Exclaim!'s Top 10 Dance and Electronic Albums Best of 2017
Published Dec 06, 2017We're nearing the end of the rollout of our annual genre-specific album lists for the Best of 2017. So far, we've published our Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, our Top 10 Soul and R&B Albums, the Top 10 Metal and Hardcore Albums of the Year, the Top 10 Folk and Country Albums and the Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of 2017. Today (December 6), we're continuing things with the best dance and electronic albums of the year. Find our list below.
Top 10 Dance and Electronic Albums of 2017:
Released earlier in the year, Dan Snaith (aka Caribou, aka Daphni) released Fabriclive 93, a collection of unreleased edits taken from his deep vault, rounded out with a handful of tracks from like-minded artists. On Joli Mai, Snaith cherry-picks 11 of those 23 tracks, giving the listener wide-eyed full-length versions of these inventive, hypnotic old-school techno bangers.
The sophomore LP under Snaith's Daphni moniker benefits profoundly from the immediacy with which these cuts were constructed and the intimacy with which they're presented. Joli Mai is a majestic extended edition of 2017's best DJ mix.
9. Forest Swords
With well-met elements of dub and orchestra music, each track on Forest Swords' latest LP, Compassion, transforms as subtly as a complex emotion. Using a wide range of instruments and techniques, Matthew Barnes balances anguish and optimism, using chopped-up vocal samples to make something like a futuristic language that chants over experimental compositions of synth, brass and masterful percussion.
The pace is set from "War It" and "The Highest Flood," both electrically charged with growling horns and digital drums, and continues through the warrior anthem "Exalter" and beyond. Danger lurks even among the most serene songs, like "Sjurvival" and the glitchy piano closer "Knife Edge," and the subtle transformation of each song continues with each new listen.
8. Fever Ray
(Rabid / Mute)
Karin Dreijer releases her art on her own time, outside of electronic or pop music trends and instead rooted in warped hyperrealism and mysterious personas. Released four years since the Knife's polarizing Shaking the Habitual and eight years since her self-titled debut solo album as Fever Ray, Dreijer's second album Plunge directly challenges the current political climate with sexually charged ("I want to run my fingers up your pussy," she declares on "To the Moon and Back") and highly cynical ("Free abortions and clean water / Destroy nuclear, destroy boring," on "This Country") lyrics conveyed via her trademark reedy and synthetically stretched vocals.
The harsh, mechanized chimes and transcendental alien rhythms provide a dynamic backdrop to Plunge's explicit themes, further cementing Dreijer's reputation for bizarre soundscapes and defying expectations.
Neō Wax Bloom
Iglooghost's full-length debut on Brainfeeder garnered immediate attention when it dropped in September, its frenetic beats and jazz inflections evoking right away Squarepusher's more processed work, circa Go Plastic. Even this admirable comparison is reductive, however, as Iglooghost (Seamus Malliagh, hailing from Ireland) fully establishes his own sound here: a colourful, hyper-stylized beat-scape of micro-programmed percussion and helium-pitched melodies with some crushed-up hip-hop thrown in for good measure.
It may sound overwhelming at first, but once you get on its level, Neō Wax Bloom reveals that it's actually overwhelmingly good — arguably the most distinct and assured-sounding debut of 2017.
The release of Narkopop this year filled a void in the ambient techno landscape, one that Wolfgang Voigt himself wrenched open when he released his magnum opus, the gorgeous Pop, 17 years ago. That Narkopop can be considered the deep and mysterious sister album to its predecessor is an understatement; it's just as visceral, yet walks a darker path.
Voigt allows the album's manipulated string sections to unfurl with a haunting sense of nostalgia, propping them up with a sinister kick drum throb. The resulting soundscapes are at once disconcerting and strangely comforting. These mixed, highly charged emotions are what make the music of GAS — and Narkopop in particular — essential listening.