2006 was a good year for dance music albums, which in the past have too often ended up being collections of singles or misguided pop crossover attempts. This time the pop-crossover attempts have succeeded, which may have to do with the slowly dissolving line between club music and the rest of the music world.
1 BOOKA SHADE Movements (Get Physical)
Booka Shade take the dominant sounds and trends of today's dance music and infuse them with so much maturity and depth that you can actually call this a great album, a rarity in the singles-driven club culture. It's moody and refreshingly restrained, but there are oodles of hooks and slinky beats to keep it bouncy.
2 HERBERT Scale (Accidental/K7)
Not to discourage Matthew Herbert from the more experimental directions he was pursuing before this album, but this is one of the best things he's ever done, mainly because of the pop influences he's allowed himself to embrace. Experimental electronic music that makes you want to prance around your bedroom singing into your hairbrush.
3 PONI HOAX (Tigersushi/Statik)
This album almost slipped through the cracks, but it kept finding its way onto the stereo. The French band combines a startling array of influences, including punk, shoegazer, disco, pop, electro, new wave and even some dark, brooding numbers reminiscent of Nick Cave. Even though they're going in a million directions, the album still feels coherent.
4 JUNIOR BOYS So This Is Goodbye (Domino)
Hamilton's favourite electro-pop band have successfully followed up their critically acclaimed debut with an album that's equally strong, if not stronger. This is electro-pop without any of the wink-wink, nudge-nudge irony - refreshingly intimate and emotional, though still reserved and icy in that peculiarly Canadian way that initially propelled them into the spotlight.
5 BOB WISEMAN Theme And Variations (Blocks Recording Club)
This could be Bob Wiseman's most personal album yet, and while we wouldn't want him to write off his more political side, the heartbreak-themed album feels more focused and cohesive than his previous work while maintaining that quirky, fragile charm people love about him. An under-appreciated Canadian songwriter.
6 HOT CHIP The Warning (DFA/Astralwerks/EMI)
Believe the hype. Hot Chip are hot shit right now for good reason. If you only know them from the singles, you might think they're just this year's LCD Soundsystem, but there's a lot more going on here than a collection of indie dance anthems (not that there's anything wrong with that).
7 TIGA Sexor (Last Gang)
Some were surprised at how pop Tiga's debut album turned out to be, but the Montreal electro star actually pulled it off, in grand flamboyant style. You need to love camp and have a sense of humour to appreciate this, but once you start smiling, it's pretty hard to stop, and the next thing you know you're busted for dancing in your chair at work.
8 YO LA TENGO I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
The indie rock stalwarts' most recent album feels as fearless and self-assured as the ridiculous title suggests. It's gleefully all over the place style-wise but hits all the references that built their fan base in the first place. Sounds like they had a great time making it, and the feeling is contagious.
9 JEFF MILLS Blue Potential (Uncivilized World)
This is a live recording of a concert that Detroit techno innovator Jeff Mills gave with the Montpellier Philharmonic Orchestra in 2005. He reinterprets his classics on drum machine, and the orchestra fills in what the synths would normally handle. Haven't you always wanted to hear The Bells with real bells?
10 ARCTIC MONKEYS Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)
It was about time the UK churned out another great guitar pop band, and these guys are looking pretty good for it right now. They're stripped down and raw, and it's all youthful bluster and attitude, but there's real talent here, especially in the songwriting.