25. Beach House – Teen Dream [Sub Pop]
A dream pop masterpiece. Tune in and drift away to its sweeping melodies.
24. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly [Top Dawg, Aftermath, Interscope]
Intense political commentary that feels even more vital now than when it dropped in 2015.
23. Björk – Vulnicura [One Little Indian]
Björk at her most vulnerable, and – to anyone who’s suffered the wounds of a broken relationship – relatable.
22. Call Super – Suzi Ecto [Houndstooth]
Abstract, minimalist electronics for when it starts getting light long after the club has closed.
21. Skepta – Konnichiwa [Boy Better Know]
A Tottenham star takes grime global.
20. Chase & Status – No More Idols [Mercury, RAM]
A star-studded triumph for urban music from RAM’s A-list junglists.
19. Horror Inc. – Briefly Eternal [Perlon]
Jazz-affected afterhours cuts with a spooky edge for minimal house’s defining imprint.
18. Akkord – Akkord [Houndstooth]
Manchester post-dubstep alumni Synkro and Indigo go experimental for our beloved sister label.
17. John Talabot – ƒIN [Permanent Vacation]
Soulful disco and house tracks made for summer dancefloors.
16. Slowdive – Slowdive [Dead Oceans]
The seminal shoegazers return almost out of nowhere after a lengthy 22-year hiatus. Luckily for us, they picked up pretty much where they left off.
15. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [Roc-A-Fella]
Hip-hop meets gospel meets pop on Kanye West’s collab-heavy My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an album that showed us as much about his inner psyche as it did his all-embracing artistry.
14. FKA Twigs – LP1 [Young Turks]
R&B’s pre-eminent experimentalist defines her sound world.
13. DjRum – Portrait With Firewood [R & S]
Immaculate ambient, broken beats and IDM with an instrumental temperament.
12. Jamie XX – In Colour [Young Turks]
The xx’s electronic whizz lays down a full-length of UK garage and bass-leaning house anthems. Try to get through Gosh or Loud Places without humming along to yourself.
11. Yussef Kamaal – Black Focus [Brownswood]
Black Focus showed us how London’s jazz scene is forging a new path for the genre in 2016.
10. Treatment – LP [Treatment]
Binh, Onur Özer, Nicolas Lutz, Francesco Del Garda – these deep diggers are currently inspiring a generation of record geeks across Europe in the same way Ricardo Villalobos and Zip first did in the early 2000s. Though they might be most famous for their obscure vinyl finds, Binh and Özer are also known for twisting minds as Treatment, a joint alias under which they’ve occasionally played and put out music. While they’ve previously brought Treatment to many of Europe’s premier intimate clubbing spots, they distilled their sound best on LP, a collection of ghostly electro and techno cuts that shared a similar mood to the weird 90s trips found in each of their record bags.
9. J Majik – Full Circle [Infrared]
J Majik recently told us how he decided to make his return to the jungle scene after an inspiring set at Rupture in 2017, but you'd never guess he’d been away from listening to any of the tracks on Full Circle. The whole album is every bit as deep and cinematic as his 1997 debut, which just reminded us why he’s still considered a cornerstone of jungle and drum & bass after all these years.
8. Aphex Twin – Syro [Warp]
There’s a good reason hysteria follows Richard D. James everywhere. Apart from the viral marketing stunts that surround all of his big announcements, he inhabits a universe that’s completely his own, one that retired rave heads and wide-eyed guitar fans alike find solace in. Soon after Warp flew a blimp bearing the Aphex logo over East London, they gave us Syro, a head-melting knockout that showed James still can’t get enough of fucking with us.
7. Ricardo Villalobos – Empirical House [[a:rpia:r]]
Ricardo Villalobos has always liked to road-test his elongated minimal excursions, so we’d already heard a couple of bits from Empirical House in Room One before his friends at [a:rpia:r] pressed them onto heavyweight vinyl in 2017. But we’re definitely pleased they did – from Widodo’s jazzy undercurrents to the gorgeous title track’s swirling synth pattern (not to mention all his usual percussive chaos), this was some of Villalobos’ most accomplished work in years.
6. Andy Stott – Faith In Strangers [Modern Love]
Andy Stott operates on a unique plain. Since his first release for Modern Love in 2005, the Manchester-born artist’s sound palette has crossed ethereal techno, off-kilter bass and atmospheric house, all of which have been cloaked in a strange atmosphere that sits somewhere between home and club listening. Though every new Stott record has felt like an event in its own right, the clearest example of his style might be Faith In Strangers: dense, abstract, and completely engrossing, its nine tracks found Stott at the height of his powers.
5. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool [XL]
Radiohead have pulled off something only a handful of artists do – with every new record, they push their sound in a completely new direction. On A Moon Shaped Pool, the group’s concentrated instrumentals were paired with Jonny Greenwood’s lavish orchestral arrangements for the first time to dazzling effect. Many of the most memorable tracks focussed on heartbreak, a message that took on a whole new meaning when Thom Yorke’s long-time partner Rachel Owen died of cancer a few months after its release.
4. Bicep – Bicep [Ninja Tune]
It was obvious Bicep were destined for big things from the early days of their Feel My Bicep blog in the late 2000s. Back then they were spending their time shining a light on their favourite forgotten Italo disco and Chicago house tracks, their love for vintage styles inspiring early releases like Darwin and the uniquitous 2012 smasher, Vision of Love. On their debut full-length, the Belfast-born duo threw together all of their formative influences – glossy deep house, punchy breakbeats, euphoric trance – and crafted them into their own.
3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest [Warp]
Until a series of cryptic clues started circulating off-the-beaten-track Internet forums in 2013, we weren’t to know Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin were planning on dropping new music. This makes sense: after all, as Boards of Canada, the Scottish duo have spent the majority of their careers eschewing the spotlight in every way they can. When they did drop Tomorrow’s Harvest to end an eight-year hiatus, they offered another glimpse into the same paranoid world they created in the late 90s – nothing new to many of us, but another album from Boards of Canada just being Boards of Canada was reason enough to celebrate.
2. Barker – Utility [Ostgut Ton]
We’re not sure how best to classify Utility, Barker’s superb debut LP for the traditionally techno-focussed Ostgut Ton label, but when the results are this good, who even cares? Even without the kick drums, every one of these tracks is capable of melting the floor in the right hands, and like only a small fragment of electronic music, the whole album will live on outside the club way beyond its 2019 release.
1. Voices From The Lake – Voices From The Lake [Prologue]
Hypnotic, organic, psychedelic – you’re likely to hear these adjectives more than any other to describe the style of ambient techno championed by Italian producers Donato Dozzy and Neel. Voices From The Lake, their debut album recorded under the same name for Prologue, explored the transcendental terrain both artists inhabit at its very best. There are no big moments here (aside from maybe the sublime S.T. (VFTL Rework)), and it’s barely discernible when one track ends and another starts, but the whole work – complex and richly textured yet so clear and understated – is as absorbing as techno gets. It just takes you somewhere else.