Dancing Astronaut’s Top 10 Albums of 2015
Top 10 Albums of 2015
Dance music often gets a bad rap for being a single-driven culture, but 2015 firmly dispelled that notion. With a seemingly limitless flow of full-length material, 2015 ushered in some momentous debut albums from artists like Madeon, George Fitzgerald, and Jamie xx. Furthermore, it opened the door for some stellar sophomore efforts from the likes of Nero, Disclosure, and Avicii.
The pervading element among the crop of new albums was a definitive shift to songwriting over club-friendly material. While in some cases this resulted in a less-favorable reception among fans, in other cases, such as Bob Moses, it provided some of the most refreshing material we’ve heard in years. While there were plenty of albums to choose from, we’ve narrowed our list down to our Top 10 Albums of 2015.
10. Madeon - Adventure
Hugo Pierre Leclercq may be one of dance music’s youngest prodigies, but the French prospect hasn’t let his age deter his ability to excel in the face of creative stagnation for the genre. His debut album, Adventure, served as the perfect opportunity for the in-demand European export to prove that his artistic stamina far exceeds standout singles and dexterous Launchpad action.
Channeling his inner pop affinity, Madeon worked with artists like Mark Foster of Foster the People and Dan Smith of Bastille to leverage some of the year’s biggest crossover collaborations. Topped with an array of finely cut instrumental moments like “Pixel Empire” and “Imperium,” the album felt like a musical awakening for the young Frenchman. Given the quality of this full-length debut, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for Madeon next.
Release Date: March 27
Standout Tracks: “Imperium,” “Pay No Mind,” “You’re On”
9. Major Lazer - Peace is the Mission
Major Lazer have become a veritable global phenomenon. Their worldly approach to electronic music culminated this year with their third studio album, Peace is the Mission. Much like their previous endeavors, the LP blended conspicuous elements of dancehall with star-studded collaborations. From the Ellie Goulding-assisted “Powerful” to “Light It Up” with Nyla, the album featured some of Major Lazer’s most accessible songs to date.
Perhaps the defining difference between their past studio output and Peace is the Mission is the group’s concession to their pop-friendly capacity. While they may have lost a bit of their original edge in the process, they’ve opened the door for a prospering international fanbase, catalyzed by blockbuster singles from the album like “Lean On” with DJ Snake and MØ and “Be Together” with Wild Belle.
Release Date: June 1
Standout Tracks: “Lean On,” “Be Together,” “Powerful”
8. Disclosure - Caracal
Disclosure’s 2013 debut album Settle awarded the duo worldwide attention, ushering them from small-time success to widespread commercial appeal. The progression happened seemingly overnight, but came as no surprise as the album included various hit singles and collaborations with well-known artists like AlunaGeorge and Sam Smith.
As the anticipation for Disclosure’s sophomore album grew, the duo hit the studio to work with distinguished American musicians such as The Weeknd and Miguel. The result was Caracal, a more pop-focused offering with refreshing dance rhythms on the surface and soulful garage roots at its core. “Magnets” emerged as the stand-out feature with hypnotizing vocals from singer-songwriter Lorde atop a robust blend of glitches and cascading synths. With other standout tracks like “Holding On” alongside Gregory Porter and “Omen” with Sam Smith, Caracal ultimately illuminated the duo’s growth from budding UK garage duo to one of the most auspicious acts in dance music today.
Release Date: September 25
Standout Tracks: “Magnets,” “Holding On,” “Omen”
7. Avicii - Stories
Avicii prevails as one of dance music’s most prominent global artists. In 2013, the Swedish star released his debut album True, pioneering pop-savvy genre fusions like bluegrass and dance music, best exemplified on “Wake Me Up” with Aloe Blacc. His sophomore album Stories served as a fantastic followup, continuing his journey through this contemporary sound on collaborations with Zac Brown Band, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Gavin Degraw, and Wyclef Jean.
“Waiting For Love” boded well as a preview for the album’s narrative, with Martin Garrix co-producing the catchy melody and Simon Aldred crooning uplifting lyrics. Though one of the year’s later releases, Stories earned deserving recognition as the year’s best selling dance music album, reaching one million copies sold in its first month. Ultimately, the album stands as the apex of Avicii’s career thus far, spanning across several genres with the help of talented vocalists and producers, and proving that his influence is still as strong as ever.
Release Date: October 2
Standout Tracks: “Sunset Jesus,” “Broken Arrows,” “Waiting For Love”
6. George Fitzgerald - Fading Love
George Fitzgerald’s full-length debut marked a distinct departure from his early work in 2010, encapsulating a variety of sonic signatures outside of base level trappings of UK club culture. Where his fellow Brits, Disclosure, dove head first into the dance-pop zeitgeist with easily marketable features, Fitzgerald crafted a story woven through a languid display of downcast house and garage. On Fading Love, few tracks have radio-ready aspirations — certainly not on the US side — but all are crafted to be consumed in nearly any setting. The cinematic opening led by Boxed In on “About Time” sets the stage for a 10-track tale of a rapidly collapsing romance.
“Full Circle” shines as the album’s most emotional work while “Crystallize” trudges toward mainstream popularity with a pop edge and charisma-laden topline. The instrumentals and vocals are a vibrant triumph, muted under Fitzgerald’s milky haze of downtrodden and introspective house. A challenging album from one of the UK’s most robustly talented producers, Fading Love nails its somber and breathy aesthetic with ease.
Release Date: April 24
Standout Tracks: “Full Circle,” “About Time,” “Crystallize”
5. The Chemical Brothers - Born in the Echoes
The British duo of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons stand proudly with Fatboy Slim, Underworld, and The Prodigy on the small pedestal of veteran producers who have defied dance music Darwinism. Twenty years have passed since The Chemical Brothers released their inaugural album, Exit Planet Dust, and eighteen since their seminal single “Block Rockin’ Beats.”
The Chemical Brothers managed to earn two Grammy nominations for their eighth studio album, Born in the Echoes, without abandoning their vocally-focused, rock-inspired, and inherently psychedelic traits. While the bulk of media attention has centered around their Grammy-nominated single “Go,” eclectic compositions like “Just Bang,” “Radiate,” and “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted” showcase the duo’s legendary ability to venture into the dance floor’s darkest corners. As musical trends come and go over the next twenty years, The Chemical Brothers will undoubtedly continue to be rocking blocks internationally with their stalwart brand of beats.
Release Date: July 17
Standout Tracks: “Go,” “EML Ritual,” “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted”
4. Nero - Between II Worlds
Two years after they first teased their new material, Nero satisfied their anxious fan base with the release of their sophomore album Between II Worlds. The release is in no way a follow-up to Welcome Reality — their debut album — but rather a stark artistic evolution. Nero’s official induction of formerly de facto vocalist Alana Watson catalyzed a creative shift away from the group’s club-driven focus, but not entirely detached from it.
Over the course of the album, Nero situate themselves between the two clashing worlds of their robotic, calculated past and their new, mellifluous, emotionally-charged direction. Often, one ‘world’ overpowers or engulfs the other, but in their success in balancing these oppositional subtexts, Nero brilliantly marry their diametric inspirations. What Between II Worlds lacks compared to Welcome Reality in terms of a comprehensive catalogue of aggressive rave-friendly tracks, it regains — or perhaps exceeds — with lyrical depth and essential humanity. Most importantly, the thematically uncertain nature of the album leaves innumerable possibilities for how they will embody the next step in their evolution.
Release Date: September 11
Standout Tracks: “The Thrill, “Two Minds,” “Circles”
3. Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü
The notion of the “super-group” is nothing new in the world of electronic music; nor is the notion new to Skrillex and Diplo, who have succeeded in the concept before with Boys Noize and Switch, to create Dog Blood and the inaugural incarnation of Major Lazer, respectively. In spite of their previous successes and devoted fan bases, however, even Sonny Moore and Thomas Wesley Pentz were probably unaware that they were about to become electronic music’s biggest super-group.
Earning Grammy nominations for “Best Dance/Electronic Album” and “Best Dance Recording” for “Where Are Ü Now (ft. Justin Bieber),” Jack Ü’s eponymous album bridged the gap between electronic music and the mainstream in a way that is difficult to achieve. By allowing A-list collaborators like Justin Bieber, 2 Chainz, and AlunaGeorge to contribute to their creative process, Skrillex and Diplo demonstrated their crossover capacity while not abandoning their signature sounds. Ultimately, Jack Ü is a rare album that spurs the ability for its creators to sell out arenas while not selling out their styles.
Release Date: February 27
Standout Tracks: “Where Are Ü Now,” “To Ü,” “Take Ü There”
2. Jamie xx - In Colour
Jamie xx’s breakout into the music scene appeared to happen concurrently as a solo musician, remix artist, and one-third of London band, The xx. In 2011, he reached two milestones, earning production credits for Drake and Rihanna’s chart-topping single, “Take Care,” and releasing a remix album with Gil-Scott Heron titled We’re New Here. With such a prosperous career attained in just a few years, it’s entirely surprising that Jamie xx only just released his debut studio album in 2015.
In Colour is an 11-track feature that cycles through numerous dance sub-genres, drifting between futuristic dub on “Gosh,” to ornate melodies on “SeeSaw” and tropical rhythms on “Obvs.” The album’s standout track is also its most popular, with “I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)” providing a dancehall-meets-rap collaboration with Young Thug’s incomprehensible flow and Popcaan’s soulful vocals. In Colour culminated as one one of the year’s biggest releases, which is completely deserving since the album properly highlights Jamie xx’s finesse and fluidity as an artist that can’t be bound to one sound.
Release Date: May 29
Standout Tracks: “Gosh,” “Loud Places,” “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”
1. Bob Moses - Days Gone By
Bob Moses posed an interesting question with their debut album: could underground dance music be made accessible without muddying the waters or sacrificing quality in the process? The answer was unequivocally yes, with Days Gone By emerging as one of the most coherent and forward-moving LPs of the year.
Arriving at a time when electronic artists could otherwise be found struggling to keep fans engaged across the full-length platform, Bob Moses delivered an album so wholly consistent as to hold our attention with ease from the first track to last. Carving real instruments and ambient soundscapes into a well-rounded balance of vivid club work and alternative songwriting, Days Gone By was unlike anything else we heard in 2015. As we first proposed three months ago upon the album’s release, Days Gone By remains our clear choice for album of the year.
Release Date: September 18
Standout Tracks: “Talk,” “Like It Or Not,” “Tearing Me Up”