5. TNGHT - TNGHT [Warp/Luckyme]
In a year that had Trap Rap all over the radio, only one collaboration of two great producers, Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, could make an instrumental rap album just as boisterous and bombastic as what's heard on the radio nowadays. All of these songs are club bangers, perfect for the bass-centric phase dance music is in right now. All throughout the nearly seventeen minutes of music, the pair, through the use of epic horns, samples, and altered bass tones, rewrites the rules of instrumental rap; the music sounds expensive. A lot of instrumental rap feels more like a pregame than the full out face roll that is the TNGHT EP.
4. The Antlers - Undersea [ANTI-]
Burst Apart expanded The Antlers' discography to include an album more about self-preservation than emotional exhaustion, a new path for the Brooklyn dream-pop band. Where to next? How about deep into the sea. Early single "Drift Dive" was a lucid free fall into cavernous, unknown depths, sporting the usual arrangements familiar to the band, though each instrument was given even more room to breathe than usual. But with the latter half of the EP feeling more like a Korova Milk Bar hallucination, Silberman and company are exploring new waters; waters more familiar with the likes of Sleep Party People. It's hard to pinpoint just how deep The Antlers are willing to go, but it's nice to see they aren't staying stagnant.
3. Angel Haze - RESERVATION [True Panther / Noizy Cricket!! / Biz 3]
Fuck Azealia Banks. If she had the work ethic and artistic freedom of Angel Haze, we'd better understand her talent or lack thereof. Angel Haze is a twenty-one year-old Michigan-turned-Brooklyn girl, as talented as she is open. From the beginning of "This Is Me", you can understand that everything Haze has to say, she means it, truthfully. She wears a lot of hats on this EP, making it even more amazing to see how much she is able to do in just fourteen tracks. This doesn't feel like an EP in length or subject matter; it's what Haze herself calls it, which is further testament to her work ethic. So for everyone who started riding the Azealia Banks' bandwagon after only one to three songs, give fourteen tracks of Reservation a listen, then see if you still back Banks as the up-and-coming female rap artist.
2. Burial - Kindred [Hyperdub]
At this point in his career, William Bevan, or Burial as dubstep purists know him as, continues to be bass music's finest, most consistent producer. Kindred extends Burial's longevity and his uncanny ability to look forward and backward simultaneously. The three songs here are much longer than previous releases - two songs pushing the twelve minute mark, the other seven and a half minutes - requiring a little more from the listener, though this isn't a surprise, and merely a continuation from the expansive songs from last year's Street Halo. The songs are as dark as any other of Burial's, but there is definitely an influence from the dance-floor here, so you can probably bank on Thom Yorke spinning some or all of these songs in a DJ set. With another release scheduled for next year, we can only expect Bevan to top critic's lists for a third straight year, proliferating his influence on electronic music everywhere.
1. AlunaGeorge - You Know You Like It [Tri Angle]
It would be almost too easy to place Burial on the top of this list, being the consistently excellent producer Bevan is, but up until this past year we had no idea what an AlunaGeorge sounded like; that's where the duo makes music so much fun. What you hear on this EP follows some trends, like the emergence of "PBR&B" and some American dubstep elements, yet all of it filtered through some unpredictable weirdness. Though it's only three songs - isn't this what an EP used to be in length? - You Know You Like It echoes more the work of a experienced professionals at the height of their game. The London duo continued to release a single and a few remixes in 2012 - the excellent "Your Drums, Your Love" being the clear standout - and announced a full-length due out in June of 2013, all making this EP feel even more important for a band that is due for a breakout.