Crises may come and go, but each year still yields quality dance tunes for everyone to enjoy. And 2016 was no exception. Here is the sole reason you come to this blog:
10. Hear Me (Aly & Fila Remix) by Mohamed Ragab feat. Jaren
9. It Ain't Easy (Andrey Exx & Troitski Remix) by CRAM
8. The Sun (Kyau & Albert Rework) by Frida Sundemo
7. Meteora by The Noble Six
6. The Pop Kids by Pet Shop Boys
5. We Can Fly by Jorn van Deynhoven
4. Mangata by Dimension
3. Once Upon a Time by Schiller
2. Love Heals You by Roger Shah & Leilani
The tectonics in dance music have shifted again. Long time readers know that trance was stuck in the doldrums these last couple of years, but thankfully deep house went overground just in time and carried all before it. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. When a dominant sound emerges it has a heyday lasting around a year or two before it goes decadent and disappears up its backside. The presence of just one track from this stable - CRAM's excellent It Ain't Easy - shows that while the talent is about, the sub-genre itself is more or less done. And that is a real shame.
According to a producer mate of mine, it's as if dance fashions have purposely bent in the opposite direction. It's bubbled away under the surface, but this was the year so-called tropical house went mainstream. And, as a general rule, I can't stand it. Instead of low down vocals, munchkin and munchkin-style effects are back. These are married to calypso flavours, oil drums, and golden sand rhythms. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Well, it has some soulful, down tempo qualities but no, just no. Well, there is a single exception. Veteran purveyor of German electronica, Schiller has turned in Once Upon a Time, a tropica-by-numbers piece that hits the right notes and bypasses the prejudices I've acquired toward the genre.
What pleases me most is that trance came back strongly this year, but in the main the leading lights of the scene played second fiddle to emerging talent and barely-heard-of producers. Kyau & Albert have knocked around for a while, and their rework of Frida Sundemo's ballad gave it some much needed oomph as well as a new lease of life. Coming superstars Aly & Fila did the business with the Mohamed Ragab and Jaren collab, and spun it into something very special indeed. Jorn van Deynhoven in We Can Fly pitches for the kingship of melodic trance with a piece that can only be described as sublime. And last but by no means least, Roger Shah and Leilani swoop in to the number two spot with a monster that manages the tricky task of haunting and uplifting the listener. A proper masterpiece sure to make the decade-end list.
I love me some nostalgics, and no less than three numbers tickled this fancy. The Noble Six's Meteora blazed through the firmament like a, um, meteor with a sound that smashes together late 90s trance with early-mid 00s eurodisco, and a redolent nod toward the Lost Tribe classic, Gamemaster. Dimension's Mangata sounds like it also fell out of that time and only resurfaced this year. It sounds so Gouryella that I rate it well above the last couple of official Gouryella releases. And lastly we have friends-of-the-blog the Pet Shop Boys with The Pop Kids, a catchy number that speaks to clubbers of a certain vintage. It's also somewhat "inspired" by Bizarre Inc's Playing with Knives, which isn't anything I'm likely to complain about.
And the year's number one? Well, forgive me for being so mainstream but I've picked something that is not just the finest tune of 2016, but is perfect pop too. I love its simplicity and super-cheeky qualities, and is made by a perfectly pitched vocal. Here it comes (if you'd pardon the pun).