Dancing Astronaut presents the Top Dance Albums of 2022
This year in dance music, the album format felt an unusually warm embrace from producers across the genre. Though the prevalence and appeal of the one-off single is well-established in the dance space, where the album format has traditionally functioned differently than it does in other genres, 2022 felt like the year of the album as the genre observed what is arguably the most robust year in LPs in this new decade of dance music. From debut LPs that offered a glimpse of the sounds compelling the future of the genre to third, fourth, and seventh studio albums, to comebacks that continue legacies both long-spanning and still evolving, the long-form projects that landed this year reminded listeners that no producer’s approach, reason for making an album, nor intention behind one is the same. Throughout the year, album releases continuously showed us just how rich and diverse the ideas and sounds in this unique corner of the music industry are.
One of these albums ultimately stands out from the rest to a degree that has led it to wear a new title: Dancing Astronaut’s 2022 Album of the Year. Without further ado, we are pleased to present Hardwell’s Rebels Never Die as our Album of the Year, an honor followed by 22 of our favorite dance/electronic albums of 2022 in alphabetical order.
Album of the Year: Rebels Never Die
Words by Ross Goldenberg
The evening of March 27 came with its fair share of question marks. What wasn’t among them, nor up for even the slightest debate—even though it hadn’t formally been put into writing yet—was one thing: Hardwell was coming back. But what was his all-but-guaranteed restoration atop dance music going to look like? The answer would be a topic of discussion from the very second that Ultra fired out the phase one lineup poster for its long-awaited, COVID-delayed homecoming at Bayfront Park.
The festival stuck a not-so-subtle blur for an undisclosed headliner—which alphabetically fell in between Gareth Emery and ILLENIUM—and teased that its Sunday closing act would be one of dance music’s “most iconic artists,” leading to the unanimous consensus that only one person fit the bill. That was Hardwell, and what would soon be brought to reality in March would double as the starting line for his eventual case for Dancing Astronaut’s 2022 Album of the Year.
When Hardwell abruptly hit the brakes on a dance run spanning the past decade-plus in fall of 2018, he had but one task on his to-do list: be Robbert van de Corput again. His ability to take one colossal step back to reset was owed to his own admission that a hiatus was necessary. Mid-sabbatical, Hardwell clarified that although his return was not a matter of if but when, it could only happen under one condition: the new music he was creating had to induce that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling when he’d daydream of playing it live to thousands of fans. And in his heart, he always knew the first time this would happen in person once he returned would be at the Miami festival that had played a key role in defining his career throughout the mid-2010’s.
Everyone could have reasonably predicted that Hardwell was going to travel to Miami with some degree of new music, but what actualized stretched lightyears beyond what anyone was mentally, physically, and emotionally ready for, let alone expecting. There hadn’t been insight into whether anything musically—outside a handful of pre-planned 2019 releases—was happening within his hometown of Breda during the period between his grand sendoff with the Metropole Orkest and his spring date with Ultra. And up until the Ultra rumors began swirling, it really wasn’t anyone’s concern. Bayfront Park is widely hailed as the breeding ground for new, unreleased music, and this identity held as the basslines of “BROKEN MIRROR” shook downtown Miami and Hardwell let the song’s monologue speak for itself: “Now, I’m gonna show you who I truly am.” Immediately thereafter, the dance music world received an hour-long introduction to what exactly that meant.
Plain and simple, Hardwell bet on himself. With just a trio of previously-circulated acapellas in his back pocket—”Apollo” with Amba Shepherd, Linkin Park’s “Crawling,” and Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”—he rewrote Ultra’s history books and wrapped a bow around its homecoming weekend with a sequence of 14 album IDs—plus his then-unreleased “Spaceman” rework—all of which were not heard until that fateful March evening.
While “BROKEN MIRROR” set the scene for the reinvention to which Hardwell had been pointing, “INTO THE MIRROR” provided the initial taste of his “bigroom-techno” (as he calls it) stylistic progression, first presented at Ultra. And for those who’d paid close attention to Hardwell’s work, this was likely not the surprise that it might have been for newer listeners; he’d already planted the seeds that would sow this bigroom-techno sound back in the late-2000’s and early-2010’s with tracks like “Smoke” and “Voyage.” In short, it was anything but an out-of-the-blue bombshell.
The remaining parts of Rebels Never Die—”F*CKING SOCIETY,” “BLACK MAGIC,” “DOPAMINE,” “GODD,” “PACMAN,” “MIND CONTROL,” “REMINISCE, “ZERO GRAVITY,” “LASER,” “I FEEL LIKE DANCING,” and “SELF DESTRUCT”—each compellingly take listeners deeper into Hardwell’s bigroom-techno terrain. And while he’s never stood and taken credit for conceptualizing the crossover—with Revealed Recording signees like Maddix and Will Sparks concurrently trying their hand at it—he’s mastered it in an idiosyncratic way that’s made it uniquely his own.
Sonically, each song on the Rebels Never Die tracklist is distinguished from the one that preceded it, though all function as one cohesive whole that maintains Hardwell’s overarching and unreserved purpose for his comeback album. The twists and turns of the unequivocally rip-roaring project culminate in an LP that presents an open-and-shut case that Hardwell has not only failed to miss a step but has also taken leaps and bounds ahead of where he left off. Throughout the album’s six-month, singles-only rollout—an unconventional approach that allowed Hardwell’s first new work in three years to be consumed in a digestible manner—with each preview, it became increasingly clear that Hardwell’s level of mixing and mastering only elevated when the album was experienced in the streaming format.
During an exclusive sitdown with Dancing Astronaut just moments before he became the first dance act to headline New York’s UBS Arena, Hardwell explained that Rebels Never Die wasn’t an overly stylized project with any sort of allegiance to his pre-hiatus character. Whatever new music he’d advance during his return had to exist in harmony with two guidelines: it had to be subject to no stylistic boundaries and it couldn’t be what was expected of him. He knew that after almost a four-year intermission, the only path forward was one of evolution and originality, principles that he’d already emulated in his career a decade prior. A necessary realization followed. His comeback was going to be on only one person’s terms: his. This is the thematic crux of Rebels Never Die.
In a year that’s continuously been branded as the onset of a new golden age within dance music, Rebels Never Die was able to decisively set itself apart from the slate of other long-players released this year while radiating ingenuity and resolutely reinstating one of the genre’s most-hailed names. And with the Rebels Never Die deluxe expansion now just hours away—which will include a new solo cut “Oh Gosh,” three previously heard reworks, and an official mashup release of “F*CKING SOCIETY” versus Metallica’s “Nothing Really Matters”—Hardwell will pad the project that provided the blueprint for his comeback, defined the year in dance music, and proved that rebels, indeed, never die.
Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9, 2022), Fred Again
Words by Zach Salafia
Few artists can lay claim to the type of success Fred again.. has managed to achieve in 2022, if any. His unique brand of storytelling through music has resonated with fans on a level rarely seen at any level of dance music, let alone by someone who’s still only just recently burst onto the scene.
A member of Dancing Astronaut‘s class of Artists to Watch in 2022 at the start of the year and our Artist of the Year come year-end, Fred again.. has enjoyed a rare meteoric rise in the dance space predicated in part on the success of his Actual Life album trilogy. The triptych’s third installment, Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9, 2022)—his third LP in 18 months—goes down as one of the most-anticipated albums of the year in the dance/electronic genre, with much of the fanfare deriving from his Coachella debut and viral Boiler Room London set. In the latter, the British tastemaker teased Actual Life 3 through “Delilah (pull me out of this)” and “Danielle (smile on my face),” two early-listens that retrospectively stand out as two of dance’s most-celebrated records of the year. Like Fred again.., Actual Life 3 doesn’t require an introduction; this character is precisely what lands the LP on our list of the Top Electronic Albums of 2022 and Fred as our 2022 Artist of the Year.
Words by Ross Goldenberg
It seemed as if the foundation for Gryffin’s Gravity successor was already being laid not too long after the long-form project landed in October 2019. With his debut album arriving just a half-year before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt, Gryffin used the time to gradually stack up a consistent stream of post-Gravity originals. And there seemed to be this growing sense—at least at Dancing Astronaut—that he’d begun creeping closer and closer to his sophomore album, especially after talks of a “new chapter” surfaced in 2021.
Low and behold, our gut feeling was right, and Alive would be completed almost two years to the day after the release of Gryffin’s freshman LP. Alive’s tracklist has a similarly A-list makeup in terms of its singer-songwriters, including OneRepublic, MØ, Tinashe, Au-Ra, Maia Wright, and Calle Lehmann. Alive is able to hold its own when compared to Gravity, an album that has grown to be regarded as inclusive of some of Gryffin’s most-revered work. And while we’d skipped out on naming 2019’s top dance music albums in favor of a recap of the 2010-2020 decade in the genre, if Gravity made anything clear, it was that the LP next to come would be worth considering for placement on an album list like this. Free-flowing between genre lanes, welcoming Gryffin’s next chapter of sound, Alive fittingly wins Gryffin a rightful spot on our list of the Top 22 Dance Albums of 2022.
Atlas, Jason Ross
Words by Ross Goldenberg
Jason Ross waved goodbye to 2021 while co-earning the title of Dancing Astronaut’s Track of the Year (“One More Day”) on Dancing Astronaut’s Label of the Year (Ophelia Records). Fast forward, and he’s appearing yet again in our end-of-year accolades though this time, he’s part of a different shortlist.
Not long after his closing appearance at EDC Las Vegas’ circuitGROUNDS, Ross had set the wheels in motion for what would later be known as his 1000 Faces successor on Ophelia Records, Atlas. In an interview with Dancing Astronaut, Ross explained that Atlas was born out of his pandemic-inspired livestream series of the same name. Spanning 10 tracks—including singer-songwriter pairings with a trio of Dancing Astronaut Supernovas, Chandler Leighton (L8NCY), HALIENE, and RUNN, not to mention production team-ups with both MitiS and Grant—Ross builds on the top-of-the-line melodic-bass grandeur that he’s honed throughout the two-plus years that have followed his freshman LP while justly transforming his at-home stream concept into something tangible. Atlas is an undeniable rarity in that each of its 10 offerings is a must-listen, making its recognition as one of Dancing Astronaut’s top dance albums of 2022 a lock.
Beyond The Veil, Seven Lions
Words by Zach Salafia
For everything Seven Lions has accomplished in his decade-plus career, there was still one white whale: a full-length album. And although various EPs, including The Throes Of Winter and Find Another Way, have raised Seven Lions’ profile while underscoring his inimitable ear melodic-bass sound construction, the format is simply not the equivalent of an LP. The question of how Seven Lions might approach a proper studio album found its answer in 2022, a year in which the producer chose to take his talents to the long-form arena not because he had to, but rather, because he wanted to. This ethos alone confers a unique power to Beyond The Veil, an authentic debut LP that objectively sounds and feels like some of his best work to date. Featuring 12 tracks, including singles “Every Time” (featuring So Below), “Call On Me” (Vancouver Sleep Clinic), and “Stop Thinking” (Lights). If the tradition of Seven Lions’ discography holds (and assuredly, it will), Beyond The Veil is only going to get better with age.
Capricorn Sun, TSHA
Words by Alex Lambeau
In 2021, TSHA was named one of Dancing Astronaut‘s Artists to Watch. Now, coming off what ranks as her most successful year thus far, TSHA has delivered a debut album that further foregrounds her production capacities while going down as one of the house genre’s finest LPs this year.
With euphoric melodies and an emphasis on slower BPMs, TSHA’s style of house music is far different from the tech-house played at many large festivals. Embodying TSHA’s deep progressions and use of the piano, the LP’s final single, “Running,” is both an example of her individual approach and an apt introduction to her style for those unfamiliar with it. There’s evidence of her forward-thinking nature on Capricorn Sun, too; take, for example, “Giving Up,” an experimental house track that takes the framework of drum ‘n’ bass. Filled out by a slew of tracks that similarly underscore TSHA’s unique sound, Capricorn Sun blends the underground with melodic-pop influence in a manner that prompts the album to stand out from the pack of LPs released in the dance genre this year. A candidate for casual listening, a sunrise on the beach, or for a club night with Circoloco, Capricorn Sun is a must listen.
Ctrl Alt Reality, The Glitch Mob
Words by Rachel Narozniak
In an industry where “spectacle,” The Glitch Mob say, has stolen the show, instead of joining the fold, the trio “bow[ed] out of the production arms race” and went back to the heady, sweaty basics of dance music: propulsive sounds that connect artist and audience, however near or far. The resulting LP, Ctrl Alt Reality, is as much an ode to the rave culture of earlier years as it is a contemporary attempt to restore connection in today’s ultra-commercialized dance market. A buzzy homage to earlier, ’90s-reminiscent rave sound with a wildly-beating pulse and rollicking nods to old-school jungle breaks, Ctrl Alt Reality stands out from the pack of dance/electronic LPs to land this year on account of its sonics, as well as the intention behind it. “We made this record for ourselves,” Justin Boreta, Ed Ma, and Joshua Mayer attested in an interview with Dancing Astronaut, “We were trying to harness the spirit and energy of old-school rave culture, where it was really just about people coming together under one umbrella purely for the music.”
Having invested no interest in chart position, streaming counts, or other metrics of commercial success related to Ctrl Alt Reality, The Glitch Mob set themselves free to throw spaghetti at the walls, so to speak. Suffice to say, it all sticks.
Electronic Generations, Carl Cox
Words by Alex Lambeau
Although Electronic Generations might not be a full-fledged techno album, it still engages techno’s original roots and with modern influence, at that. Originally scheduled for release earlier in 2022, Carl Cox’s first original album in more than a decade was pushed back to December but ultimately proved to be worth the wait. Following 2012’s All Roads Lead to the Dance Floor, the first side of the double-disc LP includes all of Cox’s solo tracks while the second side features a remix from Chase & Status, along with collaborations with Nicole Moudaber, Franky Wah, and Fatboy Slim. Tapping into new house kicks with acid-heavy synths, Electronic Generations exemplifies how techno can still flourish outside of the single format. For that, it rightfully earns its status as one of the year’s most noteworthy techno albums.
Words by Natalie Pereira
Bonobo’s catalogue has aged like fine wine, and the warmth and emotive touch that threads each body of work remains steadfast. His skillful production over the past two decades has yielded a swivelling collection of music ranging from timeless lullabies that venture past the boundaries of electronic music, like “Black Sands” and “Flutter,” back to the speaker-ready fixings that continue to permeate dancefloors and day parties alike, such as “Kerala” and “Cirrus.” And although the invention of Simon Green (channeled through the Bonobo artist project) has far beyond cemented his legacy among dance music’s finest, Fragments is a staunch reminder of how light can be found even in the darkest days.
Released in full in January, Fragments is a collective body of symphonic joy born out of uncertainty and isolation, crowned through hours of experimentation under the pandemic era. And yet, what debuted was a cathartic 12-track composition soaring through the realms of electronica, seizing facets of downtempo, jazz, and ambient sounds with Bonobo’s classic touch. Leading up to its release, listeners were treated to glimpses of the album through the revelation of several lead singles, which set the tone for the album’s course. The first delivery, “Rosewood,” brings listeners back to the dancefloor in it shimmering uptempo rhythm and percussive breakbeat-like foundation, whereas “From You,” featuring vocalist Joji, soaks the piece with sultry vocals that slown things down. Finding influence in his natural surroundings, from the depths of American wilderness to the blinding California desert heat, these adventures offered Bonobo a new perspective on the authentic scenery around him. From these experiences, a kaleidoscopic series of instrumental samples and modular synths were engaged through the (mostly remote) collaboration with multi-instrumentalists, vocalists and producers, and thus, Fragments was born.
Loner, Alison Wonderland
Words by Alex Lambeau
Since the beginning of her career, Alison Wonderland has hybridized both the trap and future-bass genres with idiosyncrasy, flair, and generally melancholy storylines that have seen Wonderland gravitate to the darkest depths of her past. Her third studio album, Loner, however, is the turning point that finds her embracing happier, more positive outlooks. “Something Real”—one of the most popular tracks on the LP—is a testament to this growth, with lyrics that shout, “I wasn’t looking for love, but here we are, here we are, you’re breaking down my walls.” Coming from a vantage point of total darkness (the COVID-19 pandemic), Loner is starkly different than Wonderland’s previous work in its vibrant and courageous world-building, offering a fresh twist on her familiar sound. “Loner is the most positive, hopeful album I have ever written. It acknowledges the darkness but creates its own euphoria through it,” Wonderland acknowledged.
Released via Astralwerks Records, Loner had an uncommon but special rollout. In conjunction with event promoter Brownies and Lemonade, Alison Wonderland played an intimate set in a Los Angeles laundromat to highlight the new album for a select few fans who attended in person. The exclusive event went on rather inclusively, thanks to a livestream that widened the net of listeners who had the opportunity to witness the quirky but worthwhile effort. A few months later, Wonderland released Loner as a graphic novel. As more and more artists continue to explore the association of music and visual art, Alison Wonderland has distinguished herself by being one of the first in the dance space to do so through a book. Produced in partnership with z2comics, the graphic novel featured Wonderland’s own words, along with the work of several graphic artists; together, these elements paint an honest but sanguine picture of her ups and downs. Truly, Loner was not only a rebirth for Wonderland, but also a time in which she showed all of her vulnerabilities to her listeners.
Words by Cameron DeFaria
Drawing support from frequent collaborator Kučka, in addition to Oklou, May-a, Quiet Bison, Laurel, Virgen María, Emma Louise, Caroline Polachek, and the illustrious Damon Albarn, Flume’s Palaces unleashed 13 futuristic soundscapes that shook the entire music industry. Released on May 20, Grammy Award-winner Harley Streten’s third studio album landed on the heels of four early-release singles, “Say Nothing,” “Sirens,” “Palaces,” “ESCAPE,” and “Hollow,” respectively.
Palaces explores the sonic universe that Flume ultimately founded several years prior, well before this LP would actualize. While it maintains several instances of pop-forward melodies, the Future Classic offering tastefully oscillates between avant-garde, mechanical sound design, as made popular by Streten’s Hi This Is Flume (Mixtape), and climactic, mellifluous songwriting that Flume fans have deeply admired for the better part of a decade.
Flume’s Skin follow-up received passionate evaluations from all sides of the spectrum. Now that its two official remix packs have landed amid his world tour, Dancing Astronaut would encourage readers to revisit Palaces with a cleansed palette, to (once again) indulge in Flume’s astoundingly intricate and highly-trained songwriting and sound design.
Paradise Again, Swedish House Mafia
Words by Ross Goldenberg
Before July of 2021, if someone from the future explained that Swedish House Mafia would soon have a full-length album to their credit, it would have likely been met with serious degrees of doubt. But that seemingly long-shot forecast would’ve cashed in eight months later. And even all this time later, the ability to press play on Paradise Again is still an overwhelmingly surreal experience.
A long and winding journey was taken to finally reach Paradise Again close to four years to the day after Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello reinstated one of dance music’s most iconic trios in the heart of Miami. With just a handful of releases under the official Swedish House Mafia name, plus a pair of compilations, naturally, the notion of studio album initially shocked Ingrosso. During their sitdown with Zane Lowe, he recounted Angello “dropp[ing] the bomb” that would elicit this surprise: an album was a requisite for the reunion’s forward movement.
Swedish House Mafia could have chosen to extend the progressive euphoria of the One Last Tour era, but they opted to mature their sound, venturing past the 2010’s to dig into their classic house roots of the ’90s and 2000’s. The choice was understandable, particularly for three artists who’ve grown and evolved both individually and together. We’ll reiterate what we said at the time of the album’s release: Paradise Again plainly feels like the output of three longtime friends who made an album for the sheer love of the music and the process, rather than to satisfy a feeling of obligation or pressure to prove something at this point in their already storied careers. To simply reduce the album to being “worth the wait” would do a disservice to the masterpiece—yes, masterpiece—that resulted, so we’ll assert something far more decisive: Paradise Again proves that Swedish House Mafia have far more to offer than the standard four-on-the-floor frameworks. And as they now move toward their headlining tour and 2023 festival main stages, it’s clear that their reunion campaign has only begun to scratch the surface.
Reminders, Le Youth
Words by Ross Goldenberg
A familiar face on This Never Happened’s release lineup throughout the past three years—having put out EPs, remixes, and one-off singles on Lane 8’s label—Le Youth deemed 2022 the year for a full-length LP and decided to take a trip down memory lane in the process, as the album’s title suggests. The resulting long-player explores “feelings of nostalgia and unexpected memories, like remembering a past life when [he turned] down that street [he] used to live on, or hearing that album [he] stayed up all night listening to.” At 15 total tracks and with an expansive collaborator range including Sultan + Shepard, LeyeT, OCULA, RBBTS, Tailor, and many more to boot, Reminders is a front-row seat to the melodic-house masterclass that Le Youth has consistently led on This Never Happened. Every part of the album provides its own anecdote that ties back to the overarching theme of nostalgia that conceptually guides the album. Its tracklist—from “Then It Rained All Night” down to its eponymous cut—culminates in what wholeheartedly feels like one of the year’s most cohesive, complete projects from top to bottom.
Reviver, Lane 8
Words by Ross Goldenberg
Lane 8 ensured that his year began in the same auspicious fashion that his Dancing Astronaut 2020 Artist of the Year run did: with a new album. And although Reviver didn’t lead to another crown in that category, in January when the album released, there was never an ounce of doubt that it’d be a part of the dance music’s top albums of the year conversation come December.
When Lane 8 disclosed the existence of Reviver a couple of months before it would land, he explained that he felt that he’d matured in a sense—both as a producer and as a person. This, he said, led to his “most dancefloor-focused album yet.” It only took the album’s first group of previews—including “Survive” with Channy Leneagh, which entered the year as one of our most-anticipated releases of 2022—to corroborate that description. Through the remainder of the album’s tracklist, the seamless rebirth of Lane 8’s approach realizes even further, venturing beyond the tranquil essence of Brightest Lights on an LP that fittingly soundtracks a post-pandemic world that couldn’t be more eager to return to the same place that Lane 8 felt this album belonged: the dancefloor.
Sentiment, Said The Sky
Words by Zach Salafia
Nearly four years after the release of his breakthrough debut album, Wide-Eyed, Said The Sky delivered his sophomore LP, Sentiment. “Sentiment,” by definition, refers to “exaggerated feelings of nostalgia.” Suffice to say, the long-player has plenty of that.
On the project, Said The Sky leans into his punk-rock roots, fusing the nostalgia of this sonic approach with his emotive melodic-bass signature. Although each song on the album is decidedly different, each functions as a piece of a cohesive whole, seamlessly unified by pop-punk elements. Central to this project was Said The Sky’s intention to prove that, for him, pop-punk “wasn’t just a phase.” This case started through several early-release singles, including “We Know Who We Are” with Olivver The Kid, “Treading Water,” “Go On Then, Love” with The Maine, and “Walk Me Home” with ILLENIUM and Chelsea Cutler.
As evidenced by the LP, Said The Sky challenged himself to dig deeper and take more risks on Sentiment than he did on his debut album. In the context of an industry that has a tendency to be formulaic while being ever attuned to chart position, streaming counts, and other traditional metrics of success, it’s fair to say that there are not many artists who would challenge themselves in such a way on the heels of an album that was so well-received. But what followed in Sentiment was a body of work completely true to Said The Sky, and although a positive outcome wasn’t promised, it’s still what actualized on a project made up of music that is equally refreshing as it is quality.
Sentio, Martin Garrix
Words by Ross Goldenberg
That the STMPD RCRDS boss had loaded up on unreleased music during a lull in his touring schedule between the end of 2021 and the onset of his spring run in South America the following March wasn’t some well-kept secret. Few would have suspected then that a full-length album under the Martin Garrix project—something he’d only done through AREA21 the year prior—was underway, but as Ultra’s Bayfront Park homecoming inched closer, Garrix hinted that his return to Miami would be attached to a slate of unreleased music, similar to that of his legendary 2016 showing at the festival. He more than followed through on that, premiering 12 total IDs in final form between Lollapalooza Chile and Ultra. A surprise, anti-April Fool’s Day announcement would lead to Sentio, the first-ever Martin Garrix album.
Sentio brings Garrix’s story full circle, arriving exactly a decade after his debut original, “Itsa.” From the moment “Follow” with Zedd opened the album doors—unbeknownst to us on March 25—the first proper Garrix album placed its foot on the gas pedal each and every Tuesday and Thursday in the following weeks, flipping 11 of the 12 Ultra IDs—minus “Loop,” which would make a mid-summer appearance—into tracks that would join the ranks of some of Garrix’s finest work throughout the past 10 years, with an A1 collaborator list that also featured Mesto, Brooks, Dancing Astronaut Artist to Watch in 2022 Vluarr, Matisse & Sadko, Julian Jordan, DubVision, Jordan Grace, Blinders, Justin Mylo, Dewain Whitmore, and last but not least, Shaun Farrugia. As a whole, Sentio feels just as imaginative as its unconventional biweekly rollout delivery. The LP masterfully underscores Garrix’s aim to give back a batch of festival-ready anthems post-pandemic and then overwhelmingly delivers just that.
So Far So Good, The Chainsmokers
Words by Rachel Narozniak
In a chilly aisle of the grocery store, you stand, perusing the frozen pizzas. Movement in your peripheral is your invitation to turn, so you do; the silhouette of an old friend you’ve not seen in years is in your line of sight. They’re at once familiar and different, mature in a way that you might not have remembered them to be. You could breeze by, or you could say hello. You choose the latter, and you’re glad you did. Reacquaintance with The Chainsmokers through So Far So Good is a lot like this.
At first blush, The Chainsmokers are sonically recognizable on the long-form project—their first in three years and one that has since been made available in a lofi version. Indeed, “Riptide,” “iPad,” and “I Love U” channel the classic Chainsmokers sound that put Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall on the map—and the charts—from 2014-2016. The more immediate positioning of these songs on the tracklist suggests that The Chainsmokers will increasingly lean into a sound reminiscent of their earlier years as the project progresses, but they don’t. From So Far So Good‘s fourth tracklisting (the dreamy “Maradona”) onward, these glimmers of resemblance morph into a fresh indie-pop-meets-electronic hybrid in which Taggart’s verses mingle synergistically with beat-minded arrangements. Sonically, the signs point to reinvention and from a pop-cultural standpoint, this makes sense. The album is the product of Taggart’s and Pall’s retreat from the spotlight and coinciding pressure on the reset button following several years tinged with bravado, grapples with fame in real time, and the public’s resulting disapprobation, after all.
In an interview with Billboard, The Chainsmokers stated that they’d entered the writing process with “no rules, no pressure, [and] no preconceived notions.” Free from these fetters, Taggart and Pall distilled their sound; at its most succinct, it’s a texture-indulgent flirtation with indie-pop and electronic sensibilities. On a more detailed level, though, it’s a roller coaster of emotion and feeling translated through lyrics that are, in characteristic Chainsmokers fashion, unabashed and not without touches of whimsy.
The effect of So Far So Good‘s first spin is the sense that one listen isn’t enough to digest all that The Chainsmokers are telling streamers, not merely—or even chiefly—through lyrics, but also—and more so—through the musical choices that they make. To watch a long, elaborate film the second time around is to note details missed the first time, often by virtue of the fact that repeated returns are necessary to fully process all that happens. The So Far So Good listening experience is also a lot like this. In a heart-on-its-sleeve fashion that feels real and authentic, So Far So Good finds The Chainsmokers taking an imaginative and exploratory approach to reframing themselves. The outcome? It feels like we’re seeing them for who they really are for the very first time.
The Last Goodbye, ODESZA
Words by Zach Salafia
ODESZA’s grand return in 2022 marked their first album since A Moment Apart in 2017 and made it plenty clear they haven’t skipped a beat. Moreover, though, The Last Goodbye reaffirms Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight’s place in dance music’s pantheon.
The eponymous lead single, “The Last Goodbye” featuring Betty LaVette, introduced fans to the then-upcoming LP and sparked speculation that, with the titular sentiment of the song, Mills and Knight were hinting at the end of the ODESZA project. But Mills and Knight were quick to reaffirm they were going nowhere in a quote tweet.
Like all of ODESZA’s work, The Last Goodbye is best enjoyed in sequential order. Listeners will most appreciate the story told across the 50 minutes and 32 seconds that comprise their fourth studio album by taking this approach, even if they deviate from it in ensuing listens. The result of even a singular run-through of the LP is not only a deeper appreciation for ODESZA and their body of work, but also for the profound effect that music can have on a person and the poignancy and resonance with which ODESZA can explore the idea of loss and the human condition. The Last Goodbye is moving and personal; it strikes a chord that is hard to hit in music in general—let alone in dance music—and for this, it stands out and apart from other long-players released in the genre this year.
The Silence in Between, Bob Moses
Words by Cameron DeFaria
Last March, Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance of Bob Moses released a pivotal body of work, The Silence In Between, marking the Grammy Award-winning duo’s first project under Astralwerks’ distinctive global partnership with Domino Recording Company. Bob Moses began the anticipatory album rollout shortly after completing a mesmerizing Cercle set at Los Angeles’ world-renowned—and remarkably picturesque—Griffith Observatory. After unlocking one of the set’s IDs, “Griffith,” Bob Moses announced a slew of post-COVID tour dates and turned in the first early-release single from their impending album, “Time and Time Again.”
The first single didn’t stray too far from Bob Moses’ sonic playbook; however, in January, the outfit released what would be The Silence In Between’s highest-grossing album inclusion. Written alongside esteemed musicians Michel Zitron and John Martin, “Love Brand New” landed with an official music video ahead of two additional audiovisual offerings leading up to the March 4 revelation of The Silence In Between.
The Silence In Between explores the duality of light and dark; a rocking boat in murky waters, tilting back and forth without ever fully capsizing. Consisting of 10 powerhouse recordings, Bob Moses’ third studio album has cemented their stature as top-of-the-bill frontrunners within the current dance/electronic music landscape. That considered, Dancing Astronaut would be remiss not to include The Silence In Between among the Top Electronic Albums of 2022.
The Way Back Up, Trivecta
Words by Zach Salafia
Trivecta’s debut album, The Way Back Up, is a testament to the ingenuity of the man behind the music. There are few artists with a more diverse sound in the bass music scene than the Tampa-based producer, who felt empowered to push boundaries on his debut LP.
The Way Back Up fittingly found a home on Seven Lions’ Ophelia Records, Dancing Astronaut‘s 2021 Label of the Year. There is perhaps no artist more synonymous with the label (outside of the label boss himself) than Trivecta, who rose to prominence through his releases on the imprint. Ever since the advent of “Island” in 2019, Trivecta has been a staple of Ophelia Records, and in retrospect, it’s only fitting that The Way Back Up landed in such a full-circle way via the label. Indeed, in an interview with Dancing Astronaut, Trivecta said working with Ophelia has been an “absolute dream,” and that the label and its fans have creatively empowered him to do what he wants sonically. The result was The Way Back Up, an unexpectedly diverse project, sonically, that embraces a multitude of different musical styles and genres. There’s the melodic-bass that Trivecta made his early signature, progressive house, psytrance, “folk bass,” as he calls it, and even some dark techno. He set out “to try different things creatively,” and by doing so, he sought to avoid creating an album entirely rooted in melodic-bass—something that would not only have been relatively easy, but would have also been expected on a debut LP, where an artist who’s had success with the genre might very well have continued his lean into it, knowing that it would almost assuredly yield success based on past precedent. But Trivecta’s effort to develop a body of work that takes risks and “feels fresh” paid off in more ways than one. With a purposeful approach to his craft and a bold ideology rooted in genre fusion, Trivecta fueled one of the albums of 2022, remarkable firstly for its sense of experimentation and secondly for its execution.
Words by Rachel Narozniak
For textured, inventive soundscapes that defy the quotidian, dance/electronic listeners can—and have—turned to IMANU. His debut album, Unfold, confirms that they’ve not only been right in doing so, but that they should also continue doing so.
Unfold has depth, breadth, and the sophistication that has become IMANU’s custom, though it’s worth noting that the LP finds the producer toeing melodic territory to an unprecedented degree. “Unfold is an exploration of my more melodic side,” he noted on Twitter, explaining that the stasis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic wiped his creative slate clean. “This fresh start brought me a creativity which enabled me to write music like I had never done before.”
With melody as a throughline and an assortment of featured acts, including KUČKA, Louis Futon, and Zonderling, among others, as its company, Unfold is a novel first offering from an ear that’s not exactly new to the game. IMANU, born Jonathan Immanuel Kievit, is noteworthy for cutting his teeth in the dance/electronic industry under his former drum ‘n’ bass alias, Signal. Through Signal, Kievit placed releases on labels like RAM and Renegade Hardware and crafted official remixes for What So Not and Skrillex, to name just a few. In the time since Kievit pivoted, retiring Signal and activating IMANU in turn, he’s graced powerhouses like Never Say Die, UKF, mau5trap, and Deadbeats (where Unfold ultimately lands). If the debut album was a test of IMANU’s dexterity and malleability, then Unfold is the palette of flying colors with which he passes—and its place on the Top 22 Dance Albums of 2022 is indispensable.
UNIVERSE, Moore Kismet
Words by Rachel Narozniak
A debut album is arguably one of the most pivotal productions in an artist’s career. And although artists generally prefer to evade classification predicated purely on genre, an approach that is known to be reductive, the advent of a first LP often leads to some degree of classification. In Moore Kismet’s case, it’s confirmatory and UNIVERSE, a reminder that the 18-year-old producer is one of the most compelling catalysts for a new era of bass music marked by increasingly inventive and cerebral sound design. The 17-piece LP arrives two years after we named Kismet our 2020 Breakout Artist of the Year, a distinction that has paid dividends over the past two years as they’ve matured in the industry while making history in the process (becoming one of the youngest performers to ever play EDC Las Vegas, for one). On their first long-form outing, a winding road of propulsive sounds—bass breaks, synths, and other elements galore—Kismet’s it factor is on its fullest display yet, and so is the statement that this album ultimately makes: like the titular significance of their name, Kismet’s place and success in the dance/electronic space is also “more than fate.”
Warehouse Summer, i_o and Lights
Words by Ross Goldenberg
Just days before the two-year anniversary of Garret Lockhart’s untimely passing, his family took to his social channels to share an update. In the past two years, as listeners mourned and celebrated the life and the legacy of a young producer who left an indelible mark on dance music, a delicate question remained: what was the fate of whatever music i_o had left behind? His family was ready to answer that and, in a statement, shared that a full-length collaborative studio album previously made by i_o and Lights would be shared with the dance world.
After one emotion-drenched run-through of Warehouse Summer, the Dancing Astronaut team came to an instantaneous consensus: the 14-track effort warranted a place on our end-of-year albums list and for a laundry list of reasons, their complementary talents chief among them. i_o and Lights’ synergy on the producer-vocalist front had been made apparent well before Warehouse Summer was revealed to listeners; unsurprisingly, they put together a full body of work that thrust their creative chemistry into the forefront, with Lights noting that all 14 of the album’s tracks were effortlessly crafted.
Spanning techno, drum ‘n’ bass, and progressive, Warehouse Summer wholly reminded those who might have forgotten just how gifted i_o was, serving as a gentle reminder of “how fragile life can be.”