Year in Review | Top Songs of 2015
Counting down from 30 to 16...
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Our top songs for this year felt particularly difficult to compile. We had no problem putting together 50 songs that were undeniable favorites from the past 12 months. Narrowing them down to 30 and getting them into some sort of rank and file order, that was another story. So with the exception of the top 10 that will follow next week, take what you will from individual designations. Instead, focus on the overall quality here.
30) Efdemin "Parallaxis" (Traumprinz' Over 2 the End remix) — Dial Records
The only reason this song isn't in our top 10 for 2015 is because of the minor technicality that it came out late in 2014. We didn't get turned onto it until we heard Dauwd's delightful podcast mix for XLR8R back in April. From that point on we were wholeheartedly captivated by the surge of feeling elusive producer Traumprinz brings to Efdemin's original. Swelling strings, the surprise turn to breakbeats at the midway point and the hope held in that slowly repeating vocal line, all of it runs you over with the feels in a way few house or techno songs do.
29) Vangelis Katsoulis "Enigma" (Young Marco remix) — Into the Light
Dutch producer Young Marco had an exceptional year following up last year's Biology with a dizzying number of DJ appearances, guest mixes and remixes, including this one for the lesser know of the two famous Greek musicians named Vangelis. Vangelis Katsoulis, a new age composer and lite electronic artist, proved fertile ground for Young Marco. Taking the already blissed out "Enigma," Marco added a mellow house beat and laced his remix with a cantina band's worth of flutes, woodwinds, chimes and marimbas to deliver the pristine Balearic vibe he's widely known for.
28) Throwing Snow "Clasp" — Houndstooth
Another artist having a marquee year, London's Ross Tones hit hard under his Throwing Snow guise with a series of club-ready yet defiantly left-of-center productions for Fabric Imprint Houndstooth. Getting nods from everyone from Gilles Peterson to Four Tet and Jamie xx, there was a lot to like across all three EPs. For us, it was "Clasp," which bowled us over with the slow burn of syncopated synths and its late-game half-time death march. This is sophisticated dance music for lovers of Clark, Jon Hopkins and techno with a side of shattered beats.
27) Bicep "Celeste" — AUS Music
AUS Music rarely fails to deliver and this year was no exception with quality releases from Fold, Huxley, DJ T, Breach, Bwana and this pair of Irishmen. Bicep hit a home run in the eyes of many with the earworm melody and airy breaks of "Just" but, formidable as it is, we kept coming back to moody roller "Celeste." Fueled by congas and a spritely house beat, what seems choppy at first eases into a deep groove thanks to the slow and steady piano crescendo and a distant female vocal that sounds like it could be echoing through a Turkish bazaar.
26) Zomby "Bloom" — XL Recordings
The trap scene may send you into fits of eye-rolling—a lot of it does the same for us—and yet here is Zomby effortlessly giving life to a sound drowning in predictability. Haunting and celestial, "Bloom" bears all of the shadowy UK producer's hallmarks. It's dense, lumbering and has bass like only the UK scene can produce. It's track-y, but more fully realized than much of 2013's With Love. It also tops 90% of other trap releases this year. #shotsfired.
25) Stephan Bodzin "Singularity" — Life & Death | Herzblut
Rome's Life and Death label had a singular affect on the house and techno that captivated us in 2015. From the DJ prowess of Mind Against and DJ Tennis to its myriad releases from Recondite and behemoth duo Tale of Us, it was a big year for the imprint. The highlight of it all? The potent and slinky techno of "Singularity" by German techno veteran Stephan Bodzin.
24) George FitzGerald "Call It Love (If You Want To)" — Domino
Like Hotflush, the label where he got his start, George FitzGerald has come a long way musically. Gone are his dubstep roots, but he's carried that essence through to today with productions that carry heft, potency and bass. What he's added to the mix is a knack for dance music's pop side, something he called out when we interviewed him at the beginning of last year. "Call It Love (If You Want To)" is a case in point. It's far from a pop song, but chances are good its tight structure, emotional bent and vocal line will stick with you long after the song's finished.
23) Butch "Dope" — Play It Say It
As far as feel-good house tracks go, none hit all the right notes for us better than Butch's "Dope." The chunky, funky house track builds to a frenzy of liquid disco bass, hand claps and the just-indecipherable chants of a party full of people waiting for the song's main drop. Yep, drop. "Dope" is a gratuitous crowd-pleaser, complete with what amounts to a laugh track for dance songs—the sampled hoots and cheers of dancers worked into a frenzy. It was the highlight of Seth Troxler's DJ-KiCKS this year and the same goes for more than one of our sets these past few months.
22) Drake b/w Erykah Badu "Hotline Bling" + "Hotline Bling" (remix) — Cash Money
There's not much editorial space that needs to be dedicated to the cultural phenomenon that is "Hotline Bling." Its presence was undeniable and its meta echoes through GIFs, memes and parodies was unstoppable this year. And yet, it seemingly never gets old. Particularly when unparalleled conscious diva Erykah Badu flips the song's gender roles and transforms Drake's original from goofball pop phenomenon into something that's actually worth marinating on.
21) Silk Road Assassins "T" (Peace edit) — Gobstopper
Grime is traditionally a genre that falls outside the Dialogue Inc wheelhouse. At least, that was the case before this release weaseled into our inbox. A response to a scene-wide "rap battle" from 2013 dubbed the "war dubs" that saw grime artists sampling and flipping other producers' beats and using them as the bed for diss tracks, Mr. Mitch's Peace Edits project is a direct response. It's one that's infinitely more listenable, particularly this low-slung and syrupy edit of T-Pain's "I'm Slung" by Silk Road Assassins.
20) Space Dimension Controller "The Trails You Left Behind" — Royal Oak
Even before you get to the music of Space Dimension Controller, the Earth-bound producer is uniquely tailored for the Dialogue Inc aesthetic. Then you start factoring in the sprawling cosmic concoctions he delivers—songs like the deep-house odyssey "The Trails You Left Behind." The piece unfolds across 10 minutes, offering up numerous turns, twists and personalities, each lit up with floating synth tones and melodies that echo into infinity. This one's a true celestial journey and it's not one for those prone to motion sickness.
19) Appleblim "Avebury" — Tempa
From the minute we heard "Avebury," we knew this track would find itself on this list. Appleblim has always churned out tunes that defy any sort of simple categorization, and nothing changes here. If forced to come up with a way to describe this tune, it'd be as Howl's Moving Castle—an oversize production with a house framework that upends expectations by encompassing bits of broken beat, bass music and techno, all held together by the magic that is, simply, Appleblim's forte.
18) Gonno "The Worst Day Ever" — Endless Flight
There was LOTS to love about Gonno's Remember the Life is Beautiful, which is why it was one of our top albums of the year. Beyond that, album cut "The Worst Day Ever" truly sucked us into its endless soundscape of swirling melodies, off-kilter drumming and hypnotic atmospherics. This song is as trance-like as it gets, Balearic-techno stuck on repeat with the listener caught in the middle. Trust us, it's even better than it sounds.
17) Etienne Jaumet "Metallik Cages" (Gilb-R remix) — Versatile Records
This remix of Etiene Jaumet's "Metallik Cages" is another one that snuck past us when it dropped at the tail end of 2014. No matter, its real coming-out party was on Dixon's In Our Wilderness mix that ushered in his Soundcloud account and marked our first post of 2015. Amid Dixon's impeccable selections and seamless mixing, one thing stood out more than any other: the salacious ravings of the song's vocal protagonist (drenched in his French accent) and the siren-like accent that serves as the heartbeat of this roiling techno remix from Versatile frontman GIlb-r.
16) Chromatics "I Can Never Be Myself When You're Around" — Italians Do It Better
Dear Tommy, the eagerly awaited follow-up to Chromatic's Kill for Love started getting teased as early as December of last of 2014. It was due in February, then it became unclear. It seemed like it was coming though, thanks to the steady string of teasers Johnny Jewel snuck out on Soundcloud. The year has come and gone with no sign of Dear Tommy. Thankfully, the emotional, amped-up and infectiousness of songs like "I Can Never Be Myself When You're Around" were here to hold us over. It's pristine Chromatics with a thumping dance beat, Ruth Radelet's unmistakable murmur and Jewel's '80s-referencing production prowess.