For a brief moment in the mid 2000s, that nightmare LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy had in “Losing My Edge” came true: bands threw out their guitars and bought synthesizers and turntables. As the Internet advanced into Web 2.0 and burgeoning social media fronts like MySpace and personal blogs caught on, a new movement of dance music caught fire, thanks to a scene of musicians, DJs and producers all over the globe. Spawning out of electroclash, minimal and indie came blog house.
Blog house was less of a genre and more of an intersection of taste and interest; carried by MP3 blogs and MySpace, what was left and en vogue was loud and melodic and plenty of acts rode that wave to international success before the impending wave of dubstep and festival EDM came down and washed everything out. Here are ten of the best records worth owning from this short-lived global era in electronic music in single and full-length format. The emphasis on global is key as this was a sound not limited by distance.
Who would have thought two dudes who worshipped Daft Punk and heavy metal would end up crafting some of the decade’s best dance music? Some of the appeal behind Justice was very much a right place, right time deal given 2007 was the year of Daft Punk’s big resurgence, but there’s no denying Justice had the touch. Cross is an album obsessed with rock mythology, from the not-so-subtle cover to the walls of Marshall amps the group toured with. There’s also Justice’s approach of making everything sound like it came from a ‘70s rock album: synths that sound like guitars, bass that sound like guitars. It’s in-your-face dance utterly confident in its showboating. Something worth mentioning: Justice were also responsible for what may be the era’s defining song, a mashup with Simian Mobile Disco otherwise known as “We Are Your Friends,” a romp that tweaked a small vocal break vocals from insignificant into something bordering on the anthemic. The song’s music video also won an MTV award for Best Video, prompting the first of many classic Kanye interruptions.
Between 2006 and 2007, the Klaxons may have been the only English band worth remixing, as many groups like Justice, the Chemical Brothers, SebastiAn and Crystal Castles fell victim to the ‘Klaxons remix’ bug. It helped that these indie rockers had a healthy appetite for dance music and welcomed further remixes as indie kids and ravers bought as many of their singles as possible. Case in point: their debut single “Gravity’s Rainbow” was re-released a whopping three different times. The 12”, collecting remixes done by Van She, To My Boy and Nightmoves, is easily the best of the bunch despite not including the mind-altering remix by Soulwax. With that said, the Van She remix (which later found itself on a Kitsune Maison compilation) more than makes up with its sawtooth-y bassline and playful production, striking that balancing act between indie and rave in a way other remixes just couldn’t muster.
Greatness can come at any age. Uffie was eighteen when she recorded “Pop The Glock” in 2005, a vocoder jam very much indebted to crunk and grime, but with plenty bratty energy to hold its own. The track later found its way in the hands of Ed Banger Records founder Busy P, and a release followed soon thereafter, lifting Uffie to huge success in clubs and blogs everywhere. Uffie’s old school flows sounded perfect over bursts of electro as follow-up single “Ready to Uff” prove: your MCM couldn’t make rapping about dope parties as cool as Uffie could (or flip a Puffy line into an absolute banger of a hook). It helps the production on both tracks, done by Feadz and Mr. Oizo, happened to be some of the best heard in 2006.
Recently re-released on vinyl for its tenth anniversary, this presents the better selections off Mehdi’s sole international album Lucky Boy At Night, notably the two remixes of “Lucky Boy” and the title track. Both remixes are distinct enough; the Outlines remix wouldn’t have been out of place on American Apparel playlists circa 2008 with its upbeat piano arrangement. However, the biggest coupe was Mehdi tapping Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk for a club edit of “Signatune.” Rather than dramatically alter the song, Bangalter opted to stretch the original minute-long beat into a whopping six minutes of monolithic bliss.
Most of the 2000s saw DJ A-Trak work under the guise of various hats; a teenage turntable wizard, a touring DJ for Kanye, label owner at Fools’ Gold and habitual producer remixing killer singles by indie bands and dance groups. In The Loop collects the best of these, spanning from bands like Phoenix to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to groups like Boys Noize, Architecture in Helsinki and Disclosure. By no means it is perfect; A-Trak admitted these flips were his production trial by fire. But when he gets it right, like turning the synth strings of “Heads Will Roll” into something truly fearful and magnanimous in its remix, it’s a reminder that not many DJs were as eager to document this burgeoning era as he was, and in some ways, still is.
MSTRKRFT, known for featuring Death From Above 1979’s bassist Jesse Keeler, had the goods. They sported a slinky, groovy take on distorted French house that nearly sounded retro next to everything else. Take debut single “Easy Love” for example: what immediately comes to mind, the vocoder or the very-out-of-fashion-but-still-awesome cowbell? It’s a fun listen that exemplifies some of the best things about MSTRKRFT but the single’s B-side, where they flip Metric’s “Monster Hospital” into an absolute banger is where you can witness the real magic. Gone are the knotty guitars and propulsive energy, replaced by handclaps, layers of synth and an Emily Haines vocal, time-stretched to sound eerie enough.
Having released multiple singles over a decade on an assortment of labels, Siriusmo makes a masterclass exhibition out of Mosaik, a compilation grabbing some of the Berlin producer’s strongest and quirkiest dancefloor statements disguised in the form of a debut full-length. Siriusmo seems pretty comfortable doing Justice-indebted house as tracks like “High Together” prove but the rest of Mosaik is all over the place: "Signal" and "Red Knob" showcase the producer’s ear for subtle dreamy soundscapes, while experimental tracks such as “Feed My Meat Machine” and “Good Idea” reveal a man clearly not taking himself seriously. In fact, most of Mosaik makes no bones about how exuberantly fun it can be, a fascinating assessment given Siriusmo infamously derided the majority of his released material as ‘shit.’
Infamous for boasting one of the longest major label album titles in existence, Soulwax really did the world a favor by collecting their best remixes in one massive, 14-track collection. Under their 2manydjs moniker, their playful and irreverent attitude was displayed on many of the mashups they did in the 2000s and thankfully, that energy carried over to the work of their alter-egos. If you haven't already heard their take on Gossip's "Standing In The Way of Control,” prepare to be surprised with the number of liberties the group pull in the nearly six-minute epic. Elsewhere you can find tracks by Kylie Minogue and Muse get entire retrofits, oftentimes for the better (especially in the case of the latter).
Justice weren't the only ones obsessed with wanting to rock. The very first single issued by Digitalism, a duo very much into making maximalist-sounding dance tunes, was an early edit of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” What sticks out about Idealism is the idea of Digitalism envisioning it as a middle finger to minimal techno and getting away with it. It turns out following their obsessions, namely guitars and synths, to their fullest often turned out for the better; Tracks like "Pogo" are a sea of heavy drums and compressed synths, often reaching their climax by sheer acquiesce. Meanwhile, “HomeZone” is practically the agoraphobe’s national anthem and ten years after its release, “Zdarlight” still sounds like its only purpose was to exist as a massive festival closer. It’s music meant to induce headaches from being played far too loud.
Fair warning: this full-length by Boys Noize is an aural assault. After years of creating music under various aliases and putting together hard-hitting remixes for acts like Bloc Party and Para One, Alexander Ridha took center stage under the name Boys Noize, culling from house, rap and punk to create something close to the harsh-inflected techno he heard in Berlin clubs. Bookended by computerized voices, Oi Oi Oi goes by in a blurry hour of noise, big beats and very little else. Ridha’s a talented producer but Oi Oi Oi succeeds in part to its fantastic sequencing, cohesively tying Ridha’s various interests together and avoiding the risk of bludgeoning the listener into dust. You can find a beating disco heart in “Oh!” and “Shine Shine” hidden under the layers of noise and dirt and “Arcade Robot” wears its Daft Punk influences on its sleeve. Meanwhile, “Let’s Buy Happiness” sounds like it could have been a funk stomper in another universe. Oi Oi Oi isn’t always an easy listening but it’s thrilling all the same.
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