It's that time of year again when music writers get a chance to share their totally subjective year end lists.
As Yahoo's resident electronic music expert, for the second year in a row I have the honor of writing a bit about my top electronic music album picks with all of you. Electronic dance music (EDM to some) is a diverse field made up of many different genres and sub-genres — most fans would likely scoff at the idea of trying to compile a list like this, when any such attempt is like comparing apples and oranges.
Moreover, this is a list only of full albums (with one EP exception), and most folks making electronic music are more likely to have put out singles or remixes rather than albums (hence the absence of several very popular DJs like Hardwell, Laidback Luke, Martin Solveig, Nicky Romero, and many others).
As I always like to disclaim before doing lists like this, this is simply my personal Top 10 list — yours very well might look quite different. Admittedly, my picks happen to also be very mainstream. That's just the direction my taste happens to lean. But we want to hear from you. Do you agree or disagree with these picks? What were your favorite electronic albums of the year? Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
10. Kavinsky — "Outrun"
I first heard of French artist Kavinsky through his track "Nightcall" from the 2011 film "Drive." A couple of years later, he exploded onto the scene with his video game sound influenced debut album, which lived up to the promise of that first breakthrough single. If "Tron" ever makes another sequel, this is the guy to grab the torch from Daft Punk and produce the soundtrack.
9. Rudimental — "Home"
Although Rudimental first hit the scene in 2012, their debut album officially dropped in 2013. This Brit quartet is the sole drum and bass representative on my list. The album is a solid compilation of various sounds from start to finish, and features singers including Emili Sandé, Foxes, Angel Haze, John Newman, and Alex Clare. Expect big things from them in the near future.
8. RAC — "Don't Talk To" (EP)
Sure it's only a 4-song EP, but the gentlemen also known as Remix Artist Collective made quite an impact in 2013, mostly on the strength of their first original production, "Let Go" (feat. Kele and MNDR). According to their Facebook page, they recently finished mastering on a full-length album, which should be out in early 2014. Their remixes of Phoenix's "Trying to be Cool" and Two Door Cinema Club's "Next Year" (neither of which were on this EP) were two of the best remixes of the year.
7. Major Lazer - "Free The Universe"
Major Lazer certainly delivered the dance party album of the year. Diplo kept his dancehall outfit going strong with its second full-length studio album, featuring artists ranging from Flux Pavilion and Elephant Man to Santigold, Peaches, Shaggy, Wynter Gordon, and Ms. Dynamite. Breakthrough track "Bubble Butt" (feat. Bruno Mars, Tyga and Mystic) even received mainstream radio play. Perhaps the most "out there" track on the album was "Jessica," which featured Vampire Weekend front man Ezra Koenig. This album had "Coachella" after party written all over it.
[Related: The Top EDM Albums & Tracks Of 2012]
6. Armin van Buuren — "Intense"
It's ironic that Armin was dethroned (by Hardwell) from the No. 1 spot on DJ Mag's Top 100 (DJs in the world) list this year, as it’s the year that he produced one of his best albums to date. The trance master ventured into the world of more vocal EDM with lead single "Waiting For The Night," follow up "Forever Is Ours," and one of my favorite tracks of the year "This Is What it Feels Like." Armin continued to dominate EDM festivals around the world this year with the beautiful entry of new music.
5. Kaskade — "Atmosphere"
The man voted America's No. 1 DJ in 2013 didn't disappoint this year. Following a summer tour when he literally went back to the basics, playing sets full of his earliest material, Kaskade changed paths in the fall when he debuted his new album, which crossed multiple genres — going so far as to experiment even with classical music. On top of it all, he sang his own vocals for the first time ever on the album's title track. With track titles like "LAX to JFK," "MIA to LAS," and "SFO to ORD," it certainly seemed that Kaskade had travel on the mind. This wasn't a banger album with huge drops (he left that to his remixers), but rather, Kaskade delivered a more mellow experience, reminiscent of his first ever track, "It's You, It's Me" (which was featured prominently on his aforementioned tour).
4. Daft Punk — "Random Access Memories"
This is the one album that most casual admirers of electronic music heard the most about this past year. Daft Punk came back in a big way in 2013, providing a neo-disco sound that nobody saw coming, despite it being one of the most anticipated albums by the entire world of music. Working with producers including Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder (the latter of whom gives a spoken word account of the history of electronic music on the appropriately-named track "Giorgio by Moroder"), Daft Punk delivered an album that almost no one saw coming. The album was recorded in at least five different studios in three different cities and was many years in the making. Lead track "Get Lucky," of course, was one of the most ubiquitous tracks of the whole year. The masked robots have been confirmed already as Grammy performers on Jan. 26, 2014; and most music fans are anxiously waiting to see what they'll do in their first live performance since 2008.
3. Disclosure — "Settle"
There are few who don't think that Disclosure — who debuted on the scene seemingly out of nowhere this year — by far had the most innovative and game-changing electronic album of the year. And this coming from two British brothers from Surrey, ages 20 and 23. Tracks "Latch" and "White Noise" were everywhere in clubs and at festivals around the world in 2013. And U.S. promotion from Cherrytree records helped the duo break through big time on our shores.
2. Empire of the Sun — "Ice on the Dune"
The second full length album from Australian duo Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore was nothing short of a masterpiece. Lead single "Alive" was one of the songs of the summer, and follow up "DNA" was equally as strong. Once again, Empire of the Sun painted a strange fantasy narrative that wove together archeological discoveries, links between the past and the future, magical realism, human and alien interaction, and earth origin stories. Their live shows are truly a spectacle to behold of lights, costumes, and boundless energy. Maybe this is where Beyoncé got the idea from to do "a visual album."
1. Avicii — "True"
As I've written about multiple times this year, I believe that Avicii completely changed the direction of electronic music in 2013 by combining bluegrass and country music with traditional 4 on the floor house beats … and all of this from a 24-year-old Swede, who zigged while everyone else was zagging. Although his new sound was met with mixed reaction when he debuted it at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami last March, lead single "Wake Me Up" quickly became one of the most played songs of the year, at everywhere from EDM festivals to your grandma's birthday party. For his first full-length studio album, Avicii took the risk of alienating his core audience to work with artists like Incubus's Mike Einziger, 71-year-old country music singer Mac Davis, and (again) Nile Rodgers (see Daft Punk), to produce an album as diverse as his chosen collaborators. And yet the album always still felt uniquely signature Avicii. Standout vocals from Aloe Blacc, Adam Lambert, Blondfire, Audra Mae, Karen Marie Ørsted, Josh Krajcik, and Salem Al Fakir, made "True" feel exactly that — an honest reflection of the best that electronic music has to offer.
- Electronic dance music
- electronic music