Dancing Astronaut’s BIG 100—Top 25 Electronic Albums of the Decade
2010 may as well have been a lifetime ago. At the breakneck pace by which dance music throttles through the stratosphere, the decade is ending in an entirely unrecognizable place from where it began. For context—ten years ago, Electric Daisy Carnival was held in Los Angeles, not Las Vegas, where the Los Angeles Rams now play. Only 250,000 people were paying for a Swedish music streaming service called Spotify, and Billie Eilish was finishing up second grade. It’s been a wild ride through the 10’s, largely soundtracked by EDM’s global boom into a multi-billion dollar industry. Ten years ago our culture was creeping out of South London basements and New York warehouses, and now we’re performing at the Olympics.
So now, as the single most important, historic, and certainly memorable decade dance music has ever seen draws to a close, we had to figure out a new way to break down how far the culture has come. One master list couldn’t possibly reflect the decade in review. In effort to properly recognize the remarkable collection of events that has brought us here, we’re tweaking our typical end-of-the-year model. Instead, we’re dividing the decade’s most deserving into a handful of unique categories.
In review of 2010 – 2019, the most important factors that shaped the decade were Artists of the Decade, Labels of the Decade, Albums of the Decade, and Most Impactful Moments of the Decade. Together, they comprise Dancing Astronaut’s decade-end collection. Introducing, The Big 100.
So without further ado, Dancing Astronaut‘s 25 Most Impactful Albums of the Decade—in no particular order.
Justice – Woman (2016)
Matching their sonic savviness to the name printed on the record’s gatefold, leave it to Justice to challenge dance music’s status quo while highlighting the intensely empowering nature of the femme. The pair honed in on one key component throughout the recording process: rather than break character with an attempt to chase mainstream success, Justice, as they always have, opt to open-endedly allow pop culture to decide its own relationship to their work. The intent over the LP’s 10-track span is singularly focused on genuine songwriting, and in turn, procuring timeless dance classics. From its core to its perimeter, that is exactly what Woman is: a collection of instant-classic indie dance gems.
It feels like it has been ages since Audio, Video, Disco — eons since †. Now, grown men whose days of black leather jackets and studs are possibly behind them, Gaspard and Xavier have written a record that is perhaps more in-tune with their emotional capacities, while simultaneously challenging the fleeting nature of pop success. Ultimately, Justice have delivered another ageless dance opus with Woman, which spawned a Grammy-nominated live album, one of the best live shows of the decade that inspired a visual feature to boot, capping off a momentous decade for the paragons of French house. -David Klemow
ODESZA – A Moment Apart (2017)
Commencing the Foreign Family Collective bosses’ official foray into the pop space, A Moment Apart stands as ODESZA‘s most voraciously streamed and referenced LP to date. With their fluttery Summer’s Gone and In Return LPs, the ethereal electronica duo arrested the soul of the electronic zeitgeist’s chill-out craze, cropping up midway through the ’10s, when the confounding side-effects of the dubstep onslaught had subsided some. A Moment Apart did double time at the 2017 Grammy Awards, raking in a pair of nominations for Best Dance Recording (“Line of Sight”) and Best Electronic Album.
ODESZA’s most accessible and multifarious work to date, A Moment Apart, while perhaps less compositionally daring, allowed ODESZA to play with approach, while remaining just near enough to their celestial center. A purposeful album’s album, rather than a mere arbitrary collection of tracks. -Bella Bagshaw
Pretty Lights – A Color Map Of The Sun (2013)
Pretty Lights’ magnum opus by DA standards, A Color Map Of The Sun was, mid-decade (and remains now), an industry-wide point of contention. Critics complained the album was somewhat anemic in its experimentation or delivery of stark “creative growth,” or entirely passed it off as spacey stoner fodder. But why fix what was never broken? What’s clear is that Derek Vincent Smith conceived the LP as a vessel to expound on his inimitable, jazzy jamtronica hybrid with his most incisive execution to date. Even among tracks like “Yellow Bird,” with its almost anesthetizing instrumental loop or the melancholic strut of “Go Down Sunshine,” no corner of the work arrives without gusto.
The vinyl sampling on the LP further solidified him as the master of homage. Funk, soul, hip-hop, electronic listening music, Smith weaves in and out of these worlds without as much as a warning, though none is warranted. The quintessential curator of chromatic live production, whether he meant to or not, wielded the work to push innumerable jam/instrumental purists over the synthesized precipice—past the point of no return—sending them happily dazed and plummeting eternally into the electronic ether. -Bella Bagshaw
SebastiAn – Total (2011)
Unapologetically abrasive in all the right ways, SebastiAn’s debut record, Total was one hell of a coming out party for the French-Serbian musician. But it also served as a much-needed statement its host label, Ed Banger Records. Until then, the iconic French house music collective had strokes of brilliance but was largely defined by its affiliations with the Daft Punk and a handful of genre-defying releases from Justice.
In Total, SebastiAn captured the raw power and undeniable strands of funk roadmapped by the genre’s forefathers, all the while insisting on finding his brilliance through innovation rather than emulation. With the record’s needle lifting after over 20 tracks, Total interludes between mind-rattling electro and silky-smooth pop-disco for the rare electronic LP that isn’t defined by its singles, but the spirited collage built around them. –Josh Stewart
Madeon – Adventure (2015)
A Frenchman making feel-good electro—wild, right? Well, wait just a minute. Madeon certainly did his homework for his long play debut (see: “Pop Culture (mashup)”). That’s the genius of Adventure. He borrows what’s useful in the moment, often going back to go forward. Songs like the effervescent, Passion Pit-assisted “Pay No Mind,” fit for Androids frolicking under a disco ball, fall effortlessly into place while the then-20-year-old producer cut his teeth on earnest, almost smoldering compositions like “Imperium.” Adventure was just that: a journey worth the jaunt, filled with as much complexity as color. -Bella Bagshaw
Avicii – True (2013)
Few records have been able to illustrate the symbiotic potential of traditional instrumentation and electronic production more cogently than Avicii‘s True. Keeping perfect time with EDM’s propulsion into the musical vernacular, True emitted the raw, evocative power and deadly danceability of progressive house. But make no mistake: we were always dealing with a pop record, here.
By then already a global sensation, the Swedish wunderkind sent tremors through the industry at large when he brought up an incisive assortment of soul and bluegrass musicians at the 2013 edition of Ultra. That day, Avicii’s hallowed act of synergy set fire to the torch that still burns with his legacy. Whether we were ready or not, True sent the very foundations of the electronic infrastructure shifting underfoot. -Bella Bagshaw
Disclosure – Settle (2014)
When Disclosure’s debut album Settle landed in 2013, everyone—from music fanatics to industry figures and critics—wanted a proper taste. Peaking at No. 1 across multiple charts including Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums and receiving widespread acclaim, Settle struck the scene as both an instant refresher and derivative of dance music’s past. The magic of the record lies within its stylistic journey through a multitude of dance sub genres including bass music, house, garage, ultimately, pulled together by a synergetic pop intention composed not of mass appeal, but of motivation to magnetize all niches of dance listeners. -Jessica Mao
deadmau5 – while(1<2) (2014)
Perhaps the hallmark of electronic albums of the decade, deadmau5’s 25-track dance epic holds the LP format near and dear, leaving little room for skim listening. The record’s progressive composition of rich melodies, moody, cinematic aesthetics, and throbbing electro still stands as one of deadmau5’s most versatile works to date.
Arriving at a frankly lackluster time for electronic albums, while(1<2)’s challenged the status quo of the moment, while also providing a wider scope with which to view the full breadth of deadmau5’s talent. The double-sided endeavor offers a suspenseful sonic journey through stripped back ambient and downtempo plays, uplifting electro, chugging progressive breaks, and more. No stranger to the full-length format, deadmau5 takes on his seventh LP with a brazen discontent for the lack of originality dance music purists bemoaned about at the time, offering an unforgettable double dose of creativity on while(1<2), which itself may have served to re-galvanize the album format in electronic music. -David Klemow
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)
Looking back on the most important decade in dance music, the defining highlight had to have been the release of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Daft Punk’s return in 2013 was special, not only because the legendary French Androids had delivered their first LP in eight years, but because the album was legitimizing for electronic dance music in many ways. It came at the front half of EDM’s global boom, proving to the world that electronic dance music wasn’t just millennial festival fodder with Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams, and Giorgio Morodor in tow. The record masterfully presented intelligent, disco-inspired sounds in with an incredibly fresh, modern perspective to audiences who were still trying to figure out if mainstream electronic music was… well, legit.
Random Access Memories would remind everyone who the genre’s omniscient godfathers were, net the duo four Grammy Awards along the way, help guide vinyl’s resurgence selling the most units of the decade, and cement Daft Punk’s legacy all over again. -David Klemow
Skrillex – Recess (2014)
From the moment we first heard, “to get a thousand miles from the Earth, a rocket would need this much power,” Recess would change the electronic landscape and set Skrillex on a crash course for pop superstardom. Sonny Moore’s 2014 debut LP under the Skrillex moniker came well after he had already established his Grammy Award-winning sound, though the album is really what planted Moore’s flag as an electronic trailblazer that was here to stay. The record was a carefree intergalactic thrill ride that featured a budding Chance The Rapper, a preview taste of the oncoming K-pop tidal wave with G-Dragon, CL, and Diplo, and a healthy dose of heavy dub appeal from the Ragga Twins. Infectiously aggressive yet in touch with its dance-friendly roots, Recess culminated into one of the best electronic albums of the decade.
In the years since Skrillex’s debut studio LP, his list of credentials have outgrown the confines of electronic dance music in remarkable ways. He’s gone on to produce for the world’s greatest pop stars, from Justin Bieber to Mariah Carey. He’s tackled movie soundtracks, linked with rappers, produced an entire joint album with Diplo, and grown OWSLA into one of the country’s premier electronic imprints. With an impending sophomore follow up slated for 2020, we’re already at the edge of our seats for the next chapter in Skrillex’s momentous career. -David Klemow
Jamie xx – In Colour (2015)
The production backbone of The xx, Jamie xx’s In Colour is as much an album of yesteryear as it is an album of tomorrow. On one hand, the sample-driven concepts over Jamie Smith’s often breakbeat-influenced beats harken back to a time when electronic music simply felt more soulful. On the other, the album doesn’t only disregard the distinction between electronic genres, but goes to great lengths to blur the line between what’s full-blown “electronic” and what’s a bit more nebulous; a direction that dance music continues to embrace even heading into 2020.
What makes In Colour such a pinnacle of artistic success however, isn’t the album’s memorable singles or gold-lined production, but its ability to make its listener feel a technicolor assortment of nostalgia, happiness, pain, and sorrow, often simultaneously. -Josh Stewart
TNGHT – TNGHT (2012)
The 2010s can’t be accurately recapped without talking about trap music’s viral takeover, and electronic music’s obsession with trap can’t be adequately described without paying due respect to TNGHT. While the duo’s 2012 self-titled TNGHT project isn’t a full-length LP, the release served to propel the two producers’ bombastic, aggressively experimental sound to massive mainstream acclaim, making for one of the most impactful releases of the decade. The pair went radio silent as quickly as they had dominated the scene, though by 2019, TNGHT had reconvened once again, picking up exactly where they left off. -David Klemow
ZEDD – Clarity (2012)
Once ZEDD delivered his debut studio album, Clarity, in 2012, it was clear the division between pop and electronic music was going to be permanently blurred going forward. The Interscope Records project effectively defined EDM’s global takeoff with singles “Shave It Up,” “Spectrum,” and “Clarity,” all charting in the top 10 that year and into 2013. The record’s inescapable popularity was contingent on how it would define dance-pop, and would not only go on to earn a Grammy for Best Dance Recording at the 56th Grammy Awards, but also cement ZEDD’s position as one of the most in-demand producers of the decade. -David Klemow
Above & Beyond – Group Therapy (2011)
How many artists can say their record bears the name of a coinciding global event phenomenon and hallowed weekly radio show? Group Therapy does. The quintessential progressive/trance trio’s 2011 album is dripping with utterly epic euphoria from start to finish. “Cheesy” was never something Above & Beyond were afraid of, nor should they be. The album sees them move dexterously through dreamy, twinkling offerings like “Alchemy,” vocalized by serial A&B collaborator, Zoë Johnston, to full-on club demolitions like “Sun & Moon.” Instrumental in acquiring the trio, and the trance genre at large, worldwide fandom, Group Therapy also garnered the group exponential label traction, to their now-revered Anjunabeats imprint. -Bella Bagshaw
Jack Ü – Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü (2015)
The Jack Ü project was equal parts irreverent DIY fun, hard-knocking dance-pop fusions, and spastic genre hopscotch all wrapped into one. Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü includes contributions from NOLA bounce star Fly Boi Keno, hip-hop heroine Missy Elliot, Keisza, 2 Chainz, Snails. And what’s more, undoubtedly resurrecting Justin Bieber’s career and ultimately positioning Diplo and Skrillex as the top pop producers of the decade. Once the divisions between pop and electronic music broke down, Jack Ü jumped in to bridge the gap with their hypnotic brand of fizzy, aggressively danceable electronic music. Behind the success of one joint record together, the two dance titans won a pair of Grammy Awards for Best Dance/Electronic Album and Best Dance Recording respectively at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. -David Klemow
Aphex Twin – Syro (2014)
It had been 13 years since Aphex Twin’s previous release when he delivered his cerebral Syro LP in 2014. At the time, to have a full fledged comeback from Richard James was quite the occasion. The album presented a different side of Aphex Twin, though after more than a decade since his last full body of work, it’s no riddle why. Syro landed as a more accessible listen than previous works thanks to a more melodic approach in production.
However, the album was still unmistakably Aphex Twin from start to closing interlude. It was still the kind of twisted, frenetic work that could only permeate from the mind of James. Five years after Syro’s release and Aphex Twin’s return to live performance, and the album’s painstaking attention to detail is still commendably obvious, its off-kilter, hair-raising sonic complexion as bold as ever. -David Klemow
Prydz – Opus (2016)
There’s a fine line between listening music and club music when it comes to EDM and nobody seems to find the sweet spot between the two quite like Eric Prydz. Two parts progressive, one part electro, and just a dash of synth-wave, Prydz’ debut album Opus traces the storied Swedish producer’s exuberant catalogue over two meaty discs with little to no filler. With singles like “Generate” that don’t just define an album or a trending style, but a whole era of mainstage house music, Opus is rare dance album that’s worth revisiting time and time again. -Josh Stewart
Baauer – Aa (2016)
Aa is a rambunctious collection that paints a candid picture of Baauer’s beginnings as an artist. As a young man, Baauer had already called everywhere home from Philly, to London, Brooklyn, to Germany. It was traveling–not touring–that ultimately provided the inspirational bedrock beneath Aa. Baauer’s introductory offering is a mixed bag of worldly inspiration, tied together by an evident allegiance to his roots and his uncompromised desire to experiment. This desire spills from every corner of the project. From its masterful sound design to the eccentrically abstract artwork of the record, Aa is a flowing portrait of Baauer’s mind pressed onto wax.
Cumulatively, Aa is the perfect split between the hard-hitting fusion of dance, trap, and hip-hop and a handful of fearlessly strange, gripping instrumentals. Baauer meanders between inspirations, places, faces, sounds, and styles, agglomerating a bright, chaotic collection of work that is deeply authentic to his roots. Aa runs the gamut of Baauer’s full range of inspirations, ranging from the menacing grime styling of “Day Ones” to the calmative ease of “Body.” The record presents Baauer’s ascension to a creative level that exceeds the listening value of “Harlem Shake’s” viral ubiquity. -David Klemow
Duck Sauce – Quack (2014)
Duck Sauce’s beloved Quack LP gave us a 12-track fun-or-bust stroll down disco lane, broken up by skits to make for a nostalgic flow inspired by the classic hip-hop albums of the ’90s and the funk of the ’80s. Quack, the full-length debut from a spirited and sporadically active collaborative venture between A-Trak and Armand Van Helden, which enjoyed a prolific singles run between 2009 and 2013 with “aNYway,” “Barbara Streisand,” “Big Bad Wolf,” and “Radio Stereo,” proved that dance music doesn’t need to take itself too seriously; and, in fact, it shouldn’t.
The album was a masterclass in sample pulling. Standouts include The Time Bandits’ “Live It Up,” and The Members’ “Radio” impresses for what would be the best use of sampling if not for “Ring Me,” A La Carte’s “Ring Me Honey,” Melissa Manchester’s 1985 hit “Energy” and more. It’s the sort of approach to an album where A-Trak and Armand stick to their extra casual, comedy-leaning ethos. Six years after the epically quirky LP’s release, it proved that electronic music could sustain the album format, it didn’t have to be a grab for mainstream marketability, and it can still make people dance. The record stands as if to say that “Quack” doesn’t mean anything, and that’s what makes it meaningful. -David Klemow
Flume – Skin (2016)
At the apex of the futuristic bass movement’s upward crawl stands one of Australia’s token music-makers, Flume and his second solo album, Skin. Following the hungrily lauded record’s release, contrived imitations pervaded the SoundCloud sonic-scape soon after. But none could achieve quite the same warped, melodic maximalism, while still remaining accessible to the average listener; not like Flume. With a technicolor assortment of guest features, ranging from the then-up-and-coming Tove Lo to Chicago rapper Vic Mensa to British singer/producer duo, AlunaGeorge, Skin arrived in amorphous fashion. The former What So Not affiliate seemed to be asking, “What can’t I lend my beats to?” Rhetorically, of course. -Bella Bagshaw
Kaytranada – 99.9% (2016)
Kaytranada really planted his flag in 2016 with his debut full-length studio project 99.9%, establishing himself as one of the keenest electronic minds in the game. The 15-track album, released via XL Recordings and Ultra, enjoyed overwhelmingly positive critical reception right from the outset. The LP included highlight contributions from Anderson .Paak, Craig David, Little Dragon, AlunaGeorge, and BadBadNotGood. Kaytranada’s 99.9% rolled and wrapped hazy neo-soul, uplifting hip-hop inspirations, elements of knocking trap percussion, and crisp, shimmering jazz into an enjoyable late night smoke sesh with friends that simply wouldn’t grow old, no matter how many repeated spins you gave it.
The record is a bold amalgam of sounds that comes together under a sharply conceptual electronic theme, and catapulted Kaytranada atop his rightful throne as one of the most esteemed crossover producers of the decade. -David Klemow
Gesaffelstein – Aleph (2013)
Released on Bromance Records, Gesaffelstein’s 2013 debut album Aleph officially introduces the dark techno backbone that Michael Levy has made a Hall-of-Fame career from. Masterfully crafted, the album pops and hisses throughout a variety of mechanical soundscapes, each track donning its own distinct attitude. At the end of the decade it stands as a techno masterpiece, spiraling through industrial synths and pulsing builds.
Aleph encapsulates a sinister techno spin on classic ’90s West Coast rap, overcast electronic ballads, and tinges of acid house and orthodox French techno. Gesaffelstein has always been a commanding presence since his emergence, with impressive production credits on albums like Yeezus, remixing the likes of Justice, Lana Del Rey and Depeche Mode, but with the release of his first full-length studio album, Levy gave French techno a jolt of energy, taking the listener on a dark, convoluted, and as the decade has proven, timeless ride. -David Klemow
Porter Robinson – Worlds (2014)
Gone is the full-throttle euphoria of “Language.” Gone is the dancefloor weaponry of Spitfire, which arrived just two years prior. The bashful anime auteur is vulnerable, seemingly for the first time, inside Worlds. He even lends his pitched-up vocals to a handful of the tracks, a welcomed contrast to the brash, bro-ey male bravado permeating the dance music scene at the time. The sonic world building erected within the LP has been paralleled by none since Worlds‘ debut. Porter Robinson comprised the record as a master storyteller would, cognizant of narrative, of pace, of tone, as the ship beats on towards its tenacious crescendo, “Goodbye To A World.” Bursting with shimmery electro-pop, Worlds stands as a happy harbinger into EDM’s post-“Where’s the drop?” ethos. -Bella Bagshaw
David Guetta – Nothing But The Beat (2011)
Though Guetta had already been chopping heads in the dance game for decades by this point, Nothing But The Beat was a breakthrough for dance music’s open-arms US adoption. That no-introduction-needed pop icons like Sia, Justin Timberlake, and Lil Wayne wanted to lend their voices to the dance music revolution was nothing short of watershed for our purposes. It was hard to turn on a radio without “Titanium”‘s prophetic ring in tandem, or step onto a club floor without Nicki Minaj electing to “Turn Me On.” Was the record overtly gimmicky at times? See: “I Just Wanna Fuck.” Of course, but nonetheless, the Frenchman had successfully spoonfed four-on-the-floor to the masses, whether they knew it or not. -Bella Bagshaw
Nero – Welcome Reality + (2011)
Fueling some of the most high-profile soon-to-be remix material, Welcome Reality + melded the ferocity of the dub and drum ‘n’ bass netherworlds to rock/dance pop sensibilities. Americans were as confounded as they were enamored by the larger-than-life onslaught of bass alongside the NERO vocalist Alana Watson’s rapturous yearning. The apocalyptic landscape of the LP bred hellfire and supreme sweetness hand-in-hand. Only NERO could imbue the starlit synth-pop of “Crush On You” against the futuristic bass fury of tracks like “Doomsday” inside a single record. It incited wall-to-wall remix treatments from the likes of Skrillex, Flux Pavilion, Calvin Harris, and many more worthy admirers. -Bella Bagshaw