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Best Dance Songs of 2014

Alternate playlist on Spotify
2014 was not the year of any particular sound or movement in electronic dance music. Instead, variety reigned supreme. This marks the seventh straight year I've compiled end-of-year dance song lists on AiMT, and I can say without reservation that 2014 has offered more than any previous year in terms of dispersive themes, genres, rhythms and influences. Gospel house, orchestral house, EBM, electro, ethereal grime, kuduro, jungle, broken beat, UK bass, footwork, garage, new jack swing, and the newly coined PC Music-helmed "cute" movement are all represented on this list, and all had shining moments.

Check the SoundCloud playlist above for easy consumption or a slightly alternate Spotify playlist if you prefer.

Click the thumbnails for streams:

50. Hackman - "Lost From Me" [Futureboogie Recordings]

49. Auntie Flo & Esa - "Percasio Dub" [S/R]

48. Grenier & Archie Pelago - "Tower of Joined Hand" [Melodic Records]

47. Thug Entrancer - "Death After Life I (The Range Remix)" [Software Recording Co.]

46. DyE ft. The Egyptian Lover - "She's Bad" [Tigersushi Records]

45. Murlo - "Into Mist" [Rinse]

44. DJ Télio - "Maravilhas (Damas da Co do Pecado)" [Príncipe Discos]

43. Coco Bryce - "Pacific" [Myor]

42. DJ Koze ft. Rahel - "Magical Boy (Matthew Herbert's 'Not 'til It Stops Mix')" [Pampa Records]

41. The Gasman - "Fuse" [S/R]

40. Dance System - "Flash Drive" [Clone Jack for Daze]

39. Matrixxman - "Venetian Mask" [Ghostly International]

38. Shackleton - "Silver Keys" [Woe to the Septic Heart]

37. The Cyclist - "Breathless" [All City]

36. My Panda Shall Fly - "Yapeyú" [Soundway Records]

35. Starfoxxx - "Bae HD" [Donky Pitch]

34. Matt Karmil - "Sinkhole" [PNN]

33. Dego & Kaidi - "Don't Remain the Same" [Eglo Records]

32. Liar - "Hyper-Ego" [Infinite Machine]

31. Young Marco - "Sea World" [ESP Institute]

30. Ossie - "Comme Ci, Comme Ça" [S/R]

29. Fantastic Mr Fox - "Broke" [Black Acre]

28. Moon B - "Stank Tartare" [PPU]

27. Hannah Diamond - "Every Night" [PC Music]

26. Banda Westfalica - "Tulum (Castro Remix)" [Man Recordings]

25. Marcus Worgull & Peter Pardeike - "Lenoix" [Innervisions]

24. Big Spider's Back - "Strawberry Circuit" [Hush Hush Records]

23. Pulse 8 - "Radio Morocco (Acid Arab Reedit)" [S/R]

22. Oobe - "Radiation" [1080p]

21. Strict Face - "New Moonlight" [Tuff Wax Records]

20. Dego - "Nuts!" [Blueberry Records]

19. Sophie - "Lemonade" [Numbers]

18. Protect-U - "Top Hat" [Future Times Records]

17. E.R.P - "Snowday" [Stilleben Records]

16. Grenier & Archie Pelago - "Microfiche Scanning" [Melodic Records]

15. Jeff Fressco - "It Ain't No Shuffle" [Widad Records]

14. A. G. Cook - "Beautiful" [PC Music]

13. Henry Rodrick - "Don't Believe" [Studio Barnhus]

12. Holly Waxwing - "Chalant" [CSCN]

11. Dark0 - "Chaos" [Lost Codes]

10. Mila J - "Smoke Drink Break Up (Murlo Refix)" [S/R]

Murlo's upbeat soca-, funky- and bashment-leaning productions have been catching AiMT's attention since 2013. And while the London-based producer has been churning out quality content all year, his standout track has to be this double time flip of Mila J's infectious "Smoke Drink Break Up." Makes me wonder why more UK bass producers don't rework US R&B and hip-hop—Murlo proves this pursuit can be a worthy one.

9. Baauer - "Clang" [LuckyMe]

The cerebral LA beat sound seemed an unlikely destination for the Mad Decent-bred Baauer, whose viral hit "Harlem Shake" sent him stampeding to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2013. Perhaps he could have used this seemingly random rise to stardom to guarantee himself a spot amongst the elite of pop, R&B and hip-hop's A-list producers. Instead he's given us the sample-happy, head-nodding perfection of "Clang," which—on top of being expertly produced—is leftfield enough to appease glitch-hop purists and festival-ready enough to win the approval of drop culturalists.

8. Auscultation - "Laces" [1080p]

Vancouver-based tape label 1080p reigned supreme in 2014, and "Laces" by Auscultation, an alter ego of Golden Donna's Joel Shanahan, is evidence of that. Quirky synth pads wash over skeletal, subtle percussion to yield a small-room club tune that approaches perfection.

7. Terrence Parker ft. Merachka - "Open Up Your Spirit" [Planet E Communications]

The recent revival of early house music stylings seemed to peak in 2012 and 2013, and it largely subsided in 2014. However, its residue has lingered just long enough to bring us some exemplary tracks like Terrence Parker's gospel house opus "Open Up Your Spirit." If you seek out this track, look for the original Life on the Back 9 LP version released by Planet E and avoid the drab rework out on Defected's version of the LP.

6. Shamir - "If It Wasn't True" [Godmode]

Who could have guessed that one of the most charismatic and soulful modern-day house music vocalists would have been born in 1994? Don't let Shamir Bailey's age fool you—his diva centrisms give his vocals an unmatched mature flair among his peers in the genre. Better yet, the subtly produced tracks give it enough room to be center stage rather than a producer's plaything.

5. Inkswel ft. Dave Aju - "No More Suckas (DJ Nature Remix)" [Burek]

It's difficult to pinpoint the exact sound or scene on the dance music timeline that DJ Nature has so seamlessly resurrected with his rework of Inkswel and Dave Aju's "No More Suckas." It's got the atmospheric soul of aged deep house but curiously punctuated with a rigid, pounding kick that hypnotizes while mandating bodies on the dance floor. It's shameless, savvy throwback at its pinnacle.

4. DJ Maboku - "Instrumental Pe" [Príncipe Discos]

The Príncipe Discos label was ground zero in 2014 for adventurous kuduro coming out of Lisbon, and the staggered Angolan rhythms and minor-key flute chirps of DJ Maboku's "Instrumental Pe" represent the best the label hast to offer. (Ignore the "2013" marking on the 12-inch—this release actually dropped in early 2014.)

3. Dark0 - "Gaia" [Gobstopper Records]

"Grimegaze" is a term that's been tossed around by yours truly and others to describe this new strain of subdued, melodic grime, at the forefront of which is Dark0, who ruled 2014 in terms of grime output with a pair of stellar EPs. The soaring "Gaia" is his standout moment, which is steeped in JRPG-influenced neo-classicalisms.

2. A. G. Cook ft. Hannah Diamond - "Keri Baby" [PC Music]

PC Music is a secret society of evil millennial geniuses peddling enragingly savvy J-pop-influenced Tumblr music. It seems thematically infatuated with poorly produced and/or antiquated media and fashion ideas such as dated 3D renderings, oblivious after school specials, GIFs, Rebecca Black, Tim and Eric, and other Internet-spotlit phenomena. With A. G. Cook at the helm, the surging net label dazzled with loads of great tracks and mixes in 2014. "Keri Baby" dropped way back in January, and its awkwardly chopped saccharine vocal refrains atop a gonzo mid-tempo pop beat are lovably infuriating from start to finish.

1. Bruce Smear - "Junktion" [Driftless Recordings]

New jack swing hasn't seen a proper revival since its early '90s consummation, but Bruce Smear's take on the long-neglected sound is as fluid and pronounced as if it were conceived amidst a fruitful resurgence. "Junktion," one of only a stark few songs we got out of Bruce in 2014, is a study and a celebration of the gracelessness that is the orchestra hit. Play that ill-famed sample of old on a keyboard, and what do you get? A discordant mess of chord stabs with no business being played in such a manner. And that's exactly what Bruce does to astonishing effect. The track's other elements follow a relaxed key structure, which proves to be a perfect romping ground for orchestra hits as well as gestural vocal stabs, shrieks and barks. This curious and punchy oeuvre comes off like the best industrial-minded rework of "Rhythm Nation" one could fathom. The originality and execution here can't be topped. (Not in 2014 anyway.)

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