From Skrillex’s demented bass wobbles to Swedish House Mafia’s euphoric synth riffs, 2012 was the year when dance music dominated the charts like no other, even if most of it was of the brainless variety served up by the likes of LMFAO, Flo Rida and of course, PSY. But there was plenty to admire away from the big commercial floor-fillers. Here’s a look at the lower end of this year’s Top 40 best singles.
Released on January 1st, London duo The 2 Bears produced the first great dance track of 2012 with a Game Boy-inspired retro house anthem combining the pair’s deadpan geezer tones with Goldielox’s soulful diva guest vocals. A typically playful affair from Joe Goddard, who would go on to fare even better with Hot Chip’s fifth studio album.
Originally released as the second single from his 2011 album, The Lateness Of The Hour, Amy Winehouse’s ex-boyfriend’s “Too Close” gained a new lease on life this year after appearing on a TV advert for Internet Explorer 9. A surprise Billboard Top 10 hit, the former chef served up a unique feast of angst-rock melodies, acoustic folk hooks and emphatic beats on a track which sounded like Ray LaMontagne had suddenly gone all dubstep.
The highlight from Harris’ disappointingly generic 18 Months, “Sweet Nothing” saw the Scottish heir to the Guetta throne successfully team up with Florence & The Machine’s flame-haired banshee for a second helping of squiggly electro which suggested the pair could do worse than collaborate on an entire album together.
After two albums of plodding electro-rock, former drum n’ bass trio Kosheen briefly promised a return-to-form with “Get A New One,” a turbo-charged cousin to Kelis’ “Acapella,” which saw Sian Evans’ haunting gutsy vocals accompanied by a hypnotic array of elasticated synths and stinging guitars.
Typical of troubled frontman Michael Angelakos’ ability to fuse the sweetest of sounds with the darkest of subject matter, the standout from Passion Pit’s under-rated Gossamer deals with his publicised mental health issues amidst a dreamy blend of post-R&B beats, falsetto harmonies and classic soul samples.
Spoiled for choice having released all nine tracks from their debut album kin as singles, “goods” is enigmatic duo iamamiwhoami’s most immediate release, a bewitching blend of Scandinavian pop and twinkling indie-disco which after all their online hype, proved there was substance to their style.
One of the rare occasions when Skrillex remembered to introduce something resembling a melody into his bombastic frat-step sound, The Doors collaboration “Breakin’ A Sweat” sounded like a disaster waiting to happen on paper. But in reality, it turned out to be an intriguing venture into prog and punk given a sense of spookiness thanks to Jim Morrison’s prescient beyond-the-grave tones.
The multi-million success of their 2004 debut seems a long time ago indeed, but the lead single from Scissor Sisters’ fourth studio effort proved that when it comes to flamboyant disco-pop, there are few who do it better. Calvin Harris’ role as producer may have sounded alarm bells but “Only The Horses” wasn’t a ham-fisted attempt at a floorfiller, merely a gleeful but tasteful journey back to their New York club roots.
Featuring the soothing but haunting soulful vocals of Sampha, a blissful glockenspiel hook and a subtle chill-wave beat, the final single from masked post-garage maestro SBTRKT’s self-titled debut showed why he’s being hailed as one of the British dance scene’s great big hopes.
Virtually single-handedly responsible for the EDM movement’s global success, David Guetta has inevitably become something of a hate figure for those tired of his four-to-the-floor formula. However, this melancholic but anthemic collaboration with Aussie singer-songwriter Sia proved that when he thinks outside the box, he’s nowhere near as objectionable.