A Year in Electronic: My Top 10 Albums of the Past Year

 cr. thumpvice

cr. thumpvice

With the rising popularity of electronic dance music (EDM) on the radio, the music industry is paying more attention to the world of electronic music. Although most of this attention has been placed on dance hits, electronic music is a vast genre that has lots to offer. With that said, here are some of my favourite electronic albums from the past year, listed in ascending order.

#10. 9 by Cashmere Cat
9 features an impressive list of high-profile collaborators, including Toronto artists The Weeknd and Tory Lanez. Very few of these tracks follow the traditional “drop” formula used in most radio dance hits; instead they explore unique song structures. Unfortunately, during Cashmere Cat’s January tour stop in Toronto with pop singer MØ, I found the tracks weren’t as engaging live (mostly due to the overuse of auto-tune, which obscured the vocal talent featured on the record). There are a few good party tracks in the album, but most of them are quite experimental.

My Score: 6.5/10
Favourite Track: Trust Nobody (ft. Selena Gomez & Tory Lanez)

#9. Neō Wax Bloom by Iglooghost
Full of sped-up vocal samples and jazzy instrumentation, Neō Wax Bloom is unlike any album I’ve heard. The tracks are aggressive and high-energy; their use of rapid gibberish at a breakneck BPM creates an almost alien feel to the album that gives it even more replay value. I’ve listened to the album several times and I am still finding new sonic elements in the songs. Unlike traditional repetitive EDM, these tracks are constantly evolving. I recommend this record to anyone who wants to explore the ‘weird’ side of electronic music.  

My Score: 7/10
Favourite Track: Bug Thief

#8. Little By Little by Lane 8
Little By Little is an album that showcases Lane 8’s signature synths and atmospheric chord progressions. The album has an oddly charming and nostalgic quality to it — an aesthetic which deeply resonates with me. This album seeks to provide an emotional outlet though which listeners can derive their own meaning. The diversity of vocalists featured on the album is refreshing and helps define the mood of each track. This is the perfect album to listen to when studying, relaxing or when you’re feeling down.

My Score: 7/10
Favourite Track: No Captain (ft. Poliça)

#7. EP2 by yaeji
As a female Korean artist in the electronic scene, yaeji brings her own unique take on house and hip-hop music in her album EP2. She switches between English and Korean as she raps and sings about being misunderstood but also being comfortable with that. Her combination of airy vocals and muttering over entrancing synths and a driving backbeat is almost hypnotizing. As a chill dance album, it’s perfect to play at a party or in the background while hanging out with friends.

My Score: 7.5/10
Favourite Track: raingurl

#6. ‘Til The End by MitiS
‘Til The End is an atmospheric album connected by beautiful orchestral and ambient transitions. The album’s uplifting melodies and powerful drops create an emotional connection with the listener. This style is reminiscent of other melodic dubstep artists such as Illenium, Seven Lions and Dabin. ‘Til The End draws from many different styles of EDM, from smooth dubstep to thrumming drum and bass. While some of the tracks felt underwhelming to me, the album as a whole is impressively produced and flows smoothly. This album would serve as a good light introduction into the world of EDM.

My Score: 7.5/10
Favourite Track: Away (ft. Gioto)

#5. Places We Don’t Know by Kasbo
Also releasing his debut album is rising star Kasbo. Places We Don’t Know explores the bliss of ignorance and childlike wonder through an emotive and experimental tracklist. The songs are energetic and flow seamlessly into each other, with most using similar sonic elements and following a consistent mid-tempo rhythm. Though some of the tracks are strikingly similar to one another, I felt this added to the cohesion of the album. Recruiting a wide range of vocal talent, Places We Don’t Know is a catchy album with a strong message on the beauty of innocence.

Pro Tip: Kasbo will be playing at the Velvet Underground in Toronto with Baynk on Saturday, April 21 at 10 PM. Get your tickets before they sell out! They’re only $15.

My Score: 8/10
Favourite Track: Roots (ft. Amanda Fondell)

#4. New Energy by Four Tet
Contrary to the album’s title, Four Tet reimagines old sounds in his newest album, New Energy. It’s an experimental mix of chill and dance music, and its dreamlike tracks are much like the kind you would hear playing inside a Muji store downtown. Four Tet’s use of instrumentation, combined with his ambient production, makes this the perfect study music.

My Score: 8/10
Favourite Track: Lush

#3. Presence by Petit Biscuit
French artist Petit Biscuit makes his mark in the dance scene with his debut album, Presence. Exploring both old and new work, he creates a warm and atmospheric journey that demonstrates his mastery of vocal chops, alongside his signature heavy synths. The tracks are definitely danceworthy and are genuinely pleasing to listen to. In fact, his performance at the Danforth Music Hall in January was among the best live electronic performances I’ve seen. This is definitely a party album!

My Score: 8/10
Favourite Track: Wake Up (ft. Cautious Clay & Bipolar Sunshine)  

#2. Mura Masa by Mura Masa

In his self-titled album, Mura Masa recruits talented vocalists from a wide range of genres, from hip-hop to pop to indie. The album may focus on vocal-driven tracks but, unlike Cashmere Cat, it doesn’t rely too heavily on the featured artists. Blending elements of hip-hop and house music, Mura Masa creates an exhilarating album full of surprises. He uses many instruments throughout the album including harps, kalimbas, bass guitar, lots of steel drums and yes, even an airhorn. What’s more, at his live performance at last year’s WayHome music festival, the tracks were just as exciting to listen to live as they were recorded. From catchy pop singles to laid-back chillout tracks, this album is perfect party music.  

My Score: 8.5/10
Favourite Track: Love$ick (ft. A$ap Rocky)

#1. A Moment Apart by ODESZA
EDM duo ODESZA make a triumph return from their three year break with yet another outstanding album. A Moment Apart is a cinematic and emotional voyage into an electronic world filled with the pounding drums and flickering synth accompanied by a wide range of vocal talent that is sonically-pleasing, to say the least. The ballads on the record create a sense of longing and nostalgia that personally resonated with me. ODESZA draws from many sub-genres of electronic music – such as trap, chillout and house – all the while maintaining their iconic atmospheric sound. I recommend listening to this album while walking outside on a beautiful day.

My Score: 8.5/10
Favourite Track: Higher Ground (ft. Naomi Wild)

Honourable Mentions:
BAYNK – Someone’s EP
Shallou – All Becomes Okay
Charlie (Duumu) - Just Me

Dabin – Two Hearts
Illenium - Awake