Year in Review | Top Songs of 2016 PT 2


Year in Review

Top Songs of 2016 | #1 - 15

If the first half of our Top 30 songs of 2016 remained neatly in the realm of electronic music, this next batch of tunes emphasizes a lot of the other great music this year had to offer. It's still undeniably a list of underground electronic tunes, but we also welcomed music from across the hip-hop, indie and jazz spheres. It was refreshing to welcome this much diversity to our listening this year.

Still, that 4/4 pulse kept us going the way it does every year with a trio of greats that snagged our top slots. Read on to peruse our picks and press play on each one. Here's to the close of a tumultuous and often unsettling year—and here's hoping 2017 offers us the musical remedies we know we'll need. Cheers!

Illum Sphere "Fall Into Water" — Ninja Tune

Illum Sphere's Glass was a record we struggled to fit into our top LPs of the year and just couldn't finagle it. That didn't stop "Fall Into Water" from remaining a high point on the record and a high point for us. Moody, complex and underpinned with this Middle-Eastern horn line, it's a wild and techy song that sets the pace for a great record.

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Barker & Baumecker "Senden" — Ostgut Ton

A pair of Berliners and techno operatives closely associated with Berghain and its imprint Ostgut Ton, Barker & Baumecker scored big, late in the season with this epic opener to their latest, Turns. "Senden" plays like a performance with three acts: Twinkling and ambient in its opening, lightly industrial as we hear the raw pieces of its rhythmic structure come together and begin to churn, and finally a stomping apparatus in motion—and witnessing this slow transformation is one of the more satisfying 13 minutes of music this year.

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Africaine 808 "Language of the Bass" — Golf Channel

Bringing together pan-African soundsystem culture and the UK's own diverse club scene, Africaine 808 occupied a unique space in 2016. "Language of the Bass" (and the vibe of their entire record Basar, really) reminds us of broken beat's best moments. Polyrhythmic and sporting one of the nastiest basslines of 2016, this leftfield banger acted as a torchbearer for a sound we've always loved—and it felt good to bask in its glow.

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Soulphiction "Sky So High" — Hart & Tief

Speaking of nasty basslines, Soulphiction outdid himself with "Sky So High," the debut 12" for Pampa Records' harder edged sister label Hart & Tief. It bears all the hallmarks that make this Stuttgart producer such a singular presence for us. There's the warped soul sample, his overt nods to Detroit's influence on him and then, of course, that bassline. Man, it's inescapable. But then again, we didn't try very hard to outrun it.

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Chance the Rapper "Summer Friends" — N/A

No one's going to deny that 2016 was Chance's year and there were a host of highlights for our favorite Chicago rapper. "No Problem" lit up club sets, "Same Drugs" lit up SNL, but it was "Summer Friends," with its James Blake/Bon Iver overtones courtesy of Francis & the Lights and ultra laid-back beat that lit up for us every time we listened to Coloring Book.

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The Weeknd "Starboy" — Republic

That tune we loved that everyone else loved too, "Starboy" from the Weeknd is a pop hit we can listen to on an endless repeat. The product of a certified hit factory that includes the producer behind Esthero, the producer behind hits for Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, and most notably the robots, it's actually an understated banger. The beat kicks but doesn't overpower. Daft Punk feature, but don't overdo it, the hook gets you but isn't overly theatrical. In its own clever way, it also hits on the synthwave sound that spiked in 2016. That's kinda besides the point though. "Starboy" is just pure pop gold.

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The Range "Florida" — Domino

The Range landed our No. 5 album of 2016, and we knew it was going to have a big impact on our year all the way back in January when "Florida" landed. It was the subject of our first blog post of the year, and 11 months later our opinion of this lush footwork workout hasn't changed one bit.

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Jeremy Greenspan & Borys "But Wait There's More" — Jiaolong

Referred to in Clone's write-up as "new age music for the neurotic," "But Wait There's More" is definitely an outlier for Junior Boys' Jeremy Greenspan. Stuttering, skanking and, ok, maybe stream of consciousness, this is a meandering track. But we love the mood it sets,. It's hypnotic, happy and the subtle shifts it does make can be gratifying. Odd duck maybe, not don't mistake this for an ugly duckling.

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High Water "Changed the Locks" — Other People

A Lucinda William's original, "Changed the Locks" gets the dub-reggae slow-jam treatment from Nicolas Jaar's Other People Camp. It's a random moment on a record that didn't stick with us but for this moment. Still, High Water delivers all the same emotional intensity of the original but retunes it using a palette of musical colors that felt tailor made for our ears. This song became one of favorite set closers for 2016.

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Yeasayer "Silly Me" — Mute

Ever since 2009, when we first saw Yeasayer at the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, these guys have been our band. They're weird, folksy, sometimes electronic, they have a way with melodies that hook us... oh, and did we mention they're weird? This year's Amen & Goodbye was full of moments that netted all these qualifiers, particularly on "Silly Me." The odd time signature, synths, horns and lead from Chris Keating and Anand Wilder burrowed this song into our heads and we were happy to keep it there.

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BADBADNOTGOOD "Confessions Pt 2" — Innovative Leisure

This one was a tough call. "Time Moves Slow" is the obvious choice for the best song on BADBADNOTGOOD's IV. But it's quickly followed by the abrupt bark of saxophone and a raw funk groove that proceeds to roll out for the next six minutes. "Confessions Pt 2" is hefty jazz funk that breaks the soulful melancholy of the song before it. Both songs are amazing, but in the end, it's the lift that "Confessions Pt 2" gives us that we can't get enough of.

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James Blake "I Need a Forest Fire" — Polydor

At first glance, James Blake and Bon Iver seem like an odd couple. A UK club producer and a Wisconsin folk singer? But that just skims the surface. James Blake is at his most singer-songwriter-y on Colour in Anything and Bon Iver is his most experimental on 22, a Million. These two factors combined make "I Need a Forest Fire" the duo's best collaboration yet. The bass and snare tap that sets the pace, the looping vocal, the hoots from Bon Iver, it all comes together for this formidable pairing right here.

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Acid Pauli "Nana" — Pampa

Our love of deep house always stacks the top slots in our end of the year lists, and we're pleased that there are some new faces this year. Innervisions is conspicuously absent, and in the camp's place we've got this sublime entry from Pampa Records and Acid Pauli. With "Nana," Pauli captures the elements that make the Pampa soundso great. There's the the squishy clicks, the stuttering melodies, the sweeping ambient bed and the end-of-the-night, capture-the-moment emotion that he squeezes out of the jittering, boat-creaking breakdown late in "Nana"s life. It's a subtle release, and it's just right.

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DJ Sotofett "Current 82" (12 mix) — Keys of Life

There must have been some buzz around this release, but we don't remember exactly how we stumbled across it. All we know is that one day we were playing DJ Sotofett's "Current 82" and that odd YouTube video of an early morning rooftop party over and over again. And that seems to be the thing about the Norwegian producer's music—it's elusive, enigmatic and engrossing. Across its nearly 14 minutes, "Current 82" blends a fidgety ambient intro into a deep, organic beat that leads the way for vintage rave atmospherics and a looping chant. There's been a theme to our picks for 2016: music to get lost in. Few succeeded more smoothly than Sotofett.

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Traumprinz "2 Bad" (Metatron's What If Madness Is Our Only Relief Mix)" — Giegling

Music to get lost in... Our top three songs of 2016 all fit this bill perfectly. First, Acid Pauli for his delicate minimalism, then Sotofett for his nostalgic sprawl. Now, the singular mind that is Traumprinz and his alter ego DJ Metatron. We weren't sure if anyone else was as enthralled with "2 Bad" as we were (and still are). Then it landed as the No. 1 track on RA's top songs of 2016. We're not alone after all. 

We couldn't be. This is a song that brings with it each of the elements that hooks people to this music. The massaging undertones. The crisp thwack of the drums. That burrowing vocal riff. We can listen to this song endlessly. Some days we have. Over the years we've chosen a lot of top songs of the year. Maybe it's the relief "2 Bad" gives in the face of the bummer moments these past 12 months—moments largely out of our control—but the Traumprinz/Metatron hive mind have given us something with staying power here. That's a rare commodity in this electronic music world of ours, and one we're going to hold onto.

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