In an era dominated by singles and two-track EPs, the album often seems like an antiquated format. So many producers are caught up in a formulaic rinse and repeat methodology of singles that it’s easy to forget our origins as an LP-centric community. In an attempt to give credit to the producers who’ve put their time, heart, and soul into the extended release format, we’ve ranked our biggest albums and EPs of 2012.
10. Bassnectar – Va Va Voom
If there’s any particular genre that lacks a profundity of albums, it’s dubstep. Keeping the LP format alive for the subwoofer savvy, the ever-prolific Bassnectar continues his annual trend of releasing an album of immaculate bass music. Va Va Voom is everything we’ve come to love from Lorin Ashton: titanic bass drops, ethereal ambience, and his self-dubbed ‘omnitempo maxiamlism’ style. Tracks like “What,” “Butterfly,” and “Do It Like This” have proved to be some of the biggest of his career.
9. Disclosure – The Face
Disclosure’s The Face EP is unequivocally one of our favorite releases of the year. Taking a step away from the breakbeat/trip hop rhythms of last year’s Carnival EP, The Face works off a steady house foundation while still preserving Disclosure’s signature UK garage feel. Jazz and R&B elements pervade the four track EP as Disclosure finds a happy medium between engaging deep house and hypnotic garage beats. Funky, fun, and groovy, The Face proves Disclosure to be one the most exciting new talents in the industry.
8. Netsky – 2
Netsky broke into the scene in 2010 with his eponymously titled first album Netsky, establishing himself as one of the premier talents in drum ‘n’ bass. His sophomore album release 2 lived up to that standard, boasting an impressive variety of liquid drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep tunes. From cascading piano melodies in “Give and Take,” to the explosive bass of “Come Alive,” to the polished production of “Love Has Gone,” 2 is the mark of a talented artist in his prime.
7. Miguel Campbell – Back in Flight School
Miguel Campbell’s Back in Flight School is our pick for biggest underground album of the year. Old school funk meets contemporary house in a groovy, flawless union of soulful tech and deep house. From soaring guitar riffs, to disco-driven basslines, the fifteen track album is a testament to Campbell’s calculated production abilities. As he put it in an interview with Beatport, Campbell sought to “create cohesive journey pieces that tell an aural story from start to finish.” It’s more than evident that Campbell has succeeded in this endeavor.
6. Flume – Flume
Released in November of this year, Flume’s self-titled album marked the arrival of a precocious new talent. With beats ranging from trip hop, to glitch hop, to downtempo, to garage, Flume’s debut album elegantly evades genre conventions. With its a vocal-centric backbone, the album is at times somber, at others inspiring, while always remaining gorgeously entrancing; it’s near impossible to not get lost in Flume’s soulful production. With a first album as powerful as this, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for young Flume.
5. Knife Party – Rage Valley
While the release of their debut EP 100% No Modern Talking missed 2012 by less than a month, Knife Party’s Rage Valley EP was more than enough to satisfy our post-Pendulum bass craving for the year. True to their creative maxim, every song on Rage Valley is a different tempo, with moombahton, house, dubstep, and drumstep represented. Though the title track “Rage Valley” received the most widspread attention, “Centipede” and “Bonfire” made their way into nearly every big dubstep set, while “Sleaze” snuck into the arsenal of more eclectic DJs such as Dillon Francis and Porter Robinson.
4. Calvin Harris – 18 Months
18 Months is the pinnacle of Calvin Harris’s career. Songs like “We Found Love,” “Bounce,” “Feel So Close,” and “Let’s Go” are some of the biggest international dance music singles to date, while collaborations like “Sweet Nothing” with Florence Welch and “We’ll Be Coming Back” with Example have captivated our collective consciousness. Though much of the album is dominated by an easily digestible format, there’s something to be said about Harris’s ability to work with vocalists and craft catchy feel-good ballads.
3. Deadmau5 – >Album Title Goes Here<
After the less-than-enthusiastic reception of his 4×4=12 album, many people began to lose faith in dance music’s loudest critic, concluding that the masked maestro had lost his touch. Yet Deadmau5, ever one to prove a point, returned with >Album Title Goes Here<, arguably one of the strongest releases of his career next to Random Album Title. While singles like “The Veldt” and “Professional Griefers” stole the spotlight, it was tracks like “There Might Be Coffee,” “Fn Pig,” and “Closer” that showed Zimmerman to be at the top of his game. Add in stupendous collaborations like “Channel 42” with Wolfgang Gartner and “Telemiscommunications” with Imogen Heap and you’ve got one of the best albums of the year.
2. Zedd – Clarity
It’s a damn shame that Anton Zaslavski released his album on October 2nd; two days earlier and his magnum opus Clarity would have been eligible (and in line) to win a Grammy. Regardless of its lack of prestigious accolades, Clarity is phenomenal. From the dreamlike first seconds of the album’s opener, “Hourglass,” to the sporadic staccato chords of the album’s closer, “Epos,” Clarity is a polished release from start to finish. While so many albums these days seem to be nothing but a conglomerate of unconnected singles, Zedd’s Clarity is what an album should be: a cohesive, unified collection of individual tracks that are part of a bigger narrative. Zedd’s risky approach of creating an album with the mindset of making quality music regardless of its club appeal has certainly paid off. Clarity is not only the work of one of EDM’s best producers, but of EDM’s greatest musicians.
1. Eric Prydz – Pryda
While he reportedly began work on the album in 2005, with a planned release date of 2007, Swedish house virtuoso Eric Prydz would not release his first full length-album Pryda until May of this year. Yet “full-length album” doesn’t quite capture the scope of Pryda, a three disc assemblage of long-awaited unreleased Prydz productions and classic, remastered Prydz gems. From immaculate new originals such as “Mighty Love,” “Leja,” and “Sunburst,” to older Pryda favorites such as “Pjanoo, “Miami to Atlanta,” and “The Gift,” Prydz proves his production to be of a higher tier than any other living producer. Intricate melodies and imaginative soundscapes abound, Pryda is the culmination of a prodigious body of work from one of the most talented and methodical house music producers of our time. Pryda is not just the album of the year, but unequivocally one of the albums of the decade.