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20 Best EDM, Electronic and Dance Albums of 2014

From FlyLo to ‘Syro’ — the best in beats

Dance Albums

In 2014, dance music continued its expansion, ignoring the boundaries that once divided regions, genres and fans. Duck Sauce added drops to doo-wop, Bunji Garlin used trance and trap to make his soca music hit even harder and Fatima Al Qadiri created an album of sonic dispatches from an imaginary China. EDM still ruled the fields, but even that opened up: Skrillex's Recess contained hip-hop and two-step and Bassnectar built pretty songs on bass blasts. From Big Freedia's New Orleans bounce to Basement Jaxx's warm house to Todd Terje's sonic pool parties: It's list time! 

Todd Terje

Todd Terje, ‘It’s Album Time’

With tracks name-checking leisure suits and DeLoreans, Norwegian producer Todd Terje's vision of the future comes filtered through the past. It's Album Time is equal parts robo-disco and Miami Vice synth jams, complete with a few krautrocky excursions into outer space. In a year of endless drops and tough-guy posturing, Terje's soundtrack for the swingers of yesteryear soothes ragged nerves. A.C.

Aphex Twin

Aphex Twin, ‘Syro’

Though the annoying viral stunts felt hopelessly modern, on his first album in 13 years, Richard D. James partied like it was 1995 — a time when his music was possibly the most futuristic thing around. It's all there, like an old, very eccentric friend — the familiar drum stutter, the blorping bass lines that distend like Flubber, the venomous acid riffs, even the pastoral Satie-style piano closer. Though everyone from Skrillex ("Doompy Poomp") to Deadmau5 ("Superbia") to Thom Yorke ("Nose Grows Some") borrowed a little of Aphex Twin this year, this reliable comeback record was 64 minutes of the real, unfiltered glitchy deal. C.W.


Caribou, ‘Our Love’

Dan Snaith's sixth Caribou album startled fans by, well, not startling them. Snaith, a master of the dramatic departure, picked right up from the deep tech-y, house-y vibes explored on 2010's Swim. Gone were most of the willfully obscure, psych and IDM leanings of early Caribou fare, and in their place a healthy dose of slinky R&B inflections. Over slow-bubbling grooves, the album glows with warmth, wistfulness and melancholy nostalgia. A.C.


Skrillex, ‘Recess’

Though best known for his over-the-top, into-the-gut bass blasts, Skrillex has long played DJ sets that situate original tracks amid classic hip-hop, pan-genre dance records and Toto's "Africa." Recess, his first proper LP, tells that story, filtering the speaker-blowing dubstep through 2 Step and K-Pop or chopping it into compelling, glitchy oddities like "Doompy Poomp" and "Dirty Vibe." The sound might be less focused, but the artist behind it is more zeroed in than ever. N.M.

Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus, ‘You’re Dead!’

For a thematic descent that begins with death's onset, and careens into the darkness that follows, Flying Lotus' fifth album breathes life in saturated Cinemascope. Unleashing jazz-fusion fantasias — reminiscent of the Ornette Coleman band during guitarist James Blood Ulmer's tenure and the spiritual meditations of FlyLo's great-aunt Alice Coltrane — the Los Angeles beatmaker addresses the passing of loved ones with colorful bursts of woodwinds and breathless programming. On "Never Catch Me," Kendrick Lamar rips an anxious soliloquy over lasering beats; and "Dead Man's Tetris," featuring Snoop Dogg, gets disoriented and blackly comic. The album moves from keyboard cloud-drifts to IDM frippery to goofball asides (with FlyLo in his rapping guise Captain Murphy) to "The Protest," where celestial voices intone, "We will live on forever," as strings and piano give way to a kick/snare headnod. The sound of rebirth. C.A.

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