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AAAAAAAAAAAAAND WE’RE BACK. Another 12 months slipped away, and what a 12 months they were. Did you guys catch that election? What about that Dr. Phil interview with Shelley Duvall? Boy, we are truly in it now aren’t we!? Well, whatever your stance is on the happenings of 2016, surely we can all agree that it’s been SOME kind of year, not just another snoozer like 2015 or 2014. Nope, we got shook this year, for better or for worse (IMHO: worse), and like every other internet blogazine purging up content, it’s time to make sense of what the shit just happened. So buckle up, apply some listening powder to your ears, and get ready for TMT’s 2016 Year-End Listicle Bonanza.
Of course, if you’ve spent any amount of time reading this site (and if you haven’t, I promise we usually sound smarter than this), you know that eclecticism is the soul of what we do. Meaning, we can’t agree on ANYTHING. So, instead of foisting you with some faux-consensus-bastard-child numbered list of songs, we’ve whipped up five themed mixes collecting some of our favorite head spaces of the year: We’ve got fist-bumpers for your next rally at the GYM. We procured keys to help you unlock the VOID. We caught bruises walking through the ALLEY. We took snapshots from our family vacation to the CLIFF. And we found the real moments shredding our vocal cords out the COUPE. Just like that — no false hierarchies, just good clean fun.
If it’s a bit much to take in, don’t worry: we’ve got a very numbered list of albums coming just around the corner, several essays here and there, our favorite labels, cool music videos, and MORE. 2016 is over, baby. It’s all downhill from here!
NOTE: Each day this week, we will be publishing a new 10-track mix, which will together combine to represent 50 of our favorite songs from 2016. We start today with the “GYM” mix by C Monster.
PART 1: “GYM” mixed by C Monster
“VV Violence” is an angry song. But like anger, it can’t help but fall to idle bemusement. It cuts and cuts until it’s numb from cutting. It gestures away from the meeting of faces, where meaning hovers in the periphery escaping apprehension, toward a dancefloor (maybe somewhere in Detroit) where bodies can mix without error in interpretation. Its motor might be violence, but it moves along with an attitude approaching indifference, with flashes even of ecstasy. My favorite pop song of a year marked by its very own serendipity and fury, it reminds us that dancing in a loud room and fighting to be heard don’t have to be divided labors.
“Expensive Taste (feat. Jeremih)”
Entering the Hyperbolic Time Chamber like the Super Saiyans before them, what can we predict about Lil Trav and Lil Ceno’s theoretical training methods given a potential world-threatening scenario? An inability to fly apparently gives way to rampant thot avoidance, and if the songs on their previous mixtapes didn’t make things clear enough, “Expensive Taste” confirmed that the duo’s Chicago-based lavish lifestyle is about as strenuous as approved exercise. Dumbbells get supplemented with constant status maintenance, and lord knows the layers of high-class brands can lead to perspiration. They aren’t just preparing for winter, you know.
Why Be, Elysia Crampton, Chino Amobi
Okayyyyy, I admit it. But so what if I’m a sucker for pulsating beat-synced samples of gnarly demon chuckles? Kids like me barely get a track like this every once in a millennium. Plus, it only sweetens the deal when said track emulates masculine performance in such a way as to linger on the question of its participation, leaving any present party to consider: Who’s laughing at whom? As our own Chris Kissel writes, Crampton’s work is “a private apocalypse, a world collapsing,” simultaneously drafting utopias “transnationally, across gender, ethnicity, and even species, in the aftermath of violence.” Nice!
Danny L Harle feat. Carly Rae Jepsen
The early stages of attraction can be hard to explain: the emotions are formless, the behaviors messy and undefined, nobody’s quite sure what “this” even is. “Super Natural” understands this precisely, the confusion as well as the joy of realizing that, against the odds, somebody else might feel the same way you do. It is the musical equivalent of posting a link you know your crush has an interest in and staring at your phone until their comment arrives — and the small rush of connection when it finally does. No, you hang up!
“Lab 2 This”
[Duck N’ Cover]
I was in Chicago when DJ Rashad died, about 12 blocks away from his apartment, relieving an independent used record store of all of its Jim O’Rourke CDs. I didn’t hear about his death until I arrived back in Madison that night and didn’t really process it until weeks later. But looking back, I remember that entire day now with a certain somberness. I never knew him personally, and I grew into his music gradually, but he and others in Chicago reshaped my ears in such a way that everything since has sounded shallow. “Lab 2 This,” though, by some sort of magic, sounds FULL of that energy. It’s been a hard period of recovery for Chicago (and dance music in general), but DJ Diamond has chosen footwork over death as a way through, and this track, coming at such an incredible record’s close, is both a well-needed celebration of craft as well as a treatise for furthering a legacy that ended far too early. Long live footwork! Viva la ghost!
Despite its sexist reputation, the current reguetón boom was kick-started by a woman ordering you to eat her up. LSDXOXO brings that full-circle with a track taking La Materialista’s ode to cunnilingus “Chuleame” (“I am already wet, milk-me out,” “Like a leech, suck me dry,” “Take it all out and drink it with some cocoa” are choice snippets) to reinvent it in the spirit of GHE20G0TH1K’s fascinating queer punkness. In the underground-collective-cum-label’s first release, LSDXOXO hijacks Ex Machina’s idea of building a smart robot that, in case you were wondering, can have intercourse, and designs a vengeful droid starving both sex and retaliation, a semi-organic entity part T-800 and part Sil, a fucking machine with a BDSM A.I. and no safewords. Fuck with that at your own risk.
“Nervous Sex Traffic”
Dissipate, dissipate, dissipate. JR Seaton did bits in 2016, a year in which all and any solidity was bypassed, and no track stuck quite as much as the quivering, cavernous “Nervous Sex Traffic.” Above the surface, the live-jam vibe gave it a loose and playful veneer, all clip’d waveforms and passive drift, but as the passing months renewed metropolitan tensions and normalized racism in Europe and beyond, it seemed more and more like a premonition. Call Super was right to be nervous, and while “Traffic” didn’t offset the unease, it nonetheless captured the essence of the continuing threat against the very existence of certain people and spaces — a barely-there apparition, straight-up ghosting in the club.
Hannah Diamond released “Fade Away” the same day that my girlfriend’s pet ferret Hamtaro died. So this song, which uses a euphemism for a slow death as a metaphor for the gradual unraveling of a relationship, was for me inextricably linked to an actual death. While my own connection to the song didn’t align perfectly with Diamond’s lyrical intent, that didn’t invalidate it. “Fade Away” worked best to me not as a plea to a bored lover, but as a supplication to the void against the inevitability of the passing of time and the slow churn of our mortality. Rest in peace, Hammy.
Over the last few years, we’ve watched the Vancouver scene explode in global recognition, with labels like Mood Hut, Pacific Rhythm, and 1080p making waves across vinyl bins and Boiler Rooms around the world. Crystalizing a certain blend of woozy ambient new age with the rolling flutter of classic Roland drum machines, Project Pablo’s I Want to Believe laid some probably important groundwork for all this. But increasingly, the producer’s been looking outward. With the launch of his ASL Singles Club and his latest SOBO imprint, Holland’s brought a tighter resolution to his slow-moving, broken-beat sound. On “Closer,” the producer layers breezy, almost-Balearic flutes and cowbells to create what feels like the most danceable moment from the nebulous “scene” yet — the crossover radio single the crew maybe never even needed as they increasingly affirm their place across the global landscape of dance.
The RISD-grad brutalist humorist collagists, known for their bludgeoning avant scrapes and boinks, spilled beer all over their homemade PC and came up with a freaking artbro anthem. A sexy revving-your-motorcycle intro with space alien sound effects; an electronic Lego-block rock groove, a layer of twang and yogurty Pere Ubu/Louie Louie vocals, followed by a proper ass-kicking guitar riff — the hell? A detuned victory lap fanfare glazed with weirdo counterpoint saw them off into a green and magenta sunset.
Come back tomorrow to hear the “VOID” mix by Alex Brown.