Best of 2016: Patrick Blinkhorn’s Picks
Adam Port’s remix of “Eel Pie Island” is creative on many levels: the sound design is spectacular throughout the track and Port displays a virtuosic rhythmic sense. But what made his rendition of “Eel Pie Island” stand out from every other remix I heard in 2016 was the spoken-word sample he used in the track. The spoken-word artist shares profound, abstract ideas veiled by her distinctive nonchalant tone.
When hearing the track for the first time, it’s easy miss what she’s saying and hone in on her “crowd pleasing” lines such as, “‘How come God gotta be so violent?’ I thought. I ain’t going to church no more … church can suck it.” But once Adam Port’s production and her words hook you and you have the remix on repeat, you’ll start to pick up on her musings: “I think the stars hold the secret. The stars be shining at night — bright as hell … The world want us to be happy, and I trust the stars. The stars ain’t ever lied yet — every night they say the same thang. The stars ain’t ever gonna leave us.” You will even ponder her statements you once thought were trivial, and they will take on greater meaning.
Daniel Avery and Volte-Face teamed up to form Rote, releasing EP1 in October 2015. It’s difficult to produce an EP that’s strong all the way through, but Rote accomplished this: every track on EP2 allured me. The lush, atmospheric soundscapes combined with the subtle percussion casts a spell on the listener. I look forward to Rote’s next enchanting release.
I first heard Sirens on a late-night bus ride after a remarkably turbulent flight from DC to Detroit. I was exhausted and my ear buds didn’t quite do Nicolas Jaar’s work justice, so I didn’t fully appreciate the album.
Over the next week or two, the hype surrounding Sirens persisted across my social media outlets, so I gave the album a more serious listen.
I was floored.
The album takes you on a journey like no other. It’s impossible to listen to “Killing Time” while standing — your knees will buckle. “No” will infect you with the dancing-bug on every listen. A musical pioneer in every sense, Jaar’s use of jarring, dissonant sounds in “The Governor” thrills the listener. Every track on the record has a story to tell if you’re willing to listen.
Best New Artist
Spanish electronic artist and Parse Audio label boss Degray had a phenomenal first year. The Parse Audio boss started his Degray project in January, and May 1 saw his first release, The Source. In essence, Degray produces very well thought out techno, but it’s much more than that. Degray had three notable releases in 2016: The Source, Array, and Dimensions. Check him out if you haven’t already.
Track of the Year
Bad Wave pulled off the buzzer beater of 2016 with their track “Daniel.” The track starts with two bit crushed snare drum hits before the lush synthesized arpeggios and grounding bass line enter. If the instrumentals don’t steal your heart, the vocals will — the vocalist reminds me of the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, yet he has own flair. “Daniel” is accompanied by an Aaron Miller comic and music video that add to the song. “Daniel” spoke to me in ways no other music did in 2016.
Honorable Mentions: Bloodboy, “Keep Your Disease;” Guy Gerber, “Secret Encounters;” the greatest hoax, “X-Plane Joy Ride;” Rampa, “Human;” Lorenzo Calvio, “Now Or Never;” Fort Romeau, “Secrets & Lies;” SAINT BEST, “In The Morning;” &ME, “Cape Coast;” Bjarki, “Baepolar;” Fango, “Vena Cava;” Recondite, “Warg;” Gennaro Mastrantonio & Billy Johnston, “Black River;” Degray, “Source Code;” Kris Davis, “Bleak”
Artist of the Year
Walker & Royce had a very successful turnaround year. When I spoke to them 2015, it was clear that they were dissatisfied with New York and their success so far as artists. Pete Tong had featured them on Radio 1, and the list of big names that supported them seemed endless, yet they hadn’t “blown up” yet.
Their world changed after they sent Dirtybird a three-track promo that included their remix of 12 Stories’ “Bright Lights,” which I covered here. Gavin Royce told me after a show he played at Seattle’s Q Nightclub that Barclay Crenshaw (a.k.a. Claude VonStroke) personally called them up and asked them to do a release with Dirtybird. The rest is history. I hope to follow up this interview I did with Walker & Royce in 2015 with another interview in 2017 that captures their rise to house music stardom.
Favorite Show of the Year
Whenever I walk into a party, I immediately gauge the vibe. A number of factors contribute to a party’s vibe, the most important being the party attendees, the space, and the music. The Petworth Park Summer Jam this past summer by Chris Burns and ROAM with support from the Petworth Jazz Project checked off every box in the vibe department. The three free DJ events spread out over June, July, and August brought DC’s finest partygoers out to hear some of the areas top music selectors at the Petworth Recreation Center, the perfect space for this event. The Petworth Park Summer Jam events were the highlight of a spectacular year for parties in DC.
Honorable Mentions: The NeedlExchange: Residents Night- Shake Your HIPS at Zeba Bar, Blisspop Presents: SLICE at Rock And Roll Hotel, ROAM x TNX at Glorious Health Club, Len Faki at the Leland Ballroom, DJ Lisa Frank at Detour: Andrés at The DC Eagle, Detroit Swindle at U Street Music Hall, Nicolas Jaar at the 930 Club, and Mr. Scruff at U Street Music Hall.
Label of the Year
For Keinemusik, 2016 was about quality over quantity. I had Keinemusik’s four 2016 releases on repeat over the course of the year, and none of the tracks got old. Boasting a talented team of artists, it’s no wonder that the Berlin-based label has such strong output. I look forward to hearing what Keinemusik has in store for us in 2017.
Honorable Mention: Sol Selectas Records
DC Artist to Watch
2016 was a year of musical excellence and growth in DC, especially for the underground dance music scene, and TNX led the charge. Whether they were playing one of their Resident Nights at Zeba Bar, the jam-packed Howl party, or the ROAM x TNX party at the Glorious Health Club, every TNX party I attended was characterized by excellent music, a positive atmosphere, and smiles all around. In my interview with TNX’s Baronhawk Williams, Bil Todd, and Tommy Cornelis earlier this year, I confirmed that they are a thoughtful, genuine, and affable group who have a good rapport with each other. TNX’s good character and chemistry contribute to the positive atmosphere and quality music selection at their parties. I’m eager for what this beloved DC trio has planned for 2017.