In just the last couple years, electronic dance music (better known as EDM) has become one of the fastest growing commodities in the United States. With festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and Ultra in Miami both numbering attendees in the tens (and even hundred) thousands, an entire industry with a decidedly younger demographic has made its way onto the airwaves everywhere. What’s truly given rise to its popularity though is the sheer amount of dance music that gets created every day. That can of course be a double-edged sword; many trying to find a way in can be overwhelmed by the hundreds of DJs and even more hours of music available on platforms like Soundcloud, Spotify, and Mixcloud.
That being so, everyone has to start somewhere. Whether you’re looking for an uplifting listening experience, a high energy bass-centric feel, or simply just something you’ve never heard before, there’s really something out there for everyone.
1. Armin van Buuren
Armin van Buuren is known in many circles as the godfather of trance (defined by its steady 120-140 bpm). Headlining festivals and night clubs all around the globe, the Armada Music label boss is constantly striving to cultivate the next generation of dance music. At 37, he’s something of an elder statesman of the genre, but that hasn’t stopped him from creating some of the most emotionally moving music EDM has to offer. For anyone looking to find a melodic, danceable gateway, Armin is the man to see.
2. Pretty Lights
Known to his friends as Derek Vincent Smith, Pretty Lights is nothing short of a musical virtuoso. For his live performances, he’s become known for touring with a full five-piece band paired with his stunning visual displays. His musical style can best be described as a seamless combination of all the musicality of the jazz age and the innovation that was hip hop circa 1990. The result: A one-of-a-kind sound that spawned the birth of electro-soul. Far more than your run-of-the-mill DJ, he provides an easy-listening experience that will throw you down a rabbit hole looking for more (and with a catalogue of music dating back to 2005, there’s plenty to discover).
3. Above & Beyond
Composed of Jono Grant, Paavo Siljimaki, and Tony McGuinness, Above & Beyond is one of the most in-demand acts in all of EDM. Since starting out back in 2000, they’ve built something of a trance empire, thanks to their Anjunabeats label, their weekly radio show streamed online to millions of listeners every Friday, and their massive body of work. Finding themselves inspired to move beyond the typical EDM sound, they even spent a year converting their favorite club tracks into beautiful orchestral pieces live at Porchester Hall in London. They’ve sold out venues as big as Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl, and Alexandra Palace, and are showing no signs of slowing down as they conquer the dance music world.
The Bellingham, Wash. duo comes from humble roots. ODESZA, composed of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, started out DJing and producing as a hobby while going to school at Western Washington University, and since then have headlined their own tour and sold out venues across the country with their infectiously dreamy sound. They recently released their debut studio album In Return, heralded by many within the community as one of the best, most diverse offerings of 2014. Tune into their Soundcloud and you’ll be tossed into a musical experience fit for dancing in the rainy Seattle streets.
5. Seven Lions
There’s no one quite like Jeff Santalvo, better known as dubstep maestro Seven Lions. If you can imagine the hardest, danciest dubstep possible, and then factor in the ethereal beauty of classical music, that in a nutshell defines the sound of the unique Santa Barbara, Calif. native. Following the release of his much-heralded EP Worlds Apart (and featuring the vocal talents of Ellie Goulding), Santalvo has made himself a household name in both dubstep and the larger EDM community, with each production his proving to be better than the last.