These 10 best electronic albums show just how diverse the electronic music scene has become over the years. From the straightforward dance anthems of The Chemical Brothers to the schizophrenic beauty of Aphex Twin’s “intelligent dance music,” it turns out there is a lot that can be done with drum machines, synths, and samplers.
- “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” by Aphex Twin. There is a lot of ambient music out there, and by its very nature most of it is forgettable background music. Richard D. James, a.k.a. Aphex Twin, managed to make an ambient album that is captivating enough to listen to intently from start to finish. It truly sounds like no other album in existence, and it tops our list of the best electronic albums.
- “dubnobasswithmyheadman” by Underworld. Underworld earned their breakthrough success with the inclusion of their song “Born Slippy” on the “Trainspotting” soundtrack. Before that, though, they put out “dubnobasswithmyheadman,” an epic album that is at once both haunting and extremely danceable.
- “The Man-Machine” by Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk are the granddaddies of electronic music, pioneering the use of synthesizers to make music that manages to be as catchy and melodic as it is futuristic and other-worldly. Many point to “Autobahn” as their breakthrough album, but for our money “Man-Machine” is their most accessible.
- “Music Has the Right to Children” by Boards of Canada. Despite their name, Boards of Canada are actually from Scotland. Appearing on the Warp Records label alongside the likes of Aphex Twin and Autechre, Boards of Canada has made some incredibly trippy, beautiful music. This album, their first on the Warp label, is still their crowning achievement.
- “Tri Repetae” by Autechre. Autechre started off fairly abstract and, as their career has progressed, have gotten really abstract. “Tri Repetae” marks the shift from their earlier, more ambient work to the more challenging, experimental releases to follow. It has the best of both worlds, and stands up as one of the best electronic albums ever.
- “The Richard D. James Album” by Aphex Twin. We couldn’t resist putting a second Aphex Twin album on this list. “The Richard D. James Album” is an entirely different animal than “Selected Ambient Works Volume II,” featuring schizophrenic, drill-and-bass beats with melodic, hand-crafted synthesizer sounds. The juxtaposition between mania and melody is what makes this album so interesting and enjoyable to listen to.
- “Discovery” by Daft Punk. Daft Punk brought the French house scene to the masses with their infectious, repetitive style and quirky robot aesthetic. “Homework” was their breakthrough album, but “Discovery” refined their style and has remained their strongest album.
- “Dig Your Own Hole” by The Chemical Brothers. The late ‘90s saw the rise in popularity of electronic dance music, and few musical acts did as much to usher in that era as The Chemical Brothers. With their danceable and unpretentious style setting the standard for “big beat” club tunes, The Chemical Brothers earned their place in the pantheon of dance music.
- “Moon Safari” by Air. With “Moon Safari,” Air proved that electronic music can be very, very sexy. Long after the Moog synthesizer had seemingly had its heyday, Air brought it back and made it the ultimate instrument to make love to. That’s no small feat, and that’s why we rank this album as one of electronic music’s best.
- “Fat of the Land” by Prodigy. “Fat of the Land” is as close as electronic music has come to punk rock. The harsh synths and big beats mixed with Keith Flint’s signature sneer made Prodigy the bad boys of electronic music. Unfortunately they were never able to make a satisfying follow-up to this album, but it still remains a classic of electronica.
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