March 4th: The Knocks – 55
Long before Daft Punk made it cool again by dusting off Nile Rodgers’ bass and going analogue for comeback album Random Access Memories, New York duo The Knocks were busy building quite the repertoire of disco’s relentless spirit being spun into easygoing electronic pop. Material on 55, named after the address of their studio, stretches back to 2013’s ‘Comfortable,’ a collaboration with X Ambassadors, thus projecting to the familiar ear as more of a muddle of old and new (with the former largely outdoing the latter) than it actually is. Nevertheless, when its groovier components stand alone there is a lot of fun to be had: Wyclef Jean adorns cocky percussive punches and synth throbs on ‘Kiss The Sky’ with one of the album’s biggest hooks, Glee alumnus Alex Newell enhances his reputation as the modern disco diva we all need with a soaring role on ‘Collect My Love,’ and Carly Rae Jepsen shows up for a lovely, bright flap towards her E•MO•TIONally-based retro work of late in a collaboration (‘Love Me Like That’) spawned from The Knocks’ ‘All That’ bootleg receiving her official seal of approval.
March 11th: ANOHNI – ‘DRONE BOMB ME’
HOPELESSNESS, the first post-Antony And The Johnsons record from ANOHNI, may have made it to our top 50 of the year by the narrowest of margins, however its concept is certainly amongst the most compelling. Described by one of our writers as “a unique proposal in modern pop, with confrontational and uncomfortable lyrics built to challenge as much as to make you dance,” its marriage of her incisive voice and emphatically solemn production from Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never is executed most memorably on its lead single, written as if from a young Afghan girl left without a family after drone attacks and recited (for some reason) by Naomi Campbell in the video.
March 18th: Baauer – Aa
As a rule of thumb, today’s electronic artists – or, if you absolutely insist on trying to be a little bit more specific whilst making me roll my eyes and grumble audibly, merchants of EDM – make it look incredibly hard to transform flash-in-the-pan single successes into extended (and vaguely coherent/listenable) bodies of work. Aa, however, dropped the gimmicky connotations that ‘Harlem Shake’ generated whilst Baauer became 2013’s Rae Sremmurd whilst amplifying its potency VERY LOUDLY. At 33 minutes and with four of its tracks under two minutes, it wastes no time at all running from ferocious instrumental ‘GoGo!’ towards showcasing star features (Pusha T, Future, M.I.A., etc.) who fell for the best of his enchanting trap.
March 25th: The Range – Potential
With his remarkable knack of falling down YouTube rabbit holes and returning with troves of anonymous vocal samples perfect to orchestrate compelling electronica around, The Range provides with Potential everything my procrastination aspires to be. Superimpose, a half-hour companion documentary distributed by Pitchfork and soundtracked by The Range’s discography, explores the human element this technique induces masterfully, travelling to Jamaica to meet a prison officer with a reggae side business (‘1804’) and finding the person behind a derelict YouTube channel that had an Ariana Grande cover with 57 views (‘Florida’).