After recently releasing our top 20 hip-hop and R&B albums of 2016, we decided to cover the other side of the spectrum and list out the best electronic albums of the year. While some electronic artists have claimed the art of the album is dead, 2016 proved that couldn't be more false. We were fortunate enough to hear so many great releases from both longtime favorites and newcomers marking the next chapter in their respective careers.
TSIS regulars Kaytranada, Lido, Baauer, ZHU and Zeds Dead all shined on their highly-anticipated debut works. Other favorites of ours like Flume, Big Gigantic and GRiZ released some of their best works to date. The common thread found throughout these picks is each artist's willingness to explore new sounds and tap new genres while maintaining a sense of cohesiveness through their project.
We've decided to rank the top 20 best electronic albums of 2016 from 1 to 20. While the decisions were difficult to make, you can see why with varying factors included. We hope you'll agree, disagree, or more importantly discover some new albums from a potential new favorite artist or album you weren't aware of Either way, let us know what you think below. Enjoy!
We had high expectations for Kaytranada’s debut album 99.9% and he somehow exceeded them. The project's title is a reflection of his perfectionism as an artist, always looking to make things sound better. Kaytranada had been working on the album for years and many thought it might never see the light of day, including Kaytra himself. He never felt satisfied and continually made edits until he felt it was 99.9% done, which is as close as he ever felt he’d get. The LP effortlessly blurs the lines of many different musical styles, creating a hybrid sound that could be classified as either electronic or hip-hop.
99.9% is filled with deep, rumbling basslines and skittering hi-hats that works so well together. His syncopated patterns always seem to hit us right when we don't expect it, but sounds so good. Moreover, Kaytra couldn’t have curated a better cast of supporting artists on the project. He’s been a go-to producer for high-profile acts, so of course he brought out the best cast of guests. Featured artists include Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, AlunaGeorge, Goldlink, BADBADNOTGOOD, Little Dragon and many more. Each smooth production pairs perfectly with each vocal appearance. It’s rare as a producer to get the best out of each featured artist and capture a singular vibe throughout an entire album, but that’s exactly what he does here. The long wait for Kaytra’s debut proved to be worth it and was our favorite electronic release of the year.
Standout Tracks: "Glowed Up", "Lite Spots" "You're The One"
Australian trio RÜFÜS DU SOL aka RÜFÜS shared their sophomore LP, Bloom, at the tip of 2016 and we've been jamming to it ever since. The three-piece live band has been making waves in their home country for years now. Bloom, beyond being an amazing body of work, has solidified their footprint in the U.S. and truly put them on the map here and several other countries. ODESZA have been huge supporters of RÜFÜS DU SOL's work and have played an integral part in their career, both through music releases and touring. The sunshine-filled album was released on ODESZA's Foreign Family Collective and packs some of our favorite racks including "Like An Animal" and "You Were Right". Other cuts like "Hypnotized" and "Tell Me" take listeners on a dreamy, tranquil adventure.
Standout Tracks: "Like an Animal", "You Were Right" "Say A Prayer For me" & "Innerbloom"
Expectations were high for Skin as Flume changed the game with his self-titled debut album in 2012. The wait was well worth it as he recruited a star-studded cast of features for Skin including Tove Lo, Vic Mensa, Vince Staples, AlunaGeorge and Beck. The project not only showcases his versatility, but his ability to produce innovative songs that appeal to a universal audience with tracks like "Say It" and "Never Be Like You". Be sure to also check out his Skin Companion EP which consists of four wildly creative tracks that make you wonder how he comes up with all the nuances in his music. Flume has always been an artist to watch as he consistently displays his next-level abilities as an artist and is able to shape the electronic music space.
Standout Tracks: "Smoke & Retribution" "Lose It" and "Wall Fuck"
Live electronic group Big Gigantic made some big moves with their highly-anticipated fifth studio album, Brighter Future. It's no secret that we're big fans Big G so we were stoked when this finally came out. Brighter Future is a great project all around and musically-speaking, it's their best work to date. While their previous LPs mainly consisted of instrumental-based tracks, they took a fresh approach to their new album by enlisting features on 10 of their 13 tracks. They collaborated with a ton of talented acts: Wake Flocka Flame, Logic, Rozes, GRiZ, Pell, Angela McClusky, Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman, Cherub and Naaz. Take a full listen through it all and you'll be throwing this great electronic body of work on repeat.
Standout Tracks: "Miss Primetime", " All of Me", "Brighter Future" & "Highly Possible"
London-based artist Tourist shines on his debut album, U. The project reflects on a relationship he previously experienced, following it’s path from the very beginning to its unraveling. This concept is apparent through the emotional journey of U’s 10 diverse tracks. His ability to chop up samples and vocals to make them sound like a fluid instrument is simply amazing. The LP consists of a diverse set of tunes that are rooted in emotion you can feel. He flawlessly builds soundscapes that emit emotion ranging of an excited sense of happiness to a longing sadness, and everything in between. His productions are musically versatile and includes everything from ambient electronica to chill house as he shows a keen ability to craft melodic soundscapes building layer upon layer. The project’s singles "To Have You Back" and "Holding On" had us hooked, anxiously awaiting his debut LP. When U was released in full, it was exactly what we were hoping for. Be sure to give this one a full listen as each track is uniquely satisfying.
Standout Tracks: "U", "Run" and "For Sarah"
Norwegian artist Lido does it all. He writes, sings, plays multiples instruments and he's a great performer. When it comes to melodies, structure and fine details, he has always delivered. He actually helped produce Halsey's introductory LP. To our great satisfaction, Lido made an impressive statement with his debut album, Everything. The 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist and vocalist beautifully showcases his innate talent for all things music-related in this 11-track project. The emotionally-driven album crosses several genres and is laced with dreamy live instrumentation that's contrasted with abrasive, glitchy elements -- all of which surprisingly blends together. Singles "Crazy" and "Murder" will certainly give you chills and give you a taste of how rich and diverse the album really is.
Standout Tracks: "Crazy", "Dye" and "Murder"
TSIS favorite GRiZ has been leading the the future funk and electro-soul sound for a minute now. His Good Will Prevail album, which follows his Say It Loud LP in 2015, confirms his dominance in that space across 13-tracks. He masterfully fuses rock, soul, funk and electronic music together in one dynamic project that receives contributions from Big Gigantic, Brasstracks, Louis Futon and several others. "This album is all about keeping your head up and your feet movin...I wanted to write an album to motivate and inspire positivity," GRiZ says. Great message, great album.
Standout Tracks: "Gotta Push On", "PS GFY" and "Before I Go" & "What We've Become"
Glass Animals avoided the sophomore slump with their stellar LP, How To Be a Human Being. The indie electronic group takes an experimental approach to their music, blending far out samples with grooving electronic elements and live instrumentation. The vocals are hazy and strange at times, but catchy in a way that will have you humming the melodies for hours on hours. The group’s producer and frontman Dave Bayley actually has a degree in neuroscience and decided to make the group’s second LP a concept album. While touring for their debut album Zaba, he recorded hundreds of stories from strangers and created character studies from each of them. Every song on the album is about one of these fictional characters he created.
Standout Tracks: "Youth", "Life Itself" and "Season 2 Episode 3"
If Baauer's first EP, ß, didn't strip himself of the "Harlem Shake" tag, then his debut album Aa certainly buried the hatchet. The strong body of work features Future, Pusha T, M.I.A. and more. The Philly DJ/producer takes listeners through a worldwide adventure using each track as a single destination along the way. From his experimental bangers like "GoGo!" to hip-hop heaters like "Kung Fu", Baauer breaks all boundaries with this project.
Standout Tracks: "Sow", "Kung Fu" and "Temple"
Los Angeles' Stephen continually impressed us with his genre-defying releases this year. His debut LP Sincerely was an absolute breath of fresh air when it dropped as it melds soul, hip-hop and electronic music together; not to mention Stephen's incredible voice. He does it all: writes, plays, produces and sings. You'll hear the impressive combination come to life on every track, especially standout singles "Sincerely," "Fly Down," and "Crossfire." What gives his album greater depth than most is the message it comes with. He says, "Sincerely is about realizing how much better this world would be if we all loved ourselves, if we weren’t afraid of being vulnerable and honest."
Standout Tracks: "Crossfire", "Mr. Man" and "Remembering Myself"
Denver-based producer Illenium has had a breakout year and it all started with his introductory LP, Ashes. He's become a TSIS favorite over the past couple years and for good reason, too. He first grabbed our attention with remixes of "Disarm You" by Kaskade and "Gold Dust" by Galantis, but then took things to another level with his original works. Ashes is comprised of 10 genuinely amazing songs, all filled with emotion, power and rawness. His lush melodies and warm kicks pair so beautifully as he tells a story with each song. Whether you're in the mood for something anthemic like "Afterlife" or something more chill like "With You", Illenium has you covered every step of the way.
Standout Tracks: "I'll Be Your Reason", "Reverie", "With You" and "Afterlife"
We've been big fans of ZHU since day one and have followed the mysterious producer's meteoric rise since the project's inception. His debut album, Generationwhy, obviously stands as a milestone in his career, but the quality of it is what really spoke volumes to us. The LP is best listened to from front to back without breaks, rather than picking and choosing individual tracks. Generationwhy highlights ZHU's range as a producer, making a conscious decision to break away from the dark, moody sound we first became acquainted to with the project. "Hometown Girl" and "Generationwhy" are the perfect examples of this. Let's not forget the massive collaboration, "Working For It" with Skrillex and THEY. which has accumulated 100+ million streams on Spotify.
Standout Tracks: "Working For It", "In The Morning", "Generationwhy" and "Hometown Girl"
DJ Snake had another great year with releases like "Middle" and "Let Me Love You" in 2016, but his debut studio album Encore should not be overlooked. The 14-track output features major contributions from Skrillex, Young Thug, Travis Scott and Justin Bieber. Encore is diverse in style and successfully finds a crossover style that blends electronic and pop.
Standout Tracks: "Propaganda", "Ocho Cinco" and "Middle"
While deadmau5 may be known for rants on Twitter, he let his music do the talking for most of 2016. The Canadian DJ/producer admitted several times that he felt his new album, W:/2016Album, was "rushed" and "slapped together", but we beg to differ. The project runs in a handful of creative directions, yes, but also hosts some of his most bone-chilling work he's released to date. "Let Go", "4ware" and "2448" are three songs right off the bat that hit us with powerful builds, emotional leads and euphoric melodies we've come to love from the mau5. Fans also get a taste of his chiller, beat-driven works like "Snowcone".
Standout Tracks: "4ware", "Let Go" and "Snowcone"
Dirtybird co-founder Justin Martin shows growth and maturity on his much-anticipated sophomore LP Hello Clouds where his dynamic sound is as enjoyable as ever. The project's title comes from Martin constantly traveling over the course of making the album as he worked on much of it while he was flying between shows. The project’s 13 tracks features a blend of ambient, airy melodies and experimental house productions. He successfully emits a range of emotions that further refines his craft capturing a diverse sound. Martin shows progression on his signature sound effortlessly blending dance-friendly, crunching basslines and floating, atmospheric sound design with perfectly placed vocal chops. The versatile album works for chilling at home or dancing in a club.
Standout Tracks: "Hello Clouds", "The Feels" "Hold Them"
Canadian duo Zeds Dead shared an impressive, 15-track debut album called Nothern Lights this past October. The incredibly diverse project encompasses five years of blood, sweat and tears from the act and is a stunning representation of their talent as producers. The LP brings together a strong lineup of collaborators including Freddie Gibbs on "Back Home", Diplo and Elliphant on "Blame", Pusha T and Rivers Cuomo on "Too Young". Northern Lights showcases their willingness to push the boundaries of electronic music and collaborate with artists who thrive in a very different musical lane. Zeds Dead have always been known for exploring new genres and taking them to new heights, and they continue to do so here.
Standout Tracks: "Too Young", "Blame" and "Stardust"
Haywyre delivered the second half of his two-part Two Fold album earlier this year and was just as satisfying and noteworthy as Two Fold Pt. 1 which he released in 2014. The ever-evolving producer experiments with glitchy space age synths and modern instrumentation, moving between so many genres including house, funk, glitch hop and electro-soul. From track 1 to track 9, Haywyre takes his listeners on a trip.
Standout Tracks: "Moment", "Transient" and "I Am You"
Bassnectar delivered his 12th studio album this year and took his loyal fans on a journey that spans 15 tracks. He describes the LP as a "sonic collage" that taps into a number of spacey styles that coincide with the album's space-themed artwork. The project recruits a handful of bass collaborators such as The Glitch Mob, Luzcid and Gnar Gnar. There's a nostalgic appeal to Unlimited as well as he goes back to his roots on many of the tracks with his melodic style. From harmonious progressions to bone-crushing sequences, Bassnectar nonetheless caters to many tastes on his latest.
Standout Tracks: "Reaching Out", "Paracosm" and "Shampion Chip"
Tycho is the master at creating chill, ambient electronic music. We were gifted with an incredible surprise album as his first release since 2014. Tycho’s fourth studio album Epoch is comprised of dreamy sound designs, showcasing some of Tycho's finest downtempo music yet. Tycho has entirely perfected a rock meets electronic sound on Epoch, building layer upon layer in each of the LP’s songs. He utilizes spacey, atmospheric elements and gently blends them with live instrumentation. The project is deservingly nominated for best dance / electronic album for the 2017 Grammy Awards and was one of our favorite electronic albums of the year.
Standout Tracks: "Epoch", "Horizon" and "Division"
French electronic duo broke their five-year musical silence this past summer with "Safe and Sound", the lead single off their 2016 album, Woman. The song's timeless grooves and funky bassline enacted our hunger for more Justice music and that's exactly what we got with this 10-track LP, the duo's third studio album to date. The project's energy comes in waves and explores a variety of moods. "Stop" is a slow jam that carries a melancholic vibes throughout while "Fire" hits listeners with a tune that's prime for the dance floor.
Standout Tracks: "Safe and Sound", "Fire" and "Randy"
NAO - For All We Know
Nao’s genre-blending debut album For All We Know incorporates some electronic elements, but isn't necessarily an electronic album so we didn’t include it on our top 20 list. However, we feel this is an LP you should definitely listen to. NAO's silky, soulful voice places seductive tendencies atop coarse, warbling production maintaining a dance-friendly electronic core.
Adventure Club - Red / Blue
Adventure Club's debut LP has been a long time coming. Red / Blue consists of 12 tracks, catering to the day one listeners who first latched on to their melodic dubstep sound, as well as recent fans who've been able to experience a more diverse set of releases from the group
Eric Prydz - Opus
Once an OG, always an OG. Eric Prydz's 19-track Opus album encompasses new tracks like "Generate", as well as crowd-favorites that have been teased in his sets over the past few years.
Terror Jr - Bop City
While Terror Jr female vocalist still remains a mystery, it turns out that the group is the brain child of super producer Felix Snow and David Singer-Vine, former member of The Cataracs. The 8-track project Bop City is minimalistic, yet polished, and is paired with amazingly catchy, pop-leaning vocals.
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