When dubstep poster child Skrillex nabs almost as many Grammy nominations as one of the world’s biggest pop stars, that’s saying something. Namely, that 2011 was a big year for dance music. With this club-land achievement as our top trend, our other favorites of the last 12 months count down to it.
With its gothic tendencies, wild fashion and wilder parties, the Victorian-inspired sci-fi world of the Chicago Steampunk scene ran away with our imagination this year.
Its name sounds like the onomatopoeia of a Martian sneeze, but the burgeoning moombahton genre—pitched-down electro mixed with reggaeton’s midtempo chug—experienced a meteoric rise and is poised to take over in 2012.
8. Looking back
Electronic music is routinely breaking some new sound, but 2011 was also about its roots, be it Chicago’s Trax Records’ 30th birthday, Pete Tong’s 20 years on the radio, or the boys at DJhistory.com honoring DJ originators in The Record Players.
7. Dance bands
Disco rockers LCD Soundsystem may have called it quits, but reunited indie dance originators the Rapture (pictured) and Grammy-nominated Aussie outfit Cut Copy carried the torch with two of the year’s best records.
6. The Mid
Locally, no club traversed the varied trends in dance music better than the Mid. In its first year, the West Town venue managed to welcome trance kingpin Tiësto, dubstep architects Skream and Benga (twice), and even hip-hop godfather Afrika Bambaataa.
5. James Blake
Sure, James Blake was a press darling this year, but the bluesy crooning, masterful piano and rattling sub-bass productions on his self-titled debut and subsequent live sets deserve the hype.
4. Bass music
While many were fashioning dubstep for a rave, producers like Apparat, Jamie xx, SBTRKT and even Thom Yorke (in work with Modeselektor and Burial) lent bass music intense musicality. (For more, see James Blake.)
3. Deep house
Disguised by journalists using fancy titles like gothic house and even underground pop, acts like Art Department, Benoit & Sergio (pictured), Soul Clap, Visionquest and Wolf + Lamb really spent this year blazing a trail for a new generation of deep house producers.
2. Festival season
From deadmau5’s (pictured) mud-crusted Lollapalooza dance party to the three-day rave that was the North Coast Music Festival, dance music ruled 2011’s festival season (and that’s just locally—look to Electric Daisy Carnival or Coachella for more convincing).
1. World domination
Spin and Rolling Stone magazines are just two outlets that crowned dance music as this year’s force to be reckoned with. Replacing hip-hop as the pop music framework of choice, electro’s buzz, dubstep’s bass growl and house music’s infectious thump left no one immune in 2011.