In honour of Telstra’s new ‘2nd Chance Song’ campaign – where they’re breathing new life into an underrated Australian classic – we’re looking at some of the most ear-catching remixes of indie tracks of the past decade.
A couple of months back, inthemix put together a list of 20 remixes of pop songs we’re not afraid to love. With edits of Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Beyoncé all making the cut, to cherry pick just a few, the list reminded us just how good a well-handled edit is. But there are plenty more great remixes than just those in the pop realm – dozens of indie tracks from the early 2000s to today have also been given the dance touch to great effect. So without further ado, here’s 20 remixes of indie songs we think are indispensable. What did we miss?
How do you remix a song by a band like Brooklyn experimentalists Dirty Projectors, a collective known for employing unusual time signatures, weird instruments, world music influences, and generally being so art-rock as to be – at times – virtually unlistenable?
You draft in Joe Goddard: one fifth of Hot Chip (the band that marries art school with synth-pop) and one half of big, bouncy bass-driven house duo The 2 Bears. Goddard keeps a lot of the original’s sparse kookiness, puts Amber Coffman’s beautiful falsetto front and centre, and gradually builds up a tropical, Balearic house vibe with real groove and swing: a master-class in the art of the indie-rock remix.
At last count, CHVRCHES, Yeasayer, Kele Okereke, Chet Faker, Twin Shadow, NICITA, Charli XCX, Xaphoon Jones, Goldroom, HAERTS and more (yes, more!) have all turned in official remixes for New York act MS MR. So RAC – once a remix ‘collective’ and now just the work of Portugal’s André Allen Anjos – is doing well to stand out as the best of the bunch with this rework of Think of You. The best bit? You can grab it as a free download.
Circa 2008, you might remember, MGMT were the kings of indie cool. Six years later the band’s taken a step out of the limelight, but the legacy of Oracular Spectacular lives on. Last year, British vocal talent Henry Green covered MGMT’s mega-hit Electric Feel. Then fast-rising producer Kygo remixed his cover, put it on SoundCloud as a free download and watched the play count climb well into the millions.
Iceland’s genius-freak skirts disconcertingly close to actual pop music in the original Who Is It, which is all bells and chimes and her signature elfin voice, but French electro stalwart Vitalic does away with all that fragile art-pop, keeping only the ear-worm vocal hook and toughening it up with insistent techno rhythms and urgent synth stabs. Going off the experimental electronic meanderings and wobbly breakdowns of her most recent work, we think Björk would approve.
Cyril Hahn’s made his name breathing new life into pop classics (see: Destiny’s Child, Solange, Mariah Carey) so the Swiss producer was well qualified to take on the work of indier-than-thou sister trio HAIM. We might be a little too close to the oversaturation of the original to fully enjoy Hahn’s edit now, but give it a few years and you’ll have the Don’t Save Me edit on repeat. Trust us.
Eight years on and this edit of Get Myself Into It still does the business on dancefloors every time. The Rapture always skirted the line between indie jangle and nu-disco funk without the help of remixers, but this edit by sporadic New York producer Prince Language stretches things out by a couple of minutes and adds a neat little synth-stab build-up towards the end to give you time to really “get into it”.
There are a few producers on this list with the remix Midas touch, and Nicolas Jaar’s one of them. Whether it’s Sneaky Sound System, Missy Elliot, Azari & III, Grizzly Bear or the whole of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, Jaar’s proven himself able to master just about any source material you can think of. His take on the work of indie songstress Cat Power is a standout in a flawless discography.
Let’s pull no punches: The Drums are one of the worst bands to come out of the last decade. So it’s truly a testament to Trentmí¸ller’s skills as a producer that he managed to turn a piece of painful surf-rock revival into this, a dark and bitter five-minute trip. The vocals of Drums frontman Jonny Pierce worked so well with Trentmí¸ller’s sound that the Dane called on him to feature on the track Never Stop Running a year later, a track that would become the first single of Trentmí¸ller’s brilliant Lost album.
Those shaggy, jangly indie-pop Parisians Phoenix met their match in Alex Metric, who gave the second best track off their 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix an extremely zeitgeist French electro re-work that crunches, stutters and builds into a beast worthy of inducing the very hysterical fan frenzy that the song’s title refers to).
Part cover, part remix, The xx’s take on You’ve Got The Love is all brilliance. And what a history it has: from the original You Got The Love back in 1986, to the ‘89 reincarnation that saw the track’s a cappella mixed over an instrumental version of Frankie Knuckles classic Your Love, to the 1996 New Voyager mix, Florence’s cover and, finally, this, You’ve Got The Love has sure come a long way. And as for proof of its popularity? Let those 20 million YouTube views assure you.
If there’s a producer better equipped to remix Where Is Home? than Burial, we haven’t heard them. Bloc Party’s original was all about belonging (or a lack thereof) in the English capital and Burial, as anyone who’s enjoyed his opus Untrue could tell you, has long been inspired by the many faces of London. So it only makes sense that when the Hyperdub star put his touch on Where Is Home?, he turned it into one of the most affecting tracks of the decade.
Just about everything in the Classixx discography will have you Googling the next available flight to L.A., but the duo’s reworking of Yacht’s Psychic City is the crí¨me of the Cali-summer crop. Put your headphones on, turn the volume up and let Classixx take you back to 2010.
When inthemix spoke with Hamburg’s deep house king Solomun last year about his much-lauded remix for Oxford five-piece Foals, he said he wanted to capture the original’s “melancholic atmosphere”. “I wanted the brilliant vocals to shine in my remix,” Solomun said, “so all I did was to make a good platform for the intense singing.” And what a platform it is. Minimalist and underground, with deep pulsing sub-bass and restrained levels of funk, it’s the perfect danceable backdrop to Yannis Philippakis’s fervent vocals.
Think ‘Diplo’ and you’re likely to conjure images of girls twerking on stage, Major Lazer at their frenetic best and a setlist worthy of an Ultra mainstage. So when the Mad Decent head unveiled his remix of Will Calls, a B-side from Grizzly Bear album Shields, he certainly surprised. Instead of a dancefloor weapon, Diplo gave us something clever and restrained, blending the original’s prettiness with just the right measure of driving bass. Consider it a perfect reminder of just how versatile the hitmaker’s production skillset is.
This Soulwax rework does the exact opposite of your normal ‘dance remix’ template, taking the icy electro nihilism of Ladytron’s 2003 anthem and making it feel more ‘live’ and head-banging, with big stoner guitar riffs and drum rolls. It all winds up sounding like a mischievous garage band jamming out loudly to drown out their sisters’ electro-pop practice session next door (in the best possible way).
Sure, the origins of We Are Your Friends might be a little more electronic than many of the offerings on this list, but has there ever been an indie anthem more unifying than this? Starting life as Simian single Never Be Alone, with Justice reworking things the track was re-titled and credited to both acts. Then it became one of the biggest songs of the decades and a setlist staple circa 2007.
Not to mention it was a responsible for a cultural milestone of another kind. When Justice and Simian won the MTV European Music Awards gong for Best Video over Kanye West’s Touch The Sky – years before that Taylor Swift incident – an irate Yeezy stormed the stage to protest. “Fuck this! My thing cost a million dollars man…I had Pam Anderson, I was jumping across canyons and shit. If I don’t win, the award show loses…credibility.’ Pam Anderson or no, Justice and Simian still win out in our book.
Scandinavian sex-gods The Whitest Boy Alive were never short on funk themselves (which is why we’re devastated they decided to consciously-uncouple recently), but Kitsuné-affiliate Fred Falke took their low-slung, understated Norwegian indie-pop classic The Golden Cage and gave it a proper French touch-up: all four-four kick and filtered disco, with Erlend Øye’s wistful vocals drifting in and around the busy synths for a killer eight minutes.
You could probably dedicate a whole 20-track list to great edits and remixes by the brothers Dewaele, but in the interests of brevity we’ll limit ourselves to just this monstrous remix of The Gossip and Ladytron’s Seventeen (see above for more on that).
This particular edit demonstrates everything great about the Soulwax remix philosophy: Crank up the BPMs, throw on as much gated-distortion and sudden stalls as you can (just to make it really hard to beat-match with anything) and then just make it build and build until it finally explodes into an orgasmic late-00s French electro moshpit (see also: their remix of The Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’).
How do you better the pure power of Karen O and co.’s indie-dance anthem Heads Will Roll? Get A-Trak to take all the best bits of that massive vocal hook and those 80s-referencing synths and drums and replace them with a beat so beefy it’ll knock you flat on your arse and keep walking without even noticing. It’s a relentless six and a half minutes tailor-made for crowded, sweaty, peak-hour dancefloors.
As his double-disc release The Remixes made very clear, Boys Noize sure knows his way around an edit. Over the course of his career, Alex Ridha’s put his touch on everyone from Depeche Mode and Snoop Dogg to Daft Punk and beyond. All of the 24 edits included in his comprehensive Remixes collection – and the ones he’s put out since – are party-starting testaments to Ridha’s prowess in the studio.
But there was one that towered above the rest: the rework of Feist’s My Moon My Man, a track that’s still heavily rinsed in DJ sets everywhere five-odd years after it came out. Just ask Flume, who counts it as one of his favourite songs. And who hasn’t danced to this with a smile on their face at some point in their clubbing career?