Another year, another list of amazing music that no other media source will talk about. If you want to keep getting spoon fed a bunch of bullshit music, from a bunch of bullshit “artists”, you know where to find that. I can never get tired of putting these year end pieces out simply because I actually care about music and want people to be able to find better shit than they could otherwise. So here are the records that soundtracked my life in 2015. For me, this year had a lot of music that would have been cream of the crop in recent years. I can’t say why there was so much amazing music, but I am not mad. Because there was so much amazing stuff, I decided to keep it a bit shorter than past years and only talk about the best of the best of the best. That still ended up being 20 jams. Crazy.
The embedded video above is linked to a playlist that contains all but two of the tracks. The ones that aren’t on YouTube have a link in my blurb about them.
Kai Alcé has been ON FIRE this year. In my not so humble opinion, he released no fewer than four classics (this Miranda Nicole, the Dangerfeel Newbies remixes, and the vocal and dub mixes of Take A Chance) as well as a number of additionally amazing records for People of Earth and Sounds Familiar and a bunch of dope remixes. Vocals, instrumentals, dubs, whatever you like, Kai delivered it this year. This one with Miranda Nicole has been a highlight of every set I’ve heard it in, and has immediately moved into my wife’s YouTube playlist, always a sign of a transcendent jam.
But feel free to believe that the best record of the year was a reissue if you want to believe the “experts” on the internet.
Louie Vega must have decided that 2015 was gonna be the year he came back with a seriousness, because all he did all year was drop classics. This one with Leroy Burgess getting soulful with the vocals is my favorite, and has been being hammered by me for so long that I should be sick of it by now. No such thing is happening. Louie’s remixes of 3 Winans Brothers featuring the Clark Sisters and Funkadelic were both great dancefloor anthems, as well as all his original material.
This absolutely MASSIVE jam by Scott Grooves has elicited trainspotters running up from the back of the room every single time I dropped it. Without question, one of the best dancefloor Detroit Techno tracks in ages. The entire record is amazingly good. And this amazing piece of music has resonated with the masses so much that not only did it fly under the radar of basically every publication’s year end list, but it also isn’t even on YouTube. This is the state of dance music in 2015. Check the digital file on Scott’s Bandcamp page here.
While the whole world seems to be off reissuing 90s house and garage records, some people just make new classics like this Ken Gill joint on Larry Heard’s label. Using the same kind of deliriously soulful vocal delivery that marks many Robert Owens tracks, this track keeps delivering special moments every time it is played. A perfect end of night record and already a classic in my book.
This Omar-S vocal banger might have been the first record on this list to actually drop this year, but a full 12 months later and it still gets me amped the fuck up every time. Melodies that throw back to Italo and early Chicago house with a rough vocal style that feels 100% today make this another surefire dancefloor classic. It’s almost too easy. I’m left wondering what kind of person would actually play the instrumental, though. That’s a party foul if I’ve ever heard of one.
A lovely debut record by Renato P on the properly titled Must Have Records imprint run by ISM homie Jay Simon. I’ve already spoken my piece here recently about the quality of this record, but even since then it has been on repeat so heavily that I feel like it is even more deeply rooted in my consciousness than it was. Essential 2015 music.
Another almost completely ignored jam. Having the luck of falling on the B side of a relatively underwhelming Theo Parrish remix, most people buying records today probably don’t even know who Daz-I-Kue is. For those of us who aren’t sleeping, the soulful jams he has been releasing for years as part of Bugz in the Attic and on his own down in Atlanta have been in heavy rotation. This remix of Marcos Valle is a perfect blend of Brazilian instrumentation and electronic production and the result is an uplifting emotional journey about a million miles away from the bland techno populating so many end of year lists.
I’ve been a fan of Aakmael’s music for a minute. His sample based jams fit right in with the old Prescription and KDJ aesthetic, but with that East Coast flavor that feels almost like Pete Rock making house tracks. This whole EP is really a stellar listen, with lots of jazzy and soulful touches that give it a breezy warm weather vibe. The pick of the litter though is the B2, which floats right along, leaving you feeling refreshed.
Part I of “Free” as remixed by Andrés is a classic in and of itself, and was one of my jams of last year. This year, Mike Grant dropped this version with Amp Fiddler on keys to go along with Billy Love’s vocals and it is possibly even better! Relying on a simple broken kick pattern and beautiful instrumentation, this is exactly the kind of fully developed house music that stands out from the pack of mixing tools that dominated 2015 playlists of weak DJs. I haven’t been able to stop playing this since I got it, my only complaint being that its October release date means I have to wait until next summer to play it at an outdoor function.
Dego and Kaidi had another amazing year. It was tough to pick one favorite, and this one actually would probably have been second but it was on YouTube and the amazing recent EP under Tatham, Mensah, Lord, & Ranks still isn’t. This Eglo EP and the one for Sound Signature are both lovely examples of modern broken beat soul, and Dego’s album The More Things Stay The Same is also a highlight of the year.
Maybe this was slept on because it appeared on a difficult to locate Record Store Day 10″. Maybe it was slept on because many continue to sleep on Karizma’s productions because they aren’t whatever flavor of the week hyped genre is in style. The guy has been making killer jams for so long it’s ridiculous. This simple drum beat with spacey sample doesn’t break any new ground, it just creates an amazing mood on the dancefloor and elicits yelps of pleasure every single time I have played it. This is all I can ask for.
It seems to be a recurring theme in this list of mine: a beautiful jam that doesn’t fit into whatever the current trends are to the point where nobody has felt it was cool enough to bother uploading to YouTube. Whatever. It makes me sad when music this good is just being ignored. Joe Claussell is a bit of a divisive figure, but when he is on, HE IS ON. This one of one of the best recent versions of him being on. Check out a clip of the track here and hope you can still find the record because some people aren’t sleeping….
While Theo Parrish himself was relatively quiet this year, his label dropped lovely music from Kaidi and Dego as well as this one by GE-OLOGY and MDCL. This one is kind of a weird jam in that it consists of a weird synth loop and crazy keys solos over it, but it works in a very primal manner that isn’t like anything else you heard this year. And of course it smashes dancefloors. Nuff said.
The title track from Linkwood’s high quality LP has been receiving play from me since late last year. Officially released this spring, it would be a year end highlight in any year. Feeling a bit like Basic Channel meeting Omar-S, the roughness and beauty take equally important roles here and the result is an epic deep jam that checks all the boxes of a classic.
Now this is not a track I would expect most lame ass house and techno DJs to be dropping. The fact that most house and techno DJs fall into that category doesn’t make this jam any less outstanding. The whole LP is pretty fun, though maybe a bit much to digest due to its’ insane length combined with dense musicality. “The Rhythm Changes” stood out from the first listen, reminding me of some of the best Pharoah Sanders cuts. This is the kind of track that I will find any way to play in a set, because it oozes vibes far more interesting to me than almost all “club music” while still having funky ass drums.
Waajeed has been one of my favorite musicians for a long time. I first wrote about him on ISM back in the early days of the site, when he was still doing mainly rap and r&b. Now that he has moved over into house and techno styles, his music has remained just as good. This EP with Paul Randolph on vocals and keys contains more emotional depth than almost any record this year. Combined with the artwork, it is a complete statement that is exactly opposite from that made by labels whose figureheads use fascist imagery to “make a statement”. Of course, that label still found itself on many year end lists while this record mostly has not. Why would that be?
Morgan Geist had himself a fine year, first dropping The Galleria’s “Calling Card/Mezzanine” earlier in the year (which I wrote about then) followed by this great minimal funky techno record later in the year. Taking in all sorts of synthetic dance music from the 80s and refracting it though his own melodic sense, this whole record is very fun and hopefully an indication of more activity from Morgan’s Environ label.
Even when the whole “distorted Chicago tracks” kinda vibe has been nearly ruined for me by oversaturation these past few years, quality always manages to stand out. Label head Matt Weiner’s productions touch on many styles, but this one really captures the lofi melodic vibes of a certain strain of 80s acid without sounding like a knockoff in any way. Sound-wise this may not seem like it fits in with many of my other choices, but emotionally this feels just as deep to me as any of the other tracks on this list.
It’s been four years since Nebraska’s Displacement LP for Rush Hour, so new material was very welcome. Between this EP and the one for Mr. Saturday Night, it was as busy a year as he has ever had and both records were outstanding and have been in my bag since each came out. This one is probably the jam I have dropped the most, a funky little broken beat house thing that always gets people moving. Hopefully we won’t have to wait so long for more new stuff from him!
A jam that vinyl-only heads will be missing out on for right now, not that I expect most DJs to be checking jazz CDs anyway. Another great song that represents all of what I want to hear when I go out dancing. Beautiful playing, funky rhythms, and feel-good vibes.
2015 also saw three releases that I am very proud of released by PTA or through our label. Santiago Salazar’s amazing debut album Chicanismo, Pittsburgh Track Authority’s “Gold Trim” on Freerange, and never before heard versions of Craig Peyton’s classic “Be Thankful”, all of which helped make this year what it was for me. Thanks for reading!