With the year dipping down past the half-empty mark, I’m taking a page from No Trivia‘s book to compile what he termed “a glorified list of my favorite songs” for the first half of 2012.
I had hoped to be somewhat objective, balancing criteria like forward-thinkingness with sheer sonic thrills, but at the end of the day, this list is far more about me than it is the State of Dance Music in 2012. There are few big sellers here; my list doesn’t include many of the top-charted tracks on Beatport, Resident Advisor, or any of the other arbiters of dance-music consensus (much less Billboard’s “Dance/Club Play” chart). You won’t find much conventional tech-house, or dubstep, or electro-house, or trance; for the most part, the tracks here tend to live in the cracks between scenes and sounds. They’re mostly a bit rough around the edges; their euphoria has a nail-bitten weariness to it. But, because I can’t help but be contrary, even in my own tastes, I felt compelled to include tracks from Rusko and Kölsch that are as clean and uncomplicated as it gets.
Even by my own muddy criteria, there are scores of other tracks that could have been swapped in for almost any of these. But, to get a sense of the dynamism at the fringes of electronic dance music in 2012, you could certainly do worse than to begin here.
Actress, “Caves of Paradise” (Honest Jon’s)
A wide-screen standout from Actress’ third album, and the LP’s most song-like track.
Addison Groove, “Incredibly Exhausted Bunny Ears” (Monkeytown)
The weirdest cut on Addison Groove’s sprawling album, this splits the difference between Cocteau Twins, Sonic Youth, and footwork.
Alden Tyrell feat. Mike Dunn, “Touch the Sky” (Clone Jack for Daze Series)
Unabashedly retro acid jam featuring house music’s most compelling hype man; the “S&T International House Mix” is a must-hear for piano-house fans.
Andrés, “New For U” (La Vida)
Deep house doesn’t get much more misty-eyed than this. An instant and future classic.
Anthony Naples, “Mad Disrespect” (Mister Saturday Night)
Brooklyn’s loft-party series launches a label — and the career of an astonishingly talented newcomer.
B.D.I., “Decoded Messages of Life & Love” (Rush Hour)
Nuclear-powered deep house suffused in sub-aquatic rumble and clang.
Bicep, “$tripper” (Love Fever)
Vintage ’90s house vibes (plus a touch of Julio Bashmore) on this runaway underground hit.
Boddika + Joy O, “Dun Dun” (Sunklotuu)
A sultry, slightly wistful, tough-but-supple banger from the U.K.’s dream duo.
Buzzin10, “String Ting” (Frijsfo Beats)
Bump and flex in a nouveau “nu-dark-swing” style: The revenge of Y2K.
Disclosure, “Control feat. Ria Ritchie” (Greco-Roman)
Addictive R&B grooves from London’s 2-step revivalists.