While there were some ups and downs in 2018, one of the bright spots of the year is the electronic and dance albums that were released. The artform has continually developed over the years garnering some incredible projects including dance music, to bass and the indie side of the spectrum. We’re pleased to present some of our favorites from 2018, which comprises a diverse set of albums that we enjoyed the most this past year.
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 RÜFÜS DU SOL and their newest release Solace. 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. RÜFÜS DU SOL – Solace
The pressure was on for RÜFÜS DU SOL to deliver something spectacular for their third studio album, Solace. The Aussie trio had been touring the world as one of the premiere indie/dance acts for a while, and the anticipation for their follow up to their album Bloom was at all-time levels. When October 19 came around, RÜFÜS showed everyone that they’re here to stay on top.
Solace expands the sound of RÜFÜS to include darker, more turbulent themes. The trio also submerged themselves deeper into the introspective side of songwriting, with the record focusing on lost love and reflection. Of course, the album includes RÜFÜS’s infectious danceable rhythms that will have you moving all night long. Solace shows off their ability to place just as much importance on the dreamy production as they do on their irresistible vocals and songwriting.
The album shows that RÜFÜS are as consistent as ever and show no signs of slowing down. There’s no telling where they’ll be in the future, but it’s looking very bright for them.
Standout Tracks: “Eyes” “No Place” “Treat You Better”
2. ZHU – Ringo’s Desert
Before the release of his 2018 Ringo’s Desert album, it seemed like we had seen every side of ZHU. We were introduced to him via his dark and moody The Nightday EP, witnessed how well he worked with others on his Genesis EP, showed us his lighter side on Generationwhy, and even dipped his toes into trap with his stardustexhalemarrakechdreams EP. What did ZHU want to do next?
We believe that Ringo’s Desert is some of his strongest work yet. He expertly takes listeners on a dark, deep house adventure that is consistent as ever. He shows off his silky vocals and songwriting while his incredible production is highlighted on each song. Here ZHU sounds incredible on his own while also bringing the best out of each collaborator on Ringo’s Desert. On his latest album, ZHU has a one-of-a-kind way of blending elements of R&B and eerie house productions in the best way possible
The album came in two parts with the first seven tracks delivered in April holding fans down until the second half of the full 14-song project arrived in September combining to be one of the best albums all year. Wherever ZHU wants to go next is up to him, of course, but we hope he’s going to stay within this moody realm for a while.
Standout Tracks: “Desert Woman” “Guilty Love” “Save Me”
3. Bob Moses – Battle Lines
Bob Moses has an ability to blend genres at the highest level. The LA-based duo comprised of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance proved this once again on their sophomore album Battle Lines ranking as one of our favorites all year. They have a knack for blending elements of indie rock and electronic production in a seamless dance rock fusion that sounds at home in both indie and electronic dance circles.
The culmination of this hybrid sound on Battle Lines is largely due to the duo’s eclectic musical history combining a trance producer with a rock bassist. The two have a strong chemistry throughout the project incorporating atmospheric keys, gritty guitar riffs and sing-along friendly vocals alongside melodic synths and dance floor ready drums. On Battle Lines, Bob Moses follows up their Grammy nomination showing they have a lot more to offer.
Standout Tracks: “Heaven Only Knows” “Back Down” “Enough to Believe”
4. Jungle – For Ever
Beloved UK band Jungle burst into the music world back in 2014 with their self-titled, debut album that won fans over instantly, garnering themselves a diehard fanbase. The addicting, feel-good album clocked in at under 40 minutes and left fans begging for more. However, the group went on a four year hiatus leading up to their highly anticipated sophomore album For Ever… and the wait proved to be worthwhile.
They effortlessly blend elements of soul, indie and electronic music in a one-of-a-kind sound that just begs to be on repeat. Over the course of recording For Ever, the group’s leaders Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland moved to Hollywood, ended long-term relationships and moved back to London.
That process is apparent across the album that brings moments of joy while focusing more on heartbreak than their previous work. Here Jungle shows they can still somehow find a way to make sad songs sound uplifting. The previously described the project as “a post-apocalyptic radio station playing break up songs,” which is pretty spot on. We’re hoping the next project comes more quickly than this one, but we have no problem throwing this on repeat until then.
Standout Tracks: “Heavy, California” “Happy Man” “House In LA”
5. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
Jon Hopkins’ Singularity is his first proper album release since 2013 and it’s no wonder this project took a bit of time to perfect. With over half of the songs on the 9-track project clocking in at over six minutes, there is a lot to digest. The grandiose album seems to paint a vivid narrative unlike any other we heard this year. It’s a project that is meant to be heard in one sitting, from start to finish as each song unfolds in a way that feels like it’s telling part of a bigger story. It’s almost as if it were some sort of intricate film score.
Jon Hopkins takes a highly emotional approach to his songwriting and album tracklisting that creates a sense of one long journey throughout. His experimental sound pairs elements of evolution with destruction, industrial with natural, meditative with disorienting. At times it feels like organized chaos. There’s something about his song structure that juxtaposes ambient and acoustic sounds with distorted and heavily processed noises while making it feel natural. He blends sounds of natural beauty with synthetic, machine-like sound design.
Throughout the album there is a constant evolution. No section feels too familiar for too long before it morphs and expands. On Singularity, Hopkins has a nearly unparalleled ability to evoke a hypnotic listening experience. He includes thundering, frantic songs alongside ones hitting the ethereal, atmospheric end of the spectrum as a truly diverse album. Singularity shifts moods effortlessly across both the full project and each song individually.
Standout Tracks: “Emerald Rush” “Luminous Beings” “Feel First Life”
6. Kasbo – Places We Don’t Know
2018 was an absolutely fantastic year for Kasbo. Having picked up incredible speed off his collaboration with Keiynan Lonsdale, the Swedish producer highlighted his year off with his infectious debut album Places We Don’t Know.
While his single’s “Reaching” and “Kaleidoscope” definitely set him blazing onward to greatness, from dropping his 2015 Umbrella Club EP to joining up with ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective, Kasbo has come into his own with Places We Don’t Know.
Featuring soft, ethereal percussion, soaring melodies and passionate vocals packaged in the soft, masterful acoustic/electric blend we’ve come to love. Having watched Kasbo evolve over the years, this debut LP shows his amazing growth while reminding us he’s just getting started with full length albums. Kasbo made a statement through his intricate sound design and irresistible songwriting on his debut album and we can only imagine where he’ll go from here.
Standout Tracks: “Aldrig Mer” “Places We Don’t Know” “Over You”
7.) Medasin – Irene
Medasin has been one of our favorites for years now, so when we heard he was coming out with a full length project in 2018, we were beyond excited. With his lush, diverse sound having been sought after for official remixes of DJ Khaled, Portugal. The Man, Joji & more, the Dallas-based producer reached new heights with his debut album Irene.
Packed with everything from trap to future bass to bass house, Irene not only showcases Medasin’s powerful production but incredible musicality through his wonky, skittering basslines and jazzy, slow rolling synth melodies. At times, Irene switched things up from what he built his fanbase on over the year, but in the best way possible.
Some of our favorite songs off his debut album were the slower, lush songs showcasing his knack for fun melodies like “Ramen” or “Slinky Man” that seem impossible to not love. Many moments on Irene have the ability to lighten any mood and are accessible to any kind of music fan.
Standout Tracks: “Slinky Man” “Home” “Ramen”
8. Golden Features – SECT
Golden Features may have started his career behind a mysterious shiny mask, but he doesn’t need anonymity to help him stand out above the crowd. His dark, sinister, house music does all the talking. SECT is yet another debut album on this list that really caught our attention this year. The Sydney-based artist has somehow found a way to draw influences from both futuristic and throwback styles on this project, and we love it.
After numerous years of releasing singles and EPs, Golden Features has fully grown into his own sound on SECT. The moody, intoxicating tone of this album is perfect for what it is. Songs like “Always” capture a Justice inspired sound, while adding a pulsing house twist to kick off the album on an intriguing, yet menacing note.
“Falling Out” takes his deep house sound in an enticing direction pairing catchy vocals with a dance-friendly bassline and his own infectious vocals. From start to finish SECT showcases Golden Features ability to deliver both dark and abrasive house alongside uplifting and bright house songs with crisp sound design and undeniable songwriting.
Standout Tracks: “Always” “Worship” “Falling Out”
9. Lane 8 – Little By Little
Little By Little is the sophomore album from Lane 8, our old friend we can count on no matter how much time has passed. Almost a full year after its initial release date, this 10-song collection of mellow house tracks still surprises with its emotional complexity wrapped up within glowing chords and ethereal vocals.
Album standouts like “No Captain” and “Stir Me Up” tell a story that only strengthens with each listen, maintaining a timelessness through their clean, radiant sound design. Lane 8’s Little By Little falls into a similar realm as some of our favorite artists like Bonobo and Tycho, but maintains its own unique identity, solidifying Lane 8 as a staple for us.
On Little By Little, he has a way of crafting elaborate chill house instrumentals evolving with dramatic synths and irresistible percussion that can serve as the perfect work or reading soundtrack. At the same time he also feels right at home alongside vocalists with emotional, uplifting melodies giving the singing an infectious foundation that will get anyone’s head bobbing. From the vocal-heavy ballads to the solely instrumental offerings, Little By Little finds its power in tenderness. This gripping sound makes for an album that we’ll undoubtedly take with us into the New Year and far beyond.
Standout Tracks: “Daya” “No Captain” “Stir Me Up”
10. Tom Misch – Geography
Genre blending is never easy. Not many can take a handful of different styles and mix them together to create something new, but Tom Misch’s efforts to do so have been on point ever since we first heard of him. On his debut album, Geography, Tom brilliantly showcased a one-of-a-kind sound that blends elements of disco, jazz, hip-hop, soul, & electronic production into one project.
In addition to the impressive blending on its own, it must be noted that Tom Misch’s own musical talents shine here as well. His voice is as comforting and clean as his melodies, most of which he creates himself using real instrumentation. His guitar noodling is just perfect.
We’d definitely put Tom Misch up there with some of our favorite and most talented artists especially after how great a release Geography was.
Standout Tracks: “Movie” “South of the River” “Runs Through Me”
11. What So Not – Not All The Beautiful Things
Since the inception of the project, What So Not has continued to be responsible for incredible releases over the years – of which his exciting debut album Not All The Beautiful Things housed many.
Having traveled to the end of the electronic music spectrum and back, WSN set 2018’s festival season with ablaze with his eclectic, immaculate culmination of bass and beauty. Not All The Beautiful Things displays WSN’s impressive versatility. He sounds right at home on wonky, bass-driven instrumentals like “Warlord” just as much as he does on beautiful, melody-based songs like “BUOY.”
The album is stacked with guest appearances, but manages to maintain a cohesive feel throughout. WSN brings the best out of the featured artists while staying true to his own vision on this impressive debut album that puts his wild sound design on full display. With features from San Holo, Rome Fortune, Skrillex and even Toto, Not All The Beautiful Things continues to make it into our rotation.
Standout Tracks: “Goh” “Demons” “Be Okay Again”
12. G Jones – The Ineffable Truth
G Jones’ rollout of his highly anticipated debut album was one that we followed very closely. Each single that was released was sounding more and more expansive. We knew the final product was going to amazing, and he did not disappoint.
From sound design to composition to the arrangement of tracks, The Ineffable Truth is G Jones’ best work through and through as he showed an evolution in his sound. This album was not just about stacking bangers on top of bangers. Yes, there were many songs on the project that slapped, but it also contained brilliant pieces of music that expose different, ethereal sides to G Jones that we’ve never seen before.
The experimental sound design on the Ineffable Truth sounds like something from another planet on songs like “Understanding The Possibility” and “Different Sound” while “Everything All At Once” is a beautifully laidback song focused on melody. G Jones showcases his growth as not only a producer, but as a well-rounded artist on The Ineffable Truth.
Standout Tracks: “Arbiter’s Theme” “Understanding The Possibility” “In Your Head”
13. San Holo – album1
San Holo has grown in leaps and bounds since his breakout in 2014. From heavy, melodic trap to bright, emotional future bass, the Dutch producer pulled out all the stops this year for his aptly titled debut album – album1.
As someone who got his musical start with guitar, it seems it was only a matter of time before San began showcasing his five-string talent. With his recent throwback Create, Create, Create EP to singles like “The Future” and “Right Here, Right Now” while San has only given us a slight insight into his instrumental prowess over the years, with this debut project he put it on full display.
In combining his unique lo-fi processing, emotional lyrics, heavy bass and warbling guitar, San not only brought forth the elements and inspiration that have driven his career, but continues to show progress on his anticipated debut, album1.
Standout Tracks: “lift me from the ground” “brighter days” “forever free”
14. The Blaze – DANCEHALL
There are many people out there who listen to music for the emotion that it evokes. The Blaze have masterfully created a sound that resonates deep inside their listeners on their new album DANCEHALL. The French duo may only be a couple of years old, but already they’ve made quite the name for themselves through their incredibly unique, warm, downtempo style.
There’s something about The Blaze’s debut album that just hits home for us. The Blaze include deep slightly pitched down, yet dreamy vocals on most of their songs that provides a pleasant compliment to their pulsing house production. Many of their songs are emotional in the way the chords and vocals evolve throughout from a slow rolling intro into a dance friendly, bright house song.
Across DANCEHALL, The Blaze have a way of capturing a feel-good energy throughout. Their pleasantly bright instrumentation pairs with the uplifting lyrics and passionate vocal delivery in a way that will get you dancing and smiling at the same time.
Standout Tracks: “HEAVEN” “PLACES” “RUNAWAY”
15. Tash Sultana – Flow State
There’s quite a few multi-instrumentalists and vocalists out there. However, few can do it all to the level that Tash Sultana can. She built her name off viral videos of herself looping instruments at the highest level and has continued to refine this unique ability. The insanely talented Aussie proved to be a force to be reckoned with on her debut album Flow State putting her wide-reaching skills on full display. Tash Sultana can truly do it all, and well. She plays guitar, drums, bass, piano, pan flute, mandolin, trumpet, saxophone and has one hell of a voice on top of being a producer as well. She’s a true one-woman-band.
Throughout the album, Sultana not only showcases her wild instrumentation, but also her top-notch songwriting and angelic vocals we can’t get enough of. Each song on Flow State is amazing from start to finish with some songs like “Blackbird” highlighting her next level guitar work. Songs like “Seven” take a fully instrumental approach putting her production abilities on full display.
The album is versatile, but stays true to her soulful, funky sound we’ve fallen in love with. On top of the album being one of the best all year, so is the live show. If you get the chance to see her live, do not miss that opportunity because there’s very few artists that can put on a show like Tash Sultana.
Standout Tracks: “Cigarettes” “Salvation” “Harvest Love”
16. Alison Wonderland – Awake
It’s been absolutely incredible to watch Alison Wonderland slowly grow to dominate the trap/bass music scene. Having achieved incredible success with her 2015 debut album Run, the multi-talented Australian powerhouse really dialed-in her lush, heavy sound on her sophomore album Awake.
Having trained in classical cello since an early age, Alison has continued to prove throughout the years that she’s a force to be reckoned with in not only in her production, but singing, songwriting and instrumentation alike. Awake is a vulnerable album in which Alison touches on themes of depression and her own personal growth, while staying upbeat and evoking a positive feeling. She displays a versatility in production with cinematic and soothing backdrops for storytelling, vocal focused tracks while getting experimental on other crashing trap productions showing off her forward-thinking side.
Alison brings each collaborator into her own passionate world throughout the album that tells her personal story through a series of songs that each sound unique in their own way. With Awake solidifying her versatile abilities from singing to hip-hop to trap to future bass and everything in between, Alison has truly carved out her own unique, emotional, yet bass heavy niche with this project.
Standout Tracks: “High” “Church” “Happy Place”
17. CloZee – Evasion
Producers that pioneer new sounds have always caught our attention. Over the past few years, CloZee managed to forge her own unique sub-genre of bass music that she refers to as “world bass.” This rich and refreshing sound has ascended to its prime with the release of her debut album, Evasion. We loved the project from front to back.
Not everyone listens to music as a form of escape, but Evasion is the perfect album to step away from reality with. Each and every track off of Evasion illustrates a sonic landscape that you can just step into and get lost in. Some tracks feel like they take you deep into an Eastern jungle, and some bring you to the highest mountain peaks.
Evasion blends elements of many different forms of music in the best way possible. Incorporating elements of middle eastern strings, hip-hop drums, glitchy vocal chops, lush synths and ethereal soundscapes, CloZee crafted one of the more diverse albums this year. With mostly instrumental tracks, Evasion effortlessly showcases the artist’s production abilities. A full listen-through of this album seems like a trip around the entire world, and if that’s what CloZee was aiming for, she couldn’t have executed it better.
Standout Tracks: “Evasion” “The Golden Mask” “Spiral”
18. REZZ – Certain Kind of Magic
With Rezz’s Mass Manipulation having easily made it into our top 10 of 2017, it’s no surprise that she’s secured yet another spot on this year’s list with Certain Kind of Magic. Having released a multitude of incredible tracks over the year, she definitely did not disappoint with her sophomore album.
REZZ came to fame with her unique, gritty bass sound and dials in her unique sound design even further on Certain Kind of Magic. The album is undoubtedly sinister. She has a way of using her crunching basstones alongside eerie synths in a way that paints a menacing and spooky soundscape that’s immediately recognizable as REZZ and could be the soundtrack to a horror movie.
Certain Kind of Magic as featuring collaborations with up-and-coming artists like Deathpact, 1788-L, 13, Fytch and more, the Canadian producer known lovingly as Space Mom has been consistent in using her platform to work with and shine a light on up-and-coming talent. Characterized by shrill, slow rolling synths, eerie soundscapes and wonky downtempo drums, Certain Kind of Magic is a continuous barrage of gritty, distorted bass and dark brain-twisting sound design that sounds like it could be from another planet.
Standout Tracks: “Life & Death” “Flying Octopus” “H E X”
19. The Glitch Mob – See Without Eyes
The Glitch Mob certainly could be considered one of the most revered trios in electronic music, which is why we couldn’t wait to hear their first album since 2014. The L.A. outfit returned from their brief hiatus with fortitude, dropping their powerful fourth studio album, See Without Eyes.
The 11-track project twists and turns through all the different elements that encapsulate The Glitch Mob’s sound. There’s the distorted, gritty, percussive bangers like “Disintegrate Slowly” and “Come Closer,” as well as mellow, psychedelic cuts such as “Interbeing” and “Way Out Is In.”
The beloved trio pair glitchy sound design with dreamy synths and booming percussion in a way that both highlights and builds on their signature sound we’ve loved for years. Any fan of electronic music can find something they like in See Without Eyes. Whether you’re listening to admire their trademark sound design, or just looking to get your blood pumping to some high-energy heat, The Glitch Mob has you covered.
Standout Tracks: “Disintegrate Slowly” “Interbeing” “Come Closer”
20. Ryan Hemsworth – Elsewhere
Ryan Hemsworth has always been a respected member of the underground electronic music scene. His earlier work in 2013 (Still Awake) and 2014 (Alone for the First Time) was more focused on eccentric, out-of-the-box bass music, hip-hop and pop, but that was quite some time ago, so we weren’t sure what to expect when he dropped his fourth studio album, Elsewhere.
Elsewhere turned out to be perhaps the most cohesive projects of Hemsworth’s career, and it’s a pleasurable listen that features funky, chugging, house grooves and slick, soulful, R&B tracks. It’s diverse throughout with each song seemingly taking inspiration from a different genre and style of music, yet maintaining a cohesive element across the project as a whole.
Also, the curating abilities of Ryan Hemsworth may be as good as his production skills. It’s clear that Ryan Hemsworth did a lot of searching for the perfect fit for his instrumentals, because each vocalist does an amazing job, and for a lot of these artists, it’s the first we’ve heard from them.
Standout Tracks: “This Feeling” “Sade” “Beep Beep”
Felix Cartal – Next Season
For over a decade now Felix Cartal has continued to impress time and time us. Having evolved his chill, vibrant sound out from his early days of electro- house, we’d waited more than six years for the Canadian producer to come full circle on his sophomore album Next Season.
Filled with captivating melodies, emotional vocals and absolutely infectious basslines, Felix’s familiar house sound leads listeners to a melancholic paradise throughout the entirety of this 18-track sonic journey. Having continued to rack up millions of plays since its release back in May of last year, we almost had to include it on this list for a glimpse of sunshine during these cold winter months.
Standout Tracks: “Faces” and “Get What You Give”