Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Albums of the Year (Nos. 20-1)

And here it is, finally, the end of the year, and my Top 20 favorite albums of 2010.  What a strange and wonderful year this has been, and all of these albums have touched me and stayed with me in beautiful and mysterious ways.  Here is hoping for nothing but joy and happiness to each of you over the coming year.

20.  Antony & The Johnsons - Swanlights

Not as strikingly perfect as their first two albums, Swanlights wears its imperfections well, and keeps burrowing into your heart and mind.  Simultaneously joyous and somber, the songs veer from the upbeat "Thank You For Your Love," to the haunting and moving elegy "The Spirit Was Gone,;" all are bound to each other by Antony Hegarty's fantastic, otherworldly voice.

19.  LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

Announced by James Murphy as LCD's last album, This Is Happening is one hell of a way to go out.  Most of the songs are over 5-6 minutes long and are given space to breathe.  From the slow build of "Dance Yrself Clean," to the Berlin era Bowiesque "All I Want," Murphy shows a mastery of pacing and drama.  And I was lucky enough to see them perform twice last year, and seeing the songs live made them all the more special.

18.  Jonsi - Go

Unlike the more somber material from his band Sigur Ros, Jonsi's debut Go is buoyant and giddy, bouncing around with sublime instrumentation and a hopeful outlook.  The complete change in scope and mood was nothing short of a revelation.
17.  Delphic - Acolyte

Ok, technically I was listening to this album way back in 2009, but it wasn't officially released here until 2010, so it is now making its way onto my list.  Channelling synthpop stalwarts such as New Order, OMD, and Depeche Mode and mixing it with more electronic leaning artists like Orbital and Chemical Brothers, Delphic put their own special spin on the music, and creates their own genre, call it ravepop if you will.  Completely infectious and guilt free.

16.  Mount KimbieCrooks & Lovers

Deceptively lowkey, Crooks & Lovers is a record that takes time to unveil its considerable charms.  Moving effortlessly between different genres of electronic music, be it the Boards of Canada-like pastoral soundscapes ("Adriatic"),  modernized two-step ("Carbonated"), or full on dubstep swagger ("Blind Night Errand"), Mount Kimbie show surprising depth in a genre not known for taking on a full length record.  While the music may feel lowkey on initial listens, it long stays with you, and your finger will be hitting that repeat button over and over.

15.  Belle and Sebastian - Belle and Sebastian Write About Love

I tend to forget how amazing Stuart Murdoch and Co. are.  Unlike most of my favorite bands, when I hear of a new Belle and Sebastian album coming out I don't get excited and thrilled and anxious to hear it.  I usually say to myself, "oh, there is a new B&S album, I'll get it sometime."  Then I hear it, and I have to ask why I waited so long.  Of course, the trend continued with Belle and Sebastian Write About Love.  I waited until the last couple of weeks to listen to it, and now, predictably, I can't stop playing it.  I will actually venture to say this is one of their strongest albums, even better than The Life Pursuit, which was almost flawless.  Full of charming and wry lyrics, and some of their sunniest, most agile melodies, this album is the perfect antidote to a grey day.

14.  Darkstar - North

Once one of dubstep's most accomplished production duos, Darkstar change gears, adding a vocalist, and reinventing themselves as a downtempo synthpop act.  They take icy digital synths and cold mechanical drumbeats and bend and shape them into something warm and human.  On lead single "Gold," a cover of a rare Human League B-Side, what initially seems like indifference turns to haunting tenderness.  Their ability to make you feel the emotions through all the electronic machinery is breathtaking.

13.  Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

The Summer Album of 2010.   This is the highest of high praise from me.  Each year I try to find one album that I can play at top volume with the windows down in my car and forget all my troubles.  Big Boi's album was it in spades.

12.  Baths - Cerulean

Will Wiesenfeld, a.k.a. Baths, is one of the new breed of electronic artists/producers/remixers from the Los Angeles area like Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing that defy categorization, flowing seamlessly through glitch-hop, chillwave, dubstep, or any number of different permutations of current electronic music. What is defining them is a restless nature, never staying too long in one genre and never settling into a niche; and also amazingly technical and physical live shows, manipulating and forming their pieces on the fly with tons of signal pads and software programs.  Cerulean is a fascinating debut, one that has me keeping a close eye on what he does next.

11.  Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise

Hendrick Weber, who records under the moniker Pantha Du Prince, makes deceptively simple music. Most of the tracks begin with a very simple drum track and melody, but just as the track threatens to become aural wallpaper he changes tack and it evolves into something wondrously complex. The first track "Lay In A Shimmer" embodies this approach to a T. Building off of found sounds: street noises, crowd sounds, tuning instruments; the music builds off a twinkling synth pattern into a muffled drum pattern and droning bassline. All of the pieces coalesce into a beautiful whole, no one element dominating, each playing off each other perfectly. A gorgeously sublime album.

10.  Robyn - Body Talk Pts. 1-3

Ok, I will have to admit that separately, I don't really care for the individual eps/albums Robyn released under the Body Talk name.  I wished she had taken a harder edged editorial ear and released the best tracks as one cd.  Instead, there were a lot of highs and a lot of filler in the project.  With all that said, the highs were so high, that I couldn't discount them.  Her songs are infectious, wonderful, and just plain fun.  Live, she is full of insatiable energy, and can work a crowd better than anyone.  So with Body Talk, get all the pieces together and edit the songs you like into the classic album that I have playing on my iPod.

9.  Massive Attack - Heligoland

Heligoland is not a leap forward as most of Massive Attack cds have been. This isn't the brilliant trip-hop manifesto that Blue Lines heralded, nor is it the tense, paranoid futurescape that Mezzanine portended. But neither is it the unsure Protection or the stilted 100th Window. It is clearly a work by a band unsure of where it wants to go, however, that tension and insecurity led them to create one of their most dramatic and consistently exciting albums.

8.  Twin Shadow - Forget

Mining the 1980s new wave for its pure pop hooks and melodies, Twin Shadow is no mere nostalgia trip.  Evoking a pained childhood, the songs flow into each other like a font of memories looked back on from the comfort of age and experience.  Working with a limited range of instruments, primarily analog synths, tinny drum machines, and rudimentary guitars, Twin Shadow, along with producer Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, forges a wonderful debut that constantly unearths hidden treasures upon each listen.

7.  Forest Swords - Dagger Paths

Dagger Paths just doesn't sound like anything else out there right now. Forest Swords is UK Producer Matthew Barnes who allows his music to breathe; lets his music get into your head, almost hypnotically, before changing into something else as the song mutates. Of the 6 tracks on Dagger Paths (each of them well over the 5 minute mark), I don't think one of them ends the way it begins. Barnes has a uncanny ability to know when to move on, subtly catching you off guard. Each track is a soundtrack to a hallucinatory dream.  His re-imagining of Aaliyah's "If Your Girl Only Knew" is nothing short of transcendent.

6.  Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Yes, Kanye West is a complete douchebag, but he is also the most talented artist on the hip-hop scene.  If he keeps releasing albums like this, he can continue to be a Class A douchebag.  His mouth is definitely writing checks his butt can cash.

5.  Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle

Moving a million miles away from their no wave past, and venturing forward to a more electronic, dream-pop realm, Blonde Redhead released the most surprising album of 2010.  Relying more on drum machines and gauzy washes of synths, punctuated only by hints of treated guitars, the songs on Penny Sparkle radiate warmth and an inner world so detailed, it is sometimes painful to witness.

4.  Beach House - Teen Dream

Teen Dream was not a natural choice for my top 4 album of 2010.  On paper the band would seem to be something I would scorn as being too precious and twee.  But Beach House, led by Victoria Legrand on keyboards and vocals and Alex Scally on guitar and programming, turn out to be surprisingly muscular and dense.  They supplement the fragile nature of their sound with bigger sounding drums in addition to the dime store drum machine they normally use, and a more complex and swirling mix.  Of course, none of this would matter if the songwriting were not so strong.   Teen Dream, which on the periphery seems to suggest nostalgia and an upbeat nature, has a sad and searching heart.  Whether it's the lovers parting ways on "Walk In The Park," or the centerpiece track "10 Mile Stereo," which looks at the mental and emotional anguish the singer goes through wondering why another relationship has failed, each song is like a short-story.  I recall so fondly standing in a crowded tent at Coachella seeing them live, and the amazing connection the 3000 people felt with each other and the band as they sang the haunting refrain:

"It can't be gone/we're still right here
It took so long/can't say we heard it all
"Limbs parallel/we stood so long we fell
Tear a moment from the days that carry us forever."

and there was not a dry eye in the house.

3.  The National - High Violet

The National are never going to hit you over the head with an original sound, but that is really not the point. What they do, and do very well, is craft excellent songs that fit well together in the context of an album, and silently grow on you. Their last two releases, Alligator and The Boxer, were so subtle I never even realized how much I loved them until well down the road. The songs sneak up on you and get lodged in your brain to where you find yourself humming them throughout the day.  High Violet, their latest and in my mind their best, is almost too subtle for its own good. It takes almost three songs in before there is an actual drumbeat to get the toes tapping. When I listened to High Violet the first few times, I thought it was good but not great and set it aside. Somewhere in the back of my brain, the songs had taken root and I couldn't get them out to save my life.  The album appears to be about facades and how we all go through life hiding out true selves, either through societal trappings or not wanting to disappoint family and friends.   Matt Berninger and company are like a modern day Mad Men, chroniclers of the middle class way of life, and its pitfalls and trials.

2.  These New Puritans - Hidden

These New Puritans first album, Beat Pyramid, was a just another entry in the crowded field of bands like Franz Ferdinand who were influenced by angular post-punk guitar bands from the 80s like Gang of Four and PiL.  Taking a monstrous leap forward, These New Puritans released Hidden, which plays like a modern, more industrial take on Talk Talk's ambient rock.  Working with organic and more classical structures, the album as a whole feels like a symphony; along the typical guitar, bass, drums setup, there are woodwinds, horns, orchestral percussion, and it is all filtered through a modern, electronic lens.  Although my description of their new sound sounds clinical and boring, it is far from just some orchestral exercise; all of the songs have energy and drama, and are breathtaking in their genius.

1.  Interpol - Interpol

I am probably more surprised than anyone that this is my favorite album of 2010.  When it was released it received a decidedly cold reception from critics as well as fans.  For some reason, it spoke loudly to me.  From the first listen, I could not stop hitting repeat.  Interpol will likely be seen as a transitional album for the band as it is the last one featuring Carlos D on bass.  The album is full of lyrics about recriminations, doubt, insecurity, and dread, but what could have been a cold slog through a somber morass, is elevated to a human, emotional, and ultimately cathartic experience.  

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Albums of the Year (Nos. 40-21)

40.  Major Lazer & La Roux - Lazerproof

On paper this sounds like a disaster, Major Lazer's baile funk merged with La Roux's 80s synthpop pastiche and colored with pop, reggae, and hip hop tracks.  In reality, this mixtape is endlessly inventive, catchy, and just plain fun.  I'm not saying that all pairings like this would work this well, however, this does show that when it works, it is brilliant.
39.  Sleigh Bells - Treats

When this album came out, I was sure it would end up in my top ten.  After a year of hearing it, and seeing them live twice, the newness and freshness of it have faltered a bit.  Their live shows, for me, blunted the impact that hit so hard when I first heard them.  The 808 beats and metal guitar, married with chanting/cheerleader vocals still enchant though.  I just hope they expand their sound going forward.

38.  Wild Nothing - Gemini

One of the first bands this year that took 80s alternative (Cocteau Twins, Wolfgang Press, Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen) along with 80s pop, and made their own sound from it.  Cooing vocals overlaid on pillowy synths, gauzy guitars, and muted beats are transformed into a glorious mixture that haunts like memories and drives you forward like a glimpse of your future.

37.  Matthew Dear - Black City

Alternately sleazy and transcendent, Black City is the soundtrack to a long night of partying that doesn't end once the sun comes up.  The only album this year that makes me want to take a shower after I hear it.  And that is high praise.

36.  The Drums - The Drums

Goofy, lovable and with more hooks than a tackle box, The Drums debut feels like it could have been released in the mid 80s.  In lesser hands this could seem like cliched pastiche, however, with The Drums it is masterfully realized.

35.  The Morning Benders - Big Echo

Co-produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, Big Echo shows a humongous leap forward from their debut album Talking Through Tin Cans, which was a nice but unmemorable Shins like exercise.  Big Echo opens up and expands their sound, allowing the band to retain their sunny, trademark sound, but coloring outside the lines with texture and a willingness to try new avenues.

34.  Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid

2010 was definitely the Year of Janelle Monae.  The ArchAndroid has more adventure than most artists show over their entire career.  She glides from traditional R&B, to electronica, through English pastoral folk, and dozens of other styles and never takes a breath.  I can only hope this is just a preview of things to come and not another Lauryn Hill, who shone brightly and faded just as fast.

33.  Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

I will completely admit that liking this album was a huge surprise for me.  While I liked a couple of songs on Funeral, I never understood why everyone thought Arcade Fire was the second coming of Jesus.  When they released Neon Bible, I was again very confused by one of the most overproduced and bloated albums ever.  I don't even know why I even dared to listen to The Suburbs.  I'm glad I did.  Gone are the  overdone "anthems" and bombast, instead, what's here is a glorious song cycle about growing older, and not necessarily wiser, waking up with your life nowhere near where you thought it would be.  While Arcade Fire doesn't give any answers to life's questions, their beautiful music and gentle observations pull the listener in, letting them know they are not alone.

32.  Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Lush, dense, and challenging, Flying Lotus now has a second masterpiece down in his arsenal.  But why, if this is a masterpiece, is it not at the top of my list?  Good question.  I think Cosmogramma is brilliant, but it is also more an album to appreciate than love.  With Los Angeles, you could listen to the album of icy, futuristic neon electronica as a whole, as well as appreciate the songs as individual pieces.  That album was whimsical, playful, and ahead of the game for any electronic album that came out the same time.  Cosmogramma is not as lenient.  You have to listen to the album as a whole, his pieces pulling from classical, jazz, old school techno, and hip hop, blending them into a 21st century poem.  But listen out of sequence and it is hard to remember any one song; his sequencing is stellar.  So while I love the album, it is not easy to warm up to.  Thus it is at 32.

31.  Rusko - O.M.G.!

O.M.G.!, the first full release of original music by Rusko, is an amazing overview of dance genres over the past decades, all seen through the filter of dubstep. The album really shows his range and willingness to embrace a more mainstream/poppier sound.  Kurt and I had a discussion about how most dubstep purists will likely look down on O.M.G.! because of this willingness, however, we felt that if it opens the genre up to a bigger audience there is nothing really wrong with it.

30.  Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
I have a theory that alternative bands follow one of two paths after commercial and/or critical success.  One, they aim for more commercial success and streamline their sound for a mainstream audience (I am talking to you U2), or, two, they go even further off the map and make their sound more and more experimental (Autechre comes to mind, though recently they have come back to their original sound).  With Deerhunter, I am sort of at a loss.  With each album their sound becomes more and more polished, and yet, they still enjoy experimenting with different styles.  In their catalog, Halcyon Digest is Deerhunter's most hushed and reverential album, but it brims with a new found love of 50s and 60s styles updated to a modern setting.  Frontman Bradford Cox's lyrics are still obtuse and searching, as on the lovely first single "Helicopter," however, what is more amazingly apparent is how lead guitarist Lockett Pundt is now exerting his voice, as on the devastating "Desire Lines."

29.  Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

While I am usually drawn to Broken Social Scene for their more driving, densely packed tracks, I was surprised with how the quieter moments on this record stayed with me longer.  "Sweetest Kill," was one of my top singles of the year, and the aching, haunting vocals linger long in your heart.  But the rest of record is still filled with the vitriol and anger that BSS is often known for; specifically in blistering tracks like "Texico Bitches."

28.  Salem - King Night

One of the most polarizing releases of the year.  Critics and listeners either hated it or loved it.  I, for one, fell in love with it's dark, ominous mix of Dirty South beats, haunted house manipulated vocals, and shoegaze textures.  Although Salem has been accused of not caring about their music or fans, I doubt an album of this quality and intensity would have been the result.

27.  Kylesa - Spiral Shadow

Melodic stoner metal from my hometown Savannah, Georgia.  Backed by two drummers and three separate vocalists, Kylesa merge typical metal sounds with elements of shoegaze, punk, and alt-rock.  The album has surprises around every corner, and sounds completely fresh in a very crowded field.  In making their more accessible sound, the band has clearly been listening to a lot of alt-rock from the 80s and 90s, borrowing and adapting loosely from artists like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and the Pixies, to give the music texture and substance.  First single, and standout track "Don't Look Back" could easily be a forgotten Pixies gem.

26.  James Blake - CMYK/The Bells Sketch/Klavierwerke EPs

James Blake is a busy guy, releasing three distinct and separate eps over the course of 2010 all while prepping his debut album for the beginning of 2011.  Blake obviously has a restless mind and imagination, as each of the eps, while sounding like they are from the same artist, are all different in tone and theme.  The Bells Sketch is the more beat heavy of the three, with skittering drum programming and sounds pulled and twisted from video games.  CMYK is the giant leap forward, where Blake takes soul and R&B samples, stretching, pulling and manipulating them into his own haunting chorus.  And Klaiverwerke is the hat-tip towards what his debut album will mostly sound like, minimal instrumentation and the use of Blake's own gorgeous, soulful voice.

25.  Flying Lotus - Pattern+Grid World

My friend Matthew was appalled that I was rating this ep higher than Cosmogramma.  While agree with him that Cosmogramma is brilliant, it is brilliant in the sense of the mind but not the heart.  This ep is what I wished Cosmogramma would make me feel.  It is light, but not inconsequential, whimsical, but not cloying, and is just bursting at the seams with inventiveness and killer beats.  I stand by my verdict.

24.  Foals - Total Life Forever

This album will be considered Foals' The Bends.

23.  Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

Although Crystal Castles doesn't completely forgo their trademark 8-Bit sonic attack, what is astonishing about their sophomore release is how much of it is actually beautiful.  Those moments, as with gorgeous single "Celestica," are what make the record and their willingness to expand their sound makes me hopeful that Crystal Castles will be around for a long time.

22.  Yeahsayer - Odd Blood

It is never easy describing Yeasayer's sound, as each song could be from a completely different artist, and sometimes it feels like the members switch instruments within each song.  Combining Talking Heads-like world music exploration with elements of traditional rock, electronica, R&B, jam band noodling, and everything including the kitchen sink, Yeasayer is not afraid to see if something will work.  Not everything does, but when they do, the results are never more than stunning.

21.  Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Damon Albarn is just a genius.  Plastic Beach is Gorillaz' masterpiece, pulling together a series of songs that actually work together as a whole, instead of their other albums, which seemed like a couple of great singles surrounded by filler.  From the buzzy "Stylo," to elegantly somber "On Melancholy Hill," through the synthpop haze of "Empire Ants," Albarn and company constantly switch gears, while never forgetting that it is all about the melody.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Albums of the Year (Nos. 60-41)

60.  Klaxons - Surfing The Void

One of my most anticipated albums of the year took a long time to grow on me.  The album, produced by nu-metal producer Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit), is half lovely, sci-fi tinged pop music, which is what one would expect from their previous album, however, the other half, shows them verging into more cacophonous territory.  It is a bit of a shock and difficult to get your head around at first, but after multiple listens it becomes amazing at how well the two halves merge so well together.

59.  Tame Impala - Innerspeaker

Stoner/sludge rock from an Aussie trio that knows how to create an full album of material without it sounding too one-note.  For one, they have an excellent ear for melody, and two, they know how to inject texture and drama into the music.

58.  Gonjasufi - A Sufi & A Killer

Almost unclassifiable, Gonjasufi, one of the many artists in Flying Lotus' stable of musicians, creates electronic music that draws from a variety of sources.  Mixing jazz, soul, blues, as well as IDM, dubstep, and house music; all going into a big pot, swirled around into a brilliant mess.

57.  Lone - Emerald Fantasy Tracks

Probably the least inventive or original albums of the year, but also one of the most joyous I've heard.  Taking a love for acid house, techno, and rave music from the late 80s and early 90s, Lone just keep the hooks coming one after another.

56.  John Roberts - Glass Eights

Not quite downtempo and not quite dubstep, artists like John Roberts, including James Blake and Shed, definitely work in their own field.  Most of the music is hushed, insular and haunting.  Merging stumbled beats, treated piano, echoed vocals manipulated within an inch of their humanity, this music is the sound of future right here in the present.

55.  Shed - The Traveller

Not as classical sounding as James Blake and John Roberts, Shed puts a little more oomph into his beats.  While the BPMs are forceful, the music is still made more for headphones than the dance floor.

54.  Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

Sounding like a west coast Grizzly Bear, Local Natives fill their songs to the brim with inventive melodies and non-traditional instrumentation.  Each song is like a small symphony while the songs as a whole work as a suite.  Truly magical.

53.  Diamond Rings - Special Affections

John O'Regan, of Canadian post-punk quartet D'Ubervilles, created Diamond Rings as a solo project, and has now surpassed them in notoriety and fame.  Revealing his love for 80s synth pop and new wave acts, he builds each song with tinny drum machines, analog synths, and angular guitar riffs.  The songs are full of just joy for creating music.  They start simply and by the end of each you find yourself singing along at the top of your lungs.

52.  Terror Danjah - Undeniable

The grime godfather Terror Danjah takes his music into surprising directions on his debut full length.  Tackling dubstep, grime, deep house, and a dozen other genres, he puts his meticulous stamp on each one.

51.  Violens - Amoral

Mixing a love of 80s alternative stalwarts such as XTC, Smiths, The Cure, New Order and Echo and Bunnymen, Violens hits the ground running with this phenomenal debut.  Bold, driving songs that take deep root in your brain.

50.  Teebs - Ardour

While not as fully realized and innovative as Flying Lotus, Teebs still weaves together one of the most gorgeous electronic debuts of the year.  While no one song on Ardour will stick with you as a "single," the album is wholly realized, constructed perfectly; if you take out one element the entire creation will fall like a house of cards.

49.  The Radio Dept. - Clinging To A Scene

Sweden's The Radio Dept. have been lurking in the shadows of indie pop fame for the past few years, but shot into prominence with this outstanding album.  Clocking in at a svelte 34 minutes, the music runs the gamut from indie rock a la Belle and Sebastian to proto-60s dance pop like Saint Etienne.  Their pop sensibilities are spot on song after song, specifically on amazing toe-tapping cuts like "Heaven's On Fire."

48.  Girl Talk - All Day

Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, knows exactly what he is doing.  Over his longest release to date, his consummate ear for mashing up pop songs, alternative and electronic music, R&B and hip-hop is never more than mind blowing.  Deceptively disposable, the album gets under your skin, making you play it over and over again, each time finding little snippets you missed before.

47.  Skream - Outside The Box

One of dubsteps' first innovators, Skream is moving slightly more towards the mainstream, mixing more vocals into the mix and moving away from the wobbly bass and intricate drum programming on his early singles and album.  Purists will call foul, but he is opening the doors for more fans to become acquainted with one of my favorite electronic genres.

46.  Holy Fuck - Latin

Instrumental rock can be either overbearingly complicated or very one note.  Holy Fuck avoids those traps by keeping their music moving.  Locking into fierce disco/rock grooves, the band shoots forward at a blistering pace, taunting you to keep up with them.

45.  Autechre - Oversteps/Move of Ten

Releasing not one but two new albums, Autechre are hitting their stride in the elder-statesman years.  Following off of last years brilliant Quaristice, Autechre aims for the headphones set with Oversteps, and finishes off things with the obtuse, beat heavy Moves of Ten.  Unlike so many electronic acts that tend to wind up rehashing the same music that made them popular, Autechre's restlessness and desire to expand their sound is thrilling.

44.  Sufjan Stevens - Age of the Adz

Adding more electronic textures and beats to his already pristine singer-songwriter milieu, Sufjan opens up his sound without alienating his core audience.  Whether he is putting together simple, gorgeous pop songs like "Futile Devices" or going batshit nuts on the 25 minute closing musical suite "Impossible Soul," Sufjan's impressive talent is always shining.

43.  Zola Jesus - Stridium

Like a goth Kate Bush mixed with the deep voice of Barry White, Zola Jesus crafts exquisite synth-driven pop songs, that revel in dark, morose atmospheres, but never veers toward cliche.  The songs begin minimally, the slowly build layer upon layer, all grounded by the haunting voice of Nika Danilova's majestic voice.

42.  Four Tet - There Is Love In You

You could easily put Four Tet in any classified genre of electronic music and it would fit.  He moves effortlessly between minimal techno, downtempo house, chillwave, shoegaze, dubstep, or deep house.  His skill is making the disparate elements all fit and work together so seamlessly.

41.  The Chemical Brothers - Further

I had given up on Chemical Brothers, I will full admit.  They seemed to have become almost a parody of themselves, or even worse, some bland electronic act that solely made music to be featured in the latest action movie or beer commercial.  Such was my surprise when I listened to Further and found that they found their muse again, crafting a cohesive and gorgeous set of amazing techno music.  As long as the Chems keep putting out records like this, I will never doubt them again.