In 2019, dance music went in many disparate directions, with artists from the realm expanding further into the fields of pop, rock, country, house, tech-house, techno, disco, bass and beyond, altogether establishing electronic music as one of the most eclectic — and thus one of the most interesting — genres in the world.
While the year’s 50 standout tracks are certainly varied, they’re linked by a shared ability to get feet moving, heads bobbing and emotions swirling. Indeed, while the dance scene is home to many types of artists and fans, whatever our electronic genre of choice, we’re all after that same feeling of unity, catharsis and elevation that a quality track can so effectively provide.
These are the 50 that gave us that feeling in 2019.
Alison Wonderland, “Peace”
It’s in Alison Wonderland’s nature to be honest with her emotions. She’s never held back — in her lyrics or on Twitter — and has been celebrated for her frank approach to discussing mental health. Following up on her 2018 album Awake, this year the Australian producer gifted the world “Peace,” a melodic anthem that digs into that delicate, but empowering feeling of recovery. Though Alison Wonderland has sung on much of her own discography, her recent releases have begun to feature her vocals more prominently, and rightly so. She might be one of a few artists able to easily jump from playing the Tomorrowland main stage to sitting down for a stripped back acoustic version of her track of the year. — VALERIE LEE
Amtrac, “Between The Lines”
The year was almost over, but Amtrac came through in the early half of December with one last groovy earworm we just had to put on our list. “Between The Lines” is a return to indie-dance force for the anything-goes producer. It’s an ode to the beauty of repetition, played out in sonic loops and building layers. Interstellar synth lines glitter over soulful piano chords, lone guitar wails and driving bass rhythms, while Amtrac grabs the mic to deliver an infectious vocal designed in the style of a sample. The music video plays on themes of obsession, depicting a man consumed by the never-ending search for UFOs. “Between The Lines” is the first single from Amtrac’s forthcoming sophomore LP Oddyssey, which he says will include more vocal-driven dance-pop, with a myriad of vibes from indie, post-rock and heavy electronics. — KAT BEIN
Avicii feat. Aloe Blacc, “SOS”
Completed from a MIDI file left behind by the late producer, “S.O.S” is the crown jewel of Avicii’s posthumous third studio album. Featuring the luscious vocals of soul singer Aloe Blacc, the lead single off Tim sounds a lot like an invitation to come out of the darkness and into the light. But despite the sunny lyrics and seemingly happy strums, the emotional track strikes a melancholy tone. There’s no denying that Tim Bergling had his demons, and “S.O.S” plays back like a not-so-cryptic cry for help. Though softened by Avicii’s signature upbeat harmonies and a pop-leaning hook, “S.O.S” will stand as a lasting reminder that there’s sometimes more to a song than meets the ear. — MEGAN VENZIN
In the 12 years since his breakout album Untrue, we’ve seen several evolutions of Burial. The London-based producer has kept up his signature moves — the dusty shuffling, spectral voices and hangar-sized echo — while swerving into clubbier territory. In June, he emerged from the shadows with “State Forest” and “Claustro,” his first solo releases in two years. While “State Forest” is pure atmosphere, “Claustro” jostles you to the dancefloor, its UK garage beat and stretched R&B sample racing to the finish line. The trance-inflected curveball closer is Burial at his most extroverted. — JACK TREGONING
CamelPhat feat. Jake Bugg, “Be Someone”
CamelPhat and Jake Bugg collab “Be Someone” is full of sexy, rolling basslines, haunting melodies and reverberating vocals. A hypnotic bass-laden track with a motivational narrative that feels especially at home on a dusty dancefloor, “Be Someone” is the type of electronic track that lingers in your head long after the sun has come up and the music has stopped. — MORENA DUWE
It speaks to Dan Snaith’s supreme confidence that his first Caribou track since 2014 clocks in at just two minutes and 36 seconds. Built around a sample from Gloria Barnes’ 1970s deep cut of the same name, “Home” foregrounds Snaith’s sensitive vocals in a composition that sits outside any trends of the moment. Its rich horns and spinning rhythm appeared as a welcome balm in October, proving Caribou can find a home in any year. — J.T.
Channel Tres, “Sexy Black Timberlake”
Simply put, Channel Tres’ music sounds impossibly cool. The Compton-raised artist combines laidback rap bars with silky house grooves and nods to his hometowns gangster rap origins with a West Coast spin. “Sexy Black Timberlake,” from his Black Moses EP, is made both for dancing and boulevard cruising, but like many dance greats, the track also makes you think. Beyond the surface layer of fun and cheekiness is the artist’s experience being “vilified or objectified” as a black man. — KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ
The Chainsmokers & Illenium Feat. Lennon Stella, “Takeaway“
It’s The Chainsmokers’ world, we’re just out here inhaling the second-hand smoke. The duo clocked a major hit this year with “Takeaway,” a collab with vocalist Lennon Stella and electronic phenom Illenium. The Forbes list’s top earning DJs of 2019 further blurred the line between dance and pop with the track, a lovelorn ballad that served as a highlight of their major World War Joy tour this year. — KATIE BAIN
The Chemical Brothers, “Got to Keep On”
Now over two decades into the game, The Chemical Brothers are as good as ever. On their excellent ninth album, No Geography, the legendary U.K. duo went disco in album single “Got to Keep On,” to delightful results. A space-rave Soul Train complete with cherubic bells, a vocal sample from a 1968 dial-a-poem phone service and a devastatingly beautiful breakdown, it’s no surprise that the song is up for best dance recording at the 2020 Grammy Awards. — K.R.
David Guetta & Martin Solveig, “Thing For You“
Sometimes you want your dance music to hit you over the head like a baseball bat, and sometimes you simply want to float along on a reasonable beat and a melody you can sing to. This past summer, French connection David Guetta and Martin Solveig offered this latter option with “Thing For You,” a simply delightful house/pop earworm about the trials and tribulations of crushing hard. Fundamentally sweet, the song remains stuck in our heads five months months after its release. The remixes are worth a ride, as well. — K. Bain
Diplo, “Hold You Tight“
Diplo took a hard right into house this year with the launch of his genre-oriented Higher Ground label and the imprint’s first release, a four-track EP of the same name. The standout was “Hold You Tight,” an immersive float through the darker corners of clubland that the Dip’d one backed up with many a great house set, which this year he played in locations as varied as Burning Man, myriad Hollywood nightclubs and the perch of Australian bridge. Like many of the moves Diplo made this year — from bangin’ out the twang at Stagecoach to trolling the Jonas Brothers — the reasoning behind this sound expansion seemed to be simply, why not? — K. Bain
Dog Blood, “Break Law”
In 2012, Skrillex and Boys Noize came together to create a digital-analog hybrid that banged harder, got weirder and grooved gnarlier than anything else on the market. Dog Blood was funky, heavy and fast-lived. A two-track EP was followed by a three-song Pt. 2 in 2013, then the duo disappeared. The pair were seen together in 2018, and rumors swirled of a reunion. The hype paid off in March with headline sets at Buku Festival in New Orleans and Ultra in Miami. Then a four-song EP, Turn Off the Lights, dropped in May, signaling a revamped style in sound and design.
“Break Law” is the EP’s intro tune, a stunning and cinematic opener that builds suspense and sets the tone for the journey ahead. A minute-long build sampling “Sona Sona” from the 1998 Bollywood film Major Saab crashes into a menacing mechanical break, then descends into a trunk-thumping onslaught of attitude with a sample of Queen Latifah’s 1989 cut “Dance For Me.” It’s a downright evil beat for BAMFs around the world, and it deserves to be played on really good speakers, very loudly. — K. Bein
Dua Lipa, “Don’t Start Now”
Is Dua Lipa is the official soundtracker of post-breakups? Perhaps channeling Gloria Gaynor, the reigning queen of kiss-offs dropped a late-year Ian Kirkpatrick-produced mirrorball grenade on the world’s discos, making it clear that she is unapologetically “so moved on it’s scary.” Tossing out the chorus of “walk away, you know how,” like she’s casually throwing out daggers, “Don’t Start Now” is the sound of a woman who knows how to play her strengths and give her audience what they want. — ZEL MCCARTHY
Fisher, “You Little Beauty”
It feels like Fisher’s 2018 breakout hit “Losing It” was ages ago, with how far the Australian artist has skyrocketed since. While maintaining his status as a headliner across top festivals and playing around the world, Fisher released another defining tune of the year, with 2019’s “You Little Beauty.” Starting with a fiery vocal sample from disco diva Loleatta Holloway, Fisher added a big bassline and a tried-and-true 4×4 kick, continuing the tech house reign with the irresistible tune. The icing on the cake is in its name: “You Little Beauty” is a slang phrase encapsulating a righteous good time, taken straight from Fisher’s native Gold Coast. — V.L.
Floating Points, “LesAlpx”
Soon, our Alexas and Google Homes will get weekends off, too, and “LesAlpx” is an ear to the wall of that server-room rave. Over the course of a carefully paced five minutes, Floating Points bolts static-y snares, bleeps and bloops and a frenetic clap rhythm into a jagged trance anthem. It’s true order-from-chaos stuff, and a stunning portrait of electronic music sounds like in the future we’re living in. — DYLAN OWENS
Floating Points, “Last Bloom”
Floating Points described his second album, Crush, as “some of the most obtuse and aggressive music I’ve ever made.” The LP’s lead single, “Last Bloom,” is by no means aggressive, but its atmospheric, almost sentient sound design hints at a wild ecosystem unfurling beneath the rippling surface. How can something machine-made sound so organic? “Last Bloom” is cerebral and emotional IDM crafted with surgical precision. — K.R.
Flume with Hwls, Slowthai, “High Beams”
After the big Grammy-winning success that was Skin, Australian future bass pioneer Flume had a case of the LP pressures. Rather than worry about creating the perfect third album, he decided to create a “mixtape” from bits and pieces. He transformed random noises into tunes with his friends in the studio, breathing new life and fun into the creative process.
It’s hard to pick just one track from the continuous 17 that are Hi This Is Flume, but “High Beams” with fellow Aussie producer Hwls and U.K. rising star Slowthai (who went on to work with Tyler, The Creator, Brockhampton, Mura Masa as well as release his own critically-acclaimed debut in 2019) is a perfect picture of Flume’s quest to get down and dirty. There are grimy mechanical moments intertwined with beautiful, aimless and introspective melodies. It’s the yin and yang of a man discovering the bleeding edges of himself while creating new frontiers for the electronic scene, and not without a little help from his friends. — K. Bein
If you’re a fan of the creeping synth soundtrack to Stranger Things, French 79’s “Hometown” is the brooding beauty you’ll put on repeat. The A minor groove is pure bittersweet nostalgia, a haunting dance through the hopeful halls of yesteryear. It’s a deeply personal song, the first that sees the producer (born Simon Henner) writing and singing his own lyrics. The song reflects his childhood in the northeastern town of Epinal, France, while utilizing a two-part sonic structure to represent the dual sides of his musical universe.
The song was released as the second lead single from his album Joshua, which further infused this sense of the past. “I use a musical palette that plunges me back into my teenage films,” the producer says, “the synth sounds of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jacques Cousteau’s fascinating documentaries on the marine world, the melodies of François De Roubaix, the moods of films like Blade Runner.” — K. Bein
It’s impossible to know how many bouts of whiplash have occurred as a result of this decimating banger. A testament to G Jones’ beat making skills, “In Your Head” is a nightmarish soundscape that lingers in a good way, with a reverb-soaked intro, haunting vocal samples and devastating drops that easily enabled it to become one of 2019’s standout experimental bass productions. Like a punch to the face or an IV drip of boiling hot coffee, it energizes and destroys at the same time. It spurred some hella good edits too — RL Grime’s trap-inspired take slaps especially hard. — M.V.
French prince of darkness Gesaffelstein made his name on hard, trudging, industrial electronica, the kind of sound people wanna label “witch house” because it’s so mechanically menacing. He blew up in 2013 with “Pursuit,” “Hellifornia” and “Hate or Glory,” helped produce Kanye West’s Yeezus, and then got pretty mute. He re-emerged in March with his sophomore follow-up Hyperion, a disjointed offering that straddled a dark-pop crossover and minimal cinematic moods. It was cool, but it left some fans wanting — and Gesa gave them a fist-full of frightful with his blitzkrieg follow-up EP Novo Sonic System a mere seven months later.
The six-track project took a lot of punk influence, especially on intro tune “Orck.” It rips out the gate at a running tempo, banging out treble and bass synths that mimic the thrash of ’80s and ’90s speed metal. The new work came just in time for his all-black-everything 2019 tour, wherein he appeared covered in dark metallic paint before stage production so dark, it’s actually impossible to see. King of the unexpected, Gesaffelstein remains. — K. Bein
Gorgon City and Kaskade Feat. Roméo, “Go Slow”
This track is all about pumping the brakes, and damn does it pump. But, let’s be real…there’s nothing leisurely about the deep, dark basslines of Gorgon City’s “Go Slow.” In this slammin’ collaboration with Kaskade, the U.K. duo once again show off their innate ability to dish out vocal-forward house heaters that light dancefloors ablaze the world over. The memorable lyrics are brought to life by vocalist Roméo — an unintended literary reference that feels almost fortuitous, given the “fragile love”-centric subject matter. — M.V.
Gryffin & Slander, “All You Need to Know”
There’s a magic formula in the right soulful vocal melody paired with a hard-hitting and perfectly timed drop. Leave it not to one, but two acts that have proven to be masters of that recipe to team up to create a track of the year with “All You Need to Know,” a song which feels more like a story with the way it tugs at your heartstrings. Calle Lehmann’s soaring vocals lead up to Slander and Gryffin’s moment of catharsis, which has rightfully become a highlight across both of both their live sets and the internet. The song’s comments on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram are littered with touching and personal stories about love and loss. No shame if you’re one of the many who’s admitted to shedding a few tears to this one. — V.L.
Hot Chip, “Hungry Child”
In the high-concept “Hungry Child” music video, the song mysteriously follows a couple through their everyday life. “Ugh, I hate house music,” a passerby scoffs. The video’s in-jokes are fun, but “Hungry Child” is best taken in its pure form as an unapologetic love letter to the house genre. Its elements build and swell to a final third that’s all-out ecstatic. In a scene constantly reshaped by newcomers, it’s rare to find a band sounding this vital on its seventh album. — J.T.
Illenium & Jon Bellion, “Good Things Fall Apart”
Fewer electronic albums were more hotly anticipated this year than Illenium’s Ascend, and the project didn’t disappoint, expanding the celestial sound and scorched earth aesthetic the producer has cultivated throughout his career. Illenium’s third studio LP and major label debut, via Astralwerks, Ascend had a standout single in “Good Things Fall Apart” featuring vocalist Jon Bellion. Starting as a guitar-inflected indie rock track, the song takes off both literally and figuratively, growing massive with Illenium’s dually soaring and sentimental production and a music video in which he and Bellion travel to deep space. — K. Bain
i_o and Tommy Trash Feat. Daisy Guttridge, “Let Me Go”
Mau5trap newcomer i_o is without a doubt having his breakthrough year. Though fast-as-lightning bpms have become a hallmark of his techno-driven sets, some of his originals weave a different tale. In “Let Me Go,” a collaboration with Aussie Tommy Trash, the self-titled “infinite one” shows off his varied production chops with a smooth and sultry electro house ballad featuring the understated vocals of Daisy Guttridge, which both tugs on the heart and inspires fingertips to graze the sky. — M.V.
James Blake feat. André 3000, “Where’s The Catch”
Before 2019’s Assume Form, James Blake kept his work with rappers and indie-pop stars separate from his albums. This time out, he proudly put Travis Scott and Rosalía on his tracklist. Another first: hooking up with OutKast genius André 3000 on “Where’s The Catch.” Beginning with a steady bass throb and Blake’s lithe vocals, the song hits a new plane with his guest’s “heady-ass” verse. Other songs on the album drew more attention, but the quietly confident “Where’s The Catch” captures a producer always trying on new forms. — J.T.
Kaytranada & VanJess, “Dysfunctional”
Existing at that oh-so-satisfying nexus of electronic and R&B is Kaytranada’s “Dysfunctional,” from his December LP, Bubba. Featuring vocals by Nigerian-American R&B duo VanJess, the track possesses the kind of infectious beat that keeps kids dancing for hours, but also features the cadence and attitude of a sublimely produced R&B track. The song exemplifies how electronic music continually evolves to bring in new fan bases, expanding the genre’s already wide scope. — M.D.
KH, “Only Human”
Most know him as Four Tet, but Kieran Hebden brings out his initials for especially club-friendly occasions. Following his previous heaters as KH, “BACK2THESTART” and “Question,” the producer did his DJ peers a solid with this year’s “Only Human.” A secret weapon in his sets, this one starts in the ribcage before pulsing down to your feet over eight corkscrewing minutes. Ministry of Sound released the official version after the hypnotic sample of Nelly Furtado’s “Afraid” had been cleared, and after Hebden and others had already been playing it out for months. — J.T.
We’re living in a really magical time for music. Borders disappear as cultures collide across genres, creating new and exciting hybrids of sound. It’s especially exciting for those artists who’ve always lived at a cultural crossroads. Take Krewella, whose members Yasmine and Jahan Yousef grew up Pakistani-American in the very white neighborhood of Northbrook, Illinois. Krewella’s trap, bass and rock infused sound made stars of the sisters at the top of the decade, though the group’s story hit rocky roads with the forced departure of original third member, Kristopher “Rain Man” Trindl.
The Yousefs took a break from touring in 2018 to reconnect with the creative spirit, returning this year with an evolved sound that celebrates and incorporates their South Asian roots. “Mana” marked the beginning of this chapter, perfectly blending ancient instrumentation with trunk-rattling drum machines, bridging the gap between the digital and the spiritual with personally-empowered lyrics for the modern woman. A full album exploring these sounds, Zer0, is scheduled in 2020. — K. Bein
Laurent Garnier & Chambray, “Feelin’ Good”
With a jolting shout out the gate, “Feelin Good” clocks in at a much higher energy than your typical summertime jam, but just past a rolling 808 and 909 drum intro lies an uplifting piano crescendo, and if you’ve reached that point, there’s definitely no turning back from the unavoidable hands-in-the-air moment to come. Laurent Garnier’s first club track in two years, “Feelin’ Good” nostalgically recalls the blissful vibe of ‘90s house, which is also the reason why it quickly became one of the biggest summer tracks of 2019. — V.L.
Leftwing:Kody, “I Feel It”
Mark Knight’s Toolroom label is known primarily for its club-friendly tech house catalog, but when it releases house music, it’s house music done right. In April, longtime duo Leftwing:Kody released “I Feel It,” a record that with its beaming piano chords and room-filling vocal was a frontrunner for Song of the Summer. Within months, they were signed to Columbia Records. — K.R.
Maceo Plex, “When the Lights Are Out”
Maceo Plex’s “When the Lights Are Out” is shadowy and sultry, a soundtrack to a steamy club hookup. But there’s a melancholic layer to it, too, with vocals echoing like a beloved memory fading into the ether. Though the song is dedicated to Maceo’s wife, it was originally inspired by the loss of his friend’s mother. “Every time I play it,” he told Billboard in May, “there’s going to be that connection — not just with the audience, but also reminding me the importance of family.” — K.R.
Madeon, “All My Friends”
“Shelter” took the world by storm in 2016, and then Madeon went quiet. After three long years, pastel imagery appeared online hinting that new music from the French electro-house producer was en route. On May 29th, vinyl copies of “All My Friends” were hidden in four major cities, and it didn’t take long before unofficial rips of the feel-good track flooded Reddit and other forums. There’s often the fear that an artist’s return to the spotlight will be anticlimactic, but this summer-ready single proved to be anything but. Bursting with fresh energy, starry-eyed wonder and Madeon’s own deliciously distorted vocals, “All My Friends” was the melodic homecoming that fans not only wanted, but deserved. — M.V.
Marie Davidson, “Work It” (Soulwax Remix)
Any song as universally loved as the Soulwax remix of Marie Davidson’s “Work It” would already have the accolades to be named a defining tune of the year. Used and beloved as a peak-time weapon by DJs from Solomun to Maceo Plex to Ben UFO to Anna Lunoe to Destructo to Will Clarke, the remix is undeniably addicting in its industrial, glitchy power. Add in Davidson’s commanding vocal hook, which serves as a timely tonuge-in-cheek feminist anthem (“You wanna know how I get away with everything? I work — all the f–king time”), and you’ve got a winning formula for one of 2019’s biggest dance hits. — V.L.
Melanie C, “High Heels“
How well do we know any of our Spice Girls? A full two decades into her solo career, Melanie C reintroduced herself to us with “High Heels,” a collab with U.K. queer cabaret collective Sink the Pink. Seasoned by a series of joint performances at Pride festivals from São Paulo to Madrid, their chemistry is effortless on this track, allowing us to see the Sporty One’s inner carefree dancefloor queen, ready to rule the scene for a night or a lifetime. — Z.M.
Moon Boots, “Tied Up”
There are many great singles on Moon Boots’ second album, Bimini Road, but like a fashion show, only the strongest open the show. Track number one, “Tied Up,” sets a lush, cheerful tone with its deep bassline, full-bodied piano keys and dreamy, du-wop vocal harmonies inspired by barbershop singers. Soulful with just a hint of pop, “Tied Up” is modern house music that still feels timeless. — K.R.
Opiuo Feat. Lafa Taylor, “Send It”
Rife with brass and off-the-cuff Seinfeld references, Opiuo’s “Send It” is one of those funky, booty-shaking anthems that even your friend who “doesn’t get EDM” can jive with. The unabashedly fun single, featuring vocals by rapper Lafa Taylor, appears on ‘Pt. 2’ of the Kiwi producer’s Syzygy series — an indefinite project he launched as an avenue to release music “in the now.” Likely to resonate with extreme sports heads and party people alike, “Send It” is the 2019 hype track that always sets the tone. — M.V.
Pabllo Vittar and Charli XCX, “Flash Pose”
Keep up, huntys! On “Flash Pose,” Pabllo and Charli command you to attention and the dancefloor, but aren’t indulging any basic-ness. The lyrics are mostly a primer on shade — “I had an outfit like that in high school” — even as Brazil’s most famous drag queen is on the verge of a global takeover with her first English-language track as lead artist. Ms. XCX is all-in on this selfie-love fest, singing “I love Pabllo, Pabllo loves Charli.” Haters, take several seats. — Z.M.
Peggy Gou, “Starry Night”
Last year, Peggy Gou steamrolled the dance world with her infectious crossover hit “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane).” In 2019, the fast-rising producer capitalized on her momentum by launching a fashion line, Kirin, and new label, Gudu Records. Gudu’s first release was Gou’s Moment EP, whose crown jewel, the Ibiza favorite “Starry Night,” exudes the same vibrant energy as “It Makes You Forget” — once again combining Gou’s half-sung, half-spoken vocals with warm instrumentation that melts all worries away. — K.R.
In 2003, club kid turned pop rocker P!nk sang, “If God is a DJ, life is a dance floor…” Nearly two decades later, Prospa offer their own take on DJ divinity in their single, “Control the Party.” The Leeds duo and recent Billboard Emerging Artists have fast been rising in the dance world for their ‘90s rave-inspired sounds, which “Control the Party” delivers in full via pummeling synth lines, siren calls and a killer transcendent vocal. — K.R.
Roberto Surace, “Joys”
If the summer of 2019 could be summed up by a single song, it would be Roberto Surace’s “Joys.” The fun, sturdy-grooved house track — which takes its catchy vocal sample from S.O.S. Band’s 1986 hit “The Finest” — was released in July by Defected Records after a major bidding war. But even before then, it was already a White Isle favorite, its momentum extended by a remix from the in-demand Purple Disco Machine. “Joys” has since been named Ibiza’s most-Shazamed track this season. — K.R.
Róisín Murphy, “Incapable”
Róisín Murphy was a graceful supporting player in 2018, collaborating with DJ Koze on his celebrated album, Knock Knock. This year, the Irish singer and fashion icon is back at center stage. “Incapable,” produced by Murphy’s longtime collaborator Richard Barratt (aka Crooked Man and Parrot), is a masterful disco slowburn. It’s also this year’s most danceable evocation of emotional unavailability. Murphy and Barratt’s November follow-up, “Narcissus,” almost equalled “Incapable.” Is this the dark horse double-act of 2019? — J.T.
Yotto’s melodic progressions are appealing to the ear, by day or by night. In this unique remix package, the Finnish producer takes Rüfüs Du Sol’s gloomy radio hit on two separate rides. The “Underwater (Dusk Remix)” is the right selection for those pink-sky, sunset time slots. Upbeat with dark undertones, it was clearly crafted to usher in late-night party vibes. The “Dawn” remix on the other hand, has a lighter, brighter feel. The clever yin-yang presentation might be more unexpected if it weren’t coming straight from the hard drive of house music’s self-proclaimed “odd one out”. — MEGAN VENZIN
In a year full of weighty returns, we welcomed Parisian producer SebastiAn of the Ed Banger set’s sophomore LP Thirst. The emotive and experimental 14-track collection came eight years after his blog house banger of a debut, and incorporated all the artistic depth he’d internalized while working closely with Frank Ocean, Charlotte Gainsbourg, fashion house Saint Laurent and others.
“Sober” epitomizes this growth in a 3:20-long package. It grabs you by the heart with blitzing arpeggiated runs on the piano in its C-sharp minor scale. Fellow Frenchman Bakar sings the part of a strong-but-wearied man trying to keep a steady head in a world of sinful pleasures. The mood is pained but beautiful, with a high-energy electro breakdown, taking us along for the highs and lows of life as an entertainer. The video was directed by Saint Laurent creative director Nathalie Canguilhem on location in Turkey, among 732 abandoned chateau villas. Suffice to say, “Sober” is a big mood, and we can’t get enough of it. — K. Bein
Skream, “Song For Olivia”
Last year on Holy Ship, we were privy to a moment between sets with this high-energy London lad. It was around 3 a.m., after Skream’s mind-blowing set on the deck, and he was cheesing hard, chatting with some friends. Suddenly, he gets a FaceTime call. It was his son, so he answered and made everyone in the area wave hello.
All that’s to say, we know the dubstep-pioneer-turned-house-hero loves his children and music very, very much. We’re sure the joy he felt welcoming a baby daughter to the world in August was overwhelming and beautiful, like a driving electro-pop beat with a shimmering synth melody that hits in a warm gush of euphoric abandon. “Song For Olivia” makes us want to dance for the joy of sheer possibility, because Skream wrote it to feel that way. This jam is both heart-warmingly wholesome and an absolute bop. Thanks, Olivia. — K. Bein
Skrillex, “Mumbai Power”
Dance music fans love to act like Skrillex doesn’t release a ton of tunes. In 2018, he tweeted “I’m not dead. I’m not gone. I just needed some time to be a human … Thanks for being patient.” From 2016 to 2018, he dropped big collabs with Rick Ross, RL Grime and What So Not, Poo Bear, Joyryde and others, as well as much-hyped remixes of Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” and Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.” We’d argue Skrillex stayed releasing massive tunes throughout this imagined “break,” but whatever.
This year, he fed fans a surprise two-track EP called Show Tracks (should have been called Show Tunes, but we’ll let it slide), and the bounty was worth the not-so-realistic wait. “Fuji Opener” with Alvin Risk is a banger and a half, but we like “Mumbai Power” featuring Beam for its focus on melody and hard-and-soft dynamics. With crunchy noises, pitched-vocal chops, pop hooks, pretty atmospherics, slightly-asian undertones and abrasive beats, “Mumbai Power” is everything the Skrillex style has come to represent. We can’t wait to hear what comes next — whether it takes him a while to release it or not. — K. Bein
If the first ten seconds of Slayyyter’s breakthrough track don’t grab you by the proverbial balls with its lyrical gender flip, wherein she crowns herself the new paradigm of the model-banging playboy, then you might be sleeping through the resistance. “Daddy AF” is an empowerment anthem as much as it is a bass-fueled party banger. Those two things haven’t always been compatible, but through Slayyyter we now know they should be. — ZEL MCCARTHY
Sofi Tukker, “Purple Hat”
Named and inspired by one of Sofi Tukker’s Animal Talk parties — at which Tucker Halpern was, you guessed it, wearing a purple hat — “Purple Hat” has been a hit in clubs and festivals. Its throbbing bassline and beat, paired with Sophie Hawley-Weld’s angelic voice and Halpern’s low growl, creates a delicious cocktail that is equal parts dirty, melodic and anthemic. — M.D.
Toro y Moi, “Freelance”
This year we danced to “Freelance,” a song about the disconnections of the always-connected, and it felt right. Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick is straight-up having a ball here, crafting a vogue-worthy bit-crunched disco. True to form, he’s also having a giggle. “I can’t tell if I’m hip or getting old,” he says, one of a handful of bang-on DJ koans that perked our ears up on both the dancefloor and in our favorite brunch spots in equal measure. — D.O.
Wave Racer, “Auto”
Hard times happen to everyone, but it’s what we do in times of trouble that define who we are. Pop-loving Australian future bass producer Wave Racer was an indie darling in the early 2010s. His spastic brand of bubblegum beats were a perfect kawaii rave mood, but he was really just a kid who hadn’t yet moved from his parents’ house. The pressure of sudden success and constant touring hit when he finally settled into his own place in Melbourne, miles away from everything and everyone he knew in Sydney.
Six years of therapy and introspection later, Wave Racer returned with a happy face, leaning into his guitar pop roots to create honest, lyric-driven songs that can stand their own outside the club. “Automatic” was the first of three singles this year, featuring his own voice pitched to robotic cuteness as he hints at the struggles to create on command. It’s all the effervescent buzz of Wave Racer in a streamlined sing-along, with a catchy guitar solo to boot. — K. Bein