As is the case with most musical genres that have enjoyed mainstream success, a thriving, less commercially viable counterculture lies beneath the surface of glitzy private jets and serial model dating. Enter electronica, the sometimes-conjoined sister to the wildly-popular electronic dance music (EDM) scene in the impossibly convoluted family tree that is music genre labeling.
While EDM primarily caters to the dance-happy raver/clubber crowd, electronica encompases a broader spectrum of followers that can sometime include dance-lovers but also includes fans of downtempo, techno, and so-called “underground” music. Although a sizable overlap between EDM and electronica exists, electronica as a genre possesses a distinguishing je ne sais quoi. Think of it as the “alternative” of the electronic world (disclaimer: as is the case with any genre, it’s not difficult to find a legion of people who will disagree with my definition of electronica — to each their own).
Considering EDM’s meteoric rise in popularity, it’s unsurprising that 2012 has subsequently been a banner year for electronica releases. This means that narrowing down my 10 favorite tracks of the year was a daunting and harrowing task for me, but without further ado…
10. Tycho – “Dive”
No one does ambient techno quite like the San Francisco-based Tycho. For whatever reason, “Dive” conjures up images of me diving into a swimming pool filled with featherweight meringue. I have no idea why, but I sure as hell don’t mind.
9. Flying Lotus – “Putty Boy Strut”
I fell in love with this quirky track from LA’s own Flying Lotus following my first playthrough of 2012′s Until the Quiet Comes. It’s bleepy, it’s bloopy, and the video is trippy as all hell. What’s not to love?
8. Claude VonStroke feat. Jaw – “Le Fantôme”
Claude VonStroke is lauded by many as a master of minimal sounds. This sexy track with its smooth, progressive punch serves only to reinforce that notion.
7. Junkie XL feat. Isis Salam – “Off The Dancefloor”
As expected from a four-year break in music production, Dutch legend Junkie XL’s newest album, Synthesized, is a marked departure from his earlier releases. Still, if there’s anyone who can put out non-prosaic dance music, it’s him. Although he got some flack from fans for straying, I enjoyed his newest effort and this song in particular.
6. Air – “Parade”
I’m still bitter about Air’s cancelled show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall several years back. This new single from them: NOT HELPING. The ethereal French duo seems incapable of doing any wrong (knock on wood).
5. Simian Mobile Disco – “Your Love Ain’t Fair”
This tune off of 2012′s Unpatterns is a favorite of mine and KCRW DJ Jason Bentley. How is bass allowed to be so very delicious? How is a chord progression allowed to be so addictive? How can lyrics comprised entirely of four words sound so complete?
4. Toro y Moi – “So Many Details”
This single has further whetted my already-fervent appetite for Toro y Moi’s third release and cemented Chazwick Bundick’s status as a chillwave god. Peppered with tinges of funk and soul, Bundick strikes a beautiful, multi-dimensional balance with this track.
3. Nosaj Thing – “Eclipse/Blue”
LA-based Jason Chung is kind of really amazing. Seriously. Although his music can sometimes be a bit on the experimental side of things, “Eclipse/Blue” is definitely one of his more accessible releases. The music video is absolutely stunning to boot.
2. Layo & Bushwacka – “Raw Defined”
Not technically a single, but this song is ear sex. It may seem repetitive at first, but you’d be hard pressed not to notice the workmanship that went into this track after several listens. It’s sumptuously layered, intelligently structured, and tantalizingly raw.
1. Modeselektor feat. Otto von Schirach – “Evil Twin”
2011′s Monkeytown is easily one of my favorites from the year, so it’s no surprise that 2012′s single from the album, “Evil Twin,” snagged the #1 spot on my list. This song and its intelligently intricate movements are visceral as fuck. The ingenious music video concept certainly doesn’t hurt either.