The 50 Best Tracks of 2020

Beatportal 50 Best 6
Dec 9, 2020
Beatportal Staff and Contributors
With the help of our contributors, we compile some of our favourite tracks of the year.

It’s been an undeniably difficult year for the music industry. But as we saw in our coronavirus coverage, music sales have remained a bright spot in an otherwise dark year.

In spite of everything — or perhaps because of the year’s difficulties — we’ve seen a wave of incredible music released in 2020. And while we weren’t able to share these songs on our favourite dance floors, there’s still plenty of reason to celebrate some of the best songs of the year.

So, how did we compile this list? None of the songs chosen are based on sales. Instead, we reached out to the many Beatportal contributors who’ve covered this defining year in dance music, and they helped our editorial staff pick 50 tracks, which are listed in no particular order below.

Check out our chart with the Top 50 Tracks of 2020 on Beatport.
Jayda G – Both Of Us
Genre: Electronica Label: Ninja Tune Has a moment of self-doubt ever sounded so affirmative? On “Both of Us,” Jayda G turns her introspection into euphoria, wondering whether she “can love enough for the both of us.” Although year-end lists are bound to be filled with claims of “song of the summer that never was,” you’d be hard-pressed to find a better contender than this piece of Chicago and disco-flecked house. With springy kicks, a piano line like sugar and spice, and a breakdown big enough to fill the tear ducts twice, this one may still be in the running for Summer Anthem 2021. — Henry Ivry
India Jordan – I’m Waiting (Just 4 U)
Genre: House Label: Local Action A year on from 2019’s DNT STP MY LV, India Jordan’s brilliant debut, they released For You, a six-track celebration of self-acceptance and growth. After suffering homophobic abuse growing up queer in their hometown of Doncaster, For You is, at the title suggests, for India, from India, a marker of praise for themself and the journey they have been on. The opening track, “I’m Waiting (Just 4 U),” would surely have been one of the year’s best festival tunes, featuring giddy, sparkling French touch and a sample from Stephanie Mills’ 1979 track “Put Your Body In It”. In 2021, let’s hope “I’m Waiting” finally gets the euphoric, sun-kissed moments it so deserves. — Katie Thomas
DJ Plead – Going For It
Genre: Leftfield Bass Label: Livity Sound This was something of a breakout year for DJ Plead. The Australian producer was able to hone his polyrhythmic approach to dance music that fuses bottom-heavy bass with Lebanese folk. If that sounds overly academic, it isn’t. On his standout track for Bristol institution Livity Sound, we get a peak-time weapon. “Going For It” is built around hand percussion before a warped synthline swirls across the track as more and more layers of drums emerge. One great loss of 2020 will certainly be not getting to watch DJs break a sweat mixing in and out of this one. — Henry Ivry
Bicep – Atlas
Genre: Electronica Label: Ninja Tune It’s hard to believe the Belfast duo’s first teaser of their 2021 album, Isles, came out in March, but the atmospheric bleep-y soundscape of “Atlas” has been floating around our heads ever since. It’s Bicep at their best: introspective and emotional yet deceptively uplifting and primed to fill towering industrial structures like Printworks. Endlessly captivating and innovatively hypnotizing — though taking on a strangely ethereal presence during these party-less times — it’s a monumental composition. Their first new track since 2018’s Rain EP, “Atlas” defies expectations, genre constrictions and succeeds in eliciting multiple feelings. Put simply, it’s a world to get lost in. — Ben Jolley
Martyn Bootyspoon – Resonant Freq
Genre: Dance / Electro Pop Label: 2 B Real Montrealer Martyn Bootyspoon fell in love with dance music through the hedonistic excess of Detroit anthems like “Ass n Titties.” But on his debut for Finn’s 2 B Real, he turned in an EP that managed to sound like it came from either side of the Atlantic. No track does this better than “Resonant Freq.” Icy cold, sinewave bass, and grating synths compete with a cheeky vocal reprieve repeating, “Freak.” It’s testament to both Bootyspoon’s humor and vision that he is able to turn all of this into an absolute banger that falls somewhere between DJ Assault and Wiley. — Henry Ivry
DJ Q – All That I Could
Genre: Garage Label: Local Action To say that 2020 was something of a garage and bassline revival is to do a disservice to the lifers like DJ Q who have been putting out swung drum belters with consistency for the better part of two decades. That said, with a renewed interest in syncopated and shuffling rhythms, the time feels ripe for another 2-step anthem. This is exactly what DJ Q delivers on “All That I Could.” Sultry vocals, velvet hits of bass, and the precision stutter of the percussion make this track feel as timeless as they come. — Henry Ivry
Break – The Edge of Time (Workforce Remix)
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: Symmetry Recordings Although 2020 has been a spectacular year for the ex-Spectrasoul man, Jack Workforce’s standout contribution was arguably his finest remix to date, a sumptuously deep exploration of the marriage between celestial textures and human vocals; a triad of Kyo’s touching tones, searing synthetic streaks, and scintillating low frequencies. We’re talking about “Edge of Time,” of course, and it’s only once you’ve heard its bassline that you can truly understand the magnetic appeal it has on one’s soul; a gravitational pull without limits, unconstrained by earthly laws and unbound by the laws of physics. It’s deep, rolling, and dripping in the sophisticated class that characterises Jack’s entire creative output, from sonic engineering to visual representation. Unbelievable. — Ben Hunter
Camo & Krooked & Mefjus – No Tomorrow (feat. Sophie Lindinger)
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: Hospital Records Towards the end of the year came Camo & Krooked and Mefjus’ “No Tomorrow,” an adrenaline shot of Trainspotting proportions that sees hypnotic futurism violently collide with human melancholia. Sophie Lindinger provides the latter, her hopeful yet morose voice the starting blocks for a subsequent wave of revamped neurofunk, stripped-back and skipping to the percussive taps of a palpitating heart. This human face is juxtaposed with technoid textures, the mechanised engine room that pumps energy to the track’s orchestral touches and climbing, suspenseful structure. The whistle blows, a halftime second-half follows, and you’ll be left breathless at the end. Seminal. — Ben Hunter
Justin Martin – Stay (feat. Dalilah)
Genre: Tech House Label: What To Do When an artist finally releases a secret weapon they’ve been reserving in their sets for months (or even years), it’s cause for celebration, and a celebration is what ensued after Justin Martin dropped “Stay” back in April. The second single from his brand-new imprint, What To Do, “Stay” is a concise culmination of Martin’s artistry: unmistakable to his unique sound while retaining a youthful sense of exploration. Far from the archetype of tech house, deep house, or any other subgenres, this mesh of grooves demonstrates Martin’s continuing infatuation with music-making. May that infatuation continue for years to come. — Harry Levin
Anakim – Bailey’s Song
Genre: Progressive House Label: PRGRSSN Records At its core, music is the sonic manifestation of human emotion. Thoughts and feelings that can’t be expressed through other avenues arise as a melding of rhythms and tones, and Anakim’s “Bailey’s Song” excels in harnessing a level of emotional depth rarely heard across the dance spectrum. After all, dance music traditionally exists in an environment of plentiful jubilance. An environment of blissful escape. Yet on “Bailey’s Song,” Anakim captured the melancholy he felt upon the sudden passing of his beloved dog of the same name and channeled it into a fitting addition to any seething melodic set. — Harry Levin
Patrick Topping – Rocket Fuel
Genre: Tech House Label: Trick A pumping rave weapon that does exactly what it says on the tin, the title to “Rocket Fuel” couldn’t be more fitting. This full-throttle blast-off — and sister of “Turbo Time” — doesn’t pause for a second’s breath. Even when the fired-up bassline drops out, the synths keep working away as if they’re powering an engine. Chuck in the sound of crowds cheering and a “Let me hear ya scream!” and the whole thing erupts into an explosion of tops-off hysteria. It’s the highlight of another stellar year for Topping’s unfaltering Trick label, which continues to loosen up the dancefloor with each exhilarating release. — Ben Jolley
Will Clarke – Hallelujah
Genre: Tech House Label: All We Have Is Now The Bristol-born DJ/producer with the strongest beard in the game really took us to church with this gospel-infused thumper. The first release on his own prophetically-named techno label All We Have Is Now, Clarke wasted no time in solidifying the imprint as a force to be reckoned with. “Hallelujah” signified a punchier move away from his Dirtybird booty-bass house groovers, instead focusing on Drumcode-style wall-shakers. It’s one of those undeniable slammers that causes rapturous reactions on the dancefloor; just watch the social media clips of Clarke unleashing it to euphoric effect in an actual club before the pandemic hit. — Ben Jolley
Blue Foundation – Eyes On Fire (Michael Bibi Remix)
Genre: Tech House Label: Solid Grooves Records Bibi has always had an ear for a freaky vocal sample that could be transformed into an unlikely club bomb. And, although it was released in February, the tech-house prince kicked off another great year with this six-minute groove-filled freaky roller. Chopping up the guitar riffs and eerie vocal of Blue Foundation singer Kirstine Stubbe Teglbjærg, he layered the disparate parts over a beat that’s impossible to dismiss. Landing nine months after it sent Shazam into overdrive when the Solid Grooves co-founder unleashed it during a DJ set at Leeds’ Canal Mills, it’s easy to tell why this one blew up quick. — Ben Jolley
Illyus & Barrientos – Promise
Genre: Tech House Label: Toolroom House bangers with massive diva vocals had a moment again in 2020 and, up there with the best was “Promise” by Glaswegian DJ/producer duo Illyus Brown and Ivan Barrientos. Cleverly sampling J.E. Hogan’s 2006 gospel track “I Promised The Lord That I Would Hold Out”, its jubilant handclaps, shuffling beat, and percussive instruments build to transform the track into a euphoria-inducing bomb that’s destined for big-room clubs at peak-time. It’s also the type of immediately infectious anthem that will instantly elevate your mood and put a beaming smile across your face — and that’s something we’ve all needed this year. — Ben Jolley
Alisha – What To Do
Genre: Tech House Label: WYLD Alisha, the UK’s fast-rising queen of tech house, who is quickly putting Peterborough on the dance music map thanks to pumping releases on Kaluki and Nothing Else Matter an sets at Parklife, Glastonbury and The Warehouse Project, knows her way around a chugging earworm beat. The DJ, producer, and raver specialises in peak-time acid-infused rollers with plenty of groove, and “What To Do” — which would have suited Hot Creations or Solid Grooves perfectly — sums up her sound brilliantly. The pay-off is, impressively, just as strong as the build-up; the drop unleashing a precision-tooled dopamine rush when it hits. — Ben Jolley
TSHA – Sister
Genre: Electronica Label: Ninja Tune One of the most affecting tracks of 2020, “Sister” carries the contrasting feelings that London-based Teisha Matthews felt when she found and contacted her long-lost sibling during lockdown. Fusing an acid bassline, wind chime percussion, and pop-leaning chorus, the life-affirming highlight from Flowers — her stunning debut EP for Ninja Tune — is a faultless emotion-filled electronic anthem. A real hug-your-mates serotonin rush tinged with optimism and nostalgia thanks to its childlike vocal, “Sister” also carries the sadness of a year’s worth of lost dancefloor moments. Hearing this one out, rather than on full volume at home, will be special indeed. — Ben Jolley
Deadbeat & Paul St. Hilaire – Mind Control
Genre: Techno (Raw / Deep / Hypnotic) Label: Another Moon Deadbeat and Paul St. Hilaire continue to carry the torch for modern dub techno. Year on year, they find fresh ways to update the time-worn style, and the vocoder-laden “Mind Control” is some of their freshest yet. Paul St. Hilaire (FKA Tikiman) is not one for having his voice heavily processed, but on this track it works a charm, taking their sound into a dystopian future. Over the 14 minute run time, Paul’s voice appears in just a few moments here and there, but that’s all it needs. Deadbeat’s rolling, bass-heavy grooves do the rest. With two albums, countless live shows and 20 years of friendship behind them, the chemistry between this pair is untouchable. — Richard Akingbehin
Ana Roxanne – Take the Thorn, Leave the Rose
Genre: Downtempo Label: Kranky Ana Roxanne’s album for Kranky, Because Of A Flower, stands out as one of the year’s finest. With just her second record, she has honed in on a modern style of New Age ambient which sounds like nothing else around. The plucked notes of the album’s final track, “Take The Thorn, Leave The Rose,” add a distinctively human feel to an otherwise ethereal album. Halfway through, the track breaks down and rebuilds in barely recognizable, but equally captivating, form. It’s a great example of her vocal range and her music’s subtly-affecting tenderness. — Richard Akingbehin
Coco Bryce – Ma Bae Be Luv
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: Lobster Theremin This year saw a new wave of jungle begin to bubble up from a few specialized corners of the web into the wider world of dance music. Ironically, clubland came to a grinding halt just as the scene was poised to take off. Yet somehow, the jungle resurgence remained undeterred and records from scene stalwarts, including Coco Bryce, reached new heights and wider audiences. With “Ma Bae Be Luv,” Coco Bryce delivered one of his biggest tunes to date, one-upping even his catchiest work. Built around a candy-coated vocal and shimmering synth stabs, “Ma Bae Be Luv” would be pure pop if it weren’t for the roughneck breakbeats and bass lines keeping it firmly rooted in the jungle. — Joe Rihn
Kelly Lee Owens – Jeanette
Genre: Electronica Label: Smalltown Supersound In August, fans breathed a sigh of relief when Kelly Lee Owens’ sophomore album Inner Song finally landed, delivering a suite of songs more driving and energetic yet just as compelling as those on her first LP. Its centrepiece, “Jeanette”, is the most euphoric of the lot, its frosty arpeggios cascading and building over nearly four minutes before a kick drum charges through the mix like a galloping horse. Named after Owens’ late grandmother — “the most solid, stable, loving relationship of my life,” Owens told Pitchfork — “Jeanette’s” blissful peaks provided a welcome, enveloping respite in an arduous year. — Annabel Ross
박혜진 park hye jin – Like this
Genre: Electronica Label: Ninja Tune The Seoul-born LA-based rapper, singer, and DJ/producer had her mainstream crossover moment in May with this percussion-led hazy house subtle banger. Fusing her Korean-sung whispered vocals with dream-like synth pads that sound like wind chimes blowing in the breeze, the popularity of “Like This” soared on social media thanks in-part to Hye Jin’s easy to follow TikTok dance routine that featured in her track’s wistfully optimistic music video. More than anything, it carried a sense of nostalgia for when things felt “normal” and a summer of festival plans still filled our calendars. — Ben Jolley
Tim Reaper – Cityscapes
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: Lobster Theremin Tim Reaper is no fresh face on the jungle scene, but thanks to his Cityscapes EP, released on Lobster Theremin in August, 2020 was the year that heads across the board snapped to his attention. It’s hard to choose a favourite from that wonderful four-tracker, but the title track is impeccable; a mind-melting blend of frenzied beats, velvety house diva vocals, and pinging, vaudevillian keys. The elements are layered in fits and start to create chaos, then separated to reveal their inherent beauty while slabs of manic percussion provide regular jolts throughout. One of the year’s best releases, hands down. — Annabel Ross
Octo Octa – River
Genre: Electronica Label: Fabric Described as an “acid-drenched transcendent house” track, “River” certainly transports you beyond this third-dimensional reality. Octo Octa presents a sonic exploration of movement and stillness in life. It’s an unpredictable track that at times feels subtle and then unexpectedly takes you to the next plain. The undeniably warm feeling of being immersed within these acid sounds makes “River” an exciting and joyful sonic journey that invites listeners to explore its hypnotic contours with a fine tooth comb. Much like the ebb and flow of life and the crashing shoreline, “River” greets and comforts you and allows you to become one with sound. It’s a chance for healing! — Mandy Alexander
Portable – Unity
Genre: Electronica Label: Live At Robert Johnson In musical tribute to Andrew Weatherall, and to celebrate 21 years of the Robert Johnson club, Portable delights us with his contribution to the Lifesaver 4 Compilation, Unity, a transcending electronic offering that ignites all the senses. Portable delights listeners with his angelic voice that resonates with the magnitude of this year. The simplicity of the word “unity” being sung along with the building rhythm creates a hypnotic aural experience. It’s a wholesome electronic track that feels so necessary and best enjoyed with your eyes closed while surrendering to the rhythm. Unity provides both escapism and a gentle reminder to be present. — Mandy Alexander
Xee & Codekid – Deeper Her
Genre: Deep House Label: Soul Life Audio Boutique South African duo Xee & Codekid are sonic geniuses with the skill to take listeners on a globalized journey. Their sound knows no borders and “Deeper Her”cements their sonic power as one of the most thought-provoking electronic music duos currently making deep house. Straight off their Rubbing Stuff EP, “Deeper Her” is a richly-brewed track that encourages listeners to delve deep within this beautifully textured aural offering. Its hypnotic feeling allows you to exist between the realms of sound. “Deeper Her” goes against the grain of the expectation to produce a geographically particular sound and holds true to the importance of musicians crafting unique music. — Mandy Alexander
Charlotte de Witte – Sgadi Li Mi
Genre: Techno (Peak Time / Driving) Label: KNTXT Charlotte de Witte’s eye-watering schedule might be on hiatus, but 2020 has catapulted her production clout into the stratosphere. She dropped “Sgadi Li Mi” for the first time during a live stream from atop a castle in Ghent. As the mournful, South Asian vocals soared over the rooftops, de Witte took a drag of cigarette and laughed, perhaps aware that she’d just dropped one of the defining tunes of the year. “Sgadi Li Mi” is a production that communicates de Witte’s emotional connection to techno, simultaneously a muscular celebration of the genre and a yearning ode to the dance floor. — Alice Austin
Amelie Lens – Higher (FJAAK Remix)
Genre: Techno (Peak Time / Driving) Label: Lenske Amelie Lens’s “Higher” is a thunderous techno production straight from the heart of a purist. Produced pre-COVID and released mid-COVID, its sense of optimism and hedonism, paired with industrial synths and pummelling snares, made it feel like an instant classic. Berlin’s FJAAK softened the edges with a stripped back minimal take, building on Amelie’s vocals and spinning their meditative, hardware-heavy flair into the mix. But the eye of the storm lies in an ecstatic trance build-up followed by a pulverising drop, inviting the listener to categorically lose their shit, whether locked down or not. — Alice Austin
John Summit – Deep End (SIDEPIECE Remix)
Genre: House Label: Defected Despite an addictive knack for making dance floor heat even with no dance floor currently available to truly appreciate, it’s safe to say SIDEPIECE have dominated their share of 2020. Coming off a grooving “On My Mind” release with Diplo, the pair were quick to jump on a remix for Chicago producer John Summit and his outstanding track “Deep End,” which helped catapult the young Chicago producer firmly into the spotlight this year. SIDEPIECE’s remix adds a serious bounce and a punchy bassline to what should certainly be considered one of the top dance tracks of 2020. — Valerie Lee
i_o — Castles In The Sky
Genre: Trance Label: Armada Music As we reflect on 2020, it’s important to recognize just how much this year took from us in the rave community, including the lives of some of our own beloved artists. Garrett Lockhart, known by his alias i_o, tragically passed away in late November. His final release is one that dance music fans across the genre spectrum will recognize: i_o developed a new interpretation of Ian Van Dahl’s timeless 2002 trance single “Castles In The Sky,” transforming the original song into a powerful trance-meets-techno anthem. Pressing play on this tune may trigger an onslaught of conflicting emotions as it’s such a beautiful, melancholic song that takes on a new meaning in light of his tragic death. Rest in peace, Garrett. We will never forget your impact on dance music. — Jordan Mafi
Zonderling, NØ SIGNE – Clouds
Genre: Electro House Label: STMPD RCRDS When the term ‘future house’ was coined in the mid-2010s, producers like Tchami and Oliver Heldens were the blueprint for unconventional yet indulgent EDM; now in 2020, the sound has only become more eccentric thanks to producers like Zonderling and NØ SIGNE. On “Clouds,” both acts masterfully display the kind of unexpected magic that occurs within the studio, demonstrating the power of creative sound design and an immaculate mix. The best future house tunes are the ones that startle you through a tantalizing, offbeat flair — ”Clouds” exhibits exactly that, satisfying both the body and the mind. — Jordan Mafi
Anz – Loos in Twos (NRG)
Genre: Leftfield House & Techno Label: Hessle Audio Anz has been building a formidable following since her 2017 debut, becoming known for the consistency of her productions and jaw-dropping work rate. Nowhere is this better illustrated than on her annual production mixes, which showcase unreleased Anz productions, often months or even years before they see the light of day. “Loos in Twos (NRG)” debuted on one such mix last year, and eventually saw a release in September via Hessle Audio. The brilliance of “Loos in Twos” lies in the fact that elements of the track feel instantly familiar to any dance music fan: the rave stabs, the break, the heavyweight bassline. But thanks to Anz’s deft touch, those same elements feel fresh and new. — Will Gulseven
Sinistarr & Hyroglifics – BS6
Genre: Juke/Footwork Label: Hooversound The first release from Sherelle and Naina’s Hooversound imprint, “BS6” is a transatlantic linkup from Detroit’s Sinistarr and Bristol-based Hyroglifics — a rowdy workout of a track that encapsulates everything exciting about the latest crop of artists creating melting-pot music at 160 BPM. Taking in influences from footwork, rave, jungle, and ghettotech, “BS6” sees cowbells ricocheting off frantic vocal chops and syncopated 808s. And although it was released in mid-March just as the pandemic forcibly shut club doors across the globe, both Sherelle and Naina had been doing damage with the track in their sets for months, and the crowd reactions speak for themselves. — Will Gulseven.
Harka – Nuclear Bomb
Genre: Drum & Bass Label: Elastic Rhythms Dropping this May on Harka’s Badman Bible EP (pun intended), “Nuclear Bomb” acted as a manifesto for his style of high-tempo hybrid club tracks. Working in strands of D&B, halftime, hard house, jungle, and footwork, the EP is a giddy journey through thirty years of musical influences, tied together in a polished, forward-thinking package. “Nuclear Bomb” is the standout track from the release, building on the time-honoured foundation of classic jungle with a chopped-up Helicopter break and generous use of Patois vocals, brought into 2020 with a punishing bassline inspired by modern D&B’s foghorn rollers. — Will Gulseven.
LUZ1E – U Said I Couldn’t Do It
Genre: Electro Label: International Chrome In LUZ1E’s relatively short career thus far, it’s seemed as though there’s no genre she can’t turn her hand to, variously turning in dreamy house, tear-out jungle, and broken techno for labels like Lobster Theremin, Shall Not Fade and Mechatronica. Driving electro was the order of the day on her Cybernetic Movement EP, her debut release on Jensen Interceptor’s International Chrome label. Relentlessly fast-paced and straight to the point, only a heaving dancefloor will truly do a track like “U Said I Couldn’t Do It” justice. It’ll have you yearning for the day that clubs return, and in a year like this there could be no higher compliment. — Will Gulseven.
Otik – Zero-Sum Game
Genre: Techno (Peak Time / Driving) Label: Shall Not Fade London-via-Bristol producer Otik hasn’t missed in 2020, with a string of killer releases on labels like Dusk & Blackdown’s Keysound Recordings and Mr Mitch’s Gobstopper Records so good they need to be heard to be believed. He simply can’t miss. That’s on top of his regular radio and mix appearances on Rinse FM, Reprezent Radio, and the revered Dekmantel podcast. And while we could have blindly picked nearly any Otik track from 2020 for this list, “Zero-Sum Game,” the title track from his release on Shall Not Fade’s Basement Tracks series, sums up everything that makes him such a captivating producer; taking the best of the UK’s electronic music heritage with weighty bass and driving percussion, contrasted with a floating, euphoric slant that Otik has made into his trademark. Keep your eyes on Otik, ‘cause this run ain’t done. — Will Gulseven.
Robert Hood – The Struggle
Genre: Techno (Peak Time / Driving) Label: M-Plant The thought of what this record would be doing to clubs and festivals if we had clubs and festivals is almost too much to process. The trajectory of Robert Hood’s career lately has been about channelling big club, big system energy to righteous purposes – and that reaches a crescendo here. Huge kicks, a simple but brutally effective acid line, a piercing war-horn drone, a speech made by activist Tamika Mallory in Minneapolis in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death… this is techno with all its history, all its blackness, all its sense of purpose right up front. And it’s devastating. — Joe Muggs
Huey Mnemonic – Virtuosity
Genre: Techno (Peak Time / Driving) Label: Subsonic Ebonics Subsonic Ebonics is an effective turn of phrase from the producer whose shown repeatedly that he’s intentional in the art he creates. The title track from Huey Mnemonics Virtuosity EP, the first launch from his aforementioned label, hits a sweet spot between grounded and surprising, catchy without feeling played out. As the arpeggiated chords build, catching polyrhythmic drum sounds along the way, the release felt from the kick a third of the way through is nearly euphoric. The rest of the track wraps around the synth, experimenting with percussive patterns and placements. Mnemonic’s sounds span multiple worlds to create a new and exciting path forward for Detroit techno. — Crystal Mioner
Ozzy – Maerts
Genre: Techno (Peak Time / Driving) Label: Intercept Like many selections in this list, “Maerts,” from promising young Dutch newcomer Ozzy, expertly channeled the rave spirit during a year in which few of us were able to actually celebrate the rave. Released this September on Coloray’s Intercept record label, “Maerts” admittedly combines many of last year’s best tropes — high BPM count, ambient-gabber soundscapes, and euphoric trance melodies that manage to remain on the right side of cheesy — for a pulse-pounding, hair-raising and decidedly modern take on techno. One can easily imagine the “Maerts” closing the sets of DJs like Courtesy, its lush and melancholic pads, stuttering drums and endlessly looping melody sending crowds into the stratosphere one last time before gently calling time. 2019 may end up being known as fast techno’s high point, but “Mearts” proves 2020 still had one more 175 BPM ace up its sleeve. — Chandler Shortlidge
Lazarus – Back One Eighty
Genre: Leftfield House & Techno Label: Of Paradise As a label, Of Paradise has been on a roll, consistently delivering some of the year’s best releases across a wide range of sounds. And while several EPs and compilations stood out, it’s hard to top Lazarus’ Downwards EP. Put quite simply, it’s a mini-album; chock full of richly emotional breakbeats and techno that deserves to be listened to in its entirety. However, “Back One Eighty” is a standout. A swirling, stuttering, hardcore-adjacent breakbeat gives way to lush ambient textures, before layers of IDM quickly ricochet around to tie the threads together. In a year where so much darkness was surrounded by some incontrovertible light, Lazarus manages to perfectly capture those two competing ideas in ways words likely never could, which is always a mark of truly great music. — Chandler Shortlidge
Escaflowne – Tha Cycle VIP
Genre: Electro Label: Sorry Records Over the past five years Sorry Records has been both a bedrock and beneficiary of New York City’s fertile scene, but 2020 was when the label really came into its own. Of several releases this year, Escaflowne’s The Stimulus Pack stood tallest: a wicked EP of breaksy techno, footwork-style sample acrobatics and raved-up diva house that threads the needle from First Choice to Huey Mnemonic and beyond. Closer “Tha Cycle VIP” did it all, establishing a false sense of security with a chatty 303 before plunging into a darker underbelly, where low-end rumbles menace the subs and wave after wave of breakbeats crash down. Dropped into the middle of a uniquely turbulent summer, Escaflowne bottled the lightning in the air and set it loose right back on us. — Gabriel Szatan
2Lanes – Baby’s Born To Fish (feat. Kesswa, John F.M., Ian Fink & Shigeto)
Genre: House Label: Portage Garage Sounds Detroit’s resident jester links with Hamtramck’s PGS Label to put forth a trance like collaborative effort from some of the city’s most promising artists. With thoughtful curation by the talented 2Lanes and anchored in production by 2Lanes, Ian Finklestein, and Shigeto, the track is elevated by the gorgeous vocals of Kesswa with support from FXHE’s John FM. “Bills past due, what you gon’ do?” is a timely question that leads to the inevitable outcome: make some songs with some friends. On the flip side, 2Lanes and Jihoon, an undersung savant of Detroit’s music community, give us Impish Desires, a dark and freaky companion to Baby’s Born To Fish. Warning: MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY. — Crystal Mioner
HLX-1 – I Can Tell You Can F​*​*​*
Genre: Electro Label: HLX-1 Detroit HLX-1, named after a black hole located approx 290 million lightyears away, gave us a track in 2020 that inspires us to open our holes right here on earth. Our, ugh, dance holes. I CAN TELL YOU CAN F​*​*​* is a raunchy electro type beat from Underground and Black’s The AM and Scan 7’s Ken Clements. Clements has been putting out brilliant production work for Scan 7 for years, and The AM’s decades-long appreciation for techno and electro comes through. The drums are infectious, and the hook gives us something fun and progressive in a musical landscape that can be a little too self-aware. — Crystal Mioner
Hukae – Dirty Talk
Genre: Dubstep Label: NSD: Black Label Dubstep’s next generation is exceptionally bright. As the mainstream dubstep scene moves away from gargantuan drops and headbanging fans on the rails, this scene is a stomping ground for complex and technical productions. Leading the charge for this sound is Hukae, the UK-based producer who turned the heads of industry tastemakers and fans alike with his single “Dirty Talk,” a glitchy, discombobulating sonic experience that set the tone for dubstep’s innovative move from formulaic drops to complex arrangements. With a slew of new producers based all over the world, 2020 proved that dubstep’s future is far from dead. — Jordan Mafi
Bakey – Take It Further
Genre: Garage Label: Time Is Now Records London-based newcomer Freddie Baker (AKA Bakey) has been making serious waves as of late through both his Rinse FM show and grime-fulled club edits. But it was after the release of his wicked and unruly Take It Further EP on Shall Not Fade sub-label Time Is Now Records that people began to take notice in a big way. A golden deliverance of UKG-inspired trouble, the heavy and charismatic lead single excels at bringing proper old-school rave vibes into the 21st century. The track builds with a hype-up oration and the sound of crowd mayhem before the exchange between its stout breaks, tremulous bassline, and badman vocals rope you in. Oh my gosh. — Cameron Holbrook
Swing Ting – Drama feat. Thai Chi Rosé (KG Remix)
Genre: UK Funky Label: Swing Ting Karen “KG” Nyame has been relentless this year. Whether producing for Shingai, remixing Daniel Haaksman, collaborating with NJ Club queen Uniiqu3, or on her own solo EP, the rolling drums of her ultra-finessed take on UK funky are instantly recognisable. Perhaps best of all is her remix for Manchester’s Swing Ting: the low’n’slow original is completely turned inside out, with Darkchild style harpsichords added, Thai Chi Rosé’s voice chopped into irresistible hooks, and THOSE drums. It’s like a turn of the millennium UKG R&B bootleg, but ultra-modernist and ultra-deluxe; the only issue is it could be twice as long. — Joe Muggs
Eris Drew – Transcendental Access Point
Genre: Melodic House & Techno Label: Interdimensional Transmissions In 2020, many of the year’s best tracks weren’t able to realise their dance floor potential. I’m lucky that, for me, that wasn’t the case with Drew’s mesmerising “Transcendental Access Point”. It was around 5am on a February morning in south London, the air was heavy with heat and the crowd was bathed in blue as the string section bloomed; a blissful, weightless moment. One of three tracks on Fluids of Emotion, her debut solo release, “Transcendental Access Point” encapsulates the feelings of warmth, healing and togetherness that Eris nurtures when she’s in the booth. Using hallucinogenic mushrooms as a production tool to tap into the Motherbeat, on “Transcendental Access Point,” the goddess Eris Drew shared her psychedelic world with us. — Katie Thomas
Louie Vega & The Martinez Brothers – Let It Go feat. Marc. E. Bassy (Honey Dijon Extended Release Mix)
Genre: House Label: Defected A dream team of NYC house that embodies both old and new school Big Apple dance music, Louie Vega and The Martinez Brothers teamed up with singer-songwriter Marc E. Bassy to deliver a beautiful slice of stripped-back house with “Let It Go.” Defected Records picked up the remix package and tapped Honey Dijon for the remix, and she delivered a glorious NYC-meets-Berlin interpretation of this irresistible tune. Slowing down the tempo while cranking up the echo and reverb to give it a more cavernous and clubbier feel, Dijon introduces a fluctuating bassline that will lock you into a rhythm that you didn’t even know you needed in the first place. — Cameron Holbrook
Marlon Hoffstadt – Blade Runner
Genre: Trance Label: Midnight Themes Marlon Hoffstadt had the extreme misfortune of releasing 2020’s greatest trance record on the very week normal life shut down. Festivals, parties and Hoffstadt’s own Savour The Moment nights in Berlin closed up shop. Shorn of the environment in which ecstatic release thrives, could Planet Love make any sense at all? The trick is that Hoffstadt’s music betrays no hint of tongue-in-cheek retro-fascination. Scan the skyscraping acid trance of Planet Love standout “Blade Runner” and all you’ll detect is pure, luminous positivity. Hoffstadt simply believes in a better world and wants to take us there – optimism worth clinging to as we cross our fingers and hope for a better 2021. “Blade Runner” suggests that the light at the end of the tunnel might even be a hovering UFO. If so, then beam us up Hoffy. — Gabriel Szatan