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The best tracks of the year 2021 so far

The best tracks of the year so far...

  • Mixmag
  • 9 March 2021

Welcome to Mixmag's guide to the best tracks of 2021 so far.

Each month we'll update the list with the most crucial dance music from across the world.

That's it, that's the elevator pitch.

Read on for our reviews, the audio and links to where you can buy the music.

Happy digging!

See also: The best albums of the year so far and the best mixes of the year so far

VTSS ‘Woah’ (Veyl)

Taken from VTSS’ new EP ‘Borderline Tenderness’, ‘Woah’ is an apt title for this slice of radical club music, which takes cues from Detroit electro, IDM and the new school of underground club producers who are intent on making the dancefloor as twisted as possible. Can’t wait to hear this out tbf. Buy it here

IWDG ‘In A Lonely Place (A Tribute To Andrew Weatherall)’ (Keith Tenniswood remix) (Rotters Golf Club)

Released to mark the one year anniversary of Andrew Weatherall’s passing, his brother Ian and good friend Duncan Gray get together to cover New Order’s ‘In A Lonely Place’ in tribute to The Guv’nor. The brothers Weatherall would travel the country to watch bands affiliated with Factory Records and the cover boasts remixes from some of Andrew’s nearest and dearest including his studio protege and fellow Lone Swordsman Keith Tenniswood, who returns with 13 minutes of cosmic dub that fits this particular bill perfectly. RIP AW. Buy it here

MistaJam feat Kelli-Leigh ‘Good’ (Armada)

MistaJam has timed the drop of ‘Good’ perfectly. As we look forward to the summer of 2021 and hopefully the end of lockdown and social distancing, this is the tune that will soundtrack the pre-sesh, the cab ride and – if Jam gets his way – the peak-time, strobe-lit moments in the club (not to mention those sun-kissed pool parties we’ve been dreaming of). Pure vocal house bliss. Buy it here

Chippy Nonstop x dj genderfluid ‘To Myself’ (Wet Trax)

Chippy and genderfluid gang up for a dose of ambient jungle that’ll open your third eye and elevate you to nirvana. And that’s just in three minutes and 39 seconds – imagine wtf Chippy’s forthcoming debut album is gonna do. Buy it here

Smurphy ‘Summer Riddim’ (Duppy Gun)

Mexico’s Smurphy delivers ‘Summer Riddim’, a minimalist dancehall beat built from rib-rattling sub bass and delicate synth vapours, for the crucial Duppy Gun label. Released as a “pack”, ‘Summer Riddim’ comes as an instrumental as well as versions from JA vocalists G Sudden, King Kush and RDL. As a bonus, Smurphy also provides club versions, where she ups the tempo and dubs each component to the point where you’re engulfed in her throbbing sonics. Buy it here

MOGAN ‘Squinting To See Clearly’ (AYA Spinnin Out Mix)

MOGAN’s debut EP ‘GUTTER’ sits somewhere between experimental pop and far-out club music so who better than to open the remix package for the Cardiff artist than AYA, who’s always intent on flipping the script. This Spinnin Out version of ‘Squinting To See Clearly’ sees drumbeats unfurl in ways that’ll wrongfoot you, with dubbed-out vocals and synthetic stabs swirling in and out of the mix. Tip! Buy it here

Ebhoni ‘X-Ting’ (True Panther/Harvest)

Toronto’s Ebhoni delivers a brilliant rebuff to fuckboys, singing and spitting smooth over a deep, melodic dancehall beat. With vocal hooks this big, it’s no wonder this breakout track has her tipped for the top. Buy it here

Nubya Garcia 'The Message Continues' (Mark de Clive-Lowe remix) (Concord Jazz)

Any excuse to revisit Nubya Garcia’s debut album. Here, LA producer and pianist Mark de Clive-Lowe goes to town on LP highlight ‘The Message Continues’ for everyone who needs a triumphant jazz workout to get them over the line and into the springtime. Buy it here

ELLL 'Housebreaker' (FSL)

ELLL's 'Housebreaker' wouldn't be out of place sitting in the score of a forest-set horror flick, so haunting and harrowing is the opening. That build-up soon turns into searing jungle breaks and screeching sirens, moulding it into an angst-ridden tune for the hardiest of jungle heads. The creeping Parris remix is also an absolute bonus. Buy it here

SG 'The Way Out' (Between Fields)

Prepare to float in a hazy, blissed-out bubble on 'The Way Out' by SG on Between Fields. It's all drawn-out, glowing pads, washy synths and acid stabs buzzing like a bumble bee. Spring's upon us and this gorgeous tune symbolises the transition into longer days and sun-kissed park jams. Buy it here

Yu Su 'Xiu' (bié Records)

'Xiu', the opening track on Yu Su's debut album 'Yellow River Blue', brings exactly the right balance between the meditative and the upbeat. Her wistful, shoegaze-y vocals are proper hairs-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck vocals, while illuminating strings and a driving, new wave-esque bassline are a powerful combo that make you want to get your feet moving. On repeat all year, we're calling it now. Buy it here

Special Request 'Vellichor' (!K7 Records)

The man with more consistency than drums and bass in a drum 'n' bass tune. Special Request is the next artist up for 'DJ-Kicks' and one of his exclusive tracks is 'Vellichor'. It's pure cosmic rave, rammed with distorted synths, pinging bleeps and crispy kicks and surely a contender to be one of the most-rinsed tracks of the year. Buy it here

Tomu DJ ‘I Love New York’ (Self-released)

‘I Love New York’ sounds great played through headphones while walking through a city at twilight. The heavy minor chords are melancholic and driving, creating a sense of urgency that’s tinged with longing, propelling your mind and feet as you get lost in thought while marching through the dimly lit streets. Buy it here

​Laces ‘The Ridge’ (NLV Records)

This cut released ahead of Laces’ upcoming EP ‘Field Fallacy XVI’ on NLV Records should have club music fans whipped into a storm of hype for the full drop. Combining piercing flute sounds with cavernous bass and dynamic percussion, it’s an ice-cold banger that perfectly matches the aesthetic of the track’s title and mountaineering axe artwork. Buy it here

BABii ‘SHADOW’ (Gloo)

BABii’s first single of 2021 is totally bewitching. Described as a “sonic interpretation of not facing your biggest inner demon”, the intriguing sound palette, fuelled by UKG and childlike vocals, feels innocent and upbeat at first, but a sense of unease enters the mix when you catch onto lyrics such as “you’re way more trouble than I’ll ever see” and “it is so so enticing, the roads that you’re crucifying”. You get the sense that good feelings are being leaned into to block out troubling ones. Buy it here

Wayward ‘All A Bit Mad’ (Silver Bear Recordings)

News of a potential date for the return of nightclubs breaking this month sent the UK’s clubbing-starved dance fans into a frenzy of excitement for the return of sweat-soaked basements and weighty soundsystems. This track couldn’t have arrived at a better time to complement the hype wave. Featuring a sample of Ezra Collective drummer Femi Koleoso hyping up a crowd alongside crashing breaks and euphoric chords, it distills the thrill of going out into recorded form. Buy it here

Vegyn ‘I See You Sometimes’ (feat. Jeshi) (PLZ Make It Ruins)

The lead track from Vegyn’s upcoming EP feels like it starts in slow motion, as light chords gradually crescendo amid an unhurried pulse. Jeshi’s vocals sound similarly slack to the point of feeling uncanny when they arrive. In contrast, the editing on the track’s accompanying video becomes manic, cycling through images that appear individually innocuous at a pace that feels collectively anxiety-inducing. The music and vocals then steadily speeds up in line with visuals, towards a more natural sounding pitch, artfully infusing, what is in essence, lush instrumentation with a disconcerting edge. Buy it here

DEBBY FRIDAY ‘RUNNIN’ (Self-released)

‘RUNNIN’ is trippy yet focused: like a razor sharp thought that cuts through the LSD haze with clarity. It opens with a scattering of detached, wordless vocals, before a punchy beat and assured raps from the Nigeria-born, Vancouver-based artist takeover the track in a self-expression that confidently leans into the experimental sound. Buy it here

​Hermeth ‘Devil’s Reject’ (La Forge)

Hermeth’s contribution to La Forge’s ‘Crysta Ampullaris Vol.4’ - the opening track - gets the compilation off to an absolutely raucous start. An eerie atmosphere is built up at the start, with echoing tones that sound almost like the warped laughter of a demon cutting through the fog. Then around the 90 second mark the track flips in a wild ghettotech direction, with venomously delivered bars scything through layers of screwface bassweight. Buy it here

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