|RA Poll: Top 50 tracks of 2010
RA winds up its year-end polls with the staff's take on the top tunes of the year.
One thing you probably didn't see coming in 2010: the glorious return of the anthem. Unlike last year, when ultra-subtle tracks like STL's "Silent State" made the top 5, 2010's top 50 is packed with unapologetically catchy bangers, most of which probably got as much play in Ibiza as they did in Berlin. It's as if club music finally became so niched that the crowds once again yearned for collective experiences.
Indeed, if Motor City Drum Ensemble's epic remix of NUfrequency hadn't been officially released in 2009, it might've topped our chart this year. (It'll have to make to do with setting a record for most consecutive months at #1 on RA's DJ charts.) But the RA staff isn't composed solely (or even largely) of DJs. So our list has plenty of weird ones too. UK bass's latest mutations rank nicely, stonefaced techno is still going strong and Chicago's juke phenomenon crashes the party as well. All sorts of music took our fancy this year, this is simply 50 of the most popular among our staff.
50. Nebraska - Soho Grand [Rush Hour]
The Pepe Bradock-esque standout from the UK producer's second EP for the Dutch label.
49. DJ Rashad - Itz Not Rite [Planet Mu]
One of the few tracks to emerge from the juke/footwork scene with true single appeal.
48. Matthew Dear - Little People (Black City) [Ghostly International]
The first single from the multi-monikered artist's excellent Black City album.
47. Deniz Kurtel feat. Guests of Nature - Yeah [Crosstown Rebels]
Feel-good, classics-rooted house from the breakthrough producer.
46. Butch - No Worries [Cecille]
Butch's "No Worries" is the second most charted track of all-time on RA. Butch is the most charted artist of all-time on RA. Cecille is among the top 20 most charted labels of all-time on RA. To say "No Worries" had dance floor credentials would be a gargantuan understatement. And the reason so many DJs were drawn to the record? Well, it was no great mystery: "No Worries" had bags of funk, was fun to mix and was totally undeniable in its ability to move a dance floor—much like most of Butch and Cecille's output.
45. Skudge - Convolution [Skudge]
The mashup of driving dub-tech and barely-there diva vocals that launched the Swedish duo.
44. Steffi - Kill Me (Instrumental Dub) [Ostgut Ton]
The standout mix of Steffi's solo debut made for an unassuming dance floor favourite.
43. Sound Stream - All Night [Sound Stream]
An exercise in delayed gratification, the cut-up disco house jam finally saw release after a 2009 debut.
42. Balam Acab - See Birds (Moon) [Tri Angle]
Whatever you'd like to call it—witch house, drag, screwgaze—there's no denying there's something afoot with acts like Balam Acab and Salem. Combining the purple drank feel of screwed and chopped hip-hop with haunted, nostalgic ambient, the mixture works as obvious home listening material. But take a look at the people charting it too: Michael Mayer and Superpitcher. And hear in John Roberts' Clubberia podcast how well it can run directly into barebones Chicago house. Who knows? We may just need to start calling it dance music.
41. Conforce - Grace [Delsin]
Classy techno from one of the next generation of Dutch artists associated with Delsin.
40. Martyn - Is This Insanity (Ben Klock Remix) 
Thrown into a no-nonsense techno set, Spaceape's sinister rhymes are a devastating curveball.
39. MMM - Nous Sommes [MMM]
Raw, noisy, rave-powered bangers: a part of any balanced record collection.
38. FCL - Let's Go [We Play House]
Hearing this one out in a club, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's some '90s classic.
37. Instra:mental - Let's Talk [[NakedLunch]]
In the year that Autonomic turned drum & bass on its head, there were many attempts to define exactly what was occurring in the ambiguous spaces between the half-stepping beats and the swelling, retreating ambience. One tangible thing certainly existed for Instra:mental—neurotic tension. "Let's Talk" exists on parallel planes of delicacy and dread, shifting from an innocuous late night exchange to a shadowy stranger in the night: "Let's talk about your favourite things... I'll tell you my favourite things." The use of Drexciyan-edged slow house only heightened the sense of paranoiac pleasure.
36. Public Lover - I Try [Thesongsays]
This one's so sultry, it makes Ninca Leece and Bruno Pronsato look like Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg.
35. Wax - 30003 B [Wax]
Shed's effective one-note dub techno stomper.
34. Four Tet - Love Cry [Domino]
Occasionally, we get it wrong. We posited a year ago that despite its charms, the slow, chugging pace and restless sonic shifting of "Love Cry" would "probably make it impossible to hear on many dance floors." As we now know, it proved to be one of the few overground hits that appealed to DJs of all strands, galloping rhythmically alongside house, dubstep and many genres in between. It was a simple formula—rolling live drum loop, thrumming melodies, soul sample and plodding bass—that Kieran Hebden made much greater than the sum of its abstract parts.
33. Deadboy - If U Want [Numbers]
The R&B-obsessed producer revealed his hand on this ridiculously catchy little number.
32. Fred P - It Is What It Is [Strength Music]
Deep house from the American new wave direct from Queens, NYC.
31. Storm Queen - Look Right Through [Environ]
A late entry from Morgan Geist and Damon C. Scott saw out 2010 in style.
30. Joe - Clap Trap [Hessle Audio]
Coughing, panting, sniffling and so, so many claps.
29. Azari & III - Reckless (With Your Love) (Tensnake Remix) [Permanent Vacation]
Tensnake bettered an insta-classic in the unlikeliest of ways: By putting an eterna-classic in the middle.
28. Tony Lionni feat. Marvin Belton - Precious (Deetron Remix) [Freerange]
A deep bassline undergirds this anthemic house remix from the Swiss producer.
27. Ramadanman - Don't Change for Me [Hessle Audio]
David Kennedy's moody jungle-tinged dubstep anthem.
26. Space Dimension Controller - Journey to the Core of the Unknown Sphere [Royal Oak]
Heard while Keith Worthy was DJing a Space Dimension Controller track this year: "Whoa! Gotta put something else on. It's getting way too sexy in here." He's right, of course. The young Jack Hamill's electro-fied productions were typified by their absolutely intoxicating basslines, and that's on full display on "Journey to the Core of the Unknown Sphere." The lengthy (for him, anyway) track goes through a few different stages, but the connecting thread throughout is that buoyant analogue bounce.
25. Locussolus - Gunship [International Feel]
DJ Harvey is a hard one to pin down. A former punk turned Ministry of Sound DJ, now a cult favorite for fans of Balearic, disco and house (with particularly strong followings in Singapore and Japan). "Gunship" is his first piece of recorded music in a decade, and it does a good job of reflecting this mosaic personality. Driven by a minimal half-melody, a hammy guitar lead, and the words "big guns!!!" screamed in pseudo orgasm, it's made of ingredients that would never work together without Harvey's special panache.
24. Lone - Pineapple Crush [Magic Wire]
Matt Cutler's joyous nostalgia found no finer distillation in 2010 than in this 10-inch A-side.
23. Jacob Korn - Mirrorflip [Dolly]
Dresden's bright young house hope builds it up slowly, just to bring you down.
22. Mount Kimbie - Maybes (James Blake Remix) [Hotflush]
UK bass music's most introspective solo artist remixes UK bass music's most introspective duo.
21. The Bug - Skeng (Autechre Remix) [Ninja Tune]
The advanced sound scientists show that they can go straight-ahead with the best of them.
In an album full of stark experiments of varying fidelity, "Maze" stood out on Actress' Splazsh
, a reminder that Darren Cunningham was just as capable of crafting a naked and melodic gem as he was a cloudy and difficult banger. Perhaps what made it even more amazing, though, was his use of 8-bit effects, making them sound like melancholic accents rather than kitschy nostalgia. Cunningham's ear is like few others in this respect. While he may get grouped in with dubstep because of his age, location and DJing, his productions sounded as unclassifiable as Autechre to these ears in 2010.
- Terry Fonseca
Moodymann's whistle-stop 2010 tour was a whirlwind. An interview, soul skating outside (and inside) Detroit and Ol' Dirty Vinyl
, yet another dusty masterpiece in his cluttered closet. The title track sounded like it could have fit right in on 2004's Black Mahogani
, stopping, starting, levels dropping in and out haphazardly. With a style that is increasingly being copied around the world, Moodymann proved with "Ol' Dirty Vinyl" that there's nothing like the original. Even, or perhaps especially, if you have to clean it to hear it.
- Sam Louis
Leave it to New York-based Jacques Renault to craft one of the year's biggest disco bombs. The producer has been on a roll of late, both in his solo work and as part of Runaway. In this case, he transformed Midnight Magic's "Beam Me Up" into an epic ballad, where a punchy piano riff, trumpet and vocals were met, more often not, by a rapturous dance floor. In another standout year for Permanent Vacation, this was almost their most ecstatic moment.
- Matt Unicomb
In a year typified by nostalgia, Discreet Unit's "Shake Your Body Down" was among the most memorable no-nonsense classically-rooted house tunes of the year. Prime Numbers has often been associated with such sounds, but this was perhaps its perfect distillation. A familiar chord structure. A repeated vocal sample. A solid groove. It's funny to think that a duo—Tim and Nick Moore—to craft such simplicity. But sometimes you need a voice in the background reminding you that less is more.
- Scott Milsap
When Kassem Mosse's "578" first came out two years ago, it did so very discretely: on the B-side of a 12-inch for Mikrodisko. Despite being one of his most powerful tracks yet, it met with little response other than some enthusiastic blog posts and purchases from in-the-know DJs. One of those DJs was Omar-S, who liked the tune so much he decided to make a couple remixes of it while traveling through Berlin. Of his two new versions, the "Rude Boy Warm Mix" packs the most punch: Slowed down to a sluggish 111 BPM, those dusty keys get downright sinister.
- Will Lynch
It wasn't a huge leap from Krautrock pastures to dance floors for Caribou. Nor to imagine Four Tet roadtesting tunes from Swim
at his Plastic People residency. What made the album, and standout single "Sun," so special to the world of electronic music, though, was how easily it revealed those links. Journalists love this sort of stuff, of course. But just look at how many DJs were playing it
as well. Great to listen to at home, and playable as well? It's a trick that few pulled off as well in 2010.
- Terrence Fuller
It would have been impossible for Sam Shepherd to improve on his flawless output of 2009. So he outdid himself by loading all the elements of that entire year's work—spacey pulses from "For You," the piano soul of "Love Me Like This," the intricate programming of "J&W," Vacuum
EP's Herbie Hancock accents—into a single seven-minute opus. If nothing else, "People's Potential" stands as testament to Shepherd's classical skills as an arranger, demonstrating that it's somehow possible to construct something so spontaneous-sounding from all of the above.
- Christine Kakaire
You could assert that the most striking thing about "Fatherless" is its virulent flute riff. But we'd consider it to be a mere trifle without the mule-like kick drum and bassline underneath it. Ben Westbeech, who for the last few years had been crooning for us to "Get Closer" and "Hang Around" had crafted a bona fide club banger on his debut under the Breach alias. A "universal hit that gets rinsed and thoroughly wringed by every DJ spanning dubstep, funky and everything in between," said
RA's Andrew Ryce back in September, and it was impossible to say otherwise.
- Ryan Keeling
Kenny Dixon Jr is a master of what some have called "WTF moments." From "Shades of Jae" to "Dem Young Sconies" all the way through to "Freeki Motherfucker," he's got a knack for songs that make you turn to your friends and say "What is this?!" "It's 2 Late 4 U and Me" is the latest case in point. A loose bricolage of hectic acid, orchestral swells and floppy upright basslines, it's not the kind of thing just any DJ can pull off. But when executed properly, nothing woos a club like that Rhodes kicking in.
- Will Lynch
Want to hear how Night Slugs sounds different than what came before in the UK bass scene? There was no better example than "Wut," whose neon synths, half-time tempo and chipmunked vocals all echoed previous trends, but put them together in a new way. Like many of Night Slugs' best tracks, all you need to do is look at the artwork to understand: The building blocks are ancient, but they're arranged differently. It's youth. It's airhorns. It's Night Slugs.
- Dan Hartner
"Prodigy" is a word often used to describe 21-year-old James Blake. And "CMYK" is one of the reasons why. You'd be hard-pressed to find a track that epitomized the hyped post-dubstep sound more than Blake's R&S debut, with its sampled glitch, warm chords and rolling sub bass—all things that would usually be at odds, but in Blake's hands, combine beautifully for one of the genre's most pleasing track to date. With a debut album coming early next year, this young producer's star will only rise from here.
- Matt Unicomb
If there were an award dedicated to the track responsible for closing the most DJ sets in any one year, "Time for Us" would surely take top honors in 2010. Nicolas Jaar's January 12-inch was a brilliant start to Wolf + Lamb's campaign, and cemented the young producer's name as one of dance music's emerging stars. The track's sudden drop down to 75 BPM might've confused more listeners than it pleased, but in a year when house music seemed slower than ever, that's exactly why it's such a defining single.
- Matt Unicomb
Gunnar Wendel's music can sound a little stand-offish. Either the groove is really weird ("Hi Res"), the tempo is really low ("No Peace No Love No Unity") or the whole thing suddenly drops off into a surreal ambient piece (Workshop 3). This is by no means a criticism. In fact, it's precisely these quirks that make Kassem Mosse exceptional. But it does make it all the more satisfying to hear him indulge in a fully fleshed out club track, complete with a thick bassline, a melody (well, kind of) and even a few drum fills.
- Will Lynch
Everyone seemed to have an opinion
on which version of The Gathering's "In My System" was the foremost. Chez Damier, Chris Carrier, I:Cube, Milton Jackson and The Revenge all remixed the track—of which an original was never released—although the version that rang loudest, longest and truest was Jef K's System Mix. House music may have reverted to groove-based thrills in recent years (and "In My System" had plenty of 'em) but the Frenchman's remix was all about a single moment: the split second of silence before its bass and drums returned thrillingly to the fore.
- Ryan Keeling
Of all the trends in dance floor house that polarized opinions this year, it was the use of those
kinds of vocals that inflamed the most. You know. Trippy, sideways and distorted, suggesting the holes fallen into and the marbles lost at unreasonable hours. Calmly sipping on his sizzurp, Axel Boman out-weirded and out-classed them all by keeping it deceptively simple; although he kept insisting that he woke up with our name on his lips (lips, lips, lips), the swirling, narcotic wisps of melody, tutting hi-hats and splayed out claps beckoned, and we followed him willingly into the opiate fog.
- Christine Kakaire
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- Sam Louis
If "OAR-003B" suggested that Oni Ayhun had acquiesced to sunny, shimmering dance floor concerns, its follow up smote us lowly beings for being foolish enough to relax in his presence. "OAR 004-A" unfolds like a techno panic attack with shrieking bursts of industrial noise, violent metallic impacts, hissing static and bass frequencies that vibrate to the core of the cerebellum. And that's all before the voices...you hear the voices, right
? "OAR-004A" is for the quickening pulse, the shortening breath and the hair standing on end—reactions that characterize both the darkest of night terrors and the most thrilling experimental innovations.
- Christine Kakaire
That we had six unique Ramadanman tracks mentioned by our contributors in our singles poll voting this year should clearly indicate the sort of year David Kennedy had. Among lauded 12-inches for Hemlock Recordings, Aus Music and his own Hessle Audio was this standout single for Loefah's standout Swamp 81 imprint. "Work Them" took the best of Kennedy's production traits—ingenious drum programming, contorted vocal samples, sparseness in arrangement—and ratcheted them up to 11. If there was a single figure that embodied the extensive cross-pollination/mutation/transfigurations in UK bass music this year it was undoubtedly him.
- Ryan Keeling
Defected, Seth Troxler's girlfriend
and some Greek DJ named You u do!! Sure u do!!
. Did anyone aside from Anthony & The Camp not like "Coma Cat"? It seemed unlikely in 2010, as Tensnake once again ruled the disco pop world with this undeniable smash. It wasn't hard to pin down why its sunny bounce had such an impact in January when it was released by Permanent Vacation or in June by Defected. But the best description of "Coma Cat"'s appeal probably came from Tensnake himself
: "You can listen to it at home, while ironing....in the car and the club as well. It's just really catchy, right?" Right.
- Terrence Fuller
01. Art Department - Without You [Crosstown Rebels]
In a year that seemed to be as much about looking back as it did looking forward, there seemed to be no better tune to take the top spot of RA's tracks poll than Art Department's "Without You." A&R'd by old hand Damian Lazarus. Produced by two Toronto vets Kenny Glasgow and Jonny White. A bassline that hearkened back to electroclash's finest. A ketamine-laced vocal. Everything points backward, and nothing in the world of house music sounded more current.
Seth Troxler, who appeared in vocal form on the A-side, and Jamie Jones were among the biggest movers in the highest reaches of our reader-voted DJ poll this year. This was their anthem, a laser-ping funk jam that sounded like it could have been released at any point in the last 20 years. If the way to deal with the modern world in 2009, though, was the ecstatic defiance of "Hyph Mngo," 2010 seemed like an acceptance of existential dread. We all needed someone, because we just weren't sure if we were going to be able to make it on our own.
- Todd L. Burns
Published / Friday, 17 December 2010