2020 has been a bit of an existential year for dance music: clubs have largely been shut worldwide for the bulk of these months, with dancing confined to living room workouts and socialising taken to the virtual realm. We're grateful more than ever for the music at times like these, and the unerring quality of tracks still dropping every week has been a steady source of comfort. When clubs can safely reopen and we can see all our friends at once, the following tracks are our picks from 2020 so far for making that moment extra special.
In no particular order, check them out below.
1 Jayda G 'Both Of Us'
It's hard to listen to this and not think, had summer 2020 not been cancelled, this would be the house anthem heard at festivals and clubs across the globe. Jayda G's Ninja Tune release is a blissful and sun-soaked jam, loaded with bouncy piano chords and infectious vocal chops. A big, round yellow smiley comes to mind when this is playing. Dave Turner
2 Maurice Fulton & Peggy Gou 'Jigoo'
Big link-up here on Peggy’s Gudu label (which, banter nerds, is named after the Korean word for shoe). ‘Jigoo’ is a huge dose of dancefloor pump that’s suitable for any time of the night or day and will get people moving accordingly. Peggy brings her insatiable love for Italo melody and Maurice provides his trademark muscular groove making everyone a winner, baby. Seb Wheeler
3 DJ Swisha ‘I'm So Hi (feat. DIYR)’
All DJs should be grateful for DJ SWISHA: everything the New York-based artist puts out ignites unbridled energy on the dancefloor. His dad was a musician who got him playing the drums from a young age, and a flair for rhythm carries through into his production work. This year SWISHA has set out a marker as an edits ace, releasing two ‘The DJ Pack’ volumes packed full of club-primed cuts. The first features DIYR collab ‘I’m So Hi’. It refixes Banshee’s emotional banger ‘High Let Me Fly’ (built around a vocal sample from Cherish’s ‘Killa’) with irresistible drum work optimised for the club. Patrick Hinton
4 Yves Tumor 'Romanticist'
Yves Tumor's latest album 'Heaven To A Tortured Mind' is so ridiculously good, you have no idea how difficult it was to pick out a single tune from the record. I've had the LP on repeat so many times, yet still unable to pin down a favourite track. Unfortunately I can't include all 12 in this list, so I managed to narrow it down to 'Romanticist'. Sort of an interlude at just 1 minute 46 seconds long, 'Romanticist' combines Yves' husky vocals with the tones of London musician Kelsey Lu, amid a fuzz of distorted guitars and drums. Much like the rest of the sublime album. DT
5 ize 'This Is Not A Drill'
Drill is arguably the dominant rap force on both sides of the Atlantic right now, but this release styled as “anti-drill” from Bridgeport rapper ize is the hardest thing we’ve heard all year. Industrious New York producer AceMo contributes a formidable jungle beat, bolstering his high-tempo drum programming with throbbing bassweight and sinister synths. ize rides it spectacularly, navigating the track’s pace with a vigorous flow that stays commanding when erupting into visceral yells. The accompanying video is also an arresting watch, featuring ize and a cohort of baseball bat-wielding clones letting loose with an intensity that the track inspires. PH
6 K-Lone 'Cocoa'
K-Lone's 'Cocoa' connects like a deftly delivered head massage. The track from his debut album 'Cape Cira' on Wisdom Teeth is littered with delicate and gentle keys and chords that weave in between the ears and leave you feeling relaxed and stress-free. If you're looking for a downtempo album to put your mind at ease, if only for a while, K-Lone's 'Cape Cira' is it. DT
7 Clemency ‘Testimony’
Everything is not as it seems in ‘Testimony’, which feels like the soundtrack to a dungeon RPG as much as it does an insurgent club track. Textures move and melt while a seductive rhythm propels forward into the dark. Things would get really eerie if it weren’t for all the soft, comforting edges. 10/10 would like to hear much more. SW
8 De Grandi 'TTP'
‘TTP’ unfolds like a dream that flips into a nightmare. The opening couple of minutes sound peaceful and pastoral, though a subtle build and palpitating percussion hint at a change-up to come. When it does, it hits like a horror film jump scare, as harsh layers of noise plunge through the mix with earth-shattering weight. For an impactful club track tailor-made to melt minds, ‘TTP’ is our TIP! PH
9 Elkka 'Every Body Is Welcome' (Violet's It's A Gay Club Mix)
Elkka's 'Every Body Is Welcome' EP from 2019 is a bundle of bouncy leftfield house joy. This year, a remix package came out featuring Violet, Ilana Byrne, Jossy Mitsu and Philou Louzolo, giving four of the five tracks a house, electro and acid makeovers. Naive boss Violet's It's A Gay Club Remix of 'Everybody Is Welcome' ups the ante of the original, still maintaining the easy going attitude, but going hard on the sizzling acid basslines and adding workout-friendly breaks. DTBuy via Bandcamp now
10 hmurd ‘Beighton Champ’
No idea how you pronounce hmurd to be honest. And ‘Beighton Champ’ is equally confusing, an entry into the rhythm olympics that’ll leave you wrongfooted as well as tongue tied. If you miss the pure what-the-fuckery of ‘Studio Power On’-era UK dance-not-dance music then you’ll revel in this pristine backflip of a choon. SW
11 Pa Salieu 'Frontline'
Pa Salieu put in an ultra early bid for UK Rap Track Of The Year with ‘Frontline’, which comes laden with solid gold hooks and a tough, minimalist beat. Subsequent records from the young Londoner have also sparked fire, proving that Pa Salieu is going to be doing mazza way beyond 2020. SW
12 Pa Salieu 'Frontline' (Yussef Dayes remix)
Drummer Yussef Dayes is one of the UK jazz scene’s leading protagonists and takes on this certified banger with ease. His raw rework is hot and percussive, with Pa Salieu’s vocal sped up to meet the tempo of the playing, which lands somewhere between classic jungle and footwork. SW
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13 JASSS ‘Turbo Olé’
‘Turbo Olé’ sets off at a gallop upon EBM-style synths and pounding percussion then crescendos into a trance-fuelled behemoth, as flourishes of breakbeat roll beneath enormous synth melodies and a swelling bassline pans through the mix. Then the lofty textures abruptly fall into a glitched-out breakdown primed to wig out dancefloors. It’s a stadium sized track that will sound right at home in tiny basements catering to fans of experimental dance music. PHBuy via Bandcamp now
14 Matt Karmil 'Hard'
Matt Karmil's album 'STS371' is excellent. What you get is just under an hour of turbo-charged house, mean, panting electro and choppy, futuristic beats. 'Hard' punches with the power expected from its title, with haunting whirrs lingering in the background amid incessant hi-hats. Guaranteed to spin you out. DTBuy via Bandcamp now
15 M.I.C & PK Brako ‘Witchclart’
This year M.I.C is doing to your grandma’s house what Tempa T did to your CD rack back in 2009. His laser-guided bars bridle with cathartic energy and laserating wit, the Master Of Inane Conversation indeed. “I’ll urinate in your beer / And I’ll send your hardtop clear / Tamper with your whip / Make it so that you can’t change gear” goes just one of the brilliant verses that detonate atop a brilliant, voluptuous production by PK Brako. A grime classic in the making. SW
16 Hyroglifics & Sinistarr 'BS6'
In a year stricken by anxiety, the launch of SHERELLE and NAINA’s Hooversound has given us a much-needed shot of exhilaration. When it comes to drowning out the angst, there’s no remedy more potent than turbo-charged dance music. And that’s exactly what the label delivered with this Bristol meets Detroit debut from Hyroglifics & Sinistarr. Setting off at 160 BPM with a palpitating build-up, a breakdown precedes ‘BS6’ detonating into a volley of screwface textures. When clubs reopen this is exactly what I want to be hearing. Until then, my neighbours better get used to hearing ‘fuck offffffff’ screamed through the walls. PH
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17 Andrea 'Lana'
German label Ilian Tape is on fire. It's been on fire for a while. The Zenker Brothers' label brings together rowdy techno and breaks, provided by the likes of Skee Mask, Stenny and Andrea, the latter who released his album 'Ritorno' in April. The LP's loaded with crunching kicks, belching bass rumbles and all sorts of muscle-flexing sounds. There's respite from all the musical testosterone right at the end, though, with 'Lana'. The album closer chills the mood with glistening melodies and floaty atmospherics. DT
18 Ariel Zetina ‘Vanity 7’
A cover of Prince-assembled vocal trio Vanity 6’s ‘Make-Up’ for Ariel Zetina’s makeup themed EP ‘MUAs at the End of the World’ was an inspired choice. The Chicago artist eschews samples to recreate the track from scratch, putting her own club-ready stamp on Prince’s playing and Susan Moonsie’s singing. The percussion is more driving, and a sharper take on the muddy bassline that zigzags across the original picks its moments to cut through with clarity. Most impactfully, heady trance synths lift this musical makeover to new heights. PH
19 upsammy ‘Extra Warm’
upsammy's debut album 'Zoom' is a masterclass in off-kilter sounds. Apt for the state of the world right now, to be honest. You never know where her wobbly experimentations are heading, but that's the joy. 'Extra Warm' is fidgety and restless, filled with bleeps, tweets and all sorts of fizzy synth sounds. Just how I like it. DT
20 J Hus ft. Koffee 'Repeat'
Koffee is listed as the featured artist to J Hus’ lead but it’s the Jamaican singer who dominates the track, coming through with two dynamic verses that channel a show-stealing energy to rival AZ's dextrous guest spot on Nas’ ‘Life’s A Bitch’. Hus opens with a softly rapped hook then does well to hang back as Koffee takes over and flexes lyrical mastery in Jamaican Patois. Her cadence and voice in tandem are out of this world, flowing through complex lines with a deft elegance and irresistible sense of melody. Hundreds of repeat plays later it still sounds fresh. PH
21 박혜진 Park Hye Jin ‘Like This’
All your woozy needs are met when listening to 박혜진 Park Hye Jin. The South Korean artist keeps coming through with the house-meets-rap chillers, 'Like This' and 'How Can I' on Ninja Tune being the latest. 'Like This' is perfect for home listening, bringing together calming pads, pumping kicks and her soothing vocals. Hopefully one day soon we'll experience it as a set closer in a club as it's perfectly suited for that, too. DT
22 Lurka 'Rhythm Hi-Tek'
It was only a matter of time before the Bristol bass contingent dropped their tempos down to 100bpm. Lurka’s ‘Rhythm Hi-Tek’ for Batu’s Timedance imprint sends a skeletal dancehall rhythm dancing through an industrial wasteland. Dankness of the highest order. SW
23 Roza Terenzi 'That Track (Rewired mix)'
There are textures in ‘That Track (Rewired mix)’ that sound agitated, wiggy and off-kilter. Threaded together by Roza Terenzi alongside sturdy percussion and calming pads, the complete package feels remarkably streamlined with an unrelenting sense of groove. It’s a testament to the Australian producer’s versatility that the shy dancefloors head-nodders and limb gyrating extrovert crew can get down this one in unity. PH
24 Juls 'Soweto Blues feat. Busiswa and Jaz Karis’
British-Ghanaian producer Juls is no stranger to collaborations that hit the sweet spot. 'Skin Tight' with Mr Eazi and 'Gwarn' with Burna Boy, released in 2015 and '17 respectively, are goosebump-inducing slow jams made for those up-close-and-personal situations. Then there are link-ups with Kojey Radical, Maleek Berry, Ms Banks and Tiggs Da Author. The list goes on. This year's 'Soweto Blues' saw him team up with with South African singer Busiwawa and London artist Jaz Karis. The result is a delicate house cut with influences of South Africa's popular Amapiano sound. More for the afterparty rather than peak party. DT
25 Big Miz 'Sonder'
Big Miz has obviously seen his fair share of afterparties hasn’t he? ‘Sonder’ is for the straight through crew, with its devilishly undulating acid bassline and the kind of melody that makes you weep with happiness at 11am. Time to embrace the sunlight that’s creeping through the crack in the curtains. SW
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26 Fit Siegel 'Exist On'
There’s a timeless beauty to the blissed-out style of house music Fit Siegel makes. His EPs don’t come around too often, and when they do they’re to be cherished. In March he followed up 2015’s sublime ‘Carmine’ with his first solo EP in five years ‘Formula’. The record is themed around musical transcendence, and hits that spot with precision on opener ‘Exist On’. Breakbeat underpins the opening as a sprite-like melody dances above, before tranquil pads carry the track home upon a cloud. PH
27 Shy One 'Route II Romeos'
An exclusive taken from Josey Rebelle's 'Josey In Space' compilation for New York label Beats In Space. Arriving in the latter stages of the mix, Shy One's 'Route II Romeos' brings all the bouncy house and broken beat joy you need to keep a dancefloor energised. Those little whommm, whommm, whommm pads are delightful. DT
28 Cakes Da Killa x Proper Villains ‘Don Dada’
We’re not worthy. Honestly. Cakes Da Killa and Proper Villains dropped this for a Bandcamp Day a little while back and, whether they knew it or not (they probably did), unleashed what will be one of the finest club tracks of the year. ‘Don Dada’ is everything you want to hear and feel at peak time – it’s hard, fast, red hot. A devastatingly good workout. SW
29 RMR ‘Rascal’
Country-trap unexpectedly took the world by storm last year when Lil Nas X blessed us with ‘Old Town Road’, broke a bunch of stream and sales records, and won two Grammys. In 2020 the ingenious genre fusion has shown its staying power as a musical force with the emergence of RMR. This February the Atlanta-hailing artist released ‘Rascal’, a cover of the country hit Rascal Flatts popularised ‘Bless The Broken Road’ with adapted lyrics about hustling and hating the police. The accompanying video sees the anonymous RMR wearing his trademark ski mask and brandishing guns while crooning with the voice of an angel above a rolling piano line. It’s a bravado ballad that pulls at your heartstrings while aiming a barrel at your chest, and the “fuck the boys in blue” refrain is undoubtedly the sound of this summer. PH
30 India Jordan ‘For You’
Just when you thought 2020 was totally cancelled India Jordan comes through with ‘For You’, an eruption of ecstasy that throws a cheeky wink at French Touch, 4/4 garage and pelting 90s house. It’s colourful and unashamedly feel good, a cool tonic in the face of a mountain of bullshit. Thank you India, and Finn, and Anz, a trio of artists orbiting the Local Action label that, rolling into its tenth year, is heralding a new wave of pinging UK rave. SW
31 Kush Jones ‘Is It Possible’
Kush Jones is a leading figure in a new school of New York artists with Stakhanovite work ethics reigniting NYC as the epicentre of dance music. Peers include AceMo, MoMA Ready and DJ Swisha. In unison, they’re forging ahead with their own refreshing DIY approach: making whatever type of music they want to and regularly self-releasing it, bypassing the whims of established institutions. In short, they answer to no one. Kush Jones’ ‘Is It Possible’ manifests this energy. Vocal samples declaring “Keep working” and “Is it possible for you to shut the fuck up” loop above gliding synths and infectious percussive rhythms. It sends a message for anyone in his way to move aside, Kush is coming through. PH
32 Eris Drew ‘Transcendental Access Point’
Eris Drew - alongside Octo Octa - was the Mixmag DJ Of The Year in 2019. That title was jointly handed to her thanks to her frenzied mixes joining all the dots between house, throwback rave and breaks. As a producer she does the same and 'Transcendental Access Point' is a kaleidoscopic ferris wheel of a club track. Eris isn't shy to share her psychedelic wisdom, so this tune just had to have some spoken words about a joint laced with DMT, didn't it? DT
33 Mez 'Babylon Can’t Roll'
Last month grime godfather Wiley released what he said would be his final album, telling the Guardian: “I just need to not let my genre die on the way out.” He should feel safe with the knowledge that Nottingham MC Mez is one of the torchbearers for his legacy. Grandmixxer’s beat for ‘Babylon Can’t Roll’ is effective in its simplicity, sounding like elements of soca and stripped-back UK techno distilled into a potent grime loop. Mez’s adjacent flow is pure dynamism with bars jabbing at the fallacy of white supremacism. PHBuy via Bandcamp now.
34 Soul Clap & Sha-Lor 'Jussa Come'
35 Space Ghost 'Feelin' Real Good'
Hazy house at its finest from Oakland, California producer Space Ghost. Falling under that vocal-led house umbrella held by the likes of Galcher Lustwerk and Quavius, Space Ghost's 'Feelin' Real Good' is a breeze, carried by luscious pads and a funky bassline, perfect for those smoky BBQ sessions in the sun. It's part of his 'Free 2 Be' album on Apron Records, where you'll find more of the same relaxing house cuts. DTBuy via Bandcamp now
36 Chicken Lips ‘Goldenlips’
A hit of your finest kosmische disco please! Ah yes, the legendary duo return long enough to grace us with this utterly decadent excursion through Drug Chug which weighs in at 10 minutes and has its sights set firmly on the outer reaches of the cosmos. Turn off, tune in, bliss out… SW
37 Jessy Lanza 'Lick In Heaven'
38 Bored Lord ‘Girl U Could Be Down 4’
‘Girl U Could Be Down 4’ is a booty-shaking banger designed to spark intimacy on the dancefloor. It’s a tragedy that it dropped on March 23 this year, just as the phrase “social distancing” was becoming seared into our daily lexicon. But pandemic or no pandemic, this track deserves plaudits as one of the most fun club tunes in recent memory. It’s bouncy and ecstatic, with deftly chopped vocals weaving through aerobic percussion. A vaccine can’t come quick enough. PH
39 Leonce ‘Seconds & Fifths’
The title-track of Leonce’s ‘Seconds & Fifths’ EP could soundtrack an agent-infiltrating-an-enemy-compound spy film sequence. Syncopated percussion makes the foundations feel edgy, and trembling synth tones heighten the uncanny atmosphere. Across this, an agile bassline throbs anxiously, simultaneously pushing through the fraught atmosphere with a sense of poised determination. PH
40 Yazzus ‘7th Heaven’
“Cut the mid range, drop the bass!” A young Liam Howlett would be proud of the sample that Yazzus uses to unleash the hype on ‘7th Heaven’. The Londoner is currently obsessed with 90s rave – the high tempos, the neon, the sheer fun of it all – and on latest EP ‘Delta Wave’ she welds together jungle, hardcore and footwork to create a new, turbocharged version that completely slaps. SW
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