For as many singles releases as we see all the time in dance music, there are the artists who still realize the creative advantages to releasing an multi-track release like an album or an EP. 80’s babies will remember the days when you had to buy a CD just to get the song you wanted and can appreciate listening to the whole thing and hearing some pleasant surprises (or sometimes utter disappointment). With the advent of technology came a la carte music, with everyone only buying the songs they wanted and artists no longer feeling compelled to release more than one track at a time. Albums, however, remain a powerful way to convey the full spectrum of an artist’s creative talents and ideas and so we wanted to recap some of our favorites of the past 12 months here. Click through to read all about it!
Breakbot – By Your Side Longtime single producer Breakbot, of French label Ed Banger, decided to release his first full length album this past year. The album featured some of his hit singles like “Fantasy” and “One Out of Two” alongside twelve other disco-pop vocal and instrumental tracks, channeling fellow French sound pioneers Daft Punk and SebastiAn. It was a refreshing sound to hear in a world so dominated by fat bass and heavy beats and was a strong full-length debut from the rising French producer. Best tracks: “Fantasy”, “Easy Fraction”, “Baby I’m Yours”
Griz – Mad Liberation This time last year, glitch-hop producer Griz was just being put on the map by the blogosphere, making headway with tracks like “Better Than I Ever Been” and his remix of “Dream On” by Aerosmith. When I first heard his music, I immediately recognized his talent and have watched him grow into the beast of a producer and performer that he has today. His debut LP was given away completely free through his website and surpassed in quality many of the albums put out by far more popular and experienced DJ’s this past year. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend you pick it up immediately. Best tracks: “Mr. B”, “Live On Arrival”, “Blasta”, “Too Young For Tragedy”
Zedd – Clarity German-bred electro producer Zedd has certainly come a long way in the past few years, turning his success making dance floor-destroying remixes into a record deal with international mega-label Interscope for his debut LP release. While Zedd walks dangerously close to mainstream EDM, evidenced by some of the very poppy productions found on Clarity (“Clarity”, “Spectrum”), he continues to produce tracks rooted in the more esoteric corners in dance music, like his experimentation with acid house on “Stache” and the range of different styles implemented on “Codec”. He remains a very talented producer, even if he did sell out a little. Best tracks: “Clarity”, “Spectrum”, “Codec”
Dada Life – The Rules of Dada Anyone who has ever been to a Dada Life show knows what they mean by The Rules of Dada. The Swedish electro duo has made an entire brand off bananas, champagne, and (sausage-fattened) beats. While they may look like LMFAO with better haircuts (or lack thereof) and an even better sense of humor, they have proven time and time again that they are hard-working producers and innovators in dance music. Their debut LP may have caught some flack for having some “filler” on it, but the album did feature their smashes “Rolling Stones T-Shirt”, “Kick Out The Epic Motherfucker”, and “Happy Violence”. They also created a new hit in “So Young So High”. So while it may not have been the best of the year, it is certainly worth mentioning here as we will always respect the rules of Dada. Best tracks (other than obvious): “So Young So High”, “Feed The Dada”, “Arrive Beautiful, Leave Ugly”
Fake Blood – Cells While those new to the dance scene may not be familiar with UK producer Fake Blood, I know fans like myself will never forget the days of “I Think I Like It”. Staying underground is where Fake Blood is most comfortable, however, and it shows in his productions. Like most of the other albums on this list, it was his debut and at eleven tracks, it was a hearty one. The album really has Fake Blood flexing his creative muscles with nu-disco influence on “All In The Blink” and UK rock influence (think Oasis) on a few tracks. It’s a very interesting listen from someone who should be commanding everyone’s respect in dance music. Best tracks: “Yes/No”, “Airbrushed”, “Let It Go”
Rusko – Songs In Rusko’s followup to his 2010 album that put him on the U.S. dubstep map O.M.G., he continued with making dub tracks heavily influenced by reggae while still featuring his signature “wonkiness”. Rusko has put on some of the most high energy shows I’ve seen in my life and always seems to be one of the happiest producers/DJ’s on the planet to have the opportunity to share his music with the world. That spirit comes through in every production he makes and really made this album stick out as one of the highlights in 2012. Best tracks: “Somebody to Love”, “Pressure”, “Opium”
Michal Menert – Even If It Isn’t Right Pretty Lights Music’s more subdued glitch producer Menert served up one of the best produced (and free) albums of 2012. Coming in at 27 tracks, it makes the perfect soundtrack to a long car ride or a homework sesh. It’s got all the elements that a Pretty Lights fan would love, except it tends to be more melody-driven and relies less on samples that Derek’s music. However, he worked with other Derek and fellow PLM producers Supervision and Paul Basic to create several tracks on the album, so the album certainly shows the spirit of the label as a whole. There’s too many tracks to boil it down to the three best, so just go pick it up and throw it on.
Calvin Harris – 18 Months Like Zedd, Calvin Harris really saw his name go from the lineups of dance music festivals to Billboard charts in 2012 and not for no reason. Harris made a name for himself years back with songs (on which he performed vocals) like “Flashback” and “You Used To Hold Me”, which still appear as touted vocal tracks in sets all the time. This year, taking on big collaborations with artists like Rihanna, Ne-Yo and Florence Welch (of Florence and The Machine) for his LP put him on the mainstream map, with all those songs and more appearing all over the radio. It’d be easy to say he sold out but, the truth is, he’s making top 40’s music better than it’s been in a long time. Plus, he also collaborated with Nicky Romero and Dillon Francis to satisfy his more typical fans. Best tracks: “Sweet Nothing”, “Feel So Close”, “Awooga”
Amtrac – Hey There Kiddo Indie-dance producer Amtrac may have released Hey There Kiddo as a free mixtape but it plays through like an album and then some. Weighing in at 16 tracks, the mixtape plays through nu-disco, sample-driven filter house and plenty of other sounds that can only fall under the genre indie-dance. This mixtape provided the soundtrack to many days spent on the road in the summer and I have no doubt it will make a strong reappearance for summers to come. Best tracks: “Ladies & Gentlemen”, “Never Dug Disco”, “Need to Know”
RAC – Chapter One Formerly made up of a collection of International DJ’s collaborating on remixes, the whole scope of RAC (Remix Artist Collective) has changed substantially, especially over the past year. Not only did they release their first original release this year, but they also released a compilation of 20 of their remixes from the past couple years. While fans of RAC will have heard many of these before, the compilation as a whole really shows what has made RAC such a phenomenon as of late. Best tracks: “Something Good Can Work (RAC Remix)”, “Sweet Disposition (RAC Remix)”, “Bonafied Lovin (RAC Remix)”