The best tracks of the year 2021 so far - October - Music - Mixmag
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Welcome to the October section of our best tracks of the year 2021 rundown — read the full list here

Blawan 'Under Belly' (XL Recordings)

It's been described as many things: likened to the Monster Mash, the succession theme tune under water, Sex and the City while driving through a tunnel. Regardless of where you stand - one thing is for sure, the first released track from Blawan's upcoming EP 'Woke Up Right Handed' on XL has got everyone talking this month. The eerie distortion matched some dirty, erratic bass is perfect for peak time disconnect. The track sees the Yorkshire born producer move away from signature slamming techno towards a more studio-focused process. We are not complaining.

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Jessy Lanza 'Seven 55 (ft. Loraine James)' (!K7)

In a move that is very 'legends collide', Canadian singer-songwriter and producer Jessy Lanza teamed up with the seminal experimental artist Loraine James for a unique track to kick things off for her ‘DJ-Kicks’ mix. The bittersweet track, written about a friend’s inability to commit, features high-pitched vocals and tumbling drums - evoking both comfort and discomfort synonymously, leaving listeners in a sort of limbo as the track descends into high-tempo bleepy synths in its final seconds.

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Shygirl 'Cleo' (Because Music)

It's difficult to find anything at this point that Shygirl can't do. 'Cleo' sees the London artist delve into classical, yes classical — dramatic, Baz Lurhman film score-esque violins take up much of the first half of the track as she declares "you got me feeling like a movie star, all eyes on me." Of course, if you were expecting this to not be club-ready? you're in for a shock, with the slinky minimal house breakdown seconds later as she urges 'call me Cleo'. This is Shygirl does the James Bond theme, and quite frankly, we need to make that happen.

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Peach 'Buttercup' (Peach Discs)

Are we in a tech-house renaissance? did we just need some fresh eyes to shake it all up?. With 'Buttercup', Peach shows us the direction that the much-maligned but eternally beloved genre could move in if we want it to. Some dirty bassline, naughty kick drums and some frantic bleeps and bloops - all while keeping those compelling hi-hats and undulating drops. This is more like it.

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Dismantle & Van Basten 'Rebel Cause' (More Time Records)

Has bassline finally broached the South? if releases like Dismantle & Van Basten's 'Rebel Cause' are anything to go by, we think so. Taken from Dismantle's new EP on More Time Records, the track is a collaboration between the Bristol-based producer and the mysterious Van Basten, and features hypnotic vocals, cavernous loops and driving percussion. Music to make you lift your hands to the skies and shout 'corrr' into the ether.

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Batu ‘Inner Space’ (Timedance)

Who else can change the tempo of a track quite so effortlessly than Batu? ‘Inner Space’, the Bristol DJ’s latest offering on his own label Timedance, packs a punch. Best served hot and sweaty in the centre of the dancefloor, it crosses the boundaries of rave, spinning into a deep, heavy techno cut.

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K-LONE & Wilfy D ‘Str8 Up’ (Vitamin D)

K-LONE teams up with Wilfy D to create ‘Str8 Up’, a feel-good track strung along by soulful R&B vocals, sending this banger straight back to those essential early days of UKG.

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Breaka & Guava ‘Hand it Over’ (Rhythm Section)

Breaka cut his teeth on London’s jungle and breaks scenes, while Guava often stays more in touch with his instrumental upbringing. This joint effort between the pair - ‘Hand it Over’ - out on Bradley Zero’s Rhythm Section combines acid and deep house with a pipeline to a warming sample. It’s different for Breaka, but welcomed, nonetheless.

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Black Loops ‘Makes Me Feel Dis Way’ (Shall Not Fade)

If you’re looking for something spooky this Halloween month, Black Loops has got just the thing. Warbling bass meets futuristic, bubbly synths that pop like an intergalactic orchestral symphony to the tune of garage drum beats. This fun, 2step-inspired track is infectious to its core, released just in time for Shall Not Fade’s six-year celebrations and added exclusively to the imprint’s new 24-track compilation.

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Pocket ‘Without You Here’ (4XLA)

Pocket’s new track ‘Without You Here’ is filled with bouncy melodies, a strong beat, high tempo drums and is infused with liquid, ethereal sonics which carry listeners on a journey.

Following the success of ‘Different Ways To Love You’, released earlier in 2021, ‘Without You Here’ shows the consistency in Pocket’s production. It’s perfect for losing yourself on the dancefloor with its catchy beat and vocals.

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Nia Archives ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ (HIJINXX)

Nia Archives’ jungle-influenced single ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ marks out the 21-year old producer as a special talent, showing that there is versatility and flair in combining rolling drum ‘n’ bass with soulful vocals. Laced with her own voice, the song plays tribute to her Grandma Liz, a personal touch that embodies the personal style of this track.

Nia has spoken in depth about her varied old skool jungle, rave and drum ‘n’ bass influences — especially in the aftermath of the success of her EP ‘Headz Gone West’ released earlier this year. This track highlights the artist’s array of inspiration and showcases her noteworthy production skill.

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piri, Tommy Villiers ‘soft spot (MJ Cole remix)’ (EMI)

The bouncy MJ Cole remix of piri and Tommy Villiers’ viral song ‘soft spot’ provides an extra feel-good element to the poppy, drum ‘n’ bass-inspired track.

Keeping the original, fun lyrics from the track put out by piri and Tommy Villiers in June, which has amassed almost 6 million plays on Spotify after going viral on TikTok, ‘soft spot: (MJ Cole remix)’ speeds the tempo to make the song more fitting for a dancefloor. It transitions between high tempos and high drums in the chorus to slower, melodic verses where listeners can engage with the heartfelt lyrics.

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Pa Salieu, Aitch ‘Bad’ (Atlantic)

Afrobeats-inspired, upbeat track ‘Bad’ by Pa Salieu and Aitch stars clever lyricism, a funky melody and rhythmic flows. It’s bouncy, feels good and encapsulates the unique sound of the contemporary UK rap scene.

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Nadia Khan ‘Rain Again’ (CCL Remix) (Scissor & Thread)

Nadia Khan’s layering of fresh, organic-sounding textures has made for some of the finest ambient music of recent times, and CCL is an artist whose mixes and remixes always manage to contort music into sounding like a living organism, flowing and squelching in unpredictable patterns. On their ‘Rain Again’ remix, CCL transforms the atmospheric cut from Nadia Khan’s ‘Port Ana’ EP with disorientating new textures and a driving-but-unstable rhythmic core, making for one of 2021’s most mesmerising tracks.

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Olive T ‘Shimmer or Glimmer’ (Sorry Records)

Olive T is on a roll in 2021. After putting out the excellent ‘Goin Up’ EP in July, the New York-based artist’s second four-track EP landed this month via Sorry Records. Our pick of the bunch is ‘Shimmer or Glimmer’, which opens up gently with metronomic clicks and gliding string sounds, before steadily ramping up the pressure. By the midway point it’s grown into a formidable dancefloor heater, packing a bold acid line, moody bass notes and reverberating vocals into its potent atmosphere.

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Jaymie Silk ‘A President Is just A Gangster with A Nuclear Weapon’ (Self-released)

This is a racuous cut from Paris-based producer Jaymie Silk, serving up a manic mix of robotic vocal samples, pacey percussion, haywire melodies and blaring sirens. Fittingly frenetic sounds to match the stark message of its title.

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Arca ‘Born Yesterday’ feat. Sia (XLRecordings)

Arca’s evolution as an artist has been a joy to behold, and this single from her hotly anticipated ‘KICK ii’ album showcases the Venezuelan artist in full popstar mode, while still maintaining the intriguing experimental edge she brings to all her music. Featuring Australian artist Sia, it’s stars powerful vocals that soar out of jittering production,

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Jlin ‘Embryo’ (Plnaet Mu)

Jlin never disappoints, working within genres such as footwork, techno and IDM but twisting them in exploratory directions. ‘Embryo’ is a hectic mix of sounds, with melodies shooting through it like oil racing across the surface of a burning pan. We can’t wait to hear what else Jlin has cooking when the full EP drops.

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Escaflowne ‘Betta Believe(Club mix)’ (Self-released)

Escaflowne put out a seven-track release on his birthday this month. ‘Betta Believe(Club mix)’ is suitably celebratory, springing forward on a tide of euphoric sounds. Jazzy sax, puncy percussion, potent vocal chops and more combine in this delirious slice of house joy.

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