We’re totally stoked to bring another new contributor into the Gigantic fold this week, and it’s none other than the inimitable Chris Jones. Chris is without a doubt one of the most esteemed music journalists to hail from Northern Ireland. Starting out at Alternative Ulster (of which he became the editor), he now writes for various outlets across Ireland. Chris has an eloquent yet authoritative style, and he’s never afraid to speak his mind.
To kick things off we have tasked him with giving a run down of the best moments from The Juan Maclean to date. His new album, In A Dream, just dropped yesterday, and if you’ve somehow not heard of him yet, here is a list of very good reasons why it deserves your full attention. And over to Chris…
Give Me Every Little Thing
I’m going to start at the start with the first track I ever heard by The Juan Maclean. It’s Give Me Every Little Thing, and it appeared on DFA Compilation #2, which came out way back in 2004. I was already a big fan of LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture but hadn’t delved too much further into the DFA family, and this 3-disc compilation – which is well worth seeking out, by the way – introduced me to a whole new world of weird dance music by people who didn’t necessarily come from a dance music background; undoubtedly a large part of why my resolutely indie kid 21-year-old self related to it at the time. Give Me Every Little Thing just drips with attitude – it’s an out-and-out club track built around a monumental, bouncing bassline with an indelible vocal hook. Along with The Rapture’s House Of Jealous Lovers and LCD’s Losing My Edge, it defines the sound of DFA in its first few years. New York cool distilled into five-and-a-half minutes.
As a bonus, here’s a tough, metallic remix by Cajmere aka Green Velvet. Nasty!
Feel Like Movin’
I love dance music about dance music. Katy B does it particularly well on Katy On A Mission and What You Came For; so did Thomas Bangalter on Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You. There’s nothing like the feeling of communion on a dancefloor when as tune like that goes off; everyone in the moment, lost in the music, focusing on exactly the same thing. Feel Like Movin’ is Juan and Nancy Whang’s contribution to the genre, as Nancy challenges us to “get your feet on the dancefloor; show me what you’re made of” over a bubbling piano house groove. You don’t want to argue with Nancy. It’s also proof that there’s much more to The Juan Maclean than his three albums. He tends to save his biggest club bangers for one-off singles, so there is plenty more where this one came from.
This one is an obvious choice, but you can’t leave Happy House out of any Juan Maclean love-in. It was a bit of a comeback tune in 2008 as a taster for the second album, and (unusually for him) Juan couldn’t resist including it on that record too. Who can blame him? It’s a monstrous 13 minutes long, an odyssey of everything that makes The Juan Maclean great – rock-solid DFA drumming (from Nick Millhiser of Holy Ghost!), a funky-as-shit bassline, joyous keys, little dynamic shifts exactly where they are needed and a great vocal from the inimitable Nancy Whang. And then there’s the “launch me into space” breakdown… God-tier tune.
Sally Shapiro – I Know You’re My Love (Juan Maclean remix)
A confession: I’ve only just come across this in preparing this post, but I’m very glad I did. In 2007 Swedish singer Sally Shapiro released an album called Disco Romance – a gorgeous, entirely swoonsome blend of italo disco and electro-pop – that featured a wonderful track called I Know. Turns out Juan Maclean gave it his own twist for the Remix Romance compilation that came out the following year. As remixes go, this one is pretty faithful, but then you wouldn’t want to fuck with that delicate vocal or the structure of the song. Instead, he’s focused on propulsion, giving it some more oomph with that dry DFA drum sound and sending it to the floor with layers of fluttering synths.
I’ve Waited For So Long
There’s more to The Juan Maclean than club bangers, which is why he has been such a successful album artist as well. That’s where he is able to stretch out and indulge influences away from the dancefloor – The Human League, New Order, even a bit of prog. His new album In A Dream – quite possibly his best so far – includes several fine examples, but I’ve gone for I’ve Waited For So Long, a duet between Juan and Nancy Whang. It includes all the Juan Maclean hallmarks, but at a slower tempo and with the focus on the song – a bit of a tear-jerker – rather than any impulse to make people move. Juan would probably admit that his voice is limited but he takes the first verse with some style, before Nancy takes over for the chorus, imbuing it with her customary character and emotional pull.