Five Electronica Duos That Aren’t Daft Punk
Ready your subwoofer and glowsticks.
Daft Punk sits atop the ranks of electronica duos. Their high-profile appearance in Tron: Legacy and Kanye’s use of “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” have gone a long way to making them the most visible face of electronica, making it easy to forget that the genre is thriving and diverse. But in the past few years, many other bands have taken the Daft Punk format and run with it, in inspiring and unpredictable directions.
Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel have described their sound as "street beat psych pop." I haven't done nearly enough psychedelics to know what that means, but the only description that matters here is "good." Phantogram find a way to turn the bass just high enough that you feel that unmistakable thump, without overpowering the dreamy feel of their songs. Be sure to check out Nightlife, the EP they're dropping next week, after you give their debut, Eyelid Movies, a listen.
Listen: Phantogram, "As Far As I Can See"
Koop, on the first listen, may seem out of place on this list: they’re making jazz. But these Swedes make 2011 feel like 1955 — their songs are deceptively smooth and classic-sounding, given that they use thousands of fragments assembled into orchestral wholes. Accompanied by beautiful voices like Yukumi Nagano's (also of Little Dragon), Koop makes jazz feel cool in a way it hasn’t for years. Unfortunately, they haven't released a full-length project since Koop Islands in 2006, but my fingers are crossed that they'll float something our way soon.
Listen: Koop, "Whenever There is You (feat. Yukumi Nagano)
At times, Canadian electrofunk tag team Chromeo sound like they're scoring an extremely faithful Beverly Hills Cop remake, and I mean that in the best way possible. Their ‘80s synth and talk-box-heavy tracks are always fun to awkwardly groove like Rick Astley to. Behind their tongue-in-cheek charm (take a look at the video for "Night by Night") is an obvious talent for making catchy, danceable music. If you can get past the fact that you're listening to guys who call themselves P-Thugg and Dave 1 "serenade the ladies," you will probably find yourself shaking your ass.
Listen: Chromeo, "I'm Not Contagious"
Since their 2004 self-titled debut, Ratatat have been riffing their little hearts out across a variety of genres. The two specialize in bass-y electronic rock, but they transition well to hip-hop and indie-pop driven songs, too. That is to say, they’re sort of strange: the video for their single "Party With Children" is one continuous shot of a single bird in front of a green background for three minutes. But for however weird they are, they are equal parts awesome. Before you start watching lonely cockatoos, check out their self-titled debut, and their 2006 sophomore effort, Classics.
Listen: Ratatat, "Seventeen Years"
No electronica duo turns it up to eleven like Justice does — they seem to make every song louder than the last. They're at home making funky club music, as they demonstrated on their hit "D.A.N.C.E." But where they set themselves apart is the almost heavy-metal level of intensity informing their blend of robotic samples, speaker-blowing beats, and huge, distorted bass (as on “Genesis”). Justice could have settled right into Daft Punk's shadow. After all, they’re fellow Frenchmen working in a similar genre, they’re even managed by the same man who once managed Daft Punk. But they’ve stuck to their own sensibilities and managed to become a massive name in their own right — and deservedly so.
Listen: Justice, "Newjack"