I initially conceived this list as a starting point to further explore of one of the biggest albums of the year: "Ayo, if you liked that Grimes record, this shit is pretty good, too." The Korean and Japanese pop influence on Visions made it easy to like, but it was the gauzy textures, unconventional song structures, and understated vocal subtleties that made it addictive.
Last year's weird electronic pop champ was synth theorist John Maus, and now Claire Boucher is an even more prominent figure in the legion of programmers, producers and reformed noiseniks stretching familiar forms. While they might not sit comfortably with every Grimes obsessive, these five albums pulled from various experimental electronic sources to each make a memorably skewed engagement with pop in 2012.
Halo's voice is not conventionally sweeping or sweet yet it succeeds as the main tool in her arsenal, sometimes foisted up front without any reverb or processing. While her airtight synth nodes sound oblique, her lyrics are fearless and affecting.Julia Holter - Ekstasis
Minimal synth pop familiar to fans of Beach House but scaled down to backyard scale, Holter's ambient sweetness doesn't need much to charm.Prince Rama - Top Ten Hits of the End of the World
The conceit of this record is a fun one: Prince Rama embodied ten imaginary bands that died in the apocalypse and wrote ten different tracks of doomed futuristic pop. While there are too many overall similarities forTop Ten
to sound like a sort of lost artifact mixtape, the general feel of echoing vocals, swarming synths and glamorous melodies makes our untimely destruction not so bad.James Ferraro - Sushi
I wasn't enamored with the ringtone sheen of last year'sFar Side Virtual
, but Ferraro's newest is an expansion on the high-fructose, high-definition R&B of his side monikers Bodyguard and Bebetunes.Sushi
is a slightly less kitschy, more warped take on commercial radio hit formulas.Andy Stott - Luxury Problems
For someone who only recently uncovered an appreciation for dance music,Luxury Problems
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proved to be a swell gateway for me to enter the expanding worlds of outsider house and noise-inflected dance floor jams.