Personally, I’ve never witnessed so many electronic albums being released in one year by such a wide range of artists. When I first got into electronic music, it was an experience largely driven by singles and EP’s, and I hardly ever saw a producer take the time to compile a full LP. Albums are a magical experience, dating all the way back to their roots, as they require the artist to think not only on each individual song, but how they will fit together as a whole, and to think what the album listening experience will be like from start to finish and the impact that the listener is left with. While there were more albums than I could even begin to go into reviewing, we have compiled a list here of what we believed were 10 of the best LP’s released in 2013.
Disclosure – Settle
The inspirational and fresh-faced UK siblings Guy and Howard who make up Disclosure deserve every bit of the praise they have received. Their unique, home-grown UK garage sound found a place in the hearts of electronic music fans and non-fans alike and their interactive live performances gave new hope to a frequently uninspiring live medium. Settle featured such hits as “White Noise” and “You and Me” and the whole LP is a masterpiece from start to finish.
Mat Zo – Damage Control
Damage Control is nothing short than a extremely successful experiment in total disregard for genres and music classification. Zohan has been quoted as saying the album was never produced as a dance album but rather “something that you can just enjoy without having to react in some way” and it is utterly apparent throughout, as dancier tracks like “Pyramid Scheme” and “Easy” are shuffled right in with darkness of “Caller ID” and “Time Dilation” and progressive builds like those in “The Sky” and “Lucid Dreams.” If this list were in any particular order, this album would likely be at number one.
Hot Natured – Different Sides of The Sun
The hobby project of Jamie Jones and Lee Foss that initially formed around the 2012 smash “Benediction” released their debut album this year, expanding on the electronic pop music foundation they laid down. Despite initial criticism, the album produced several singles which were well received such as “Reverse Skydiving” and “Isis” and was generally well-liked. While the songs can get a little tired at times, the album presents innovation and a unique and extremely listenable sound.
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Few people knew what to expect from Daft Punk’s return to music after a five year sabbatical and most certainly had the wrong presumption. Contrary to what most people hoped DP would produce, Guy-Manuel and Thomas surprised (and, for some, greatly disappointed) with an album that was hardly electronic at all and sounded nothing like their previous releases. Their was outrage, sadness, disappointment and plenty of other negative emotions from the public minutes after the album leaked. Once getting over the initial sting, however, the album proved to have much creative appeal and songs like “Get Lucky” and “Doin’ It Right” got stuck in heads the world over, whether intentionally or not. Perhaps it wasn’t the Daft Punk we knew and loved but RAM showed that they are still the same artistic pioneers they have always been.
Hot Since 82 – Little Black Book
This past year, HS82 in many ways became the poster child for deep house following the release of his ubiquitous remix of “Bigger Than Prince.” The anticipation surrounding his album was electric and its release did not disappoint. Not a single track fell under the six minute mark, satisfying those who enjoy the deep, layered sounds and intricate buildups and break-downs Hot Since 82 is capable of. His essential mix from this year was also extremely well-received, bolstering his place as a mainstay in the deep house scene and generating further anticipation for what he will bring to 2014.
Chase & Status – Brand New Machine
Like Mat Zo’s LP, Chase & Status took the opportunity to explore different sounds on each track of Brand New Machine. While it does feature some drum and bass, much of the album is spent playing around between genres and experimenting by combining deep house, rap, dubstep, reggae/dub and more. Every track on the album will not be for everyone, and there is certainly no intent in any of the production to make something radio-friendly (although “Count On Me” deserves the play), but just one listen through will blow you away with the indisputable creativity that this duo has.
Sub Focus – Torus
In his second studio album, Sub Focus decided, like many others on this list, to play outside of his comfort zone and ended up producing fantastic results. Nearly everyone had already become familiar with the singles “Tidal Wave” and “Out the Blue” before the LP even saw its release, but Sub Focus’ bigger plans revealed themselves in the other 15 songs. His epic collaboration with Alex Clare (“Endorphins”) and originals like “Safe In Sound” and “Close” show the versatility he has. It’s a very enjoyable album and, while it is in some ways a departure from his earlier work, it is a fitting evolution of his sound and music.
Avicii – True
Unfortunately for Avicii, his willingness to think outside the box on True came back to bite him, with many shunning his newfound style, dubbing it unapologetically as folk-house. But, similar to the case of Daft Punk, I believe such a revolution in sound need be commended. Avicii has always been a master at making accessible music but he, like many others, realized that his sound was getting tired and, moreso, that the entire electronic music scene was getting diluted with shitty, uninspired crap. So, like all great innovators, he took a big risk. True may have been the most polarizing album of the last year, but, love it or hate it, it would be ignorant to say it doesn’t deserve recognition for pushing boundaries and taking risks.
Major Lazer – Free The Universe
Diplo’s side project had a massive year in 2013, putting out a ton of remixes as well as the group’s sophomore album Free The Universe. The LP featured some old and some new, but nearly every song on the album has tremendous replay value. Many of the biggest summer anthems like “Bubble Butt” and “Watch Out For This [Bumaye]” can be found within. Major Lazer has consistently done a great job of melding Caribbean vibes with modern day beats that have a worldly appeal and their tracks are nearly impossible to resist dancing to.
Rudimental – Home
If you’d asked me a year ago to name a Rudimental song, there is no way in hell I’d be able to. This year, I couldn’t get enough. Rudimental released one of the funnest albums on this list, featuring their uplifting and soulful collaborations with John Newman, MNEK and Emeli Sandé that just put a smile on your face and made you fully embrace the power of music. The UK quartet shows enormous promise and has undoubtedly made drum and bass appealing enough for the casual listener to love.