Year in Review | Top Songs of 2014
#16 – 30
by Joshua P. Ferguson
30) Different Sleep "Conflict" — Conflict EP — Friends of Friends
LA upstarts Friends of Friends keep their streak going, kicking off our top singles of 2014 with Chicago/Cali artist Different Sleep, whose deeply melodic downtempo became a welcome change of pace from a scene well known for its boundless energy. In particular, the title track from this year's Conflict EP stuck with us thanks to its rolling footwork beat, moving piano and that vocal, looping to usher along the track's endless calm.
29) Thug Entrancer "Death After Life VI" — Death After Life — Software
The name may conjure a very specific set of imagery—or maybe it will leave you clueless what to expect—but Thug Entrancer's foray into laser-sharp technoid electronica goes well beyond anything you'd glean from judging a book by its cover. Album stand out "Death After Life VI" moves like syrup, letting the beams from his synth work ricochet around and create something as dark as it is dreamy. Maybe the name does sums it up, after all.
28) Martyn & Four Tet "Glassbeadgames" (8 Hours at Fabric dub) — Forgiveness EP — Ninja Tune
We've felt strongly about this dream collabo between 3024 boss Martyn and his Text Records counterpart Four Tet right from the start, declaring it in our review "eight minutes of tropical technoid 2 step bliss," and "a lively jaunt around scattershot snares, gritty synth stabs, warm thumb piano and shards of UK garage vocals. It's also a balanced listen to what each of these talents bring to the studio—the addictive and complex listen we should expect from sitting these two side-by-side."
27) Distal "Banthu" — Retrograde Space Opera — Anarchostar
Atlanta's Distal is a comic-and-sci-fi-loving bass producer who created one of this year's most interesting releases in the interplanetary musical Retrograde Space Opera and provided one of the more popular artist profiles we published in 2014. With influences that run from Blade Runner to Deep Medi, the record was inched out of our Top 10 Albums of 2014, but that didn't stop this particular cosmic bass trip from making a lasting impression.
26) Teebs "Holiday" (feat. Jonti) — E S T A R A — Brainfeeder
Like Different Sleep, Cali brother Teebs helped rekindle our love of downtempo in 2014 (not that it ever truly went away), breathing new life into the softer side of beat-driven music with his latest effort for FlyLo's imprint. Another full length that was close to landing in our top picks of the year, E S T A R A brims with moments like "Holiday," which warms you up with brushed drums, the warped chirping of birds and vocals that embody the dawning of a bright new day.
25) Jacques Greene "Feel What" — Phantom Vibrate EP — LuckyMe
Always a perennial favorite in our world, Jacques Greene further expanded his reputation for production that moves as many hearts as it does hips. Keeping with his percussive, R&B-informed style, "Feel What" recalls his re-rubs of Kelly Rowland and the like, but shifts into wholly original territory with the clamor of drums and the zig-zag of its melody, all tied up with a shining, gospel-inspired vocal sample. This track has no trouble living up to its name, succeeding overwhelmingly in giving us the feels.
24) El Txef A "Claim of Planet Earth" — We Walked Home Together — Fiakun
Coming to us out of the blue—or more accurately Bilbao in northern Spain—this release from an artist and a label we'd never heard of caught our attention with its expert use of Balearic warmth, light acid lines and a throwback Chicago appeal. Nowhere was this more true than on El Txef A's "Claim of Planet Earth," which we featured on our last podcast to show off its bouncing groove, enveloping atmospherics and distorted lamentation.
23) Frank Beverly and the Butlers "Love (Pain Goes Deep)" (Shoes edit) — Slow Soul Flow — Plimsoll
The highlight of an impeccable series of soul and funk edits cut-up and remixed by Earwig of the Shoes crew, this dubwise rework of Frank Beverly and the Butlers has been a staple in our DJ sets since we got our hands on it this summer. Rattling with pure funk drums and spaced out with vintage strings and a choice snippet from the original, it's everything we look for in an edit—inventive but still true to the source.
22) Dauwd "Lydia" — Kindlinn EP — Kompakt
Acclaimed after his debut last year, Dauwd came into his own in 2014 with a series of releases for the seminal Kompakt label that established the London-based artist as a singular new voice in emotive house and techno. With its dramatic ebbs and flows, soothing oohs and aahs and a melody that settles in and never leaves you, "Lydia" is the culmination of Dauwd's impeccable year—a cascading and cosmic romp as heady as it is devastating in the right dance-floor setting.
21) Aebeloe "Cans" — Tilo EP — Origami Sound
Another feature in our Dialogue Incorporated Podcast 30 this stunner from Denmark's Aebeloe is almost an outlier on this list. Sonically it fits right in. It's airy and moves with a delightful skip, but it's also deceivingly simplistic in its straight ahead groove. It sets a pace and sticks to it, making it the kind of track that we rarely chart. That serves as an even stronger endorsement of just how effective this little groove really is.
20) HNNY "No" — Puss
Ok, so technically this came out at the tail end of 2013—as a vinyl-only release that took some effort to find and only after we heard its brilliant and housed-up rework of "No Scrubs" on Jacques Greene's mix for Little White Earbuds. The fact that each copy is kissed in green only tips off what a score this cut from Stockholm's HNNY is. Soulful, infectious, familiar and yet entirely new, it's been by our side for gigs of all shapes and sizes and we've rinsed it so many times people have started asking after it. That's star power that trumps the technicality of its release date.
19) Starfoxxx "Bae" — Baby I'm Off Drugs and I'm Ready to Marry You — Donky Pitch
It's one of the slang terms of 2014, but this particular iteration of "Bae" is more our speed. Coming from longtime Chicago artist Starfoxxx, now signed to a certain favorite Brighton label, the pairing led to a nuanced album chock full of rhythms, samples, moods and scenes. "Bae," though, is the cow-bell jocking, sunshine-sample-slinging party rocker that stuck with us the most.
18) Partial Arts "Taifa" — Kompakt
We've always had a thing for house-not-house,call it, or at least dance music that marches to its own beat and not necessarily one that's straight-up four-on-the-floor. This track from formidable duo Ewan Pearson and Al Usher—yet another from Podcast #30—fit that bill better than any other this year with an almost half-time cadence, an echoing Balearic guitar line and a slow build that inches up the intensity into the style of euphoric fervor that these two are so skilled at creating.
17) Percussions "KHLHI" — Text
Four Tet re-enters the chart at 17 with a sly burner under his Percussions guise. Heavy on the drums, naturally, with an organic rhythm and a diamond-in-the-rough soul sample that juts its way in seemingly out of the ether thanks to the ever-unexpected creative mind of Kieran Hebden, before weaving in among the snare-tap-heavy broken beat. Tailor made to light up discerning clubs, its vinyl-only release might have hindered it from getting the traction it deserved these past 12 months, don't be fooled: "KHLHI" is pure fire.
16) James Blake "200 Press" — 200 Press EP — 1-800-DINOSAUR
The prolific and near-constant chart topper James Blake sneaks into the charts with the 11th hour release "200 Press," a whirlwind of crunk snippets, humming synths, distant croons and a minimalistic tech-bass beat that's the stuff all modern house music should be made out of. Add to the mix a sample that demands, "gather round the beat like a campfire" and you've got just the sort of cheeky stormer that you need from Blake to offset his folksy proclivities and help propel his too-few edits as Harominimix.