The 50 Best Tracks of 2021

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Dec 10, 2021
Beatportal Staff and Contributors
With the help of our contributors, we celebrate the 50 best tracks of 2021.

So, how did we compile this list? None of the songs chosen are based on sales. Instead, we reached out Beatportal contributors from across the world, and they helped our editorial staff pick the 50 best tracks of 2021, which are listed below in no particular order.

Check out the 50 Best Tracks of 2021 playlist on Beatport.
India Jordan – And Groove
Genre: House Label: Ninja Tune Ravers and club kids often say that dance music saved their life, and listening to songs like “And Groove,” it’s easy to understand what they’re talking about. The joyous closing number on the Watch Out! EP — a record which also happened to be India Jordan’s debut for Ninja Tune — is an irresistibly smooth slice of breezy summertime house music. The soulful vocal loops and funky bass fiddlings bare traces of old funk and R&B grooves, but the song’s relaxed confidence clearly stems from its creator, whose genre-hopping prowess and impeccable ear for sticky hooks has made them one of the UK’s brightest talents. — Shawn Reynaldo
Nia Archives – Headz Gone West
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: 2021 HIJINXX Thanks to the TikTok algorithm, corners of the UK hardcore continuum have begun to find themselves thrown into the mainstream, particularly genres like UK garage and drum & bass. While pinkpantheress may get most of the credit for the fact that Britney Spears’ comeback single may very well clock in over 140 BPM, Nia Archives debut EP was the high watermark for me. The title track, “Headz Gone West,” was a case study in how to fuse pop sensibility with melancholic breakbeats to craft the world’s most endearing ballad to insomnia and weed. — Henry Ivry
LSDXOXO – Sick Bitch
Genre: Electronica Label: XL Recordings Making his debut on legendary UK label XL Recordings, LSDXOXO’s May EP, Dedicated 2 Disrespect, signaled a departure from the sample-heavy, genre-eschewing bootlegs on which he carved his reputation. The Berlin-based artist’s new sound — particularly that communicated on lead single “Sick Bitch” — is no less raucous. An ode to the many debaucherous dancefloors of his adopted hometown, the track’s unruly blend of X-rated lyrics and raw, ghettotech-inspired beats is simply impossible to ignore. As lockdown lifted and clubs and festivals tentatively reopened, “Sick Bitch” quickly became a ubiquitous underground anthem: a symbol of playful resilience in the face of unprecedented upheaval. — Michael Lawson
UNIIQU3 – Microdosing
Genre: Jersey Club Label: Local Action Widely recognised as the First Lady of Jersey Club, UNIIQU3 has been responsible for pushing the genre into bold, exciting new territories in recent years. “Microdosing,” the lead single from the Newark native’s latest EP Heartbeats, is a case in point. An irresistible blend of club music, classic piano house and UNIIQU3’s own seductive rap vocals, it’s a feelgood dancefloor jam with serious crossover appeal. In a recent interview with Beatportal she expressed her desire to “take club music into the pop world.” On this evidence, it’s an artistic endeavor well within her capabilities. — Michael Lawson
Effy – Raging
Genre: Breaks / Breakbeat / UK Bass Label: EFFY Music “Raging” does exactly what it says on the tin. Effy, one of the UK’s most exciting new producers, was just establishing herself when COVID hit, so this track is a scream of frustration into the abyss and a release of all the pent up energy that should’ve been spent touring the world. But Effy made good use of her time in lockdown, producing this straight-up breakbeat scorcher, And since clubs opened back up, she’s finally able to unleash it to hungry crowds, and it’s getting the kind of primitive reaction only zeitgeist tracks can achieve. — Alice Austin
Amy Dabbs – Girl Like Me
Genre: Deep House Label: Distant Horizons On top of its vibrant synth pads and hip-shaking percussive production, this rhythmic earworm really comes to life at the halfway point when an uplifting, soulful, female vocal kicks in. The stylistic choices and sonic influences — ranging from Motown to early house and ‘80s/’90s soul — make even more sense when you learn that Amy’s father was an original Northern Soul DJ. And, although the single’s artwork, which sees a young girl sat on a bench staring out into the cloud-filled distance, may paint a contemplative picture, there’s no doubt that Amy Dabbs has a bright future and her’s is a name that we’re all going to be hearing a lot more of in 2022. — Ben Jolley
Monty, Visages, Strategy, PAV4N – Hardware
Genre: Deep Dubstep Label: 1985 Music A late contender for one of the electronic albums of the year, Monty’s debut album Hit the Lights is a tour-de-force of bass music production, veering between dubstep and drum & bass via wonky halftime cuts, dramatic interludes, and a generous helping of A-list collabs. One of the album’s most upfront tracks and one that has been teased extensively ahead of release, “Hardware” sees Monty team up with fellow 1985 Music mainstays Visages for a heavyweight dubstep workout, tied together by Strategy’s addictive hook and Foreign Beggars’ PAV4N delivering on the verses. — Will Gulseven
Rove Ranger – Future Starts Today
Genre: Techno (Raw / Deep / Hypnotic) Label: positivesource What’s the future looking like? According to the ominous tone in “The Future Starts Today,” it’s possible we’re heading towards doom. But Stuttgart-based DJ and producer Rove Ranger makes the journey bearable with a transcendental banger that blurs fast techno with goose-bumpy trance. Released on Blue Hour and Philippa Pacho’s label, the track is aligned with the old-skool-meets-new-talent ethos of the imprint. Tight drums and snappy hi-hats build the pace before it grows urgent, and those world-is-ending pads that steal any ounce of uplifting trance energy—perfect for an emotional ending to a marathon DJ set. Or the start of the apocalypse. — Niamh O’Connor
Eris Drew – Show U Love
Genre: House Label: T4T LUV NRG Widely revered as one of the world’s most talented DJs, Eris Drew’s recent foray into music production over the past few years has been nothing short of incredible, with the release of her debut LP Quivering In Time acting as a victorious culmination of her various inspirations. Using her endless supply of vinyl, a homegrown sampling technique, poly synths, drum machines, and guidance from her partner Octo Octa, Eris Drew successfully crafted one of 2021’s most riveting albums. Full of raw twists and turns, the 11-track LP plays out like one of her famous DJ sets, with one of its best moments being “Show U Love” — a propelling house expedition with conversing piano and synth lines, a jubilant beat, and so much more. Of course, each track on the album is more memorable than the last, but this one blatantly rushes to the core feeling of togetherness that Eris Drew is so keen to promote on her dance floors. — Cameron Holbrook
Kush Jones, DJ Swisha – Torcida
Genre: Bass / Club Label: DJ SWISHA Kush Jones and DJ Swisha are part of the new wave of ultra-talented NYC-based artists who combine an effortless playfulness with on-point production skills and a penchant for genre blending. Case in point, “Torcida,” which starts with perc blitz that keeps the energy on high until the very last note. A big, subby bassline rumbles deep underneath, giving the track a huge helping of funk, while the occasional blast from a referee whistle nods to the cover art on the Outta Bounds EP, which features a black and white photo of mid-game Michal Jordan, presumably from the ‘90s. Consider this one a slam dunk. — Chandler Shortlidge
Sofia Kourtesis – La Perla
Genre: Electronica Label: Technicolour Dream pop meets deep house on this shimmering gem. Inspired by Sofia Kourtesis’ late father (who was still battling leukemia while she wrote it) and the sea in her native Peru, the song could have easily wound up sounding maudlin or funereal, but it’s actually quite the opposite, its rippling melodies exuding a sense of warmth — and even hope — as the Berlin-based artist enchantingly sings (in Spanish) about trying to change and trying to forget. The lead track on her excellent Fresia Magdalena EP, “La Perla” feels like a tender reminder of just how beautiful memories — even the ones that make us a little sad — can be. — Shawn Reynaldo
Alan Fitzpatrick – W.A.I.S.T.D (feat. Kele)
Genre: Melodic House & Techno Label: Anjunadeep On “W.A.I.S.T.D.,” Bloc Party frontman Kele offers his warm, piercing vocals to an Alan Fitzpatrick slow-burning deep house banger. “What am I supposed to do? I feel you, I feel you,” Kele repeats, almost shouting, as the beat intensifies and spins into frenzy. As the deep, dark rhythm sways us on the dancefloor, we see Kele out of the corner of our eyes, dancing under the disco ball with the ghost of a lost love. Moody, emotive, cathartic, and soul-stirring, this is exactly the sort of track to lose yourself to in a dark club. The standout track served as the lead single to the British DJ/producer’s first album in a decade, Machine Therapy. — Ana Monroy Yglesias
Skream – Trees
Genre: Breaks / Breakbeat / UK Bass Label: IFEEL This year Skream celebrated 15 years of his debut album, Skream!, and around the anniversary, he tweeted “Please don’t think we’re slowing down troops. We’re going proper now.” “Trees” is nothing if not proper. The second release on his new label, IFEEL, this track is another signal that Skream will continue producing any genre he wants, except now he harbors a sense of underlying sophistication and depth. The melodic instances between the clicks and clacks of this stretched-out breakbeat are moments of reflection and wonderment. — Harry Levin
Q-Project – Computer Love (Kessler Remix)
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: Hospitality Records Belfast-born Kessler is having a moment, or rather, 2021 has been a continuous wave of moments for him, and he’s well on the way to a long-lasting career as a music producer. The Rotterdam-based artist churns out exquisite releases that merge techno, garage, breakbeat and jungle, but his remix of Q-Project’s “Computer Love” is particularly mind-blowing. Released on Hospital Records as part of their 25th birthday compilation, Kessler reworks Q-Project’s track with fizzing, jungle-led energy that induces at least one heart palpitation. Vocoder vocals and a burly bassline permeate the feverish tone, supplying a dose of birthday love to the seminal label. — Niamh O’Connor
Nikki Nair – Want To You
Genre: Bass / Club Label: Dirtybird I’m not sure any of us had Dirtybird releasing a 160 BPM ghettotech-inspired banger on our 2021 bingo card, but then again it’s been a strange year across the board. Landing as part of Dirtybird’s more leftfield white label series, Nikki Nair’s More Is Different EP flirted variously with influences from dubstep, breaks, IDM, and experimental, further adding to the Atlanta artist’s position as one of the most vital producers to watch in the coming years. Closing track “Want To You” is the most explicitly club-focussed track on the release, and received an early spin in Yung Singh’s already-legendary Boiler Room — the reaction the track got during this set tells you all you need to know. — Will Gulseven
Eden Prince – Hang Tight
Genre: House Label: SOLOTOKO Bursting with energy right from its opening seconds, this percussive, acid-tinged, pad-driven banger is just one example of why Stoke-on-Trent producer and DJ Eden Prince has quickly risen to become the UK’s new prince of house music. In a year that also saw him release on D4 Dance and Good Company Records, “Hang Tight” takes a simple yet soulful diva vocal refrain and builds a world of sonic instrumentation around it. Incorporating cowbell sounds and piano house keys, it builds into a euphoric arms-in-the-air anthem. Just one listen and you’ll be transported back to spending a long-awaited carefree summer in Ibiza with your mates. — Ben Jolley
Manyelo Dafro – Ladon (feat. Bassekou Kouyate) [Fka Mash Re-Glitch Extended Mix]
Genre: Dance/Electro Pop Label: Sound African Recordings Last year, South Africa’s Manyelo Dafro gave Malian maestro Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba’s enchanting vocals an exuberant Afro house spin. “Ladon,” which shares the title with the original 2009 recording, narrates the act of passing down knowledge to young people. In 2021, the duo, made up of Aero Manyelo and Dafro, tapped Fka Mash to further reimagine “Ladon.” Armed with blissful, glittered synths and a vibey, mid-tempo groove, Mash, as with most of his award-winning glitches/dubs, enlivens the song and takes it to new heights, while extending the composition’s permanence. — Madzadza Miya
Anz – You Could Be (feat. George Riley)
Genre: Electronica Label: Ninja Tune There’s a good reason we featured Anz in our best tracks of 2020 last year, again six months ago with one of our best tracks of the year so far, and now with one of our best of 2021. With each new release, Anz invites us along on her journey of artistic world-building: All Hours, released on Ninja Tune in October, is a concept record chronicling the ebb and flow of a club night over the EP’s six tracks. Sparkling pop single “You Could Be” featuring the vocals of George Riley is the release’s crown jewel; while we already knew that Anz has an incredible knack for writing club music, this foray into pop songwriting suggests she’s only getting started. — Will Gulseven
K-LONE – Deluxe
Genre: Breaks / Bassline / UK Bass Label: Wisdom Teeth UK label Wisdom Teeth decided to step up and “see out this cursed year with a bang” with a synchronized double drop from label heads Facta and K-LONE. The latter’s release, a scorching and assorted four-track EP titled Zissou, sees K-LONE zeroing in on the dance floor with his broad yet coherent style. “Deluxe” is a proto-dubstep meets UK garage triumph that sees the artist putting a unique spin on “the early Tempa sound,” with contorting basslines, dubbed-out vocal hits, ducking synths and refractory breaks that refuse to quit. — Cameron Holbrook
Paula Tape – Body Nature
Genre: Electronica Label: Rhythm Section International Sure, ​​Paula Tape’s “Body Nature” technically dropped in November, as the northern hemisphere settles itself into darkness, cold, and hibernation. But few songs in 2021 captured the easy-going vibes of a warm summer’s day like the Milan-based, Chilean artist’s track, which was part of her Astroturismo EP on Bradley Zero’s excellent Rhythm Section International. With its endlessly groovy bass-guitar licks, Tape’s playful vocals, and uplifting melodies, “Body Nature” brings warmth and light just when we need it most. And for that, we’re eternally thankful. — Chandler Shortlidge
Moktar – Lemon
Genre: Bass / Club Label: Steel City Dance Discs It’s impossible not to move to Moktar’s “Lemon”, even on first listen. One of 2021’s breakthrough artists thanks to the release of his self-titled debut EP, Moktar’s music is both a celebration and a statement – a homage to his Egyptian heritage, and a fuck-you to anyone who ever made him feel ashamed of it. “Lemon” is all percussion and breaks, punctured with the soaring sound of the arghul, an instrument native to Egypt. Moktar’s identity hasn’t always been celebrated in his home country Australia, but with “Lemon” the artist is lauding his culture and inviting the dance floor to do the same. — Alice Austin
Jaden Thompson – Closer
Genre: Minimal / Deep Tech Label: Three Six Zero Recordings The most recent tech-house crossover success somewhat loops the genre’s sound and style back to Jamie Jones’ “Hungry For The Power” remix. With a similarly catchy and seductive vocal topline (“the night begins to fall on us, get a little closer”) that weaves in and out of the track’s bouncy synth stabs and upbeat drums, its earworm formula propelled it from heads-down underground club status to a daytime-friendly radio hit that won fans in Annie Mac, Danny Howard and a remix from The Martinez Brothers. Between landing a residency at London’s legendary nightclub fabric at just 20-years-old and now starting his own Midnight Parade imprint, this is only the beginning for ascendant DJ/producer Jaden Thompson. — Ben Jolley
Logic1000 – I Won’t Forget
Genre: Dance / Electro Pop Label: Therapy Following nearly four decades of house music (and considering the frequently jaded nature of its fanbase), it’s practically inconceivable that so many of the genre’s signature techniques would still be effective, but Beatport Next artist Logic1000’s “I Won’t Forget” is a testament to the enduring appeal of good piano riff and a diva who can really belt it out. The standout cut from the Berlin-based Australian’s You’ve Got the Whole Night to Go EP, the track is both a tribute and an update, condensing the life-affirming magic of old-school house music into what feels like a four-and-a-half-minute procession of undeniable pop hooks. — Shawn Reynaldo
Special Request, Virgil Abloh, serpentwithfeet – Delicate Limbs
Genre: Electronica Label: Sony The late Off-White founder and Louis Vuitton artistic director Virgil Abloh, who tragically passed away last month at the age of 41, forged an impressive career as a DJ and producer, notching up a collaborative EP with Boys Noize, among other releases, and often championing UK sounds. At the start of the year, he joined forces with avant-R&B luminary serpentwithfeet for “Delicate Limbs,” a tender, dreamy slice of future R&B in its original form – before Special Request got his hands on it and birthed a high-voltage banger. The prolific Leeds producer and rave vet known as Paul Woolford sped things up and pumped the track with breaks for this speaker-busting, jungle-happy makeover powered by distortion, mutant bass and a bold, no-holds-barred sense of adventure in thrall to the spirit of its original creators. — April Clare Welsh
Bicep – Sundial
Genre: Electronica Label: Ninja Tune This year, the two lads from Belfast blessed the dance world with their highly anticipated sophomore album, Isles — a deliciously immersive dreamscape. Bicep teased the project last year with the stellar album opener — and a Beatportal Best Track of 2020 — “Atlas,” and the entrancing “Apricots.” Isles ebbs and flows seamlessly through its 10 tracks, a true journey of an album, exploring sounds and rhythms often energizing and calming at the same time. “Sundial” offers just that, with an otherworldly chant dancing over a pulsing UK garage-esqe beat. The beautifully ethereal vocals were sampled from a 1973 Bollywood film Raja Rani, a nod to Bicep’s love of Indian music and Bollywood soundtracks, “particularly the female soprano performances… We feel we can relate to how similar it is to the Irish folk we grew up around.” — Ana Monroy Yglesias
Robert Lee – Come Now Sound Boy (Coco Bryce Remix)
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: Rhythm Discs Coco Bryce is one of a slew of producers — along with names like Tim Reaper, Mantra, Sully, and Dead Man’s Chest — who have spent the past few years leading the charge for jungle’s latest generation, injecting modern production values into the genre while maintaining the breakneck energy that made it so seminal first time around. Arriving as the first release on reissue label Rhythm Discs, Bryce’s remix of “Come Now Sound Boy” adds a flurry of Amen breaks to King Jammy’s classic dub production and Robert Lee’s anthemic hook, taking the track into pure gunfinger territory. — Will Gulseven
Fred Again.., The Blessed Madonna – Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)
Genre: Deep House Label: Atlantic Records UK You’d be hard-pressed to find a track that hit a personal chord as deep as “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” did for music fans in 2021. Losing the freedom to dance and share moments with loved ones left many ravers with a hole in their lives, and this euphoric collaboration between Fred Again.. and The Blessed Madonna served as a powerful message about the pain the music industry felt with clubs shut. Not only was it a cry of emotion, it was a rallying call reminding everyone that after enduring the pain, “what comes next will be marvelous.” It sure was! — Jake Hirst
D.Dan – Post Kyiv
Genre: Techno (Peak Time / Driving) Label: Standard Deviation American-born, Berlin-based D.Dan has emerged in recent years as one of techno’s most exciting newcomers. Even with the pandemic making events difficult to impossible, he’s notched gigs at Berghain and beyond. “Post Kiyv” perfectly encapsulates his fast-paced, melodic style — a style that on this particular tune harks back to ‘90s trance without plagiarizing the genre, while keeping its feet firmly rooted in foot-stomping techno. With anthems like this under his belt, it’s no wonder D.Dan is on the rise, and this is almost certainly just the beginning. — Chandler Shortldige
Diamond Dealer – Mbali’nhle (feat. Tabia) [Caiiro Remix]
Genre: Afro House Label: MoBlack Records “Mbali’nhle,” which loosely translates to beautiful flower, is the second offering by South African-born, France-based DJ/producer Diamond Dealer to be released on MoBlack Records. The track received the remix treatment from Caiiro, who has put out more remixes than original tracks this past year. The talented producer adds his signature magic touch by coupling his effervescent bass and sizzling synths with Tabia’s angelic vocals and soaring harmonies. Through their past collaborations, Caiiro and Tabia have already proven to be a deadly pairing, and on “Mbali’nhle,” they continue to showcase their flavourful synergy and sonic chemistry. — Madzadza Miya
salute – Joy
Genre: Dance Label: SIGNAL >> SUPPLY As it’s title suggests, you would struggle to find a more joyful track than salute’s instantly-uplifting and fittingly-named “Joy.” With fast-paced beats gliding across singalong lyrics that are all about letting go — “dance on the ceiling, love!” — it delivered a much-needed dopamine rush upon its release in September. It also pushes the metaphorical narrative forward from salute’s April release, “Want U There,” which longed for togetherness after so long apart due to the lockdown. Contrastingly, “Joy” distilled the feeling of having our freedom and physical intimacy returned to us: “baby come closer, lights up and let’s get started!” — Ben Jolley
Doss – Puppy
Genre: Electronica Label: LuckyMe. The video for “Puppy” is literally a four-minute clip of a bounding baby Golden Retriever, and it perfectly captures the sheer joy at the heart of this dreamy dance-pop tune. An unexpected delight, the candy-colored song was Doss’ first new offering in seven years, and it’s hard to imagine a more joyous reintroduction from the NYC artist, who filters ’90s rave euphoria and Europop sheen through a soft-focus lens, ultimately landing on something that’s hyperactive enough for the TikTok generation, but also feels like a hazy reminder of the best night out you’ve ever had. — Shawn Reynaldo
SHY FX, Breakage, Break – I Got You (feat. Tyler Daley)
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: Digital Soundboy Let’s face it, when it was revealed SHY FX, Breakage, Break and Tyler Daley were linking up on a track, I’m sure there weren’t many people doubting what they’d muster up… All iconic D&B names in their own right, their “I Got You” creation produced one of 2021’s magical music moments. From Tyler Daley’s dreamy vocals lulling you into thinking it’s going to be a chilled, soulful number, to the slap of the bassline reminding everyone we’re in the company of some of D&B’s most gifted technical minds, there’s so much to admire about this release. — Jake Hirst
Space Ghost – Emotional Healer
Genre: House Label: Tartelet Records Welcome to Dance Planet with your host, Space Ghost! Released back in August of this year, Oakland-based producer Space Ghost follows up his 2020 Time To Dance EP with the leisurely and expeditious album Dance Planet. The LP’s standout track, “Emotional Healer,” is a soothing, funky, nostalgic house music gem that radiates good vibes. Driven by a straightforward yet undeniably catchy bassline and piano groove, the track’s blissed-out synths, honeyed soundscapes, and repetitive vocal incantation “touch, kiss, dance, be free” is enough to lift anyone out of their despair and into house music heaven. — Cameron Holbrook
Elkka – Euphoric Melodies
Genre: Electronica Label: Technicolour “Euphoric Melodies” by the London-based rising star Elkka says exactly what it means. This track tells a story of euphoria, complete with a beginning, middle, and end. Throughout the near seven minutes, the flaring arpeggios each provide their own unique feeling of happiness, a feeling that grows, expands, and envelops further with every passing beat. From the syncopated rhythms of the introduction to the coruscating main loop, melody is the centerpiece. Perhaps a better word is “protagonist.” Melody serves as the protagonist in a story of subtle pleasure becoming effervescent euphoria. — Harry Levin
SHERELLE – 160 Down the A406
Genre: Bass / Club Label: SHERELLE The past couple of years have seen Sherelle become one of the most lauded and well-loved figures in the dance music world. Not just as a fearsome DJ and a flag-bearer for jungle, footwork, and the burgeoning sounds in between, but also an outspoken advocate for equity and social justice in the music industry and wider society. Expectations were high, then, for her production debut, but the self-released “160 Down the A406” matched the explosive energy of a Sherelle DJ set: aka, equal parts nostalgia, future-facing exploration, and pure rave euphoria. — Will Gulseven
TSHA – OnlyL (feat. NIMMO)
Genre: Electronica Label: Ninja Tune Arguably 2021’s ultimate crying-on-the-dancefloor banger, Beatport Next artist TSHA’s expansive electronic production “OnlyL” found a crushingly emotive match with NIMMO’s incredibly powerful vocal, which cuts right through every time it rings out of the speakers. Combining their angelic tones with bubbling beats while retaining a sense of positivity despite the tear-jerking harmonies, its dark lyrics are cleverly juxtaposed with the upbeat instrumental. For many people, this multi-layered release soundtracked their first night back on the dancefloor: an emotional year-defining club anthem that provided a timely backdrop for those first hugs with friends and strangers. — Ben Jolley
Scratcha DVA, :3LON – Flex
Genre: Electronica Label: Hyperdub The latest in a long line of innovative electronic dance genres to emerge from South Africa, 2021 was the year in which amapiano, with its low-slung grooves, smooth piano melodies and deep, brooding basslines, captured the imagination of music lovers across the globe. Hyperdub affiliate Scratcha DVA had been keenly watching the scene develop from afar when he decided to release collaborative single “Flex” in late-August. A dance music innovator in his own right, the track saw the East Londoner put his own spin on the genre, juxtaposing ominous synths with moody grooves and the soaring vocals of Baltimore R&B talent :3LON to deliver a global club cut in the truest sense of the term. — Michael Lawson
KUSP – Folding (feat. Pablo:Rita)
Genre: Breaks / Breakbeat / UK Bass Label: Rekids What do you get when you mix a big room techno duo with a pair of deep house vocalist/producers? “Folding” is the answer. Best friends KUSP teamed up with best friends Pablo:Rita to produce the surprise anthem of 2021, a match so clearly made in heaven they should really make this a habit. The soaring, fiery vocals paired with the deft, drum & bass breaks will transport any listener to the heart of Ibiza’s deepest, darkest dance floor, and the emotive lyrics and epic drops make it the perfect track to close with. — Alice Austin
Liquid Earth – Scope Zone (Youandewan Remix)
Genre: House Label: Kalahari Oyster Cult From White Isle sunrises to back rooms in Berlin clubs, tech house has never really gone away. That said, 2021 did see the once-derided genre return to favor with the techno intelligentsia. And no two producers were doing tech house better than Taylor Freels under his Liquid Earth alias and king of the modular groove, Youandewan. Their end-of-year collaboration for Kalahari Oyster Cult is a masterclass in how to bring together a tough low-end with spacey, analogue melodies. This one has enough wiggle to get even the hippest wallflower on the floor. — Henry Ivry
Sub Focus – Airplane (Culture Shock Remix)
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: RAM Records As far as Ram Records’ discography goes, Sub Focus’s “Airplane” is certainly up there with the label’s most iconic releases. It’s one of those tunes only the bravest of producers would remix, but Culture Shock proved he was up to the task. Just like the vocals “The airplane flies across the sky, where it goes, is in your mind” suggest, this track always had the potential to take flight in a different direction, and Culture Shock’s spectacular 2021 remix serves as a breath of fresh air for a true dancefloor classic. — Jake Hirst
Bored Lord – GNC NRG
Genre: Breaks / Breakbeat / UK Bass Label: T4T LUV NRG Oakland-based producer Bored Lord has been utterly prolific since the beginning of the pandemic, with a never-ending supply of EPs, edits, and DJ tools, many of which she has only made available for a day or two before taking them down again. September saw the release of her Last Illusion EP, the fifth release on Eris Drew and Octo Octa’s T4T Luv NRG imprint, and the first release that didn’t come from one of the label’s founders. The whole EP is sprinkled with joyous musical references to rave history from the 1990s onwards, but it’s the intoxicating vocal sample and Big Beat swagger of “GNC NRG” that are the highlight of the release. — Will Gulseven
Suka – Mano Mano
Genre: Afro House Label: MoBlack Records There are some songs that carry so much tranquility that listening to them feels like one’s soul and spirit is being teleported into an unknown, alternate universe. And, Suka’s “Mano Mano” is a perfect example of such. With an enthralling chant, the transcendental, prayer-like song draws on the deeply ancestral poly-rhythms of early Afro and tribal house. Driven by a balmy piano progression, “Mano Mano” is a dreamy, spiritual and melodic journey filled with emotion. Released back in April, “Mano Mano” is the breakout moment for up and coming duo Suka (sometimes stylized as Thee Suka), of SucreSoul and Kadjila. — Madzadza Miya
Franky Wah, Carl Cox – We Are One
Genre: Melodic House & Techno Label: Ministry of Sound Recordings “The music that I play has to come from a certain place…I was always here to give everyone who decides to listen to what I’m playing an opportunity to hear something from my soul,” Carl Cox muses on “We Are One.” British up-and-comer Franky Wah reached out to Carl after hearing him speak these words during an interview, and, always one to support the next generation of talent, the long-time purveyor of dancefloor joy obliged. The result is a euphoric, shimmering celebration of the dancefloor and all the sounds and freeing experiences we’ve collectively shared on one over the decades. As Carl reflects on the magic of Ibiza, the synthy beat feels like a beam of sunshine breaking through. — Ana Monroy Yglesias
Client_03 – Protection Service Provider
Genre: Electro (Classic / Detroit / Modern) Label: Astrophonica More machine than man, the enigmatic project from the unknown entity known as Client_03 has hacked into the electro scene’s mainframe to wreak havoc across the dance floor. First appearing online in 2019 with bundles of binary, cryptic messages and heat-seeking electro weapons, this sound system cyborg first became “aware spontaneously” with the release of its debut Hope Retreater EP on Astrophonica. After building up its robotic arsenal last year with its Testbed Output_01 and Thought Disposal EPs, Client_03 kicked off 2021 with its User Viewpoint EP with the standout track, “Protection Service Provider.” The question remains… who is Client_03? Is it Fracture? Sully? Is it Russian hackers? Skynet? We may never know, but as long as this machine keeps spitting out top-tier electro tracks, I think we can live with the mystery. — Cameron Holbrook
Parris – Skater’s World (feat. Eden Samara)
Genre: Electronica Label: Can You Feel The Sun After nearly a decade spent working at the cutting edge of UK club music, London DJ and producer Parris came into his own this year with his long-awaited debut album. Released on Can You Feel The Sun, the label he runs with Call Super, Soaked In Indigo Moonlight paints from a palette of pop-minded names – Charli XCX, Frank Ocean and Emmy the Great, just to name a few – and “Skater’s World” dips into these influences. Featuring the syrupy vocals of Eden Samara, whose angelic contribution evokes an R&B Hannah Diamond, Parris mixes his avowed love of sticky sonic confection with brain-scrambling percussion, carving out a bright and wonky dance-pop bop that’s part Nickelodeon theme tune and part experimental club heater. Let them eat pop! — April Clare Welsh
Blawan – Under Belly
Genre: Electronica Label: XL Recordings When “Under Belly” landed in October, Blawan fans had no idea what to make of it. The only way to make sense of it was to come up with an analogy, of which I saw many: The Goosebumps theme in reverse, the “Monster Mash,” or “a techno record that has been rescued from a lava flow.” In an interview, Blawan said someone had described “Under Belly” as like “Thomas the Tank Engine on ket.” All of the above are apt, and recall the early 2010’s era of “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?” and “Getting Me Down;” dance music that is baffling, but brilliant. — Katie Thomas
Chippy Nonstop & dj genderfluid – To Myself
Genre: Dance / Electro Pop Label: Wet Trax Released in May via Wet Trax, Chippy Nonstop and dj genderfluid’s self-titled collaborative LP is a fast, wild ride, with most of the 13 tracks on the record sitting around the 140 BPM mark. “To Myself,” is a sublime moment of respite, an atmospheric drum & bass cut with Chippy’s sugared vocals and synth pads fit for levitating. With an accompanying video that evokes woozy late night get togethers — silly cab rides, living room gossip and tangled limbs sharing a bed — “To Myself” is an intimate anthem for the afterhours. — Katie Thomas
TOKiMONSTA feat. Channel Tres – Naked
Genre: Dance / Electro Pop Label: Young Art Records At the end of July, TOKiMONSTA teamed up with Channel Tres for a single on her own label, Young Art Records. The result was “Naked,” a jubilant and uplifting track suited to strutting down the sidewalk. “Get naked/ baby better shake it for me,” Channel Tres sings, over funky guitar licks and a disco groove. With a stirring riff on strings, rich textures in the production and Channel Tres’s deep, sultry vocal, “Naked” was the perfect tune to soundtrack the moments life started moving again. “The only way I go is go up,” the lyrics go, “livin’ our dreams.” — Katie Thomas