2016 has been an interesting one. And by interesting, I mean shitty. And that’s just on the music tip, not even touching on all the rest of the nonsense.
I needed long breaks from music, social media, and especially music journalism this year. The music journalism break will likely be permanent, judging by the little bits of the end of the year bullshitstorm that have made it thru my block button brigade. It was as hard to find music I was really feeling this year as in any year I can remember. The DJs, labels, and artists that seem to be ubiquitous have rarely been of such low quality as they were in 2016. I feel pretty disconnected from damn near everything to do with what used to be called house and techno music. Whatever. These jams were so good that finding them felt like encountering an oasis in the middle of the Sahara.
Click here for a YouTube playlist of the highlights….
Sound Signature was absolutely on fire this year. It’s really not even close for any other label. A whole new CD album by the great Hanna entitled Bless was the one that got the most plays, but the two CDs also released on DEMF weekend contained so much good music by so many good artists that it is absurd. Those tracks began to come out on wax near the end of the year highlighted by an extended mix of Warrior Code by Theo, Waajeed, and Duminie Duporres. A new Theo 12″ entitled “A Ghetto Proposal” was also a stand out of this year, while early in the year saw Byron the Aquarius’ 12″ on Sound Signature blow shit up (he also had two other great records for Wild Oats and Sampling As An Art). Rest in Power to Leron Carson whose “Lemonlime” was one of the wildest house jams to drop in 2016.
Dego’s “Don’t Stop (Let It Go)” was one of the two biggest jams for me this year, hearing it get played late at the steaming hot Sound Signature joint on DEMF Friday in Detroit was a party highlight for sure. This continued yet another great year for the sound formerly known as broken beat. The newest 12″ by Tatham, Mensah, Lord, & Ranks is my favorite thing by them so far, three tasty jazzy boogie jams on one record. Kaidi Tatham also dropped two future classics on his own, the jazzy deepness for 2000 Black on The Extrovert City (which also features some of my favorite artwork of 2016) and some funky joints for Freedom School DJ Series Vol 3.
Glenn Underground is always reliable for hot jams, but even in such an impressive catalog this year’s “Contact (Nova)” stands out. Sounding like a straight up modern take on Brass Construction, this has smashed literally every time I know of it being played out. Alongside that Dego, this is track of the year for me. You pretty much gotta let the whole thing play out too, the dancefloor doesnt tire of it!
The man Javonntte gets the consistency award this year. He released only two singles, but each contains five tracks and they are both all killer no filler. I played “Keep Bouncing” and “These Words” off of his NDATL record as well as “Jazzmatazz” and “This Melody” from his Sistrum EP the most, but you could almost look at them together as an album and it would have been one of the strongest house albums of the past few years.
Speaking of Sistrum, the head of the label Patrice Scott also released one of my favorites of this year. Both sides are amazing, with “The Detroit Upright” flexing the jazzy vibes and “Who We Are” being one of the prime examples of deep house’s continued quality when done properly.
I received Kyle Hall’s lovely album From Joy in the mail literally the day after I posted my 2015 round-up last December. While it was technically released that year, most people didn’t get it until this year and it has been in constant rotation all year long for me. His associate Jay Daniel also released his debut album Broken Knowz, and it shows a slightly more restrained producer who still likes the slightly off kilter rhythms but combines them with more jazzy instrumentation, “Paradise Valley” being the highlight.
Stefan Ringer is another younger cat whose music fits in quite well with that of Kyle Hall and Jay Daniel. He had three releases that I picked up this year, all of which were cool and different sounding. “Bossa Grv” was the most straightforward for dance sets, while the Stimulate EP was a bit weirder but still dancefloor. Maybe my favorite as a whole was the untitled LP for PPU under his REKchampa moniker, which adds some more boogie and downbeat vibes to the mix for an excellent listening album.
Kai Alcé had something of a quiet year compared to last year, though the Dangerfeel Newbies jam from 2015 continued to do much damage this year as well. The Deep Detroit party over DEMF weekend was a highlight as usual, and the 12″ from it was of course hot as fuck. There wasn’t a huge ton of new records in Detroit over festival weekend but other highlights came from Timeline on the new label 4evr 4wrd which is a bit more tracky at the start before blossoming into a live jam worthy of the band’s status, and of course another amazing white label by Scott Grooves, Parts Manager Pt 2. Sure to be a big record when it is widely available (just like last year), this one is hardly even mentioned online. The halftime A1 cut is the one for me but all tracks are sick.
Neroli was also a very reliable label this year. Aside from dropping that Dego that was one of the jams of the year, excellent releases by Kemetic Just and Alton Miller provided exactly the kind of soulful vocal jams that I was looking for. This is the kind of music that never really gets old, and despite not really ever being “cool” it is always what I am looking for.
DJ Aakmael is one of the most distinctive sounding house artists, and when he is in top form nobody else sounds like him. His Ballast EP for People of Earth is definitely top form, with all three cuts being potential highlights in any set but “Izza” with its mutated vocal sound is my pick. People of Earth also dropped a nice 10″ by Reggie Dokes, whose return to making house music and the return of his label Psychostasia were very much welcomed.
A new Pittsburgh artist whose unreleased tracks I have been beating in sets all over the US for the past two years dropped his first wax release this year. My man C Scott’s Pittsburgh Diaries EP is disco sample heaven. If you love this, there is so much more where it came from. He has heat for days!!!
Jeff Mills released a record that is less techno and more jazz-funk, the Kobe Session EP. Featuring keys by Gerald Mitchell, bass by Jino, synths by Yumiko Ohno, and the man Jeff Mills on 909, this is just beautiful electronic music played out in two extended live jams.
Jay Simon’s aptly titled Must Have Records only had one record this year, but it is an essential like the previous releases. This time a double pack by Teflon Dons, featuring incredibly difficult to find rereleased jams on one record and older material from the same time period that has never seen release on the second disc. This is the kind of garage music that is still sought after due to the quality of the music, including Gregory Porter’s earliest appearance on the lead cut.
One of my favorite edit records of the year was this joint (click here for samples since it isn’t on YouTube) by Starmachine on Galaxy Sound Company. A nice mix of styles, but highlighted by the jack of a famous Wu Tang sample source that nobody is ever expecting when you drop it. Zero hype here, just quality dancefloor bangers.
DJ Jnett is an old school Australian deep house DJ, and her first release Wildlife is one of the most fun house records from 2016. Touching on classic vibes but with a modern twist (partially thanks to Maurice Fulton’s assistance on the lead cut!), both “Reflection” and “Swangzipani” are certified dancefloor killers while “Bubbles Away” and “Judge Not” are more abstract jams that are also very nice and funky. A very promising debut!
Sheefy Mcfly also came through in 2016 with a very strong debut record, the Edward Elecktro EP on Mahogani. Sheefy is known in Detroit for his hip-hop, but he sounds very well adjusted to dance music on this EP full of booty influenced house music. My favorite cut is “C U Again”, but “Got Yo $” gives it a strong run for its money.
Nomadico dropped the second release on his Yaxteq label, and it contains my favorite track of his so far, “Gentefication”, the lead cut. This jam is the perfect combination of melodic techno and house, while the rest of the EP goes a little ruffer with the techno funk. Nasty stuff.
A new record by Kevin Reynolds is always gonna be good. This time he is on the great Yoruba Records run by Osunlade, and as you might guess the deep organic end of Kevin’s style is on display. The title cut of the EP “Fembehyahget” with its vocals and slick percussion is my favorite, but the whole EP is a nice different move for one of my favorite producers.
And last but certainly not least, the man Big Strick came correct with what was quietly one of the nicest house EPs in his catalog, The Gathering EP. All four jams touch on those nice pumping drums and bassline with beautiful Rhodes chords on top, but “Twisted Faith” is my joint.
Damn, that was some good music.
I took part in releasing one record this year, my collaboration with Noleian Reusse that we call Negative Hallucination had its first release on the illustrious Golf Channel Recordings. With support from many of my favorite techno DJs, this was also surely a musical highlight for me this year. I hope you enjoy it and the rest of this list.
If you want to hear all this music and more, have me come DJ in your city. Hit me up on Twitter.
See u on the dancefloor in 2017……