Exclaim!'s Top 10 Dance and Electronic Albums

Best of 2017

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Dec 6, 2017

We'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:
10. Daphni
Joli Mai

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.
Daniel Sylvester
9. Forest Swords
(Ninja Tune)

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.
Joseph Mathieu
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.
Chris Gee
7. Iglooghost
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.
Luke Pearson
6. GAS

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. 
Bryon Hayes

5. Bonobo
(Ninja Tune)

Nearly two decades into his career and having run the gamut of sub-genres in electronic, you'd think Bonobo would be out of ideas, but Migration proves otherwise. As the title suggests, the album contemplates and explores the meaning of home; its reflective nature lends the album a pervasive tranquility that allows listeners to settle into it slowly.
Migration is never safe, though: Nicole Miglis of Hundred Waters ferries desperation across the exquisite "Surface," and lead single "Kerala" punches through with its euphoric vocal sample, bypassing the slow-build of previous tracks and going all-in with stings blazing and bass pounding. Migration is both comfortable and transcendent, a damn hard combination to beat.
Ashley Hampson
4. Jacques Greene
Feel Infinite
(Arts & Crafts / LuckyMe)

Having made a name for himself releasing singles and EPs these past seven years, Jacques Greene didn't stray far from his own successful formula when it came time to make a full-length debut. As he told Exclaim! earlier this year, Feel Infinite is "me sticking to my guns in a way that I'm really happy about."
Greene makes the transition from the club to the long-player environment in a fashion that's familiar but fresh. Meditative numbers like "Dundas Collapse" and "Cycles" provide welcome moments of repose between bangers, with highlights "To Say" and "Real Time" remaining driven by his shifty drums and wonderfully warped vocal samples.
Calum Slingerland
3. Jlin
Black Origami
(Planet Mu)

Few albums released in 2017 opened as emphatically as Jlin's Black Origami. Within its first minute, the title track builds to a rich barrage of percussion that sweeps through the woodwinds, synthesizers and buzzing sub-bass surrounding it.
What follows is a rhythmically complex, deeply textured sophomore LP, one that moves producer Jerrilynn Patton away from Chicago footwork and into a league of her own. Whether the percussion is dancing across channels ("Nyakinyua Rise," "Carbon 7 (161)") or holding down the beat ("Never Created, Never Destroyed"), each syncopated part evokes both movement and space. Listening to Black Origami feels like great exercise: exhausting and satisfying in equal measure.
Matthew Blenkarn
2. Kelly Lee Owens
Kelly Lee Owens
(Smalltown Supersound)

2017 was good to Kelly Lee Owens. A relative unknown at the beginning of the year, the Welsh producer/songwriter's debut full-length deservedly launched her into the conversation for the best album of the year — particularly impressive in a year when veterans like LCD Soundsystem, Feist and Kendrick Lamar all released masterpieces of their own.
Owens' haunting voice and knack for songwriting that straddles the dance floor and more traditional verse-chorus structures keeps Kelly Lee Owens dynamic throughout, and demonstrates the kind of early career mastery that suggests untold potential depths for Owens' future works. We can't wait to hear them.
Stephen Carlick
1. Four Tet
New Energy

Four Tet has always made beautiful music: even his slow morph from folktronic jams to 4/4 club-ready thumpers brought an element of the sublime along for the ride. And yet, nothing he has made — or anyone made this year — comes close to the sheer splendour that is New Energy.
At times, it seems more akin to sonic spell-casting than any form of music production. Never has something so soft and ethereal been able to nudge the body into movement, even if it's just a slight bob. Sure, there are some genuine dance tracks, like "SW9 9SL" and the majestic "Planet," but even their fervour is culled to a gentle hush for the most part. The rest of the record relies on tender string plucks and ambient swells to tug it forward, but still, somehow, it remains body music — a neat trick by anyone's standards.
The fact that Four Tet hasn't made a misstep since he first reared his head in '98 is impressive in its own right. But what we have in New Energy is a flawless amalgamation of all his varying styles throughout the years. It's the old energy and the new, coaxed into a lush microcosm that gets better with every visit.
Daryl Keating

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