French touch pioneer Daft Punk's first two albums, Homework and Discovery, were made entirely on personal computers and basic equipment inside the duo's home studio. Third album Human After All was made in a studio, but in the span of like, two weeks. The group enjoyed monumental success with its Alive concert album in 2007, and after working with a full orchestra on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, the robots decided they'd do something crazy and give real instruments a try.
RAM, as it's affectionally shortened, pays tribute to late '70s and early '80s disco, funk and soul, limiting the amount of electronic pieces used to select drum machines, a custom modular synth and vintage vocoders. Having earned the prestige of a legacy act themselves, Daft Punk got their idols in the studio to record live riffs and vocals, turning their favorite sample sources into original sounds. They gave modern musical minds a retro sheen. They paid homage to Giorgio Moroder and revived his career. They even finally won the Grammy for album of the year in 2014. Random Access Memories is not the bombastic EDM Daft Punk spawned. It is a luxurious and psychedelic journey of cinematic sound. -- K. Bein
5. LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening (2010)
LCD Soundsystem is oxymoronic. It's a dance outfit fronted by a middle-aged man. It's party music about how much of a drag real life is. It both rages against the dying of the light and the coming of the morning. If it were a person, it'd be the 3 a.m. hanger-on at a house party, dancing alone in the kitchen. In 2010, James Murphy had ostensibly decided to go home, and This Is Happening was intended to be LCD Soundsystem's big au revoir. "It's the end of an era, it's true," Murphy sings near the end of its bombastic opener, all-but spelling out the band’s impending dissolution. True to form, the ending was a fake out -- LCD said goodbye with a massive Madison Square Garden show in 2011, only to return in 2017 with American Dream.
For seven years, however, This Is Happening made for an ideal swan song. Its gargantuan opener "Dance Yrself Clean" contains one of the decade's most iconic drops, and the set even contained a slightly more conventional alternative radio single in the form of the post-punk riffer "Drunk Girls." At its best, the LP has Murphy trying to cram the mess of life into a 4/4 rhythm. "Home" made a perfect ending then, a meditation on the pull of the party from the necessary struggle of being a damn adult. It made mid-life crises sound fun, if only for an hour. -- D.O.
4. Calvin Harris, 18 Months (2012)
Some albums perfectly capture a mood and a time, and Calvin Harris' landmark third LP, 18 Months, is the absolute authority on quality genre-smashing EDM in the early 2010s. It's the benchmark for what the cascading synths, gut-twisting grooves and hands-in-the-air atmospheres could and should have been. It's the album that made Harris a crossover star, the first time he let other divas sing toplines. Kelis, Ellie Goulding, Florence Welsch and Ne-Yo all make stellar appearances. Of course, it's “We Found Love” with Rihanna that pushed Harris to the top of the Hot 100, changing his life forever. Still, it's the good old “Feel So Close” featuring his own syrupy rasp that melts our heart most. It puts us right back there in the booth of our favorite college club, singing along in the faces of the friends we'll never forget, throwing our fists to the sky like we'd be 24 forever, and as long as this plays, some part of us is. -- K. Bein
3. Jamie xx, In Colour (2015)