Best of 2017: Michael Khalifeh’s Picks
While collaborations between pop and house music don’t always produce the most tasteful results, it’s tunes like this that show how it’s done. Reworking the simple piano groove of Marian Hill’s “Down” (of iPhone commercial fame), Rizardo curates rhythm that’s infectious at every event I’ve played it out.
Walker & Royce, Self Help
Along with the rest of the Dirtybird crew, Walker & Royce set out to make house music fun again 2017 and smashed expectations with their debut album. Reminiscent of the Crookers tear of mainstream EDM during the Blog House years, Self Help is a record that hits a perfect medium to appease everyone from house music lovers to the casual ears of college partiers.
Best New Artist
Not sure I’m going to say anything here that hasn’t been said by practically every other list with Yaeji in this category, but wow, what a year. She’s doing great things for the culture not only with her sound but her style, which incorporates Korean and American influences of beauty and music to create something that is authentically hers. She is a trendsetter no doubt, and it’s no surprise why she has blown up with just two EPs under her belt. You feel cool just listening to her.
Track of the Year
I’ve had many periods of infatuation with a few songs this year, but as I reflected on this category I realized that I couldn’t throw in a track I no longer really listened to. So I tried to go with something that has stuck over the course of time, and for this, Demuja’s reserved house ballad has done just that. Tinkering on the edges of lo-fi and acid house, “Move” keeps its production and pacing simple, alongside words of motivational speaker Les Brown, letting the rhythm build up the mood into a release that catches you off guard in the best way. This a tune that lives up to its name, and one I will never skip on shuffle.
Artist of the Year
It would be hard to find a duo that has dominated the house music scene more handily than Camelphat have over the past year or two, with seemingly every release of theirs finding rotation in DJ sets around the world. This culminated with the late year rise of their single “Cola” with Elderbrook, which reached #1 on the U.S. Dance Charts. It’s been quite the transformation for the two, who went under a rebranding and shift in sound from their initial progressive house moniker Whelan and Di Scala to focus on the Camelphat tech house project just over three years ago. Expect them to keep up the momentum in 2018.
Favorite Show of the Year
Jacques Greene, MOMA Weekend Warmup/RINSE Afterparty in NYC
As a native of D.C., working in Brooklyn this past summer was truly an eye-opening experience to a whole different level of partying. No disrespect to the motherland, but time just ceases to be a factor in the big apple, and it leads to some legendary timelines of events. For this, there’s no better example than the day I had in the middle of last July, where I witnessed Project Pablo, SOPHIE, Mike Q, and Jacques Greene in succession at the MOMA’s outdoor art venue PS1. If you’re ever in New York during the summertime, this Weekly Warm Up show series needs to be on your list. From there, Jacques Greene moved to an after party location for a secret set until sunrise, which we didn’t realize was located in a sex hotel until naked dancers and pornos started showing up behind him on stage. It was a ridiculous experience, but a total blast at the same time and it’s that kind spontaneous odd behavior in NYC that I miss.
Label of the Year
The label simply dominated the house music scene in America this year. For me, it’s telling that whenever I’ve tried to introduce someone to house music over the past year, Dirtybird is what I’ve played 9/10 times.
DC Artist to Watch
In a year for dance music that felt a bit underwhelming, especially in contrast to hip hop, lo-fi house made a huge jump as a source of some of the best and brightest artists and ideas for the genre in 2017. On this note, it is no surprise that D.C. clubland has reflected this trend with its own rising star in DJ Eli Cash. Already a regular on lineup cards for house music shows around the District, his sound is already getting praise as a sort of anti-thesis of the past decade of EDM, substituting the excessively polished presentation for an experience that is a far more raw, dark, and personal in its delivery. Take a listen of his newest single Unprotected, out now on Nerang Records to get a taste, and don’t miss him at Flash Bar supporting lo-fi heavy hitter Mall Grab on January 6th.