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The 20 best dance music albums of 2015

Now that this year is drawing to a close, we've narrowed down our favorite dance and electronic music albums of 2015

As another year draws to a close, we recap what electronic albums we loved the most in 2015. An impressive number of dance music discs came out this year—so many that we decided to devote an entirely separate feature to the genre. While it’s easy to associate many of these musicians with the parties they’ve deejayed, it’s important to remember that—hey!—they happen to produce music as well! And these ones are pretty damn good at it too. Check out our ranked list of the best dance music albums of the year so far, which ranges from ambient techno to “italo-ketamine house.” Curious as to what our favorites were in all other genres? Make sure to peep at our more general list of the 25 best albums of 2015 and let’s see more of this can-do attitude in ’16. See you on the field!

RECOMMENDED: See the best of 2015

Best dance music albums of 2015

20
Idjut Boys, Versions

Idjut Boys, Versions

Why we’re into it
After nearly 20 years in the Beardo Business, the Idjuts finally dropped Cellar Door, their debut album, in 2012 on Smalltown Supersound. The delay wasn't because the boys are underachievers: They were releasing mixes, remixes and collaborative records with groups such as Meanderthals (with Rune Lindbaek), as well as running multiple record labels. Here they clear out (some of) the vaults with eight refixes of their own material and, wouldn’t you know it, their table scraps are still better than most producer’s full-on meals.—Christopher Tarantino

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Kenny Dub Headband

19
Holly Herndon, Platform

Holly Herndon, Platform

Why we’re into it
Using browser-sound recording software designed by her partner Mat Dryhurst, Platform boldly takes on a new sonic subject: digital self-spying. Why wait for the NSA to eventually tell you about you, when you can hire your own digital, I Heart Huckabees–style existential detectives as a browser extension now? Herndon’s second record is an extremely dense but extremely rewarding magnum opus on the modern, everyday sounds we all encounter and their ownership moving forward. Some pieces feel like 30 years of digital culture, chopped and screwed (“Home”), while others (“Lonely at the Top”) lovingly ape our current voyeuristic culture through the web phenomenon known as ASMR. We can’t handle Holly Herndon’s infinite nature.—Christopher Tarantino

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18
Smurphy, A Shapeless Pool of Lovely Pale Colours Suspended in the Darkness

Smurphy, A Shapeless Pool of Lovely Pale Colours Suspended in the Darkness

Why we’re into it
Part of the Mexican collective/record label N.A.A.F.I. who enjoy blurring lines of gender as well as genre, Jessica Smurphy follows up her #GEMINISS mixtape with A Shapeless Pool of Lovely Pale Colours Suspended in the Darkness. A twisted paean to love with her own dubbed-out vocals, this cut-and-paste pastiche album is an even more cohesive whole than would be expected. With prolific experimentation and an incredibly strong visual sense, Smurphy and her south-of-the-border crew are invading the U.S. whether Donald Trump likes it or not.—Christopher Tarantino

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17
Prurient, Frozen Niagara Falls

Prurient, Frozen Niagara Falls

Why we’re into it
Stomaching a one-and-a-half-hour double LP can be difficult, even when it doesn’t consist of harsh industrial noise, but it fits Dominick Fernow a.k.a. Prurient’s whole “thing” that the album experience be a little grating. Though ostensibly not one for accessibility, the former Cold Cave member offers up surprisingly relatable (albeit patently dismal) lyrics regarding love, pain, alienation and lust, making the album one of the year’s most brutal meditations on relationships.—Rohan Samarth

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16
Surfing, Surfing

Surfing, Surfing

Why we’re into it
There must be something in that Great White Northern tap water, eh? Ridiculously fertile Vancouver label 1080p has created a mini-cottage industry all its own, drawing in like-minded artists from the furthest Canadian reaches, as well as New Yorkers like Peter “Surfing” Segerstrom. This year alone the label has seen two LPs from CFCF as well as releases from exciting new artists like Neu Balance (Rubber Sole), Ramzi (HOUTi KUSH), MCFERRDOG (Lawd Forgive Me) and Feingold (Nuff Zang). Segerstrom, having already released "Bless" this year on Portable Sunsets, here plays with word repetition through semantic backflips like “Tiga’s paranoid, crabby uncle.”—Christopher Tarantino

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15
Zenker Brothers, Immersion

Zenker Brothers, Immersion

Why we’re into it
Dario and Marco Zenker aren’t new to the scene, each having released critically acclaimed productions separately for several years now. Both Dario’s “Cafu” and Marco’s “Morpho,” despite being released two years ago, remain absolute club bangers. Founded in 2007, their label Ilian Tape has released much of the Zenker Brothers’ music, including the duo’s 2011 EP, Berg 10. While Immersion is clearly a reflection of the brothers’ German-sounding techno from previous releases, it’s also a realization of what the Zenker Brothers—as a collective duo—are capable of creating. The genre-traversing debut album is an organic exploration of techno that lends itself to less traditional elements of ambient, percussive and breakbeat sounds.—Vivienne van Vliet

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“Innef Runs”

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14
Lauer, Borndom

Lauer, Borndom

Why we’re into it
Frankfurtian Philip Lauer, not to be confused with Baauer of “Harlem Shake” infamy (dear God please), makes intricate, rhythmic house under his own surname, as well as collaborations like Tuff City Kids and Arto Mwambe. This is only his second full-length album under his own name, but he’s been collaborating for nearly 20 years, churning out colorful, 1980s-inspired records for all the labels you already like: Beats in Space, Rekids, Spectral, Output Recordings and Gerd Janson’s Running Back, who released his first LP, Phillips, in 2012.—Christopher Tarantino

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13
Wax Stag, II

Wax Stag, II

Why we’re into it
After releasing his debut way back in 2008 and trippy remixes for artists like Bibio and Gypsy & the Cat, Rob Lee took a bit of a break on his own productions and began providing edits and live instrumentation for bands like Errors, Clark, White Lies and Friendly Fires. Well, seven years later, he’s delivered the psychedelic sequel everyone was waiting for, entitled—what else!?—II, and U.K. indie bands’ loss is finally our gain.—Christopher Tarantino

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12
Panda Bear, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Panda Bear, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Why we’re into it
Sonic adventurer Noah Lennox is taking the opposite approach to creative risk taking as most artists do: He’s getting ballsier as he grows older. At a time when most musicians are looking to cash in, Noah is making stranger and stranger sounds—which is really saying a lot for a member of Animal Collective—and it suits him. As he did on Tomboy, ex-Spaceman 3 man Pete Kember produces this outing and is fast becoming the go-to producer for indie acts looking to get weirder (see: Walls, MGMT). Reaper incorporates more psychedelic, early house influences and enough duplications and reverberations of Lennox’s voice to form the singing sleuth of Panda Bear.—Christopher Tarantino

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11
Pearson Sound, Pearson Sound

Pearson Sound, Pearson Sound

Why we’re into it
Pearson Sound, one of the U.K.’s most talented producers of mind-numbing bass music, is no newcomer to the scene. Also sometimes known as Ramadanman, David Kennedy has been an integral part of the Hessle Audio label, which has been in the banger business since 2007. A highly sought after DJ with an impeccable taste in percussive bass music, Kennedy has kept himself plenty busy with nonstop touring and several critically acclaimed singles. His long-awaited self-titled debut album is a nine-track exploration of the percolating rhythms and deeper-than-deep bass that define his unique sound. While it’s hard to put a name to the “Pearson Sound sound,” this album exemplifies Kennedy’s ability to transform minimal beats into club-ready bangers.—Vivienne van Vliet

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10
Dasha Rush, Sleepstep

Dasha Rush, Sleepstep

Why we’re into it
Russian producer, DJ and label manager Dasha Rush brings an element of elegance to the world of techno with her boundary-pushing third full-length album, Sleepstep. The album was released not on one of her own labels (Fullpanda Records and Hunger To Create) but instead on Berlin's minimal techno label Raster-Noton—which has put out music by venerable artists such as Atom™. Dasha began collecting and playing records at age 14, having been drawn towards dark acid techno, hardcore and gabber, which later grew into an affinity towards experimental ambient techno. In interviews, she stresses her desire to have a sound of her own—something that is highly evident in Sleepstep. The 16-track album is a series of dark, dreamlike lullabies. Her ability to create beautiful synth melodies shows in tracks such as “Sleep Ballade," while her dub-heavy sound shines in both vocal and non-vocal tracks—from the melodic and mesmerizing vocals on “Dance with Edgar Poe” to the dark and hypnotizing vocals on “Scratching Your Surface.”—Vivienne van Vliet

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9
Percussions, 2011 Until 2014

Percussions, 2011 Until 2014

Why we’re into it
While Kieran Hebden’s recent Morning/Evening has received the lion share of well-deserved attention (as it’s under his infinitely more recognizable Four Tet moniker), it’s his other release that truly takes the cake. As the title plainly states, this is a collection of DJ tools made under his Percussions alias during said years and released on vinyl on his own Text Records. Hebden quietly dropped it onto Bandcamp in January to little fanfare. No matter—he’s so prolific, he doesn’t even have time to point you in the direction of his tunes; it’s up to you to find them. Once you do, you realize this year alone he has you covered for mornings, evenings and late nights for the full twenty-Four-Tet-seven. Boom.—Christopher Tarantino

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8
Drew Lustman, The Crystal Cowboy

Drew Lustman, The Crystal Cowboy

Why we’re into it
Drew Lustman is better known to most as FaltyDL, the alias under which he’s released countless well-received productions on Ninja Tune. With The Crystal Cowboy, however, Lustman resorts to using his real name and returns to the label Planet Mu. His reasons for doing so are immediately clear in the opening track, “Watch A Man Die,” which jumps right into the early sounds of drum and bass—and is then followed by the '90s rave-ready track “Time Machine.” Inaudible vocal elements appear in the shorter “Hyena,” which transitions into the title track. “The Crystal Cowboy” combines the sounds of drum and bass, jungle, breaks and even hints of experimental jazz—something that Lustman proves to be highly capable of successfully carrying out throughout the entire album. —Vivienne van Vliet

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7
Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons, Message From the Other Side

Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons, Message From the Other Side

Why we’re into it
Perfectly distilling his hippie mystic act into a proper artist album, journeyman DJ Damian Lazarus is joined by his international gang of Justified Ancients of Moo-Moo and hitmaker James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco, Arctic Monkeys) at the boards for Message From the Other Side. He also had a bevy of travel agents for the globe-trotting affair, which included Qawwali singers, African drummers and assorted collaborators from Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria to craft the perfect psychedelic sunrise soundtrack.—Christopher Tarantino

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6
Walls, Urals

Walls, Urals

Why we’re into it
All good things must end, and with Urals, the third in a trilogy of expansive percussive noisenik experimentation, Walls have called it a day. The album arrives five years after their debut from Kompakt and four after their excellent Coracle. More experimental and less immediate than some of their “hits,” Urals sees Alessio Natalizia and Sam Willis push more toward their krautrock roots with superproducer Pete Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom of Spaceman 3) for their final trip.—Christopher Tarantino

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5
Paranoid London, S/T

Paranoid London, S/T

Why we’re into it
Once, speaking to Time Out London, DJ legend Andrew Weatherall famously described Daniel Avery’s music as “gimmick-free machine-funk of the highest order.” You‘d think that this kind of music would be easy to create with the embarrassment of technological riches at our disposal today. If it wasn’t, then the youngsters would probably just refer to it as “D.M.” and drop the “E.” (But I guess they’ve probably “dropped” enough of those already, amirite?) This makes it all the more surprising though, when an album of exquisitely classic, rhythmic, mechanical music that sounds straight outta ‘95, sneaks out amidst the glut of computer-sounding music in ‘15. But the U.K.’s Paranoid London accomplish that—with a little #Tbt help from classic Chicago house-head Paris Brightledge and Detroit dance princess DJ Genesis—and bring us all back to the future with them on their debut album.—Christopher Tarantino

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4
Ptaki, Przelot

Ptaki, Przelot

Why we’re into it
“Prince of Poland” Ptaki makes beautiful tunes that are lovingly loopy (sample-based, not like, zany and cartoonish). Along with label boss and fellow countryman Maciej Zambon, the two men are almost single-handedly responsible for putting Poland on the modern disco map—all due respect to Andrzej Zaucha—with countless releases on the flawless revival label The Very Polish Cut Outs (R.I.P.) and now, Transatlantyk. So it’s only fitting then, that after a string of top notch singles and EPs—chief among them DJ Dook’s excellent Edity—that Przelot is the first long-player to be released on Zambon’s new label, which also focuses on the the top-tier of what Poland has to offer. One of the best releases of the year from one of the best labels of the year.—Christopher Tarantino

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Czuła Jest Noc

3
Die Verboten, 2007

Die Verboten, 2007

Why we’re into it
You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t heard that Belgian electronic masterminds Stephen and David Dewaele of Soulwax fame had released a new album this year. The space-rock record under the Teutonic moniker Die Verboten—with DJ Henry Riton and designer Fergus "Fergadelic" Purcell—was slipped out on the duo’s brand new DEEWEE label to little fanfare. Which is odd, considering they’ve boasted  in interviews of recording two albums worth of “posh analogue jamming” at their Ibiza studio since it was recorded in 2007. One song snuck out on a 12“ in ‘09 (the 18-minute jam “Live in Eivissa,” which now fetches $150 on Discogs), but no one knew if the world would ever get to hear the rest. Until now. The record, amusingly titled 2007, is 6 tracks of long-form acidity and off-the-cuff komische oddities, that, while it’s not a new Soulwax record, is still totally “fantastisch.”—Christopher Tarantino

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2
Ghost Culture, Ghost Culture

Ghost Culture, Ghost Culture

Why we’re into it
James Greenwood’s debut pops where it should and hisses when it needs to, like a used and abused early 1900s metronome refashioned for the digital age. The vocals appear to have been recorded in an underwater bunker, which suits the rusted orange covering his melodies. Tracks like “How” or “Glaciers” are melancholy East London doo-wop numbers with haunting electronic production, while “Mouth” and "Answer” may be more dance floor–ready, but no less melancholic. Yet another hit-maker for Erol Alkan’s growing Phantasy Sound label stable.—Christopher Tarantino

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1
LA Priest, Inji

LA Priest, Inji

Why we’re into it
Rising from the ashes of the former and much-missed Late of the Pier, Sam Dust had released just one single eight years ago—which surprisingly, still holds up—but nothing could have prepared us for the intermittent genius contained in this record. While the album does tend to musically hopscotch around and occasionally lack a cohesive sonic palette, there are so many well-executed individual styles that you realize Dust’s theme is really just ‘playful experimentation.’ There’s a bubbly travelogue in “Night Train,” the spatial oddity of “Lady's In Trouble With The Law” and the festive equine funk of “Party Zute / Learning To Love.” If all pop music sounded this joyfully alive and experimentally fun, we’d surely be living in a different world.—Christopher Tarantino

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