The art of the remix is by no means a new one. Remixing has been around for longer than you probably realize. There’s record of remixing as far back as the 10th century, when priests composing Gregorian Chant would ‘quote’ melodic lines and even lyrics from other works. Keep in mind that this is a full 11 centuries before technology gave every Frank and Sally the ability to chop up their favorite track and proclaim it a remix.
Remixing is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it’s getting old. Some of the best tracks in recent memory have been remixes, and many artists base almost their entire careers on their ability to stitch together a mean remake. Even mash-ups (the redheaded step child of the remix) have an immense fanbase. Don’t believe me? Go to a Girl Talk show, and while you’re scrubbing your arms raw in a futile attempt to remove the glitter that has become part and parcel of your epidermis, remember that everything you heard was (at least in the most basic sense) a remix.
A good remix can make or break a track, introduce you to a new artist, or give you the perfect dancefloor anthem. Here are 20 tracks that we think should be fodder for the beat ninjas among us.
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∆ (Alt-J) – “Breezeblocks”
Kicking it off is a band that comes from across the pond with a weird name and a weird sound. But a weird sound is exactly the type of thing that begs to be remixed. “Breezeblocks” has a terrific combination of clean rhythmic sections and catchy riffs and melodies that surely would tempt the likes of RAC or Classixx in to giving it a go. The vocals are distinct, in a whiny almost slurred delivery, they’re a texture that could go well with almost any instrumentation, and the basic melodic line would hold up well to a bit of mixing and matching.
Oh yeah, and Alt-J is the shortcut on a Mac keyboard for the Delta symbol. You know, the little triangle. Try it, it’s fun. Unless you’re on a PC, if you’re on a PC, then you can’t join our Alt-J party.
Mark Morrison – “Return of the Mack”
Moving in a completely different direction, “Return of the Mack” is, in my (gratuitously hyperbolic) opinion, one of the greatest tracks of all time. Many a DJ have attempted to remix this venerable classic, but they’ve never really managed to return the mack successfully. It’s a shame really, as Mark Morrison’s vocals are timelessly dated, beautifully overstated, and most importantly, play this track in any club and watch the dancefloor fill up. Anything with the ability to move that number of bodies to the grooving, surely has something left for a savvy mixer. This one might be best left to the professionals… Star Slinger, you got this one?
TOKiMONSTA – “Gamble”
“Gamble” is the first track on this list that gets filed under tracks we want a rapper to remix – and by remix we mean lay some verses on it. There’s plenty of precedent to warrant this type of thing. Drake did it with SBTRKT‘s “Wildfire.” On Hodgy Beats’ Dena Tape, he uses Portishead’s “Biscuit” for his track “Biscuits.” Although that track leans a bit more towards sampling than a technical remix, “Gamble” could be taken almost as is. Throw somebody real smooth on it, maybe along the lines of Curren$y, or maybe even NaS – somebody with the lyrical nous to keep up with such a seasoned beat. It could be great.
Portishead – “Strangers”
Speaking of Portishead, somebody needs to take another look at “Strangers.” Easily one of the strongest tracks on Dummy, “Strangers” is a timeless song that could have been released last week and still gotten hordes of attention. Such is the song crafting ability of Portishead. I’m not sure how one would go about remixing this one, or what strategies to use, but that’s why I’m not Skrillex. Among other reasons.
RJD2 – “Two More Dead”
Moving right along with things that rappers need to get onto, I don’t think anyone could disagree that RJD2 is quite the beatsmith, or that “Two More Dead” has enough funk and verve to sustain some rhymes or a little chopping from an educated hand. It would require a more energetic flow that can also deal with a little good old fashioned scratching, perhaps Mos Def?
Bonobo – “Ketto”
Wrapping up our ‘homework for rappers’ section is french DJ Bonobo’s “Ketto.” Although he’s more known for his chill, Frenchy can spin a fat beat when he wants to. “Ketto” is exhibit A; when that chorus drops and the bass comes in the swagger of beat reaches its full potential. I could hear an oddball rapper, perhaps someone like Kool A.D. on this one. Of course he’d have to put his own spin on it first, but that’s kind of the point of a remix.
Gotye – “Easy Way Out”
Although “Somebody I Used To Know” got the remix treatment over, and over, and over, and over, and over again – the rest of Making Mirrors has been curiously ignored. There are some quality tracks, and its a testament to the songwriting prowess of Gotye himself. I bet the Knock could… knock this one out of the park. Sorry, I set myself up there.
CSS – “Let’s Reggae All Night”
CSS is no stranger to having their work remixed. The Brasilian dance-punk electro-rave outfit had their track “Let’s Make Love And Listen Death From Above” remixed by a few artists, one of which was Calvin Harris. “Let’s Reggae All Night” is also a song where Lovefoxx invites you to do party related activities, and it shares an extremely danceable core, with typically springy CSS lyrics. Calvin Harris should do this one, too.
Sharon Jones – “Nobody’s Baby”
Sharon Jones is one of the best vocalist’s around and a terrific alternative to the late great Amy Winehouse. She’s paired up with The Dap Kings, one of the most talented bands in the business, and “Nobody’s Baby” is a song full of verve and attitude. Big Boi, Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family took a crack at Amy’s “Tears Dry On Their Own” and if they worked it out for “Nobody’s Baby,” it’d be pretty hard to fail.
The Go! Team – “Titanic Vandalism”
Star Slinger absolutely handled a remix of The Go! Team’s “Apollo Throwdown,” and it’s probably about time he went back for seconds on the buffet for remixing that is The Go! Team‘s discography. The singalong nature of “Apollo Throwdown” was part of the reason for its infectious tendencies, and “Titanic Vandalism” shares that choir of children feel to it’s anthemic chorus. The only thing it might be missing would be a verse from Dominique Young Unique, but anything’s possible in a remix.
Grimes – “Infinte Love Without Fulfillment”
Grimes has got that spark. You can’t deny it. Despite it’s short length, the intro to her album has some distinctly catchy melodies and rhythms that could do for some expansion. Maybe she could remix it herself. If not, there’s a plethora of skilled ears that have interpretations we need to hear.
Iron & Wine – “Boy With Coin”
Iron & Wine is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when considering remixable artists, but the best stuff is never obvious. There’s certainly enough to this soung that it would hold up to the rigors of a remix, but it would need someone with a soft touch. Perhaps Kasper Björke, of “Nothing But Our Love” fame.
Paul Simon – “Sure Don’t Feel Like Love”
Did you know Paul Simon still makes music? I hope you did, because if you didn’t you may have missed a great deal of expertly crafted songs. From the same brain that broght you all your favorite Simon & Garfunkel hits springs the energetic, peppy, lyrically complex and altogether fun track “Sure Don’t Feel Like Love,” from his 2010 album Surprise. This might be a good one for Passion Pit, or our friends over at RAC.
Bill Withers – “Use Me Up”
Speaking of classic songwriters, Bill Withers. Soul and sass for miles, Wither’s “Use Me Up” has a vibe that makes funk itself jealous. Judging from it’s classic nature, perhaps it’d be best if the brain trust at G.O.O.D. Music tried their hand at the remix game. Perhaps only a Kanye-influenced effort could really do this track justice, and there’s no doubting that a G.O.O.D. Music remix would be worth the price of admission.
Thom Yorke – “Black Swan”
Kanye‘s danced the remix dance with Thom Yorke before, “Us Placers” was “The Eraser” first. That project turned out phenomenal, in no small part due to the contributions of the other 2/3rds of Child Rebel Soldier. Time to get the gang back together, because we want more. “Black Swan” has the swag-able rhythm and a chorus irreverent enough to whet Yeezy’s fancy.
The Sounds – “Hurt You”
“Hurt You” got most of its attention from being featured in a Geico Caveman commercial, but it’s so much more than just a catchy commercial song. That distinctly 80’s vibe is good, but more importantly, the chorus is the selling point of this track. It could do for a remix because it’s a track that seems to be right on the edge of greatness; it just needs a shove in the right direction.
Bob Dylan – “I Want You”
Bob Dylan has boatloads of material. Boatloads might be an understatement. The man has been a music factory since he first picked up a guitar. Curious then, that he’s been largely overlooked when it comes time to pick for a remix. Mark Ronson showed us how wonderful it could be with his horn-laiden take on “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine).” “I Want You” comes from the same album, but has a more laid back vibe. Ronson did a wonderful job with his remix, but “I Want You” doesn’t seem like a track that would do well with horns, so maybe someone else should take a crack at this one.
Reptar – “Orifice Origami”
Here at Pigeons & Planes, we love Reptar. And you should too. A group with such a knack for a pop anthem, with a terrific name to boot. “Orifice Origami” has the right blend of catchy melody and unpredictable song design to keep you interested all the way through. Gigamesh did an infectious take on an already infectious track with their remix of Grouplove‘s “Tongue Tied,” maybe he could do the same for Reptar.
THEESatisfaction – “QueenS”
Sometimes you want to hear a remix from a certain artist, but in the case of THEESatisfaction’s “QueenS” it might be better to get as many remixes from as many sources as possible. It’s a fairly simple track, which means there’s a plethora of possibilities. “Whatever you do – don’t funk with my crew” is such an delightfully simple refrain, that it’s impossible not to feel it.
Little Dragon – “Sunshine”
Little Dragon had been creeping around the big time for a while, featuring on SBTRKT‘s smasher “Wildfire” and quietly releasing some great music. But with “Sunshine” (and a shiny cash injection from ABSOLUT), Little Dragon may finally have the hit they need to garner some real attention. Hopefully part of that attention will be from remix artists, whose mouths surely water for the addictive rhythms and sultry vocals that make this song so wonderful. Brenmar could probably turn “Sunshine” into a synth heavy dance destination, but with this track the sky is the limit.
Did we miss anything? What songs do you want to hear remixed? Who else should take a crack at the songs on this list?