Could 2015 be officially declared the year of the debut LP? The Revenge, Romare, Hunee, Nocturnal Sunshine are just a few acts who've taken the plunge into dance LP oblivion for the first time this year and, as a result, made our Top 10; who've stuck a middle finger to those with the gall to (still) argue that dance albums don't work as a concept.
Rather than lazily selecting a few random tracks from their hard drives (save those for EPs!), they've proved the opposite once again; that house, techno, garage, disco, d&b, bass and breaks (and all that's in between) are the scenes producing the most challenging albums there are. These are the ones that defined our year...
London's Romare proved to be arguably the UK's most exciting new talent when 'Projections' dropped onto Ninja Tune earlier this year. Clearly a master of the album format, even on his debut, he's unwilling to settle on a single idea, never losing focus or trying too hard to break the mould along the way.
Clearly influenced by the tough polyrhythms of Afrobeat, New Orleans railroad jazz/blues and the joyously gay house of the '90s within a techno format, 'Projections' takes vintage modes and spins them with a modern, futuristic cutting edge in a way that's utterly unique. Hands-down the most inspired album of the year, a crystal-clear vision, and one destined to stand the test of time.
02. Special Request
We waited too long for the return of Special Request — the junglist/warehouse rave alter ego of producer Paul Woolford — to return. But what a comeback! This time he dropped it to house speed, chucked in some 4/4 kicks and made it more playable for a host of dancefloors. So did Woolie sell-out? Did he fuck! The breakbeats and crazy drum-edits are still present and correct; synapse-scrambling bass warps our skulls; euphoric rave pianos enter the fray — simply put, it's the most entirely dance-focused record of the year.
'For The Thrown'
The LHF collective hail from all over the world, but their cult-defining sound design on 'For The Thrown' could be of another planet. Full of reflective synths, long-tailed pads and pixelated melody, 'For The Thrown' is a candied fusion of the most tender moments from acts like Aphex Twin and Boards Of Canada that ultimately suspends you in the most lush and joyous musical realms imaginable. Moods drift from insular and late-night to sun-bathed and al fresco, with instruments — harps, trumpets, finger-clicks and analogue machines — all elegantly reflecting that.
04. Fort Romeau
It didn't taken long for London's Mike Greene to become one of most talked-about new talents in disco. Two years, in fact. After a handful of EPs, an album for 100% Silk and a Beats In Space mix, he was already tipped for big things, but it was his LP for Ghostly in March that really got the mill turning. Why is simple.
Greene's textured, breezy Balearic take on the house formula is a sound that lends itself particularly well to an album, and 'Insides' is an absorbing collection of heady cosmic techno that segues along effortlessly — hypnotising and dense with thick, syrupy substance throughout.
05. Crazy P
'Walk Dance Talk Sing'
Nestled somewhere between disco, pop and house, Crazy P have built their own runaway on which to walk. Or rather, strut. With this in mind, their seventh studio LP this summer at times gave a firm high-five to the sort of sound Nile Rodgers wish he'd have written, while at others pulling on the heartstrings in a way that only Crazy P can.
Singer Danielle Moore's cigarette-soaked vocals slide alongside good quality musicality from Ron Basejam and Hot Toddy, which harks back to a bygone era viewed with all the modern slickness of 21st Century studio production. An undisputed triumph.
06. The Revenge
'Love That Will Not Die'
After 15 years of making some of the most defined nu-disco the UK has had to offer — both as The Revenge and as one half of 6th Borough Project (alongside Craig Smith) — Glasgow's Graeme Clark finally delivered his debut solo album of tunes from scratch in April of this year.
And thankfully, it was well worth the wait. Built of characteristically hypnotic grooves throughout, there's a more deliberate focus to Clark's approach on the album which fleshes out an impressive range of styles within a sleek, stylish world that borrows from Chicago, New York, Detroit and Berlin without losing his thread. An album that still continues to give months after its release — as the title suggests — 'Love That Will Not Die' will last a long, long time.
What a year it's been for Phillip Lauer! As well as teaming up with Gerd Janson to produce some of the most memorable dancefloor moments as Tuff City Kids, his LP as Lauer for Permanent Vacation was an example of how a house album can be illustrious, decorative and danceable all at the same time.
'Borndom' is a breathtaking journey through twinkling Nordic disco, lumbering analogue house, euphoric pianos and unashamedly heartful Italo, proving once again that absolutely nobody does it quite like Lauer.
08. Catz N' Dogz
'Basic Colour Theory'
Grzegorz Demiańczuk and Wojciech Tarańczuk's third album is a homecoming of sorts — their first long-player unleashed through their own Pets Recordings imprint (their first and second both came out on Claude VonStroke's Mothership).
It's for the best, because it deserves to be all theirs. Well, theirs and various collaborators', of which there are many including Peter Bjorn & John and Javeon. Created from a library of self-generated samples, 'Basic Colour Theory' is a kaleidoscopic collage made with thought, care, passion and, most of all, joy. Shimmering with Balearic bliss all over, it helped define the summer and remained lodged in our brains ever since.
09. Nocturnal Sunshine
The debut, self-titled LP from Maya Jane Coles' garage-inflected side-project fairly eclipsed the one she made in her own name last year. It reflected her love of the bassier side of dance: the pirate radio flavours of dubstep, two-step, and their myriad mutations.
Full credit to Maya for sticking to her guns with 'Nocturnal Sunshine', when she could easily have reverted to the more famous — and accessible — sounds of her DJ sets. And 'bass music' suits her to a tee, a sound which powered some of her earliest releases before she diverted into a more linear tech-house direction. Incredible production, plenty of ideas and tracks that move feet and heads. Dope to the bone!
Amsterdam-based, Korean-German producer Hunee is the kind of house head that the most discerning DJs dig, mainly for his dancefloor EPs, but his debut album 'Hunch Music' in the summer proved he could expertly handle the intrepid dance LP too.
His Rush Hour full-length is Hunee all over. Playful, experimental and packed with plenty of funk, his beats rarely neglect the 'floor. Colourful synths leap from the speaker in a riot of synaesthetic splendour, while house is loaded with ambiguous emotion, pregnant with tension and pendulous bass.
There's acid, Detroitian pads, swells of bass and percussive wiggles, and the vibe is of Chicago veteran producer dipped in vivid tones of Dulux. When in the house, Hunee is sweet!