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The 50 Best Albums of 2014 | 30 - 21

This might be the first—and only—time that Skrillex, Run the Jewels and Tylr Swft have shared the same space on a list.
December 16, 2014, 10:00pm

30. Tensnake | Glow [Astralwerks/Virgin EMI]

German producer and DJ, Marco Niemerski, better known as Tensnake, has come a long way from his playful 2010 summer smash "Coma Cat." For his debut artist album Glow, the slithering house honcho bunkers down for a diverse and satisfying listen, pandering to a number of different types, while staying true to his style and never going too far into the deep end. There's lush instrumentals like the opener "First Song," feels-laden sing-alongs likes "See Right Through" and "Love Sublime" (with Nile Rodgers!), and some slick summertime-house like his collabo with Jacques Lu Cont "Feel Of Love." This is one Ten(snake), you'll want turned up to 11. -DG

29. Martix Garrix | Gold Skies EP [Spinnin'/Casablanca]

Turning 18 could have been enough of an achievement for Martin Garrix in 2014. Riding high on the success of "Animals," the Dutch producer was (to some) primed to strut into teen heartthrob territory. Instead, Garrix continued to build a career in the ways typically done in advance of a Top 40 hit. Gold Skies shows how "Animals" was merely a starting point and that the young producer isn't afraid to call on seasoned pros (notably Sander van Doorn) to enhance his skills, as on the charming title track. It would have been nice to hear more from Garrix—"Animals" and previously released "Wizard" take up two slots on this five track EP—but a whetted appetite isn't a bad thing either.

28. Ital | Endgame [Planet Mu]

The classically-trained Brooklyn producer Daniel Martin-McCormick's first hardware album, released on Planet Mu, swings effortlessly back and forth between ambient electronica and sleek Berlin techno. The result is a sense of warmth and intimacy in between the rigid 4/4 beats—like watching particles of dust swirl around the concrete walls of a warehouse rave. From the acid-tinged "Whispers in the Dark" to the propulsive, aptly-titled "Dancing," every cut on Endgame is a skilled and vaguely psychedelic exploration of techno's many subtleties. -ML

27. Skrillex | Recess [OWSLA/Big Beat/Atlantic]

It's hard to believe that Skrillex, a man who has left a gargantuan footprint in dance music, had never released a full-length studio album prior to Recess. Underrated in many ways, the record finds the producer going to great lengths to redefine his sound while staying true to the turnt-up American dubstep aesthetic that made him. "Recess" is a hot mess of a good-times anthem and the only glitch-hop track to make it to main stages in 2014. "Fuck That" is a victorious stab at deeper house before segueing into some of the deepest dubstep he's ever made. Genre-busting "Dirty Vibe" somehow blends glitch, dancehall and trap with K-pop superstars CL and G-Dragon spitting bars atop it all. Recess reads more as a collection of tracks than an album, but Skrillex's sense of adventure and defiance in the face of constant scrutiny is laudable. -JK

26. Run The Jewels | Run The Jewels 2 [Mass Appeal]

When self-evident statements like "black lives matter" become slogans repeated with depressing regularity, El-P and Killer Mike's unapologetically political hip-hop album, Run the Jewels 2, feels in some ways like the most relevant release of the year. Tracks like "Early" cover police brutality with a powerful mix of aggressive emotion and linguistic gymnastics; Killer Mike's emotional speech during a show in St. Louis was one of the most moving musical things to come out of Ferguson. Still, the unlikely pair aren't afraid to fuck around—poking fun at everything from "jazz hands," and giving songs eminently hashtaggable names like "DDFH." That's "do dope, fuck hope," of course. -ML

25. Les Sins | Michael [Company]

Having already conquered the indie world under his Toro y Moi moniker, chillwave champion Chaz Bundick furthered an already-evident interest in dance music with Michael, his first release under the new guise of Les Sins. It's a bricolage of aesthetics, freed by an outsider's perspective, and manages to veer from a number of house styles, to Low End-informed beat music, to what can only be described as acid jungle late-on. Michael is a bold statement. The consistently high level of creativity and Bundick's understated pop sensibilities are engrossing from any angle, dance or otherwise.  -JK

24. Kill Frenzy | Taylr Swft  [Dirtybird]

If you want to quickly get a feel for the derriere-moving power of Belgian-via-Berlin artist Kill Frenzy's debut album for Dirtybird, Kill Frenzy, just listen to the LP's lead single. It's called "No Panties." And there's probably already some embryos growing as a result of its sexified house flavor. If you like dirty rotten fun, this album has something for you. There's grumbling bass drops, squelchy techno for the heads crowd, and a few awesome collaborations like "Lava" with wunderkind Justin Jay, a track that could quite possibly tear apart a dancefloor. Taylr Swft helped keep Dirtybird at the top of its game this year, and had us all (for lack of a better word) in a Frenzy. -DG

23. Gareth Emery | Drive [Garuda]

2014 was a year of big room one-hitters, but that didn't sway multi-genre producer Gareth Emery into abandoning his longstanding credibility. Rather than jump aboard the radio crossover train (with all due respect to Spinnin'), Emery delivered a tour de force in Drive that reminds us all why he has been in the game for so long. Featuring vocalists such as Christina Novelli, Gavin Beach, and (surprisingly) Krewella, Drive traversed genres as boldly as it traversed emotions. Drive is one of trance music's few shining moments in an otherwise bleak year and a godsend for fans who had been without fresh, credible, progressive house to listen to. - ZR

22. Caribou | Our Love [City Slang]

Dan Snaith had already established himself as a lushly produced, propulsive and psychedelic live act before moving to London and buddying up with the likes of Four Tet and Floating Points. Since then, he's inched further and further into dance music and Our Love finds him continuing the victory lap from 2010's Swim. It's often esoteric, fuzzed out, and dips in and out of dance but moreover it is infinitely remixable and relistenable. -JK

21. Flying Lotus | You're Dead! [Warp]

Inspired by death and as dense as it is immediately impressive, Flying Lotus' sixth album is a jazz and dystopian soul record with bouts of that LA beat sound he was instrumental in creating. Barely anything on You're Dead! would work in a discotheque; half of it isn't even electronic, but FlyLo is an essential voice in electronic music and You're Dead! blew minds while exposing whole swaths of electronically-centric listeners to experimental jazz.  -JK

Words by THUMP staff: Zel McCarthyJemayel KhawajaMichelle LhooqDavid GarberZiad Ramley and Joel Fowler.

The 50 Best Albums of 2014 | No. 50 - 41 | No. 40 - 31 | No. 30 - 21 | No. 20 - 11 | No. 10 - 1