It’s a new year for new beginnings. 2013 saw dance music achieve greater commercial viability than ever before, but it was also plagued by uninspired boiler plate productions, contrived drops, and yawn-inducing outputs. Amidst all the static and “Animals” rip-offs, there were a handful of artists who quietly and tactfully honed their craft by ignoring the temptation of easy success and instead pushed the envelope for the genres they call home. While they may have laid strong foundations in 2013, it’s their inertia heading into the new year that earns these talents a spot as our Artists to Watch in 2014.
Few could have risen to the challenge of inaugurating Steve Angello’s X imprint quite as gracefully as Trent Cantrelle. On return to the label for second offering “Born,” however, it was evident that the North American talent was out to pick up the pace of his ungroomed dance tendencies. With a knack for intricate mixes, genre-blurring releases and a sound reassuringly strung away from the status quo, his versatile vision for house music is without doubt poised towards becoming a contagious global force.
When Size Records spawned its sister imprint in X as host to beat-driven talents and sounds approved by the Mescal Kid himself, Trent Cantrelle became the unlikely luminary that fans of traditional house had been waiting for. This chief of techno and deep house had been a dark horse sleeper in 2013 — but he closed out with “What I Need” as a declaration of 2014 that both foreshadows an iconic year in the waiting and the raising of his respective genre’s standards.
Trent Cantrelle ft. Stacy Barthe – Born (Original Mix)
Trent Cantrelle – What I Need (Original Mix)
As the standout remixer of Avicii’s “Silhouettes” single and one of the youngest overnight contenders to balance high-profile festival action with jaw-dropping releases, Syn Cole is essential listening for 2014. He made his original debut “April” for the Le7els back February, returning in November with “Miami 82” to prove the deserved permanence the young Estonian newcomer intends to maintain with camp At Night moving forward. If his recent remix for Avicii’s “Hey Brother” is anything to go by, this European contender looks set to dominate the big room sound with unaltered melodic stamina.
Under the wing of one of the most revered dance producers in recent history, the neophyte’s track record over the course of his brief tenure may be impressive — but he’s only scratched the surface. Ready to emerge and exceed any expectations set by a strong close to 2013, Syn Cole is ready to be the production circuit’s breakthrough star. His sound comes as a respectable ode to the evolving cross between progressive and electro house — an avenue that will require execution in 2014 and is his for the taking.
Syn Cole – Miami 82 (Avicii Edit)
Avicii – Hey Brother (Syn Cole Remix)
Amtrac has positively feasted off of the more recent industry fixation on deep house music. Rather than exploit it with quick-draw productions, his all-encompassing approach has made him an artist willing to show the infinite opportunities to extend its influence across the board. Accordingly, remixes for Kaskade, The Knocks and a more recent stint for Kitsune have established this Kentucky-based talent as a consistent house advocate of the highest caliber.
With support from Skrillex to A-Trak and Fool’s Gold, 26-year-old Caleb Cornett has made a strong case for a future presence on dance music’s most forward-thinking labels. After a steady year of top notch remixes and original releases, he is on track for a break out year in 2014. His unparalleled productions and groove-first, commercial-second style have led to some of the best dance-focused releases of 2013 – a funk-fueled armory of deep bass lines and tripped out synthwork. Although his original outputs may have been few and far between, Amtrac takes a leading-by-example approach to the general electronic malaise – setting a minimum acceptable standard of his work far higher than that of his peers.
Amtrac – Preacher (Original Mix)
Two Door Cinema Club – Handshake (Amtrac Remix)
For Parisian bass advocate DJ Snake, emerging from outside the North American spotlight has done little industrious discredit. Ornamented by Diplo’s Mad Decent stronghold and racking promising major label credentials throughout 2013, “Turn Down For What” alongside Lil Jon epitomized the journey taken by the hot European breakout throughout his year of reckoning. Given the impending remix for Zedd’s “Stay The Night” and the glimmer of global tour duties already massing for 2014, the year passed may have only been a warm-up for Snake and his winning trap agenda.
Takes on Duck Sauce’s “It’s You,” Major Lazer’s “Bubble Butt,” and even Kanye West’s “New Slaves” reflect an urban persona to dance production that is due to trend heavily through all venues. Popular genres from hip-hop outwards are adapting to public’s electronic inclination with the use of a trap-styled drum, and DJ Snake is reupholstering that concept for his own flavor of such that will gleam brightest in the coming year. His rendering of today’s sonic tendency will ascend Snake to heights where he’ll be in demand across-the-board in 2014 — from production for Top 40 hit-makers to dance music’s biggest stages.
DJ Snake & Lil’ Jon – Turn Down For What (Original Mix)
Duck Sauce – It’s You (DJ Snake Remix)
All the things we loved about LA-based indie dance purveyor Josh Legg back in our spotlight feature in August are being carried over into the New Year. Heavily inspired by his homeland and the live potential now open to the craft, his Embrace EP received a hero’s welcome from those in search of a dreamier take on electronic dance music. As the big room crowd continues to count its blessings, 2014 is sure to relish in the sun kissed hallmarks of Goldroom and their all-year round abundance.
Rock music practically disintegrated in 2013. It was rather most evident as interpolated into other genres, most notable far-drifting electronic music. Where Disclosure drew elements of rock and indie, and disguised it as today’s electronica, Goldroom is picking up the baton. Embrace (pun intended) for this producer’s music to steal as much spotlight as 2014 as to offer.
Goldroom – Embrace (Original Mix)
St. Lucia – All Eyes On You (Goldroom Remix)
Pegboard Nerds merely teased their brand of electronic music in 2013 with early experimentation on originals and remixes for the likes of Skrillex. Then, on the brink of making a major career stride, they dropped their own four-track extended play dubbed Guilty Pleasures. But when it came to finally pushing their way through the sphere of heavy-bass advocacy, the duo consisting of Alex Odden and Michael Parsberg caught their surge on duties for super-trio Krewella.
Working up renditions of the Get Wet stars’ two biggest singles, “Alive” and “Live For The Night,” Pegboard Nerds delivered their most promising studio work and in turn began carving their niche. Where Krewella has fans eager for louder, heavier, more animated electronic music, Pegboard Nerds are stepping up to help quench that thirst. Entering the new year off a holiday-season free download, “Coffins,” the dub-duo have sparked their catalyst and are off to the races with bass in 2014.
Pegboard Nerds – So What (Original Mix)
Krewella – Live For The Night (Pegboard Nerds Remix)