Jack Ü, Jamie xx, Disclosure, Caribou and The Chemical Brothers all deservingly received nominations in the category of Best Electronic Dance Music Albums for the 58th annual Grammy Awards. If you haven’t checked out the albums nominated this year, we strongly recommend you do.
2015 was a progressive year for dance culture and the selected nominees represent a great range of electronic music. Each nominee has such a different perspective and unique sound, but on February 15, 2016 at 8/7 Central on CBS, we'll finally learn who will take home a Grammy.
Since there were so many fantastic dance albums released last year, however, we felt we should make a list of contenders that didn't make the Grammy cut, so you don't miss out on the hidden (or not so hidden) gems of the year.
1. Madeon - Adventure
Madeon became recognized on the internet early on thanks to some solid productions at a young age. This included a remix to the deadmau5 track "Raise Your Weapon," which eventually got the official stamp from the mau5 himself. His popularity grew in 2011 with his mashup video "Pop Culture." The video featured 40 different popular songs sampled in real-time using a MIDI controller, which was published to his YouTube and became a viral hit. Madeon has been touring since 2011 and has performed the routine live.
It took four years of singles, EP's and remixes for an album to come together, but the results were well worth the wait. Madeon released his debut album Adventure in March of 2015 on Columbia Records, and shortly shot to #1 on the US Dance/Electronic Albums Billboard chart. The catchy, pop-disco influenced productions complement the guest vocalists on the tracks, which include Dan Smith from indie pop band Bastille, Kyan, Passion Pit, Mark Foster (Foster the People) and Aquilo.
"With Adventure, I wanted to capture the feeling and sensibility of my teenage years. I wanted the album to start very vibrant and pop and end with a more contemplative tone." - Madeon
The album takes listeners on a colorful journey, from upbeat to mellow to sombre. All the songs were produced, arranged, mixed and mastered by Madeon. He even stepped up to the mic to sing on the songs "Beings," "Zephyr" and "Home." This is a risky move for a producer releasing a debut album, but it worked in his favor. The tracks Madeon decided to sing on suit him well and feel more personal, as a result.
The creative direction and design of the album down to its cryptic messages and artwork all came from Madeon himself, as well. Almost every track sounds like it could be a single. The quality and overall catchiness of the album makes it one of the biggest gems of the year, so it's a bit of an upset that it wasn't nominated. The album was very well received and the track "Imperium" was even featured on the video game soundtrack for Fifa 15. Madeon's career is just getting started though, so we're excited to hear what he does next. For now, check out his 2016 Pixel Empire Tour dates and a message to his fans about the past year.
2. Major Lazer - Peace is the Mission
It's hard to believe Peace is the Mission by Major Lazer wasn't nominated for a Grammy. The third studio album from the collaborative group is easily their most successful. The album's lead single "Lean On" with DJ Snake and MØ has proven itself to be a massive hit. It has become the most streamed song of all time on Spotify with over 600 Million plays. The music video for "Lean On" has reached the billion views club, making it the 15th most played video on all of YouTube.
Though this one track has been a massive success, the whole album is filled with a great range of music and features. The second single "Powerful" featuring Ellie Goulding is exactly that and was also commercially successful. Other artists that made appearances on the album included Ariana Grande, Travi$ Scott, 2 Chainz, Pusha T, Wild Belle and many more. The only track to not have a featured artist is "Roll the Bass," but Mad Decent star Boaz Van De Beatz helped and was credited on the production in the liner notes
The collaborative heavy release gave us unique sounding dance music that blended genres and introduced artists into the electronic music world. The album reached the No. 1 spot on the US Dance/Electronic albums chart and reached the top 10 in 19 international charts, so it’s surprising that it wasn’t nominated. Diplo is however nominated for the Grammy with his other side project, Jack Ü.
The extended version of Peace is the Mission is definitely worth checking out, too. Major Lazer is set to release a follow up album called Music is the Weapon (previously Peace is the Mission 2). The group will also be making history in 2016 by being the first major U.S. act to perform in Cuba since the embargo termination.
3. Bob Moses - Days Gone By
A breath of fresh air is exactly what Bob Moses provides on Days Gone By. Bob Moses wrote their own lyrics, used their own voices and produced all the music, which is why this Canadian duo has the appeal to reach beyond just electronic music fans. Days Gone By was released on Domino Records, which his home to artists such as Caribou and Hot Chip.
"At the moment, Jimmy is running clips in the controller, into the computer, and making the bass work, and I [Tom] sing and play guitar and have pedals and fuck with our vocals and shit. Basically the next step for us is sort of like adding production and visuals for our fall tour and pulling more instruments out of the box." - Tom of Bob Moses (Billboard)
The album features meaningful and relatable songs, dealing with themes that are deeper and darker than your typical party record. Rather, it touches on subjects like emotion, love and betrayal. The deep house sounds and real instrumentation complement the haunting vocals on the album. All in all, the duo's talent and innovative direction is exactly what dance music needs in 2016.
They played a New Year's Eve show in New York with Gesaffelstein and Justice, also known as the perfect lineup. As live acts are gaining more popularity and uniqueness becomes rare, the duo has the potential to be influential dance music artists. In a world of too much big room, this is a refreshing release. Catch them on tour below.
4. Above & Beyond - We're All We Need
The fourth studio album from progressive trance legends Above & Beyond is the first taste of new music we got from the group in almost four years. The album We’re All We Need was released on January 16th, 2015 through Anjunabeats. It's hard to recreate the magic and legendary status of their 2011 Group Therapy album, but the release starts strong with an intro that will literally give you goosebumps.
Trance fans can rest assured that the uplifting nature of Above & Beyond is left intact, and there is a good amount of progressive trance present. The album does, however, dive into progressive house as well, but the overall theme is the same. It's about the human experience, adding it to Above & Beyond’s catalog of timeless music.
The album earned them their highest first week sales to date and highest overall chart success thanks to their catchy hooks. The album peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard US Dance/Electronic chart. It was also their first album that didn't feature their consistent collaborator Richard Bedford, which may have been disappointing to fans of Sun & Moon and more. Overall, the trio produced a great follow up to Group Therapy that provides a calming ambiance mixed with catchy melodies.
"We Are All We Need is an an album that places human relationships at its core, and explores the experiences and emotions that bind us." - Above & Beyond (Press statement)
5. Zedd - True Colors
I always have to give credit to Zedd for his ability to create music in his DAW and then play it live on piano. Classically trained, Anton Zaslavski aka Zedd released his second studio album through Interscope Records this past year.
Zedd collaborated with singers, rappers and bands, which gives credit to his range and willingness to grow. This major label release included collaborations with Jon Bellion, Troye Sivan, Logic, Botnek, Echosmith, Bahari, X Ambassadors and more. Though the album got mixed reviews, it still managed to reach the top position on the Billboard US Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Zedd supported the album with a massive tour that featured special surprise guests including Dada Life, The Chainsmokers, Martin Garrix and more.
BONUS: Rudeboyz - Rudeboyz EP
The most unique and most unknown artist from this list comes from Durban, South Africa. This group of teenagers called Rudeboyz released their RudeBoyz EP in 2015, which was heavily influenced from the sounds of their home. And yes, we know it's an EP and not an album but Eps have been nominated for this category in the past.
The pale but funk filled progressive sounds of this EP will grow on any listener. The genre has been defined as "Gqom," which means "to hit" or "to drum" in Zulu. While the number of dance music subgenres is at an all time high, this sound has really started to pick up in London and South Africa. A minimalistic version of South African house, it includes influences from hip hop and tribal music.
RudeBoyz EP is raw and has an edge not found in traditional nominees at the Grammys. The best way to experience the style is to listen to the EP and the promotional mix below, which is initially what caught my attention. Though the music hasn't had the same publicity as others on this list, it has been well received and seems to be a growing movement.
Cover photo via http://www.djsets.co.uk/blu-rays/aboveandbeyond/
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