Pop culture reflects the social climate of its time. We want to put our current state into perspective, to cope or celebrate, and find community in the calm and the chaos. Good, bad, happy, sad, uneasy or strong - we find serenity in the stories and music of the time and let them speak for us. Our pop culture is often our comfort and there isn't a type of music more warm and embracing and arguably necessary at this juncture than Chill Dance.
Born of the piano-charged Chicago house classics of the 90's, and constantly evolving into sub-genres from reflective downtempo, ambient house, sunny melodic house and poolside nu-disco - Chill Dance is not a genre of electronic music, but a blend of genres that reflects this comfort and escape we seek and reminds us to enjoy the simple natural splendor of dancing with your shadow on hot nights and cruising with the windows open on sunkissed days.
Often I lean on the more accessible tracks across all the sub-genres that make up Chill Dance - tunes that most can vibe with, and that you'll be sharing with your friends after first listen. Some are hits of the year, and others are from artists that are ready for their big breakout. Just as this music I write about creates a flow with the world, this end of the year chart too has a flow and is best listened to in full start to finish. The tunes are in no particular order (kinda) and can be thrown on anywhere you are.
Whether you're chilling on a day bed on a white sandy beach, on a run working off those holiday carbs, road tripping along a tree or beach lined road, throwing shapes with your friends at a house party, or just need that background music while you're taking care of business, these are the tracks that will compliment your journey.
I hope your year behind was fully of beauty and your year ahead has more on the horizon. Let's dance...
P.S. I included the music videos this time because this year's selections have some really strong visual companions to enjoy. Music videos are making a strong comeback which I absolutely love.
Full playlist without interruptions on Spotify below or Soundcloud HERE:
1. Silk City feat. Dua Lipa - Electricity [Columbia Records]
The 2018 breakout vocalist in electronic and beyond is without a doubt Dua Lipa.
The young beauty from the UK with her powerful husky voice has aligned herself with some of the top producers in dance music, starting the year featured on Calvin Harris' "One Kiss" and capping off the year on Silk City aka superstars Diplo and Mark Ronson's "Electricity."
She packs the ultimate TKO on the latter track that is already dripping with talented all-stars from its producers to its songwriters Romy Madley-Croft of The xx and Diana Gordon of Lemonade fame. From the vocals to her jaw-dropping routine in the accompanying music video, she is a sight and sound to behold.
Harkening back to the piano-laden house bangers of yesteryear, Silk City's production is the best kind of ecstatic electronic that demands a dance party wherever it comes on. The duo have been friends for years and are two of the coolest producers in music, crossing and blending genres constantly with their variety of projects and collabs including this supergroup that they're labeling as "elegant house." Look out for touring dates in 2019 along with a new album from Mark Ronson.
2. SG Lewis feat. J Warner - "Aura" [Jasmine Music]
When SG Lewis envisioned his new three-part album Dusk, Dark, Dawn, his inspiration was a night out at one of the UK clubs he grew up dancing in - a wild ride from sunset to sunrise where anything and everything will happen.
With the third part yet to be released still, SG Lewis has so far created a special concept piece that blends all the genres and tempos you might encounter over a 10 hour corker under the lights. His first part Dusk transports you to the infant hours of night when the muscles are fresh and the anticipation of good times to come has butterflies bursting from your guts.
The disco-tinged single "Aura" is uplifting in spirit and has the get-down slapping bassline and glimmering synths to make you feel like the sexiest person alive two-stepping to the groove.
3. MK - "17 (6am Remix)" [Area10 and Big on Blue Entertainment]
There isn't a more humble and consistent fun-loving legend in electronic than MK. Every song is the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and we all get to get down like oompa-loompas to his melodic deep house beats. The US DJ maestro has been doing the damn thing since the early 90's and keeps getting better with age.
MK has empowered several producers to remix his tracks but none have stood out as much as this bubbly inspiring bouncing edit by 6am. Well done.
4. The Blaze - "HEAVEN" [Animal 63]
What an absolutely joy-drenched celebration this song is. The French duo The Blaze aka cousins Guillaume and Jonathan Alric released one of the most unique albums of the year DANCEHALL packed to the brim with their signature trance-house production style and haunting, ghoulish vocals.
One of the cooler things about the duo is they direct their own gorgeous music videos which has received praise from the likes of If Beale Street Could Talk and Moonlight director Barry Jenkins. The video certainly matches the emotive spirit of the song.
5. Kasbo feat. Frida Sundemo - "Over You" [Foreign Family Collective]
I just love the intro buildup to this track so much. It captures everything that Swedish producer extraordinaire Kasbo and sultry singer Frida Sundemo have in store for us. Squeaky bouncing beats, glimmering synths, seductive and sad vocals all make the tune stand out in an already uplifting album from Odesza's Foreign Family Collective label.
Hats off to the label for putting together an unstoppable roster of some of my favorite artists of the year.
6. Odesza feat. Leon Bridges - "Across The Room (Tycho Remix)" [Foreign Family Collective]
Is it really a Chill Dance best of year chart without a Tycho track? The master of his domain is back with some shining singles and remixes including this edit of aforementioned Odesza's standout single featuring the maestro of my favorite album of the year - Leon Bridges. The single 'Beyond' is already a classic love song in my book.
The remix is dreamy in parts, with that riding along the PCH Tycho touch, but maintains much of what I love about the original. You'd think Tycho might tinker with the production and slow things down but it's the opposite with an uptempo flavor throughout.
7. Maribou State - "Beginner’s Luck" [Counter Records]
I have been chomping at the bit for two years for more Maribou State and this past year has been my dream come true. For their third album, the duo explored beyond their downtempo roots with more instrumental arrangements that leaves a shining afterglow on the room as you listen.
The tracks all carry their own colorful flavor, leading with the melodic, jammy track "Beginner's Luck" that hums and chants it's vocals that perfectly sets up what is in store on this vibrant album. I absolutely love the team up with Khruangbin and the blend of instrumental-only and vocal songs.
8. George Fitzgerald & Lil Silva - "Roll Back" [Domino Records]
One of my producers of the year awards goes to George Fitzgerald for crafting a masterful and enthralling new deep house opus in All That Must Be. Everything about this album was perfectly crafted from the beats, the features, the accompanying live show and even the artists he chose to remix the singles. The track featuring singer Lil Silva is a gorgeous ode to a better time with a great orchestral production to back it. It is moving to say the least.
9. RÜFÜS DU SOL - "Treat You Better" [Foreign Family Collective]
When I saw RÜFÜS play The Shrine for one of their three LA dates, they stared out in the crowd in awe as it thundered applause. They had just blown our minds with new fan favorite "Underwater" followed by their masterpiece classic "Innerbloom" and told us this was the loudest they'd ever heard a crowd get on tour. It was a beautiful moment for them and us.
Their more underrated single "Treat You Better" stood out to me on first listen for its danceability and uplifting energy on an otherwise more emotive introspective album about heartbreak and change. It was a hit on the dancefloor at their show thats for sure!
I expect them to earn a huge set time at Coachella 2019.
10. JackLNDN - "Stargazer"
The musical talent is overflowing from multi-instrumentalist producer JackLNDN. He will at one moment take you on a euphoric ambient space ride and the next have you bouncing to feel-good deep house with his silky smooth vocals to boot.
This past year he released two EP's Rain and Get Down which sound nothing alike and that always-evolving sound is what makes this artist special and exciting. You never know what you're going to get and that takes true classically-trained talent and artistry. His lead track off Rain is hypnotic deep house at its finest, with its gurgled and glowing vocal-free production that erupts and peaks throughout.
This UK gem is my 2019 Artist To Watch and with a debut album in the works, I know he'll live up to this hype. Cheers to the year ahead, Jack!
11. Rhye - "Feel Your Weight (Poolside Remix)" [Loma Vista Recordings]
Thinking on the best voices in modern music it is hard to not immediately hear Rhye's tender tunes wafting across your ears. The UK singer and producer has that soft touch that goes all too well with soft sheets and warm bodies. Taking all the best elements of the track "Feel Your Weight" including its funky bassline and Rhye's warming croon, daymaker producers Poolside added an accompanying lush luxurious layer to the mix.
12. Black Coffee feat. Msaki - "Wish You Were Here" [Ultra Records]
Our 2016 Artist of the Year, Black Coffee continues to blast off with explosive growth. From his Coachella set, to the huge commercial success collab with David Guetta, to his SÓNAR mixtape and finishing off the year with a jazz infused melodic chune highlighting the lovely vocalist Msaki - Black Coffee is elevating himself to one of the top producers and tastemakers in electronic. He's one of our favorites and we are all rooting for more music and the spellbinding awe that comes with it.
13. Flight Facilities feat. NÏKA - "Need You" [Glassnote Entertainment]
The Aussie lads are touring, they're releasing new tunes and they're HOPEFULLY dropping a follow up to their legendary 2014 album Down To Earth this year. Flight Facilities are living their best life always, taking their time in the studio, collaborating with killer vocalists like NÏKA for this funkified glowing single and plotting to take over the world like Pinky and the Brain. It's gonna be a great year for the lads.
14. Lane 8 - "Coming Back to You" [This Never Happened]
Our lord and savior of the one's and two's, Mr. 8 has had himself a BIG 2018 - new album, continuing his This Never Happened tour, growing out and promoting the incredible roster of unknown (potentially alien) artists on his label, and continuing to drop his fan favorite seasonal mixes.
His tunes are melodic, haunting at times, joyful at others (including this mesmerizing single) and always danceable - what more can you ask. Also check out his remix of George FitzGerald's track "Burns." You won't be disappointed. Or you will, in which case we can shake hands and go our separate ways.
15. ZHU & Tame Impala - "My Life" [Mind of a Genius]
Mind melting kindred spirits align for the ultimate crossover collaboration of the year and it deserves a slot on this list. The secretive DJ Zhu and Kevin Parker's Tame trade off blaring synths and jazzy psychedelic arrangements with Kevin's floating voice draping over the song like a fog over an abandoned city. The beats trip over each other at times and