Home Music Music Lists

The 30 Greatest EDM Albums of All Time

From Kraftwerk to Daft Punk to Deadmau5, it’s been a wild ride on the dance floor

The 30 Greatest EDM Albums of all Time

Superstars like Skrillex and Deadmau5 have helped make electronic dance music bigger than ever this year – but party people around the world have been getting down to programmed beats for decades before those guys showed up. At its broadest definition, EDM can cover everything from Chicago house to Dutch gabber to drum 'n' bass to dubstep, from the visionary bleeps of Kraftwerk to the ambient blues of Moby's Play to the synthed-up indie-rock of LCD Soundsystem. With this list of the 30 Greatest EDM Albums of All Time, we've tried to hit all the high points in that ludicrously varied, constantly evolving mix.

By Jon Dolan and Michaelangelo Matos

Related
Video: Inside Deadmau5's RS Cover Shoot
Nineties Electronica Survivors Rave On
Photos: Behind the Scenes of Kaskade's Tour
Skrillex: Eight Wild Nights and Busy Days with the Superstar
Villas, Private Jets and Paris Hilton: Rolling in Ibiza with David Guetta

5. Moby, Play (V2, 1999)

V2

5. Moby, ‘Play’ (V2, 1999)

The album that soundtracked a jillion car commercials: After being the biggest presence on the US rave scene throughout the Nineties, Moby enjoyed an unlikely mainstream breakthrough by marrying ambient beats to old gospel and blues samples. Tracks like "Honey" and "Natural Blues" evoke a Delta speakeasy with a Genius Bar, and "Porcelain" unfurls easy-listening mastercraft. Moby even shows off his sense of humor on "South Side," an empathetic song about white kids trying to fake it real on the rough side of town. The genius of Play came in Moby's ability to transfer the grandeur and scope of rave to dinner parties and bedrooms. Play was one of the first big pop albums to sound like it was built solely on an iMac, but its soul and beauty, its steady-rolling piano flow and 3 a.m. come-down introspect are timeless.

Related 
• The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Moby's Play 
• Album Review: Moby's Play
Video: Rolling Stone Live: Moby

4. Carl Craig, Sessions (K7, 2008)

K7

4. Carl Craig, ‘Sessions’ (K7, 2008)

For many dance artists, the real mark of acceptance isn't headlining a huge festival like Electric Zoo, but getting a Carl Craig remix. Maybe the most consistently brilliant and widely respected of Detroit's many great producers, the multi-aliased Craig is startling in his range and longevity. Few early-Nineties producers were exploring breakbeats and jazz with the sly facility of his "Bug in the Bass Bin" (recorded as Innerzone Orchestra), or transforming disco samples with the toughness of "Throw"(recorded as Paperclip People, and later covered by LCD Soundsystem) – never mind roaring back to life the way Craig did with a stunning string of mid-2000s remixes for Rhythm & Sound, Theo Parrish, Junior Boys, and X-Press 2. Sessions is a double-fistful of goodies (the CD is mixed, the digital has full tracks – your choice), and an ideal intro to a producer who never stops surprising.

Related
Nineties Electronica Survivors Rave On
Photos: Behind the Scenes of Kaskade's Tour
Skrillex: Eight Wild Nights and Busy Days with the Superstar
Villas, Private Jets and Paris Hilton: Rolling in Ibiza with David Guetta

3. Juan Atkins, 20 Years Metroplex: 1985-2005 (Tresor, 2005)

Tresor

3. Juan Atkins, ’20 Years Metroplex: 1985-2005′ (Tresor, 2005)

Techno was born in the mid-Eighties in Detroit, where visionary producers Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May fused Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaataa's electro and Chicago house with a sci-fi futurism to come up with a sound that reflected the austere decay of post-industrial Detroit just as Motown's bright, assembly-line grooves had reflected the city in its optimistic prime. Throw on this survey of Atkins' foundational techno label Metroplex and you can watch the music come into its own – from the interplanetary funk odyssey of Model 500's "No UFOs," which journeys light years beyond Bam's "Planet Rock," to Cybertron's "Clear," where the vocals sound like George Clinton crossed with Darth Vader. Decades later, the coolly percolating blips, Casio salsa-setting grooves and robo-B-Boy vocals still sound like a freaky alien landing.

Related
Nineties Electronica Survivors Rave On
Photos: Behind the Scenes of Kaskade's Tour
Skrillex: Eight Wild Nights and Busy Days with the Superstar
Villas, Private Jets and Paris Hilton: Rolling in Ibiza with David Guetta

2. The Chemical Brothers, Dig Your Own Hole (Astralwerks, 1997)

Astralwerks

2. The Chemical Brothers, ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ (Astralwerks, 1997)

Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons' game-changing second album had a simple conceit: what if dance music hit as hard as the fiercest hip-hop and rocked with the visceral force of your favorite guitar banger? And they nailed it. The gut-punch bassline on "Block Rockin' Beats" is up there with the riff to the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" in the Ass Kicking Intro canon; "Setting Sun" (featuring Noel Gallagher) kicks the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" into the 21st Century; "Where Do I Begin," with vocals from alt-folkie Beth Orton, matches Ren Faire whimsy and South Bronx beat science. Throughout, the Chems prove themselves master composters, crafting songs that dip and slide with a corner-hugging, rollercoaster intensity – whether it's the nine-minute trance-out "The Private Psychedelic Reel" or the three-minute low-end rattler "Elektrobank." Now, it sounds as much like classic rock as classic EDM.

Related
The 100 Best Albums of the Nineties: The Chemical Brothers' Dig Your Own Hole

1. Daft Punk, Homework (Virgin, 1997)

Virgin

1. Daft Punk, ‘Homework’ (Virgin, 1997)

Daft Punk's debut is pure synapse-tweaking brilliance. In the Nineties, when artists like the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim were bringing in guest-star vocalists and sampling rock records, and ad executives were strip-mining club beats, French duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo proved that techno and house could be as elastic, catchy and, at times, as funny as the poppiest pop without diluting its hypnotically driving, acidic essence. Homework had standout hits – like "Da Funk" and the anthemically bloopy "Around the World." But it was paced like a great album, weaving hip-hop and funk (and, on "Rock N Roll," even some Seventies glam) into the mix, with pauses for oceanic contemplation (the guitar-washed "Flesh") and hip-hop influenced skits like "WDPK 83.7 FM," in which a French-accented robo-DJ promises "the sound of tomorrow and the music of today." Considering how their thick, Euro-thwump has transformed R&B and pop music during the last decade, that absurd brag now sounds like truth in advertising.

Related 
Photos: Rockers Who Score Films 
Playlist: David Guetta: Dance-Floor Classics 

Show Comments