2013 has been a tremendous year for electronic music to say the least. The Blisspop staff did its best to wrangle up its favorite things from the past 12 months–ranging from artists to albums to gigs. We hope you enjoy–see you all in 2014!
Caleb – Top 5 Favorite Things of 2013
DJ Koze – Amygdala
This LP was a nice surprise for me. It’s definitely super unique and each track differs vastly from the next, but DJ Koze managed to make probably the most colorful and creative album of the year. Everything from the sound design, goofy vocal croaks, Marvin Gaye samples and wandering song structures come together to form a trippy wonderland that congeals perfectly when absorbed from start to finish.
Daniel Avery – Drone Logic
Daniel Avery’s debut LP Drone Logic dominated the latter part of my year, especially following his killer DJ set at U Street Music Hall. It took everything I loved about his initial EPs, removed any fluff, and turned out to be one of my favorite records of the year hands down. It’s relentlessly analog feeling but manages to not be as rigid as most tracks that would fall under that descriptor. Daniel Avery’s songwriting and production are both at the top of their game, and tracks like “Water Jump” make for easy dance floor workouts while slower cuts like “Knowing We’ll Be Here” showcase his depth as a producer with dreamy synthscapes and gorgeous melodies.
The Juan Maclean – “Feel Like Movin’”
DFA had a fantastic year with releases like The Juan Maclean’s “You Are My Destiny,” Shit Robot’s “We Found A Love,” and Holy Ghost’s awesome sophomore LP Dynamics. The most memorable track (of the year and probably the label in general), though, was The Juan Maclean’s “Feel Like Movin’.” The song is a glorious 8 minute house wonderland with an infectious groove, meaty piano stabs, stomping kicks, and the iconic voice of Nancy Whang overtop it all. It ends up feeling like a culmination of everything awesome we’ve come to love about the label combined into one feel good track.
Lxury – “J.A.W.S.”
Having Disclosure ties from the get-go never hurts, but Lxury’s debut single carries itself entirely on its own. Infectious, bright UK house with a fairly unique approach to synth work makes for one of the year’s biggest tracks.
Todd Terje – ”Strandbar (Samba)”
Todd Terje’s epic “Strandbar” is probably my favorite track of the year. It’s a 9 minute piano house journey complete with burbling synths, ephemeral textures and and an incredibly infectious samba beat behind it all. Todd Terje has built a reputation for making happy disco leaning tunes, and this is some of his finest works yet.
Charles – DC’s Best Gigs of 2013
Hotflush head honcho Paul Rose, better known as Scuba, descended upon Washington this past March alongside friend and label-mate South London Ordnance to deliver what was easily one of the finest performances of the club’s prolific three-year history. Alongside Blisspop resident Lxsx Frxnk, the three brought a night full of some of the deepest, darkest techno the city has ever experienced which committed itself to memory from the moment I walked into the club. Not only were each of their sets seemingly flawless, but they also showcased a style second to none. This one will go down as the night the UK took the nation’s capital.
George Fitzgerald has truly had the year of his life. With a steady stream of grade-A releases across multiple labels, one of which coming via London’s renowned Domino imprint, it’s safe to say that the Brit has solidified his place among the ranks of the world’s finest DJs and producers. Closing out his massive year with a North American tour, Fitzgerald stopped by U Street Music Hall with his highly sophisticated, inimitable style of house in tow. With the immensely talented DC locals behind the Silence in Metropolis label by his side, this night was one in which house music proved to be not only alive and well, but thriving in the face of its all too often humdrum contemporaries.
Where to begin with Mr. Blake? The one-time king of the “post-dubstep” revolution has, over the past four years or so, developed into one of our era’s most talented singer/songwriter/producers (a description which few can even attribute to themselves). After releasing his latest LP to widespread critical acclaim earlier this year (earning him a Mercury Prize along the way), it was readily apparent that the UK wunderkind has refined his sound to a T. Returning once again to the 9:30 club in early November, Blake proved to truly be at the top of his game–seamlessly blending tunes from his debut LP, his latest works, and even a track from his very first release via Hemlock (“Air & Lack Thereof,” a personal highlight for me). While there’s no doubt James Blake has transformed greatly as an artist, his live performances shine for their ability to demonstrate the linear approach and the cohesive manner in which the musician has grown.
David Kennedy returned to the District for the first time this past Spring under his Pearson Sound moniker for a night of some of electronic music’s most forward-thinking productions. One-third of the prolific Hessle Audio crew, Kennedy prophetically demonstrated via his set the sounds that would come to dominate 2013. Playing everything from experimental house to minimal, downtempo grime to old-school garage, all the while maintaining the tranquil ease the renowned producer/DJ has come to be renowned for. Pearson Sound confirmed that night his pivotal role in shaping electronic music’s tastes and trajectories. The man is truly in a league of his own and, to me at least, an inspiration.
The dynamic duo of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, more familiarly known as Mount Kimbie, returned in epic fashion in 2013 to deliver one of the finest crafted LPs of the year (Cold Spring Fault Less Youth). On the heels of that release was the two’s first appearance in DC at the legendary Black Cat. The band, as it’s safe to call them–given their utilization of traditional instrumentation alongside analog equipment–has long been known and lauded for their live performances and this night was certainly no exception. Playing live renditions of originals as far back as their first release from 2009, Maker and Campos embody something which many other musicians spend their entire lives attempting to achieve–the ability to amalgamate both electronic and material sounds into a beautiful, harmonious synthesis. Even more impressive is their ability to translate this synthesis into a live setting. Perhaps most striking, however, is the feeling one gets that the two have yet to even reach the pinnacle of their artistic abilities. One thing is for certain, though, that Mount Kimbie represents in full form an optimistic future for the music world at large, one which was displayed in whole on an otherwise quiet night in the nation’s capital.
Chrystal – Favorite Artists of 2013
Emerging from the Gloucestershire countryside in the south-west of England, 25 year old Tahliah Barnett, better known as FKA Twigs, is tipped for big things after releasing her sophomore EP simply entitled 2. Her music feels like future trip-hop and very much similar to early Burial, Tricky and Massive Attack with elements of Portishead. This urban alternative beauty looks the part, is a former dancer, sings beautifully and purposefully, yet haunts the listener with her stark beats and intimate projection. Songs like “How’s That” from 2 and ‘Ache’ from EP 1 suggest nothing but total and utter brilliance. FKA Twigs makes the type of music which is begging to be remixed and should be a producer’s dream. After releasing her first EP on Bandcamp, FKA Twigs signed to indie record label Young Turks, and with new label mates such as SBTRKT and The XX, only good things can come of this pairing. Oh, and did I also mention she’s been named on the BBC’s Sound of 2014 list? Anyone who can bring back the genre of trip-hop–a genre I’ve never stopped listening to–is always welcome in my home.
Débruit is a genre-merging, boundary pushing genius from Paris who I only discovered (to my shame) this year whilst dancing wildly to his music at Worldwide Festival in Sete, France. Introduced to me by Gilles Peterson, Débruit, whose real name is Xavier Thomas, brings together Electronic music with Soul, Hip Hop, Garage and beats from all over Africa. With the release of his 2010 EP Spatio-Temporel, tunes such as “Nigeria What?” have made their mark on the European dance music circuit. His highly acclaimed debut LP released this year, From The Horizon, is also treat–the track “Ata” being a personal highlight.
Techno has never been my specialty. Although I’ve never had any problems moving to it, Daniel Avery has made me want to play it again. And again. And again. The DJ/producer’’s debut album Drone Logic, released by Erol Alkan’s Phantasy label, is remarkable, beautifully crafted techno at its best. Avery demonstrates a knack for old school vibes in tunes such as “All I Need” yet also proves he’s one of the most forward thinking producers in the game as witnessed in songs like “Drone Logic.” There are clear elements of the Chemical Brothers and twanging sounds worthy of The Prodigy, but what makes this album so special is its accessibility to many who know little to nothing about techno. At the same time, it’s an album techno connoisseurs should certainly love and respect.
Nominated for the UK’s prestigious Mercury Prize once again this year, Jon Hopkins has been around for a while working as a composer with the likes of Brian Eno. Foolishly, it wasn’t until Immunity was set free that I stood up and took notice. The London resident is now signed to Domino and released his fourth studio album to widespread critical acclaim. Electronic in its nature, it also offers spatial delicacies with flicks of techno. It’s safe to say that Jon Hopkins has a whole new fan base with this complex, highly refined delight of an album, myself included.. The title track truly touches the soul while “Open Eye Signal” takes you on a ravenous escapade. You can’t help but admire and respect Mr. Hopkins’s work as he has proved to be one of the most talented musicians of our time.
25 year-old Londoner Rikette released her debut EP this past November via Bandcamp and stunned the masses with her wondrously strong vocals and undeniable ear for melody, making this a brilliant debut release which spans multiple genres. Songs like “Next Question” are at home on the dancefloor, with its remix by Crownstone bringing together soul and chilled-out textures with nods to forward-thinking dubstep, while wonderfully arranged tunes such as the EP’s title track, “Miss Leading Happy,” feel very Winehouse-like with touches of Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. Influenced by Jazz and Soul music, Rikette is also influenced by the London club scene which is felt in her charming and promising premier release, Miss Leading `Happy.
Elyse – Memorable Moments from Some of My Favorite Sets of 2013
Sepalcure – Boiler Room Vapor City Launch: (@ 17:30 – 21:50 )
Sepalcure is topping next year’s list for DJs who actually dance to dance music. Watching them dance and grin throughout this mix was refreshing and exciting. I particularly love the richness of the section starting at the 17:30 mark.
London Grammar Guest Mix for Annie Nightingale ( @ 3:27 – 8:05 )
Up-and-coming band London Grammar pleasantly surprised me with how well they complemented their own music with a myriad of electronic sounds. The section starting at the 3:27 mark shows this best: Bobby Tanks’ maximalist “The Way” sounds like it could be a proper remix for London Grammar’s “Metal & Dust.”
KiNK’s authentic, distinct and raw sound really shines throughout this set. Some of his new music is scattered throughout the mix and my intuition tells me that these two tracks in the marked sections are some of his unreleased material. The latter track is so special that I can remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard it.
Roman Flügel – Not So Silent (@ 17:40 – 28:40)
I generally enjoy Roman Flügel because he’s good at juggling a variety of sounds in his body of work while staying cohesive. I’m not sure what these songs are in this 11-minute section (please help me out, readers!) but I love how the abrasive noises are so well balanced with warm melodies, which is not always perfectly achieved in techno.
Four Tet Live in Tokyo
This whole set is stunning but it’s the extended intro of “Ba Teaches Yoga” that was most profound for me. The first six minutes of this live set feel like 20 minutes and I mean that as a compliment. It’s quite reminiscent of Orbital’s “Halcyon + On + On” in the sense that both tracks have a gentle depth in which you can lose yourself for days.
Some artists were upfront with the aliases they unveiled or popularized in 2013, such as Paul Woolford’s Special Request project and his fantastic Soul Music album on Houndstooth, while vocalist Ben Westbeech’s Breach project gained an immense amount of attention this year with several of his tunes reaching near mainstream attention. Some producers try to keep an air of mystery about them, however, such as Akkord; yet once their album on Houndstooth was being promoted it was confirmed to be the project of established producers Synkro and Indigo. Drum’n'bass and dubstep producer Icicle released a dark techno EP as Cadans, with promise of more material in 2014, dBridge explored techno tempos as Velvit, and Marcus Intalex had a banner year with techno and house releases as Trevino. The Multiverse producer once known as Baobinga made waves at 170 BPM as Sam Binga, and continued his slow house work as part of Behling & Simpson, while Behling paired up with Bristol artist Wedge to form Lrusse & Bleecker. Leon Vynehall and A1 Bassline launched the excellent Laszlo Dancehall project. Rebranding to signify a change in ethos saw Dave Spoon’s change from electro house to his more bass-oriented Shadow Child moniker, and DJG going from mostly dubstep to working as Grenier and exploring a much wider range of palettes and sounds were also fantastic examples of the benefits of working under an alias. And these are just the projects I can remember off the top of my head.
Will – Top 25 Tracks of the Year
Medlar “Knockard Pearl” (Detroit Swindle Mix)
Mind Against “Atlant”
Route 94 feat. Jess Glynne “My Love”
Tale of Us “Another Earth”
Phil Kieran “Saturdays” (Catz ‘n Dogz Remix)
Shadow Child feat. Takura “Friday” (MK Medicine Dub)
Jimmy Edgar “Strike”
Chvrches “The Mother We Share” (Moonboots Remix)
Ten Walls “Gotham”
Mano Le Tough “Everything You’ve Done Before” (Dixon Remix)
Tiga vs. Audion “Let’s Go Dancing”
Kardinal “Desperate Monday” (WHYT NOYZ Remix)
Waze & Odyssey “Feelin’ You”
KMFH “Dr. Crunch”
Jon Hopkins “Abandon Window”
Beautiful Swimmers “Running Over”
Walker & Royce feat. Louisahhh!!! “A Perfect Sound”
Nora En Pure “Come With Me”
Maxmillion Dunbar “Loving The Drift”
Daniel Avery “Water Jump”
DC’s favorite Indie-Electro three piece, Misun, are back at it again–this time bringing to the table what sounds like the hybrid of a modern club track and the soundtrack to a Spaghetti Western. While this seems like a rather counter intuitive conflation of genres, it truly makes perfect sense here. The rhythm feels like a cross between a gallop and a Moombahton beat and vocalist Misun Wojcik’s voice is complemented by cascading synths and guitars and flutes worthy of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Add to all of this the fact that the vocal line is insanely catchy and you’ve got one of the best tracks released by the group. Seriously big things on the horizon with this band. The remix is pretty straightforward–slowing the track down, adding some atmospherics while accentuating the Moombahton leanings of the original beat. Check them both out below and grab that free download!
Ahead of his performance at U Street Music Hall this Sunday, Ben Browning has been kind enough to grace Blisspop with an exclusive mix in honor of the upcoming event. The hour-long compilation features a handpicked selection of some of the finest Disco and Indie Dance cuts you’ll hear this summer and is perfect for truly any occasion–be it a leisurely rooftop lounging or a stay-at-home grooving. Check it out below, and be sure not to miss Browning, alongside Blisspop resident Ozker, this Sunday as they overwhelm U Street into a state of funky disarray.
Ready for fall? Let’s end DC’s summer with a bang, together, as cultures converge. The second annual Trillectro festival will be held on August 17th right here in the Nation’s capital, bringing ladies and gents of all walks of life together to celebrate rhythm in all its forms–from old-school Hip-Hop to high-energy Electro. With this lineup, who knows what’s in store.
The diverse roster includes DC’s very own Moombahton ambassadors Nadastrom, Trap master Carnage, Frite Nite label boss Salva, DC & VA-based DJs and producers Gent & Jawns, LA’s chillwave viber Goldroom, DJ, Producer and food adventurist Tittsworth and many many more. And, to top it off, this year’s special guest just so happens to be DC’s very own Wale.
Close out your summer of ’13 the right way and congregate at the Half Street Fairgrounds.
For more info and to purchase your own pair of Trillectro tickets, visit the event’s webpage here.
Award-winning jazz-pop musician Rai Thistlehwayte is making a huge comeback under his solo project Sun Rai this year. Originally from Sydney, Rai has lead numerous music groups and collaborations under the roles of pianist, guitarist, and vocalist, all while holding a well-known, reliable songwriter reputation. At the age of five, Rai was already familiar with piano and educated with bass and guitar from his parents who were successful musicians. Rai graduated with a Bachelor of Music in jazz piano in 1998 and has since built his career leading the Australian pop rock band Thirsty Merc, who went platinum with their debut album. As impressive as his track record might read, however, it was his incomparable sound that first caught my attention.
As of the past few years, Rai has been performing solo and recently released his debut EP Pocket Music. At 34 years old, his soothing voice couldn’t be given an age as it naturally complements all four jazz-inspired tracks alongside light snares and paced bass. Rai currently resides in Los Angeles, California, certainly an influence to his track “San Francisco Street” which beautifully kicks off his debut album with soulful pop rhythm.
Rai is currently on tour with Norwegian singer Bernhoft; finishing up on the east coast at the moment and then moving back home out west, while performing at almost every jazz bar in between. Take a look at his upcoming shows and please do yourself a favor and attend one if you’re able to. I stumbled on his live performance for his song “Til The Lights Come On” from back in January and am completely in awe with his talent. Take a listen to his EP and the live video streamed here, and make sure to keep up with Rai after his tour for future updates.