Man, what a year. Electronic dance music officially broke into the mainstream in 2011, with Vegas being touted as the new Ibiza and Kaskade causing riots in downtown Los Angeles. Former screamo frontman Skrillex helped usher dubstep into the spotlight by giving it a face (or at least a haircut) and a fresh, poppy, post-everything perspective. And Tiësto marked dance music's entry into the ranks of the one percent with an interview in the Wall Street Journal where he estimated his annual salary to be $20 million.
Meanwhile, far from the festival main stages and the broadsheets' entertainment pages, underground strains were more fertile than ever, blossoming and tangling every which way. Artists like SBTRKT, Zomby, Jamie xx and (sometimes) James Blake continued to stretch dubstep's sonics and cadences to the breaking point, while Toro Y Moi, Little Dragon, Austra and others expanded electro-pop's vocabulary. Some of the year's best electronic music was the most ethereal, as Oneohtrix Point Never, Laurel Halo and Emeralds' Steve Hauschildt traversed the outer limits of the ambient universe. BNJMN, Sandwell District and Morphosis, on the other hand, turned their psychedelic attentions to the structure of techno itself.