Comment: DFA's Five Best Twelves

Image source: The Quietus

I've been a member of eMusic for longer than I care to remember and they recently invited me to submit a top five list to their site from their catalogue. Rather than focusing on new bands and artists I thought I would do something a bit different and select some of the best tracks from one of the many labels on the site. One of the best things about eMusic is how easy it is to browse by label and I regularly find myself checking through the latest releases from my favourites. So which label to pick? There could only really be one choice...

DFA are obviously known for the involvement of James Murphy and their big ticket album releases for the Juan Maclean and The Rapture but there is much more to the label, including a number of fantastic 12" releases that often slip out with little fanfare. DFA and James Murphy have been a massive influence on me and my blog since 'Losing My Edge' first came out in 2002 - here I select five of the best songs from the various 12" releases DFA have put out over the years, with links to check them out on eMusic:

5. 'Two Different Ways (Original)' - Factory Floor

The most recent track on this list, 'Two Different Ways' is a synth heavy, post-industrial acid trip. I've selected it not only because it's good but also because it really captures a certain post-punk experimental spirit that the label has boasted since the beginning. Factory Floor mix live instrumentation with a lot of electronic synth work and it is that blending of rock DIY attitude and electronic avant garde that has always made the label great. This is presumably called 'Two Different Ways' because the release features two versions, the original and the 'Second Way' - a self-referential element that harks back to early DFA / LCD Soundsystem release 'Yeah', which similarly featured two versions (the 'Pretentious Version' and the 'Crass Version'). The divide here is similar - the other second version is a little subtler but I can't resist the more in your face original.

 

4. 'Yearning' - Black Van

'Yearning' seems too straight up to be a DFA release but somehow it came out anyway and I'm very glad it did. There isn't too much that needs to be said, this is just a really well done piece of Balearic disco. You could call it derivative but only if you have no soul - this is sunny, uplifting heaven.

 

3. 'Full Grown Man' - Benoit & Sergio

Benoit & Sergio are one of the artists I'm currently most excited about - they have had a couple of EPs out on DFA and every track on the EP this is taken from (Boy Trouble) is an absolute gem. Whilst Benoit & Sergio release music on dance labels and in the 12" / EP format typically used by dance music producers this isn't really dance music - it's closer to blissed out electronic pop. 'Full Grown Man' particularly, at seven-minutes long and with not much happening in it shines precisely because it does so little. It could be accused of being a mood piece, but that is fine with me - the warm 80s feel is sublime.

 

2. 'Gobline City (Holy Ghost! Remix)' - Panthers

Holy Ghost!'s take on Brooklyn hardcore band the Panthers' 'Goblin City' is that rare thing - a remix that is better than the original. In fact, it's so good that it is better than anything either Holy Ghost! or the Panthers have accomplished individually. Holy Ghost! probably deserve more of the credit though because most of the original gets thrown out and what you end up is nothing like a hardcore rock record but actually an aloof urban disco record but what makes it shine is the combination of the Panthers' guitar solo and the Holy Ghost! synthesised arpeggios about two thirds of the way in.

 

1. 'Spaghetti Circus' - Still Going 

After Still Going dropped the fantastically catchy yet remarkably simply 'Still Going Theme' no-one thought they would be able to live up to it with the comeback and yet somehow they confounded expectations and dropped a follow up that was even better than that previous release. 'Spaghetti Circus' is probably the sexiest, most sunny, soulful house record I've ever heard, sounding like the music is made from pure sweat and sunblock. As with the Panthers record this is really a disco track and once again what really makes it is the fantastic guitar work - it may be perfect for those exciting summer sunsets on the white isle but it will work pretty much anywhere else too.