Electronica For Dummies: 5 Albums You Need To Know
If you turn on a radio and see any recent movie trailer you will quickly notice the trend of music that has been carried in the vein of the electronic genre. It’s been rising every since the 80’s, and with the house techno of the 90’s, trip hop of the early 2000’s and the dubstep and pop-electronica of today, the process has been long and ever changing and now it is arguably the most popular music genre today.
But that doesn’t mean everyone listens to it. Maybe you never quite got on board because of your love of metal, punk, country or even classical. Maybe it’s just noise to you. Or maybe you simply don’t know where to start. So before you download a random album and hope it’s decent, here are the five quintessential electronica albums to bring you into the fray.
5. Velocifero (2008) by Ladytron
– While this popular album by the England group Ladytron is certainly electronic, with all its synthesizers and effects, it could constitute a rock album as well. The choruses are catchy, there are guitar tracks here and there, and most of all the tunes are LOUD. Every track is laden heavily with distortion and this along with the echoing vocals you feel as if Ladytron is playing in their garage or a noisy rock concert. So what you have here is a boisterous hard rock/electronica album, and it’s probably the best mix of the two out there. Certain tracks are repetitive when they need to be (“Runaway”), while others slowly escalate to fantastic, dark endings (“Predict the Day”). From the opening track’s elongated intro to the infectious chorus of “Ghosts,” this album has all the pop sensibilities and structure of rock yet keeps the electronica effects, synths, and repetition fully intact.
– Best Song: “Black Cat”
4. Lindsey Stirling (2012) by Lindsey Stirling
– This is the most recent album on this list, and you can tell its modernity by listening to it and catching the obvious dubstep influence. However, this album beats every other dubstep album out there because it takes the genre in a completely new and, in this writer’s opinion, better direction. Stirling is a classical violinist, and rather than focus her tracks on the dubstep rhythms and noise, she puts it in the background and lays beautiful, soaring violin melodies on top. The result is an impressive and consistently entertaining combination of classical and electronic. Most of the songs have a very epic feel to them, which makes sense since Lindsey Stirling did an infamous cover of the theme song from Skyrim. This album is fast, fun, and a perfect soundtrack to which to work out at the gym.
– Best Song: “Crystallize”
3. Talkie Walkie (2004) by Air
– On the softer side of things comes Talkie Walkie by Air, a gorgeous sounding and impeccably constructed outing by the electronic French duo. This album is ten tracks long and each one has its own function in the album and offers some completely new to the listening experience. Absolutely nothing is out of place, and the track listing is perfect. It’s obvious Air spent a long time deciding what track goes where, and you really need to listen to it from start to finish. The songs themselves are mostly pleasant and serene, quickly relaxing the listener and pulling them into a kind of peaceful dream world. This is not an exaggeration. From the love struck lyrics of “Venus” to the somewhat somber “Alone in Kyoto,” this album is like hypnosis to the ears. That isn’t to say the album is boring either. A wild mix of instruments makes an appearance here, including guitars, banjos, flutes, keyboards, and a variety of synth effects. Tracks like “Alpha Beta Gaga” pump adrenaline into the album when it’s needed, and if you’re a musician you’ll enjoy it even more since every melody from every instrument is meticulously added and beautifully played. Listening to this album is like listening to a manual on good song construction.
– Best Song: “Alpha Beta Gaga”
2. Ratatat (2004) by Ratatat
– The follow up album (Classics) to this debut by the New York duo is also excellent and worth a listen, but Ratatat is a must-have for anyone wanting to get some electronica into their musical library due its unforgettable nature. It is fully instrumental minus a few random speaking parts between songs, yet despite having no lyrics each song carries a great deal of emotional power. Here’s how many of the tracks go: start with a simple beat, then add this melody, then add that melody, and then keep adding until you have a nice, full song going, and then add sorrowful yet pretty melody on top of everything that will stick in your head for days. In this regard, Ratatat shares many traits with classical music. Some tracks are intense, some are fun, some will make you want to dance while others while make you think hard about your life or present surroundings. It’s stunning how Ratatat can make one feel so much without saying anything, and the way each song escalates to a rousing finish can make even a cynic’s heart soften a bit. Every individual I’ve introduced Ratatat to has personally thanked me, and to quote one of them, “this music will change your life.”
– Best Song: “Desert Eagle”
1. Discovery (2001) by Daft Punk
– Even if you’re new to electronica, you need this band would show up. From “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack that carried the movie to the great, head-banging arm-raising remix bonanza that was their live album, Daft Punk is like the King Midas of music: everything they touch turns to gold. Yet out of all their work, Discovery stands as king of electronica for two reasons. First, it helped bring house techno of the 90’s into rock and pop, which more hardcore fans may have complained about if it were not for reason two; the album is awesome. There is plenty of techno beats (“Superheroes”) to satisfy previous fans, yet where Discovery truly soars is in the pop and instrumental tracks. “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” are obvious, crowd-pleasing classics, and as great as they are, what’s more impressive is how Discovery keeps the good vibes and musicianship going throughout the album. Many albums fall in the track 9-12 range, with many of the songs feeling like leftover filler, yet here we have the funky “Voyager” with its badass bass line, the soft, organ-infused “Veridis Quo” and probably my favorite love song of all time, “Something About Us.” Even the last, 14-minute track is a great song to drive to. There’s something here for everybody, electronica lovers or not, and if you are interested in getting into this genre of music, then Discovery is the perfect place to start. Get in your car, roll the windows down, hit the highway, blast this album and thank me later.
– Best Track: “Something About Us”