Ranking art is never easy, but dance music’s sheer volume and variance make picking favorites particularly difficult. The following ten tracks are the ones we consistently returned to over the course of the year. (And see our list of the 10 best electronic/dance albums here.)
Billboard 2014 Year in Music: See All of Our Coverage Here!
10. Sailor & I – “Turn Around” (Âme Remix)
The Berlin duo’s haunting rework became a staple of deep house and techno sets, contributing to their global rise and helping extend Life and Death’s top-shelf standing among underground dance imprints.
9. Nero – “Satisfy”
The bass-heavy British outfit teased their forthcoming album in a big way by releasing their first single in nearly two years. Equal parts seductive and destructive, this dark techno-inspired offering sounds like a dystopian future soundtrack for rough sex.
8. Audien – “Hindsight”
Crafting a lead melody that is variably contemplative and euphoric (but always infectious), the 22-year-old artist showcased his pristine production style and rightfully earned support from some of the biggest names in both trance and progressive house.
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7. Seven Lions ft. Kerli – “Worlds Apart”
Don’t bury dubstep just yet. The Santa Barbara producer continues to champion the maligned genre’s melodic potential on this nuanced single, featuring his trademark layered drop, dreamy atmospherics and a heart-rending hook from Estonian singer Kerli.
6. Lorde – “Tennis Court” (Flume Remix)
Beset with hype following his breakout remix of Disclosure‘s “You & Me,” the Australian producer rose to the occasion on this much-anticipated Lorde rework. Its stuttered-synth drop made a stunning debut in the glare of Coachella’s limelight and cemented his status as one of dance music’s hottest rising stars.
5. Galantis – “Runaway (U & I)”
After releasing “Smile” and “You” to critical acclaim in advance of their Coachella debut, Swedish super duo Galantis delivered on their potential with “Runaway.” Their most complete release to date features memorable verses, mammoth chord progressions and the peerless production quality we’ve come to expect from Christian Karlsson (of Miike Snow and Bloodshy & Avant) and Linus Eklow (aka Style of Eye).
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4. Syn Cole – “Miami 82” (Kygo Remix)
Kygo’s emergence as the standard bearer for a burgeoning tropical house genre was one of 2014’s best storylines. While his other remixes may have earned more plays, the Norwegian’s sun-soaked take on “Miami 82” officially put the industry on notice after it was swiftly signed to Avicii‘s LE7ELS label and became Ultra Music Festival’s anthem.
3. Porter Robinson – “Sad Machine”
On one of the year’s most unique releases, the North Carolina producer paints a fantasy soundscape of forlorn robot duets, evocative melodies and beautiful 8-bit breakdowns perfectly pitched for the Nintendo generation’s sense of nostalgia.
2. Maceo Plex – “Conjure Balearia”
Dance tracks sink or swim on the strength of their bass lines, and this one’s a heavyweight champion. “Conjure Balearia” find the American-born Barcelona transplant at the peak of his production powers, combining interstellar techno elements with majestic string-supported breakdowns in advance of its unimpeachable bass lead.
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1. ZHU – “Faded”
The Grammy nod for Best Dance Recording was well deserved. Despite being released by an anonymous new artist who shuns social media, you’d be hard pressed to find a song that was played or remixed more. No dance hook came close to “Faded” this year.