With our Best Releases of the year now out of the way, we move onto our Best Tracks. It’s been a strong year for electronic music, full of diversity and, to some extent, innovation, and this means that there’s certainly no shortage of contenders for this list. Music taste, it must be remembered, is a subjective matter: what resonates with you may not be the flavor of the month with friends, family—or, indeed, anyone else. Nonetheless, the line has been drawn and below is a list of some of our favorite tracks from the past 12 months—those records that we kept on coming back to, for one reason or another. These are the ones that just stuck

Overmono “iii’s Front” [Whities]

What a way to start this list. Those drums! Chaotic and, well…downright bizarre; indeed, it doesn’t really feel like a club track at all. Released on Whities as part of an extremely strong three-track package, and highlighted by inclusion in Avalon Emerson’s BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix, the track is tense to the very end—will there be a drop? No is the answer. Exceptional without ever conforming. Note: Special mention must go to “Quadraluv.”— XLR8R Staff 

Abacus “Basic Amounts” [Innermoods]

You could probably count his recent DJ gigs on the fingers of one hand and his last release was way back in 2011, so you’d be forgiven if you thought Toronto house master Austin Bascom had retired. But with its placid synths, come-hither vocal snippets, and simmering percussion, this immersive 13-minute gem, released on the ascendant Innermoods label, shows that the man can still deliver a deep groove to die for. — Bruce Tantum

Jinjé “Solace” [Kicks & Drums Records]

Vessels member Jinjé has had a stellar solo year in 2018 with a feature on nd_baumecker’s yet-to-be-released Panorama Bar 07 mix for Ostgut Ton and a string of singles on his Bandcamp page. “Solace” sits among the latter and is a perfect summation of his sound, featuring crisp drums, euphoric synths, and expertly chopped vocal samples, all working in unison for a slice of dancefloor bliss. — XLR8R Staff 

 Jayda G & Alexa Dash “Diva Bitch” [Freakout Cult]

A trio of seductive piano chords, a gently percolating bassline, a distant rat-a-tat snare, and Alexa Dash’s smoky half-spoken, half-sung vocals—those bare-bones elements add up to one of the most beguiling tracks of the year. And if there’s a club-music lyric as brilliantly affirmative as “I’m all kinds of beautiful/yes, I shine”…well, we’ve yet to hear it. — Bruce Tantum

Proc Fiskal “Dish Washing” [Hyderdub]

Joe Powers (a.k.a Proc Fiskal) shared a radical and inventive album debut on Hyperdub earlier this year. Across 16 tracks, the Edinburgh-based artist used clips of his friends talking, drunk folk, and general Scottish life to preserve and represent what his life experience is like right now, and the pick of the bunch was “Dish Washing,” a playful, absorbing cut that works, although we can’t really say why. — XLR8R Staff 

POST.23 “Whispers” [Stilla Ton]

Written by the mysterious Albert Ihanus as Post.23 and produced by Dan Vicente, artist name Acronym, via Stilla Ton. Though the Whispers EP as a whole might fall under some broader definitions of techno, each of its six tracks comes buried under barely perceptible layers of cold wave, dungeon synth, and even a faint mist of shoegaze. The title track is the standout of them all.— XLR8R Staff   

Download “Whispers” here, and read more about Acronym here

Max Richter “On The Nature of Daylight” [Deutsche Grammophon GmbH] [Reissue]

Chances are you’ll know this track already, given its prominence in Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” two highly acclaimed movies of recent years. The track itself first appeared on 2004’s The Blue Notebooks, released via Fat Cat’s 130701 sub-label, which saw reissue this year on its 15th anniversary with additional material. The track itself is one of enduring beauty; rich and contemplative. You’ll struggle to think of a more captivating listen this year. — XLR8R Staff 

Francis Harris “St. Catherine And The Calm” [Scissor & Thread]

Francis Harris returned with a new album this year, described as his most personal to date—and his first album without a clear, underlying concept.  It’s hard to pick just one track, but “St. Catherine And The Calm,” a cinematic exploration with grainy textures, field recordings, and a vibraphone provides 12-minutes of pure, unfiltered bliss. — XLR8R Staff 

Read more about Francis Harris here

Jon Hopkins “Luminous Beings” [Domino]

“Luminous Beings” is 11 minutes of sonic madness, and Hopkins at his very best. Fusing otherworldly ambience and a twisting analog bassline that swims among gorgeous melodies and techno drums, it’s the heartbreaking peak of a psychedelic journey, and also the moment when Hopkins fuses his disparate influences into a devastating whole. Could this really be anyone else but the UK producer? — XLR8R Staff 

Fumiya Tanaka “Telephone At The Window” [Perlon]

2018 saw Tanaka return to Perlon for his first solo outing since 2016’s You Find The Key, although he did appear on last year’s Superlongevity 6. “Telephone At The Window” is a brooding minimal track with growling bass and nondescript samples—a Zip favorite for a reason. Needs a good soundsystem. — XLR8R Staff 

DJ Healer “Great Escape” [All Possible Worlds]

Ask 10 people for their favorites from all the tracks released by the former Giegling man this year and you’ll get 10 different answers, but mine is “Great Escape.” Its quivering chords and android tannoy system suggest the arrival of a divine being from the future, both frightening and exciting. — XLR8R Staff 

Leon Vynehall “Envelopes (Chapter VI)” [Ninja Tune]

A laudable milestone perhaps, but Nothing Is Still is arguably not Vynehall’s finest work. But “Envelopes (Chapter VI)” most definitely is, with its atmospheric start, slow tempo hip-hop beat, pleasing synths, and luscious strings. It builds and builds, gripping you, enthralling you with its majesty, and never letting go. It’s a rich and soulful song, divine and even more impressive when performed live. Who says electronic music is dry of musicality? — XLR8R Staff 

Yves Tumor “Licking An Orchid” (ft. James K) [Warp Records]

Inventive, exciting, and non-conformist—Yves Tumor’s Safe In The Hands of Love album was all of these, and these qualities are captured perfectly in “Licking An Orchid,” made all the better with the vocals of New York’s James K. What genre is this? A standout track of a standout release. — XLR8R Staff 

Junes “April AM” [Dote]

Junes’ debut album was a high-class exercise in dreamy minimalism. Of the eight tracks, “April AM” stood out with its tight, stripped-back drum-machine rhythms and warped ear-worm hook; it’s a sun-drenched dancefloor cut of the highest order. — XLR8R Staff 

Calibre “Break That” [The Nothing Special]

Irish drum & bass legend Calibre has been around for over 20 years and is one of those rare artists who habitually releases quality tunes, mixing modern and classic sounds but keeping his own distinct style. “Break That” is a perfect example of this, with its undertones of garage, breakbeat, and dubstep, complete with a house groove. Released on Craig Richards’ The Nothing Special in December, there are still some copies left on so jump on it while you can. — XLR8R Staff 

Low “Fly” [Sub Pop]

A track that captures fragility, terror, and wonder all at once. Released as part of Double Negative, a full-length that encompasses all of the above. The track feels even better with the context of the tracks around it, but even as a standalone it’s a work of staggering beauty. — XLR8R Staff

Robyn “Honey” [Embassy One]

Robyn hit us with her most fist-clenching, vocal-cord-pulling album yet just when we needed it. At its heart, the album’s anthemic title track is as likely to produce cheers in a club as it is to start a singalong at Glastonbury. Also, I can never be one hundred percent, but when she sings “baby, I have what you want / come get your honey,” I’m 99.9% sure she’s speaking to me. —Sam Davies 


If there’s a better piece of vocal ambient music from this year—or this decade—please send the wav files to my email address post haste. Kelela’s voice has become one of the most powerful instruments available to the modern producer, proven yet again on remixes by Kaytranada, LSDXOXO, and Kareem Lofty. It’s the beatless effort from DJ/writer/photographer (and XLR8R contributor!) Dave Quam and the relatively unknown Nathaniel W. James that I’ve had on repeat though. — Sam Davies 

Gábor Lázár “Unfold” [Death of Rave]

2017 was officially electro’s year, but when it’s this good there’s no reason for it ever to go out of fashion again. Budapest’s Gábor Lázár left his typically metallic touch all over the 808 beats on Unfold, released through Death of Rave. Among many highlights, album closer “Overall” is a head-spinning loop of tinny timbres befitting of any dungeon dancefloor. — Sam Davies 

Two Right Wrongans “System Error” [Neotropiq] [Reissue]

UK House legends Silverlining and Nathan Coles make up Two Right Wrongans, and together they released “System Error” in 1997. This year, it became one of the tracks of the summer after Petre Inspirescu dropped it in his mesmerizing Sunwaves set; it was subsequently played by a slew of DJs in his orbit. Due to high demand, it’s recently been reissued by Spanish label Neotropiq. Timeless. — XLR8R Staff 

Krystal Klear “Neutron Dance” [Running Back]

Yes, it’s a shameless throwback to the synth-pop of our youth, specifically New Order at the band’s most buoyant. (Even more specifically: New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” period.) But despite its cheek—or more likely because of it—Dec Lennon’s amalgam of perky percussion, bubbling keys, and massively euphoric melodies is damn near irresistible. — Bruce Tantum

Bruno Pronsato “Sea Of Hands” [Perlon]

Another Perlon release, but very different to Tanaka’s above—a foray into downtempo rather than wonky club-ready minimal. The Girls Things EP is Pronsato’s first release since his album with L.A. Teen, A Face Wasted On The Theatre, and “Sea Of Hands,” a warm and evocative cut with soft vocals and an off-kilter beat, proves that minimal techno isn’t just for the dancefloor. — XLR8R Staff 

Setaoc Mass “True Lies” [SK_eleven]

It’s been said that techno is devoid of innovation, and that it’s overly saturated, and it does very well feel that way. There aren’t too many straight-up techno tracks on this particular list, but Setaoc Mass’ “True Lies” is one of this year’s most impressive and memorable tracks within these aesthetics. It’s a dark and hypnotic dancefloor techno bomb. Need we say more? — XLR8R Staff 

Blawan “The Narrowing” [Dynamic Reflection]

Does Blawan ever disappoint? Released as part of Dynamic Reflection’s 10-year celebrations and featured on one of five intertwined EPs aiming to commemorate the label’s roots, evolution, and establishment, and honor its residents and friends. Big room techno of the finest quality. Rarely does techno sound this deep, dark, and…well…good. — XLR8R Staff 

Skee Mask “Flyby VFR” [Ilian Tape]

A track of the year from arguably the album of the year. Bryan Müller’s second album as Skee Mask is full of excellence. “50 Euro to Break Boost” and “Soundboy Ext” are equally deserving of a place on this list, but with its subtle melodies and fluttering breakbeats, “Flyby VFR” is the best of a brilliant bunch. Who else can make breakbeat sound so euphoric yet so contemplative?— XLR8R Staff  

Rival Consoles “Dreamer’s Wake” [Erased Tapes]

Rival Consoles’ latest album deserved its place as one of the finest releases of the past 12 months and its centerpiece is “Dreamer’s Wake,” a brooding slice of melancholic electronica overloaded with sentiment. What exactly that sentiment is is up to the listener, but it’s downright beautiful nonetheless. — XLR8R Staff 

DJ Koze “Pick Up” [Pampa Records]

There had to be one from Koze’s album return, and it happens to be the simplest. “Pick Up,” a disco house number consisting of a looped disco break, swelling strings, and some electric guitar, is held together by a Gladys Knight sample from 1972’s “Neither One of Us.” It had been a staple Koze track for sometime before being removed for sample clearance and subsequence release, and it strikes the perfect balance between euphoria and melancholy. It may not be Koze’s most brilliant work but it’s probably his most accessible. — XLR8R Staff 

Read more about DJ Koze here

So Inagawa “Logo Queen” [Cabaret Recordings] [Reissue]

This timeless piece of deep house from So Inagawa was reissued late this year, after some time. It was the first-ever release on Cabaret Recordings, the Tokyo label co-owned by DJ Masda and So Inagawa. It’s a serious tune of the highest production quality.— XLR8R Staff  

Curses “Surrender” [Dischi Autunno]

“Surrender” opened Curses’ long-awaited debut album, Romantic Fiction, with an alluring swagger, conjuring images of the neon-lit New York underground of his youth. Over the last two years, Curses and the artists in his orbit—many of which belong to the Ombra International collective—have been bringing post-punk and wave-influenced sounds into a modern context and “Surrender” is a perfect summation of their sonic space, one that’s dark, gritty, and deeply introspective. — XLR8R Staff 

Roman Flügel “Good Beat #2” [XLR8Rplus]

Roman Flügel delivered sunshine in a groove with “Good Beat #2,” released on XLR8R+ earlier this year. As the man himself said, it’s perfect for the “very beginning or very end of a long night,” a track to soundtrack “sunbeams coming through the windows at Robert Johnson and…my favorite people on the dancefloor.” We couldn’t have said it better. — XLR8R Staff 

Noname “Self” [No/Name]

The opening track from an impressive album debut by Chicago rapper Noname, “Self” is a breezy hip-hop track that signals one of the most exciting talents in modern rap. Over a soulful beat, Noname delivers intelligent and humorous lyrics with a confident rubbery flow and one of the most memorable lines of the year (“my pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism”). Keep an eye on Noname. — XLR8R Staff 

Peggy Gou “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” [Ninja Tune]

Was there a bigger festival anthem than Peggy Gou’s Ninja Tune single “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)”? We think not. With a gurgling acid line running underneath razor-sharp beats, Peggy delivers a hook full of nonchalant confidence and style that had countless dancers around the world singing along to her Korean lyrics with unbridled hysteria. Take a bow, Peggy.— XLR8R Staff 

Thom Yorke “Suspirium” [XL Recordings]

This year, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke recorded his first-ever film score for Luca Guadagnino’s remake of 1970s horror film Suspiria. While the entire score is, arguably, one of the year’s best, it’s the desolate and utterly captivating “Suspirium” that takes our pick. Backed by a delicate piano, Yorke’s fragile voice, which sounds like it is fraying at the seams, lulls the listener into an eerie and frigid state while hinting at a deep horror ahead. “Suspirium” is one of Yorke’s strongest solo tracks in recent memory. — XLR8R Staff 

Sublee “Irealis” [Meander]

Sublee is a master at classy, shimmering melodies. Even if you stripped out the percussion and low-end frequencies on many of his tracks, they would still deliver their message in beautiful clarity. Take “Irealis,” released via DeWalta’s Meander imprint, for example; with its crystalline flourishes and astral synth work alone it would be one of the year’s memorable ambient works, but as a whole, with its driving groove and intricate percussion, it is undoubtedly one of the year’s best dancefloor tunes. — XLR8R Staff 

Chynna “Leo Season” [Self Release]

Like Noname, Chynna makes us think rap has a bright future. Produced by 48th Street, “Leo Season” first played on our speakers in Vester Koza’s recent XLR8R podcast and it has been on repeat ever since. It’s heavy, grimy, and full of rhythmic flow, a minimalistic low-key banger from a promising Philadelphia rapper.— XLR8R Staff 

DJ Healer “Planet Lonely” [All Possible Worlds]

It’s perhaps a bit rich having two DJ Healer tracks included in this list, but in truth, you could have several. How can you not include “Planet Lonely,” a deeply moving piece of downtempo house—is it sad or uplifting? We still don’t know. Electronic music doesn’t get much better. — XLR8R Staff