I feel bad for artists in December. What with deadlines and expectations and the weight of eleven months on the backs of every critic, it seems that otherwise relevant releases get lost in the shuffle. So yes, it’s December 4th and I’m writing a best of 2011 list that would more appropriately be composed in January – mea culpa.
This was an interesting year, as “EDM” (Christ I hate that acronym) cemented a footing in the mainstream consciousness – especially here in Albany, be it Dayglow, Deadmau5 or Foam Fest (ahem, Electric Flurry…). So, as the director of the electronic music department here at WCDB (somewhat confusingly titled RPM) I feel as if it is my duty to sift through all of the roughage, and somehow – in a year where Skrillex colloborated with the doors and Rihanna with Calvin Harris – present an accurate, unbiased snapshot of the scene’s state.
What follows is a top 20 list, the opinion of one man plain and simple. And while the pretentious, alt-rock kid inside of me wants to exclude every song known to more than ___ listeners, I have to admit: sometimes things get popular for a very good reason. And in case seeking out and giving attention to each of these songs individually is a daunting task, I’ve also included a mix (~45 minutes) that, I hope, captures the year:
It’s been a long one…
20. Avicii – Levels
I know that this is the epitome of bro-house, but 10 DJs at Electric Zoo played it for a reason: it was the fucking anthem of the summer.
19. Dark Sky – Armour
Though most other people focused on the A-side from this release, “High Rise”, “Armour” is the perfect mixture of ambient build with dark, heavy drop. Dark Sky, thankfully, does not confuse bass with thrashy mid-range.
18. Strip Steve & Das Glow – Calcium
I do not always listen to techno. But when I do, I prefer Boys Noize Records.
17. Heavyfeet – Are You Dumb? (Dre Skull Remix)
This is the perfect meeting point between the aggressive percussive rolls of juke and the stable 140bpm of dubstep. Listen and learn.
16. Marble Players – Wipe Out
The Marble Players are a supergroup if I’ve ever heard of one (sporting Para One, Surkin and Bobmo), and this song is demonstration of what they can do together.
15. Benny Benassi – Cinema (Skrillex Remix)
Ew. I hate Skrillex. Except for maybe this song. But really…He played “Pon De Floor” at Electric Zoo this year….it’s 2011.
14. Pickster One – Waistline
This was most definitely the year of moombahton, and Pickster One is definitely among the producers at the genre’s forefront.
13. Brown & Gammon – Blow My Mind
It’s the rare dubstep song that captures my fancy these days. It’s just the right blend of lows and mids that isn’t screechy, not too aggro, but still hits hard. And that tempo drop 2/3 of the way through helps too.
12. Nero – Crush On You (Brodinski Remix)
The Nero original is cool, but it’s a little too schitzo / harsh for my tastes. Drop the Brodinski remix instead – certified panty-dropper.
11. Adele – Rolling the Deep (Jamie XX Remix)
This song has been torn apart and put back together seven ways from sunday, but I think that Jamie XX‘s minimalist approach is best.
10. Redlight – Source 16
On this track, Redlight captures the essence of Jack Beats and distills it for the masses. Big ups.
9. Jodie – Moments In Heartbreak (LOL Boys Remix)
Beautiful, heartbreaking. All that there is to be said.
8. Toddla T – Take It Back (Dillon Francis Remix)
Dillon Francis was on fire this year, and I think this song best captures his spirit of production, without all that moombahcore bullshit.
7. SBTRKT – Wildfire (ft. Drake)
Little Dragon‘s vocals are enough. Add Drake‘s verse and SBTRKT‘s production on top of that, and you have a classic.
6. Mele – Voulez Vous
There’s not a whole lot going on this track, just some spastic drums, percussive vocal hits, and when it finally drops, THAT BASSLINE holy fuck.
5. Crookers & Savage Skulls – Bust Em Up
The first single to drop from Crookers‘ magnificent Dr. Gonzo, you heard “Bust Em Up” everywhere this summer. It’s so guttural, tribal, and immediate, and provided thousands of fans a much-needed reassurance that Crookers could still ‘wow’ like it was 2008.
4. Diplo & Dillon Francis ft. Maluca – Que Que
This was the anthem this year, the face of the moombahton sound and movement. And though there are plenty of mash-ups and remixes, the original is still the best. Top ten moments for me: when Diplo brought out Maluca on stage to sing this live.
3. Kingdom ft. Naomi Allen – Take Me
This was my favorite slow-ish club jam this year, except for maybe the next song on this list. Hint, they both mix in together really well…
2. Brenmar – Boy U Got Me
When I die and go to heaven, Ashanti will be singing this song to me.
1. Lana Del Rey – Video Games (Jamie Woon Remix)