The 40 Best New Bands Of 2019

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Best-New-Bands-Artists-2019Every autumn here at Stereogum, we look long and hard at the last 12 months and pinpoint which new artists make us excited about the future of music. We then organize those artists into our annual Best New Bands list, celebrating what they’ve already accomplished and highlighting them as someone to keep an eye on … More »

Interview: Channel Tres

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You ain’t never heard shit like this from the block before,” says Channel Tres, just before the beat drops on “Topdown.” And it’s probably true; his is a new and decidedly Southern Californian twist on an old sound, hip-house, that never quite took off west of Chicago. Yet here we were at Denver’s Ogden Theatre, 30 years after the Jungle Brothers, as Channel opened the night spinning records for a room that was already nearly at capacity, interspersing live renditions of his own tunes with uptempo treatments of Gap Band classics.

Hours prior, after a soundcheck that included the most thorough dialing-in of baritone vocal frequencies I’d ever heard, we’d sat down to chat about dance, music theory, and taking walks.


Where’d y’all come in from?

Los Angeles. We had the first show at the Palladium in Hollywood.

I know you’ve talked about the travel element of music being huge for you. Anywhere made a strong impression?

Just getting out the country, just in general. That was a strong impression; it was good to see how far the music travels to other people. Different people that are not even from America; it’s cool to see that. The U.S., I’ve pretty much been everywhere out here. It’s all looked the same, just different little perks in little cities. I mostly like the random towns where nobody lives, going through a thrift store. You find the most random stuff.

You like doing that sort of travel while you’re on the job, or would you rather just take a vacation somewhere?

I never been on vacation, so I wanna see how that feels. Every time I go, it’s for a show, so I’m pretty much at the venue or at the hotel. I try to make time to do certain things, but sometimes you just really don’t have [time].

How’d you end up going to that specific music school in Oklahoma?

They accepted me, and I just had to get out of my environment. Just so I could practice music and learn. So I went out there, got in the music program, and started studying classes, started learning music theory and getting to understand the language of music.

Is the music school experience more collaborative or competitive?

It’s all those things. And then we were in college; I think there’s just a natural competitiveness from that. It was just cool I had access to professors and stuff, teachers that know certain things. I just spent a lot of time asking questions and getting answers to things I wanted.

What sort of answers?

Why this chord goes here, what’s the meaning behind how you do this, how do you get that certain sound?

Has music always been pretty intuitive for you, or did the theory change things a lot?

I had to learn theory, and then I had to stop and just be creative. It comes in handy when you just wanna go somewhere, ‘cause every chord has an emotion. But then I’ll also still just jam out with no intentions, play stuff and see what I can come up with.

What was your impression of Tulsa? I don’t think I know anything about it.

Good people, man — Southern hospitality. Christian. Everybody was just nice. It was a nice town.

I don’t know if you read your own press, but your music is always described as very, very Californian. What do you think that quality is?

Probably just because of the language I use, kind of my swag is just L.A. ‘Cause that’s where I’m from, so it’s just gonna have that regardless.

Are there elements of your music that might go the other way, and not translate outside L.A.?

Yeah, I have stuff that I haven’t put out yet. I like folk music a lot, try to make a lot of folk songs. I like indie rock and stuff like that. I make different stuff; you wouldn’t even know it was me doin’ it.

Do you feel a need to keep that stuff kind of separate from Channel Tres?

Depends on what mode I’m in. I’m in a nice space for dance music. I’m still learning about it, and there’s still different ways to make people dance. My big attention right now is I just wanna dance, so I just focus on dancing. Folk and indie rock records are fun, but if I’m doing something for a show, I’d like it to be dance-heavy. Just upbeat, you know?

Once you get tagged as “house” or whatever, does that kind of box you in?

No, not really. I’m happy people like it, I’m into what I do, too. I got a lot of music I’m gonna make. I produce for other people, so I can work on all type of different things. I never feel really boxed in.

Do you have other creative outputs besides music?

I sew. I like sewing. I draw a little bit. I like walking, I walk a lot [laughs].

Do you try and take a new route every time, or are there have specific walks that you like?

I try to pick a new route. When you’re driving, you drive past everything, but when you walk you get a sense of the neighborhood. When you’re driving, you go so fast that you don’t really realize where you’re at sometimes. I’ve seen places look different from what I thought they were by just walking through them.

You’ve put out a five-song EP each of the last two years. Is that a natural rate of work for you, or would you be more or less forthcoming if it was up to you?

I think it just depends on what it is. Those first two EPs are just like, eh, see what happens. It’ll keep growing as I go, as my output gets more… this is my first couple projects being comfortable being a vocalist, being an artist, so a lot of it is a learning experience. So I’ll just naturally have more things that I want to put out, more things that I want to do.

Photo: Kat Nijmeddin

Had you always done vocals, or was that something you picked up after producing?

No, I was always singing; I was in the choir and stuff like that. I wrote songs. I just never put ‘em out or anything.

Is performing pretty natural for you?

Yeah, I like playing music in front of people. It’s fun.

Did you have any kind of formal dance background at all?

Kind of. I did dance classes in high school. I was a krump dancer. This is the first time I’d actually got with a choreographer for practice, so that was cool.

Do you find there’s an artistic difference between that choreographed, formal dance and the sort of purely instinctive form?

Yeah, it’s different. Rehearsing and stuff like that, you definitely get tighter. But it helps you freestyle too, you start getting moves in your repertoire that you can use for different songs, pull it all together.

You’re not exactly anonymous, but it seems like there’s a relatively controlled flow of information that gets out. Do you think it’s important for artists to be able to control that context in which an audience receives their work?

Yeah, and then having a team of people around you. It’s good to bounce off people, and have people work with you on your vision. I’m big on concepts, so whatever concept, that’s how I want everything framed. So as I’m creating the new stuff that’s gonna come; I’m just thinking more about the concept, how I wanna take you into a world. Just fantasy. You don’t have to be on drugs; the music makes you feel like it. I’m just trying to say a lot without saying a lot, and make the beat hit. Make it danceable. And then dance moves, in the show you’ll see the concept more because it’ll be acted out.

That almost raises the question of releasing the music at all, letting it exist outside of the club environment that you can kind of control and that it’s made for.

I think the live performance is just an extension of the record. I don’t necessarily push to sound like the record live, just be an extension of it.

I’ve seen you talk about “Jet Black” as a sort of superhero figure that you came up with. Are you a big daydreamer?

Yeah, I like costumes. I like watching alien movies, stuff about space. Aliens — I think I just wonder if I’ll ever see one of ‘em, but I haven’t, so I’ll watch a movie. I’ve been watching this show called Another Life on Netflix; it’s tight.

I know you said you were in the choir growing up, and then you went to a Christian university. Is that a big part of your life still? How would you describe your spirituality as it relates to your music?

Just think positive of yourself, or of people. Just trying to bring peace, world peace. Just try to be a solution for some stuff. The world is crazy, but every day’s a new day, so music is an outlet. It gives people something to look forward to.

What’s the significance of the title of Black Moses?

I was just listening to Isaac Hayes’s stuff, thinking about how I got the opportunity to make it out from a, you know, tough place. Black Moses is just me dedicating myself to me helping other people, not taking the way I’ve been blessed for granted. That’s what I was on at the time, with my life starting to change.

As far as that conceptual background goes, do you necessarily care if that’s apparent to the listener, or is it personal first and foremost?

Nah, I care. I just wanna get better at presenting it, which will come. But I care a lot. I want the concepts to get better as I go. I wanna experience film, different avenues. Artwork and stuff.

What do you find yourself drawing?

Eyeballs [laughs]. Trees, different things.

I’d read that you wanted to be a social worker, which is kind of the default profession for trying to achieve some of that. Do you think music has been an effective medium for it as well?

Yeah, definitely. You can spread it to more people; I like travelling, I like writing music, so it suits me better because I can spend more time on that. It’s still social work; it’s just different.

What was the music that first got your attention as you were growing up?

Andre 3000, the Speakerboxx double album. I think that’s the first time I cried listening to something; it was so tight and different. And then it was all the Kanye stuff — College Dropout, Late Registration.

Did you ever try to go into straight-ahead rapping?

Not really. I always was naturally drawn towards sound. This is kind of the first time that I’m actually dedicating time to focusing on words and stuff. It’s been fun, but I was always beat-heavy, drawn to the instruments.

How’d you end up breaking into producing for other people?

It was friends of friends, just making a bunch of stuff and just see what it do. It was fun — a lot of networking, making beats and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Getting stuff to the right people, getting to know the A&Rs. That was a good time; it built a lot of really good relationships from that.

I’ve heard that L.A. is the best and the worst place to try and get into music, since so many people are trying too that it’s hard to stand out. Kind of the opposite of those small-town thrift stores.

Yeah, but you can’t worry about everybody. You just gotta do what you’re doin’, and when it’s time, it’s time.

Channel Tres serenades Tyler, The Creator’s ‘EARFQUAKE’ with a silky hip-house remix

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Channel Tres serenades Tyler, The Creator’s ‘EARFQUAKE’ with a silky hip-house remixChannel Tres Credit Devyn Galindo

Tyler, The Creator’s IGOR project produced the eccentric artist’s most streamed song off Spotify, “EARFQUAKE.” The single was recently remixed by Channel Tres, who worked with JPEGMAFIA and SG Lewis this year. He’s a Compton producer and DJ who left the EDM world early on to focus on developing his modern hip-house sound. It’s a combination of classic house elements and analog instrumentation, which is precisely the tone set on this re-work.

Focused on a walking bassline grooving alongside the Odd Future head honcho’s catchy “don’t leave it’s my fault,” vocal phrases, skipping high hats glide along lush keys and a moonlit sax arrangement to encapsulate an fresh, casual take on the electronic R&B indie original. It makes for a nice entry into Channel Tres’ growing catalog; not to mention, a milestone for the producer, who became the first ever official remixer for Tyler, The Creator through this endeavor.

Photo credit: Devyn Galindo

NMF Roundup: Gesaffelstein reveals new EP, JOYRYDE drops ‘Selecta 19’ + more

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NMF Roundup: Gesaffelstein reveals new EP, JOYRYDE drops ‘Selecta 19’ + moreGesaffelstein Selecta 19

It’s most important day of the week: New Music Friday. With the overwhelming amount of tunes hitting the airwaves today, Dancing Astronaut has you covered with the latest edition of The Hot 25.

Gesaffelstein surprised the world once again by announcing on Oct. 3 that a new six-track EP would be released the following day. Also making this NMF particularly fiery is a new tune from JOYRYDE, “SELECTA 19,” and Pryda’s new 13-track collection. deadmau5’s here’s the drop remix LP has finally arrived, including remixes from artists like Rinzen, and NGHTMRE and Grabbitz have joined forces to deliver the irresistibly catchy “Bruises.” Kaskade’s new Redux compilation has arrived, featuring songs like “Lose Control” with Brohug, and Zeds Dead have remixed Oliver Tree’s “Miracle Man.” Arty brings weekend bliss with his new single, “Daydreams,” and G Jones drops off a new single, “Dark Artifact.” Armin van Buuren and Matluck keep the upbeat days of summer moving with “Don’t Let Me Go,” and Golf Clap reveal their spicy remix of Destructo’s “Bassface.” The Glitch Mob link with LICK for the dramatic “System Bleed,” and Pegboard Nerds and NERVO come together for “Crying Shame.” Goldroom continues to reveal tunes from his forthcoming LP, including “Just Like A Dream,” and Party Pupils, Louis Futon, MAX, and TOBi deliver a mega-collab, “One Two Things.”

As each week brings a succession of new music from some of electronic music’s biggest artists, here’s a selection of tracks that shouldn’t be missed this NMF.

Tyler, The Creator – “EARFQUAKE (Channel Tres Remix)”

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Tyler, The Creator - "EARFQUAKE (Channel Tres Remix)"Tyler Okonma, the polyglot known as Tyler, The Creator, is 28 years old yet maintains a certain boyish quality no matter how much he matures — which, comparing the sound of this year’s great IGOR with the Odd Future exploits of his youth, has been a lot. I would venture to guess Sheldon … More »

Column: Favorite Rap Mixtapes of August 2019

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With a cascade of releases spewing from the likes of DatPiff, LiveMixtapes, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, it can be difficult to keep up with the overbearing yet increasingly vital mixtape game. In this column, we aim to immerse ourselves in this hyper-prolific world and share our favorite releases each month. The focus will primarily be on rap mixtapes — loosely defined here as free (or sometimes free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if/when we feel it necessary. (Check out last month’s installment here.)

Bouncy castle introspection, a Memphis Matrix (Mem-trix?) miniature, Tik Tok auteurship, blend tape facials, outworld meditation, hip-house reimagined, an alternative Future, and an existential collector’s item. It’s all here in the August 2019 edition of Tiny Mix Tapes’s Favorite Rap Mixtapes column. Plus, you’re here too! I’m not here, though. I’m writing this in my underwear in a condominium on an undisclosed beachfront. Happy Labor Day weekend, y’all!


AM – self.

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In an era when “I just started rapping a year ago” is the buzzing artist’s humble brag, AM’s mic control not only stands apart, but also stands proudly as a shining example that taking the time to hone one’s craft pays off in earned confidence and an individual sound you just can’t get from YouTube #instrumentals. Day-one Akari inflates a bouncy castle of beats for AM to take off from, with more colors than a ball pit, keeping the seven-song self. sounding weightless and playful, even when the MC’s at his most introspective. Pardon the cliché, but really though, you have to wake up prett-ty early in the morning to come this correct.


Yvncc – PSEUDO

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PSEUDO is the latest in a near-monthly stream of miniature releases from SoundCloud enigma Yvncc (“yunk”), produced in its three-song entirety by DeliverTheCrush. Despite a compact, frantically-paced runtime of only five minutes, the tape is remarkably effective; Yvncc’s sound — adjacent but not overly faithful to the already-saturated Memphis revival, at times approaching something coughed up by the Matrix’s version of SoundCloud — is defined by short, sudden bursts, single-shot verses that might span a dozen flows and vocal effects before ending as suddenly as they start. Amidst the bottomless sea of rap’s quasi-anonymous online underground, Yvncc’s is a nearly singular style, one with enormous promise given the progress readily evident throughout the project’s past year and a half of uploads.


Tisakorean – Soapy Club

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Tisakorean is the first true auteur to emerge from Tik Tok’s dance rap scene, a wildly creative rapper/producer with a taste for cartoon sound effects, dadaist couplets, and a DIY ethos directly inspired by the early works of Soulja Boy and Lil B. Soapy Club comes quickly on the heels of March’s A Guide to Being A Partying Freshman — a manic throwback to jump rope rhymes and lunchroom freestyles that was sullied by its wafer-thin mixing, despite its abundance of energy. This time around, Tisa brings that creative drive to a studio setting and produces what I can only describe as hip-hop’s Sung Tongs. The Animal Collective comparison, which I don’t make lightly, is most evident on more melodic highlights like “Yoskau” and “Chilli Dogs.” The former track, which feints as a quirky cookout-themed crunk anthem, abruptly transitions into a glistening work of synth-pop psychedelia. “My heart just wants to know,” he daydreams. “You, me us…are we?” It’s an oasis of chillwave bliss amid primal chaos — for every foray into dream pop, there’s a visceral burst of catharsis like the growled “Beat Tub Up.” I’ll take both, please.


Mobile Kitchen Sound – Donut Shop Blend Tape 001 / Persian Pillows Blend Tape 002

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Done right, blend tapes’ stock-in-trade are those magic moments when two or more tracks line up so perfectly they seem made for one another. On a true mixmaster’s deck, the effect can be even more profound, such that the listener forgets about the source material altogether. The blend becomes the song, the remix the master recording. On Donut Shop and Persian Pillows, Mobile Kitchen Sound founder DJ Prince a.k.a. WiFiOG oscillates seamlessly between those states; eyebrow raising ah-ha’s give way to face-scrunching uhh’s and vice versa. The sets wrap quickly, so check out his new single with Napoleon Wright II while it’s in season.


Elucid – Every Egg I Cracked Today Was Double Yolked

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Nothing extraordinary ever really seems to happen. In some roundabout way, we wake up, go to work, fall asleep. We’d put the world to rights if we could just steal a little time back (of course, they’d rather kill us before ever allowing that to happen). Even deviating from the pattern can feel hopelessly mundane. I gave my brother a lift to the airport this evening. So what? It is here that Elucid and I differ. He folds slice-of-life observation into a heady admixture of musical fragments and non-diegetic sounds, eking out a worthiness in his own everyday. Hence, Every Egg I Cracked Today Was Double Yolked. It’s a meditative set — by the artist’s own admission — that plunges the depths of the ordinary and of those liminal spaces away from home (hotels, airports, etc.) without so much as a couple of verses in toto. This isn’t worldbuilding, per se, more a bricolage news dispatch, a cracked reflection of the way things already are. It’s easier to see things anew out on the other side.


Channel Tres – Black Moses

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It’s not your uncle’s hip-house! Imagine hip-hop was one thing, house was another thing, and acts like the Beatmasters and Jungle Brothers never existed to help “bridge the gap” between the genres; if that were the case, and Channel Tres’s Black Moses dropped today, someone out here would invent the term hip-house to describe it. Yet, those groups did exist, so today when we hear the phrase, we think of something that sounds completely different from this, despite the shared lineage. As Channel Tres’s Bandcamp aptly puts it of his previous effort, “It’s classic Detroit House, reimagined with the surly attitude of West Coast rap,” i.e., hip-house with deeper bass, a badder voice, and none of the baggage of that once-ubiquitous club genre. Also the ill JPEGMAFIA feature.


Casino – Different

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Move That Dope” feels like a lifetime ago, but still Casino remains. The intervening five years have been kind to the Freebandz CEO, due in no small part to the rise of his (actual) brother Future from underground stardom to mainstay ubiquity. Perhaps Casino has been taking notes; across Different, his voice and flow could easily be mistaken for Future himself, albeit retaining a sort of street-level edge that recalls the days of “Karate Chop” and DJ Drama drops. A frenetic percussion workout centered around a sped-up sample of the classic “White Tee” synth, “Hang With A Star” is the clear highlight, realizing Different’s full potential as the project an alt-universe, A&R-less Future might drop in 2019.


NAPPYNAPPA – Autonomous

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A popular comedian tells another popular comedian a joke of unknown origin wherein someone else tells a joke. The joke of unknown origin goes: a holocaust survivor grows old, dies, and goes to Heaven. There, he meets god and tells him a holocaust joke. God looks at the holocaust survivor and says, “That’s not funny.” The holocaust survivor says, “I guess you had to be there.” The popular comedians marvel at the “layers.” A loved one compares it to those chain emails old people pass along. What does any of this have to do with Autonomous? Not 100% sure, but something. Anyway, that shet can be yours for just $70. Get it.

Channel Tres – “Black Moses” (Feat. JPEGMAFIA)

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In a couple weeks, Channel Tres is releasing what’s shaping up to be a stellar EP. Both of its singles so far, “Brilliant Nigga” and “Sexy Black Timberlake,” have landed on our best songs of the week lists when they came out, and today the Compton musician … More »

Channel Tres – “Sexy Black Timberlake” Video

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Channel Tres released his really great self-titled debut EP last year, and he’s following that up this summer with the Black Moses EP. He shared a new single, “Brilliant Nigga,” a couple months back — it made it onto our best songs of the week list — and today … More »

Channel Tres – “Brilliant Nigga”

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Channel Tres is an invigorating Compton artist who slyly blends Detroit-style house with West Coast rapping sensibilities. Production styles aside, his delivery always teems with an effortless sense of swagger. A lot of people seem to have noticed: Elton John called him “a fresh and brilliant singer/songwriter,” he’s currently touring with Robyn, he … More »

Feature: 2018: Favorite 50 Songs

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Hello again, dearest readers, and welcome to The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year™, wherein we here at TMT™ proceed to systematically overwhelm you with such devastating displays of our collective musical taste buds’ complete and utter Un-Fuck-With-Ability™ throughout the past 365 days that you have no choice but to capitulate, agree with, and retweet everything we say. Oh, how we’ve been looking forward to this!

The latest in our power-mad agenda is this genuinely infallible list of our Favorite 50 Songs of 2018, which revisits all of the choice jams and non-jams that made the year 2018 so indisputably GREAT for EVERYONE in EVERY COUNTRY on EARTH, bar none! But don’t worry: because we know that your powers of retention are kinda feeble compared with ours, we’ve decided once again to make it a little easier for you to digest all of this next-level information by dividing it up into five separate themed mixes that we’re rolling out each day this week, titled GYM, VOID, CLIFF, ALLEY, and COUPE.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy our list of GYM songs while driving your COUPE off of a CLIFF or whatever; it’s just that we’re really, really desperate to control every aspect of your psychology, and we thought that sorting all of these fantastic 2018 highlights according to a few completely subjective and impressionistic “moods” would be a great way to do that. I mean: who the hell are you to argue, right? Right!

Happy holidays, everyone. Let’s get listening.


GYM · VOID · CLIFF · ALLEY · COUPE

Today’s GYM mix features 10 ridiculously brawny jams from the past year, guaranteed to increase your VO2 max, even if you’re lying under the covers with your basset hound and smartphone right now. From powerlifting heavyweights like Ms. Boogie and DJ Koze to lithe and agile entries from W00dy and Charli XCX, all of these entries are sweaty, swole, tight, and chiseled like washboards.

PART 1: “GYM” mixed by C Monster


W00dy

“Catharsis”

[00:16]

[Self-Released]

“Catharsis” was the sound of a million MIDI-triggered samples shooting into an anti-gravity chamber at lightspeed. Once W00dy threw a new, brightly-colored element into the mix, it didn’t stop for a second, bouncing off other components instead, creating increasingly chaotic yet ultimately deterministic complexity akin to a double pendulum. The Philadelphia producer is one of few artists in the deconstructed club scene breaking apart traditional club elements while simultaneously keeping the dance floor moving. Fitting that her tagline is: “Attempting to bring absurdity 2 the dance floor.” Close your eyes, find something to latch onto, don’t let go for seven minutes.


Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

“きみのみかた (Kimino Mikata)”

[07:54]

[unBORDE]

“Kimino Mikata” was a gift. I mean that literally. Given as a birthday present to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu from producer Yasutaka Nakata, the track erupted with a sparkling onslaught of hyaluronic J-pop melodics and sprightly bass throbs, proving how a culture of cuteness doesn’t have to be a market of infantilization, even if the Harajuku star uses the track to sell skin-renewing face masks dipped in liquid essence. While the song touted uncharacteristically serious subject matter — the search for allies in the face of alienation and Fake News — “Kimino Mikata” was also about replenishment and renewal, about perseverance and the refusal of the human spirit to submit.


Ms. Boogie

“Morphin Time”

[11:27]

[Self-Released]

Over the most killer bass line of the year, darkly elastic and building with sinister synths, Ms. Boogie spat and purred. “Morphin Time” read as a celebration of transness as transition. Rather than an end product based on a normative idea of what a woman or man should be, she celebrated a process of becoming that was full of contradictions. And if that sounds a bit heavy, it was accompanied by references to the titular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (the metaphor should be obvious), a delightfully dirtied-up J-Lo line, a queered Sisqo, Wakanda’s Black (power) Afrofuturist Vibranium, and vogue/ballroom culture. Ms. Boogie is stepping into her comfort zone, and “Morphin Time” was a bangin’ly seductive introduction to join her there.


Channel Tres

“Controller”

[15:00]

[Godmode]

As sensual as lip-wet whispers and a voice so sexy even the sax shudders while flirting with such deep gentle resonance. And the beat bounces! Swathing Moodymann’s blues with purple light, pink sound. While the sun shines. And it’s all just so… comfy! Yet, however seduced, we can’t lie in languor, so now we move all flash and flourish, like fingertips light on the keys and tip toes on warm pavement and hip, those roses strewn in the street. A daze for days, though eyelids low still eyes sparkle; this beat kept us cool.


Bad Gyal

“Internationally”

[18:36]

[Puro/CANADA]

GYM! GYM! GYM! I do not go to the GYM anymore. They tried to kick me out for “lifting weak-like, dancing way big, a spectacle.” They wanted to revoke my membership! But then I asked the GYM people if they’d ever felt their whole hearts melted into rainbow chasm? If they’d ever heard a whole planet reflected in that space, a bopping neon liberating and loving all their bodies? And they said no they hadn’t! So I let them drink from my headphones that effervescent trap gospel of Bad Gyal. And the GYM people asked me, “Will this free us?” So I shrugged! And now we all dance, membershipless, “INTERNATIONALLY,” thinking, maybe it will.


Ploy

“Ramos”

[21:59]

[Timedance]

This year, Ploy gave us the answer to a question we didn’t know we’d been asking: what happens when you take the current strain of post-hardcore continuum/bass music (?) emerging from labels like Timedance and combine it with the sound of one of those springy door stoppers being thwacked? You get something like “Ramos,” this year’s consensus pick for track most likely to make you grin in the dance. Over nearly seven delirious minutes, “Ramos” rolled and gasped, spitting out words (“Selektah”) and parts of words (“tah, tah, tah”) before juddering to a halt, ready to be rewound and set on its merry way once more. Sing it with me now: “Selektah, tah, tah, tah.”


Charli XCX

“Focus”

[28:34]

[Asylum]

It would be nice to believe that it’s enough in the era of chronic distraction to momentarily narrow your field of view to something sensual and human. Charli XCX’s “Focus,” an alloy of unadulterated desire and satisfaction, embodied the simple dream of embrace without interruption. If pop generally finds the essences of music synthesized into overcompressed clods of pleasure-forward sound, “Focus,” with its crystalline synths and calibrated melodies, was its apotheosis, a song so fixed to the ethos of pop escapism that the attention-deficient world outside of it languished in plain, loveless monochrome. It was a diamond among infinite interference, contact in the cold.


DJ Koze

“Pick Up”

[31:57]

[Pampa]

House music’s endless pulse continues to transform as the decades march on, but DJ Koze cut straight to its core this year with his album-minted version of live favorite “Pick Up.” True to the genre’s form, the song did as much as it could with as little as possible, consisting entirely of a sample from Melba Moore’s 1970s disco single “Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance” mixed in with the occasional refrain from Gladys Knight’s “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).” It was a hi-def take on the classic sound of 90s techno (which was, itself, standing on the shoulders of those crooning soul singers of days past), all brought back into focus for a late-2010s world that’s begun to rediscover dance music for itself. Between its vintage sparkle and bassy punch, “Pick Up” reached for timelessness in an age where nothing seems to last for more than a few seconds, gazing to the past while capturing a tangible slice of the neverending present. It was bittersweet in the same way that looking through old photographs is, reminding us that while it’s true we can never go back, just look at how far we’ve come.


Valee

“Womp Womp” (ft. Jeremih)

[38:21]

[G.O.O.D. Music]

Here at TMT, we like to think that we often “womp” our readers with site content. This might not make any sense to you, so here’s a favorite song of ours by Valee and Jeremih, titled “Womp Womp,” to show you what we mean. Hear how Jeremih is womp-ing at the beginning of the hook, and you don’t really understand it, but you like it? That’s the womp factor. Then here comes Valee (a Chicagoan who made big moves in 2018 by signing to G.O.O.D. Music) like halfway through, sauntering up to the mic with aloof detachment, present but removed, his flow a sigh in concert with cool animation: that’s also the womp factor. They perfectly tag-teamed the womp throughout and struck a fine balance over the filthy womp-worthy beat; by the end, they were just having fun passing the baton back and forth, womping and womping. Delightful! What else can be said? You’re right: womp womp.


Marie Davidson

“Work It”

[42:29]

[Ninja Tune]

For the high-functioning Type A in your rolodex: “Work It” was retro-dance fetishism in function and in form — business and pleasure with elite performance. It exploited the shared jargon of the office and the nightclub in solidarity with the corporatized center of modern dance music. Consider the idea of mobility: capitalism is, like, so obsessed with the illusion of the corporate ladder, and the liberational movement of dance, co-opted so gracelessly away from its roots, inches ever toward dancefloor meritocracy. At this point, all you can do is monetize your existence like everyone else.

Come back tomorrow to hear the “VOID” mix by Evan Coral.