Every time I go through the exercise of compiling this list I think about why only a handful of mixes make the cut and dozens of others don't even pass the download test (the download test is exactly as it sounds - congratulations, you've made it into my iTunes library!). This is my fourth year doing the best of mixes recommendation so I should be fairly adept at recognizing what kind of mixes I like. Yet, come December I'm always scratching my head, puzzling over what the 5th and final mix should be. It's obvious to me the best mixes aren't just the hottest month's tracks beatmatched - honestly that's no better than the radio because all wannabe DJs are playings those "popular EDM" songs. What do the kids call 'em? Festival tunes? Yeech.
To some extent all genres that get popular have this problem. Even trap music suffered this awful fate in 2012 (how many times can one tolerate "Underground Sound" being dropped?). And I know the crowd loves it, I'm not stupid. I also hate sounding like one of those scenester elitists, so it's not about belittling people's music tastes. I just want people to experience the magic of a truly good mix. A mix where you don't recognize a majority of the playlist, but you can still vibe out to it harder than listening to your favorite single on repeat. A mix that is both educational and entertaining, where the familiar parts aren't even from this decade but sampled and resampled through eras of electronic imagination.
I personally am most excited about a mix when I start to get DJ envy. DJ envy is a feeling where all your senses are heighten and an uncomfortable heaviness starts to sit at the base of your throat because you've heard a track another DJ is spinning that you want to steal for your own set. I also do the "side eye sweep," so my stealthy gaze will land on an unsuspecting targets and somehow prevent them from hearing (and stealing) the same greatest I am hearing (and stealing). Since I listen to way too much music, it's pretty hard to catch me off guard on something that I wish I had, but it occasionally happens and if it happens 3 or 4 times in your set, you can bet it's on this list.
Speaking of me, I definitely did less DJing overall this year (too busy training for a marathon and planning a web startup) so my timing/technique feels rusty, but because I never stop listening to music I can delude myself into thinking my track selection gets more refined and mature every year. However, I finally took time in July and August to learn how to mix on vinyl! If you're really curious what I've been up to, check out RnBass (secretly #6 on this list ☺) or my Mixcloud.
If you're new to the blog, you might want to check out the archive for a basic understanding of my affair with genre, but for the elevator speech let's just say I'm a multi-genre whore and get on with the recs! Ordered by release date.
5. Brenmar - Slow Grind, Deep Hustle - Vol 2 (March 2012) [44:03]
To be honest, I have little memory about how I discovered NYC's Brenmar, but his second installment of the "Slow Grind, Deep Hustle" mixtape series is some of the decades best R&B tracks blended back to back. I'll just rev your engines by dropping some names in the tracklist: Dru Hill, Craig David, Mariah Carey, 702, Jon B, Brandy... are you reminiscing on your childhood yet? At one point, I remember Brenmar saying these SGDH mixes kill him cause they take months to make! Not only is that some crazy dedication, but the mantra of a true music fan! I can dig that.
Madeon's 5 minute Annie Mac masterpiece may be more of a production piece than an actual mix, but that's what I love about this kid - he sticks to his guns. The teenage Frenchmen is pretty well known for his now viral Pop Culture mashup video which shows him performing with 90-some samples on a Novation Launchpad. This minimix, like his musical style, is indicative of youth - bright, optimistic, and fueled by the relentless energy to DANCE! I remember being that age and feeling those feelings above anything else. I cannot wait to hear what this guy will be doing in 5 years!
3. Zimmer - Tobogan (June 2012) [56:15]
In a nice contrast to Madeon's youth, Zimmer is another French-born producer/DJ whose musical compass is so effortless and mature I am a bit envious. Earlier this year I started my Friday Disco Party Pants series to emote about all things disco. Not too long ago I featured a set of disco mixes with my top pick being the ever addicting Zimmer Tapes! Here's what I had to say about it:
In my opinion, Zimmer has put out the most consistently good mixtape series of 2012. Once you get a taste of his classy horizontal disco, everything else tends to pale in comparison. His track selection is always way ahead of the scene, breaking the freshest daytime disco and tropical house. However, the unparalleled gift of Zimmer Tapes is actually their unique ability to take the listener to a place where they believe they are on a summer boat, slightly intoxicated, living life without a care in the world.
2. CJ Milli - #RIP "TRAP"...2012-2012 (August 2012) [16:22]
So of course CJ Milli is on this list! Girl can pretty much spin any genre of music and I will fall over myself with DJ envy! Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that 2012 was the year of the TRVP. Now I've heard a 101-excuses why trap mixes suck and everyone is playing the same shit, but I think the people who are saying that don't know the right places to look or listen. I'm sure that a year from now trap will go the way of moombahton, but until that day comes, shut your hole and let CJ Milli unload the genre's best offerings on you. Did I mention the best part about this mix? No Flosstradamus or ƱZ in sight.
More trap?!? This is where you're thinking I don't have any shame/dignity left, but my friend, I promise you I am just further along in the grieving process than you. Seriously though, I don't know how anyone can hate a Benzi mix! The guy clearly spends weeks prepping and planning these mixes! The tracklist is so chock full of edits from different genres and oldie rerubs that any electronic music fan could walk away with a slight appreciation for what was done. Shorty Swing My Way? Harder Better Faster Stronger? Sweet Nothing? Love You Down? PARTYMIXOFTHEYEAR!!!