Ranking Every Pretty Lights Project From Best To.. Still Good

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You all know the drill by now: we’re big fans of Pretty Lights around here. So with that in mind, and as we patiently wait for new music from the Colorado legend, we wanted to have a little fun and put out a ranked list of our favorite albums/EPs of his (along with a choice cut from each).

This is a comprehensive list, but it’s not necessarily definitive – because with any new release, it could be updated. At any rate, Derek has had a long and storied career, with a total of eight combined official projects since his initial release 14 years ago.

Take a look below to see what we think lands where, starting with “still good” and ending with the best. Enjoy!

8. The Hidden Shades (2014)

This EP is comprised entirely of b-sides (the above track is one) and remixes from A Color Map of the Sun. There’s some good stuff from the likes of Emancipator and ODESZA here, and it’s always cool to see how other distinctive artists are able to use Derek’s template in order to create their own art. Best release? No, but still good?  Absolutely.

7. Taking Up Your Precious Time (2006)

Purists will say that this should be higher, and they might be right. But considering his entire body of work, and how he really cultivated his own sound, we just don’t think so. We think it’s good exactly where it is. This album still gets props for being the first one though, no one would know the name Pretty Lights without it. Also, he holds the distinction of being the only other producer not named Nightmares on Wax to do the sample contained in the above track justice.

6. Making Up a Changing Mind (2010)

2010 was definitely the most experimental year of his career. As stated earlier, he released three albums during that year, with this one being the first offering. This album is interesting because you can clearly hear the influence of contemporaries like Big Gigantic throughout it. The jazzy vibes would become a staple of a lot of his future sets, and it kicked off a creative boon for Derek for the rest of the year.

5. Spilling Over Every Side (2010)

Representing the middle entry of his 2010 trilogy, this six-track long banger marked a turn towards a darker sound for Derek, and the result was altogether a welcome change to his repertoire. Explosive and incendiary, this album cemented his already unmistakable production style and sound into the status that he enjoys at present day: legendary.

4. Filling Up the City Skies (2008)

This album is how we familiarized ourselves with his work in the first place. Giving it a rinse always brings back a little pang of nostalgia. A masterclass in glitch-hop AND downtempo, we actually recommend viewing this double album as two separate albums, albeit with the same title, mainly because of the stark difference between each one.

3. A Color Map of the Sun (2013)

This release is his second double album, but it’s also the first to be composed entirely of his own sounds. With the original sounds first pressed onto vinyl and THEN sampled, plus heavy use of an analog modular synth, this is Derek really challenging himself. And as we all know by now, he rose to that challenge. This was actually the dark horse to be considered for the top spot here, mainly due to its ingenuity.

2. Passing by Behind Your Eyes (2009)

First released as a 100% free download via Pretty Lights Music, you could maybe even rank this album “#1a” instead of slotting it at #2. Simply put, when we think of the prototypical Pretty Lights sound, this album inevitably comes to mind, and this is where he really established his own sound following the departure of Michal Menert from the project.

1. Glowing in the Darkest Night (2010)

Yeah, it’s an EP. But out of all his releases, this is one that top to bottom shines through. It also represents a demarcation point for him in terms of his sound: you can clearly hear the maturity here. This marked his third release of 2010, and it represents the opposite end of the spectrum from the party vibes of the first release. Turns out when Derek goes one darker he has very few peers.

Honorable Mentions

I Know the Truth (2011)

Ok so this is cheating a bit here, because this isn’t an album. What it is though is a single that received a release as it’s own standalone EP, which is both the reason that it’s not ranked higher and also for its presence here in the first place. But come on, any sort of Pretty Lights list that doesn’t mention this just isn’t a proper list right?

Defocused On The Bright Diamonds (2010)

While this was not an official Pretty Lights release, it still deserves a mention. Defocused On The Bright Diamonds was a fan-made compilation of a ton of unreleased Pretty Lights music. There’s plenty of tunes on here that he plays live on a somewhat regular basis (or at least he used to).

And there you have it, a comprehensive ranking of what we believe to be Pretty Lights’ strongest albums. Disagree? That’s perfectly fine, let’s talk about it!