Due to the multiple sub genres of electronic dance music and the amount of decades in which this type of music has been produced, it's almost impossible to pick the top 10 albums of all time. The old school ravers and elitist will argue the importance of including a lot of the pioneers, but the last thing we need is another throwback 1990s list. Yet with the rising popularity of “EDM” (which is just a fancy word we use to encompass all the complex genres of dance music) it's only natural that the demand for such a list exists.
It's difficult to make this list relevant today because most DJ's produce singles without ever having a full-length album or after only releasing an EP – think Avicii and “Levels.” Additionally some of the greatest albums are actually compilations or filled with remixes such as Sasha's Involver. So though we know that any top 10 list is stepping into the boundaries of controversy, we couldn't help and compile our top 10 EDM albums to listen to before you die. Who knows, maybe in between all of the untz untz and and wobbly bass lines you might actually fall in love like we did.
Eric Prydz & Audrey Napoleon – Yost Theater – 8/16/2012
Above & Beyond's Tony McGuinness Shares Why He Loves SoCal
Nero on EDM Naysayers, Clubbing and the Possibility of Another Track With Skrillex
10. The Prodigy – The Fat of the Land – 1997 XL Records
To celebrate its 15th anniversary XL Recordings re-issued the Prodigy's The Fat of the Land worldwide in December including remixes by artists like Noisia, Alvin Risk, Zeds Dead, Baauer, The Glitch Mob and Major Lazer. This album along with it's single “Firestarter” helped propel the electronic band into super stardom in the US and UK charts. Being their third full length album release they let go of the rave sound and added punk vocals to their signature break beats and syths making electronic dance music acceptable in the punk and rock scene. The video for the song “Smack My Bitch Up” is still one of the most controversial videos to date. While “Breathe” is one of the most remixed dance tracks of the decade. They proved that electronic sounds could blend together to fuse genres in the early 90's – something we are seeing in abundance today.
9. Leftfield – Leftism – 1995 Sony Music
The band Leftfield has been named one of the pioneers in electronic music along with the likes of The Chemical Brothers and Kraftwerk. The British duo's first release Leftism in 1995 was ahead of it's time as it mixed house music with dub and reggae sounds – the pioneers to the term progressive house music. Not the Swedish House Mafia progressive house you hear today, but the progressive house of Sasha & Digweed, Andrew Bayer or Matt Lange. Leftfield hit a major break with Leftism for incorporating vocalist like John Lydon on “Open Up” and Djum Djum on “Afro Left” which spliced together break beat and techno with the vocals. The album which went gold in the UK is a co-cohesive piece of work which has almost ambient, electronica-inspired sounds that you can listen to as you close your eyes on a deserted island to dub bass beats that will make you want to get up and dance.
8. Nero – Welcome Reality – 2011 MTA Records
It's safe to say that though Nero has been an electronic group for almost a decade, it wasn't until their release of Welcome Reality in 2011 that they became international dubstep DJs and producers. The seductive vocals of Alana Watson make this entire album more than just another dub record. With songs like “Guilt,” “Me and You,” “Innocence” and “Crush On You” the album tells a story of a love affair that's unusual to the genre and yet can be played and remixed by any artists. Now that they can add Grammy nominees for their work with Skrillex on the “Promises” single they are fast becoming one of the most sought after producers and performers. Welcome Reality showed the dance music world all of their capabilities, but also opened doors for them to work with artist like Muse and on a remix for the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's Bad.
7. Jus†ice – Cross – 2007 Ed Banger Records
If The Prodigy was to the old punk scene and rave culture of dance music then Jus†ice is this generations indie rock cross over into cut-up bass lines of the EDM enthusiast flooding music festivals today. Their album Cross was nominated for a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album and “D.A.N.C.E” was nominated for Best Dance Recording. They later won for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for their remix of MGMT's “Electric Feel” in 2009. Though they have a lot of disco and electro house influences Ju†ice's biggest breakthrough came from being able to incorporate live instruments into their performances – something EDM DJ's were actually straying away from in the late 2000's. Their singles “Waters of Nazareth” and “Genesis” though evoking a religious foe are quite the exact opposite with heavy metal in your face strings and chopped up electro synths.
6. Deadmau5 – Random Album Title – 2008 Ultra Records
Deadmau5's first release on his own record label titled Mau5trap Records along with Ultra Records was Random Album Title which featured his collaboration with the beloved American DJ Kaskade on “I Remember” – one of the biggest dance tracks which reached number one on Billboard's Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart. Though Deadmau5, the Canadian born Joel Zimmerman, is most famous for his mau5head–which he wears at performances–media circuses, and his very public romance with tattoo artist Kat Von D he should just as easily be most famous for being one of this decades most talented producers. With tracks like “Not Exactly” and “Faxing Berlin” he proves he is innovative in blending genres and sounds so seamless and unprecedented before. It's no wonder why he was Beatport's best selling artists in 2009 with more than 30,000 downloads with the above singles and his later hit “Ghosts 'n' Stuff.”
5. Eric Prydz – Eric Prydz Presents Pryda – 2012 Virgin Records
The man with more aliases than any other DJ or producer in the business – Swedish Eric Prydz has become the skillful master of club music that translates onto the dance floor just like it does on the radio with his melodic tracks. Eric Prydz Presents Pryda has got to be one of dance musics most anticipated album which took seven years in the making. Originally set to be released in 2007 on Ministry of Sound, Prydz canceled the release to focus on underground tracks and make songs under his various aliases. Finally in 2012, he released his debut album which featured unreleased Pryda productions such as the popular “Allein,” “Shadow” and an intro edit of “Pjanoo” with his own special edits and re-works. The album plays on many sounds and textures incorporating vocals, keyboards and house beats with a polished elegance that resembles his DJ sets. In a time when everything is about loud electro bangers and drops you have to give him credit for releasing an album as timeless as this.
4. Daft Punk – Discovery – 2001 Virgin Records
No dance music top anything list would be complete without the inclusion of the french duo dressed in robot-gear who brought the infamous pyramid live stage show which mirrors many of EDM's productions today. Daft Punk's 2001 sophomore release Discovery had most of it's success for club anthems like “One More Time,” “Digital Love” and “Harder Better, Faster, Stronger.” Known as one of the biggest influences in dance music the duo blended elements of house with pop beats to create something that was unheard in the late 90s. With the epic guitar riffs in songs like “Aerodynamic” and vocals of “Something About Us,” the pair created an album that brought electronic dance music to the forefront of pop culture eventually winning a Grammy for their live album Alive 2007. Most importantly, they proved that dance music was here to stay and it would only be a matter of time before it started to dominate our charts and airwaves.
3. Armin Van Buuren – Shivers – 2005 Ultra Records
The Dutch trance super star owes most of his fame to his weekly radio show which he started in 2001 called “A State of Trance.” The show boasts 25 million weekly listeners in 26 different countries – making it one of the most listened to radio shows in the world. His second studio album Shivers remains to be one of Armin Van Buuren's best productions which put him on the map for trance music globally. Featuring collaborations with Nadia Ali on “Who Is Watching,” Justine Suissa on “Wall of Sound” and Gabriel & Dresden on “Zocalo” these classics are still played today by some of the biggest trance DJs in the world. It's no wonder Van Buuren has been named the number one DJ in world in DJ Magazine's top 100 poll for a record five times. The trance-God as some like to call him has also been awarded “Best Global DJ” and “Best Trance Artist” at the International Dance Music Awards in Miami.
2. Tiësto – Just Be – 2004 Ultra Records
Tijs Michiel Verwest (that's Tiësto to you!) is the Dutch DJ who rose to fame after his remix of Delerium's “Silence” featuring Sarah McLachlan exposed him to a more mainstream audience. His second album Just Be was released right before he was the first DJ to play live on stage at the Olympics in the Summer of 2004. He was asked to write more songs based on his single “Adagio for Strings” which fit in with the Olympic spirit. The song “Traffic” was also the first non-vocal track to reach number one in the Dutch national charts for 23 years. Tiësto has created an iconic brand as one of the most profitable and highest payed DJs to date. Just Be allowed him to put his twist on electronic music from the very beginning with the help of his producers and writers allowing him to conquer worldwide tours, sponsorships, residencies, collaborations with non EDM artists like Coldplay, Grammy nominations, MTV Awards and his own radio show titled Tiësto's Club Life which is the number one podcast on iTunes.
1. Above & Beyond – Tri-State – 2006 Ultra Records
Even if you don't like trance one can appreciate the careful songwriting, vocals, elaborate musical productions and thought provoking anthems that came from the great minds of Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki on their debut artist album Tri-State. Their collaborations with Andy Moor on “Air For Life” won “Best Underground Dance Track” at Miami Winter Music Conference after being the song of 2005 on Armin's ASOT radio show. With singles like “Can't Sleep” and “Alone Tonight” Above & Beyond have proven that dance music and specifically trance can still be artistically intricate especially adding that human emotion with their own vocals and lyrics made from their own personal experiences. Tri-State cemented their profound music in the hearts of millions all over the world and allowed them to work on remixes for the likes of Radiohead and Madonna, start their own record label Anjunabeats, launch a radio show and tour the world as one of dance musics most humble and talented DJ groups who are masters at their craft.