The Best House and Techno Tracks of 2021
2021 was yet another tumultuous year. A year that constantly highlighted the fragility of the everyday. As lock-downs eased, a late-stage festival season emerged like nothing we've seen before. And as new variants surged, our plans with family and friends were once again thrown into the blender. We learned to understand that the only constant is change.
We experienced euphoric dance floor reunions and the hope of a reunited house and techno community. The clubs, festivals, and playlists exploded new talent, the dancefloor bustled with new fans, and veterans observed a rediscovered spirit that reflects the storied days of the 90s.
And as artists shared their quarantine anthems, we learned that dance music could be many things. It's always fun, always danceable, but it can also be deeply personal, emotionally transcendent, and a revelation and reflection of our deepest desires.
It was an unprecedented year of growth for house and techno worldwide. And the Gray Area team took the time to dig through the crates and pull out the songs that exemplified the year best. So here are our best house and techno tracks of 2021.
WEISS, Sharlene Hector - Lift Me Up
Now that house music has wriggled its way into the mainstream, we’ve seen a surplus of house bangers filling up the charts. An old-school house-styled cut like "Lift Me Up" stands out among the rest not only for its nostalgic sounds and production but because Sharlene’s fervent vocals captivate and inspire. Her resounding, soulful vocals combined with Weiss’ masterful house production form one of this year’s most compelling piano house tracks—one that could easily be heard in a set by Marshall Jefferson or Paul Johnson back in the day. -Melissa Yuriar
KREAM, Dan Caplen - Roads (feat. Dan Caplen)[VIP Remix]
Norwegian electronic dance music duo KREAM has a penchant for producing deep house cuts with emphatically heartfelt lyrics. "Roads," released earlier this year, is a saccharine dance track driven by poignant vocals from classically trained musician Dan Caplen. He cites Bill Withers and John Legend as vocal inspirations. Though Caplen’s heart-rending vocals remain at the forefront of the reworked deep-house tune, they appear to have a more pronounced sultry finish. The VIP remix is a bouncy, enthralling remix of the original that feels timeless. -Melissa Yuriar
Gorgon City, DRAMA - You've Done Enough
Gorgon City’s distinct bass-driven house music is immediately recognizable, having amassed over 1.5 billion streams to date on all their records combined. Their latest album Olympia, released in June, features incredible collaborations with Sofi Tukker, Hayley May, and Jem Cooke. The self-deprecating love ballad “You’ve Done Enough,” features vocals from Rosa of the Chicago-based duo DRAMA. Powered by an infectious, oscillating bassline and sweetly sung lyrics that form a compelling story many resonate with.
“It’s been said that if you become the best version of yourself that it’s easier to find someone to love you for who you truly are, as opposed to someone who loves you for who they think you are or will become,” said Rosa about the song’s meaning to Genius. “Know that you deserve nice things, like people loving you.” -Melisa Yuriar
Shaolin Cowboy, manon - Réveiller (feat. manon)
Rising London producer Shaolin Cowboy is one to watch. Last year he released several singles on Bandcamp and his acclaimed debut EP, Catch Feels Get High. While his production features plenty of lofi-grooves, textures, and breaks, he’s demonstrated his fearlessness in experimenting with various tempos and elements from multiple genres. His latest EP, 21 Hours, amalgamates several elements plucked from sound system genres–UK garage, breakbeat, acid, and house–and contains the stunning breakout single, "Réveiller." The tune is an upbeat lofi-house club track that features alluring vocals by upcoming French songstress, manon. Shaolin Cowboy’s production on the tune is one of the most interesting we’ve heard this year. Don’t sleep on this unbelievably underrated house tune. -Melisa Yuriar
Sofia Kourtesis - Nicolas
Peruvian tastemaker-producer Sofia Kourtesis' brand of house music is distinct. Much of it centers around distorted or looped vocals and splintered film samples that she expertly weaves into emotive and buoyant beats. "Nicolas," off her latest EP, Fresia Magdalena delivers house-realness with its driving bassline, lofi textures, and shimmery fills—the enchanting song is a potent cut with infectious energy. Sofia’s adeptness in sound design and mixing is nothing short of sensational. - Melisa Yuriar
Dom Dolla, Mansionair - Strangers
Australian house producer Dom Dolla collaborated with electronic-indie artists Mansionair on one of the most stirring house tracks of the year. Mansionair’s Jack Froggatt lent his impassioned vocals while Dom showed off his production prowess with driving basslines and atmospheric melodies that ebb and flow throughout.
The song’s narrative deals with themes of longing and impulsivity with sweeping strings and a heart-rending delivery from Froggatt. Catch this and many more house hitters from Dom this year as he tours across the United States and the United Kingdom, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia next year. Mansionair recently announced the forthcoming release of their sophomore album; they'll be touring the US early next year. -Melisa Yuriar
TSHA - Power
Awarded BBC Radio 1’s “Future Artist” title, UK-producer TSHA is having an incredible year. Her latest EP OnlyL, which contains the stand-out single “Power,” received broad support from Annie Mac, Zane Lowe, Bonobo, and publications like Fader, Resident Advisor, Mixmag, XLR8R, This Song is Sick, and Dancing Astronaut.
"Power," released on Ninja Tune, is one of her best releases this year. The song features oscillating instrumentals, uplifting vocal samples, and a delicate piano loop that exudes warm, jubilant energy. Her hip-shaking club bangers and production style are inimitable. We can't wait to hear what this rising talent has in store for us next year. -Melisa Yuriar
J Worra feat. Little Boots - Wasteland
This tune is a straight banger with signature bass heavy-hitting beats by J. Worra. The vocals by Little Boots add the right element to the track to make this tune straight up sassy and sexy. -Alicia Baron
This full-throttle-house track has no shortage of texture and soundscapes that keep you energized. With a fun nod to 90's Eurodance in the hook. The pumping bass mixed with euphoric glimmering synth packs so much multidimensional punch. -Alicia Baron
Nala- Psychic Attack
This track has taken dancefloors by storm. An ecstatic blend of indie electro and house, wonky beats, and a fat groovy bassline. Nala's voice adds an element of ethereal with her signature lyrics as she dives into the topic of mass media manipulation of the mind. -Alicia Baron
Disclosure- Observer Effect
Disclosure mixes their signature house shuffle adds heavier synths than we're used to from the boys. It's gritty analog sounds are fundamentaly face-melting. -Alicia Baron
Joshwa, Lee Foss - My Humps
"My Humps" combines a blissfully nostalgic throwback with the thumping speaker-freaker sound. It easily viral even before its release combining rampant energy and a new take on Fergie's 2005 smash hit of the same name. -Alicia Baron
Maceo Plex, Liberty City - You Know What I Got
Maceo Plex's swirling melodies and Liberty City’s infectious vocal are a match made in heaven. This track is a fresh take on the 1995 classic featuring soaring leads, fluctuating synths, and warped vocals, which is nothing short of epic. -Alicia Baron
Kevin Knapp - Dancing with the Devil
This track kicks off in Kevin Knapp's usual fashion - with big fat beats, heavy drums, and powerful synths. This track has a hard edge with echoing vocal samples to deliver a fast-paced drive throughout. -Alicia Baron
Sacha Robotti - Fuck the Pain Away
A remake of Peaches’ iconic track Robotti delivers punching bass throughout. The infectious percussion arrangement offers a fierce dance floor groove under the infamous vocals redone by BabyGirl. This is a true Robotti classic. -Alicia Baron
Jayda G - All I Need
GRAMMY-nominated Jayda G has beautifully emerged from the underground onto the stages of Boiler Room, Dekmantel Festival, and Aluna’s upcoming all-Black Noir Fever New Orleans. Her track “All I Need” premiered on the coveted DJ-Kicks series and garnered rave reviews by the likes of Rolling Stone, NYLON, as well as being placed on Pitchfork’s electronic and regular top songs of 2021. Jayda G brings back vintage house feels in this ultra groovy tune, even including clips of an old rave in the accompanying music video. -Arielle Lana LeJarde
TOKiMONSTA - Say Yes (feat. VanJess)
Los Angeles producer, DJ, and record label owner TOKiMONSTA first received a GRAMMY nod in 2019 after her personal Lune Rouge album. "Say Yes” is a rework of Floetry’s 2002 track by the same name. R&B duo VanJess and TOKiMONSTA reimagined it into a sexy, soulful house tune that you can’t help but groove to. When venues started opening up again, it was rare to find a house set this wasn’t rinsed in. -Arielle Lana LeJarde
Gemi - Talk
Gemi is one of London’s hidden gems who describe their music as “nukg shithousery.” And precisely as advertised, “Talk” is a UK garage track that showcases playful percussion, dreamy vocals, and shimmering synths that make you feel like you’re floating. -Arielle Lana LeJarde
Rome In Silver - Fill Up My Soul
Multi-faced Rome In Silver never sticks to one genre, and that’s why he can be found on esteemed labels ranging from Monstercat to bitbird to Quality Goods Records, as well as supporting a wide range of names from CloZee to Dabin. In a turn of events, Zeds Dead's label Deadbeats released Rome In Silver’s latest track of the year, “Fill Up My Soul.” The song is a funky disco tune that seamlessly blends in bass elements and stays true to the label's sound. The soulful adlibs and vocal chops throughout the track truly take you back in time. -Arielle Lana LeJarde
Make Me Feel - John Summit
John Summit announced himself on a global scale with 2020’s song of the year, "Deep End." Although many artists would be satisfied with that accomplishment, John did not take a day off. "Make Me Feel" is just one of many hit songs John Summit dropped in 2021 to continue his ascension. The track majors in John Summit’s signature low-end bassline, with a satisfying female vocal loop to keep feet moving on the dancefloor. It maintains hype without sounding too radio-friendly, a lane that John seems to manage regularly. -Jonah Flint
Do It - Sohmi
A classically trained pianist, and vocalist, Sohmi refuses to be defined. One of the breakout stars of 2021, the Korean-American has turned heads with her unique blend of dark minimal house, techno, left field, breaks, and funk. "Do It" encapsulates her work, a stunning release on Yotto’s label Odd One Out. Utilizing her sultry vocals, the track takes listeners on a journey through her unique take on techno with a monster synth line and punchy bass. -Jonah Flint
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Alter Ego - Duke Dumont
Duke Dumont is no stranger to big hits. He has been a headliner for years now, although the last few have regularly seen him raise the bar. Returning to his club sound, "Alter Ego" is infectious. Calling upon the budding star Channel Tres for his iconic vocals, the track is a club-ready banger that can put a groove in your step walking down the street or at 4 am in a dark room during a night out on the town. -Jonah Flint
Ahora Todo Va - Josh Butler & Dennis Cruz
When two veterans get together, you can expect brilliant results. "Ahora Todo Va" is a track that Josh Butler was sitting on for months until he enlisted the assistance of Dennis Cruz. Together, the two crafted a Latin-influenced tech house track that is relentless. Spanish vocals, lively drum patterns, and a lengthy build-up give this track the energy to fit any size of the room. Coupled with a monster remix by Gorgon City, ‘Ahora Todo Va’ is one of the year’s best tracks. - Jonah Flint
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