The Best Remixes of 2020
15 great tracks made greater with the help of friends and unexpected allies.
Remixes are not always super on my radar, but I couldn’t help but notice the startlingly high amount of ridiculously good ones there were this year. Maybe it’s because this year itself could’ve really done with a good remix. Maybe it’s because we all had more time on our hands than we knew what to do with. Maybe it’s something about connection and collaboration during social distancing times. Whatever the reason—it doesn’t really matter much anyhow—here are the great takes on great new songs (and one older tune) that made my heart skip, had me yearning for the club, got me thinking about time, memory, intimacy, and the beauty of putting a spin on a piece of art that both retains its essence and makes it totally new.
It’s a tossup between the two Tomberlin “Hours” remixes—the other one being draag me, a.k.a. Spirit of the Beehive’s Zach Schwartz’s poignant take—but I have to go for Katie Dey’s. The Melbourne glitch-pop artist’s record My Data came out earlier this year and is highly underrated. I’m a sucker for when folk songs turn club; “Hours” gets dancefloor ready the moment Tomberlin sings “It’s all sacrifice and violence / The history of love,” a misty moment on the original spun into something worthy of foggy after hours.
One of my favorite things about remixes is the opportunity for unusual pairings. This one feels like it was truly meant to be, in a never-thought-about-it-until-now way. British house musician (and neuroscientist) Floating Points made Thundercat’s ethereal “Fair Chance,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign & Lil B, into a groovy lil’ track with a video game type beat. One YouTube comment mentions it sounds like the water stage in Donkey Kong Country and I think that tracks. It’s got a whimsical, aqueous sound to it.
Chicago’s Angel Marcloid is ridiculously prolific. She released two albums this year, Fire-Toolz’ Rainbow Bridge and her more ambient project Nonlocal Forecast’s Holographic Universe(s?)!—both awesome and weird. But possibly even more awesome and weird is her ecstatic remix of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” Justice for Pearl Jam, first of all. Second, as YouTube user jsogman put it, “How is no one else like globally freaking out about this?!” They go on to ramble about joy mixed with fear and free jazz and memory and countermemory, which is, really, the vibe. Rewriting the narrative in a way that is beautiful, nostalgic, somehow both tongue-in-cheek and completely earnest. I’m living for the sax solo right around 3:42. The genius of Angel Marcloid.
Kacy Hill, “Porsche” (Banoffee Remix)
I adore this match-up. Australian electropop musician Banoffee, whose debut Look At Us Now Dad came out in February, and LA synthpop singer Kacy Hill’s Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again have similar energies, both playful, soft, and intimate. Banoffee put this fizzy spin on “Porsche,” a song about insecurities, taking it from languid meditation to perky affirmation.
Nubya Garcia, “Source” (Makaya McCraven Remix)
Two of our time’s great jazz musicians with an ultimate link up! This is the title track of London saxophonist Nubya Garcia’s much-anticipated debut album, a euphoric twelve minutes of dub-tinged jazz, remixed by Chicago drummer and producer Makaya McCraven. Love when two geniuses unite. Also love the idea of a jazz remix. McCraven tightened it up to five minutes, adding his signature drums. The result is urgent and sizzling.
Jessie Ware’s “What’s Your Pleasure?” was already totally perfect—one of the best songs of the year, without a doubt. But there’s something so nice about Ware getting together with fellow dance virtuoso Georgia. It’s a tad pluckier, with a harder bassline, and it makes me wanna spin around in circles.
Soccer Mommy, “crawling in my skin” (Actress Remix)
The visualizer for this cut shows floating pixel bubbles against an internet-bright turquoise, and that’s pretty accurate of how Actress’ rework of Sophia Allison’s best Color Theory single sounds. Soccer Mommy songs are lo-fi as it is, but Darren Cunningham takes it to another level, as though submerging Allison’s vocals in a bubble bath. The kind of bubble bath you take to soak and wallow and emerge anew.
Leave it to Four Tet to turn this dance-y Tame Impala track from August into a trance-y fever dream of a song. This is not usually my shit, but this song makes me feel high.
070 Shake, “Guilty Conscience” (Tame Impala Remix)
070 Shake didn’t need the Tame Impala cosign but she sure as heck got it. Kevin Parker took this 2020 standout, Shake’s neo-new wave breakup tune, and made it all hazy, even vibier than it already was. I’m especially into the moment when the drums roll in near the end. Very Peter Gabriel.
Angel Olsen, “All Mirrors” (Johnny Jewel Remix)
Literally of course Johnny Jewel’s “All Mirrors” remix slaps. (If you’re not familiar, he runs Italians Do It Better and is part of Chromatics and Glass Candy.) “All Mirrors,” the titular track of last year’s incredible Olsen record and a top five song from 2019, is super moody and orchestral and romantic. I can’t get enough of Jewel’s sparkly synthpop version.
Galcher Lustwerk, “Speed” (AceMoMA Remix)
NYC producer duo AceMoMA have a thing for ’90s house music, and so does Galcher Lustwerk. AceMoMA’s got more of a rave-y sensibility, and they put that spin on Lustwerk’s downtempo, cinematic running-from-time anthem “Speed.” They made it fast and scratchy, frantic, like the actual feeling of being on speed.
Porches, “rangerover” (Vegyn Remix)
Very off-brand of me to be so into a Porches song, but I am totally in love with Ricky Music, particularly this track and “Do U Wanna.” Not as off-brand of me to love Vegyn, the London producer best known for co-producing Frank Ocean’s Endless and Blonde. The original “rangerover” is simply a gorgeous drum- and synth-driven love song. Vegyn’s version has pitched-up vocals and wiggly production. Kind of like a highbrow pitched & slowed. Dazzling and hypnotizing.
Jam bands are back, and leading the crew is psych rock breakouts Khruangbin. “No Distraction” is your typical Beck song, but Khruangbin made it almost unrecognizable with their remix. It’s slowed way down, reverb turned way up, Beck’s vocals are in the distance, behind a trippy, echoing wall of haze.
Muna, “Stayaway” (Now, Now Remix)
I maintain that the most severely underrated record from 2019 was Muna’s Saves the World. It was the shower album, the getting-ready-to-go-out album. Great thing fellow cult emo-pop band Now, Now remixed the standout “Stayaway,” which is about how hard it is, sometimes, to stay broken up. Especially with Now, Now’s glittery, melancholic twist, the opening lines, “If I see my old friends, we’ll go out dancing / If we go out dancing, then we’ll go to the bar” hit in a particular way…sigh.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Bey’s Meg remix. Icon meets icon. Sassy, moody, nasty. Not much else need be said except thank you, Bey and Meg. We needed this.