I'll be the first to admit that Year-End "Best Of" lists are completely subjective. That being said, following is one dance music fan's very subjective list of the best Electronic Dance Music albums & tracks of 2012 (followed by a list of my favorite mainstream remixes).
Top 10 EDM Albums of 2012
10) Steve Aoki – "Wonderland"
Aoki's been at it for a long time and is finally getting the worldwide notice he deserves. With stellar tracks including "Ladi Dadi" (Wynter Gordon) and "Livin' My Love" (feat. LMFAO & NERVO), Aoki kicks off my list this year. He's got a Best Electronic/Dance Album Grammy nom to back it up.
9) Skrillex – "Bangarang" (EP)
I'm the first to admit that no song makes me cover my ears more than "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," but I'd be remiss not to include Skrillex on this list, especially after he cleaned up at the 2012 Grammys. And yes, "Bangarang" really came out at the very end of 2011, but the truth is, I believe Skrillex developed musically in 2012, and no longer is relying solely on huge dubstep drops anymore. Plus, Ellie Goulding likes him a lot, so he can't be all bad, right?
8) "Mash Of The Titans" (compiled by Panos T)
You can't buy this EDM mash-up compilation anywhere. It's completely bootlegged...it's also completely incredible. I suggest seeking it out on your own.
7) Ferry Corsten – "WKND"
The Dutch big-room invasion at its best. Corsten has the experience and history to know how to produce great music, which will last beyond the next big festival. This album's got staying power.
6) Tiesto – "Club Life: Volume Two Miami"
There's a reason why Tiesto is always at the top of the "Best DJ" lists. Just listen to his remixes and productions from 2012. From Coldplay's "Paradise" to the Naked & Famous' "Young Blood," he knocks it out of the park yet again.
5) Diplo – "Express Yourself" (EP)
The best thing about Diplo is that he produces music that combines various influences to create a sound that is like no one else. This 6-track EP proves his talent, case in point.
4) Deadmau5 – > album title goes here
Despite Deadmau5's very controversial year (his war vs. raver culture, his war vs. Madonna, THAT Rolling Stone cover article), Joel Zimmerman still produces great music. When everyone was "zigging" in 2012, he "zagged" with "The Veldt" (feat. Chris James), one of the most sonically beautiful masterpieces in electronic music to come along in years, and certainly not what I expected next from him. I didn't like this album as much as 2011's "4x4 = 12," but that doesn't mean it wasn't still magnificent.
3) Swedish House Mafia – "Until Now"
I'll admit, every time I hear mention about Swedish House Mafia's "One Last Tour," I offer up my best Liz Lemon-inspired masterpiece eye roll. How do you give a huge farewell tour for an EDM "super group" that has been around for a whopping 3 years? But when you listen to the songs compiled on the Deluxe Edition of "Until Now," the hype becomes justified.
2) Calvin Harris – "18 Months"
The mainstream didn't really know Calvin until a little song came along called "We Found Love" in late 2011, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Hit after hit followed throughout the year – "Feels So Close," "Let's Go" (feat. Ne-Yo), "Sweet Nothing" (feat. Florence Welch) – by the time "18 Months" came out, some fans felt they had already heard most of the tracks that were going to be on the album. Cue "I Need Your Love" (feat. Ellie Goulding) and the album's real hidden gem, "Thinking About You" (feat. Ayah Marar). Is there anything Calvin couldn't do in 2012?
1) Zedd – "Clarity"
If there's an album that sums up 2012 – EDM's 3rd big year truly on the music industry's landscape – it's got to be "Clarity." The story of 2012 was the story of the rise of the young DJ's. You think Zedd's a baby at 23? -- try Avicii & Nicky Romero (also 23), Alesso (21), Porter Robinson (20), Madeon (18), and Erik Arbores (15). Lead by "Spectrum," arguably the best EDM track of 2012, "Clarity" is a joy to listen to from start to finish.
Top 10 EDM Tracks of 2012
10) (tie) "Superlove" by Avicii feat. Lenny Kravitz
"NickTim," Avicii and Nicky Romero
"Dancing in my Head" (Avicii's Been Cursed Mix), Eric Turner vs. Avicii
The 2012 post-"Levels" Avicii trifecta. Beautiful original melodies, in each and every track.
9) "I Love It," Icona Pop feat. Charlie XCX
The YOLO anthem of late 2012, this one's definitely catching on steam.
8) "Lessons In Love," Kaskade feat. Neon Trees
Kaskade, the biggest DJ from the U.S. on the world scene, had a big year, selling out stadiums and driving fans crazy. His Coachella set last April was one of my favorites of the year (http://soundcloud.com/kaskade/kaskade-live-at-coachella-2012). Although his last album, "Fire & Ice," came out in October 2011, this track was, in my opinion, his best of 2012.
7) "City Of Dreams," Alesso and Dirty South
What happens when the most up & coming Swede and Australian DJ's get together for a track? Dance floor magic...that's what!
(tie) 6) "Silhouettes," Avicii feat. Salem al Fakir
"The Veldt," deadmau5 feat. Chris Lake
I group these two together because of what they share in common – rather than going for the high-energy thrill, these two tracks reveled in their more down tempo approach. It's EDM that your mother will love!
5) "Don't You Worry Child," Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin
The magnum opus of their "One Last Tour" hurrah shindig (my thoughts on this in the "Best of – Albums" list, above), Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso & Steve Angello turn once more to vocalist John Martin (of SHM's "Save The World" fame) to go out with a bang. So, when's this guy coming out with his debut album again?
4) "The Night Out," Martin Solveig
Solveig certainly had the #1 EDM song of 2010 with "Hello" (feat. Dragonette), and his big 2012 single is certainly nothing to scoff at. Originally released in 2011, "The Night Out" only hit big on its own this year, and its accompanying masterpiece short-film / music video (comparing dubstep music to the female orgasm), was "EDM music video of the year" to this reviewer!
3) "Spectrum," Zedd
Russian/German producer Zedd burst onto the scene this year when Lady Gaga selected him to open on her "Born This Way" tour, but the selection came with good reason. One of the best amongst the large crop of under-25 European DJ prodigies (again, see above in "Best Albums"), Zedd showed his chops with a full debut album of amazing tracks on Interscope. His recent single with Justin Bieber and Nicky Minaj ("Beauty and a Beat") cemented his ability to succeed in mainstream pop production. But with "Spectrum," (feat. Matthew Koma), Zedd truly delive his best song to date of his budding career.
2) "In My Mind," Ivan Gough and Feenixpawl feat. Georgi
Australia represents EDM on the world music scene with the most ubiquitously played track of 2012 (thanks mostly to its inclusion in a KIA motors ad). Still, prior to its commercial success, producers Gough (TV Rock) and Feenixpawl (Aden Forte & Josh Soon) created a song that spoke universally to EDM fans the world over. The music video, featuring an endless summer theme of girls skateboarding in the desert, instantly cemented the song's legacy.
1) "Calling (Lose My Mind)," Sebastian Ingrosso feat. Alesso & Ryan Tedder
Hands down my #1 anthem of 2012, this beautifully crafted track was this year's "Levels" (Avicii's huge hit and my #1 song of 2011). The combination of mentor (Ingrosso), with mentee (up & comer Alesso), adds to the poetic beauty of this track. There was rarely a big festival or small-town DJ who didn't incorporate this track into a set, and it mashes up beautifully with just about everything.
Top 10 (Mainstream) Remixes of 2012
10) (tie) "Turn Up The Radio" (Richard Vission Speakers Blow, Avicii, R3hab & Martin Solveig Remixes), Madonna
Say what you will about Madge's "MDNA" album, but this was its greatest track and these were that track's greatest remixes.
9) "Beneath Your Beautiful" (Seamus Haji Mix), Labrinth feat. Emilie Sande
I want a lot more of all 3 of these artists in my life in 2013. While not as big in the States as it was in Europe, this late year entry had a lot going for it.
8) "Stronger [What Doesn't Kill You]" (Nicky Romero Mix), Kelly Clarkson
You have to put Romero somewhere on one of these lists, and what he did with Kelly's big comeback track was something magical.
7) "Somebody That I Used To Know (dBerrie Mix), Gotye
The biggest radio play song of the year got a lot of remixes… this was my favorite.
6) (tie) "Only The Horses," (Scissor Sisters) and "30 Days" (The Saturdays)… Max Sanna & Steve Pitron Club Mixes
Brits Pitron & Sanna were amazing all around this year, and these were their two strongest transformative masterpieces.
5) (tie) "Where Have You Been" (Hardwell Club Mix), Rihanna
"Hello" (Laidback Luke Mix), Karmin
"We'll Be Coming Back" (R3hab Remix), Calvin Harris feat. Example
I needed to fit all of these in, so why not do a big grouping in the middle of the list? There's no other reason that these 3 are grouped together, but, I digress…
4) "Titanium" (Alesso Remix), David Guetta feat. Sia
The first time I heard this remix, I almost burst out in tears. It's just... that... good.
3) (tie) "We Are Young," fun. Feat. Janelle Monae
"Let Me Love You," Ne-Yo (Joe Gauthreaux remixes), and
"Timebomb" (Peter Rauhofer remix), Kylie Minogue
More than any other DJ's on the gay scene in the U.S., Joe and Peter are doing the best production work right now, hands down. Peter also turned in epic remixes this past year of Mika, Adele, Gossip & Alicia Keys, making this one his best year's since he won his Grammy in 2000.
2) "Chained" (Panic City Remix), the xx
Panic City is a 26-year-old from San Francisco that I know little about, and I think this track flew under most people's radars. It's hard to remix a great remixer (like Jamie xx), but Panic City succeeded. Just take a listen, and you'll hear what I'm talking about. The track is simply… epic.
1) "Paddling Out" (Jacques Lu Cont Mix), Miike Snow
When Stuart Price comes out to play, he's not messing around. A great remix takes a good song and makes it a masterpiece. It becomes a journey that tells a story from beginning to end. This remix does all of this and more, and does it superbly.
Jeremy Blacklow is a Senior Editor at Yahoo! omg! In his free time, he moonlights as "DJ Blacklow"… and his house music podcast is available on iTunes or at: http://djblacklow.podomatic.com
- Steve Aoki