DFA Records made dance music fun again. Founded in 2001 by James Murphy, Tim Goldsworthy and Jonathan Galkin, DFA introduced the world to LCD Soundsystem (Murphy's project), Hot Chip, the Rapture, Hercules & the Love Affair, Holy Ghost!, YACHT and dozens of other bands and artists whose inventive dance music made standing still impossible.
On May 25, Red Bull Music Academy is celebrating the iconic label’s 12th Anniversary at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn with nine hours of live music and DJ sets by Murphy and other DFA artists spanning the label's history. The show is part of a massive month of events coinciding with the 2013 edition of Red Bull Music Academy, a world-traveling series of workshops that brings the most creative minds in music together. Among some of the 200 acts -- yes, 200! -- to play from April 28 - May 31 are Brian Eno, Erykah Badu, Kim Gordon, Afrika Bambaataa and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
The DFA celebration will also include a 12-minute-long documentary called '12 Years Of DFA: Too Old To Be New, Too New To Be Classic,' which will make its premiere at the event.
In anticipation of this 12th anniversary party, we compiled a list of 12 essential DFA singles and remixes. There are 12 more where these came from, so share your favorite tracks in the comment section.
Le Tigre -- 'Deceptacon Remix' (2001)
DFA's first remix was 'Deceptacon,' the opening track from the 1999 debut by Le Tigre, the then-new band led by ex-Bikini Kill founder and Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna. They took the convulsive, head-bashing original and flipped it into a funky head-nodder without sacrificing any of Le Tigre's grit and rage.
The Rapture -- 'House of Jealous Lovers' (2002)
DFA's first single, by the New York City post-punk band the Rapture, began with cowbell and ended with rioting. Funk met punk on the dance floor as electric guitars stabbed and scraped, and singer Luke Jenner howled and squealed. By the song's end, the lovers were more joyous than jealous.
LCD Soundsystem -- 'Losing My Edge' (2002)
This first LCD Soundsystem single appeared three years later on the eponymous debut. In addition to being a hard-hitting club track, it shows James Murphy crafting his persona: the old dude who used to be hip, but now feels threatened by the next generation. The irony is that he was both griping and redefining cool in the process.
Soulwax -- 'Another Excuse Remix' (2005)
The Belgian group's original version is a bit claustrophobic compared to this DFA remix. There's more breathing room here, allowing the beat to exhale and the clanks and warbles to softly spiral across the polyrhythmic madness.
Black Dice -- 'Smiling Off Remix' (2005)
Black Dice, the Brooklyn experimentalists, were certainly the strangest group on the DFA roster. DFA released their first three full-lengths and a few EPs, which were sonically schizophrenic voyages through noise and groove. This remix stretched the chaotic original and made it more danceable, funky, and contemplative. Still super-weird, though.
Hot Chip -- 'Over and Over' (2006)
“Laid back, we'll give you laid back,” proclaimed the British band on this first single from its second album. The tune managed to combine propulsive rhythms and slacker vibes swimmingly, while also poking fun at how the best songs are the simple, repetitious ones.
LCD Soundsystem – 'All My Friends' (2007)
This second single from 'Sound of Silver' is the best song Murphy ever wrote. A relentless piano and drum structured a deep narrative that shifted from a pre-game anthem for an extremely reckless night, to a battle cry for an impossible struggle against a future (that’s not really as bad as it seems).
LCD Soundsystem -- 'Someone Great' (2007)
This third single from 'Sound of Silver' is the second-best song Murphy ever wrote. It's rare that an emotional, introspective and confessional tune thumps so hard, but this one did. And there was a glockenspiel!
Hercules & the Love Affair -- 'Blind' (2008)
The New York group's first single from its eponymous debut featured vocals by Antony & the Johnsons' Antony Hegarty, who co-wrote the song. Hegarty's spectral voice, and the peculiar horn jabs, added a disorienting and intoxicating dimension to the otherwise straight-forward club beat.
M.I.A. -- 'Paper Planes Remix' (2008)
DFA's remix of this big hit from M.I.A.'s second album appeared on the soundtrack for Danny Boyle's award-winning film, 'Slumdog Millionaire.' A funky espionage riff was at the center of the kitschy disco vamps and arcade pings, and the foundational Clash tune, 'Straight to Hell,' revealed itself underneath the glitz.
NDF -- 'Since We Last Met' (2010)
This gorgeous and transportive cut by Sergio Giorgini (of Benoit & Sergio) and Bruno Pronsato stretched out for nearly 11 minutes with slinky synths, bizarre flutes, aleatoric clangs and foggy vocals.
The Rapture -- 'How Deep Is Your Love' (2011)
A bumping love song from the third album by the band responsible for DFA's breakthrough single from 2002. Pulverizing bass, endless groove, an infectious chorus, a soulful outro and a screaming sax solo. This overpowering rhythm and hyper-expressiveness are what DFA's all about.