This year’s best electronic albums span perhaps the broadest range of styles in any genre, ranging from poppy and melodic electro to the outer reaches of experimentalism. We are incorporating all types of electronic music on this list and have done away with separate electropop and electronic features. It all belongs under the same tent with continually developing new scenes and sounds that influence each other and create forward-looking music. This year’s list is alphabetical because it’s impossible to rank apples and oranges together. Either way, this is the electronic-based music that moved us the most in 2022.
Although Allegories‘ second album, Endless, is influenced by 1980s synthpop, it’s hardly an exercise in nostalgia. The record takes some sonic cues from the swirly, heady sounds of Depeche Mode, Japan, and Duran Duran, but Endless is thoroughly original and fresh-sounding. One that plunges its listeners into a thick, warm, enveloping world of swoony vocals, gorgeous, sweeping soundscapes, and captivating romanticism. The Canadian duo creates a complex and winning work that finds humanity amongst the rolling waves of synthesizers, drum machines, and electronic instruments.
Though synthpop dominates Endless, there are also moments of dance, disco, and new wave. There are hints and echoes of Giorgio Moroder and Patrick Cowley, with the duo finding innovative ways of playing with studio effects and technology. Muted funk finds its way into the dancier tracks, and buzzy synths hum, but there’s also a gorgeous paean to 1990s house with the canny “Sentimental Hogwash”. It’s a brilliant track paying homage to the Chicago-born dance music genre. Pointy synths stab as throbbing beat pulses; even samples of wailing vocals flow in the back. Most importantly, “Sentimental Hogwash” captures the urgency of early house music. — Peter Piatkowski
Bournemouth producer Daniel Avery wastes no time throwing listeners off their balance with Ultra Truth. The opening track has a fuzziness that will make you swear your cables aren’t plugged in quite fully, but at the same time, it sounds oddly fitting. While mostly ambient, Ultra Truth contains enough elements of house, shoegaze, and Boards of Canada-like low-fi grooves to keep it a moving target in terms of genre.
The sparse, unhurried use of synth and percussion gives Avery’s latest album a mournful tone that often steers into euphoria. Clocking in at almost an hour, Ultra Truth feels like a journey where you can clearly trace its beginning and rewarding conclusion. Avery’s sonic landscapes are steeped in oil-slick darkness, but a warmth permeates tracks like “Wall of Sleep” and especially “Spider.” Ultra Truth is a winter soundtrack for the coming months. — Sean McCarthy
Antidawn / Streetlands
Burial‘s William Bevan might be a far less shadowy figure than he once was, but he bookended 2022 with some of his career’s most night-steeped, fantastic music. In this banner year for vampire studies, Burial’s ANTIDAWN EP is the most direct evidence of how creatures of the night inform his discography and his identity as a musician. Promoted with liner notes that hint at “something beckoning you to follow it into the night”, ANTIDAWN is indeed an album-length set of songs that repeat and vary what the night means to those alone or those in love.
A section of the first track, “STRANGE NEIGHBOURHOOD”, teases the listener with chords that might have been ripped from Fatboy Slim’s “Song for Shelter” before veering off in a decidedly different, less rhythmic direction than that anthem. This deemphasis on beats sets the pace for the rest of the EP, which unfolds as a series of fragments full of spoken/sung dialogue. The album’s centerpiece, “SHADOW PARADISE”, with a rising and falling organ line that envelops the listener, casts the darkness of night as a sanctuary rather than as a menacing absence of light.
Streetlands, Burial’s second EP of the year, contains more coherent musical structures than ANTIDAWN, but the sense of place is even more evocative. Looping tones of “Hospital Chapel” decay and are revived again, generating suspense each time they recede into near-silence before a quasi-choral section populates the song with a human presence in a holy place. The progression of Streetlands is one from the chapel’s quiet reflection to the science-fiction adventure of “Exokind”. “There is something out there…” Streetlands declares, not as a caution to stay inside but as a motivation to venture out. – Thomas Britt
Anyone who pejoratively dismisses Confidence Man‘s Tilt as being stupid is missing the point. The Brisbane-based indie-dance outfit’s 2018 debut album, Confident Music for Confident People, was practically a concept album based on the vapidity of American pop culture, taken to an Aqua-esque extreme but anchored by the polished dancefloor edge of LCD Soundsystem at their least pretentious. They practically begged for you not to take them seriously, all while knowing that everyone, secretly or not, wants to be them.
We all want to be that girl in the trending band or the guy at the cool party. We all want to be included and have fun. It may be stupid, but it’s also true, and if Trump has taught us anything, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of stupid. Stupid is getting shit done this millennium, and Tilt is stupid good.
If their debut landed more in a 2000s New York LCD Soundsystem art-loft vein, Tilt leans even further into a 1990s Deee-Lite vibe, itself a result of New York’s melting pot as a go-go dancer from Ohio and a couple of DJs from Japan and Russia found each other. Equally as anthemic as their debut, Tilt is loaded with the sounds of classic disco-house piano, synthetic drum machine percussion, booming sub-bass, and the kind of wholesome synth leads Swedish producers Denniz Pop and Max Martin may have provided for peak-career Ace of Base.
The beats on Tilt were provided by producers Clarence McGuffie (Sam Hales) and Reggie Goodchild (Lewis Stephenson). They create the future-disco sandbox for vocalists Janet Planet (Grace Stephenson) and Sugar Bones (Aidan Moore) to work out their sultry dynamic, that kind of B-52s/Aqua thing with the over-the-top masculine presence and the kinky feminine, a playful give-and-take.
There’s a certain universality to their mindful mindlessness, the kind of vaguely romantic way that the Backstreet Boys might have wanted it, while the beats push you too quickly to ponder their meaning that deeply. Even the Le Tigre-tinged electropop of “Angry Girl” wants you to turn on, tune out, and drop booty. In a world of dwindling prospects, even a piece of glitter can seem like a shining light. Tilt is a glitter bomb whenever one needs it. — Alan Ranta
You could follow Lucrecia Dalt‘s recordings over the last decade and see a pattern even as her approach shifted with each release. However, a vast knowledge of every sound she’s released would not prepare you for ¡Ay! This album, her third for RVNG Intl, not only blends Dalt’s electronics with congos, clarinet, flute, trumpet, and double bass, it sounds like her first blatant turn at taking up the rhythms and vocal phrasing of her Colombian homeland. Yet, a cumbia record it’s not. Instead, it’s a story about an extraterrestrial named Preta confronting earthly emotions, and the concept of mortality over futuristic stabs at sons and boleros seemingly crafted in space.
Dalt once stated in an interview that attending concerts in Colombia made her realize that “the western idea of going to see your idols at teenage age wasn’t a possibility for [her] until [she] moved to Europe in 2005”. It was only there that she encountered shows featuring the artists that truly spoke to her. As a result, ¡Ay! tugs the music and language of Colombia out of its natural space, allowing Dalt to beckon traditions across oceans and, along the way, provide established melodies and rhythms for new spaces to inhabit. — Bruce Miller
If Mas Amable felt watery, Club Sentimientos feels oceanic. It’s vaster, fuller, and more expansive than anything Bryan Pineyro’s ever made. Yet it sacrifices none of his characteristic bounce and swagger, fusing spine-tingling atmospherics with kick-ass riddims that will have you dancing (or head-banging to your headphones) for days. As DJ Python‘s sound evolves, he continues to push in two directions at once—more club-ready reggaeton grooves and more enveloping ambient warmth. Yet as the two features become more pronounced, they never drown each other out, which is what makes Pineyro utterly unique in the world of electronic music. — Parker Desautell
Stellar Drifting is a melodically different beast than what George FitzGerald has given us before. It is colder and more methodical, more reliant on grooves than traditional song structures. He says it’s not a concept record, but building his tracks out of newer NASA-inspired synth sounds has altered his songwriting DNA. Tracks like “Retina Flash” pound, skitter, and elevate, filling the listener’s lungs with a lunar chill while ensuring your heart is pumping.
While FitzGerald has always had great collaborations on his albums, including the likes of Bonobo and Tracey Thorne, Stellar Drifting feels almost like a victory lap, featuring spots from SOAK, his frequent collaborators London Grammar, and Panda Bear from Animal Collective. The last one especially was one that FitzGerald was excited about. As Stellar Drifting proves, his imagination is flowing stronger and brighter than ever before. — Evan Sawdey
People will often hear music described as ‘cool’ or ‘calm’ and wrongly assume that those are euphemisms for ‘dull’. Crafting soothing sterling music is a Herculean task, given the anticipated snobbery, thanks, in part, to the endless recycling and repackaging of ‘cool mood’ or ‘chill mood’ CDs that score yoga classes or Anthropologie shops.
Just one listen to Gold Panda‘s excellent latest effort, The Work, will dispel any preconceived notions of dullness or tweeness. It’s a gorgeous, multi-textured record that’s lovely and welcoming. From the gentle opener, “Swimmer”, Derwin Schlecker sets a sun-dappled tone and maintains a comforting sound for the album. Humanity and kindness emanate from these beautiful tunes, which show off Gold Panda’s agility and skill in the studio. The effect of these songs is often hypnotic and captivating. — Peter Piatkowski
Baby, We’re Ascending
London-based Australian producer and singer HAAi, aka Teneil Throssell, released her debut LP, Baby, We’re Ascending, this year following a highly successful collaboration with the xx’s Romy and Fred Again… Given her DJing skills and history of filling dancefloors, the record is chock full of big-beat techno bangers, interspersed with melodic and occasionally dreamy electropop. HAAi’s pairing with Jon Hopkins on the title track steps away from the blast beats and features her enigmatic, hypnotic voice set to gentle, rolling synths that slowly raise the intensity as things progress.
“Biggest Mood Ever” leads off with Alexis Taylor’s (Hot Chip) voice while settling into lower-key rhythms and mellow waves. “Human Sounds” leans into dubstep blended with alternative hip-hop. Despite the wide range of styles on Baby, We’re Ascending, the album holds together as a compelling whole and sounds like a perfect DJ record where each track adds to the journey, and you feel like you’ve really been somewhere when the last note drops. — Sarah Zupko
Hercules and Love Affair
Andy Butler and Anohni reunite to make the dark and introspective In Amber. Assessing the difficult years since their last collaboration, In Amber is an overtly political album that tackles thorny subjects like homophobia and transphobia, war, and terrorism. Taking bruising and barbed lyrics and setting them into throbbing, pulsing dance songs, Butler and Anohni perform the uneasy trick of making thoughtful, serious, and ominous dance synthpop. Instead of reassuring their audiences or offering their listeners succor, the duo creates a record that reflects the unsettling times we live in, choosing to write songs that paint an unsettling, worrying, and disturbing picture.
Some reviewers noted the shift in style for Hercules and Love Affair whose past was dominated by disco-pop. In Amber is a dance record that looks to more somber, austere sounds. The best track, “Grace” is an homage to 1980s synthpop. “One” is a strident allusion to disco-soul. Though challenging and provocative, In Amber is highly listenable, with Butler proving his pop smarts, being able to reflect his (and Anohni’s) concerns and fears, yet still set them to stirring dance music. — Peter Piatkowski