I’m going to be honest, here. Writing about music is hard. It’s a challenge to find music that keeps the genre fresh, the right balance of sounds that keep a chart interesting, yet don’t stray too far outside of the superficial boundaries that define a genre.
I wrote this last year, but Indie dance is one of those genres that has an identity problem, and I’m here with a mission: to bring the focus back to what made indie dance a genre in the first place. I pay very close attention to the sound a song makes, and I try to adhere to what I think those boundaries are. What are those boundaries? For starters, the song has to reference a notable definition of what indie dance was, such as music from bands like Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix, MGMT, and Foster the People. Prior to that, we had LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand, among others.
Ultimately the indie dance genre is an extension of alternative dance, just as the indie genre was born from the alternative movement. Rooted in bands like Bauhaus, The Cure, and The Smiths (you can go even further back – The Velvet Underground, MC5), every few years we can find another wave. Some larger, some smaller, some electronic, some acoustic, but all overlapping and rooted in danceability, having an independent spirit, whether signed to a major label or not.
There is so much music that didn't make this list, but please explore the other indie dance charts I've curated here. Enjoy this list. Embrace this list. Debate this list. Most importantly, let's maintain the definition of indie dance and keep the genre a focus moving forward.
1. Johnny Utah - Honeypie
Johnny Utah has written the sing-along track of the year. You’ll be singing “honey, honey, honeypie” in your head from this moment forward. It’s been stuck in my head constantly all year.
2. Oliver Tree & Whethan - Do You Feel Me?
3. Marie Davidson - Work It (Soulwax Remix)
4. Jai Wolf - Lose My Mind feat. Mr Gabriel
Individually, Jai Wolf and Mr Gabriel are artists worth paying attention to. So when he released this smooth indie dance track collaboration this year, I'll admit I nearly lost my mind.
5. Toro y Moi - Laws of the Universe
The feel and the groove of "Laws of the Universe" place it within the disco realm, but music as great as what was released this year makes it impossible to deny Toro y Moi a place in the indie dance realm.
6. Men I Trust - Say, Can You Hear
The slightly muffled production style of "Say, Can You Hear" took some getting used to, but every time I hear it played I stop and think about what a pleasure it is having this song in my ears.
7. Big Wild - City of Sound
This grand piece from Big Wild is a big room dancefloor masterpiece for singing along, enjoying life, losing yourself in the music. I absolutely love the atmosphere the band creates with this.
8. Crooked Colours - Hold On
The introduction Cooked Colours bring "Hold On" gets us in a skeptical mood, but once that beat drops and opens up the atmospheric bounce we truly do feel alive. Close your eyes and feel it.
9. Joy Downer - Plastic Wrap
Life is good, so let’s put it on repeat. The upbeat sounds Joy Downer brings on this one are no downer at all, with bouncing bass groove and the do-do-do’s you need in a lighthearted sound.
10. AKA Lui - Hey! I Don’t Want That Anyway
The guitar work is what makes the track, but I also like the monotone, processed vocal overlay and general compressive nature of the production. It doesn’t make sense, but I want it anyway.
11. Temporex - Tournament Hill
I was drawn to "Tournament Hill" by Temporex because of the contrast between the warbled synths with a thoroughly indie style vocal treatment. It’s very much in the vein of Hot Chip, worth repeat listens.
12. Fidlar - By Myself
"By Myself" a great dance-rock track with impressive production, and a totally playful introduction that draws you right into it so set the perfect mood. Did I mention how danceable this track is? It is.
13. Claud - Easy
The foundation of this track simply feels right. It’s such a feel-good song, and the vocals Claud applies over "Easy" have a simplicity that I really enjoy. Simple, bouncy synth accents help, too.
14. Gothic Tropic - Drunk on a Rhythm
Sultry vocals and a steady pace with clear, crisp production. The synth textures and percussion are sublime. I’m drunk on the rhythm, and Gothic Tropic has me feeling so much love for this track.
15. Foals - Exits
Mainstay veterans of the indie dance scene, Foals returned with an album I couldn’t stop listening to. "Exits" has a slower pace, but still maintains an indie dancefloor sensibility that I seek.
16. Tommy Newport - Movie Screen
Bounce and swagger are a part of my music desires and the attitude that Tommy Newport brings on "Movie Screen" fits this track perfectly. Falsetto chorus doesn’t hurt, either.
17. Du Tonc - In My Mind feat. Vania
The synth and overall drive within the composition of this track make it stand out. Vania’s vocal performance is a highlight that has kept the song in my mind since it was released.
18. Phantogram - Into Happiness
I love the modern feel of "Into Happiness" while still maintaining an old school stance. The deep wall of sound that back the track is the music of dreams. Its passion envelops your conscience.
19. Mickey Kojak - It’s Gonna Be Okay feat. Jake Stone
I don’t need an excuse to go out of my mind for this track from Mickey Kojak. This is a track for those nights in the club where you need a pick-me-up on your life situation. It’ll be just fine!
20. Yung Bae - Up All Night feat. Paper Idol
I’d love to be up all night with Yung Bae every night. "Up All Night" is so funky and so perfect. It’s light, bouncy, and had just the right touch of guitar texture. Paper Idol’s vocal performance will have you whistling.
21. Low Island - In Person
When this track starts, the percussion hits with an overlaid vocal, and you instantly know it’s a track you’re going to want to listen to all year. Once that bouncy synth by Low Island hits, you’re totally sold.
22. Japanese Breakfast - Essentially
I listened to "Essentially" repeatedly when it was released because the vocal performance is stand-out. The bass guitar has that subtle grit that makes me smile along with added instrumental textures.
23. Two Door Cinema Club - Talk
This year’s release from Two Door Cinema Club might not, on its whole, rise to the level of their best work, but the song "Talk" is a highlight of this year's False Alarm album that is worth talking about.
24. Gold Spectacles - Ask Twice
How many times did I ask myself if this track from Gold Spectacles deserves to be on the year-end list? I certainly didn’t have to ask twice. The woodwinds and piano are wonderful textures in the composition.
25. Battle Tapes - Weight of the World
This track is hard-hitting and overflowing with momentum. Battle Tapes brings the weight in this fantastic alternative dance banger. Deliver this track to the dancefloor, raise your hands, and lift the weight from your shoulders.
26. Joywave - Obsession
We all need something to get through the night, and Joywave provides it with their track, "Obsession." This song has a driving rhythmic guitar and a sing-along, harmonized vocal performance.
27. Honors - Automatic
Honors' song "Automatic" brings modern songwriting into the indie dance aesthetic. The right textures are there, the performance is in the zone. Parallel guitar and vocal melodies are a great touch.
28. Drab Majesty - Long Division
"Long Division" is a personal indulgence of mine, but Drab Majesty released one of my favorite albums this year. Top to bottom, its a joy to listen to and perfect for a dark, smoky dancefloor.
29. Wolf Parade - Against the Day
Wolf Parade provided my surprise of the year. I wasn’t expecting this song, and I had no idea they were even releasing music this year. But then this arrived in my feed, and I was happy.
30. Cherry Glazerr - Call Me feat. Portugal. The Man
If there is a band that deserved more love this year, it’s Cherry Glazerr. If you haven’t listened to this year’s release, Stuffed & Ready, you need to. "Call Me" features Portugal. The Man and was released later in 2019.
Here's the playlist: