Dancing Astronaut's Top 10 Albums of 2013
If the live dance spectrum was dominated by cutting edge festival action across the globe, the digital market was the beneficiary of an unprecedented wave of studio albums throughout 2013. Moving past the assumptions of dance music being a singles market and the trend for using the platform as a fodder for club B-sides, the peak in attention towards these deeper and more detailed bodies of work have been an essential cog in the forward motions of the dance music industry. With artists spanning, and even avoiding, all genres donning their hands to the format, Dancing Astronaut reflects on the full-length moments that went the extra mile through the year to become 2013 landmarks.
10. Krewella, ‘Get Wet’
What do Travis Barker, Gareth Emery and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump have in common? Until Krewella’s second album ‘Get Wet’ hit the market, very little. But as one of the most volcanic forces in North American dance music of late, the trio made a monumental move with album number two. Part infectious pop record, part expansive dance sound scope, the trio matches powerful hits and infectious collaborations with a seemingly well-balanced middle ground between two markets once thought to be striving towards polar opposite appeal. In the same vein as Zedd’s ‘Clarity,’ get wet embodies the hallmarks of an accomplished pop record with the uncompromised focus and production quality that has fast become commonplace on the expanding global market. Their journey is one of extended superstardom on the global dance circuit. Get Wet showed us that with great visibility comes potential to push the album platform forward with unprecedented momentum.
9. Pretty Lights, ‘A Color Map of the Sun’
From the very word go, Derek Vincent Smith’s fourth album was an unconventional affair. He sampled his own work from vinyl records, abandoned the ranks of digital synthesis for a modular approach and employed the likes of Talib Kwali to join his efforts to rejuvenate the full-length platform for electronic music. Quirkiness aside, the aural stamina of A Color Map of the Sun truly speaks for itself. Through this captivating musical journey – one soulfully charged yet perfectly lost amid the modern genre spectrums – marks the kind of blinding musical journey electronic dance music needs to assert itself as a legitimate musical revolution. Despite the high-profile collaboration, this wasn’t an attempt at making universal headway for the genre, but a niche attempt at making a long-playing statement for the hot topic dance community.
8. Sasha, ‘Involv3r’
Where Sasha has remained a constant focus where the development of electronic dance music is concerned, the unveiling of his third and final Involver album gave the world something far fresher to muse over. At the passing of a trilogy that couldn’t quite decide if it was a mix album or a compilation, Involv3r epitomizes the journey-piece legacy that this Renaissance master and longtime Digweed accomplice has upheld against the hands of time and trend. Soaring melodies, melancholic turns and off-the-cuff transitions made Involv3er a crowning point for a man whose diverse ear for musical manipulation remains just as welcome on the 21st century dance floor.
7. Armin Van Buuren, ‘Intense’
With his finger in more pies than your average Dutch dance icon, Armin Van Buuren’s ‘Intense’ was a full-length spectacle on all counts. Continuing his departure from the full-length trance odyssey that its predecessor Mirage initiated some three years before, Intense saw one of the industry’s most powerful players pull all the strings imaginable to give the industry its first epic full-length showdown. Be it MiriBen-Ari’s harrowing string work, Trevor Gutherie’s vocal assets on chart-scoping single “This Is What It Feels Like,” or lone trance offering “Who’s Afraid of 138,” Intense turns heads on the merits of first-class production, striking collaborative stints and a consistency worthy of an artist as dominantly poised as the long serving Dutch icon. If the industry needed evidence that the guys at the top of the industry table are still pushing the boundaries, Intense left little room for doubt.
6. Major Lazer, ‘Free The Universe’
Almost four years down the line from their debut album ‘Let’s Get Free,’ Major Lazor made one of the boldest full-length statements to emerge from their popular dancehall-meets-electronic agenda to date. Where other albums boycotted the high-profile collaborative powers of modern dance music, the album went against the tides. Shaggy, Laidback Luke, Bruno Mars and Wyclef Jean join the likes of Flux Pavilion and GTA, matching relevant dance contenders and A-list pop assets alike into their otherwise infectious clashing of musical cultures. Free The Universe took Major Lazer to a new level of creative existence, leaving Free The Universe to embody everything exciting about Diplo’s urban dance uprising.
5. Kaskade, ‘Atmosphere’
Picking up where 2011’s ‘Fire & Ice’ left off, Atmosphere is one of the most eclectic offerings to emerge from practiced North American album smith Kaskade. Bucking the trend for albums amid the industry’s gold rush year for the format, Ryan Raddon rose to the challenge of taking things forward with the same velocity as his highly sought after live endeavors. A balanced run of well-formulated songs and experimental instrumental interludes, his eighth stab at the platform flaunted music for the matured dance palette. Scoping his own vocals for the album’s title-track and New York indie rock School of Seven Bells for the emotive “Missing You,” its omission of A-list pop encroachment or more obvious vocal choices made for a welcome relief from an artist who could have too easily rested on the coattails of his accomplished discography. Instead, Kaskade delivered one of 2013’s most heartfelt industry offerings to welcomingly played down the tediously documented stereotypes of electronic dance music in the 21st century.
4. Avicii, ‘True’
Its live foundations may have shocked the entire industry at UMF back in march, but Avicii’s debut album True made unprecedented waves upon global transmission. It wasn’t just about audacious collaborations and crossover appeal – this was an embodiment of the young producer’s sound that dared to shift the emphasis from the club floor to the universal taste buds. The record crossed genres, cut typecasts, showed the wider picture in Bergling’s compositional stamina and when all was said and done, set a new precedent for the electronic dance album for 2013. Consonant UK and Billboard chart success aside, True will go down as the first truly universal showstopper of Avicii’s prolific career.
3. Mat Zo, ‘Damage Control’
When we called Mat Zo’s full-length debut ‘one of a kind’, we weren’t messing around. A transcendent record sent to test the comfort zones of modern dance music, four years in the making mustered perhaps the most original and unexpected collection of tracks from this Anjunabeats golden boy. Far from resting on his festival primed laurels, Damage Control is one of those records for which the plot truly thickens with each play. If you ever needed reassurance that this platform had become a serious creative property for 2013, Mat Zo’s triumphant first is a fundamental landmark for the electronic dance album.
2. Daft Punk, ‘Random Access Memories’
In spite of their failure to return to the live dance circuit for 2013, Random Access Memories placed Daft Punk back in the spotlight like never before seen from the iconic pair of robots. They set a new precedent for the marketing albums, they resurrected some of the most timeless musical assets on the 1970’s and beyond and ofcourse, carved a global hit with Pharrell collaboration “Get Lucky.” In short, RAM was a landmark no one could have predicted from the duo. It’s union of rich composition, solid songwriting and influences from across the ages may have left a lot of devout Punk fans disorientated, but its reclamation of the full-length platform for 2013 comes second to none. By no means the best of their discography, Daft Punk’s fifth artist album proved one of the most epic executions of an album in the past decade.
1. Disclosure, ‘Settle’
Fusing the sounds of heyday garage, modern house music and experimental electronic pop both new and old, its success both on the singles and albums charts reigns testament to all the boxes ticked by the unsuspecting British hotshots. Settle wasn’t about flashy collaborations or high-octane marketing. This was the delivery of a diverse aural experience fit for the charts, clubs and festivals alike. Coherent club music and stunning songmanship in tow, Settle will ring as one of the most original and on-point albums to charm the pants off-of dance music’s rapidly expanding pool of admirers.