Top 21 Electronic Tracks 2012

Input/Output’s annual list of top jams.

21: Ashtray Wasp – Burial

The B-side to this year’s Kindrid EP. I’m sure it’s a matter of personal preference, but I thought this was a stronger track. Probably because it sounds a lot like some of the best parts of Untrue, one of my favorite albums. In some places, there are even samples that were used on that album. The song ebbs and flows though most of Burial’s favorite modes, perfected on past albums. Perhaps the A-side was a bit more new for Burial, but with so many imitators, the real deal is always a good thing. Our yearly reminder – “Yeah, Burial is pretty great.”

20: True Thrush – Dan Deacon

Some of these picks are representational of the whole album. This is one such pick. This year, Dan Deacon released the thoroughly enjoyable America. Sprawling and very forward, True Thrush is one of the euphoric earworms found earlier on the album.

19: Soaring – Shigeto

I feel like people have been trying to perfect the harp in electronic music for years. Maybe Flying Lotus got to it first, but I think both FlyLo and Shigeto figured out that ‘dripping’ is the way to go with harps. One of the lushest three minutes and thirty-eight seconds around.

18: The Keeper (Banks Remix) – Bonobo

Two years after the release of Bonobo’s excellent Black Sands, we got a release of some remixes from some pretty high profile remixers. However, remixes from FaltyDL (who is really great at the remixing thing) and Machinedrum can’t really hold a candle to the job by the relativly unknown Banks, who adds an extra ‘Fuck yeah’ factor to the tune thanks to some subwoofer-shaking bass and an arp that tears though all that low end. Remixers, take note. This is how it’s done – quite the banger.

17: Lying in the Reeds – Lone

From his newest, Galaxy Garden, Lone adds to his signature brightness a complete control of time and pacing. His slowing of an addictive loop every fourth turn is what makes this tune. All elements of the song seem to be on their own clock, yet, despite what your four-on-the-floor craving brain might be expecting, everything works out ok.

16: Genesis – Grimes

Are we at an art school party? No, it’s just Grimes on the radio. Fine, Grimes did earn her buzzband status though. From her second LP ‘Visions’, Genesis is definitely the earworm. Mixing her beautiful Euro-esque singing with her ’4 year old recently injected with Novocaine’ voice that she uses so often on the album, this track just works.

15: Default – Atoms For Peace

So Radiohead has been touring all year, does that keep Thom Yorke from being off my list? NOPE. Default is our first glimpse at his side project (feat. Flea and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich) Atoms for Peace. Predictably, it’s great, and provokes quite the anticipation in a Thom Yorke Fanboy such as myself.

14: The Reflection of You – Bear in Heaven

Is it more rock than electronic? Who cares? It owns. Real drummer, rest is synth, so borderline. Bear in Heaven’s towering The Reflection of You is the clear single from ‘I Love You, It’s Cool’. Let it wash over you, admire it’s heights at a great volume.

13: Hot Chip – These Chains

I think it’s easy to forget how experimental Hot Chip can be, mostly because so often, their experiments work perfectly. This is the music of scientists, whose objective is getting you to dance. Their discipline is steady, their hypothesis is true.

12: Brokeup – Arca

Arca is drunk, staggering, broken, desperate, genius. Kings of wooziness. Brokeup doesn’t give you a single platform to rest on for more than a few beats. Is that guy mumbling to himself on the street just drunk, or is it more sinister than that?

11: TIED2U – XXYYXX

Timeshifted vocal samples are a common occurrence in the electronic tunes I play on I/O. But really, when someone nails the slowdown, it’s an instant win. XXYYXX takes a sentimental sample (from a song that can be found in the Eternal Sunshine soundtrack) and extracts ever last bit of ache and pain from the voice. A beautiful song.

10: Yes, I Know – Daphni

Electronic music owes a lot of R&B (see: Burial) but has made less of a use out of it’s predecessor, Soul. Daphni (side project of main dude from Caribou) seeks to rectify this. Looping an addictive, straight from wax Soul sample over a bouncy bass synth adds new life to the get-up-and-go that was already there.

9: Baba – Mux Mool

This one is a bit harder to pinpoint what about it I like so much. Baba is my favorite from this year’s Planet High School. The man knows how to loop stringed instruments on the regular better than anyone else I can think of. His melodies are solid, fresh, and just so nice to take in.

8: Fineshrine – Purity Ring

Cram the Jackpot! It’s Purity Ring! Maybe I’m still cooling down from that show, and a little annoyed at the buzzband status (pretentious, I know). But credit where credit is due. Purity Ring owns. Deal with it bro.

7: Pyramids – Frank Ocean

More R&B than electronic? Again, who cares? I am in NO WAY original by mentioning a track from this album. Frank Ocean probably somehow made it on lists like 2012′s Best Small SUVs or Best Home Decorating Tips Using Toilet Paper Rolls. (Gawd, even the Grammies are in on this) But come on, this song is amazing. Pyramids goes though so many jaw-dropping transitions, just about every move is original and shockingly well executed. Polished, bright, sprawling, near-perfection. I do have one small qualm. The very ending. While the guitar (provided by John Mayer) sounds good and all, I don’t know that his burn-out riffing matches the perfectly and meticulously constructed earlier eight minutes. Too casual for such a masterpiece, in my opinion. But who the hell am I? Frank Ocean can do whatever the fuck he pleases.

6: Fetch – Les Sins

Toro Y Moi has always bordered that line between pop and electronic, and in my judgement, has been too far on the pop side to play on I/O, even though I dig his tunes. That’s why it was surprising to learn that this jam was made by the same dude. Dude can make some HOUSE music. This was my jam (Everyone has a jam) for quite a while after I found it. Here’s hoping he makes more.

5: Held – Holy Other

No one is sensuous like Holy Other. Everyone of their songs is a slow, sweaty, close grind in an after-midnight club. Their art was perfected on last year’s ‘With U EP’, but this year, it got expanded in their debut LP. The title track is however, everything I like about them in it’s purest form. The closeness, that seemingly endless murkiness beneath. It leaves trails in your brain when you listen.

4: Untroubled – 123MRK

From the two available EP’s, it seems the French 123MRK can do no wrong. Untroubled is currently their(his?) capstone though. Perfect blend of wobbliness, unintelligible vocal samples, and varied timbres. So catchy.

3: Nova – Four Tet and Burial

If you read last year’s list, you know this is 2/3rds of the combo that made no. 1 (only Thom Yorke is missing – it was a triple fanboy situation, what did you expect?). Well, they’re at it again, and unsurprisingly, it sounds really great. These two pump out some of the highest quality electronic music ever made. Imaginative, yet so simple. Everything they collectively touch is gold

2: Pinnicles – Four Tet

Two in a row, I know, right? Just when you thought his new album Pink couldn’t get any better. The last track, Pinnacles comes on, with it’s wobbly, but stringed and wooden bass loop. By this point, you’re intrigued, this is a fresh idea. Then the beat comes in. The album has been taken to new heights. Hang on ladies and gentlemen, Four Tet still has his career rocket boosters on.

1: Canterbury Pt. 1 – Dam Mantle

This one came out of nowhere. Last year’s ‘We EP’ was good listening, original, but at times one dimensional. Who would have guessed that this year one-man producer Dam Mantle would put out the best electronic record, and song of the year? The depth and quality of this record is simply staggering. Everything fits so effortlessly together, hypnotising on the first listen, it’s subtlety rewards the listener more on each play. Canterbury Pt. 1 starts off the record, which ends with another candidate for electronic song of the year, Spirit. Between the two, a deeply creative ride that is a perfect representation of what I find so appealing about the entire genre of electronic music.

(There’s no Youtube Video! – but there is soundcloud.)

Thanks for tuning in, see you next year.

Input/Output airs every Thursday from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.

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