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10 essential LCD Soundsystem songs

Melody Lau

On April 2, 2011, New York dance-rock band LCD Soundsystem played their final show together. The blowout event at Madison Square Garden was a sold-out bonanza, a somber but triumphant moment as the band went out on one of their biggest shows (not including festivals) yet. The concert was later released as a concert film, Shut Up and Play the Hits, a look at band leader James Murphy’s last days leading up to the final show in addition to a fun and amazingly shot show which featured guests such as members of the Arcade Fire, Reggie Watts and even Aziz Ansari – except he wasn’t onstage; he was crowd surfing.

Five years later, LCD Soundsystem has cut their retirement short. This year, the band confirmed rumours that they were reuniting and have spent all summer dusting up their hits for a string of festival dates around the world, including their formal return at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo and Wayhome on July 22. The band has also announced that they will be releasing new music. While we’ve yet to hear any of these new tracks – their reunion setlists have been a greatest hits affair, sprinkled with homages to the late David Bowie and Prince – we’ve been really excited to revisit the band’s best tracks.

Below, we’ve narrowed LCD Soundsystem’s discography to the 10 essential songs you need to hear, whether you’re a curious new fan or a devoted fan looking forward to seeing your favourite act perform once again.

'All My Friends' 
Album: Sound of Silver 

One of the things I love about LCD Soundsystem is the way that James Murphy can take a minimalist approach to making an epic song. Lay down a simple drum beat, compliment it with a great bass riff, and then brighten up the track with some keys and synth. Once you have this vehicle, take the song for a drive with some amazing lyrics. It's a track that never strays far from the original riff, and it never really needs to. With lyrics like, "You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan/ and the next five years trying to be with your friends again," Murphy builds up the bohemian, indie lifestyle of the cool kids you often see at rock shows and gives it a shake — something he's always done very well.

— Kerry Martin (@OhHiKerry)

'Someone Great'
Album: Sound of Silver

Dance music is not subtle in its intended purpose – it's right there in the name. But the genre's greatest artists manage to find the melancholy in the cathartic nature of kinetic movement. "Someone Great" is one of, if not the best, modern examples of this (no surprise considering how much of an acolyte James Murphy is of another master of the genre, David Bowie). Bereft of a chorus, Murphy paints a slice of life as he discovers a close confidant (a lover, friend, mentor?) has died. As the music remains a steady stream, James evenhandedly goes through a mental checklist of emotions, before eventually giving into his own repetition that the waves of depression will continue until they won't. It's poignant in the way only a song so simple can be.

— Jon Dekel (@jondekel)

'Dance Yrself Clean'
Album: This is Happening

Dance music today is often built around an epic drop, a moment where everything coalesces into a bombastic climax that drives crowds wild. “Dance Yrself Clean,” the opening track of LCD Soundsystem’s last album This is Happening, flirts with that same idea but refuses to be as obvious as most EDM tracks. As a result, it’s way a more satisfying listen. The track, which almost stretches to nine minutes in length, spends three minutes building momentum with a simple beat, a chorus of harmonies and a whirly synth part, each layer coming together like the slow ascending clicks of a rollercoaster approaching its peak – and then it happens. That heavy, thick synth pulls you in with every ounce of force the band has, and boy is it a thrilling rush of energy.

— Melody Lau (@melodylamb)

Album: 45:33

LCD Soundsystem isn’t really known as a soundtrack band (even though their music has appeared on numerous TV shows) but they do possess the skills to create sonically rich soundscapes that could be amazing backdrops for film and TV. The closest they ever got to doing that was “45:33,” the track that LCD Soundsystem made for Nike back in 2006. The 45-minute composition is split into parts for accessibility but needs to be heard as a whole, with its simple foundations segueing into instrumentals of Sound of Silver cuts and occasionally boasting a few repeated refrains like, “Shame on you!” (For maximum effect, watch Reggie Watts’ rendition at LCD Soundsystem’s 2011 farewell show at Madison Square Garden.) Yes, this is a fantastic jogging soundtrack, but it’s also among the band’s best releases.

— ML

'I Can Change'
Album: This is Happening

The first five seconds of a song can do a very interesting thing to people dancing in a club. You've probably seen this before: The big riff, drum beat or voice explodes over the speakers, hands go flying into the air, a massive roar comes over the crowd and people start a weird 4/4 march on to the dancefloor. "I Can Change" has turned me into "that person" several times. Within two seconds of this song starting, I turn to my friends and immediately drag them on to the dancefloor. If I were on an Animorphs book cover, with stage one being normal me and stage five being a dancing buffoon, stage two would always be me hearing this song. I'm not a dance-off kind of person normally, but this song puts that kind of thing over me. I'd like to think that this is what James Murphy aims to do with most of, if not all, of his music.

— KM

'New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down'
Album: Sound of Silver

A love letter in the key of hope and disappointment, the closer to 2007's Sound of Silver has become a show stopper for the band and permanent Instagram caption for hipsters everywhere. A waltz that builds to blitzkrieg, it's the gritty documentary to the "Empire State of Mind" major motion picture and proof that Murphy could be the voice of the meh generation if he wasn't so blasé about it.

— JD

'Losing My Edge'
Album: LCD Soundsystem

Ah, the aging hipster. Always disgruntled at the rapid pace of culture marching forward with or without them, the aging hipster grows grouchier with every piece of their prime that gets picked at by the kids coming up from behind. “I’m losing my edge,” he says. “But I was there.” Perhaps one of James Murphy’s most autobiographical songs to date, “Losing My Edge” has become one of the band’s signature songs, one that proves relatable whether you’re a newcomer or the veteran senselessly shouting out names of artists they got to first: David Axelrod, Electric Prunes, Gil! Scott! Heron!

— ML

Album: LCD Soundsystem

A nine minute track (the Crass version) that mostly comprises of a choir of bored people repeating the word “yeah” sounds daunting in theory, but Murphy knows how to turn a simple idea on its head and drive its point so deep into your head that you’ll find yourself either becoming part of the zombie choir or taking on the impassioned voice of Murphy swimming against the current. “Everybody keeps on talking about it/ nobody’s getting it done,” Murphy shouts above the murmurs, bass rhythms and floating synth parts. Much like LCD Soundsystem’s other lengthy opuses, “Yeah” pays off in the end as Murphy’s rage boils over with the synths finding solid ground as they pound their feet against the pavement, trying to stomp out the sounds of the yeahs.

— ML

Album: LCD Soundsystem

As much as music has tried to convince us of this solution, one can’t fully dance away their sorrows. “Tribulations,” one of LCD Soundsystem’s heavier sounding dance records by proxy of that throbbing synth standing front and centre, tells the tale of a person who feels drained from a problematic relationship but can’t seem to fully let go just yet. Perhaps that throbbing sound is supposed to be more of a headache than a dance party starter but, hey, it can always be both.

— ML

'North American Scum'
Album: Sound of Silver

It’s tough to balance pride and shame as an American. On one hand, it’s a great country that has produced some great bands (LCD Soundsystem included), but it also draws a lot of criticism, especially of late, for many of the country’s other faults. Here, Murphy isn’t afraid to self-deprecate (“New York’s the greatest if you get someone to pay the rent,”) but ultimately, he proudly bangs his cowbell while shouting with all his might, “We are North American scum!”

— ML