Best Mixes of 2014

So much good music, so little time...

Are you new here? I'm Jules Juke. I love music. I DJ and make yearly Best Of lists. Capeesh?

One of the more humbling things I've observed from writing these is how insanely fast internet music moves. Let me qualify that last statement - I don't mean it to be revelatory information. Virtually everything on the internet is "old" after 24 hours, so commentary of that nature isn't exactly newsworthy. Rather, the experience of revisiting a mix I liked 5 or 6 months ago makes me acutely aware of how much an artists' fanbase has grown. I'll discover a relatively obscure producer in March only to come back in August and find their following has quadrupled in a matter of months and their unreleased tracks are now well-worn favorites! That said, popularity ≠ quality. If you want my respect, I want to feel like you're doing something different -- hustling to make music that you love, but also progressing the art. As George Townsend of Bondax fame once said, "Chris Malinchak coming in at number two on the charts—that doesn't make the track bad, that makes the charts really fucking good! This is the music we loved before it was popular, and now it's popular because it's good music."

A good mix isn't just one thing. That's both the challenge and beauty of DJing! There's no hard and fast rules, but this is what I generally look for in a 'best of' mix:

1) Tracklist
Finding the perfect balance between popular, throwback, and unknown is the most significant part, imo. How are you making it your own? Dropping exclusives? Personal re-edits/bootlegs? My favorite DJs are all nerdy crate diggers and these jaded ears don't want to hear what everyone else is charting. Contrary to the trainspotting hate-culture, revealing your playlist tends to increase my respect for you.

2) Energy!
It's not a requirement, but I sure as fuck hope it compels me to move my body in some semblance of dance. A good set will typically increase in energy over time, but if you are the type to mix a full-on, high-octane, 60-minute set without breathing room, I certainly won't discriminate. That said, a well executed tempo/genre shift drives me wild!

3) Transition
This element is more about musicality than technique. There are lots of ways to do this, but the one I will always be a sucker for is harmonic mixing. I'm not talking about the 98% of forgotten MIK transitions. I'm talking about the blends so perfect that the tracks will never be heard the same singularly again! J.Philip mentioned this in her Music Radar post on tips for better DJing. CJ Milli is a master at this, so I'll give you an example. Her 2011 Summer Jams mixtape features one of my all-time favorite blends (Quad City DJs vs C&C Music Factory). The last time I played 90s stuff, I respectfully borrowed this transition and tricked the dancefloor into believing I was this Godsend DJ.

Here's what I don't care about:

According to the internet, the feeling is the genre, anyway. ¯\_()_/¯

As usual, chronologically ordered:

5. 20syl - Stack Patterns (May 2014) [44:10]

I'm rather disappointed in my internet music sleuthing abilities for not stumbling across this guy sooner, but better late than never! So who is 20syl? If you followed the DMC competitions from 2003-2006 then you might be familiar with 20syl's impressive musical background as 1/4 of turntable virtuosos C2C or the MC of hip-hop/jazz band Hocus Pocus. Without a doubt, one of the most visionary cats in the French hip-hop scene, he is definitely making waves as a solo artist.

Stack Patterns is a quirky mixtape packed with unreleased joints that will wrestle for your attention and keep you guessing. It's a phenomenal representation of the upcoming crossbreed of hip-hop beatmakers exploring experimental electronic styles. As a bonus, scratch purists will definitely get their fix as this tape has no shortage of clever accents and flares to remind you just how talented a turntablist he is. Get listening. You'll thank me later.

4. Taydes - Wanderlust Tape (May 2014) [42:32]

Taydes is the founder of the French artist collective DiscoThrill. His Wanderlust Tape is one part tropical-disco, another part future beats, and a third part crazy-cool r&b re-rubs. I could talk your ear off about the strong transition game in this mix, but I'll keep it short and say that 10.40 and 12.26 has forever ruined Cosmo's Midnight's 'Say My Name' remix for me. Reference point #3 in the above criteria for explanation. If you like music in this style, I suggest checking out ALVY's equally devastating DiscoThrill anniversary set.

3. Russ Chimes - RC:1 (June 2014) [44:10]

Those of you who follow my FB shouldn't be surprised to find Russ Chimes on this list -- I only fangirl every other month he releases something new. Russ's sound has gotten darker and more progressive over time, but still remains distinctively his own. Throughout the years my ears have developed a sixth-sense around being able to detect his productions on a dime. His sound design, chord progressions, and stylized way of using vocal slices as melodic lines is unique to all his work. These bi-monthly mixes always inspire me to get back on the decks to chase the dream of making the "perfect mix" because they simultaneous get me dancing while igniting a passion for constant improvement. Perhaps I am over-hyping, but mark my words I am going to see this guy play live if it kills me. London, I'm coming at you for this!

2. Athletixx - All-Stars Mixtape (August 2014) [32:12]

Huzzzzzah. What do you get when you cross the following?

  • Persian Cat Queen/Hip Hop Aficionada
  • Nike (Hood)boi/Jersey Club Prince
  • LA-Club R&Bass Beatmaker
  • Aesthetic Punk/Sexual Trap (Prom)King

In one word, Athletixx, aka the hip-hop influenced DJ/Producer collective murdering the LA Club music scene. They are Kittens, Hoodboi, Falcons, and PromNite and they deal in the "futures" market -- upgrading yesterday's rap/r&b jams into underground club weapons ranging from jersey club to bmore to rnbass to footwork to chopped & screwed trap. If the opening track of this tape featuring a synced up basketball dribble, rumbling bassline, and barely-there arpeggiated pads doesn't drop your pants, we can agree to disagree on what makes good music. If you listen through the whole thing, I promise there will be a moment where you stop and think to yourself, "Holy crap, I've never heard anything quite like that before!" 2015 = Athletixx Takeover, bb.

1. CJ Milli - 100% NET Gallery Mix (November 2014) [41:52]

You don't have to go back very far to see that I write about CJ Milli in practically all of my 'Best Of' lists. There's no question I look up to the girl's DJ chops, but for a person to stay on top of the scene and make consistently fresh mixes in all genres, year over year, says something about dedication. CJ's mixes practically epitomize my criteria for a good mix - as a matter of fact, I probably came up with the criteria by reverse engineering what Christy does in her mixes! I mean, COME ON, who the hell else could pull off dropping Crazy Town's "Butterfly" in a mixtape that has a playlist as diverse as Uffie, Britney Spears, LFO, Taylor Swift, and Busta Rhymes and still make that shit sound cool??? As far as I'm concerned, she's perfected the art of blending mainstream throwback pop with underground club culture and weird PC/internet music. That description sounds downright insane, but it's basically crack cocaine for this music addict. 100% ADHD. Beeteedubs: CJ did another sik mix worth checking out called The Devil & God Are Raving Inside Me earlier this year that basically played on repeat during my May stint in Philly.

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Meet the Author

Hi, I am Julie.
Sometimes Jules Juke.
This is where I ramble, reflect, and refocus.