The challenge of the remix, as opposed to the cover, is that you can’t just do the same thing as the original except use your own voice and a different guitar. The remix culture demands reimaginings, not renditions, and that is at once freeing and challenging. It’s freeing because, source material be damned, if you want to make “Dust in the Wind” a thumping electro dance track, then you’re going to do it, by golly. It’s challenging because you’re still going to have to utilize elements from the original – and maybe that soothing acoustic picking doesn’t have enough beats per minute to dance to.
On rare occasion, these reimaginings and alternate takes make creative decisions that outdo even the original material. It’s rare, but sometimes third parties seem to get the heart of a song better than their actual creators. Join me as we look at the subtle successes in the art of the remix.
Little Boots – “New In Town (Fred Falke Remix)”
The untouched Little Boots version is a decent song. It’s got an appealing hook and some cool synth noise, but it wasn’t blowing up the request line. Fred Falke, who is some kind of king at these things, takes the song and turns it into a veritable club banger that makes the original seem limp. Even though he stretches out the song to a long 7 minutes, it’s sped up where it counts: the verses and chorus are adrenaline jacked, creating a feeling of carefree urgency that sounds like it should actually be playing at your local nightlife spot. It’s one of those small changes that makes you think, “Why doesn’t she always sing it like this?” This song should be fast, it should explode, and it should play with the tension between low-key moments and the amped-up payoff. It took Fred Falke to give it the qualities that it deserved.
Adele – “Rolling in the Deep (Jamie xx Remix)”
The whole time this song was dominating 2011, I kept thinking, “This is cool and all but they should just pretend the Jamie xx version is the original one.” Indie rock favorite Jamie xx surprised everyone by turning out to be some kind of production genius with his remixes, including one of the quintessential Adele hits, which features crisp drum hits and warped vocals juxtaposed with the beauty we expect from her voice. It’s a song that takes a pop giant and puts it firmly on the cutting edge, and turning it into one of the freshest things I heard last year. Also, hand claps. How can you not love hand claps?
Chairlift – Bruises (Passion Pit Remix)
Best known as one of those cute iPod commercial songs, “Bruises” by Chairlift is a perfectly innocent and sweet song all on its own. But with the folks at Passion Pit at the helm, they apply their maximalist approach and, suddenly, this tiny little ditty turns into a booming song about a great love. A cute song is fine, but it has a ceiling for how powerful it can be. Through vocal distortion, a fuzzy aesthetic, and a constantly morphing soundscape, this song feels like it’s now about much more than playground affections.
Bright Eyes – Easy/Lucky/Free (Hot Chip Remix)
Despite being Bright Eyes’ “electronic album,” Digital Ash in a Digital Urn is not a very easy thing to dance to. So it was surprising that the people in Omaha selected Hot Chip, a band that leans towards dance music, to remix one of the songs for a supporting EP. The original “Easy/Lucky Free” is a contemplative piece full of Nick Zinner’s signature guitar work that blurs the line between guitar and synth. Hot Chip succeeds by going for the rare and deceptively simple un-mix – shedding all those layers and making it a sparse piece. It’s uncharacteristic for them, but given the fact the song is about making peace with human mortality, it works. Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard step in for some choir-like background vocals and add gravity to a song that was shiny and cool, but not nearly as heavy.