While a lot of us have been affected with some of the horrible things happening across the world, this hasn’t stopped it from being a truly incredible year in music. In 2017, the Electronic and Dance music worlds have delivered in a really big way making the top 20 albums of the year in this category extremely hard to pick out.
After gathering opinions from myself (Nick) and the other writers, we went through and ranked up all albums based on originality, quality and replay-ability among other traits. Here is the list below, with the top album of the year going to ODESZA and their newest album A Moment Apart. Each album on the list is unique and incredible in its own way and we want to congratulate each artist on their quality works of art.
1. ODESZA – A Moment Apart
The Seattle-based duo became a touring phenomenon after their 2014 album In Return that helped set the foundation for where electronic music has shifted for the past few years. The pressure they had to deliver couldn’t have been greater after playing huge performances at almost every music festival and notable venue around. The duo blew away expectations with the follow-up to In Return, grabbing the top spot on our list of best electronic albums in 2017.
Having pioneered an incredibly distinctive and often imitated sound, ODESZA have become larger than life in the electronic music community. It comes as no surprise that their third studio album, A Moment Apart, generated such a huge amount of buzz, even earning the duo a nomination for Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronic Album for the 2018 Grammys.
Because they tend to focus on pairing vibrant and emotional visuals with their lush music production, their projects always seem to have an extra level of intricacy. A Moment Apart was no exception as over the duration of 2017, the duo shared incredible visual pairings for their music, from unique performance recaps, to highly detailed music videos and even insights into how they made tracks off of the album.
A Moment Apart puts their signature sound on full display as they build on their cinematic sound design and catchy songwriting complimented by gentle soundscapes and non-conventional percussion coming together for their unique euphoric sound. Featuring a wide variety of musical styles and features from some incredible artists such as Leon Bridges and Regina Spektor, it’s amazing that while this album has a bit of a different vibe than previous releases, in its entirety, it still sounds exactly like ODESZA.
Standout Tracks: “Across The Room”, “Higher Ground”, and “Meridian”
2. FKJ – French Kiwi Juice
FKJ is always evolving as an artist. The multi-instrumentalist, producer and vocalist is a master at looping various instruments in an effortless fashion touching on many influences including funk, soul, R&B, jazz and more. After years of incredible remixes and original tracks, the talented artist stepped forward to deliver his most cohesive work to date on his debut album French Kiwi Juice.
FKJ’s sound is incredibly unique. The way he loops instruments to create a depth of layers is just as amazing on studio recordings as his live performances. As someone whose sound is constantly evolving, it didn't come as a full surprise when he displayed his vocals for the first time on the album single "Better Give U Up," but he did surprise us with how great of a voice he had this whole time. He went on to sing on multiple songs across the project adding the perfect compliment to his lush instrumentals. French Kiwi Juice is an amazing, chill listen from start to finish and we can't wait to hear future projects from the talented Parisian artist.
Standout tracks: “Vibin’ Out With (((O)))” “Lying Together” “Better Give U Up”
3. Bonobo – Migration
Built upon 12 exceptional songs, Bonobo’s Migration is a powerful endeavor which earned the accomplished producer a 2018 Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Bonobo flaunts his distinguished production abilities throughout the offering, delivering his trademark, chilled out sound which has continually evolved throughout his career. Including collaborations with Rhye, Nick Murphy, Nicole Miglis and Innov Gnawa, ‘Migration’ is a mellow experience with each song providing a unique atmosphere and sound touching on everything from indie electronic and chill house, to worldly influenced electronica and everything in between.
The LP's title is a reference to him working on much of this album on the road while touring as he'd take influences from the diverse set of collaborators and his travels. Bonobo showcases this global influence throughout Migration. Not only did Simon Green (Bonobo) spend time everywhere from the wilderness to the mountains to the desert to gain inspiration, he also included samples recorded from around the world. This includes "an elevator in Hong Kong airport, rain in Seattle, a tumble dryer in Atlanta and a fan boat engine in New Orleans into his intricate sonics.”
Bonobo blends a wide array of genres on this incredibly diverse LP. He shows his expert ability to build lush soundscapes and textures atop one another while bringing the best out in each collaborator.
Standout Songs: “Break Apart”, "Kerala", "No Reason"
4. Petit Biscuit - Presence
As someone who has blown us away since the beginning, Petit Biscuit's debut album couldn't have had much higher expectations, which he exceeded. The 18-year old French artist's album Presence is a brilliant display of the French producer’s remarkable capabilities.
The diverse 14-track LP takes listeners through an emotional journey. While Petit Biscuit has developed a signature, mystical sound design that sounds like it’s straight out of a dream, the rising producer exhibits a new, darker, direction on a few tracks like “Break Up” and “Presence.” The offering features powerful collaborators such as Lido and Panama, however, Petit Biscuit himself also sings on tracks including “Forever Being” and “On The Road”.
While some of the songs are laid-back and relaxing, others are hard-hitting and ready for the dance floor. The smooth, shimmering synths and epic, cinematic production are front and center while captivating the listener throughout. We were lucky enough to interview the rising artist upon the release of Presence and more.
Standout tracks: “Problems”, “Sunset Lover”, “Beam”
5. Illenium - Awake
Denver-based producer Illenium is no stranger to our end of the year list. Last year we were stunned by his debut album, Ashes, as it ended up at number 11 of our electronic list. This year, Illenium outdid himself with his sophomore album, Awake proving he's here to stay.
Awake will mesmerize you from front to back with its enchanting, rich melodies, paired with catchy emotive vocals and punchy percussion. The vocal-heavy project pairs each collaborator perfectly with his forward-thinking production. While most songs bring on its own talented collaborator, Awake includes a few tracks that shy away from the use of vocals and allow his clean production to take center stage. Illenium takes this opportunity to put his emotional productions on full display and did not disappoint.
Standout Tracks: "Let You Go", "No Time Like Now", "Fractures"
6. SNAILS – The Shell
SNAILS' sound design is in a league of its own. The vomitstep pioneer has a knack for creating some of the most bizarre noises, and puts this unique skill on full display for his debut album, The Shell.
Filled with incredible features, the 12-track project finds SNAILS progressing as an artist as he evolves his song structure by incorporating guest vocalists alongside his gargling, alien sounding synths. SNAILS proves to be an expert in bringing out the best in each collaborator as he coordinates incredible features from some of our favorite artists including Big Gigantic, NGHTMRE, Waka Flocka Flame, Collie Buddz, MAX, HYTYD, Foreign Beggars, Sarah Hudson, Dion Timmer, KLP, Liam Cormier (of the band Cancer Bats), and Travis Richter (of the band From First To Last).
The Shell maintains the Montreal producer's one-of-a-kind sound that truly pushes the limits. There's something to be said about SNAILS' drops that will make you want to headbang no matter where you're listening, and The Shell delivers not only some of his best drops to date, but also his most expansive songs as a whole.
Standout Tracks: "Only Want U", "Feel The Vibe", "Smack Up"
7. Rezz - Mass Manipulation
When it comes to sound design, REZZ is one-of-a-kind. Having stayed consistent with her unique, creepy vibe over dozens of self-released tracks, she’s grown quite a large cult following in a very short amount of time. Although she’s released multiple EP’s throughout her career thus far, her debut album Mass Manipulation marks her third project released via mau5trap and is by far the longest and most cohesive of her offerings to date.
Featuring collaborations with numerous relatively unknown artists, it’s incredibly commendable to see that she continues to stay true to her vision and fans. Mass Manipulation in its entirety perfectly encapsulates the dark, hypnotic aura REZZ has masterfully crafted over the past few years. Whether veteran REZZ fan or first time listener, this is the album to start with.
Standout Tracks: “Relax” “Diluted Brains” and “Green Gusher”
8. Tokimonsta – Lune Rouge
The LA-based producer that is TOKiMONSTA has released numerous albums and EP’s throughout her almost decade-long career, but none of them were as important as her latest, Lune Rouge. From R&B and Hip-Hop to future bass and melancholic experimental electronic soundscapes, it’s clear that something changed for TOKiMONSTA on this 11-track LP.
That something happened to be two brain surgeries; which cost her not only her ability to understand language and walk, but also to comprehend music. Having been diagnosed with an extremely rare and potentially fatal brain disease (Moyamoya) at the end of 2015, Lune Rouge consists entirely of songs written in the two years after the recovery process of regaining her speech and mobility. Despite her health complications, TOKiMONSTA still went on to create incredibly impressive music with SAINTS, MNDR, Yuna, Isaiah Rashad, Joey Purp and more. As some of her most intricate work to date, Lune Rouge is an album we'll be remembering.
Standout Tracks: “Don’t Call Me”, “NO WAY” and “Thief”
9. TroyBoi – Left Is Right
London’s own TroyBoi dropped his debut album, Left Is Right, in August, and the noticeably experimental nature of the project truly sets it apart. The producer’s self-dubbed “MyStyle” signature is undeniably unique, drawing from genres like hip-hop, R&B and, most interestingly, Middle Eastern music, all with a trap influence tying each track together.
He’s able to take things to heavy new heights on heaters like “What You Know” and “Flamez,” but can simultaneously dial it back on tracks like “ili.” Altogether, the best thing about TroyBoi is the inability to put him in any box, an idea that he truly showcased with Left Is Right.
Standout Tracks: “What You Know,” “O.G” and “B.I.A”
10. Giraffage – Too Real
San Francisco-based producer Giraffage shared Too Real this year via Counter Records, and the result is an offering that captures the breeziness of the Bay Area and the rising artist’s diverse, progressive signature sound all in one.
Each release on this project maintains an individual identity that fits together like pieces to a puzzle when all is said and done. The odd but effective quirks of the album, like the duck quacks on “Green Tea” and the nostalgic AOL Instant Messenger sound effects on “Earth,” also take things to a unique new level. From the relaxed, progressive intro track “Do U Want Me” to the cinematic conclusion with “First Breath,” Too Real is a versatile, dreamy journey from start to finish.
Standout Tracks: “Green Tea,” “Slowly,” and “19 Hours”
11. Mura Masa – Mura Masa
While many artists on this list dropped incredible works after years of experience, 21-year-old Mura Masa wrapped up his true breakout year, sophomore album (major label debut) and a handful of Grammy nominations all in one, and he did it effortlessly. His self-titled album Mura Masa dropped back in July, and even then we knew this would be one of our favorites and one of the most unique releases of the year.
The young producer draws from a staggering amount of influences through his tracks. Unexpected instrumental elements like steel drums, xylophone and harps stand in compelling unity with guest appearances from artists like Desiigner, A$AP Rocky and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn. No two tracks are even remotely alike, displaying versatility well beyond the artist’s years in production as months later these songs are still stuck in our heads. Mura Masa doesn’t shy away from taking risks and even getting a little weird with his music, and his authenticity has drawn attention from fans around the globe.
Standout Tracks: “Love$ick,” “What If I Go?”, "Firefly"
12. Walker & Royce – Self Help
The Dirtybird label has had some amazing artists step into the limelight in 2017, including Walker & Royce, who made quite the impact this year with their album Self Help. This 11-track album is our favorite Dirtybird release of the year and the project we've enjoyed most from the label since Justin Martin's Hello Clouds that made the cut of our top 20 electronic albums last year. Nearly all the tunes on this project featured their now signature, heavily distorted basslines that will reverberate through your whole body.
Self Help isn’t just an album full of tech-house bangers, it’s a work of art. There are tracks on here where Walker & Royce clearly step way outside their comfort zone like “Role Models” and “My Own Thang”, yet they still manage shine. This is an album that sounds amazing from start to finish, and definitely one of our favorites of 2017. Self Help is an incredibly accessible album for fans of all varieties of house music and a great entry point to the amazing Dirtybird label for those of you just getting your feet wet.
Standout Tracks: "Take Me To Your Leader", "Role Models", "Can You Pass That?"
13. Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1
In the months after the release of his arguably perfect single “Slide”, Calvin Harris’ fifth studio album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 undoubtedly became one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Characterized by a funky, upbeat retro sound, it seems like Harris came full circle from his first LP – I Created Disco.
Having accumulated an impressive amount of writing and production credits with larger-than-life artists over the past decade, this year the tables turned in his favor, exemplified by the staggering 22 guest features on his only 10-track album. With all these features, Harris was still able to create a cohesive project staying true to his vision. Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 has a truly unique feeling to it. The album in its entirety feels like something Calvin Harris really put his time, money and heart into.
Standout Tracks: “Slide” “Heatstroke” and “Rollin”
14. Emancipator – Baralku
Anytime Emancipator releases a project, it’s a treat. The veteran producer has been behind some of our favorite instrumentals for years and once again shows he’s a master at the art on his latest album Baralku. Emancipator’s music has evolved for years and somehow gets better and better with each release.
There’s something about his instrumentals that have a calming effect as he captures a mystical, relaxing quality in each of his productions. He has a way of incorporating layers on layers of organic instrumentation and electronic production that seamlessly compliment each other making his signature sound. Each track blends a variety of different influences incorporating hip-hop percussion, middle eastern strings, glitchy vocal chops and more. Baralku is an atmospheric journey that serves as the perfect chill soundtrack to any activity. After years of delivering quality projects, Emancipator shows no signs of slowing down.
Standout Tracks: "Baralku", "Ghost Pong", "Goodness"
15. JackLNDN – Colours LP
Over the years, JackLNDN has made a name for himself due to his infectious take on chill house music, and put this skill set on full display with his debut album Colours LP.
This project finds Jack expanding his repertoire as an artist by including his own vocals as the perfect compliment to his dance-ready productions. On Colours LP, He explores various sounds pairing dreamy, atmospheric sound design and smooth instrumentation with bright melodies and pulsing basslines while capturing a soulful vibe throughout. This is a strong debut album that cements JackLNDN as an artist to follow for years to come.
Standout Tracks: "The Feels", "Bittersweet Emotion", "Lose My Head"
16. Maya Jane Coles – Take Flight
For her second studio album, Maya Jane Coles released a sprawling, two-hour body of work containing 24 original tracks of deep house, techno, and trip-hop. The UK producer and DJ opens up the album Take Flight with the moody and atmospheric "Weak," which sets the tone for the album with its muted drums and hushed vocals.
The first half of the album sounds like a 4am rainy drive home from the club, while the second half amps up the energy and keeps the party going throughout the morning. She sounds more confident than ever on this album, whether her voice is at the forefront of the track or indistinguishable and buried into the beat. It never stays in once place with tempo changes, genre flips, guest vocalists, and evolving beats, yet it maintains Coles' unique style throughout its duration.
Standout Tracks: "Weak", "On My Way", "Blackout"
17. Darius – Utopia
Darius joins FKJ as second artist on this list with an album put out on the Roche Musique label this year. The French artist has a way of crafting music that has an uplifting, yet calming quality at the same time and he nailed this on the head throughout Utopia.
His lush soundscapes create a smooth listen from start to finish carrying a versatile collection of glossy sounds that are relaxing throughout and refreshingly versatile. He showcases his unique ability of crafting soulful, atmospheric sound design paired with shuffling percussion that takes different turns, incorporating some trap-inspired portions across the cinematic project.
Standout Tracks: "Echo", "Lost In The Moment", "Mountains"
18. Jacques Greene – Feel Infinite
Six years after starting off his career strong with excellent remixes of indie and hip-hop tracks, Jacques Greene has finally released his debut album, Feel Infinite. The 11-track project shows off his versatility as a producer and creates an amazing blend of chill, dark house music.
The Canadian artist said that he was listening to Justin Timberlake and Marilyn Manson while working on this album, and those influences come through in his catchy song structure. The club-ready tracks carry a relaxing tone throughout as his textured soundscapes add depth to the infectious melodies and live instrumentation combining with pulsing basslines and shuffling percussion. With only one guest feature (from indie artist How to Dress Well), Jacques Greene remains the focus of the album, allowing his strong songwriting and instrumental production abilities to shine.
Standout Tracks: "Feel Infinite", "To Say", "You Can't Deny"
19. Cashmere Cat – 9
We’ve been fans of Cashmere Cat for years, so needless to say we were extremely excited to learn that he would finally be dropping his first ever album this year. Having made a name for himself via his light-hearted, vocal-centric electronic production, we were relatively surprised upon first listening to 9, as it was much more pop-directed than expected.
But while pop, hip-hop and R&B inspirations can be heard throughout the album, there still remains the wonky, fast-paced electronic production style that we’ve come to know and love. And aside from the fact that while titled 9, the LP includes 10 tracks, it’d be a stretch for us to name something that we disliked about the entirety of this project. Having evolved from a competitive turntablist to highly sought out record producer for numerous big-name artist, it’s incredibly inspiring to see the tables turn in such a positive way for Cashmere, as 9 includes a total of 12 features from some of 2017’s most successful acts.
Standout Tracks: “Wild Love”, “Europa Pools” and “infinite Stripes”
20. RAC – EGO
Although RAC’s remix work is what put him on the map, the artist also proved that his original work is just as enjoyable throughout 2017. His project EGO is a collab-heavy album that toes the line somewhere between indie, electronica and pop.
RAC opted to release the project as one continuous hour of music via SoundCloud, demonstrating just how cohesive and intricate this offering truly is from start to finish – he even capped the album at exactly one hour, down to the second. Artists like St. Lucia, Joywave and more each brought their personal style to the project, with RAC linking the intricacies of instruments, the power of vocals and the versatility of production together into a 14-track, hourlong release.
Standout Tracks: “This Song,” “Unusual” and “Heartbreak Summer”
Jerry Folk - Purple Evenings
Although this one is technically a mixtape and not an album, it's very deserving of a spot on our favorite electronic projects this year. Jerry Folk is an artist we've been excited about since we first heard one of his songs, and on Purple Evenings he puts his genre-blending skill set on full display. Jerry Folk's lush productions are perfectly complimented by his airy, distorted vocals for the chill, feel-good vibe that's become his signature sound. Here he combines bright funky melodies with constantly evolving dance-focused sound design that keeps you on your toes throughout the project we had the pleasure of premiering.
If this were a full album, it would have made the list even higher. Even though it's a mixtape we felt it's worthy of highlighting as he once again blew us away. Chasing The Golden Hour Pt. 2 captures an easygoing energy drawing influences from 90’s hip-hop and soul music as he expertly blends together different genres, using nostalgic samples to create the perfect summer-inspired project.
Oliver – Full Circle
Oliver put their versatility on display across the 15-track project Full Circle filled with features including artists like Chromeo, De La Soul, Elohim and more. Oliver sticks to their dance-driven sound throughout the project taking influence from everything including disco to house to indie electronic and everything in between. Oliver fully showcase their knack for sound design on Full Circle. They touch on dreamy and relaxing sounds as well as the more harder-hitting end of the spectrum. Most of the album carries a sci-fi, space influence that works incredibly well for the duo.
AC Slater - Outsiders
Night Bass king AC Slater’s debut album, Outsiders, was a long time coming and simultaneously absolutely worth the wait as he created an album dedicated to house music on the fringe. The offering is packed with impressive collaborations, gritty basslines and heavy-hitting production all revolving around brisk 4/4 beats that house lovers know and love. With this project, AC Slater gives the more underground subgenres of UK garage, bassline, bass house and grime their time in the spotlight while still staying unapologetically true to the sound.
Lunice – CCCLX
When we heard that TNGHT member Lunice would be releasing his debut album, CCCLX (360 in Roman numerals) we couldn't wait to hear it in full. Featuring collaborations with a diverse set of artists such as SOPHIE, Denzel Curry and CJ Flemings, CCCLX acted as a way for Lunice to channel his long developed, experimental, hip-hop influenced sound into a cohesive full length offering for the first time in six years.
deadmau5 – Stuff I Used To Do
Although not his best work, deadmau5 put out a quality project at the beginning of the year that any deadmau5 fan should spend time with. It saw the veteran producer explore various genres including techno, house, electro, hip-hop and more as he experimented with new sounds.