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White Noise: 25 Best Dance Singles of 2011

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

25 Best Dance Singles of 2011

Best of 2011

It’s been an incredible year for dance music. While Bass music finally formed a concrete identity, a few keen artists continued to take House and Techno in new and exciting directions. Here are my very favourite tracks of the year across a variety of genres, each one sure to get bodies moving on any dancefloor. Although I’ve put these in a loose order, when the tracks are this good they’re all fantastic.

P.S – I’ve embedded a Youtube playlist of all the tracks at the top of the page in case you’d prefer to listen to the whole lot continuously.

25 - Braille - Breakup

Both Braille and Machinedrum have had busy years independently as well as with their collaboration project Sepalcure, but this track on Braille's A Meaning EP really stood out for me. Here Praveen Sharma harks back to classic House stylings with a very contemporary twist, combining great vocal snatches and clean beats with an uneasy synthline and lovely soft keys.

If you like this, check out the rest of Braille's A Meaning EP.

24 - Objekt – CLK Recovery

It’s been a breakthrough year for Berlin-based TJ Hertz, and nowhere is this more evident than on his second white label single. This is Techno at its most exciting and boundary-pushing, with deep mechanical beats and a rich soundfield guaranteed to bring that Berlin sound wherever you go.

If you like this, check out the monstrous B-side Unglued.

23 - Storm Queen – It Goes On (Vox)

The most recent entry on this list is from House stalwart Morgan Geist, of Metro Area fame. It didn’t seem likely he could follow up his last solo outing, but It Goes On pulls it off with style, building slowly and assuredly with superbly catchy vocals, eventually erupting into a stripped and euphoric breakdown before settling into some great and unexpected deviant sounds towards the close that ensure this tune can be played again and again.

If you like this, check out any of Morgan Geist or Carl Craig’s recent output.

22 - Ital – Culture Clubs

2011 has been a great year for the 100% Silk stable, an offshoot of leftfield indie label Not Not Fun, and no one has been releasing for the label with quite as much style as Ital. This unique dance cut revolves around several stripped but intoxicating elements; a shifting percussive click, woozy pitchbent synths and tumbling tropical melodies. It’s a hypnotic and drugged-out tune, and nothing else sounds quite like it.

If you like this, check out any of 100% Silk’s releases from this year, particularly Ital’s other work or the new-Disco stylings of Octo Octa.

21 - Teeth – Shawty

Who knew a spoken Beyoncé sample would become so ubiquitous this year? On this unsettling and sexy cut, a repeated vocal line from pop song Videophone is twisted to ghostly effect over percussion drenched in knife-edge tension and ethereal rising synths.

If you like this, check out FaltyDL’s excellent percussive remix of this tune.

20 - Eats Everything – Entrance Song

Eats Everything came out of nowhere this year to craft one of the best House tunes of the year. Slowly building over that warping vocal line, warm keys and neat claps give way at the drop to a massive bouncing beat that’s sure to get anyone on the dancefloor.

If you like this, check out the producer’s recent self-titled single.

19 - Huxley – Shower Scene

Sadly still going without a vinyl release, Huxley’s magnificent Shower Scene really has everything you could possibly want from a dance track. The stunning tune includes not one but two expertly applied vocal lines, a deep growling bassline and enough cunning micro-edits to keep the most ADHD-addled minds riveted throughout.

If you like this, check out recent tunes from Ethyl and Detroit Swindle, particularly the latter’s The Wraparound.

18 - Rustie – Ultra Thizz

Rustie followed no one but himself with his trailblazing approach to production this year. The most exuberant and ecstatic cut from his brilliant Glass Swords album is Ultra Thizz, which was released as a single in the Autumn. Irresistible chipmunk vocals are twinned with shifting handclaps and one of the most ballsy and colourful drops heard this decade, never mind this year.

If you like this, check out the rest of Rustie’s superb Glass Swords album.

17 - New York Transit Authority – Off The Traxx

Although released on a joint-single with White Noise favourite Redlight, under this new moniker Mensah dropped one of the most menacing and well-crafted slices of dance this side of Sicko Cell. Along with a suitable vocal line, lyrically bizarre but threatening in intonation, we hear dissonant effects applied liberally to make the track veer towards the unsettling, but it never falls short of  being a sure-fire hit on the dancefloor.

If you like this, check out Pearson Sound / Maurice Donovan’s output this year.

16 - SCB – Loss

The first of what was perhaps an inevitable pair of entries in the list for Hotflush label-head Paul Rose, Loss from his techno-based SCB guise was without a doubt one of the big DJ favourites this year. Rather than building to a drop this track introduces itself with all the elements already present; a gnawing vocal line that won’t leave your head, an occasional tumbling bassline punctuating the space and a lush synth wash. It all came together as an undeniable masterwork, cementing Scuba as potentially the year’s most exciting and varied producer.

If you like this, check out anything released by Scuba / SCB this year. Seriously, this guy has been on fire.

15 - Kahn – Like We Used To

Emerging from the nebulous Bristol post-dubstep scene, Kahn put out a couple of low-key but superb releases this year, and this was my favourite. Woozy synth washes introduce a pitch-perfect choppy vocal line, before a big bassline enters to form a tune that feels like it never quite settles down, but uses this fact to a clear advantage. The icing on the cake is the Zomby-esque introduction of an untreated synthline midway through the tune, proving that Kahn is a producer who really knows what he’s doing.

If you like this, check out Kahn’s excellent release from later this year, Illy / Tehran.

14 - Jamie xx – Far Nearer

Although this release was only one of many reasons for Jamie xx’s rise to prominence this year, alongside some great DJ sets and his album remixing Gil Scott Heron, it’s also a song that will very easily settle into its own little niche in your heart (yuck, I know). It’s hard to create a dancefloor knockout that tugs at the heartstrings, but here it’s pulled off with style, and it sounds effortless. The combination of those warm steel drums and a deep bass-driven dance tune is masterful, and those emotive vocal lines are just the icing on the cake. More than anything what stands out here is Jamie xx’s masterful sense of space in his tracks, displayed with style on The xx’s debut album and shown here again to remarkable effect.

If you like this, check out The xx’s debut album, or similarly emotive dance tunes released this year by the likes of Hackman in Close or Mano Le Tough with In My Arms.

13 - Deadboy – Wish U Were Here

Surprisingly absent from a lot of other site’s year-end lists, I’m unsure how White Noise favourite Deadboy managed to slip through the gaps this year with his excellent Here release. This fantastic lead single features a great vocal line set into a massive overall sound, with big synths duelling disco-tinged beats to great effect.

If you like this, check out Deadboy’s stellar back-catalogue, especially singles U Cheated and If U Want Me, as well as his soulful and melancholy classic Heartbreaker (along with Julio Bashmore’s stunning remixes released this year).

12 - Pearson Sound – Deep Inside Refix

David Kennedy hasn’t let up in 2011, and his various outings as Pearson Sound and Maurice Donovan continue to prove he is one of the Dance world’s very brightest stars. Nowhere is this clearer than on his rework of Hardrive’s 1993 anthem Deep Inside, where a cloying vocal line repeats across finely textured percussion and subtly overlaid synths.

If you like this, check out Kennedy’s fantastic classic House offerings as Maurice Donovan this year, such as Babeh and Call My Name.

11 - Martyn – Masks

This year Martyn made a clear shift towards House from his DnB / Dubstep origins, but his superb Ghost People LP proved that his skill wasn’t constrained to a single genre. This was most evident on lead single Masks, where a spectacular disaffected vocal punctuates a great swung rhythm, with a rich field of perfectly tuned synths adding up to a stunning dance cut that occupied a lot of space in some of the best DJ sets I’ve heard this year.

If you like this, check out the rest of Martyn’s fantastic Ghost People LP.

10 - Burial – Street Halo

Burial’s much-anticipated return to production was one of the most welcome returns of the year, and the Street Halo EP had another surprise up its sleeve in the form of his first true solo Dance production this side of his genre-defining masterpiece Untrue in 2006. Street Halo has all the classic signs of a Burial tune, dusty percussive clicks, ghostly vocal samples and ethereal synths, but added a massive gravelly bass throb that proved the producer could still get bodies moving when he wanted to.

If you like this, check out any of Burial’s superb releases, either his Garage-centric self-titled debut LP or masterful dubstep long-player Untrue. Also watch out for his Kindred EP out next month.

9 - Pangaea – Hex

Kicking off as fiery 2step with a thoroughly menacing synthline, Hessle label-head Pangaea’s biggest single of the year could at first sit easily alongside recent offerings from Sully or the rest of the dark UK Garage crowd. But when that downright-threatening reggae vocal line is brought into the mix, Hex becomes another beast entirely, and one of the strongest dance releases of the year.

If you like this, check out Sully’s Carrier LP from earlier this year.

8 - Unknown – Sicko Cell

The most surprising thing about this year’s most talked-about tune is just how strange it is. Eschewing most recognisable genre tropes; here Joy O the unknown producer combines sparse percussive elements with the ubiquitous cocaine-touting vocal line and that massive crunchy synthline to bizarre but intoxicating effect. It gets odder as you listen deeper; the ‘I’m so addicted’ vocal line is out of time, the near-inaudible noise that sounds like a cloth wiping glass in the song’s bulk, it’s all very unsettling. But in a lot of ways, it doesn’t really matter. The song works, and it’s massive.

If you like this, check out the work of similarly-minded UK producer Joy O.

7 - Classixx  - Into the Valley (Julio Bashmore Remix)

This tune came out of nowhere, apparently commissioned by Mountain Dew, but nothing could stop Bashmore’s massive remix from getting a lot of playtime this year. This tune is pure euphoria, combining old and new sounds; vintage-style House vocals twinned with bright contemporary synths and beats to intoxicating result.

If you like this, check out Julio Bashmore’s fantastic Everybody Needs a Theme Tune EP.

6 - Hackman – Close

Another tune that seems to have slipped from most year-end lists, this gorgeous single was one of my most played of the year. Beginning with warm and bouncy steel drums, the tune soon drops into a snarling bass throb, with an achingly emotive vocal line applied to stellar effect.

If you like this, check out Hackman’s recent Agree to Disagree 12” and watch out for his album out early next year.

5 - Jacques Greene- Another Girl

The best of a sparkling catalogue of releases from the Canadian producer this year, Another Girl is for me the most impressive examples of all the best qualities of today’s Bass scene. An eye for subtlety rather than big drops, airy vibes, and spliced RnB samples (here courtesy of Ciara) resulted in the perfect Bass tune. This is probably my most played track of the year, and I’m still not bored.

If you like this, check out Greene’s GREENE01 white label release which dropped in August.

4 - Blawan – Getting Me Down

One of the year’s first big releases is still one if it’s best. Blawan’s shown a staggering variety of styles are well and truly under his belt this year, but this genreless tune was a cut above the rest. Sharp percussion held up the track, which was topped off by a bassy growl and that vocal line, which is absolutely impossible to get out of your head.

If you like this, check out Blawan’s latest Peaches EP or his recent collaboration with Pariah as Karenn for his new tougher Techno sound.

3 - Scuba – Adrenalin

What is without a doubt one of the year’s most decadent tunes is also one of its finest. Scuba finally came out of the shell of his cerebral post-Dubstep work to produce the sublime Adrenalin EP, and the title track is an absolute monster. Taking influences from the unlikely world of Trance, this lush tune revels in vintage synths, a euphoric vocal line and includes a breakdown so long and finely wrought, you’ll be begging for the drop by the time it finally hits.

If you like this, check out the rest of Scuba’s Adrenalin EP or his great singles Loss and Mace as SCB.

2 - Mosca – Bax

It was hard to choose between this and Done Me Wrong on Mosca’s masterly double A-side out over the summer. Bax just edged it out, with an intoxicating synthline taking prime positions amongst a host of great vocal snippets, sharp percussion and a deep, growling bass. 2011 was truly the year that Mosca did no wrong, and out of all of this year’s dance releases, this 12” will be one of the most valuable any DJ could’ve bought this year.

If you like this, check out the amazing A-side Done Me Wrong, along with Mosca’s superb Wavey EP.

1 - Julio Bashmore – Battle For Middle You

Was number one really ever going to be anything else? Bristol-based producer Julio Bashmore defined this year’s sound before it had even really begun with his fantastic Everybody Needs a Theme Tune EP, and prime cut Battle For Middle You was the standout of the bunch. Every aspect of this track screams classic, from the unique synth effects and expert pacing to one of the heaviest, dirtiest drops I’ve ever heard in a club. I expect it’s a drop that I’ll hear time and time again as 2012 rolls on, and deservedly so. No one rocked the dancefloors like Bashmore this year.

If you like this, check out the rest of the Everybody Needs a Theme Tune EP, as well as his excellent remix work for the likes of Classixx and Deadboy.

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