Best Music Of 2013

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Top 10 Dance Tracks Of 2013

Laurel Halo, seen here performing at the 2013 Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, released one of our favorite dance tracks of the year. i i

Laurel Halo, seen here performing at the 2013 Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, released one of our favorite dance tracks of the year. Adam Kissick for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Adam Kissick for NPR
Laurel Halo, seen here performing at the 2013 Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, released one of our favorite dance tracks of the year.

Laurel Halo, seen here performing at the 2013 Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, released one of our favorite dance tracks of the year.

Adam Kissick for NPR

Over the past few years, dance music has been making major inroads into the pop-music world. Mainstream productions are pulling ideas that have been prevalent in underground house and techno for decades into singles that ride high on the pop charts. But unlike pop singles, which often are meant to be listened to on their own, dance music "songs" are usually presented and consumed as parts of larger bodies of work: mixes. They act as puzzle pieces or building blocks for a continuous thread of music, and depending on their placement in this thread, the songs take on different contexts and meanings.

Over the course of 2013, we spent hours and hours listening to these blocks, at our desks, in nightclubs and over bedroom speaker systems. We've chosen ten tracks that stuck with us throughout the year. These are ten pieces that, for one reason or another, improved the mixes they were found in. These cuts sometimes served as a blast of sunshine that woke us from a hypnotic state, and other times pulled our limbs and minds into darker terrain. They all share one central trait: They made us move.

You can hear all ten below, or, in their natural habitat — as part of our own hour-long mix — at the top of the page.

Top 10 Dance Tracks Of 2013

Cover for Son

Beautiful Swimmers, 'Running Over'

Full disclosure: my cohort Sami Yenigun played flute on a recent mixtape by Beautiful Swimmer member Andrew Field-Pickering. He wanted to avoid the conflict of interest completely and exclude "Running Over," but I couldn't comply. The opening salvo of shimmering tropical synths might be my favorite moment of the year, and the rest of the Balaeric basement jam isn't shabby, either. And like the most of Field-Pickering and Ari Goldman's discography, it sounds like nothing else out there right now. – Otis Hart

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Disclosure i i
Courtesy of the artist
Disclosure
Courtesy of the artist

Disclosure, 'When A Fire Starts To Burn'

For a few years now, the young Lawrence brothers who perform as Disclosure have made waves in dance music circles, but this was the year that they sent one through the mainstream. The duo's debut album, Settle, was met with adoration from both clubbers and pop-fans alike. It's no wonder — their music straddles the line between dance and pop perfectly. Using U.K.-garage influenced beats to back a catchy vocal line, the radio-friendly "White Noise" made NPR Music's 100 Favorite Songs of 2013. But for this list, the club-ready "When a Fire Starts to Burn" felt like the obvious choice. The rising bass line, featured in front and center of the mix, is the beating heart of the cut, and the sample of an Eric Thomas sermon (aka "the hip-hop preacher") is its head. Anytime this comes on through your speakers, watch out for spontaneous flames. – Sami Yenigun

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Song
When a Fire Starts to Burn
Album
Settle
Artist
Disclosure
Label
Island
Released
2013

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Galcher Lustwerk. i i
Courtesy of the artist
Galcher Lustwerk.
Courtesy of the artist

Galcher Lustwerk, 'Put On'

"Working Man's Techno" is the motto of boutique New York-based label White Material. Funded in part by money saved up from a factory job, as label founder "Young Male" told Resident Advisor in an interview last month, at this point, White Material's four releases are only available on vinyl, and the label has only printed 300 copies of each, which is one reason that the resale prices are currently so high. The other reason: this material bangs. The label's output has included completely unmelodic, stripped down techno, harmonious ambient pieces and atmospheric deep house, like Galcher Lustwerk's "Put On." The crisp claps, fuzzy chords and subdued rapping work in perfect harmony here. And while lyrics like "everybody doin' thangs they only did alone" may hint at sinister behavior found in the dark corners of dance clubs, it also celebrates the liberation that comes with sharing your secrets. Don't worry, more copies are on the way. – Sami Yenigun

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Kyle "KMFH" Hall.
Jeremy Deputat/Courtesy of the artist

KMFH, 'Dr. Crunch'

The heir apparent to the Detroit techno throne had a big 2013. The Boat Party is one of the best electronic long-players of the year and his single "Crushed" made several year-end lists, including NPR Music's 100 Favorite Songs list. As far as dance tracks go, though, nothing on the album topped "Dr. Crunch." The monster kick drum and overdriven analog synth don't let up for almost six minutes, but the monotony is tamed by an ever-shifting modulation. The crunch is self-evident, but the doctor is in the details. – Otis Hart

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Joy Orbison.
Courtesy of the artist

Joy Orbison, 'Big Room Tech House DJ Tool - TIP!'

You could argue that the Brit born Peter O'Grady is responsible for four of the biggest underground dance tracks of the past five years — 2009's "Hyph Mngo," 2011's "Swims" with Boddika, 2012's "Ellipsis," and this year's "Big Room Tech House DJ Tool - TIP!" I can't think of any other active producers who started their careers with a similar string of powerhouse singles. This year's anthem cheekily took its name from the signature record descriptions at Berlin record store Hard Wax, which is a little ironic considering you can't buy "Big Room" anywhere but the secondary market. Its run of vinyl sold out long ago and Joy O never released it digitally. – Otis Hart

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Song
Big Room Tech House DJ Tool - TIP!
Album
Think and Change
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Nonplus

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La Fleur. i i

La Fleur. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
La Fleur.

La Fleur.

Courtesy of the artist

La Fleur, 'Nightflow (Kenny Larkin Drama Mix)'

I first heard Kenny Larkin's remix of La Fleur's "Nightflow" at the club and, I won't lie, when I heard it I freaked out a little bit. As the track's organ gently wafted into my headspace, my limbs suddenly felt lighter and a euphoric surge bubbled up in my gut. And then it just kept on going and growing, slowly building energy in its details. Coils of sound started spazzing out in different speakers; shakers entered, elevating the groove; all the while that steady organ drove me further and further off the deep end. The DJ that night thankfully played all 15 minutes of the remix — I wished it went on for longer. – Sami Yenigun

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Nightflow (Kenny Larkin Drama Mix)
Album
Nightflow EP
Artist
La Fleur
Label
Watergate Records
Released
2013

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Brooklyn producer Laurel Halo. i i
Ismini Adami
Brooklyn producer Laurel Halo.
Ismini Adami

Laurel Halo, 'Chance Of Rain'

Laurel Halo hails from the American Midwest, and on the title track off of Chance of Rain you can hear the influence that techno's birthplace has had on her sound. Stripping away the vocals that were central to last year's Quarantine, "Chance of Rain" is all raw electronics. Warm distortion colors the hat and drums of this fast-moving rhythm, and softly struck Rhodes chords paint its underbelly. Buffered by short forays into ambient jazz fusion, it's a beat that places a proper amount of weird onto the dancefloor. – Sami Yenigun

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Song
Chance Of Rain
Album
Chance of Rain
Artist
Laurel Halo
Label
Hyperdub
Released
2013

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Levon Vincent. i i
Courtesy of the artist
Levon Vincent.
Courtesy of the artist

Levon Vincent, 'Rainstorm II'

Few house producers are as revered New York City's Levon Vincent, who's been making raw but nuanced music for more than 20 years. "Rainstorm II" initially appeared on his Fabric mix last year but got a proper release in February on his own label, Novel Sound. The piercing synth hook at the song's center is simply inexhaustible — and is that a "Trans Europa Express" reference in the bridge? Unfortunately, "Rainstorm II" is sold out on vinyl and not available in its entirety digitally, but Vincent has hinted at going digital in the near future. – Otis Hart

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Mind Against. i i
Courtesy of the artist
Mind Against.
Courtesy of the artist

Mind Against, 'Atlant'

The members of Mind Against are two Italian brothers, Alessandro and Federico Fognini, who recently moved to Berlin and shacked up with the men who run the esteemed Life and Death record label. In a year dominated by tech house discussion, you wouldn't expect two rookies to produce one of the genre's defining cuts, but "Atlant" is the truth, an epic nine-minute slow burner. The haunting brassy refrain will send shivers down your spine every time you hear it. – Otis Hart

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Atlant
Album
Atlant
Artist
Mind Against
Label
Life and Death
Released
2013

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Todd Terje's "Q" is featured on this week's edition of Metropolis. i i
Courtesy of the artist
Todd Terje's "Q" is featured on this week's edition of Metropolis.
Courtesy of the artist

Todd Terje, 'Strandbar (Samba)'

It's becoming as regular as birds migrating north or ice cream trucks jingling around the block in the summer. Every year, for the past three years, Todd Terje has dropped an anthem that perfectly embodies the season. Two years ago it was "Ragysh," a vicious earworm woven between plucky synths, and last year it was "Inspector Norse," a disco-drenched bomb built to destroy bad vibes. Well, the birds are gone now, but Terje's summer jam "Strandbar" (which means "beach bar" in Norwegian) is still around. Both the Disko and Samba versions of the song work wonders on a dance floor, with their ecstatic piano riffs and cascading scales. The percussion work at the beginning of Samba makes this one my favorite of the two. – Sami Yenigun

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Strandbar [Samba] [Version]
Album
Strandbar
Artist
Todd Terje
Label
Olsen
Released
2013

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Best Music Of 2013