10. Powell, “Sylvester Stallone” (XL)
Oscar Powell’s “Sylvester Stallone” swoons and lurches with the harrowing grind of a jammed-up trash compactor. Decades of dance music debris gets compressed down, chewed up and spit out in the track’s tidy seven minutes, and the needly detritus of what couldn’t be broken down fills up all the empty space.—C.J.
9. Roman Flügel, “Sliced Africa” (Dial)
It’s rare that a year goes by without German chameleon Roman Flügel delivering at least one top-shelf piece of dance music, and 2015 has proven to be no exception. Sliced Africa, his latest EP for Dial, offers up three quality tracks, any one of which could have landed on this list. In the end though, it’s the quirky title track that gets the nod. Built atop a shuffling, vaguely tropical house rhythm, it’s the song’s tumbling synth melody that steals the show, sounding something like a hyperactive take on Hot Butter’s classic “Popcorn.” Undoubtedly a bit goofy, but Flügel has never been one to take things too seriously.—S.R.
8. Matrixxman, “Augmented” (Ghostly International)
Matrixxman first surfaced as a solo artist in 2013, but over the last two years, the San Francisco producer has unleashed an absolute deluge of material. His prolific nature is certainly impressive in that so much of what he’s created has been so damn good. Over the course of his many releases, Matrixxman has delved into various pockets of house, techno, acid, and electro; he’s not a one-trick pony, yet there’s a genuine through-line in his work, one defined by a love of classic drum machines and the sci-fi-obsessed visions of his Detroit forefathers. The impact of upcoming debut LP Homesick is at this point unknown, but there’s no denying that “Augmented” finds Matrixxman in top form. It’s an insistent piece of dance music, one buoyed by a rubbery bassline and eerie synth melodies that coalesce into a hauntingly effective and moderately paranoid techno creation. —S.R.
7. Alesso feat. Roy English, “Cool” (Universal)
EDM’s foremost purveyor of airy synths, wistful lyrics, and sentimental melodies had perhaps his most sweetly sappy moment this year with the Roy English-featuring “Cool.” Alesso’s piano waterfalls, gently chiming synths, and softest of bass pillows give the song its buoyancy, but the liftoff is all English’s, his piercing falsetto making the potentially overwhelming corniness of the chorus hook (“Trying to keep it cool / But I can’t keep cool about it!“) as heartbursting as anything in pop music this year. —A.U.
6. Palms Trax, “Sumo Acid Crew” (Dekmantel)
Only three releases deep into his discography, Palms Trax already demonstrates the musical maturity of a seasoned producer. Yet it seems like his youthful perspective is what lends freshness to a classic-rooted sound, especially on “Sumo Acid Crew” from his recent In Gold EP. A seamless blend of electro, acid, and deep house aesthetics that squeezes the best from them all, the track exudes coolness like a futuristic James Dean. Growled vocals worm their way through neon synth tones above and warm acid currents below, like an anti-hero’s commentary after a particularly tense moment. Luscious mental imagery aside, this richly produced track is the surest sign yet that Palms Trax’ output should be watched like a hawk. —S.M.
5. Galcher Lustwerk, “Parlay” (Lustwerk Music)
It was the 100% Galcher mixtape for Blowing Up The Workshop that truly put Galcher Lustwerk on the map in 2013, an hour long canvas for his deep beats and laconic raps that was easy to sink into. This year the producer’s own Lustwerk Music has rounded up previously unreleased tracks from the mixtape, starting with “Parlay.” A track with three distinct pieces, “Parlay” works through shimmering tones, chill house melodies serving as a bed for Galcher’s signature flow, and vibrating beats, all without losing the plot. That it still sounds ripe today suggests this burgeoning talent has real staying power. —S.M.
4. Jaga Jazzist, “Oban (Todd Terje Remix)” (Ninja Tune)
Not content to rest on his laurels after wowing fans new and old alike with his It’s Album Time LP, Todd Terje’s next act is an ambitious and sprawling remix of his countrymen Jaga Jazzist. In his hands their song “Oban” unfurls like the Milky Way, a thousand points of arpeggiated light dancing in the sky. The band’s live instrumentation keeps the tune from floating away, the drum kit percussion and plucked bass adding some human grit to the celestial synth work. Cinematic and exceptionally tuneful, it’s another piece of work that calls into question if Mr. Terje is human after all. —S.M.
3. Pender Street Steppers, “The Glass City” (Mood Hut)
The reclusive Vancouver-based producers Pender Street Steppers imbue “The Glass City”‘s nearly nine-minute runtime with an immaculate fragility that doesn’t often find its way to the dancefloor. High-frequency synth parts twitter and flit around as if delicately issued from flutes built entirely from balsa wood. Its simple house structures are laid back and wispy, but there’s still a compelling sort of danger in that — all of a sudden the whole production could shatter and blow away. —C.J.
2. Levon Vincent, “Woman Is a Angel” (Novel Sound)
Back in January, Levon Vincent caused quite a stir when he unexpectedly elected to give away his entire debut album, just a few weeks after announcing it. Along with the download links, Vincent posted a message boldly stating, “This is music for the ugly ducklings of the world. Music for swans. If you are you’re a member of the rat race, climbing around a dumpster with the other rats vying for power, you may of course listen, but know — this is not music for you. This is action against you.”
It wasn’t the most inclusive of introductions, but it certainly made sense for anyone who’s followed Vincent in recent years. He’s elected to largely shun the press and many of the potential trappings of the music industry in favor of self-releasing his music and communicating directly with his fans whenever possible. As for the album’s contents, they’ve been greeted with almost universal approval, as the LP finds Vincent both exploring intriguing new directions and delivering a few certifiable club anthems. “Woman Is an Angel” fits into the latter category, its steady techno pulse wrapped in crackling synths and eventually dwarfed by a triumphant melody that sounds like a repurposed cello. A standout effort on an album that’s full of them, “Woman Is an Angel” is one of Vincent’s best tracks to date. —S.R.
1. Lindstrom feat. Grace Hall, “Home Tonight” (Feedelity)
The most striking thing about “Home Tonight” is how familiar and comforting it sounds, from its very first synth showers. The song doesn’t burst into the future like some of Lindstrom’s most famous early numbers, it’s not as marvelously scenic as his globe-trotting work with Todd Terje, and it never reaches heights as effervescently poppy (or outer regions as disquietingly untethered) as some of his more recent collaborations. What it does do is envelop you in the history of crowd-pleasing dance-pop, from disco through new wave and house, with a party jam as instantly satisfying as any Lionel Richie smash, one that fizzes and clinks like a nine-minute champagne toast. The song’s title implies an Eddie Money-like urgency, but really feels more like a Talking Heads-like contentment — home is where you want to be, and you’re already there. —A.U.