2021 EOY Music

2021 Music: Dancing & One Stone Cold Classic

I always feel weird writing about music because I have 0 music background and I don’t write on the subject often. I have a lot of passion for it though! It’s just been hard to tap into ever since the start of COVID. I’ve stayed mostly cooped up in my house and experiencing the slow dread of the world which has meant there’s been times where I don’t have the energy for music. I also haven’t gotten back into seeing live music which was always a reliable way to boost my music listening. I’ve had to adjust and am slowly finding better ways to enjoy it. Making time to put on a record or an album after work has been an easy adjustment. Generally setting time aside after work to just listen to music has helped tremendously break up our usual tv shutdown at the end of the day (I need to schedule this more regularly). I’ve got a decent entry level DJ controller too that needs to get some more use. There’s nothing better than mixing favorite tracks together even if I absolutely fuck up the transitions.

One of the best things about writing this list is revisiting all the songs I’ve loved from the past year. It’s a joyous experience, listening back and feeling all the exciting emotions I had when I first heard them. My list is once again comprised of dance and electronic music, save for one very very notable selection. I can’t help it if my brain is just constantly called to dance music and this year has provided so many new artists to my list. It was also heartening to see Bandcamp Fridays continue, so hopefully there’s enough pressure for them to keep going. Please take these songs and dance wildly to them in a club for me, I’ll hopefully be able to join you soon.

My Favorite Song of 2021 – Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – Like I Used To

Just a perfect song here, 10/10, eminently replayable and the only non-electronic song to make this list. I’m really really bad about keeping up with non-electronic music outside a handful of artists and one of those happens to be Angel Olsen. A good friend of mine continues to keep me in the loop and recommended Angel Olsen to me last year. I was instantly sold on her MY WOMAN album with the combination of her soulful voice matched with blues and rock sounds. Last year’s All Mirrors was an expanded step in a cool new direction, using big orchestra sounds to match the sweeping emotions of her lyrics. So I was excited to see a new collaboration announced that she was personally passionate about. I know next to nothing about Sharon Van Etten, I really need to do my research there, but from this track I bet I’ll be into her music. The track itself, a two woman collab about finding yourself again, is meticulously arranged to hit an emotional sweetspot. It’s a big rock/country ballad tracking regression into bad habits and closing off but finding yourself slowly opening back up. As someone who’s had a very up and down year with my anxiety, this song really hit me and when that last duet hits I instantly melt. Coupled with Angel Olsen officially coming out in 2021, I can’t imagine a sweeter and better song for the year.

Lone – Always Inside Your Head

A new Lone release is always cause for celebration. He specializes in beautiful soundscapes, whether that’s the genre versatility of his albums or the more dance floor focused found on his Ambivert Tools EPs or releases on his Ancient Astronauts label. All of his releases are a must buy and I’ve been enamored ever since his last LP, Levitate, which roared out the gate with mixtures of breakbeat and jungle five years before the current saturation of the revival of those genres. His new album moves things more toward ambient with enchanting results. His new collaborator Morgane Diet makes for a perfect match to the spaced out synths like on highlight Akoya. He also guesstures toward the dance floor on tracks like Inlove2 which starts out similarly ambient before dropping into a 4/4 beat and percussive claps that turn it into a euphoric roller and Tree for Tree, which morphs from light progressive drumming into squealing acid synths reminiscent of old Underworld tracks. Really though this album is about ambient soundscapes with percussive drumming, a Lone specialty. It’s the perfect album to get lost in.

Chrissy – Physical Release

11 tracks of goddam energy and an ode to classic “house,” in all the genre permutations that could be accompanied by that description. The album pays homage to raving and the underground scene, updating classic dance music sounds and using vocal recordings to put the listener in a specific time and place. Album opener Lost In A Dream lays out the ethos clearly with a vocal thesis about celebrating dance music pasts and future before turning into a euphoric breakbeat piano house track. There’s not a dip in energy across the entire LP as Chrissy crosses genres with experiments in jungle (All the True Ravers), acid bangers (Fantasy Pt 2, Virgin Warehouse Location) and disco (Feel the Spirit Move You). Chrissy saves my favorite for last with Lift Me Up, a perfectly tuned piano house track with a beautiful hardcore breakdown. The entire album is infectious from start to finish.

Anz – All Hours

Every now and then a release comes along that guesstures towards all corners of dance music and knocks them all out of the park. Anz’s newest EP is exactly that, a collection of tracks tracking “All Hours” of a party. The opening slowly moves into You Could Be, a sweet crossover pop song with stuttering drum beats and bright synths. The EP starts moving toward later dance genres, touching on garage with Real Enough to Feel Good and Detroit electro slammer with Inna Circle. Anz’s completely rips into big room material with Last Before Lights, a hardcore roller with trancey synths, big dub hoovers, breakbeats and blaring sirens. Whatever genre she tries to tackle, Anz absolutely nails.

Eris Dream – Quivering in Time

My favorite DJ put out an amazing dance album. I was excited when it was announced, her recent productions were all great (especially See You In Snow) and I was hoping it would skew toward the sounds found in her dj sets (yet another chance for me to post my favorite mix of all time). Quivering in Time doesn’t disappoint, a selection of the type of house and NRG rollers that her and her partner Octa Octa specialize in. The tracks are all her own though, using bright synths to match the 4/4 or breakbeat with psychedelic tones. The whole album puts a smile on your face, starting with the opening roller Time to Move Close. The LP is stacked with energetic floor tracks, like the rolling journey of Pick ‘Em Up or the garage inspired stomper Show You Love. There’s plenty of tender moments too, like A Howling Winds slow rolling beats matched with a nature sample or Baby’s stuttering Dub bass topped with a pleading vocal sample. The album clearly succeeds in communicating Eris’ high NRG dj sets and the dance floor energy of what she calls the “Motherbeat,” the divine healing that connects dancers, musicians and the music. It’s a rewarding and exciting listen front to back.

Kaptcha – xenolith v1.0

Dance music has wholly reabsorbed nineties rave sounds, incorporating trance, breakbeats, acid and generally faster tempos. I’ve found a lot to love about the revival but it’s also resulted in a somewhat stale template of big hooks, catchy synths and buzzsaw-like breakdowns. There’s so much more to incorporate and the compilation put out by kaptcha perfectly evokes that old rave sound. The Lisbon queer collective compiles 12 tracks ranging from hard house, trance, gabbed and prog. There’s bittersweet anthems like Europa’s Club of Cute and Angry and St4cey4101’s Crush that are extremely catchy and gratifying. There are intense dance workouts like Kerox’s AMBIENT FUCK, Alada’s Terremoto and Bassbin 23’s (an Eris Drew pseudonym) I Found You (Hardhouse Mix). The back half leans more ambient, evoking prog like Sean Brooder’s Pulse or softer breakbeat on SASHA THEFT’s East Of. By the time Octa Octa’s trancey Forever Gaze, Forever Here closes things out you’ll feel fulfilled and emotional.

Ayesha – Potential Energy

Good lord is this a fun EP. A collection of 4 dance floor workouts from an artist that only has 2 releases on bandcamp (!!) and they are all extremely impressive. I would charitably describe the tracks all have “fuck off drumming,” complex rhythms that are nonetheless propulsive and energizing. All the tracks seem to organically grow in size and potential slowly morphing into more energetic and bigger movers. Take the EP closer Dark Matter, a track that slowly builds into a catastrophic banger with bubbling synths and that same drumming until a third act breakdown. My favorite though is Ecstatic Descent, which uses the same tactic but with brighter bubbling synths and chopped up vocals. When the breakdown releases a little over halfway and drums return even larger, it’s absolute euphoria.

Bored Lord – The Last Illusion

After spending the better part of 2021 diving headfirst into her catalogue, there’s no better pairing than her releasing on T4T LUV NRG (and being their first new artist to release). The Bay Area rave specialist has an incredible ear for matching vocal samples with hardcore, house and acid sounds (I’d suggest checking out Archival Transmission, which are 15 tracks she wrote for bandcamp day in 2020). The latest EP is similarly effective, pulling in house, NRG, garage and acid sounds that fit right alongside the label. Drums really rule the EP like the opener, Everyday 2gether, which throws stuttering breakbeats behind a Gwen Stefani vocal sample or GNC NRG with its squealing acid synths and a tuned up ethereal voice throughout. Women’s Wisdom is a big time roller, with a hoovered bass and 4/4 beat. My personal favorite, So In Luv, takes the UK influence with hoovers and breakbeats with a sweet RnB vocal sample (it tugs at the heart strings in just the right way). Whatever genre permutation she’s tackling, Bored Lord always delivers satisfying and fun rave wonders.

AceMoma- A Future

It is absolutely incredible how much music Acemo and Moma Ready release. Whether it’s separate or as AceMoma, every release is a must buy. They added even more to their respective catalogs, but my favorite release from them has to be their second LP. Unlike A New Dawn, this album isn’t front to back party music but still has plenty of high energy tracks. The release is aptly titled, as the opener The Next Level begins with spacey synths and drum hits before being paired with menacing acid chords. There’s plenty of acid and electro to be found on A Future alongside their usual breakbeats like on highlight Legend of the African Samurai II. There’s a lot of melody to be found even on the big workouts like 1 Million Breaks and Titan. They also work in more ambient sounds, with beautiful tones across Finding Polaris and Time Woven Space. The best parts are where they step outside of their usual palette, like on the propulsive synth on Mycelium Dance and the live drum and horn sampling of A Future. Their vision of modern dance music is truly unique and encompassing.

India Jordan – Watch Out!

India Jordan absolutely stepped on the gas pedal for this release. Watch Out! Moves away from the filter house found on last year’s For You EP with a focus on hardcore and breakbeats. If you’ve listened to their mixes, they usually strike a balance between house and UKG before spedding into rave and hardcore territory. This EP then stands on the rave side of the equation with Only Said Enough thundering out the door with record scratches, frenzied drumming and propulsive bass. The energy is infectious. Watch Out! Continues this sound adding siren breakdowns and piano melodies. After the percussion tool You Can’t Expect The Cars To Stop If You Haven’t Pressed The Button, they move into a sped up filter house tune with Feierabend. India Jordan finishes with And Groove, a sweet UKG mover. After a huge rise in the past couple years, this release feels like a special victory lap.

Skee Mask – Pool

I mentioned AceMoma’s combined and separate output and Skee Mask is standing on equal footing with the two. He followed up one of my favorite albums of all time, Compro, with a LP that expands on that sound and incorporates some of the more dance floor focused permutations usually saved for his EPs. IDM is probably the easiest definition for the sounds on Pool, but with a more varied sound palette. The similar ambient tracks have more lightness to them than on Compro, like the airy synth on CZ3000 Dub and Harrison Ford or bubbling synths and euphoric strings on Stone Cold 369. There’s plenty of breakbeat like on the euphoric, and my personal favorite, DJ Camo Bro and big beat influenced Collapse Casual. And while Breathing Method is the heaviest track to be on one of his LPs, Skee Mask also includes more acoustic samples on a few of the ambient tracks. Guitars on Rio Dub and field recordings on Absence mark new sounds on what have usually been colder and steelier productions. Pool is a gorgeous and unexpected journey from front to back.

Special Request DJ Kicks

Speaking of another producer with an incredible and frequent output, we got the year’s best mix CD that traces his influences from Sun Ra experimentations, Galaxian electro freakouts and some of his recent Jungle tracks. Special Request (or Paul Woolford) is known for his amazing productions but he’s put out amazing mixes including a favorite of mine FABRICLIVE 91. The majority of his DJ Kicks CD is much slower tempo and it’s dedicated to more lush synth and house sounds. The opening moments of waves crashing and radio transmission give way to the disco euphoria of Right Here Right Now (John Morales M+M Remix). He plays with the more melodic part of his sound and influences as house segways into electro. This isn’t banging Detroit electro, but more spaced out and euphoric like on Intergalactic Quartet’s Delta Waves and Acemo’s sparkling Sequence of Life. His own productions mirror this too, like on single Vellichor or what I can only assume is a new pseudonym Ultraviolet by LS1 Housing Authority. Special Request hits even further euphoric highs with his own remixes of classic Hayling by FC Kahuna and u-Ziq’s Twangle Frent. From there it’s high energy time, as the ending moments are filled with jungle which includes all timers Elysian Fields and Time Reaper’s VIP of Pull Up. It’s a fantastic listen and one I revisited frequently throughout the year.

2020 EOY Music

2020 Music: Lots & Lots of Dance Music

The music industry absolutely fucking cratered this year. The coronavirus pandemic showed exactly what everyone knew for years; that it was all built with an incredibly shaky foundation. Obviously the whole capitalist system we live in caved in entirely foreseeable ways. Who knew that by relying on businesses to perform exactly as they are regardless of the situation was a mistake. A government that refuses to support individuals rather than businesses is entirely culpable.

Artists who have to rely on live events suddenly had their entire income disappear meaning they had to rely on song and album sales plus the paltry cents earned from streaming service providers. Virtual events have tried to step in, but those didn’t earn the same traffic, paychecks or occur at the same veracity that a touring schedule did. Bandcamp did its best and started giving artists 100% of the revenue from their album sales on the first Fridays of April, then May and then June. Even they eventually had to cave and extend that through the end of the year (the last one for the foreseeable future just occurred on December 4th). But in the age of steaming, record sales are an imperfect solution as the vast majority of listeners don’t purchase albums. Large streaming corporations on the other hand doubled down on their position that they owe artists nothing. 

Artists still put in fucking work. The releases this year were absolutely incredible. I’ve stockpiled such a large amount of new and returning favorites that it’s been honestly hard to listen back through everything. And somewhat ironically, dance music has been top notch. The majority of my listening has all been dance tracks keeping me energized while I’ve been holed up in my apartment. So here are some of my favorite artists and releases from the year that are well worth your money and attention. And if you can, please support on Bandcamp; it may not change the world or the industry but it at least puts money in the artists pocket.

Haus of Altr & MoMa Ready

To say that MoMa Ready’s label occupied the most space in my brain and music library this year is an understatement. Both his music and wider releases were the tracks I reached for the most. The three compilations are fantastic front to back and occupy a similar genre space that his music does; finding the connecting through line from house to jungle, dnb, techno, and R&B. Smooth house would transition to rough and tumble techno and even hands in the air trance approximations. The compilations also introduced me to a ton of new favorites like DJ Swisha, Kush Jones, and Amal amongst heavy hitters like Bearcat and Akua. He put the icing on the cake with his last release of the year, Haus Psychology, and I haven’t stopped playing Saving Grace since.


There’s a lot of music on my list that I can’t believe came out this year because it felt like I’ve been listening to it forever. This applies to Hooversound, my new favorite label that puts out genres of music I never really listened to before them. The new label by Naina and Sherelle specializes in fast weapons, starting with the BS6 EP from Sinistarr & Hyroglifics. The EP is 5 tracks of footwork that doesn’t dip below 155 bpm. It’s energetic and catchy and absolutely effective at getting you to move. Releases like BS6 broadened my tastes to include faster tracks and when I felt weird being cooped up it was so cathartic to put these on and get lost in dance floor reveries. Hooversound put out 5 amazing EPs this year and much like Haus of Altr, they snuck out a banger one before the end of the year. “You” by Private Caller has quickly become my new pump up jungle track.

Tim Reaper

Speaking of jungle, it’s artists like Tim Reaper that have again gotten me further into a genre that I hadn’t listened to before. MoMa Ready and AceMo had primed for it and Tim Reaper’s take on the genre slotted right in. He’s able to find that similar intersection across genres like in Sequences 2 where a thumping bass line and jittery hi hats coalesce with flanger and lovely house vocals. It recalls some of my favorite house music moments, the euphoric feeling that comes from soulful vocals and upbeat music, only at double the speed. He can still create dark and deadly jungle tracks too. His Truants mix this year was one of my favorites and is definitely worth a listen (you can also support Truants on Patreon).

TRUANTS · Truancy Volume 269: Tim Reaper


Unequivocally the biggest pump up techno EP of the year. It is 100% peak-time and absolutely slamming front to back. The music meshes pummeling bass with sporadic drums that make you want to jump along. Jump-up would be an accurate definition for the music, especially on the False Witness co-produced track Overheat. If it were any other year, the track’s whistles and chopped vocals would cause dance floor upheaval.

India Jordan

India Jordan’s tremendous 2019 continued over into 2020 with their For You EP. It’s title track and I’m Waiting (Just 4 U) are catchy filter house tracks that capture the best parts of the genre. Soulful vocals and a 4/4 bassline mesh together to make two emotive and hands-in-the-air songs. The rest of the EP is dedicated to similar throwback genres; Rave City, Westbourne Ave, and Dear Nan King recall some of the best emotive prog and trance from the early 2000s. The whole 6-track EP is brimming with emotion; these are all songs that’ll make you move and cry in the same instant.


LSDXOXO · Waiting 2 Exhale (Full Mixtape)

LSDXOXO is my gateway into wider pop and club music. For as varied as my dance music consumption can be, other music genres I’m much more picky about (especially pop). LSDXOXO mixes pop songs with techno and ballroom, making bouncy and hyperactive dance tracks. His mixtape Waiting 2 Exhale glides across genres starting off with a bang before slowing down into R&B ballads. Also bonus points for releasing a pack of edits that includes a club edit for Die Another Day.

Vladimir Dubyshkin

This one actually came from a Twitter post by LSDXOXO. Vladimir Dubyshkin released a couple of EPs on Nina Kraviz’s label Trip, so I was expecting more minimally focused big room techno. Instead his music is the bounciest techno you’ll ever hear. It’s joyful techno, most tracks based around a springy bassline looped to perfection. Caught me completely off guard and I couldn’t stop listening.

Eris Drew & Octa Octa

These two have never gone wrong. Every single EP, album or mix is always top notch fun house music in all its shapes and permutations. They’ve reached a legend status in my mind and I’m always incredibly excited when either of them release something new. Which makes their new collaborative Fabric mix something to celebrate. It meets the seal of approval, 69 minutes of positive energy filled with house, garage, NRG and everything in between. I almost forgot too that Eris Drew released her Fluids of Emotion EP this year. They are three slices of emotive house music, especially So Much Love to Give.

Avalon Emerson

The queen of snaking rhythms is back. A new DJ mix from Avalon Emerson is always a cause for celebration and her DJ Kicks includes some great new originals as well. New tracks like Poodle Power and Rotting Hills are the kinds of music she’s known for, drum heavy slow builds with emotive synths, but her cover of Long Forgotten Fairytale by The Magnetic Fields is tremendous electro-pop. That’s not to mention a fun and varied mix with plenty of peak-time moments nestled next to pop breakdowns.

Amnesia Scanner

Obviously I would have loved the last year to not be in the midst of a global pandemic and be able to go to all sorts of concerts, but it’s an especially big shame that Amnesia Scanner wasn’t able to tour out in support of their new album. That’s not selling Tearless short; it’s another great ride through their grimy version of EDM (or Avant-EDM as it’s been dubbed). Just like Another Life, it’s full of trap-like beats with shredding, distorted guitars, high pitched vocals, and grinding samples. It’s sensory overload in the best possible way, which is their bread and butter. What I wouldn’t give to see them perform on a huge system again.

Kelly Lee Owens

Kelly Lee Owens music fits nicely into two categories; orchestral, vocal pop music and banging techno tracks. On her self-titled first album, she split the difference right down the middle with the front half being the former and the more club tracks in the back half. Her new album Inner Song does an even better job of walking that tightrope, nicely segueing back and forth between the two different styles. Her tracks do an even better job of that as well; Re-Wild mixes in trap beats and rising synths behind her vocals and calls to mind some of Purity Ring’s best songs. Opening track Arpeggi walks a balance between the two styles even without her vocals with steadily increasing synths and sparse drumming. My favorite track Night, starts with airy vocals and a driving drum beat before they disappear for a thumping acid bassline. It recalls some of the ideas that Daniel Avery was pulling from for his seminal Drone Logic, which Kelly Lee Owens collaborated on. Just a great album front to back.


Support Black Creators in Dance Music

The world is pretty fucking wild right now huh? The protests happening across the nation are a confirmation of what we’ve already known: that Black people’s lives are valued less and constantly under threat. The protests are a great example of people once again saying enough is enough and it’s way past time to start making the long systemic change needed. As my partner has astutely pointed out, this time this murder and protests feel different. People are more actively engaged in supporting the protests than I’ve seen in my lifetime. Do the work and make sure this marks a starting point for systemic change. Myself included.

I do not mean that firing and charging police officers should be seen as the final end goal. These actions rather should serve as the foundation for making the wider systemic change of actually valuing black people’s lives. Support the protests and support the movement now and donate to any of these on the ground organizations, but make sure you’re ready for the next step. I am not saying I’m an expert and know exactly what that is; I am a white, cishet man so for me that means education and support. I’ve been lax in this department in the past, I’m looking to make up for that by starting with these book recommendations.

That also starts with supporting black creators. Art is important not because it enacts political change, but that it could enact change. It can be both frivolous and important. Art is both a cultural artifact and entertainment. Art is also not a meritocracy; there is a long history of black creative erasure. Make no mistake, all music genres would not exist without Black artists (especially rock n roll). Therefore it’s important to support Black creatives not because you can get something from it but because it is by itself valuable. In other words, don’t expect every piece of art to radicalize you like the book recommendations above. Not every piece has to be educational, informative, or even political; it is not their burden to always impart some sort of message. Support their work because you enjoy the medium and you want to show that their work matters just as much as white creators.

As an ally it is essential to elevate the voices and art of the Black community. Dance music is the one place where I can actually make some good recommendations. Electronic music can often be seen as hegemonic, lots of it’s more famous producers being white. Dance music comes from Black culture and its extremely easy to obfuscate that fact. Here’s just a few recommendations of amazing Black artists that you can support. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Note this list is of modern producers, but never forget the absolute black legends that have left an indelible mark.

AceMo & Moma Ready, AceMoma

I cannot speak of these two highly enough. Both producers have an absolutely astonishing rate of output with a supremely high hit rate. They make amazing music both separately and together.  Their music ranges from jungle, dnb, to house and it’s all fire. I want to talk about both of them separately, but wanted to at least highlight their great collaborations:

Moma Ready got a lot of traction with “The NYC Dance Project,” a collection of impeccably produced house music, but it’s an outlier amongst the rest of their output. Their productions are much faster, primarily jungle, with a bit of a lighter touch. It recalls the warm feeling of early dnb productions; high bpm with its heart on its sleeve. This doesn’t mean they don’t put out absolute beatdowns or stir away from darker productions though.

AceMo’s tracks could be categorized similarly, but their recent releases take in cyberpunk themes and recall early rave music. They have a knack for extremely catchy melodies and my two personal favorite releases, Existential and Mind Jungle, really show those off. For my money, nothing can beat Mind Jungle which pairs fast breakbeats with a stunningly gorgeous synth line. It constantly reverberates throughout my head.

Jasmine Infiniti

Self-proclaimed “Queen of Hell” put out one hell of album this year, the appropriately titled “BXTCH SLAP.” It’s 13 tracks of tough productions, taking in everything from techno to trance and ambient. Don’t let that description deter you; these tracks have lots of life and take lots of unexpected twists and turns. As with other artists on the list, her live sets take in more influences chock full of house, footwork and other sounds. Also check out New World Dysorder, the trans music collective she’s a part of, for more great music (especially the Cali Rose mix).


Bending gender and club music, produces and mixes some of the most fun party music imaginable. His mixes veer wildly between genre and tempo, with a frenetic energy at their core. He blew up with the release of “Body Mods,” a collection of the best club edits of pop songs you’ll probably ever hear.


You like quick transitions and high BPM? Then Shyboi is the DJ for you. Her ultrafast sets are absolutely crushing in the best way possible. She takes a gloves off approach to djing with a wide appetite for genre. She specializes in dance floor catharsis and her style brings the energy. Shyboi and the rest of her peers on the Discwoman roster are what make underground dance music so special.

Juliana Huxtable

Another uncompromising, high-energy dj. Juliana Huxtable’s mixes pack hard dance music stylings with unpredictable transitions and cuts. The seamlessness only adds to the fascination; you’ll be left wondering how she wound through so many different styles without missing a beat. Pure dance floor euphoria through aggressive and hard tracks.

Russel E.L. Butler

The former Bay Area resident is revered for a reason. Their productions range from jacking house and acid eps or more experimental lps that take in jazz and downtempo influences. They’re not afraid to slow it on their mixes and bring in non dance music genres. They’re your producers favorite artist and for good reason.


Sixteen Oceans is Four Tet at His Best and Most Euphoric

I have a bad habit of writing off artists who aren’t immediately grabbing my attention. I go through a lot of honeymoon phases; I get easily distracted by the shiny new song or album. My brain tends to then draw comparisons to music that it deems to have “phased out.” I find myself not caring as much about checking in on new releases, keeping up on press, or following their tours. Other people’s excitement can really dim it too. If I’m not into it, why are they? This is an awful, awful way to follow music. Pretentious? Definitely. Elitist? 100%. Every now and then my brain needs a jolt awake. “Hey asshole, remember your obsession with them two years ago?”

My most recent example of this path is Four Tet. To be fair I never completely switched off from following him, but I found I didn’t hold the same level of excitement. His 2017 album “New Energy” marked that dropping off point for me, a great album for sure but one that didn’t really stick with me (minus the gorgeous “Two Thousand and Seventeen”). It would be incorrect to say that post 2017 marked a down turn in activity; I don’t think he’s ever really had down time since 2009. He’s put out various high profile remixes, sought after live songs, and inscrutable named side projects. It seemed to me like he segmented his releases into distinct styles; down-tempo for his originals, long trance-inflected songs as remixes, and the floor fillers for the pseudonyms. There’s nothing wrong with any of these segmented tracks, but that segmentation left me a bit cold especially as my taste has skewed toward faster electronic music at the moment. His new album “Sixteen Oceans” seemed to continue this trend. The lead single “Baby” has a deeper low end than many of the tracks on “New Energy,” but seemed to confirm my theory and didn’t provoke anticipation in me. It wasn’t until I listened to the album as a whole that I received a big slap upside my capital M “Music Critic” head and fell in love with Four Tet all over again.

Take the opening of “Insect Near Piha Beach.” The echo-ey drum kicks invoke the feeling of a club set, giving the song an electric current of energy. The live recording drops out and is replaced by big booming percussion. The track then proceeds to pull in live instrumentation; strings, harpsichord, a repeated vocal loop. The energy continues right up until the low-end completely drops half-way through the song, leading to an interlude of enchanted bliss. This is a classic Four Tet move, building energy only to completely drop it, but one that has never sounded so good. This song is emblematic of the entire album, one where all of Four Tet’s strengths as a producer and songwriter are highlighted. All of his signature touches seem to coalesce together resulting in an exciting and energetic album.

“Insect” is preceded by my other favorite track on the album, the epic “Love Salad.” Here Four Tet takes his penchant for classic trance infused music and pairs it with live piano and a driving kick drum. When the synth joins in around the 3-minute mark, it results in a hands in the air moment worthy of an Above and Beyond set (and I mean that as a compliment). “Something in the Sadness” takes similar cues but with a lighter touch. It’s a song to get lost in, with chimes layered on top of the light synth. If we’re continuing the comparisons to mainstream DJs, this would be the interlude on a Sasha and Digweed mix.

“Sixteen Oceans” really does a great job showcasing Four Tet’s appeal; his expansive music influences and his unconceited taste. There’s an accessibility to his and pop appeal to the songs “Teenage Birdsong” and “Romantics” that feature unique instrumentation from the harpsichord to a pan flute. “Baby” is of a similar vein but presents more direct crossover appeal with its ever present looped vocals. These tracks are all done with an air of sophistication though; none of them are overly saccharine or cheesy. There are dense productions to match songs that are so immediately pleasing. Add another part of the Four Tet special sauce; tracks with broad appeal that can engage your brain.

The last piece of this album is its connection to nature. Natural sounds are omnipresent and bird sounds factor heavily into each track. The interludes and back half of the album grounds you a sense of a place. You can envision a retreat within nature where Kieran has settled to record; the sounds of birds, rush of wind in the trees, sounds of a stick snapping. This adds to “Sixteen Oceans” sense of positivity. It’s hard not to feel at ease and connected when listening to the album. “4T Recordings” calls to mind that higher sense of connection. As the vocal slowly becomes more foregrounded in the track it’s hard not to compare it to a technique used in long meditations. There’s a similar sense in “Green,” as the track slowly builds to a steady energy.

It’s hard to overstate just how accomplished and cohesive this album feels. Every part of it feels exciting and energetic and of a similar piece. The tracks avoid repetition even though they are all made up of similar parts. It reminds me just how amazing Four Tet is and how silly I was to sleep on his work.