LCD Soundsystem, the now legendary electronic post-punk project of James Murphy, has become one of the most sought-after and well respected names in 21st century music. His brand of eclectic synthesised production and witty, unapologetic lyrics has granted him cult hero status ever since the LCD inception in 2002. Pretty much everything he has ever done is acclaimed to the moon and back, so picking his best songs is far from easy; but what did we go for?
30. Disco Infiltrator – from LCD Soundsystem
As was the almost mixtape-styled approach of LCD Soundsystem’s eponymous debut album, there were numerous dance cuts that sounded so isolated yet utterly fascinating; with Disco Infiltrator being no exception to this. The crashing synths on this beat help the ebb and flow of the track when working alongside James Murphy’s irresistible swagger on the microphone; it becomes apparent rather quick that this is an absolute bop, the lyrics are repetitive but far from irritating, the vocals are snappy and bulbous and it’s a serious floor-filler.
29. Sound Of Silver – from Sound Of Silver
The nostalgic title track of LCD Soundsystem’s second album, Sound Of Silver is littered in groovy beat switches and out-of-this-world electronic experimentation; combining post-punk methods of guitars and drums with disco avenues of synthesisers and bounce beat. The song looks back at teenage years but sees it as a double-edged sword, yes we look back fondly on those times, but do we want to go through the strong emotions we felt back then? It probably serves as self care for James Murphy who embraces his age in the coolest way possible; by making a bitching dance track.
28. Beat Connection – from LCD Soundsystem
This song is quite bleak in message, looking at the mind-numbing emptiness of nightclub culture; feeling like you’re truly wasting your life getting wasted in the same buildings playing the same songs. Beat Connection dares us to think about the importance of love, life and exploration; and whether or not these are being affected by the consistent human nature of wanting to party. It’s rather candid but the electronic instrumental breathes life into it, meaning that you find yourself dancing around, probably in a party atmosphere, to a song about the pointlessness of party atmospheres. Oh James, you ironic tease.
27. North American Scum – from Sound Of Silver
I first heard this song used on the soundtrack for cult classic Will Ferrel & John C. Reilly film Stepbrothers, a duo who I would absolutely consider as North American Scum, conveniently. The instrumentals are brash and as catchy as it gets, with a message and sound so in-your-face it becomes almost impossible not to bob your head to the tune; while declaring yourself “North American Scum” just like Murphy states. He is care-free of the “scum” label and even revels in it on this song, wearing his colours proudly on his sleeve.
26. other voices – from american dream
It’s not 100% certain what this song is in reference to, but it sounds to me like a post-election statement. The purpose of other voices to me is for Murphy to cast his overlooking societal view of a world constantly on the verge of turmoil. Ideologies clash, political viewpoints differ and that should be a cause for reasonable debate; but James Murphy is saying here that “you’re still a pushover for passionate people” in one of my favourite lyrics of the LCD Soundsystem discography.
25. All I Want – from This Is Happening
Fun fact for you about All I Want if you didn’t notice it before: it is James Murphy’s answer to David Bowie’s timeless hit Heroes, even sharing similar chord progression and instrumental builds with the 70s anthem. It is a fitting homage and tribute to the legendary song in every possible way, whether it be a celebration of the iconic riff or the impassioned lyrics in which Murphy speaks about his self-wallowing after a pretty upsetting breakup. I am sure the Starman will have been flattered and honoured by this, particularly from an artist he admired as much as LCD Soundsystem.
24. Movement – from LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy has always been an advocate of true meaning within music, no matter what the genre. What Movement stands for is exactly that, criticising modern rock songs for being rock for the sake of it rather than using it as an emotional platform to speak; so Murphy shows them how it’s done here. The thrashing guitar riff on this is disjointed but polarising from beginning to end as he proclaims “I’m tapped” throughout the hook, implying that he feels too much passion in the words he says that it drives him slightly crazy. One of the shortest tracks of the LCD Soundsystem discography but I feel that was the plan, in-and-out, no fuss.
23. I Can Change – from This Is Happening
On the verge of desperation and begging for a relationship to work, James Murphy uses I Can Change to paint a picture of the lengths he would go to; even threatening to change his stance and approach on love and affection. It has a large sound in the instrumental and I actually think the glitzy production works really nicely with Murphy’s somewhat hushed vocals, perhaps some of his finest vocal work to date. The first verse speaks about how amazing this girl is, with the chorus hoping she will “never change”, while the second verse is about the eagerness Murphy feels to make this work, stating this time in the chorus: “I can change”. It’s a melancholy but meaningful tale that speaks a lot about he challenges of love in modern society.
22. On Repeat – from LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy has never been one to fluff his words when it comes to the mainstream music industry, and he chooses On Repeat as his platform to aim his shots at brainless chart music. The premise is simple, he dimply doesn’t have time for radio stations who play the same songs over and over again, some would even say they play these songs “On Repeat”. My favourite lyric on this thing has to be the chanted “you’re enfranchised and entrenched” which pretty much implies the snobbery of highly successful musicians, claiming they’re so high up on this make believe pedestal that they don’t even realise it. Don’t worry James, the music industry is safe with people like you around.
21. pulse (v.1) – from american dream
13:42. Thirteen minutes and forty-two seconds. The mental thing about this track, a Japanese bonus track on the American dream album, is that it never seems to fade. James Murphy is an absolute wizard in the arts of electronic music, managing to prolong songs and drag them out as far as he possibly can without them getting tiresome; and pulse (v.1) is one of his most glowing references of this. That deep cut synth drop at around the two minute mark is absolutely stunning and above all else, this instrumental track is just a hell of a lot of fun.
20. Time To Get Away – from Sound Of Silver
Imagine undermining and holding back James Murphy? The repercussions of such actions from his previous manager come to fruition on this, the second track from the sophomore LCD Soundsystem album. While for years it was assumed that this song was about an ex-girlfriend, it was later revealed that Murphy was pointing his finger of judgement at his ex-manager, using a real funkadelic instrumental to get his point across. The attitude of Time To Get Away makes it what it is as James Murphy struts through the song with willing panache and obscene confidence, proving he had well and truly arrived at the level he wished to be at.
19. tonite – from american dream
The Grammy winning single from American dream for Best Dance Recording is exactly that, one of the best dance recordings I have heard in years. The beat is almost offensively catchy, it holds such a sense of melodrama and almost irony; which works hand-in-hand with the witty wordplay of James Murphy. This is very Losing My Edge-esque as he crafts a song around humiliating mockery, this time aiming at musicians, claiming that “all the hits are saying the same thing.” It’s an absolute banger and one you can laugh at, too.
18. You Wanted A Hit – from This Is Happening
This song is a direct address at the bordering on Marxist approach from record labels as they strive for record sales. James Murphy is very confident in his approach to this song, claiming that he knows how to make a hit, but he wants to do things his way. You Wanted A Hit goes against just about every typical hit narrative in today’s industry, lasting over nine minutes and having no obvious kooky chorus; but this is a hit in another way. It is a funky, unapologetic track that never once pretends to be anything other than what it truly is, a catchy HIT.
17. (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang – from electric lady sessions
A slightly modified version of the Heaven 17 hit of the same title, this song seems to take a more poignant approach in today’s society, hence the reasoning behind Murphy’s choice to cover it for the electric lady sessions. What makes this version of (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang so great is the ability to keep it modern and fresh, using rapid-fire bass chords and pulsing synth pops to work hand-in-hand with the original track’s jangly, rough exterior. It literally has to be the most James Murphy thing in the world to make an anti-Donald Trump protest in the form of a toe-tapping disco cover, doesn’t it?
16. Too Much Love – from LCD Soundsystem
Often referred to as a witty imitation of a Talking Heads song, Too Much Love has predominantly spoken-word lyrical display with pace-setting drums and a bouncy electronic beat in the background. I love the element of mystique on this song as well as the sinister pitch to James Murphy’s voice as he questions the importance of love and balances between arguing and lusting over this person. It is smartly executed and bizarrely brilliant.
15. Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up – from LCD Soundsystem
His general lifestyle has taken it’s toll, so James Murphy is deciding to kick back here and focus his energy on an emerging love interest; hence the birthing of Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up. This debut album cut contains some cutting guitar chords and far more of a basic band structure than a few of the more electro-punk cuts, and that subtlety translates to the vocal delivery and general atmosphere; making this track a slow jam to enjoy all year round.
14. Hippie Priest Burn-Out – from 45:33
Featured as part of the 45:33 campaign James Murphy did with Nike, Hippie Priest Burn-Out is as funky and outlandish as the track’s title would suggest. It has an utterly brilliant bass riff that sustains it’s levels throughout the song and the mystical blend of varied instruments on here, both past and present, gives this song a certain glow that blessed the vast majority of 45:33. It’s a solely instrumental cut but serves as a timely reminder of Murphy’s brilliance as a production maestro.
13. Home – from This Is Happening
This is as about as obvious a nod to an influence as it gets really. Home, the final song from LCD Soundsystem’s third album This Is Happening, is a wonderfully crafted tropical groove anthem which was surely inspired by This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody) by one of Murphy’s favourite bands, Talking Heads. Home speaks on the personal sense of belonging, feeling safe in your own space but never limiting your own capabilities. It is very dramatic in it’s lyrical play as James Murphy appears to welcome the wild side of life while also keeping very much in his own world; the overriding message is to enjoy yourself and live without fear or regret. Now that is a narrative I can get behind.
12. Daft Punk Is Playing At My House – from LCD Soundsystem
“You’ve got to set them up, kid.” This song stemmed from a wild imaginative idea that James Murphy had of literally booking Daft Punk to play a show in his basement; for a hilarious documentary style rock show. Now admit it, that would have been the coolest thing ever, but sadly it didn’t come to fruition so we will just have to settle for this song instead. Murphy samples two Daft Punk songs on this one which hardly comes as a surprise really but the result is magic, making for a huge single to support the band’s eagerly anticipated debut album.
11. oh baby – from american dream
This synth-filled breakup anthem serves as the first song from the band’s fourth studio album American dream, and it feels like the optimum opener for a modern day LCD Soundsystem effort. The instrumental possesses typical constant key playing in the background while also being washed by pulsing synthesisers and an almost regal atmosphere; somewhat surprising given the vulnerability of both James Murphy’s vocal and lyrical displays.
10. Tribulations – from LCD Soundsystem
Perhaps one of the most obvious disco bangers in the group’s discography, Tribulations is very much a throwback in style as James Murphy comes across as rather cynical vocally while going over a bubbly toe-tapping instrumental; it shares a fairly similar keyboard pulse to that of a certain song from the 80s of this ilk; which also became part of a harrowingly devious discovery alongside this very track. The song in question is New Order’s Blue Monday, in fact that and Tribulations go so seamlessly together that hipster DJ’s accidentally found that the last minute of Tribulations flows gorgeously over the intro to Blue Monday. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.
9. Get Innocuous! – from Sound Of Silver
A true thrillride of an opener, Get Innocuous! wastes no time grabbing your attention. It builds with vigour and pulse, sifting through themes and atmospheres like they’re going out of fashion; which also happens to be a common narrative of the lyrics. James Murphy tells us all, including himself, to beware of the industry, it will give you your time in the sun before chewing you up and spitting you back out into obscurity. It’s frantic, catchy and other-worldly, sounds about right for LCD Soundsystem.
8. Yr City’s A Sucker – from LCD Soundsystem
Nine minutes of James Murphy saying “your city’s a sucker, my city’s a creep” is it? Why wouldn’t I want to hear that? Thing is, not many people could get away with a song like this, but the beauty of LCD Soundsystem is their ability to add creativity and personality onto literally every aspect of a song. Yr City’s A Sucker is one of the band’s finest displays of that very fact as the joyous clicks of cow bells coincides with a funky bass synth and stagnant drum beats, not to mentioned a groovy and passionate vocal performance from Murphy.
7. No Love Lost – from All My Friends single
This unique Joy Division cover served as a B-side to LCD Soundsystem’s legendary single All My Friends (more on that later) and it’s a refreshing modern take on a thrashing rock hit. The riff is as punchy as it is on the original and when twinned with the electronic elements that made LCD so great, it makes for an enthralling listen. Despite this being a cover, Murphy manages to add his own spin onto things and prove further that literally everything he touches turns to gold.
6. New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down – from Sound of Silver
A passionate love letter to his home city, New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down challenges the perfect imperfections of the Big Apple. The gradual momentum build from soft piano keys to a fully-fledged ballad with instruments galore just epitomises the charm and wit of the very city in question. James Murphy is heartfelt and brutally honest about all things New York; whether that be through absolute love or utter hatred, he somehow manages to make the whole thing sound so powerful. It is, simply put, the ultimate closer to his seminal powerhouse Sound Of Silver album.
5. how do you sleep? – from american dream
How do you respond to tension between a former label founder that has lasted over five years? Well James Murphy’s way of doing this is to release a nine-minute scathing attack on the cowardice and broken promises from the DFA founder Tim Goldsworthy. Addressing Goldsworthy’s fleeing to the UK, his advantageous character and even his hypocrisy when it came to cocaine, James Murphy serves us perhaps his most glowing personal insight on ever; with some dynamo lyricism to match. As for the song itself, it is much like Dance Yrself Clean in it’s build and eventual burst to life, taking approximately three minutes to build suspense before exploding into a vibrant and loud electronic track. Breathtaking.
4. Someone Great – from Sound of Silver
A true highlight in every sense of the word, it serves as one of LCD Soundsystem’s greatest songs as well as one of their most commercially successful. Someone Great is about the death of James Murphy’s therapist, a loss that hit him so hard that you can truly feel every single sound he crafts on here; through whimsical outbursts of harmony to the cute and quaint keys in the backing track. Murphy’s croons on the track are staggeringly beautiful, lathered in self-reflection and dosed heavily in acceptance and devastation; but he truly did his therapist proud with this one, a supreme homage to a man who clearly played such a key role in James Murphy’s life.
3. Losing My Edge – from LCD Soundsystem
Releasing your debut single can go one of two ways; you can either play it fairly safe and pick the track which sounds most accessible and enjoyable to a wider audience, or you can release Losing My Edge. This 2002 hit is a near eight-minute long bash at anyone who brags about their eclectic taste; it is fucking hilarious but above all else, an absolute masterstroke. The song bops hard and namedrops singers as far and wide as Yaz, Eric B and, say it with me now, GIL! SCOTT! HERON! This was the confirmation that James Murphy was not only a music mogul, but also one of the coolest bastards in the world.
2. Dance Yrself Clean – from This Is Happening
The absolutely biblical opener to LCD Soundsystem’s third album This Is Happening has just missed out on top spot of our list. Dance Yrself Clean is a near nine minute eye-opener of a hit that could well be argued to be the biggest LCD song to date. James Murphy described the song as a two parter, but didn’t want the song to literally be two parts as doing that is “pretentious”. The first part is a mellow build in which James dismisses his belief in positivity and seems almost neglectful of anything good happening; but part two is where this song truly grabs the attention. At precisely 3:05 in the song, the crashing drums signify change; a colossal synth drop comes into play and the track bursts into life. James Murphy was so excited about the song he threw his pre-dispositions about vocal range out the window, using a largely blown-out but passionate vocal to belt his way through the wacky and wild instrumental. This song will well and truly make you Dance Yrself Clean.
1. All My Friends – from Sound of Silver
Simply the best, better than all the rest. This is my favourite song of all time so for those of you who know me it will come as little to no surprise to see All My Friends top this list; and it is my favourite ever for so many reasons. It is a topic we can all relate to and feel passionate about, the highs and lows of one of life’s true gifts: friendship. James Murphy tells us all that it’s no easy ride, but the journey we take with those we care about most is worth every fleeting moment, from parties to sombre days, from arguments to meaningful discussion. This song just feels like a highlight reel of memorable quotes to live by, whether that be “I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life” or “we set controls for the heart of the sun, one of the ways that we show our age”, this song is a masterpiece. A true Adonis of an anthem that can make you laugh, make you cry, make you dance and make you think; so if for some criminal reason you have never heard it before I ask of you simply this: sit down, strap yourself in, and indulge every word he says. It could well be the most enlightening seven minutes and forty two seconds of your life. James Murphy, I thank you; we are truly not worthy.