I recently made a playlist of dance-y tunes for a small get-together I threw, and these are some of the tracks that I played for it. Essentially, these are some of the tracks that I would most enjoy grooving too. We’re not talking about the fist pump or indie sway with this list; these are the sorts of tracks you find some way to dance too even when sitting down.
“10 Mile Stereo” – Beach House
Teen Dream is one of my favorite albums from recent years, and not only is it a fantastic album, a lot of the tracks function really well on their own, like this one, which I wouldn’t even call one of the five best tracks on the album. This track displays a lot of why I love the dream pop genre. It’s smooth and subtle; it doesn’t whack you on the head with its presence, but rather lets you choose to what extent you’ll dive into it. And yet, it’s still danceable. Sure, it’s not quite as groovy as something from the chillwave genre, but as this track unfolds it gets more and more complex and engaging until it fades out at the end.
“Lalibela” – Caribou
This track is simple and manages to avoid the two pitfalls of a lot of electronic music: it is neither overshadowed/overpowered by an oppressive beat nor is it overly ambient where only the extremely patient (which in many cases means under the influence of something) can stand it. I think this track has a lot of natural charm, and is something that you could listen to once and immediately be glad you heard it.
“Dwight” – Serengeti
A chill rap track adds some nice flavor to a dance-y mix, and on this track indie rapper Serengeti raps smooth and his tale of heartbreak backed by a simple beat will fly under the radar in a good playlist. The vocal play, like in most good rap, is masterful as the track builds and falls. His album Family and Friends is great, and if you’re looking for some chill rap to expand your library, that would be a good place to start.
“Before Your Very Eyes…” – Atoms for Peace
This is the opening track off of Thome Yorke’s, oops I mean Atoms for Peace (I think I’m hilarious)’s new album “Amok.” This track features a primarily electronic composition but with the song structure and formal sensibilities of alternative rock music. Thom Yorke, the lead singer of both Radiohead and Atoms for Peace, does what he does best on this track, whine, and distorts the whining, so that it sounds especially whiney. However, this track has a fairly up beat tempo and vibe, making it pretty danceable (or whatever it is that Thom Yorke is doing in the “Lotus Flower” video).
“Bumper” – Cults
This track is pretty straightforward, and it’s got a really lovable finger-snapping quality to it. It’s very playful, and from the call and response lyrics to the relatively simple song structure, it stays fairly upbeat as it tells the story of an unfortunate near break-up. Highlight: when they sing “Maybe I should start a life with someone new/And give up all my hopes for…”
“Nobody Has to Stay” – Mirah, remixed by Shawn Parke and Blandow C
A good remix deserves to be on a dance-y mix, and I particularly like this track because it preserves the very, very subdued nature of the original but adds a beat to it that compliments it beautifully. Mirah’s vocals are still amazingly smooth, and every addition, from the scratching discs at the start to the sudden disappearance of non-vocals for her nearly final verse do a beautiful job of echoing the tone of the original while creating something remarkably new.
“Nothin’ But Time” - Cat Power featuring Iggy Pop
This might be the least subtle playlist on this album, but some combination of the keyboard’s two chord progression, Iggy Pop’s almost surprise guest appearance, the call and response chorus and harmonies, and its easily singable lyrics make this 10+ minutes of dance-able joy. Also, I think it’s fitting that a track entitled “Nothin’ But Time” manages to sail along for so long so effortlessly. Definitely not as accessible as some of the other tracks, but I think it’s well worth the investment.
“Soft” – Washed Out
This track maintains a beautiful sense of calm, as if it has a great restrained energy to it. Every layer in this track, the vocals, the percussion, the synths, the bass, all compliment each other beautifully. And despite stylistically not changing much over the 5+ minutes, it stays fresh the whole time, without any element ever stepping too far. This is one of the chillest tracks from Washed Out, and you can really tell the musicianship when such a simple track manages to still delight time after time.
“Night Time” – The xx
I like pairing this track with Washed Out’s “Soft” because they do different things. Whereas “Soft” is a longer track that maintains a relative unchanging calm for a chill effect, “Night Time” is fairly short, and there’s a lot of tension in the track that drives it, and the whole three minutes are a real ride from the subtle start to the mid-song climax of beat and rhythm. The vocal harmonies are just perfect on this track, and while not as pop-y as some other tracks from the xx, this one sits nicely near the end of their debut album, not clamoring for attention, but happy to be snatched up if you’re still around.
“Enjoy the Silence” – Depeche Mode
We’ll end on a classic of electronic music. This Depeche Mode track is one of their smoothest, and yet still has a great energy to it. This track does a great job of making the chorus a focal point for the song without detracting from the vibe of the rest of it. And as this list ends, if you’ll be taking a break from music for a bit, remember to enjoy the silence.