Whittling down the contenders and assembling a final list was no easy task, but these records are the ones that we feel made the biggest impact in 2013.
Few acts feed off each other like New York’s Blondes. Since their earliest releases, Sam Haar and Zach Steinman have honed a sound that achieves a big-room rush via the push and pull of small, interlocking parts and the way the two artists work together to add to and tweak the music. On the surface, this basically means nothing—most dance music is like this. But for those trying to parse Blondes’ secret, Swisher is a great place to start, as its songs psychedelically magnify tried-and-true elements so that they gleam and hit viscerally before swirling back into the mix. Never before has the duo sounded so dynamic and in control. - Steve Kerr
In some camps, 2013 will be remembered as the year when lo-fi nostalgia went big in underground dance music. It’s interesting then, that one of the best LPs released this year takes a completely opposite tack. In late November, British duo Akkord unleashed its self-titled debut, a prophetic record that’s so clean it might as well have been made in a microchip factory. Across its 10 cuts, the album draws a blueprint for some near-future club music that’s built from both the surgical precision of techno and the full rhythmic complexity of the UK hardcore continuum. “3dOS,” one of the album’s highlights, encapsulates Akkord’s vision by striking the perfect balance, placing a chunky bassline over a spastic rhythm that runs, at one point, straight off the grid. - Derek Opperman