We’re used to publications like Pitchfork and Resident Advisor really digging deep into the echelons of dance music to find some real gems, but it seems that Rolling Stone has outdone them both this year with their “20 Best EDM and Electronic Albums of 2017” list.
Now, right off the bat, we’re going to admit that we haven’t listened to all of these and we’re not judging them based on their quality (though we are going through and listening to them over the course of writing this piece). However, looking at this list of 20 albums, we recognize four names: Bicep, Vince Staples, DJ Seinfeld, and Stormzy.
Of those four names, we don’t really feel like Vince Staples and Stormzy should be included in a list of “Best EDM and Electronic Albums,” though they were certainly stellar hip hop albums for 2017 with an electronic twist.
But this has to easily be one of the most maddeningly obscure Top 20 lists that we’ve seen in some time. Many of the albums subscribe to the ethos of “if no one can tell what genre this is, they can’t compare it against anything else.” That is to say, you’ll likely hear exclamations of, “What am I listening to?” when someone else is trying it out.
Others are more house- or techno-centric, hailing from New York, Berlin, Denmark or even Venezuela, as if the origins of the artist somehow give their work more credibility (and in some cases it might).
Others still just don’t really make sense on the list. SW.’s The Album, for instance, sounds more like a collection of demo beats that never made it past the first draft stage than an intentionally composed album. Call Super’s Arpo sounds like someone walked into a Guitar Center and started playing with an analog synth, and then was called away by their mom before finishing; and then, someone else came in and saw what was already done and wrapped it up. Modern Species by DJ Sports sounds like just another experimental house album with random bleeps and bloops. Rolling Stone says that it contains “crackling breakbeats, somersaulting drum ‘n’ bass, zoned-out downtempo and radiant deep house, all infused with the lush atmospherics redolent of a much warmer climate.” I’m sorry, did we listen to the same album?
It seems as if Rolling Stone took a template for an album and told its editors to “find more stuff like this” without any real direction, and this is what they came up with – then they threw in Vince Staples and Stormzy for diversity? The list as a whole makes no sense, especially in the grand scheme of dance music, when you have albums from Cashmere Cat, Walker & Royce, Emancipator, Cosmic Gate, AC Slater, Barclay Crenshaw, Lee Foss, Om Unit, Nigel Stanford, Polo & Pan, RAC, Yoe Mase, Salva… I could go on.
This opinion piece is not meant to offend any fans of the albums on Rolling Stone’s list, but at the same time, is this really a list of the strongest 20 albums you could find? Somehow, I doubt it.