The past year brought the worst economy since the malaise of the 1970s, and like that era, it also saw dance music sweep the nation. Lady GaGa, the Black Eyed Peas, Beyoncé and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs all dabbled in the sound. Even Michael Jackson was said to be working on a dance album with the Peas' Will.i.am before his untimely death in July. Leagues beneath the headlines and charts, it was also a banner year for core e-music grooves. If one thing marked 2009 on the dance floor, it was a new sense of eclecticism. Cool-kid indie DJs played trance, trance jocks name-checked MGMT, techno artists expanded the definition of the genre, dance stars went pop, pop stars went dance, and a brooding aesthetic returned to the big-room marathons of after-hours America. This list of the year's top ten dance-music long-players represents all of the above. 10. Various Artists, In the Mix: Ten Years (of) Cocoon Ibiza (Cocoon) The true sound of the underground in '09 combined the bouncy elements of house with the stark stance of techno. In the Mix represents the rubbery, slow-burning flavor of a sweaty, black-walled after-hours party in Ibiza. Thank Dubfire and Loco Dice for taking on one disc each and infusing them with music from the likes of Marco Carola, Tiga and Jay Haze & Ricardo Villalobos. These twisted, freaky sounds will get you through to the next bubble, we promise. 9. Oscar G, DJ, (Nervous) Few media artifacts have been able to capture the true vibe of a super-club experience, but DJ comes close. It features a mix CD, a disc of original material and a DVD of the mix, complete with footage of Oscar G spinning at Space in Miami. G's style is macho, percussive and Latin, and the video documents the buoyancy of his style. Heads bob, bodies move and a sea of people swells, providing a new dimension to the e-music experience. 8. Sharam, Get Wild (Ultra) While his longtime DJ partner, Dubfire, was spinning hedonistic sounds in Europe, the other half of Deep Dish, Sharam, was polishing his pop chops. The result was the bubbly, floor-friendly mix CD of the year. Get Wild not only introduced us to a rapper named Kid Cudi ("She Came Along"), but it also showcased Dubfire as a populist who can bring down the house. His redux of Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time" ("PATT," featuring P. Diddy) is a table-service theme song, and "Get Wild" proves to be peak-time magic. 7. DJ Hell, Teufelswerk (International DeeJay Gigolo) Whenever the world gets grim, dance music gets correspondingly moody. A new dark wave in house and techno swept Europe in 2009, with the likes of Radio Slave, Dubfire and Sven Vath at the helm. But few went deeper into the abyss than DJ Hell, whose Teufelswerk was a blueprint for the scene's new bacchanalia. His collaboration with Brian Ferry on "U Can Dance" is brilliant, and Diddy cheers on the "after-hours spots" and the "thirteen-, fourteen-minute versions" of DJ tracks. Dark and long, indeed. 6. Calvin Harris, Ready for the Weekend (Ultra) Trance is mostly a bad word within the dark corners of the dance floor. Yet the style has permeated the mainstream like never before, whether it's peppering Kanye West tunes or providing a futuristic framework for pop crooners like Calvin Harris. On the well-rounded Ready for the Weekend, Harris offers melancholic, almost Cold Play-like songwriting. Meanwhile, his fresh-air, hand-raising grooves ("I'm Not Alone") are undeniably uplifting. See our picks for Nos. 5-1 tomorrow.
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In the Mix: DJ and Dance Music for the New Malaise, Part 1
December 23, 2009 | 3:00pm|