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That is, until 2010, when dance music finally took over pop as everyone from Lady Gaga to Usher to Black Eyed Peas hawked club music to the masses. But as Spinner's best-of list demonstrates, plenty of proper electronic music was alive and dancing in 2010.
Their name may be misleading, but improvisational electronic supergroup Cobblestone Jazz released one of the year's purest strain techno records. The Canadian trio comprised of Mathew Jonson, Tyger Dhula and Danuel Tate added a fourth member, Colin de la Plante (better known as the Mole) and set up shop in Vancouver expat Johnson's new Berlin studio to record their analog electronics live off the floor. The result of this unprecedented collaboration in a typically solo, predominantly digital and endlessly tinkered genre, 'The Modern Deep Left Quartet,' was no less than stunning.
Great Britain's latest breakout bedroom beatmaker Gold Panda (born Derwin Panda) followed up last year's promising South Asian-influenced single 'Quitters Ragga' with a full-length on critically-acclaimed imprints Ghostly International and NoTown Recordings that thankfully realized his potential. Simultaneously laid-back and intense, 'Lucky Shiner' is an album so welcoming that its opening track rides on scattershot samples saying "you" and "me." Perfectly produced for headphones or, even better, come-down sets, the lushly-layered synths, choppy edits and pulsating drum programming create a sonic palette so blissfully beautiful you can practically see the sun rise.
One his last LP, musician-slash-mathematician Dan Snaith traded his laptoptronica for a Beach Boys-influenced psychedelic pop sound -- albeit still produced on his computer -- and won a Polaris Prize for his efforts. But Caribou returns to his old stomping grounds on 'Swim,' with his improved vocal chops and enhanced songwriting skills put toward a more dancefloor-friendly focus. The entire album is strong, though the other tracks can't help but be caught in the undertow of 'Odessa,' as impeccable a piece of electronic pop as any produced this decade, much less this year.
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Music critics tend to underrate Crystal Castles because they're stylish jerks while hipsters tend to overrate 'em for the same. But if one can get beyond their crystalline surface, the Toronto electro duo has seriously fortified their castle with this second self-titled album. The distorted noise that, 'Crimewave' aside, masked merely adequate songwriting now enhances a more confident electronic arsenal, from the shockingly sweet dream-pop of 'Celestica' to the big room bombast of instant club classic 'Baptism.' Consider this Crystal Castles' great leap forward as they abandon the rock stage to move deeper onto the dancefloor.
Steve Ellison would've made his great-uncle and -aunt John and Alice Coltrane proud with his latest longplayer -- not to mention cousin Ravi Coltrane, who stops by to play tenor sax on a couple cuts. Flying Lotus's hyper-ambitious record expertly melds experimental electronic music with instrumental hip-hop, improvisational jazz, progressive dubstep and, what the hell, a little Thom Yorke in full-on 'Paranoid Android' mode to create a bass-centric sound that is surprisingly accessible. Moreover, by mining music of the past and present, the Los Angeles beatsmith somehow created what the future sounds like.