Here are our favourite tracks from this year.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments below, and feel free to share your personal highlights from 2017. You can listen to a playlist of the tracks on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.
Like all Objekt tracks, "Theme From Q" is probably the result of intense, painstaking work, though TJ Hertz never sounded like he was having so much fun in the studio. From the irresistible organ lead, to the backstory about the imaginary Berlin club, to the classic breakbeats and the Seinfeld-style slap bass, everything about it smacks of good-times raving.
It's hard to think of an artist who had a bigger 2017 than Yaeji. With only two EPs under her belt, the Brooklyn-based singer and producer has built a fan base of equal parts music nerds and casual listeners, and this track captures her crossover appeal. With its tough but tender trap beat, its sensual melodies and a chorus that will stick to your brain for days, "Drink I'm Sippin On" could rock a raucous house party or a heady club night.
Some minimal house tracks leave a crater-sized impact in spite of their subtlety. "Chalzedon," with its instant earworm bassline, is one of them. It comes from an artist who is learning how to channel his dance floor mastery as a DJ into killer productions.
Shinichi Atobe couldn't have picked a more fitting title for this track, the opener from his most recent album. The word "Regret" captures the sense of yearning and loss that makes it so beautiful and, in its simplicity, reflects the arrangement of the track. Its chord progression is so perfect that it can loop uninterrupted for ten minutes with only a kick drum, hi-hats and a few passing melodies to accompany it.
These are some of the most interesting drums you'll hear in modern club music. Based loosely on the percussive rhythms of baile funk, this track from Brazilian producer Superficie is all about the clash between organic and synthetic textures. It balances genuinely futuristic sound design with grooves that are tough to resist—a rare combination that made this one of the most memorable tracks to emerge from South America's club scene this year.
Facebook went into meltdown when this video of Ricardo Villalobos spinning at Dekmantel Festival hit the internet. The track was "No Time To Explain" by Sakro, a Mexican producer better known for deeper shades of house. With a jacking beat, massive bassline and ever-rising synth, this one destroyed dance floors in 2017.
We don't know who Camille from OHM is, or what she did to inspire this breakthrough track from the Berlin-based artist known as Machine Woman. But when those chords float in, woozy and euphoric over the crunchy drums, you might feel loved, too.
Samuel André Madsen is currently one of the best artists making 4/4 club tracks, and that's mostly thanks to a rare dual quality: his music is as sleek and functional as it is emotive. This has never been more true than on "Pour Aisha," a celestial trip of a tech house roller with distant echoes of Orbital. Even at 11 minutes, it always ends too soon.
If you've never been to the weird world of RAMZi, then "Fuma" is a good place to start. Deflated chords, pitch-shifted vocals and snippets of conversation float over a beat that sits halfway between house and calypso but sounds completely unlike either. "Fuma" is among the most transportive tracks we heard all year.
We feel a sense of strange pride that we're involved in a music scene where one of the year's biggest tracks was little more than a filtered percussion loop and a big kick drum. OK, that's massively oversimplifying things—Pangaea's manipulation of Loleatta Holloway's voice and the track's undulating arrangement were both exemplary. But this one did remind us about the simple, raw beauty that lies behind some of our favourite club tracks each year.
No track has indulged Skee Mask's love of old school beats like "Routine," a dreamy breakbeat banger from his second EP of 2017. With gentle synths and pitter-patter drums, it's a razor-sharp producer at his most introspective. If a breakbeat was ever going to make you weep, this is it.
She's only a couple releases into her career, but the French artist Coucou Chloe represents plenty of what's good about new club music in 2017. On the EP Erika Jane she drew from the adventurous spirit of experimental club and the swagger of hip-hop, producing music that was both weird and weirdly accessible. "Stamina" was the highlight, and it was dripping with attitude.
Samuel Kerridge rode into the scene a few years ago on an undulating wave of noise—sometimes ambient, sometimes grinding, always confrontational. Lately he's gone for a more kinetic sound, which hit its stride with "Possession/Control." Clocking in at around 150 BPM and calling to mind a swarm of rubber balls bouncing around a metal chamber, it's a stunning track that could signal an exciting new phase for Kerridge.
Earworm melody, gooey vocals, slamming two-step beat—"Drive" had all the ingredients of a slinky UK garage cut, except it wasn't brewed in some East London bedroom, but in Aarhus, the Danish city responsible for some of the best dance music around right now. 2017 might have been chock-a-block with '90s throwbacks, but few were this classy.
Batu has a sculptor's sense for detail, but rarely has he made anything as beautiful—or as imposing—as "Marius." It's dense, with asymmetrical layers of tone and rhythm, and, as always, the moving parts are as intricate as a clock's. Once they give way to the gorgeous chime melody in the breakdown, it feels as though time has stopped.
"Dubelle Oh XX (JVIP)," a synthy club weapon, was made in direct response to an argument that took place on a rainy night in Glasgow—the cataclysmic drop that turns the track on its head is the "fuck you." But the maddest thing? Jackmaster—who this version was made for—had to beg Sulta to leave that part in.
"Praise-Jah," first released in 1978, is an uncommon fusion of gospel, soca and disco. It's a heartfelt tribute to the titular deity, but it doesn't rely only on religious fervour—tweeting electronics, fun vocal interplays, rich funk keys, salt-sprinkled synths and the sing-a-long chorus will raise your spirits, too.
This year, as RA staff argued in this year's retrospective essays, electro moved from the peripheries of electronic music to the centre. Scottish artist Galaxian is one of the artists who made this feel so urgent and exciting. "Dosing The Population," with its tense ambience and blindingly fast tempo, channels the paranoid ethos of classic electro without leaning on retro tropes.
"日出東方 唯我不敗" opens one of the year's best techno albums in head-turning style—though it's hardly even techno. The robust string instrumentation and drum programming have more in common with Nine Inch Nails or Meat Beat Manifesto, pop-industrial influences that make Tzusing's creations feel unusually flexible.
"Motion Keeper" is deep techno smeared with a delicious sludge. Every surface seems slicked with oil, and in the track's viscous low- and mid-ranges, as Holly Dicker wrote a few months ago, you'll find a "subaqeous, womb-like environment you won't want to leave."
After ten years with no releases, we'd assumed that Antonio Giova and Valerio Gomez De Ayala were content with gradually building their small but dedicated following as DJs. Then this EP dropped on the excellent Tikita label that summarised everything that's great about their sets. The title track in particular showed the depth and creeping atmospherics that have drawn people to their vision of techno.
"Not everyone is gonna like this," the New York artist Embaci said to Klein in a recent Radar Radio video. She was remembering their conversation when Klein first played her "Cry Theme," the standout track from the Tommy EP. It is difficult to recall a piece of music recently whose emotions are so extreme yet so ambiguous, which is probably the best possible sign that Klein's music, and "Cry Theme" in particular, is something genuinely innovative.
This 1996 track, remastered and reissued this year by Kirk Degiorgio, was the precise moment Photek went from master of one genre to a broadly visionary producer. Effortlessly combining techno and drum & bass, it predicted Photek's future turn towards house and techno. It might just be the crown jewel in his catalogue.
The A1 from one of 2017's most sought-after white labels, "Son Goku" was a dreamy minimal cut from two exciting Frankfurt-area artists. It's all about the descending bassline, which feels like staring across an infinity pool on a moonlit night. Perfect for those afterhours sessions where yesterday's party is a distant memory, this is spellbinding music.
The Irish producer's gleefully punishing double EP for Metalheadz reimagines old-school drum & bass as 130 BPM broken techno, although "Claws" is slightly more traditional. More importantly, it's a lesson in the art of the second drop. When those kicks return after the first time, if you're not air drumming then you're doing it wrong.
Lurching drums mark a rhythm that feels oddly hip-hop, despite clocking in at 128 BPM. Chimes swirl in kaleidoscopic patterns, as dazzling as they are disorienting. Leif Knowles has long been a master of surreal grooves and textures, but on "July V" he outdid himself.
Like much of the music Kieran Hebden released this year, "Question" arrived unexpectedly, this time on a white label slipped onto the shelves of London record stores Phonica Records and Sounds Of The Universe. The edit—a soul side revved up to James Brown-level frenzy—is pure dance floor heat, good for both Dekmantel's main stage and your local pub. This quick and dirty DJ tool showed one of dance music's leading lights just having fun.
With each new record, Minor Science (an alias of RA staff writer Angus Finlayson) pushes the envelope a little more, testing how far you can break from convention while maintaining a club-friendly flow. "Volumes," the A-side from his latest 12-inch for Whities, seems to intentionally dance on either side of that line. If you have any doubt about the power of experimentation in dance music, just watch the way a club reacts to that breakdown.
Bullion, real name Nathan Jenkins, has spent the last few years immersed in the '80s, making leftfield dance cuts that integrate guitars, vocal samples and vintage synths lifted from the Thatcher era. This year for The Trilogy Tapes, he looked seaward and reached an ebullient peak. It's safe to say "Blue Pedro" is the catchiest space disco sea shanty you'll ever hear.
Cosmic disco may be out of the spotlight, but that didn't stop Powder from releasing one of the style's modern gems. Bright, spacey and deceptively complex, "Heart" utilised harmony like few other tracks this year. When that soaring synth hits, it's time to strap on your helmet: you're going into space.
This was one of the year's more unexpected exchanges—the German dub techno godfather Mark Ernestus remixing the Jamaican production duo Equiknoxx. Ernestus smooths out the original's bright textures and angular contours while preserving its fun, unpredictable rhythms (and adding a significant amount of sub-bass). It's a tricky one to dance to, but if you're DJing to an adventurous crowd, give this a play and see what happens.
On this 22-minute composition, the Canadian artist Kara-Lis Coverdale refines her exploratory methods for a rousing piece that combines Reichian minimalism with her own penchant for treated electronics. By turns beautiful, startling and relaxing, Grafts sews musical traditions into its own exquisite tapestry.
There's a seductive sense of space in the music of Parris, a Bristol-based artist with a potently sparing take on UK club sounds. Perhaps none of his records have been as reduced as this track for Hemlock, the label he says got him into dance music. Made up of little more than cooing pads, gurgling synths and disembodied whispers, it was this year's most compelling support for the maxim "less is more."
How do you remix an already great track? Avalon Emerson's "Furiously Awake" version of Octo Octa's "Adrift" is a textbook answer—keep the best bits (the gloomy lead, the drone trails) and go crazy with the rest. By adding energetic hand drums and breakbeats, Emerson turns "Adrift"'s slimline deep house into a menacing roller that seems to swallow the horizon.
Future Times' single-sided 12-inch series is so on point that each new record is basically buy-on-sight. They didn't disappoint with their latest addition, seven minutes of crunchy breakbeats paired with ecstatic '90s house samples that will immediately raise the room temperature.
After several releases of spooky and spiky drum tracks spanning various tempos, Forest Drive West stripped things back and delivered a four-to-the-floor bomb. "Static," with its scythe-sharp claps and contender for bassline of the year, is simple dance floor gold.
We take it Errorsmith did not intend to describe himself with this title, but consider this: can the maker of such wild and original music not be "interesting"? Could this song's demented spin on techno and dancehall not be considered "cheerful"? And could the creation of a track so deliriously fun not be "sociable"?
The last time Shanti Celeste partnered with Idle Hands we got "Days Like This," a beautiful deep house cut that signalled the arrival of a new talent. Three years later, she returns to the label with "Make Time," which might be the best record she's ever made. Pumping yet melancholic, it was maybe 2017's sweetest dance floor bomb.
The majority of Daniel Lopatin's recent work has reached towards a synthetic portrayal of emotion. He had his work cut out for him taking on the heartrending opener from the Japanese master's 2017 album, async. But OPN rose to the occasion, using digital koto, widescreen synth leads and desolate reverb to evoke android heartbreak.
"Hi! How are you? I'm tryna dance." D. Tiffany's dazed house track, featuring deadpan vocals from Regularfantasy, perfectly translates the numbing feeling of having forced conversations on the dance floor. It's a wry commentary that also features one of the year's most understated yet catchy grooves.
While his peers look to '90s techno and electro for inspiration, Phil Evans channelled a different sound on his first EP for raum...musik. From the lullaby melody to the shuffling hi-hats, Thomas Melchior's influence felt strong on "Saniti," one of 2017's best minimal tracks.
Nkisi, a cofounder of NON, delivered a rare solo EP this year that made us wish there were more. "Kill" takes a deliberate approach to experimental club music: there are jerky basslines and percussive devices that pop like gunshots, sure, but there's also the sensuously slinky beat and a beautiful melody trilling in the background.
"Born Of Ashes" only kicks at 124 BPM, but it's among 2017's meanest techno tracks. No producer blends grit and funk like Ancient Methods, and there's no better example of his sound than this seven-minute wrecking ball. When the synth goes into overdrive halfway through, dance floors explode.
"Done this before," a voice intones at the beginning of "Noshow," a collaboration by Perlon's three principal members—Chris Rehberger, Zip and Markus Nikolai. And it's true: in the past 20 years, Perlon have blown our minds again and again with oddball electronics that bring to club music a rare humour and avant-garde flair. And yet, they hadn't quite done this, an otherworldly chill-out track of cartoon melodies and slinking rhythms, one which proves that Perlon, all these years later, still have plenty left to do.
We could have picked a few tracks from Sonhos & Pesadelos, DJ Lycox's full debut on Príncipe, but there was something about the sun-soaked "Solteiro" that stayed with us. The roughness of the percussion blended beautifully with the smoothness of the synths and samples, evoking a sweltering Lisbon summer evening. The range of moods and styles on this EP—and Príncipe's output this year generally—showed just how deep the well of creativity is in the city's Afro-Portuguese club music scene.
"Mmmmmm! Pow! Ding!" went the highlight from this deliciously strange EP. Trip and PTU did more than most this year to show that there's still plenty of originality left in the 30-year-old techno formula. "A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day" broke the rules at 146 BPM, pairing a steady kick-drum thump with mind-bending one shots and a rude bassline.
The veteran breakcore and drum & bass producer Christoph De Babalon counts Thom Yorke and Alec Empire among his fans, so perhaps it's not surprising that the A-side of his latest record should be so mind-bendingly good. The mood is one of cosmic dread; the drums, arranged in impossibly complex patterns at a tempo north of 160 BPM, are like asteroids whipping through space. Good luck not getting lost in this one.
Bicep are masters of one of dance music's darkest arts: making a club track with pop appeal. "Glue," the standout from this year's RA-recommended debut album, was the Belfast duo's "homage to the rave era," a slice of punchy breakbeat that slowly unfurled into one of 2017's most emotional bangers. For the full experience, see Joe Wilson's moving video.
Kyle Hall is now firmly within his hippie period, extolling the virtues of psychedelics and sweet potatoes in the liner notes for his sole 2017 release, Eutrophia Sevan. "Teacher Plant" continues on this good trip, bouncing along with warm Rhodes, spaced-out synths and a loping bassline. The track's effortless musicality improved upon the broken-beat foundation of his last album, From Joy, making it the latest milestone in the Detroit producer's steady progression.
Dana Ruh moved from warm-up to peak-time with Cave Jams Vol. 1, a meaty deep house EP made for busy dance floors. Best heard on "Go Hmmm!?," the synths were jazzy and the basslines were bold, hitting a groove that feels like it could go all night.
Utopia tells the story of Björk learning how to open up and love again, and "Blissing Me" is its most tender moment. The lyrics convey the excitement, nerves and insecurity of courtship, as Björk wonders aloud, "Is this excess texting a blessing? / Two music nerds obsessing." Accompanied by ornate harp and music box, Björk made the act of texting sound majestic.
On "Touch Absence," angelic chorale synths flank a rude electro beat. This hushed, sacred tone—and the fact that AFX and Björk have been playing it—make the track feel like a coronation, positioning Calum MacRae as the rightful heir to the Artificial Intelligence throne.
You can listen to a playlist of the tracks on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.