Top 10 Electronic Albums of 2014

 

Top 10 Electronic Albums of 2014

In the EDM community we find plenty of singles and remixes all over the web from artists around the world, but one thing we don’t get enough of is full length records. In a scene that is dependent on club and festival DJ sets, there doesn’t always seem like a need to produce a full length LP. There have been a handful of artists that took on this challenge in 2014 and we couldn’t have been more impressed by the overall outcome. In honor of this year we decided to throw up a list with our top 10 albums combining releases from EDM and IDM artists. Enjoy!

10. Big Gigantic – The Night Is Young

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2014 has been great for Big G and it all began with their free album release back in February for The Night Is Young. This record puts their jazz electronica style to the test with some massive bangers hitting multiple genres of EDM. The beats are layered with intricate vocal sampling, heavy bass, and saxophone performances that combine to create some funky DJ friendly tracks. The title track of the album features a vocal part by Cherub and perfectly defines the slick glamorous theme of this album with its disco anthemic melodies.

9. Skrillex – Recess

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After the rise of dubstep and some of the repetitive sounding releases Sonny had been dropping around the time of Bangarang, we had almost lost hope in his work as Skrillex. What got us scratching our heads was his music with acid techno mastermind Boys Noize in their aggressively powerful collaboration as Dog Blood. There was no doubt in my mind that this team had it down easily becoming our favorite electronic act of 2013. But the question arose: could Skrillex achieve this level of boundary pushing EDM on his own?

After listening to his debut album Recess its clear that he does have it in him. Sonny’s ability to create wildly dirty tracks is so impressive on Recess that its almost funny. Everyone already knows that his name is Skrillex (maybe even Zhu?) and we’re finally getting some cutting edge tracks worthy of his place in the tree of EDM. On top of his already ridiculous production quality, Mr.Skrills bring on some great guests such as Fatman Scoop, Kill The Noise, Michael Angelakos (of Passion Pit), Chance the Rapper, and of course Diplo.

This album isn’t much of a consistent album but instead a collection of tracks (like most EDM albums are). Although these tracks do not have much theme connection, they’re kick-ass nonetheless with a level of EDM production unrivaled by anyone else in the game. Sonny purposely dropped this record to be a fun release and we’ll be looking forward to future projects possibly showcasing the more mature side of Skrillex.

8. Bassnectar – Noise vs. Beauty

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As his 10th full length release, Bassnectar took on a challenge by writing these tracks instrumentally and collaborating with vocalists to create the masterpiece that is NVSB. The record carries itself different than most EDM albums because of its concepts playing between beautiful harmonies and dirty beats. He takes the extremes of both ends by creating tracks that portray vast differences yet are able to fluidly come together as a solid album. When I first began listening to this album I would naturally skip around tracks and this didn’t do too much for me. It was until I sat down and listened to it in its entirety that I was able to comprehend the message Bassnectar was trying to deliver. To say the least, this album is a journey of its own delivering wild emotions through its heavily colorful production.

7. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

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Norwegian artist Todd Terje delivers an ode to disco and electronica with his debut record It’s Album Time. The songs on this record might fit the scene of a solo night drive through the coast, rather than the typical club status EDM. With plenty of jazz and 80’s synth pop influence he’s able to utilize more complex styles of composition. What makes this album so relevant is Todd’s way of production using heavy analog synths and a blend of natural electronic sound design. He brings what Giorgio Moroder and Daft Punk showcased in their prime works but accomplishes it with a retro-European style, something that seems almost forgotten with modern dance music. His combination of avant-guard instrumental and 80’s club pop music make this record a perfect listen for someone interested in the deeper realms and history of electronic music.

6. RL Grime – Void

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Henry Steinway, the brainchild behind Clockwork and RL Grime, took on the challenge of creating something surreal and sinister with his debut album Void. RL Grime first came into light when he brought trap music out of the underground with his banging remix of G.O.O.D. Music’s Mercy. Unlike most one-hit-wonders, Henry has been able to stay relevant by constantly challenging himself within the realms of trap music.

That brings us to 2014 with his highly anticipated debut album. The announcement of Void came with the release of his single and music video Core (one of our favorite EDM tracks of 2014). The video depicts a minimally dark style with emergency landing visuals, a shattering helicopter, and a vast dark ocean. All of these themes helped carry out Henry’s creation of Void by working hand-in-hand with an artist to create the videos, artwork, and live visuals for the project. The outcome is a 12-track record of bass heavy darkness incorporating his aggressive production alongside features from Big Sean, Boys Noize, How To Dress Well, and Djemba Djemba. The album is able to carry out different genres while maintaining a consistent theme furthermore challenging the production capabilities of RL Grime. Henry’s ghoulish production and attention to detail makes this record the best of its kind and it would be hard to imagine any other trap DJ reaching the level of artistry presented in Void.

5. Caribou – Our Love

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Dan Snaith’s latest release under the Caribou alias has us entranced in his world of smooth electronic music. Our Love takes on a down-tempo role with experimental drum rhythms and minimal analog synth arrangement that washes with reverb portraying a gloomy atmosphere. Dan’s vocals land on the majority of these tracks with lyrics of hope and angst for a lost lover. He’s able to blend his intimate lyricism into the beats with the use of sampling and looping that adds to the electronic aura of album. For example in the track Can’t Do Without You he loops “I Can’t Do Without You” pitching it at moments making the electronic production blend with his natural performance.

One thing that sets Caribou apart is his ways of interweaving drum elements from electronic and acoustic kits. He’s able to arrange natural drums to sound electronic and blend 808s to sound like they were performed live. While the instrumentation and sampling are pretty minimal he’s almost always laying the drums over each other with interesting effects. With a delicate tone and subtle sound design Caribou was able to create something interesting yet infectiously beautiful with Our Love.

4. Porter Robinson – Worlds

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Worlds is a project by Electro-House champion Porter Robinson. Unlike his usual festival ready music, Worlds is an exploration into the colorful sounds of experimental indie-pop. Under the influence of artists such as Chrome Sparks, Robinson is able to recreate himself with a rejection of EDM and an album that’s nothing short of spectacular.

The majority of this album contains songs in the major key adding to his use of bright synthesizers. With plenty of vocal collaborations, Porter is able to apply his knowledge of dance music to verse-chorus oriented pop. He’s able to showcase what he’s good at in a completely new environment. Heavy drums and womping bass lines are still very much apart of his palette yet he takes on a less predictable approach to production. The bold arrangement and melodic complexity makes this album a fun listen for fans of pop music or EDM.

It is clear Porter Robinson had the intentions of bridging gaps between dance music and indie music. His album comes across as the perfect blend of styles and he’s able to take on enough variety to keep this album interesting from start to finish. His quirky production makes this one of those albums that you can enjoy at first but really appreciate after many listens. This was a mighty big step for Porter and we’re hoping he continues to make music like this in the future.

3. Aphex Twin – Syro

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Richard D. James can rightly be deemed the most influential artist in the realm of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music).Although the title of intelligence seems a bit hipsteresque, there’s no denying that his music from the 90’s was able to pave the way for weirder side of electronic music. It’s been 13 years since Richard has released anything under the Aphex Twin moniker and after listening to Syro we can all breathe a sigh of relief for the return of our great leader.

Each track on Syro brings an interesting taste showcasing the incredibly detailed production skills of Aphex. He could have released this album stripped down to its drum machine patterns and it would still be a fun listen. The glitchy interaction between hectic drums and ambient synths delivers a chilling funkiness signature to his style. The calm futuristic nature of Syro makes this a more accessible listen than some of his older albums and a great starting point for anyone interested in diving into his catalogue.

2. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

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The King of L.A. beat music dropped his latest record this year with intention of making us feel DEAD! Flying Lotus is hands down one of the most innovative producers in the game right now leading the scene of electronic and jazz influenced hip hop beats. When he’s not managing his label Brainfeeder he’s probably rapping verses under his hip-hop alias Captain Murphy. He’s one of those artists that out does himself with every release and we are blessed to have another stroke of genius in his latest album You’re Dead!

He sets the mood right with Theme, the albums first track, a nightmarish escape into a jazzy collage of instruments and voices with very little electronic influence. Although Flying Lotus has obvious jazz influence, his records have always had a strong presence of electronic music with his use of synths, sampling, and drum sequencing. You’re Dead! is flipping things around for him by making jazz the main focus. We’re treated to the live instrumentation of drums, guitar, saxophone, and of course ripping basslines from FlyLo’s favorite collaborator Thundercat.

Surprising enough Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg both make appearances on this record fusing the brains of West Coast then-and-now with Flying Lotus’s approach to avant-guarde L.A. beats. Their styles all have similar roots and their presence on the tracks Never Catch Me and Dead Man’s Tetris create a strange environment for them to showcase their skills.

The album progresses to be something out of a DMT trip with quick ideas of epic beauty. It feels almost as if we’re falling through different worlds in an afterlife. FlyLo challenged himself as a composer rather than as a producer on this record and he’s able to flawlessly portray his forward thinking concepts throughout You’re Dead! If you’re into meditation or any kind of spiritually practice we’d highly recommend giving this record a listen.

1. Knife Party – Abandon Ship

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We can describe this album with one word: s u r p r i s e. This was better said in the 10th track Superstar when we hear a robotic voice rant

“Oh my god what the f*ck is this disco sh*t what happened to the dubstep”.

Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen took a turn for the better with their latest release under their post-Pendulum project Knife Party. With this album getting little promotion on top of a sudden release earlier than expected, music fans around the world were left wondering “…how?” when Abandon Ship hit our ears.

It’s pretty clear that the 2011 emergence of brostep is slowly dying with artists such as Skrillex and Borgore taking new directions. The final nail in the tomb is this album’s dance worthy house beats brought to you by the guys who made festival wubs popular. This album is a big middle finger to the haters and a celebration of freedom because it shows that really anything is possible as an artist. They created Knife Party on the foundation of dubstep’s rise in America, but now that we’re in 2014 they’re accomplishing more. Just as the Beatles began with simple rock music and later dove into experimentalism, Knife Party is waving their rights as artists by challenging themselves in new ways. Lately the EDM world has seen a lot of trap and electro artists trying out deep house (Jauz, Cazzette, CRNKN,etc..), but Knife Party does it to the extreme with Abandon Ship by stirring uptracks that are not only unique to themselves, but to the genre as well.

Abandon Ship is full of the gut wrenching Knife Party themes, something we can imagine coming out of American Psycho. From its aggressive drum buildups, subtle breaks, terrorizing leads and drops, its clear that they’re staying true to the Knife image. What’s changed now is the house influence that’s apparent on the majority of this record. They’re able to pull off heaviness in a genre that’s made to be groovy. The bridge between their older dubstep releases and the tracks on Abandon Ship are their quick witted production subtleties. Dubstep is full of fast changing synth lines and drum hits, whereas house music is mainly based off repetitive hypnotic sounds. With the use of soundscapes, vocal samples, and bright synths, tracks like D.I.M.H. and Begin Again glimmer with the energy of house music yet stay true to the complex production capabilities of Knife Party. Aside from the house tracks they throw in some recognizable dubstep, trap, and electro styles, but they do it with a style that’s consistent with the entire album.

What really makes this record stand out for us is the song structures from start to finish. If there’s one thing EDM is that other genres are not, it’s predictable. Yet the head spinning synth drone buildup in the track 404 and the big room teasing drop in EDM Trend Machine proves otherwise. This album stays true to massive festival EDM while being different than the rest in every possible way. All the pieces landed in the right place for Knife Party. We already knew they were amazing but they proved to the world that they’re capable of a lot and they’re not about to sell out for fame. In order to push EDM into the future Knife Party took influence from the past and reimagined them with their top notch knowledge of production and technology. This album encompasses all that is great about EDM and challenges the concept of buildup drop buildup drop. Its complex structure, detailed production, and impressive variety make this album our top choice for 2014’s catalog of electronic releases.

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