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The 50 Best Albums of 2014 | 50 - 41

We start the countdown with a tie between Deadmau5 and Azealia Banks. That's just the beginning.

by THUMP Staff
16 December 2014, 8:00pm

50. (TIE)
Azealia Banks | Broke With Expensive Taste [Interscope/Polydor]
Deadmau5 | while(1<2) [Astralwerks]

What does a tatted-up, racecar-loving white boy from Canada have to do with a precocious former stripper from Harlem? Well, their inability to stay away from Twitter feuds, for one. Whether or not you agree with their often inflammatory remarks, both Joel Zimmerman and Azealia Banks have become dance music's de-facto self-annointed truth-tellers—so thank god the enfant terribles have the musical chops to back them up. Zimmerman's slickly-engineered album rides on warm, progressive house chords and an underlying sense of ennui; Banks' long-awaited debut is a potpourri of clashing sounds featuring every hip producer on the planet. The two could not be more different. Yet somehow, we think they'd get along. -ML
 

49. Galantis | Galantis EP [Big Beat/Atlantic]

There is a certain irony that a group comprised of two studio producers who made careers through record sales would become, above all other things, a live act. Such is the case for Christian Karlsson and Linus Eklöw's Galantis, an act who gained 75,000 fans (give or take) from their Coachella performance this year, making their eponymous EP more of a souvenir for concertgoers rather than a focal point of their work. Still, infectious main stage house singles "Smile" and "You," along with the emotive "Revolution," make this six-tracker far from disposable. With an expected blockbuster full-length on the way in 2015, Galantis EP could end up a footnote, but an undeniably tasty one at that. -ZM

48. The Juan Maclean | In a Dream [DFA]

The retro-house-disco outfit born out of DFA's infinite wavepool of of dance-punk talent returned this year with another brilliant showcase of their shiny, vocal disco ethos. Putting singer Nancy Whang a bit more in the spotlight, the album relies heavily on lyrics, not to mention her own proto-diva crooning. That's not to say John MacLean's production isn't still in the drivers seat; once again the producer comes correct with a glittering carousel of dreamy, body-moving splendor, perfectly interlacing his rhythms through and between hints of Whang's fluorescent voice. There's an Italo anthem, a couple 10-minute synth odysseys, and endless creativity. In a Dream? Certainly feels like it. -DG
 

47. Luke Abbott | Wysing Forest [Border Community]

If you've wandering into the Wysing Forest for atmosphere, you've taken a wrong turn. For his latest LP on James Holden's Border Community imprint, Luke Abbott's glitchy subtlety belies a multi-layered soundscape that commands attention, even as it eschews convention. Part of that intrigues lies in this album's instrumentation; Abbot's dedication to all things electric is disarming. Do we always want to hear a harsh synth sound in place of a real instrument? Perhaps not, but that's the point. Music isn't only made with what is familiar and beauty can be heard in the most jarring of places. -ZM
 

46. Awato 3 | Open Mantra [Rush Hour]

There's so much more to Dutch house than a seven foot tall dude in flip flops. After more than 15 years, the Netherlands store-turned-label Rush Hour has continued to curate the best house and techno and turn a few selective spotlights on the best, brightest (and often local) producers. Steven Van Hulle, aka Awanto 3, first got that shine on his 2012 single "Pregnant." This year's Open Mantra takes his chunky MPC blend of house and ingenious sample fuckwithery to the next level. From the drum symphony turned infectious Guaracha bass of "Applecake," the never ending melodic embellishment of "Bubbles" and the aggressive call and response of "Su What?" there's a cut that fits into just about dimly lit room you'd want to be in. -JF
 

45.  Flight Facilities | Down to Earth [Future Classic]

Flight Facilities burst on the scene with their blockbuster single, "Crave You," inadvertently launching the retro-leaning bloghouse wave we've been surfing Down Under ever since. After four years of insisting that they were a singles-only act, the Australian duo finally relented, releasing their debut album, Down to Earth—replete with a Kylie Minogue reprise of "Crave You." From the Debussy-inspired lullaby "Clair de Lune" to the Bishop Nehru-featuring hip-hop track "Why Do You Feel," the album confirmed what many had already suspected: that Flight Facilities would never go down as a one-hit wonder. -ML
 

44. Fatima Al-Qadiri | Asiatisch [Hyperdub]

Fatima Al-Qadiri's debut album caused a feeding frenzy among critics, scholars, and anyone with a predilection for theoretical treatises about music. Based on the idea of a "simulated road trip through an imagined China," Asiatisch presented a grand buffet of heady ideas concerning what it means to be "Asian," 21st century orientalism, and the ways culture is disseminated online. Musically, the Kuwaiti producer also delved into sinogrime—a sub-strain of grime that came out of East London in the early 00s, and is preoccupied with Asian motifs and melodies. As a work of art that challenges its listeners to rethink the dichotomies of East and West, Asiatisch is flawless. - ML

43. Kele | Trick [Kobalt/Lilac]

Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke's first solo album was a sonic spin-off of his band; electro and song-oriented, it revealed his taste for dance music minus guitars. Sophomore effort Trick is a far more refined affair that winks and nods to current UK house grooves and the most techno of early mornings in Ibiza. As a songwriter, Kele is best when he breaks out of a root chord melodic progression, but even when he doesn't, the production supports his toplines. From seductive opener "First Impressions," a duet with singer Yasmin (known from Gorgon City's "Real"), to the emotionally austere "Year Zero" and the beautifully vulnerable "My Hotel Room," Trick is a complete expression of an artist's emotional and musical states of mind. -ZM
 

42. FaltyDL | Into the Wild [Ninja Tune]

Into the Wild
Hardcourage

finds FaltyDL acknowledging the increased attention resulting from 2013's by releasing a more dense and diffused record that fits and starts in between ambience and challenging club-adjacent beats. Tracks like "Do Me" and "Greater Antilles, pt. I" tear up nightclubs when selected correctly, but elsewhere the album feels more Philip Glass than Fabric. That sonic tension and FaltyDL's ability to retain intellectualism and artistry in beat-centric music is what makes his output so engrossing.  -JK
 

41. Alison Wonderland | Calm Down EP [Astralwerks/EMI]

Calm Down

was simultaneously the perfect EP to make out to and a fierce arsenal of warehouse-ready, explosive singles. Was any intro more joyously received at festivals than "I Want U"s iconic whines? Did any breakdown mesmerize you and your crush quite as completely as "Space"? With co-production credits by both Djemba Djemba and Lido, the quality of this record was assured, but nobody could have predicted how quickly it would establish Alison Wonderland, a former classical cellist, as a driving force in dance music. -ZR
 

Words by THUMP staff: Zel McCarthy, Jemayel Khawaja, Michelle Lhooq, David Garber, Ziad Ramley and Joel Fowler.

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