By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Listen up, people. If you still think EDM is exciting and fresh, that's a sign you're a newb. The rest of us have been at this party way past our bedtimes, and we keep checking our watches like, Are you done yet?
But just when we were about to pay our tabs and head home, all these great acts came out with all these phenomenal releases. We had to do a double-take like, Wait a minute. This is getting good.
In the hope that innovation is not dead and copycats can't win, we're clinging to those glimmers of realness, those pillars of the funk, those envelope-pushers both old and new, trusting they'll lead us back to the promised land. If you're looking for a little more soul and a little less commercial garbage, keep an eye on these artists, and don't give up on the getdown. Not today.
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Daft Punk. Monsieurs Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are legends for one simple reason: They always keep pushing forward. Never have they sat on their laurels and just phoned in an album because they knew they could. Every time they do something, it's groundbreaking. Often, audiences aren't quite ready for their latest installment until a couple of years after it comes out. With their latest album, Random Access Memories, they once again left past glories behind in favor of experimentation. And this time around, their intent is to remind dance producers that musicality is king. If more EDM acts go into the studio inspired by Homem-Christo and Bangalter's prowess and attention to theory, we'll all be better off.
Skrillex. All right, now hear us out. We know this screamo singer turned dubstep dynamo kind of became the poster boy for bangers, brostep, and a lot of shit that's probably not very good for dance music, but that's not his fault. Just because he was the innovator who spawned a million copycats, that doesn't mean he's anything like all of those guys copping his steez. Having spoken to Skrill a few times, we can say without a doubt that this guy is an artist. And his latest EP, Leaving, demonstrates surprising changes in style, mood, and technique. If he keeps pushing himself, Skrillex could be the man who helps turn EDM's hordes of raver bros into full-grown party people.
Hudson Mohawke. Anything but new to the scene, HudMo has been a producer's producer for years, and he's got the skills to make just about any type of song in any genre. But ever since he teamed up with Canadian DJ-producer Lunice to form the trap-running duo TNGHT, he's become one of the biggest names on the scene — and not just in EDM circles. He's been signed as an in-house producer for Kanye West's GOOD Music crew, contributing to a number of high-level projects, including Ye's own Yeezus. That being said, trap is getting kind of stale, by no fault of HudMo's, but we are confident this guy will continue to innovate in the studio and on the decks, bringing a higher standard of quality to whatever work he touches.
Shlohmo. Though he's relatively new to the scene, Shlohmo has been on his grind for a few years. And just recently, this L.A. dude hit his stride, producing deeply dank, sex-fueled, futuristic R&B beats for a sizzling series of X-rated collaborations with singer Jermih. He's also a gifted remixer, and it looks like he's got what it takes to destroy the dance floor with his own originals. It's time to get grown and sexy, EDM generation, and this is the brother who'll teach you how to get down without all that cheesy neon and fist-pumping.
GTA. Back in the day, DJs used to do something called genre-hopping. Instead of sticking to one style for a whole freakin' set, the jock would have the skills to spend the evening blending house, techno, booty, and beyond. As it turns out, Miami's own Van Toth and JWLS of GTA are the new heroes of this no-boundaries swagger. They don't give a shit about your genre; they'd rather buck the trends. That's why everyone, from Diplo to A-Trak, Wolfgang Gartner, Deadmau5, and Pharrell, wants to work with them.
Classixx. If this L.A. duo's debut album, 2013's Hanging Gardens, was the first time you heard of Classixx — ugh, whatever, welcome to the party. It's about freaking time you figured it out, but we can't really hate on you too hard, especially because the pair took nearly a half-decade to put out a full-length. Of course, the wait was worthwhile, because each oh-so-carefully crafted track on the LP is uncommonly thoughtful, refreshing, and danceable. It's the kind of radiant neo-disco that's perfect for chasing away the dark days of boring EDM.
Dirtybird. OK, so this pick is kind of a cheat. But the Dirtybird label has too many amazing artists to select just one. Headed by Claude VonStroke and Justin Martin, this San Francisco crew is constantly dropping new releases from talents such as J.Phlip and Worthy while throwing sick free parties in clubs across the nation. The collective also has a real down-to-earth vibe, and you can tell that VonStroke and Martin will never let themselves be caged by corporate interests. As long as Dirtybird is flying free, the party people are gonna be all right.