In 2015 and 2016, we witnessed the merging of EDM and pop. Albums like Pharmacy by Galantis made it virtually impossible to tell one from the other. In 2017, we saw the two bifurcating again. Both pop and EDM rode the wave of tropical sounds, but EDM didn’t embrace the tropical vibes as much as one might have anticipated. I saw a lot of successful albums returning to older sounds, such as dubstep, and playing through the possibilities remaining in the trap sub-genre.
I was impatient for the follow-up to Pharmacy. The preview tracks we heard from Galantis pointed to another epic pop/EDM album, but when it arrived, The Aviary was basically a disappointment. In hindsight it’s easy to see that there was no way Galantis could reach the highs they hit with Pharmacy. So even though tracks like Tell Me You Love Me are great tracks, the effort seemed hollow and lifeless. It felt like a retread of Pharmacy, and despite adding some tropical sounds, none of the tracks really captured lightning in a bottle like Runaway.
So my top five albums were all unanticipated. They are albums that I discovered by accident, or that I didn’t anticipate enjoying.
First up is Metropole by Anomalie Some might say that it is a jazz record, but it’s beat-and-synthesizer-driven music qualifies as EDM to me. Through Vaporwave and other niche subgenres, smooth jazz has been infiltrating EDM in 2017, and Metropole is the best synthesis of that smooth-jazz-plus-EDM sound.
Next up is Good Evening by Deorro. I wasn’t a big fan of his earlier work, and my friends told me this album was pretty awful. But as 2017 went on, I found myself coming back to it more and more. There are a few tracks, such as Butt Naked and Bomba that are bangers, truly reminiscent of Deorro’s club hits. And it still manages to have quiet, sincere moments, such as in Honest Man. I think some fans were turned off by all the short interstitial tracks on the album, and at first I was too. But as I listened repeatedly, I started feeling like the interstitials glued the album together. They make the album feel more like a fully-produced DJ set, almost reminiscent of the DJ albums of the 1990s.
The third album on my best-of-2017 list is Love is Alive EP from Louis the Child. The album is the epitome of catchy vocal EDM, and it flows smoothly from the soulful/tropical Slow Down Love to the upbeat hip-hop Phone Died. In the end though, I have no reason to include this album on my list other than the fact that I enjoyed listening to it. A lot.
Fourth on my list is Communicating by Hundred Waters. Like Metropole, this album barely qualifies as EDM. It might fit better under the general umbrella of indie rock, especially since it was made by a real band that actually plays instruments. But when the the throbbing bass kicks in during the first track, it’s clear that this album draws on the sounds of electronica as well as rock.
Last up on my list is Skyriser by Maxo. At no point in this year did I ever think about how much I love this album. But when I did Spotify’s customized review of my listening habits in 2017, Skyriser was the album I listened to most. It’s easy to see why. The album is a catchy, upbeat blend of chiptunes, trap, and what sounds to me like K-pop. I know that I put it on repeat for numerous gaming sessions.
So there it is. Those are my top five EDM albums of 2017. Did you see the year differently? Put it in the comments.