I grew up when 80s pop hits about the Cold War pulled us onto the dance floor at my small-town Texas’ Christian center’s weekend teen nights. “Enola Gay.” “99 Luftballons.” “Forever Young.” That’s when I fell in love with musical juxtapositions, the ways a song could make me circle my hands and hips in joy while I mouthed along to lyrics about bombs, alarms, and dying young. Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?
Heavy on British synth-pop–geographically and stylistically–the songs on this playlist juxtapose. Even without overt political agendas, anxiety pulsates through these hi-hats and four-on-the-floor rhythms. Take the Aeroplane remix of Friendly Fires’ “Paris.” Au Revoir Simone takes over the lyrics in this version, which starts off sounding like one of those Scandinavian numbers that flutter within the chill-out lounges hidden behind sound-proofed doors in the corners of preeminent dance clubs.
It’s a love song, isn’t it? Or is the singer developing a slow rage as she realizes the pledge to move to Paris is an empty promise? Minutes into the song, the singer’s voice distorts as the music reverberates. Whole bass notes mix with oscillating sixteenth notes, great for dancing but not a happy little pop song.
That’s true of almost all of the songs on this list. Calvin Harris practically begs for faith–unproven yet believable truths–but the beats are completed-jigsaw-puzzle perfect, not a piece out of place. Metronomy worries about being trapped in the past even as Joseph Mount layers a Minimoog on top of a Roland Juno-60 on top of a Moog Source and carries the song and band forward.
Not that the playlist is all worry and anxiety. Not at all. The Betablock3r remix of Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Can Happen” is anthemic, a mix that can get all of the singular bodies undulating on a dance floor as one. And Hadouken! might feel trapped on Earth, but it’s not for long. Our feet can rise. We each can float, especially if we’re lucky enough to find a bright red sloop in the harbor.
I need a little | is that too much to ask for | they’ll be out for us | I’m on it | we didn’t read it in a big book | everyone thinks we’re trouble | I can’t do well when I think you’re going to leave | can you be believing now | now I’ve seen it through | now I know the truth | I know it’s starting | with every chord that plays | I close my eyes