LCD Soundsystem (2005)
LCD Soundsystem succeeds and stands out from the crowd because its mastermind, James Murphy, knows his music. He took the entire history of dance, electronic and rhythmic music and fused it to a neurotic, self-aware personal narrative of fame, middle age and music fandom. As a lead singer and the creative mastermind of the group, he can be achingly emotional one moment and coolly detached and self-aware the next. He has a massive knowledge of the genre’s history, ups and downs, as evidenced by the winkingly long postmodern litany of influences in “Losing My Edge”. Murphy is a staunch enough dance enthusiast to make sure every song has an unstoppable groove, but given enough patience (something that I had to adapt to), his talents for pop hooks and unorthodox arrangements shine through. The reason is, most of his compositions are long-form and reveal their ideas in very gradual, conservative terms, but there’s enough there to keep even rock fans mildly enthused. That slow burn and relatively static nature is a given with dance pop, but James figured out how to make it shine. Every buildup is transcendent, every breakdown is a breath of fresh air, each intro an interesting hook and each outro a floor-clearing cool-down. He also knew when to quit, cutting a suddenly blooming career and popularity short so he could move on to other things. I’m choosing LCD’s first album as representative of its very consistent career. It’s not quite James Murphy’s best, as it collects a bunch of sometimes redundant and overreaching early singles, but it showcases almost all of his strengths and the themes running through his work. Essentially, his sound melds 70s rock details to a framework that covers every facet of dance music, from funk to trance to disco to no wave to house, and it’s all curated by an ironic 90s hipster persona. It’s the most human and idiosyncratic electronic music that I’m aware of, and the oeuvre that has the most to say (not to mention the one with the tightest songs). “All My Friends”, “Someone Great”, “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”, “Dance Yrself Clean”, “Home” and “I Can Change” are all essential listening, and are probably more accessible than the songs below, but they do distill pretty much everything you need to know about this cool band. Years after they split, their beat goes on.
Key tracks: “On Repeat”, “Losing My Edge”
See also: Sound Of Silver – LCD Soundsystem (2007), This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem (2010)