1. Depeche Mode | World In My Eyes
This is one of the many gems from my childhood - I'm lucky to say that my parents had a wonderfully diverse Music taste and I have many fond memories of myself dancing around the living room as Depeche Mode blasted from our speaker system. Depeche Mode was an absolutely important introduction to Dance Music for me and it was very hard to narrow this appreciation down to a specific track. In World In My Eyes, the groove is ridiculously catchy, seductive, and sexy - listening to it now, it always seems to conjure this image in my head of a hazy nightclub or strip-club in the 80s with this track booming throughout the venue, dancers on raised platforms in silhouette against the smoke, beckoning admirers with their gyrating hips.
2. Robin S | Show Me Love
What a classic! Simply put, this track stood at the pinnacle of an amazing period of House/Pop Music. Female vocalists don't belt it out with the same energy and soul these days. The melodies back then were playful and addictive, the structure was simple, and every element came together to make an unforgettable hit - I still play this track out to this day and it always goes over well on the dance floor. Even though I wasn't old enough to experience the Club scene during the 90s, listening to this track makes me long for those days because I can easily imagine myself a part of that culture just by the vibe and feelings that the song evokes. And so many great remixes came from this track, which I spin just as much as the original. As a producer, I'm always looking out for vocal samples or vocalists that can replicate this type of sound.
3. Pink Floyd | Time
This track reminds me of my dad so much, especially car rides during which we listened mostly to Classic Rock and Jazz. I remember loving the ticking clock samples, the dramatic, orchestral instrumentation, and the wailing guitar and responding to the emotion of the track in a deep way that I feel most kids at the same young age would not comprehend. And the way the song unfolds as a story of Life and Death is brilliant. I found myself really paying attention to the lyrics and this track probably had something to do with my developing existential view on Life - always self aware, always looking at my present self as if from the Future, analyzing everything.
4. Daft Punk | Voyager
I had a close family friend introduce me to the group when I was 9 and I quietly kept up with them through my formative years. When their album Discovery came out, I found myself listening to this track over and over. The bass line is so deep and rich and the pads, guitar riffs, and synths in combination, especially the arpeggiated synth/harp that comes in at the later part of the song, always made me think of clouds and flying. The track feels as exciting as it is soothing. Voyager oozes nostalgia, which is in particular reinforced with their sampling of a classic Oliver Cheatham Funk track.
5. Kotton The Cutie | I Just Wanna
Many of this track’s derivations were never really labeled with proper credits. The version that sticks in my mind uses a sound effect that sounds similar to the The Percolator (which is a great listen itself). If I had a guess, Baltimore Club legend K-Swift might have had something to do with it. I first heard this song at a party in the 6th Grade and I'm pretty sure we also got away with playing it at School dances - this is probably what set off my interest in Baltimore Club and Jersey Club at an early age. The track uses a simple rhythm with chopped raunchy vocals, (what sounds like) a guitar sample, and some light percussion. I had a lot of my first dance experiences with girls grinding to this song and it's so crazy to imagine this is the content I was listening to when I was 11 years old. The ubiquitous sample has appeared in many fun Jersey Club and Baltimore Club tracks since then.
6. The Flaming Lips | Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell
I actually got this album as a gift from another family friend and, initially, I totally hated it. A few years later, I was rummaging through my collection of CDs and fell in love with the whole album when I gave it a new listen. I'm pretty sure I was in the middle of a relationship crisis when I listened to this track and felt so attached to the powerful mood in this song. The track begins very playfully and innocently and then, as the lyrics start to paint a truly sad story of unrequited love and as more instruments come in to fill the song with more emotion, it all just hits you deeply, especially because the end repeats the line but the moment never came 'til the track dies out and fades away. This structure itself parallels painful closure - the track fights it out and suffers through until it has no strength left, until it doesn't feel anymore. I find myself tearing up when I go back to it. If you really want to dwell on our Life in a melancholy way, follow this track up with some Radiohead songs off the Kid A album.
7. Orbital | Halcyon + On + On
My High School years were admittedly a bit of a rough time for me. During this very pivotal period of self-discovery, I dealt with many horrible panic attacks. I remember encountering this track in a Skateboarding video and realizing how positively I responded to the angelic vocals. Listening to the track always brought me a sense of great relief (or at least temporary escape) - the pads and voices felt like waves washing over me, cleansing me, and I began to pay attention to these sounds instead of the feeling of dread and unnerving physical symptoms that accompany a bad panic attack. For at least a year, I would turn to this track if I felt an attack coming on (if I had access to my Walkman or phone) and I always found great comfort in it.
8. Souls Of Mischief | 93 'Til Infinity
I used to work and ride for a Skateboarding shop in Jersey City called Nine Lives Skate Shop (which is now unfortunately closed). Much of the Music I discovered growing up came from Skateboarding videos or the friends I met through Skateboarding - Skateboarding in general had a lot of influence on the way I approached Music, Photography, and Art Direction. 93 'Til Infinity was one of the great tracks we played on rotation in our Skate shop and I have so many great memories attached to listening to this track while having drinks and eating wings from the local chicken spot with fellow riders in the back of the shop. This track is the epitome of a good vibe track - its lyrics and sound encapsulated the sentiments of the early 90s (I would like to note the use of excellent Jazz samples, a characteristic of some of the best Hip Hop tracks of that era) and this is the track I think of that represents a similarly great, chill time in my own life.
9. French Fries | Predator
I discovered this track sometime during College. Embarrassingly, during this period, I listened to a lot of Electro House and Dubstep. However, I remember feeling a shift in my mode of thinking and appreciation of Dance tracks when I listened to Predator and found myself loving it. This track is mostly percussion and rhythm and connects with its listeners on a very primal level. I felt like the lesson I took away from it was that tracks don't need to be overly complicated or necessarily have many things going on to be good or have value, because it only takes a few carefully selected sounds and appropriately composed rhythms to get you moving.
10. Bonobo | Emkay
I had heard a few Bonobo tracks throughout the years and enjoyed them in a general sense, but never gave them too much thought because I wasn't making Music at the time. About 2 years into Producing, I heard Emkay (which came out quite recently, in 2013) and I was absolutely floored by its beauty. When you produce Music, you gain such an appreciation for Sounds and how they're juxtaposed alongside each other. Around this time, I also felt my interests gravitating toward Live Music (or at least samples of Live Music) so, when I encountered Emkay, I felt all the tenets of great Musician-ship/Composition laid out in front of me and packaged into a sublime tangible thing, an amazing track (and album - I must say I will always think of The North Borders album as an unparalleled masterpiece) I found myself referencing and studying to try to make my own creations better. All of the sounds in Emkay seem so natural and organic, the vocal sampling is on point, and the live instruments create this lush world you wish you could live in. The track develops and evolves quite neatly, coming together to its satisfying conclusion with a medley of soulful strings and brass. This track is certainty a Fountain of Inspiration for Creators of all kinds.