With guitar bands continually struggling to make any impact at all, the electronica/dance scene produced some of the most interesting and innovative albums of the year. Proving just how diverse 2012 has been, this list of the Top 20 best long-players includes everyone from piano-rock royalty to Eurovision Song Contest winners to experimental neo-classical composers. Here’s a look at numbers 20-16.
20) Peaking Lights – Lucifer
Despite its devilish title, the third album from Wisconsin husband and wife duo Peaking Lights was much warmer and more inviting than their usual claustrophobic brand of electronica. Evidently influenced by the birth of their son, Mikka, who can be heard gurgling away on the new-age dub of “LO-HI,” the duo’s charming ambient soundscapes took in everything from hazy psychedelia (“Beautiful Son”), to acoustic house (“Live Love”) to skank reggae (“Cosmic Tides”) to produce a blissful kaleidoscope of sounds.
19) Holy Other – Held
In contrast, enigmatic Berlin-based Mancunian producer Holy Other’s debut album was the kind of bleak and creepy affair that you were afraid to play whilst home alone. Occupying a similar nocturnal post-garage space as Mercury Prize nominee Burial, albeit with a funereal twist in keeping with his Grim Reaper-style image, Held’s relentless melancholy won’t be for everyone. But there’s a strange beauty to its fusion of Gregorian chants, woozy melodies and caffeine slump beats.
18) Elton John vs Pnau – Good Morning To The Night
Eschewing the obvious karaoke favourites, Australian synth-pop duo Pnau delved into Elton John’s more obscure back catalogue on by far the most intriguing remix album of the year. Borrowing snatches of over 50 different tracks from his 1970-1976 output, the surprise UK No.1 hit’s cut-and-paste approach reaped its rewards on a tasteful and affectionate record which effortlessly transformed Sir Elton’s classic piano-rock into Balearic chic.
17) DJ Yoda – Chop Suey
Widely regarded as one of the greatest turntablists of his generation, DJ Yoda proved he could create records as well as he could spin them on a brilliantly playful fusion of acid-house, drum ‘n’bass, techno, hip-hop and breakbeat. Featuring a bewilderingly random line-up of guest vocalists, 80s ‘Tropical Gangster’ Kid Creole & The Coconuts, New York rapper Action Bronson and Police Academy’s sound effects maestro Michael Winslow all added to the carnival feel, but Yoda’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production remained the star of the show.
16) Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters – Underrated Silence
Fusing the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine with the New Age of Enya, German composer Ulrich Schnauss’ aptly-titled collaboration with Engineers’ bassist Mark Peters certainly put the challenging back into chillout. The soundtrack to the after-party rather than the party itself, Underrated Silence occasionally bordered on the comatose, but for the most part, its minimal mood pieces proved to be a disorientating but wonderfully immersive experience.