What are those sounds? Why do they sounds good? How can one track be so fulfilling? I've turned to this track so many times to shake me out of a funk. It's brilliantly beautiful, buoying the spirit with perfect piano chords, xylophone and whatever that vocal/synth thing is. Somehow I just cannot get enough of this track, I need it multiple times, one play is not enough. "Should I start again?"

#24: Mija & Vindata - Better
For a long time this year, there was no track that I went to more often than "Better," only topping it was the ridiculously awesome Grinless edit. Listening to the original again now, I'm yet again overwhelmed by the dynamic brilliance of the collab of the year. The diving vocals, the chimes, the percussion, the utterly freeing feel of everything that "Better" stands for.  The fills are so fire it hurts. The vocal samples are so perfect, "Yum," "Okay," "It keeps on getting better." The drop and subsequent bass rolls are forever my favourite part of this fluid masterpiece. If 2016 is the year of future bass, this is the seminal track.

#23: Brassica - Tears I Can Afford (Bicep Remix)
(As featured on EFYE) I think I'll always be struck by the brilliant bleepiness of this remix. It's an awesome and epic journey through alien sounds that should not be so powerful or fun. It should be weird, like aliens probing your eardrums, but it's not, it's just the genius of Bicep. The dynamic movement makes this one of the most incredible, non-stop thrill rides of the year. The propulsive percussion leads you through countless elements, from techno to trance to acid. The Bicep boys really flex their creative muscles with this one. There's no way to avoid being swept up by its utter madness.

#22: Cool Teens - Looking Glass
(As featured on EFYE) As I said before, this track is perhaps as bright, bouncy and beautiful as one track can be. As soon as I heard those first few notes, I knew this track was for me. It's so sparkly and uplifting. The groove from the drums and pitched vocals are scary alluring. It's like a kawaii carousel, that continually picks up steam adding layers of harmony like passengers. Cool Teens manipulation of each and every note, grabs my attention making a half dozen listens feel like a mere second.

#21: Danny L Harle - Ashes Of Love ft. Caroline Polachek
(As featured on EFYE) I still get shivers whenever I hear this one. But it's not just shivers, it's also the urge to run to the nearest rave. It's got everything that makes Danny L Harle one of my favourite artists. He utilizes the vocals to an awesome level, while crafting a bed for them to bounce on. It's both bright and kawaii, but also dark and ravey. It's never boring, as it overflows with life. I cannot help but spin around throwing my arms into the sky in reverence of the huge track Danny has crafted.

#20: ATO - Heaven (prod. by EDEN)
(As featured on EFYE) Even though I've called many of the other tracks in this list epic, this makes all others pale in comparison. The distinct parts of "Heaven" are mind-blowing, sweeping you off your feet, taking you through so many emotions, making you smarter with each verse. It is enlightening, uplifting and incredibly insightful. ATO delivers countless death blows of awesome imagery, that is only amplified by EDEN's unparalleled production. The two combine for a match made in heaven, bringing about the best and worst of this world, and making them cower in its supernatural presence.

#19: Tiga - Make Me Fall In Love (Prosumer's Mysti Mix)
(As featured on EFYE) Once again I'm going to differ to Tiga's description of this track "totally classy, slightly emo, deep and sweet." There is perhaps no better producer when it comes to crafting tracks for remixing. His ability to lay a foundation for others to exploit is unparalleled. Like Bicep's mix above, this too is an incredible journey, covering much ground, with bleepy production. The difference here is the vocals and Prosumer's use of them, they tie the track together so neatly. And like they say, "it makes me fall in love." This was, and still is, one of my most trusted palette cleansers.

#18: Boy 8-Bit - Desirable
I'll be honest, despite Boy 8-Bit being my favourite artist of all time, it took me a couple plays for me to really fall for this one. I had heard it before in his Transmission Mix, so I was already familiar with it, perhaps why its sheen was already a little worn. But on likely the 3rd or 4th listen, especially with the proper system allowing for maximal bass, I was finally ready to call this a full fledged five star track. It's got everything I've come to expect from a Boy 8-Bit production, unparalleled sound design with just the right amount of analog feel and pop. But then there's his percussion that always gets my motor going. Whether sampling or building his own, each and every sound is so effective working together in perfect harmony. The subtle effects he uses to propel the track back and forth show that, despite his recent quiet period, the man has not lost his touch. If it was deserving of being Beatport's track of the week, it is more than deserving of this spot in my top 100.

#17: Kye Munroe - Can't Get Enough (Future Magic Remix)
The most recently released track on this list. Of all of the artists I discovered in 2016, I don't think any can boast the number of releases Future Magic can. They certainly cannot hold a candle to the consistent quality he has. When Stefan first sent me this, I had to go back a couple times to the spot where the synth changes at 1:40. It fulfills so much of what I desire in music, the kind of cool funk that I love from Lifelike, but at a more upbeat tempo. That's exactly what I love about Future Magic's productions, he's got very similar tastes as me, and he delivers them in a way not many others dare. It's almost like I'm a producer, without having to do any work; every week or so I get a track in my inbox that satisfies all my cravings. As per usual, the key to the quality of Future Magic's productions lay in his ability to produce around vocals, and deliver drums that leave me breathless.

#16: Philip George & Dragonette - Feel This Way (Fred V & Grafix Remix)
2016 was the year drum and bass made a massive comeback in my listening habits, however this is the last of its type in this list. What makes this my favourite DnB track of the year is its beautiful combination of the light and bright leads, in particular the piano and Dragonette's vocals, with the deep groove of the synths. It absolutely flies out the speakers, with more subtle percussion than the rest of the DnB tracks on this list, as it slowly infects your consciousness. Fred V & Grafix are DnB legends because of this kind of production mastery. They are sneaky in their delivery of the mayhem that is the DnB drop. The fills and flourishes, especially the bent breakdowns in the drop are what take this from a merely enjoyable track to one that demands it be played over and over again.

#15: Foals - Mountain At My Gates (Alex Metric Remix)
(As featured on EFYE) For quite a while I thought this was going to be my track of the year, but I think I made the mistake of playing it too many times in a short period. I used this as my get home safe card for weeks, whenever coming back from the club or baseball. That being said, listening to it again I can't believe it fell to the back burner, in spite of me going to the well too many times. The way Metric produces around the vocals is truly unparalleled. He doesn't just hear the lyrics, he feels them, configuring each note around Foals' story. As well as Yannis Philippakis' poignant lyrics paint a picture, it is Metric's music that brings it to life. You can feel the titular mountain, jutting up in ominous opposition. The pièce de résistance comes with the line "I'll drive my car without the brakes," as the track propels into an almighty dance-off, punctuated by agonizingly reckless vocalizations.

#14: StéLouse & MYRNE - Call Me
Part of the reason I write these year end lists is to share tracks that I think went unheard or underappreciated. Many of the tracks in this list I've never heard played in the club. This track however, I've heard many times, still probably not enough, but every time I do, I absolutely lose it. Once again I find it hard to point to one thing that makes this track so perfect, it's truly each and every note and sound, coming together in beautiful and powerful harmony. The drop does it all, it wobbles, it wavers, it smashes and it ticks like a clock. But it's the percussion that throughout the track grips every moment and calls to my very soul. Finally, the delayed drop with the notification sound at 1:50 comes as a terrific cherry on top of one of the best and most fitting tracks of 2016.

#13: Gorgon City - All Four Walls (ft. Vaults)
At first I just really liked this song, and thought it was all kinds of cool and catchy, especially in regards to the synth tuning and those drum flourishes. Then I saw it played live in the BBC Radio One Live Lounge. That was the moment that I fell in hopelessly in love with it, and Vaults. The dynamics and emotion in Blythe Pepino's voice is simply breathtaking, leaving me a shadow of myself, melting in her glory. I'm proud to say I've been a fan of Gorgon City from day one with The Crypt, and I can safely say this is their best all around production. It is utterly alluring, bringing everything they've become known for to the table, delivering what is truly one of the standout tracks of the year.

#12: Dombresky - Be Real
(As featured on EFYE) Earlier in this list I declared Dombresky my breakout artist of the year, and this track is, in my opinion, his best work to date. I'm still stunned by it's magnificent beauty. Those swinging strings are so uplifting, it makes you feel invincible, as though you could soar above any problem (and that's something we desperately need in 2016). The strings dance with the drums in such stunning harmony that I wonder whether Dombresky is even human at all. The percussion, as we can now expect from Dombresky, is sensational, driving the delirium that is "Be Real." Finally the squelching yet scintillating synth solo following the second drop, lead by the scratching effects, is the highlight of the track, that in itself is a highlight of a magically year.

#11: BLU J - IN 2 U
First off let me be cheeky in saying, "I'm so into [this] I can barely breathe." I told you both BLU J and Ariana would make another appearance on this list. And how could I pass up this ridiculously awesome bootleg flip. It's so beautiful in every way. It sneakily glides underneath Ariana's vocals, building into a bass throbbing monster. The drops are truly two of my favourites of the year. I could listen to this on repeat for days. There's really no secret to what makes this track so incredible. The nonstop bass in the drops, falls so perfectly after the sly riser. Each additional layer of harmonic bass, and punctuating effects set this up as an unreal and unholy remix that takes Ariana's vocals to new, unheard of heights.

#10: illstrtd ft. Mack Moses - Pictures Don't Fade (Dugong Jr. Remix)
For quite a while I sat on this track as only a soundcloud stream, as I couldn't find a proper download link. However that didn't stop me from enjoying it regularly. I kept coming back day after day to bask in its glory. Don't let the euphoric and bubbly first minute trick you, this track absolutely rips your sub-woofer a new one. I'm constantly getting in trouble for having my sub too loud, but this track causes the most trouble. One time, I threw it on while I was getting ready to go out, perhaps a touch louder than normal, and I got bawled out like crazy by my grandmother, saying "it was rattling her cranium." So let that be a warning, the bass in the drop is next level. It's so well designed that it literally screams out the speaker. It's got the kind of sub-harmonic production quality of Botnek, it's almost alive, growling, or in this case, purring.

#9: Nils Bech - Glimpse Of Hope (Joe Goddard Remix)
(As featured on EFYE) This track still has a little bit of recency bias, but I'm going to charge ahead and claim that it would earn a spot so high on this list regardless. I'm reminded that it was this time last year when Hot Chip (of which Joe Goddard is a member) released their remix of New Order's "Tutti Frutti." The two tracks boast the kind of analog synth construction that for me seems utterly alive. It's warm and heartfelt, perfectly emulating the frolicking island rhythms of this track. I'm still struck by Goddard's ability to work around vocals, especially such delicate ones as in this piece. They are the cherry on top of this delicious tropical delicacy. He's able to weave each indelible layer together with such fervent gusto; truly a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

#8: Lido - Murder
(As featured on EFYE) The choice of which track to include from Lido's album Everything was a tough one, and despite surviving on nothing but "Crazy" for months in anticipation of its release I decided that "Murder" filled more of the qualities I was looking for in this list. Plus I was, and still am, pissed that he cancelled his Toronto tour date, the day of. So I think it's safe to say this one speaks to me a little more. It's got everything I've grown to love from Lido, incredible instrumentation, jazzy influences, and unreal feels. The emotion he's able to inject into all of his tracks, especially this one, is simply staggering. The bleepy builds and roaring vocals leading into the all out drops are the things of dreams, what I wouldn't give to see him play that live, gah. But truly the cherry on top of this one is the awesome orchestral ending, that always reminds me of my favourite childhood Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. Please Lido, make good on your promise and, come back to Toronto, soon!

#7: Maggie Rogers - Alaska (Luca Lush & Bishu Remix)
The first time I heard this I tweeted out that this is what (I hope) jazz clubs of the future will sound like. I'm still blown away by every aspect and section of this truly incredible bootleg remix. From the bells in the beginning to their treatment of Rogers' visceral vocals, to the notification sound effect ahead of the first drop. The explosion of the first drop, punctuated by shrill ringing synths and pitched vocal chops, make it magical. But then there's the mid section. The sound design of each element lift the vocals to further, unimaginable heights. And wait, we still haven't even come close to the best part. Hear that sax, slowing entering in the riser? The way it plays in the second drop is exactly what I was talking about in the tweet. Each element comes together is the most beautiful of harmonies, taking my breath away.

#6: Henrik The Artist - Lose You
This is the third and highest entry from Henrik The Artist in this countdown. We were finally graced with a full EP from our friend Henrik, and although it's almost impossible to choose just one track from Friendship, this is the one that called out to me the most. It's a classic Henrik production with all of his hallmarks. It's kawaii as ever, bouncy and bright, full of fun and incredibly uplifting, and of course it's got that indescribable technological/mechanical signature sound. It's heartfelt and buoying, and encapsulates everything I love about Henrik.

#5: Chet Porter - tbh ily
(As featured on EFYE) It's only fitting that Chet and Henrik take back to back spots in my top 10, as they were both part of my "Best Musical Moment of 2015." It is even this track from Chet that went unreleased until this February, a year after we first heard it in Ryan Hemsworth's Valentines Day mix for Diplo and Friends. I've spoken so much about this track, here on my blog and on Bump In The Hump, that is should come as no surprise that it made this list. It is delightfully stunning, and beautiful, creating a dazzling serenity that reaches a new peak with utterly effervescent strings, plucking the chords of your heart. Again, and I know I've said this a lot, but these are the best track of the year, everything in this track is pure perfection. It take bounding, blissful strides, and finally reaches its pinnacle with the re-calibrating drops at the 0:40 and 2:13 marks. It's the silence before the squeezed bottle of toothpaste pops. Thereafter it achieves the truly Utopian feel that imbues each of Chet's tracks.

#4: Pusher - Clear (ft. Mothica)
I've been saying this all year, that Pusher's "Clear" is without a doubt one of the best productions of the year. In fact I wrote it in as my choice for dance recording of year in my Grammys post. I don't know how many times I've found myself in awe of Mothica's lyrics, which I cannot help but believe are perfect for this track. Pusher clearly knows his stuff when it comes to harmonies and that prowess is on full display here. It's rare to have a future bass track that both excels through brilliant and powerful vocals, while allowing for incredible vocal chops and pitching. This is producer and vocalist symbiosis, both showing the world pure, unadulterated beauty.

#3: Zayn - Like I Would (Rytmeklubben Remix)
I guess I lied when I said #6 was the highest entry for Henrik The Artist, as he's a member of Rytmeklubben. This track sits as the most played track of all in this list, by a mile at that. ATO's "Heaven" sits at second with 62 plays, whereas this has a staggering 102, putting it at number 5 overall, in the list of most played in my iTunes. That's how much I like it and how often I can listen to it. I've still never been able to play it loud enough that I thought "maybe I should turn this down." It's sparkly and bouncy as can be, making a Zayn track something I could listen to, and a hell of a lot at that. The four Norwegians lean on a variety of instrumentation to imbue this track with so much beauty and movement. Guitar, string, xylophones, roaring lions, and every kind of drum known to man kind. They leave no stone un-turned in transforming Zayn into a true god, not a mere pop star.

#2: Manila Killa ft. Joni Fatora - All That's Left (The M Machine Remix)
When I wrote about the original Manila Killa version (here), I called it enchanting and captivating, with its whirling production, mimicking the lyrics "We go round and round like a carousel." That fact remains true in The M Machine's version, the only difference is this version is said carnival is made for giants, and those giants are on very powerful drugs. It is simply massive, and hits so incredibly hard with its unmatched, yet trademark M Machine bass. Again, the only proper word to describe a track of this magnitude is epic. Right from the get go, the massive bass and percussion combine to monumental effect. The contrasting bright bleeps and bloops on top of the dark, deep and downright dirty bass, make for a truly mind blowing combination. There are several spots that could be the cherry on top, but for me there are two such sections. One, where the percussion pops and whirls, again emulating the carousel feel, from 3:43 to 4:32. And two, the breakdown where they go back and forth between almost ignorant levels of stomping bass and Joni Fatora's vocals, from 5:19 to 5:52. I can, and have, rode this magic carousel many times and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

#1: Justice - Randy
We've reached it, the musical pinnacle of 2016. You may very well have guessed that this would be my number one track, as just about every night on my way home from the club this is the first track I turn to, often tweeting out some of the lyrics. I turn to it whenever I wake up, or when I need something to brighten my day. No matter what I'm doing when I hear Morgan Phalen deliver the track's title, I too sing along to that absolutely awesome lyric. I just cannot let a single "Randy" go without joining in. While the way he sings it may be my favourite part of the song, there's so much more to love. Justice have combined strings, drums, and guitars all under their trademark electro style like nothing else I've ever heard. It's even got a little bit of disco vibes. There's really nothing I don't enjoy about this track. The drum rolls. The soaring strings. The guitar riffs. The synth chords. The journey. It's truly an epic combination proving that 2016 isn't just about future bass, it can also be a time of remembrance of things past, and bringing them back to life. But unlike so many of the reboots (Star Wars, Lethal Weapon, etc), this one is actually good. It's actually better than good, it's the best. Please, please, please Justice come to Toronto on your tour, I need to see you play this live. That's my hope for 2017. I at least deserve to hear "Randy" on a big system one time. If you're one of my DJ friends reading this, please play it, don't tell me though, I want to be surprised. You might even see me cry.

 Missing from this playlist #91, but you can stream/download it here.
Also missing, #36, it can be streamed/downloaded here.