“You must be thrilled!”
A friend had texted me about the news: Resident Advisor, the global dance-music website, ticket seller, and hub of opinionated ravers, had announced that it was going to discontinue its year-end polls. Not just the reader-voted DJ and live act of the year selections—traditionally more conservative than the critic-selected recordings/mixes lists, by lengths—but all of them. Including, I was initially disappointed to learn, RA’s online-mixes Top 10, the single year-end list I look most forward to. Oh well. (My friend texted because they quoted the title of my book in their explanation—and yes, I was.)
I love lists; they’re part of what drew me into music writing in the first place. Not because lists are easy and content-less, but the opposite. Lists tell stories. The current Billboard pop Top 10 is one kind of snapshot of modern America, next week’s or month’s or year’s another, even if the records sometimes remain the same. A publication or critic’s list does much the same. And that was why RA had decided to discontinue its lists—because they didn’t tell the story the publication was trying to tell now.
This was especially the case with the Top 100 DJs the readers selected, which had become a kind of shopping list for certain promoters. Not to mention that in music, the action has shifted, plainly so in dance music as well as pop, toward women, toward nonwhites, and away from the image of a white, male DJ or producer as its de facto “center.” RA’s editors’ decision to try and help decenter that axis came about for excellent reasons. It didn’t take long to stop being disappointed to miss their online-mixes Top 10.
Besides, other publications have their own lists, and when London’s FACT Magazine unveiled its 10 Best Mixes of 2017 (one of them, Midland’s FabricLive 94, is a CD, not a download or stream), I got the thrill I was after: as usual, I hadn’t heard a single one.
By itself that’s neither good nor bad. But each time I see another year-end DJ mixes list, the fewer things it has in common with the others, the better I feel. Because trying to keep up with DJ sets is exhausting. There are new ones all the time, the long-timers are getting into the high hundreds of volumes (the RA Podcast recently passed number 600), and tomorrow somebody with a stash of newly digitized old tapes will be uploading yet another version of the past for dance-music historians and lovers to reckon with. Part of the thrill of seeing other year-end mix-lists that differ greatly from mine is the comfort in knowing that the story is still up for grabs, and will likely remain so for a long time to come.
My own Top 10 follows, in chronological order. All but two I’ve written about in this space; the missing pair will be in next week’s edition. Happy listening, and thanks for reading.
Lone, Feel My Bicep Mixtape 69 (February 9, 2017)
Antenes, The Bunker Podcast 142 (February 22, 2017)
Mumdance B2B DJ Storm, Rinse FM Podcast (March 14, 2017)
Wolfgang Voigt, RA.570 (May 1, 2017)
JD Samson, Beats in Space Radio Show #889, Pt. 1 (June 6, 2017)
Death Is Not the End, UK Soundsystem Special (NTS Radio) (August 26, 2017)
Konx-om-Pax, Blade Runner 2049 x Boiler Room London (September 16, 2017)
Kerri Chandler, RA Live at Brilliant Corners, London (October 17, 2017)
Sammy Dee, XLR8R Podcast 515 (November 7, 2017)
Courtesy, Truancy Volume 195 (November 15, 2017)
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set—often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily—and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.