Winter is usually a time for quiet reflection and hybernation. Not for me in 2015. My way of kicking the winter blues has been listening to dance music, old and new. So here are five songs to help you shake the snow off your boots.
William Onyeabor – “Fantastic Man”
I just found out about William Onyeabor by surveying Bonnaroo’s lineup, where I found Atomic Bomb!, a band made up of members of Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, the Beastie Boys, and Antibalas playing William Onyeabor’s music. William Onyeabor is a mysterious Nigerian musician from the 70’s who made crazy, forward-thinking synth Afrobeat and disco in the 70’s. An album of his best work was released last year, and of the fine crop, “Fantastic Man” is my favorite for it’s feel good groove and warm sense of humor.
Pet Shop Boys – “Left To My Own Devices”
Yes you have to love or at least like 80’s music and disco to land this in your iTunes library (and that’s not usually my profile), but I finally got around to listening to Pet Shop Boy’s first four albums, and found myself pleasantly surprised. It’s non-stop, stylish dance hits track after track. “Left To My Own Devices”, Introspective’s opener, is pure fun, actually sort of reminding me of the Pulp with dance hooks,an especially nice lift in this dreary winter.
Mary J Blige – “Pick Me Up”
Mary J Blige is best-known for her heart-on-her-sleeve belting R&B, which I admire but isn’t my cup of tea. Her latest, London Sessions, has her working with the fine young British R&B and electronic artists at the moment like Sam Smith and Disclosure, and it has a more relaxed, fun use of Mary’s incredible pipes. “Pick Me Up” is my personal favorite, with it’s jazzy house beat allowing Mary just to play hook singer above a fluid dance groove.
Metavari – “See Again”
We have an interview with the band coming with their record release, but “Be Free (Tonight)”, my new highlight in an ever-changing album of favorites in Moonless, is too much of a jam to be left off this winter dance playlist. The Indiana post-rock band turned electro-pop masters slowly build the tension on “Be Free” with steel drum sounds, electrified vocals like Black Moth Super Rainbow with help from a vocoder effect, and a sea of samples and beats the songs vocals venture out upon. It’s an absolute jam, and you will be hearing more from us on the band soon.
Panda Bear – “Crosswords”
Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox, best known for his sunny pop vocals with his experimental indie band Animal Collective, has released three noteworthy solo albums in the past decade, with Person Pitch remaining my favorite, but his newest Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper certainly deserves your ear. The thing about Panda Bear is he consistently goes against expectations, even to the point of frustration at times. He’s got just incredible voice for pop music, reminiscent of the sun-drenched sincere voice of the Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson. But he wants to counter that as much as possible, making his songs highly experimental, full of strange samples, and always staying a little off and keeping you on your toes. This occasionally comes at his detriment, as some of his stuff can sound just cold and aloof. “Crosswords” I think shines his vocal warmth throw the mucky dance beat and samples making for one of the best songs on Grim Reaper.