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DJ Mag's top 50 albums of 2019

2019 was a year in which deeply personal and boldly political music ruled the long-player format. Below, you'll find the 50 albums that defined the year in electronic music

Some years stand out for the bangers they produced, for the adrenaline-shot belters that shook festivals and club floors night after night, and never felt overplayed. While 2019 had no shortage of those, this year will be more easily remembered for its albums. 

From experimental masterpieces to punchy dancefloor efforts, 2019 was a year that saw deeply personal and boldly political work come to the fore in the long-player format. As we noted in our albums of the decade round up, turbulent times have found many artists making increasingly vigorous socio-political work, while others have found new ways of making introspective works with electronic instruments, and even Artificial Intelligence. 2019 found these themes coalescing masterfully on more than one occasion, and pointed to an electronic and dance music landscape that is more emotionally open, and politically engaged, than it has been in a long time.

It also marked a landmark year for UK rap and grime, with artists like slowthai, Dave, Kano and Little Simz releasing albums that further solidified the genres’ status as the most vital in the world right now. Dave’s album ‘Psychodrama’ won the Mercury Prize in September, against competition from indie giants, whilst Kano played a sold-out show at London’s Royal Albert Hall in October. Of the younger artists coming through, slowthai was nominated for the Mercury Prize for his acerbic debut full-length proper, ‘Nothing Great About Britain’, yet another testament to the engaged and unwavering energy that defined electronic music across the board in 2019. 

As we look into 2020 and beyond, with no end to the turbulence in sight, the value of that energy cannot be understated. Below, you’ll find DJ Mag’s Top 50 albums of the year. These LPs not only defined the past year in electronic and dance music, but will continue to inspire and invigorate as a new decade begins. 

Ibibio Sound Machine 'Doko Mien'

Ibibio Sound Machine’s mix of Nigerian Afrobeat, electronic funk and post-punk reaches its zenith on ‘Doko Mien’. With a charismatic front-woman in Eno Williams, the band stretchs out with the disco of ‘Wanna Come Down’ and gave Beth Ditto a run for her money on the marvellous, Yazoo-esque ‘Tell Me (Doko Mien)’. Ben Murphy

Bored Lord 'Transexual Rave Hymns'

Weaving rave breaks, garage and jersey club with strands of techno, house and R&B, Bored Lord’s debut LP on Knightwerk Records strikes first as a collection of radiant dancefloor workouts. The album reveals itself as something more reflective, though, as deft vocal samples become impassioned mantras about personal discovery. With shades of light and dark, of resolution and melancholy, Bored Lord’s portrait of life as a transgender woman deserves to be heard far and wide. Eoin Murray

Blanck Mass 'Animated Violence Mild'

The third studio album from Blanck Mass sees Benjamin John Power reach further into his murky catalogue of abrasive, abstract sounds and gritty electronics. It feels like a soundtrack for a thrilling action film in some parts, and a rendition from a 50-piece orchestra in others, as the producer and live artist explores a dynamic spectrum of electronics through drone, ambience, synth work and distorted vocal samples. Amy Fielding

Karenn 'Grapefruit Regret'

The result of a union between Blawan and Pariah, Karenn, started life as a live techno project. Launching their Voam imprint with an EP of abstract electronics earlier this year, ‘Grapefruit Regret’ followed in November, with eight tracks of dark, brain-rattling techno. Album standout ‘Crush The Mushrooms’ quickly became an underground set staple, its spiralling rave energy conjured from tumultuous drums and acid-tinged, multi-dimensional textures. Amy Fielding 

Dolenz 'Lingua Franca'

Exit Records has been responsible for more high-ranking drum & bass albums than any other label this side of the millenium, and — though he has barely a handful of releases to his name — Dolenz’s debut joins that list. Just when hip-hop-inspired halftime seemed played out, Dolenz injected a fresh burst of unearthly low-end and squelchy sonics into the style, all coated in a rustic hiss and pushed with the uncompromising attitude that made hip-hop’s golden era so impossible to ignore. Ben Hindle 

The Chemical Brothers 'No Geography'

‘No Geography’ is testament to what’s at the very core of The Chemical Brothers. Not so much mixing genres as creating new ones that somehow sound familiar, it’s stadium-filling but smart, fun and political, filled with myriad ideas while remaining accessible. Chart friendly, specialist stuff. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Flowdan 'Full Metal Jacket'

The third LP from early Roll Deep Crew member Flowdan sees the East London MC double down on his dark take on grime, as many artists from the scene experiment with pop-driven sounds. Featuring production from heavyweights Footsie, Plastician, and Maniac, as well as newcomers in Filthy Gears, Riddla, and Muszolini, the album also sees vocal collaborations with BBK’s Frisco, as well as dancehall MC Irah, and proves that Flowdan’s music remains ice cold after almost 20 years in the game. Rob McCallum 

Efdemin 'New Atlantis'

Despite opening with an 18th century Methodist hymn, Berghain resident Efdemin’s ‘New Atlantis’ is a very 2019 album. From its luminous ambient prelude to the fast-paced, trance-like colour of ‘Good Winds’, Efdemin plucks from contemporary experimental and club trends while staying committed to deep, rolling techno. Eoin Murray 

HTRK 'Venus In Leo'

An album to get lost in, the fourth LP from HTRK sees the duo follow their 2014 effort with a significant stylistic shift. Shedding the submerged rock aesthetic of the past, this is an immersive journey into lo-fi electronica crafted from pure emotion. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Girl Unit 'Song Feel'

On ‘Song Feel’, Girl Unit captures late night vibes, hopeless romanticism and luxurious atmospherics. Smooth R&B melodies and lyrics are contrasted with abrasive textures, weaving through video game sonics and pop rhythms. It’s a sensual and emotional album of stirring soundscapes. Amy Fielding 

Coco Bryce 'Night On Earth'

The way the main break so casually rolls in on opening track ‘Irian Jaya’ sets the tone for ‘Night On Earth’. Encompassing everything that’s fun and free about jungle, it’s a beautiful, psychedelic — sometimes whimsical — album, showcasing the Dutch producer’s talent for writing dreamy tracks that can turn the dancefloor into a throng of enchanted limbs. Ben Hindle 

Tyler, The Creator 'IGOR'

Tyler, The Creator’s 2017 album ‘Flower Boy’ lulled fans into a sense that the artist had peaked in all his creative glory. ‘IGOR’ proved everybody wrong. Embracing his alter-ego, Tyler showcases his emotional complexities, with intricate melodies and witty lyricism that paint a picture of acceptance and moving forward with unmatched energy. Amy Fielding

Carla Dal Forno 'Look Up Sharp'

Dal Forno’s second album, and the first to land on her own imprint rather than the recently shut Blackest Ever Black, is where surreal guitars, opiate downbeat and ambient merge. Lyrically it’s business as usual — meditations on loves lost or not-yet-discovered — but when it comes to delivery, it’s her most assured yet. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Phil Kieran 'Life Cycling'

Althouh many tracks on ‘Life Cycling’ run at sub-120BPM, Phil Kieran has a gift for atmospheric power. Sometimes ethereal, sometimes uncompromising and upfront, and all with a surrealist tinge, the album moves between mature dancefloor material and electronic shoegaze sounds with a deft touch. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Shanti Celeste 'Tangerine'

As a producer, Bristol’s Shanti Celeste may be best known for her highly effective takes on house and electro, but ‘Tangerine’, as an album should, shows another side of her musical personality. Boasting beatific new age ambient (‘Sun Notification’) and rapid-fire M1 breakbeat (‘Want’), it proves her versatility and considerable studio skills. Ben Murphy

Jacques Greene 'Dawn Chorus'

2019 saw Jacques Greene return to Hudson Mohawke’s LuckyMe with a sugar-sweet rendering of early mornings and after parties. The follow up to 2017’s ‘Feel Inifinite’, ‘Dawn Chorus’ finds the Canadian DJ, producer and live artist offering lush synths, dreamy melodies and deep house sentiments, all cascading over soft vocal work and intricate drum patterns. Amy Fielding

Stenny 'Upsurge'

Another of Ilian Tape’s dream team steps into the light, after the modern classic ‘Compro’ by Skee Mask. Inhabiting a gauzy, fuzzed out maze of ambient synths and shuddering rhythms, ‘Upsurge’s atmospheric power is embellished with galactic electro, cosmic grime and other strange, imaginative sounds. Ben Murphy

Mikron 'Severance'

One of the most beautiful leftfield electronic records of recent times, ‘Severance’ is the work of Cork, Ireland-based brothers Michael and Ciaran Corcoran, and finds them exploring the emotional landscapes previously mapped by artists like Reload and Boards Of Canada. With a distinctive contemporary sheen, Mikron’s take on melancholy ambient and down-tempo electronics is miles ahead of the copyists. Ben Murphy

Konx-Om-Pax 'Ways of Seeing'

Up till now, Glasgow’s Konx-Om-Pax has been best known for his dazzling animations and design for artists like Lone, but ‘Ways Of Seeing’ proves he’s equally adept in the studio. Psychotropic takes on trap and hazy house, and tracks like the gorgeous ‘Paris 5am’, make this a real treat. Ben Murphy

MC Yallah x Debmaster 'Kubali'

Pairing the direct lyrical flow of Kenyan MC Yallah with Debmaster’s rugged cuts, ‘Kubali’ landed on Nyege Nyege Tapes’ club-orientated sub-label Hakuna Kulala in August. The album embodies where club music is at in East Africa right now: a devastating delivery of bass-heavy soundsystem music. Rob McCallum

Violet 'Bed of Roses'

Many years in the making, Violet’s debut album tells her musical history in disparate chapters. The spatial and gentile ‘Bed of Roses Pt.II’, frenetic warehouse jam ‘Spectral’, and titular nod to Bon Jovi are just three examples. An unapologetically personal work that is at times confusing, and always compelling. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Leif 'Loom Dream'

There’s an earthy glow to Leif’s music. From the luxurious fireplace crackle of 2013’s ‘Dinas Oleu’ to the crumbly house of 2015’s ‘Taraxacum’, the Welsh producer and Freerotation festival resident DJ brews intoxicating remedies to cure whatever ails you. On ‘Loom Dream’, Leif’s first “fully” ambient album, he blends pastoral field recordings and dusty chimes into soothing ambient beds, while muted, sporadic percussion keeps things upright and stirring. Eoin Murray

Mat Playford 'Solar'

Wearing his heart on his sleeve, or at least an interest in all things above the stratosphere, Playford’s intergalactic adventure showcases the producer’s musicality. ‘Ephermis’ is the cosmic roller you’ve been looking for, ‘Tomorrow’s World’ sounds like entering a techy acid wormhole, and ‘Kic 8462852’ marries sci-fi with a warehouse rave. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Deft 'Cracks'

Croydon’s Yip Wong walks the line between halftime club belters and more experimental concepts, but his debut album combines these to dramatic effect. Largely written during his sister’s terminal illness, it’s an introspective record of delicate notes and arrangements. Melancholic and thoughtful, at times run through with the kind of confused anger that only grief can bring, it demands full listening. Ben Hindle

Moor Mother 'Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes'

The fourth album of Moor Mother’s brutally acerbic spoken word, ‘Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Holes’ landed on Don Giovanni Records in November. Featuring collaborations with Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Zonal), King Britt, Saul Williams, Giant Swan and Bookworms, the Philadelphia artist wrenches minds open to knotted societal issues. Rob McCallum

Floating Points 'Crush'

Made in a five week period, ‘Crush’ calls on a plethora of electronic styles. Garage meets sci-fi on ‘Bias’, ‘LesAlpx’ is a progressive builder, string cacophonies rule on ‘Falaise’ and ‘Environments’ is a love letter to glitch. Few albums suit our genre-melting era better. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Sudan Archives 'Athena'

Since breaking through in 2017 with single ‘Come Meh Way’, Sudan Archives has been praised for her lucid and luxurious take on R&B and experimental electronics. Her debut album finds her evolving, fusing distinct, self-taught violin playing, influenced by North-east African styles, with rich beats and intoxicating vocals. The album is as assured as it is vulnerable, exploring themes of internal conflict to stunning effect. Eoin Murray

Rian Treanor 'ATAXIA'

Rian Treanor’s debut album landed on Planet Mu in March, following EPs on The Death Of Rave and Warp’s Arcola imprint. The album title, ‘ATAXIA’, the medical term for the loss of control of bodily movements, perhaps best describes the album. Its club sounds are as fractured as they are danceable. Rob McCallum

Flying Lotus 'Flamagra'

The LA production maverick launches another brain-rewiring album into the stratosphere. ‘Flamagra’ totals 27 tracks and covers seriously varied ground, yet almost always rooted in the LA beat scene he helped to pioneer. There are enough hooks and killer beats here to invite repeated listens, yet he still flies his own freak flag mighty high, attracting hefty collaborators: Solange, George Clinton, David Lynch join hip-hop hotshots and alt heroes. Tristan Parker 

Photonz 'Nuit'

Veering between nostalgia-tipped dancefloor stuff and eclecticism, Lisbon’s Photonz made ‘Nuit’ with the intention of being remembered. From the trance-y edges of arpeggiated ‘Shakti’, through boxfresh electro on ‘Avalon’ and ‘Lusting’, to ‘Doomsday Dub’’s menacing synth punk, it’s a far-reaching showcase for the producer and the Dark Entries label. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Aleksi Perälä 'Sunshine 3'

Finnish artist Aleksi Perälä has spent years producing techno music based on the Colundi musical tuning system, which disregards the conventional Western 12-tone scale for something more expansive and ecstatic. Drawing on his early days with the Rephlex label (under different aliases) and his increasingly spiritual interpretation of Colundi, Perälä released ‘Sunshine 3’ this year: the final release of the Sunshine trilogy, its sparkling cascades of techno, ambience and IDM-hinting beats showcase of his original, developing sound. Lauren Martin

rRoxymore 'Face To Phase'

French producer rRoxymore grew up in a jazz-loving home and a father who was friends with Sun Ra. The radical experimentalism and passion for genre-bending compositions imbued in jazz has stayed with her every since. On her debut album, she weaves raw noise and musical objects from her custom sound-bank into eight tracks of vaporous dub minimalism and frenetic percussive beats. In looking at house and techno from this multidisciplinary viewpoint, rRoxymore fills ‘Face To Phase’ with delightful, original ideas. Lauren Martin

Response & Pliskin 'We're All Disturbed'

This highly anticipated expansion of the Manchester duo’s cavernous jungle tekno sound is all we could have hoped for and more. Pummeling four-to-the-floor kicks, urgent breakbeats and euphoric melodies come together in a truly world-building fashion, shaping an album that taps into rave’s rebellious heritage and primordial need to dance. Ben Hindle 

Little Simz 'Grey Area'

‘Grey Area’ is Little Simz most thrilling and direct album to date. Riding a reinforced backbone of thumping drum work and overdriven bass, and juxtaposed with soulful backing vocals, Simz’s forceful delivery of personal lyrics around making sense of her twenties, alongside fiery political commentary, leaves listeners in no doubt that, in her own words, she’s “a boss in a fucking dress”. Ben Hindle

Octo Octa 'Resonant Body'

Made during a spell of downtime after hectic touring in her New Hampshire woodland cabin, Octo Octa channels her deep knowledge of the club into eight essential tracks. ‘Move Your Body’ is a ravey New York house piece with vocal samples, stabs and sub bass, and ‘Ecstatic Beat’ finds her chopping an Amen break into a million shards. There’s the occasional moment of placid reflection, as on the ambient tones and loon calls of ‘My Body Is Powerful’, but her style is simply dance music, made with love. Ben Murphy

AJ Tracey 'AJ Tracey'

AJ Tracey’s debut album details his journey from underground MC to megastar. Following a slew of singles, features, and EPs, and years spent on the grime circuit, ‘AJ TRACEY’ dropped in February. It’s a nod to the current scene’s climate, with nuances of grime, afrobeats and garage — his hometown ode ‘Ladbroke Grove’ is a breakthrough hit, a resurrection of garage in the pop consciousness — and production credits from Kiwi Records’ Conducta, Steel Banglez and Rex Kudo. Amy Fielding

Paranoid London 'PL'

Paranoid London’s return to the album format is an unashamed celebration of raw party vibes. Simple but effective, staccato vocal loops, screaming 303s and rough drums abound, with the bonus of appearances from Arthur Baker, Mutado Pintado and the sorely missed Suicide vocalist Alan Vega. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Giant Swan 'Giant Swan'

On their debut album, released on their newly minted KECK label, Bristol duo Giant Swan solidify their status as one of the most formidable new techno acts in the UK. Grizzly, distorted drums, roaring industrial bass and chopped up vocals make for an intense, but always fun, listen. Like their infamously unhinged live shows, it’s an album of ecstatic, honest-to-goodness mayhem. Eoin Murray

Anthony Naples 'Fog FM'

Anthony Naple’s ‘Fog FM’ is an enchanting listen. The tracks on the New York producer's latest album gallop along with crisp, punchy beats and sizzling electric echoes. Colourful motifs drift between the beats throughout, making for the most satisfying hour of dub-infused house and techno we’ve heard in a long time. Eoin Murray

Dave 'Psychodrama'

Dave's Mercury Music Prize-winning album ‘Psychodrama’ is the story of a year of therapy from the South London MC, dealing with issues like mental health and his brother’s incarceration. Personal, honest and bold, it introduced the artist to a global audience, and shows exactly where UK rap is at at the end of the decade. Rob McCallum

Paula Temple 'Edge of Everything'

This powerful debut was a long time in the making, and doesn’t disappoint. Temple’s devastating and dramatic style of techno evokes dystopian landscapes with blistering drum programming and scintillating percussive sounds. A real white-knuckle ride, ‘Edge Of Everything’ channels Temple’s concern for a world on the brink of ecological disaster, suggesting through hints of celestial melody and murmurs of distant cosmic lifeforms that there is a glimmer of hope for humanity — well, just enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. Kristan J Caryl

Klein 'Lifetime'

On ‘Lifetime’, Klein’s music oozes with confidence. The South London artist’s fourth album uses the same shadowy bass drones, eerie pianos and disorienting structures as in previous albums, but this time round it all feels more purposeful. Haunting samples, sung and spoken, course through each track, forming intense, abstract reflections on family, faith and the black diasporic experience, from the spectral trip-hop of ‘Claim It’ to the disorienting personal dialogue of ‘Honour’. Eoin Murray

Galcher Lustwerk 'Information'

Galcher Lustwerk emerged in 2013 with his 100% production mix for Blowing Up The Workshop, his laconic rap-tinged vocals marbled over tempered deep house. Sounding lonely and burned out, he’s honed his signature over several albums. His third album under this name, ‘Information’, is his finest, his vaporous synth work twinned with jazzy hip-hop drumming. ‘Information’ sounds like the dying embers of the afters, and lingers long in the mind. Lauren Martin

Special Request 'Vortex'

Paul Woolford’s Special Request alias has been instrumental in taking the contemporary UK club sound back to its junglist roots. His ‘Vortex’ album is an all-encompassing round-up of the tropes that have defined rave as we know it. Masterfully fusing these nostalgic motifs into a sound that is undeniably 2019, this album is an instant classic. Olly Gee

Holly Herndon 'PROTO'

With her 2019 release ‘PROTO’, Holly Herndon disregards conventional notions around electronic music production and performance. Created in collaboration with an AI program called “Spawn”, built by Herndon and her artist partner Mat Dryhurst, the album features live vocal processing, with Spawn interpreting sounds and spitting them back out. With so many new and unique ideas packed into one album, the project will be looked back on as a landmark release. Dhruva Balram

Kano 'Hoodies All Summer'

In politically uncertain times, when those in power are happy to tell us they have all the answers, Kano pays tribute to the disenfranchised casualties of a broken generation, with razor-sharp takes on why, as a society, we’re asking the wrong questions. Reflecting the quiet poise of a veteran at his creative peak, ‘Hoodies All Summer’ might be the most thought-provoking grime release since ‘Boy In Da Corner’ — which, considering the strength of some of the albums released between then and now, is high praise indeed. Reiss De Bruin

Murlo 'Dolos'

In a world where the term ‘concept album’ has become eye-rollingly commonplace, to be presented with a record as animated and accomplished as ‘Dolos’ is life-affirming. Over 51 dazzling minutes, Murlo gleefully flies through the electronic spectrum, brushing on grime, garage, R&B, trance, funky and ambient to tell the story of “a man who escapes the city in search of solace”. Accompanied by an 36-page graphic novel, also written and drawn by Murlo, every element of this project bursts with colour. Eoin Murray

Barker 'Utility'

In a year that has seen techno get faster and harder, UK producer Barker made a techno album that removes one of the genre’s most fundamental sounds — the kick drum. This is presented not as an absence, but as an opportunity for something spectacular. With ambitious arrangements, the melodic structures and dub-chords of ‘Utility’ work beautifully with the rhythms, bringing a refreshingly different thought process to contemporary club music. Anna Wall

slowthai 'Nothing Great About Britain'

In a time when Britain has been torn apart by divisive rhetoric, the Northampton rapper’s debut album sums up the frustration of many, laying the blame at the door of those in power. It paints a picture of growing up on a British council estate, as slowthai balances tenderness and aggression. Nominated for a Mercury Music Prize — which also gave us a brilliant, controversial performance at the awards show — ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ will go down as one of 2019’s most definitive artistic and political statements. Ben Hindle

Loraine James 'For You And I'

London producer Loraine James’ debut album detailed sensuality, fear, anxiety, joy, and sadness. Through sublime, experimental electronics, ‘For You And I’ served as a personal exploration of self and surroundings, infused with youthful adventurousness and earnest intimacy. From the abrasive textures of ‘London Ting // Dark As Fuck’, featuring MC Le3 bLACK, to the welcome wash of chimes among glitching electronica on ‘Vowel // Consonant’, it’s a dynamic, complex and progressive album. With a debut this like this, expect a very bright future for Hyperdub’s newest star. Amy Fielding

Check out DJ Mag's 50 albums that defined the decade in electronic music here