Goodbye 2016, and good riddance. As a disastrous twelve months for the human race comes crashing to a close, sweeping up a few more icons of music and cinema along the way, solace can be found in those parts of the year that weren’t cataclysmic. Searching among the debris for our tracks of the year, we found these ten diamonds in the rough and we present them to you, polished up and proud as emblems of the fact that – in a world with room for Trump and Farage but not Bowie or Rickman – all is not (yet) lost. You can also find them in our Best of 2016 playlists on Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube.
1. The Blaze – Virile: The debut release from French duo The Blaze went largely unnoticed at the start of 2016. With its pensive vocals, catchy melody and rising synths, the tune is at once euphoric and reflective. The lyrics stress the importance of love and togetherness and this warmth is brought to life wonderfully by friends of The Blaze in the accompanying vid. A real delight.
2. Midland – Final Credits: An outstanding Essential Mix and a brilliant EP (‘Blush’) were followed up by his highest position on RA’s top 100 DJs. Whilst 2016 was awful for almost all of us, Midland kept doing what he does best and enjoyed another great year. It was ‘Final Credits’ though – released on Midland’s very own Regraded label – that stole the limelight. Mixmag’s track of the year, ‘Final Credits’ combines a melancholic Gladys Knight sample, with a trademark heavy house beat. It was irresistible at festivals and clubs the world over in 2016.
3. Mood Hut – Better: This bundle of fun came out on Vancouver’s Mood Hut in August this year and harks back to label affiliates JLM and Chris Wang’s Love Dancing parties back in 2009. Both this and B-side ‘Fever’ are irresistibly colourful disco numbers. Credit here should also go to Gladys Knight.
4. Lindstrøm – Closing Shot: It takes a couple of minutes for Lindstrøm to really set the scene here, but once in full bloom ‘Closing Shot’ rivals fellow Scandi-disco bossman Todd Terje for anthemic, feel-good vibes. We’ve had it on repeat since coming out in March.
5. MLiR – People: The Swedish duo that is MLiR (Modern Life is Rubbish) released their debut EP on the excellent Studio Barnhus on 20th June, and this vibrant gem always brings a smile to our faces. Looking forward to hearing more from them in 2017.
6. DJ Sotofett – Current 82 (12 Mix): DJ Sotofett’s 12″ mix of ‘Current 82’ is nearly 14 minutes long. We’ve lost count of the number of times we settled down to listen to this track, only to be interrupted and have to start from the beginning. It was never a chore to do so. Our first discovery of ‘Current 82’ was courtesy of a trippy, slowed down YouTube video, seemingly of the final moments of a rooftop rave. The sun coming up, crowd looking frazzled but happy, this scene was the perfect accompaniment to a remarkable track. Whilst not a club banger, it reminds us of the great qualities dance music is capable of possessing.
7. David August – J.B.Y: The Hamburg producer extraordinaire returned after a two-year hiatus bigger and bolder than ever. This epic and melodic track was his first release on Ninja Tune’s Counter Records and proved to be an excellent addition to his all-new live shows.
8. Jump Source – All My Love Is “Free”: Canadian house music continues to provide understated gems. Elsewhere in our Top 10 we’ve already touched on the Vancouver-based Mood Hut, and Jump Source – helmed by Montreal’s Project Pablo and Francis Oak – replicates the feel-good vibe that has become the trademark of the blossoming Canadian scene. ‘All My Love Is “Free”‘, all high hats and echoey piano, is a warm summer day of a house anthem. A lot of the tracks that we put forward for this year’s final playlist had an introspection that reflected the melancholia of 2016. By contrast, ‘All My Love Is “Free”‘ is pure escapism.
9. Fort Romeau – Secrets & Lies: We continue to be very fond of Fort Romeau’s production and DJ skills. He seemed to take things to a new level in 2016, with the establishment of his Cin Cin label as an essential name for record collectors and DJs. His ‘Secrets & Lies’ EP, released on Live At Robert Johnson way back in January, stood the test of time to make it onto this list. In all honesty, we could have selected either ‘Facing The Sea’ or ‘Secrets & Lies’, but we plumped for the title track in the end. Ten minutes of acid, with a Dirty Dancing sample on loop. Magnificent.
10. Gonno & Nick Hoppner – As Above, So Below: Panorama Bar resident Nick Höppner teamed up with Japanese producer and DJ Gonno to create this dreamy slice of house. Featured in John Talabot’s brilliant Phonica mix, and released soon after on Ostgut Ton, ‘As Above, So Below’ has a lot going on – most prominent of all is a beautiful melody that really got under our skin in 2016.
Head over here for our ‘Top 10 Albums of 2016’ and here for our ‘Best Mixes of 2016’. Alternatively tuck into the below for our extended ‘Best of 2016’ playlist.
See you in 2017.