Top 10 Remixes of 2005
hen it comes to remixes, I tend to gravitate toward those that keep a few recognizable elements of the original song intact but then dress them up in new clothes. So for instance, Ewan Pearson's remix of Feist's "Inside and Out," which jettisons the chanteuse's voice altogether, didn't impress me much. (I was so skeptical that it was even a remix, after downloading it, that I e-mailed Erick Bieritz to request the "real" version!) Same goes for a lot of dance remixes, actually. The songs that appear on this list, therefore, are the ones that are more my speed.
10. The Killers, "Mr. Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont's Thin White Duke Remix)"
I wasn't too keen on this remix at first. I thought it smoothed out all of the spikiness of the original and flattened its raw adolescent eagerness. And yet Jacques Lu Cont, who last year endowed Gwen Stefani's "What You Waiting For" with a sense of grandeur, preserves, and extends the epic yearning inherent in Brandon Flowers's moan, supporting it with sheets of stately synths and a ping-pong effect that promises to never, ever end. And yes, ultimately, it works. (See also Lu Cont's amped-up remix of Missy Elliott's "Lose Control," which just missed this top ten.)
9. M83, "Don't Save Us From the Flames (Superpitcher Remix)"
This one treads on similarly dangerous ground, as we lose those powerful rushing gulps that made the album mix so overwhelming and intense. But our scarf-enthusiast Aksel Schaufler is not content merely to strip away layers; instead, he meticulously reassembles each part to form a tiny city beneath the cavernous vocals and simple house beat. The result is a spacious concoction of spooky sighs and plinking echoes, with the beauty arising from its drawn-out tension.
8. Robyn, "Be Mine (Meatboys Remix)"
"Be Mine" was my second-favorite single of the year, the one that I played over and over as the autumn days grew shorter, and while I swooned at Robyn's fragile confessions, the pulse of the song was in those lunging strings. It's a small miracle, then, that the Meatboys (whoever they are) are able to maintain the song's excitement while swapping those strings for a fizzy, upbeat arrangement that sounds like the glittering Tokyo skyline.
7. Amerie, "1 Thing (Siik Remix)"
Likewise, the jittery Meters sample in "1 Thing" seems to intertwine so perfectly with Amerie's helium wail that it's a revelation to hear what happens when the song is transformed into a genuine chill-out number. Siik doesn't change the tempo (the original only feels fast) but merely cuts the juice, immersing the vocals in a moody instrumental from Japan's Nujabes, complete with contemplative jazz guitar and lush, cinematic strings. It's enough to warrant a whole change of venue, from the sizzling pep of the dance floor to the silk luxury of the bedroom.
6. Bjork, "Who Is It (Vitalic Remix)"
Until the elfin pop singer pipes up, you'd be forgiven for assuming this was a Vitalic album track, so closely does it hew to the OK Cowboy template of distorted carnival organs riding a stiff 4/4. But this is precisely the boost that Bjork needs: "Who Is It" was a clear highlight of Medulla but still fell prey to the album's prettily amorphous feel. Here, Vitalic speeds her up and locks her into his hard rhythm; satisfyingly, she fits.
5. M.I.A., "Bucky Done Gun (The Claps' NoMeansMaybe Remix)"
Conflict-of-interest time: I'm acquaintances with Mike Barthel (a/k/a The Claps), who also writes for Stylus. Which would maybe be a problem if I were trumpeting a mediocre remix here. But Barthel's entry in XL's create-your-own-M.I.A.-mix project is so assured and creative that it made me realize the limitations of Arular. Inspired by the punk fervor of NoMeansNo, and fluidly switching between ferocious bursts of guitar, squelching synths, and a hopped-up cod-reggae section, this version makes those "Rocky" horns sound so flat and monotonous in comparison.
4. Mary J. Blige, "MJB Da MVP"
Not a remix so much as a reworking of the Game's "Hate It or Love It," with Mary using Cool n Dre's soulful backing track to narrate the ups and downs of her career so far. There's a refreshingly joyful amateurishness about the whole thing: you get the impression that she heard the original and then just had to rush out to the studio, and the way she weaves snatches of her own past hits into the recording ("you remind me ... of a real love") is both inspired and illustrative of the song's karaoke flavor. More than that, though, it's a self-tribute that manages to be heartfelt and humble; after nearly 15 years as one of the best voices in contemporary R&B, she clearly deserves it.
3. The Futureheads, "Decent Days and Nights (Max Tundra Remix)"
Max Tundra's solo output is such a stylistic grab-bag that his remixes can be genuinely surprising. Case in point: who else could listen to the spastic new-wave scuzz of "Decent Days and Nights" and imagine reconstructing it as a lost Steve Reich composition? The model here is perhaps Reich's "New York Counterpoint," with its circle of jumpy clarinets, but Tundra goes all out, augmenting the mix with a playful array of vibes, elegant pizzicato, and, at the foundation, a series of off-kilter piano clusters. When the brash vocals finally emerge, it's jarring at first, but then impossible to imagine the song without them.
2. The MFA, "The Difference It Makes (Superpitcher Remix)"
Okay, I'm cheating somewhat, since this was originally released on 12" in mid-2004 and I had heard it by the end of that year—but only in 2005 did it become widely available, due to its appearance on Kompakt's Total 6 compilation. Plus, let's face it: it rules. What Superpitcher does to "The Difference It Makes" is more of a cosmetic change compared to most of the songs on this list, but it's essential: he reduces the previously squiggly vocals into a haunting mantra ("no difference") and builds the other elements into a drama, not just a conflagration of sound.
1. Death From Above 1979, "Black History Month (Alan Braxe and Fred Falke Remix)"
This past year I became fascinated with the intersection of old-fashioned rawk riffs and gleaming pop music, from bubblegum (Lindsay Lohan's "First") to R&B (Mario's "Here I Go Again"); if I'm being honest, I suppose what appealed to me was wrapping those dirty masculine hooks in a softer sheen. If I barely noticed "Black History Month" before the remix came out (despite owning You're a Woman, I'm a Machine), it may be because it felt too cramped, flirting with a dance beat but never quite giving in. But in addition to giving it the disco treatment, Alan Braxe and Fred Falke also slather the song in drippingly romantic synths, which ends up undergirding those sweaty vocals and motor-oil guitars perfectly.
By: John M. Cunningham
Published on: 2005-12-30