Since exiting LCD Soundsystem with a string of 2011 shows in New York City, culminating with a mind-blowing set at Madison Square Garden captured in the concert movie Shut Up and Play the Hits, frontman James Murphy has been a busy man. He's now scoring a Broadway play starring Daniel Craig, wants to write a novel (perhaps regretting not accepting that writing gig on Seinfeld in the 1990s), maybe start a family and has kicked around the idea of opening a knick-knack store in Brooklyn. But he's kept busy in the studio, producing material for a plethora of artists, most notably the Arcade Fire.
Murphy was in music news headlines throughout 2013, leaking info on the Montreal collective's new album Reflektor (out October 28) bit by bit. And with AF's recent appearances on Saturday Night Live and a pair of Brooklyn gigs during CMJ, one thing is clear: Win Butler and Co. want to dance and they recruited the right guy to make it happen. With Murphy's help, Reflektor is a pastel-lit goth-disco record full of the soft bass blubs and shimmering electric keyboards that have become his signature. But Murphy's unique sound didn't happen overnight, no sir. He honed his craft over the past decade as the DFA, his production duo with label co-founder Tim Goldsworthy.
Here are 10 best dance productions and remixes Murphy, either solo or with the DFA, produced over the last decade that led to his role helping shape Arcade Fire's Reflektor as another dance party fireball.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the New York City punk trio fronted by the dapper banshee Karen O, have long worked with TV on the Radio mastermind Dave Sitek, who produced the entirety or bulk of their first three albums (Brit Nick Launay and Squeak E. Clean also regularly contribute). For their 2013 album Mosquito, their fourth, the band recruited longtime pal Murphy for one track, "Buried Alive," a shadowy dance jam with raps from Dr. Octagon. Listen above.
Immediately after LCD Soundsystem's final shows, Murphy teamed with Blur/Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn and OutKast's Andre 3000 for "DoYaThing," recorded as part of Converse's recurring "Three Artists. One Song" campaign. It's a blip-bleepy dance track written spontaneously in the studio: "There was nothing composed beforehand," Murphy told EW. "We just went in and said, 'Start.' It's almost like pulling the rubber band back, and then it just releases. It was very much one of those moments where nothing is premeditated and it just sort of erupts. It's exhilarating."
It's a New York City club classic that changed the sound of independent music in the early-'00s: "House of Jealous Lover," that cowbell-clanging, bass-pulsing post-punk jam by the Rapture that was irresistible danceable and fun for music fans of all stripes. Murphy and Goldsworthy co-produced the track for the Rapture, who were then signed to DFA before a bidding war landed them on a major label (much to Murphy and Goldsworthy's chagrin).
The Thin White Duke himself David Bowie returned last spring with The Next Day, his 24th studio album (!!!) and first new material in more than a decade. Bowie reunited with longtime producer Tony Visconti, the man behind classic Bowie releases like Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World, but tapped Murphy for a moody, atmospheric remix that swells and struts on the dance floor like only Ziggy Stardust could.
After his band Six Finger Satellite split from Sub Pop, Murphy encouraged frontman Juan Maclean, who had decamped from New York City to New Hampshire to nurse a drug addiction, to record dance music under his own name. An early signee to DFA, Murphy and Goldsworthy handled production duties on this Devo-esque dance jam.
As a production team, the DFA produced and remixed tons of artists, including Le Tigre, N.E.R.D., Soulwax, Blues Explosion, Nine Inch Nails, Automato, Gorillaz, UNKLE, The Chemical Brothers. This remix of Brooklyn dance-punk group Radio 4 is a great example of the DFA sound, complete with high-hat percussion, straight-ahead dance drum sounds and warm synth sounds.
As the DFA, Murphy and Goldsworthy remixed M.I.A.'s breakout hit "Paper Planes" for inclusion on the soundtrack to A. R. Rahman's Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire. The result is drastically different from the original—less abrasive with warm spacey samples, funky bass and a groove that's distinctly DFA's own.
Murphy was the vocalist, main songwriter and producer for LCD Soundsystem over the band's decade-long career, but it was this raw, funny, self-depracating dance banger that set the stage for their success. "I'm losing my edge," deadpans Murphy. "The kids are coming up from behind / I'm losing my edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties." No you're not, dude. You're just getting started.
The DFA released three different remixes of Nine Inch Nails' grinding industrial assault "The Hand That Feeds" from 2005's With Teeth. This remix, Version 1, softens the track's distorted melody into fat, warm bass slides and shimmering synth work. It's another distinct DFA remix that begs feet to hit the flow.