A caveat: This is a personal list, not a purportedly objective overview of electronic music in 2017. Would such a thing even be possible? It’s doubtful, if only because there is no single overarching scene that unites all electronic music. It’s not just about the divide between commercial EDM and everything else; even within the underground, electronic music’s fans are fragmented into innumerable overlapping niches according to subgenres, stylistic quirks, cities, clubs, and cliques. Fortunately, one of the perks of my job—and one of the perks of going out a lot less than I once did, if I’m honest—is that I feel less compunction to pledge fealty to any single tribe. As a critic, I get to eavesdrop on them all. So while I can’t promise that this list is comprehensive, it does encompass a broad array of sounds, from Mark Barrott’s Balearic ambient to Jlin’s flickering post-footwork to Demen’s claustrophobic goth.
Given that range, I’ve sequenced the list with listenability in mind, not in any sort of ranked fashion. There are a few principal threads. The first is the strain of jewel-toned, bittersweet house music heard in tracks by DJ Koze, Project Pablo, and Young Marco; for daydreaming dancers, 2017 has delivered in spades. Then there’s a range of heavier, beat-oriented fare, like Proc Fiskal’s brittle, fidgety grime, or Sinjin Hawke’s choral trap. And finally, I couldn’t resist fleshing out my list with ambient tracks like Visible Cloaks’ “Mask” and Kara-lis Coverdale’s “Grafts.” Ever since the disappearance of chillout rooms, ambient has tended to remain at arms’ length from dance music, but with incredible records coming along at an unprecedented clip, there’s never been a better time to close the gap.