Top Ten Dance Albums of 2009
The past year brought the worst economy since the malaise of the 1970s, and like that era, it also saw dance music sweep the nation. Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas, Beyoncé and P. Diddy all dabbled in the sound. Even Michael Jackson was said to be working on a dance album with the Peas' Will.i.am before his untimely death in July.
Leagues beneath the headlines and charts, it was also a banner year for core e-music grooves. If one thing marked 2009 on the dance floor, it was a new sense of eclecticism. Cool-kid indie DJs played trance, trance jocks name-checked MGMT, techno artists expanded the definition of the genre, dance stars went pop, pop stars went dance, and a brooding aesthetic returned to the big-room marathons of after-hours America. This list of the year's top ten dance-music long-players represents all of the above.
10. Joris Voorn
Joris Voorn spread 102 tracks of other people's music over two discs. More than that, however, he cut, edited and atomized the tracks and re-orchestrated them using Ableton Live software so that the entire composition was essentially his own. This sublime, progressive house and melodic techno isn't recognizable as anything particularly "2009," but the compilation represents an edgy, postmodern blur of sampladelic art. (Hear thirty-second samples of Balance 014)
For Lack of a Better Name
In 2007, Deadmau5 had just a few tracks to his name. Two years later, he's the leader of a new generation of DJs who are as much computer whizzes as musical artists. More than any other album, Lack of a Better Name spanned the dance-floor trends of '09 -- hip-hop dance, tech-trance and crunchy, '80s-flavored electro -- and slotted them in a non-stop DJ mix.
08. Kanye West
808s & Heartbreak
This 2009 Grammy-eligible album (released in late '08) left any doubt about rap's electronic ambitions in the dust. Still, 808s & Heartbreak was more like digital blues than anything you'd hear in a super-club at 3 a.m. West set the studio afire with synths, samples and voice-box lyrics, and he opened dance music's door to a new generation. (Hear thirty-second samples of 808s & Heartbreak.)
07. Gui Boratto
Take My Breath Away
Gui Boratto continued to pump out lush, symphonic, emotive material light years away from the linear sound of typical minimal techno. His instinct is valid: Dance music has to continue to take people beyond the bathroom stalls and bass bins of clubland. Take My Breath Away represents the beautification of the genre.
Fist of God
Canadian duo MSTRKRFT gave the cool kids what they want -- grinding, "keytar" synths, a punk-rock attitude and plenty of pop references (John Legend, N.O.R.E., and Ghostface Killah make appearances). Despite the pair's hockey-mask appearance and heavy-metal-dance aspirations, Fist of God is surprisingly accessible. Sure, there are headbanging moments ("1,000 Cigarettes"), but there are also tuneful, heartfelt songs ("Heartbreaker," featuring John Legend) that suggest this nu-electro thing could have staying power.