Circlesquare

Remix tortured Jeremy Shaw, aka Circlesquare, by asking him for his top 10 fave songs of all time. What can we say? We're sadistic like that.
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Photo by Zoe Bridgeman

Every month, Remix asks an artist to list his or her top 10 all-time fave songs. For most artists, this is an annoying, grueling process (think about it—limiting yourself to picking just 10 songs). And this month's task was no different for downtempo producer Jeremy Shaw, aka Circlesquare, who wrote the following disclaimer preceding his list:

A definitive list of my favorite songs is a near-impossible proposition (as I'm sure it is to most people). When I first attempted this, I wrote down 47 songs before having to pause slightly to think about it. So these are what I can best describe as my "Current Top 10 of All-Time"—by tomorrow, I'm sure I'll have shifted two or three around, remembered something I'd forgotten or maybe even heard something new.

Also? Remix is loving Circlesquare's latest bizarrely awesome album, Songs About Dancing and Drugs (!K7, 2009).

David Bowie, “Time” (RCA, 1973)

My top 10 Bowie songs of all time could actually be a more difficult list to compile than this one. I grew up with David Bowie records, and he's had much more influence on me than any other artist by far, so I've always got at least 10 of my favorite tunes of his at any given time. "Time" is a strange one, but one that I've come back to arguably more than the other nine (although "Five Years" would take a close second). It's Bowie at his most elegiac and epic—brooding, paranoid, playful, snide, honest, and then ultimately uplifting. I saw him do it on the Glass Spider Tour in 1987 when I was 10. He sprouted gold wings from atop the massive stage as he sang "Time, he flexes like a whore," and then repelled back down to the stage in time for the resounding "We should be on by now" refrain. I know he disowns a fair bit of his late-'80s indulgences as such, and I do wonder how I'd feel about such a spectacle now, 20 years of life and jade later. But at an age when I was still young enough to not have any real grasp on the passage of time, it was pure magic. And to this day, the song never fails to move me.

Slowdive, “Blue Skied an' Clear” (Creation/EMI, 1995)

I first heard this song while I was laying on the floor at my friend Dan's house after we'd learned that there was somewhat of a "lost" Slowdive album that had barely seen light of day before they broke up in 1995. I was a massive Slowdive fan but had gotten into them late, so this was about as great a discovery as there had ever been in my eyes. We got incredibly stoned and lay there with each song taking us further into their new, short-lived world—less blissed-out shoegaze than before, more dusty-ethereal with dark indie leanings. When "Blue Skied an' Clear" came on, I pronounced it the best song ever recorded. I'm not sure I still believe that 100 percent, but I do think I was pretty close on that call. It's basically unparalleled in taking me to somewhere completely not of this world every single time.

The Five Stairsteps, “O-o-h Child” (Buddah, 1970)

I heard this song in the movie Boyz n the Hood in the early '90s, yet had no idea how to get a hold of it as it wasn't on the soundtrack, and my access to soul records pre-Internet was limited to the used record shops downtown. So I used to just fast forward to the part of the film it was in, which I referred to as "seven years later," as that title came up after it playing on Laurence Fishburne's car stereo while he was driving with his son, Cuba Gooding Jr. I found it years later on the Crooklyn soundtrack and basically wore out the CD. I can't quite explain how much this song actually means to me, but I guarantee you it's a lot. And in the "everything's-gonna-be-alright" genre, it is the ultimate champion.

Santo & Johnny, “Sleepwalk” (Canadian-American, 1959)

Two and a half of the most perfect moments ever put to tape. Something I turn on in my head anytime I need a slow-motion soundtrack to my life.




Q Lazzarus, “Goodbye Horses” (Unknown, 1988)

This is another song that I first heard in a film that took me years to locate pre-Internet. It was the infamous Buffalo Bill dancing scene from Silence of the Lambs where I was initially haunted by this tragic, mysterious tune. I finally found it on another soundtrack—Married to the Mob (another Jonathan Demme film, and I found out later that he also produced the song). Beautifully tragic but uplifting, it plays out like an amazing eulogy to your deceased true love that's been transcribed via disco.


Can, “Future Days” (United Artists, 1973)

A friend made me a mixtape in my first year at art school (which also included my first encounters with Suicide, Neu! and Slint), and I thought that this bizarre "Future Days" song was brand new. I seriously couldn't believe it when I found out it had been written before I was born. It's one of the most unique and time/genre-defying weaving of sounds and repetition—all presampler—that I know of. It's also haunting, uncatagorizable and beautiful. It could be on for a minute or an hour and I wouldn't be the wiser. Long before I was introduced to [William Basinski's] The Disintegration Loops, this was the most time warping of songs I'd ever heard and remains dumbfounding in its ability to take me out of the present.

Exocet, “Demon Seed” (Dirty Mac, 1997)

This is drum 'n' bass that plays out more like Detroit techno on a neo-Tokyo speedway lined with neon and lasers. It's funny to go back to this song because I really don't ever listen to the genre anymore, but there are inevitably some songs that transcend the time and associations of it all—this being far and away the most. It's so dark and haunted, yet beautifully still in some weird way, all while being propulsive in its minimal step. It's very rare for me to remain as enthralled by an instrumental song as I still am with this one.

Freur, “Doot Doot” (CBS, 1983)

This was a drug one for sure. I was on copious amounts of MDMA at a friend's house in the summer of 2002, and this came on a mix CD we were listening to. For the next two hours, I didn't let anyone play anything else. Nobody had any idea who it was or when it was made, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out whether it was actually an '80s song or just one of the new wave of '80s-sounding bands that were aplenty in 2002. I was totally out of my mind, and often you miscalculate the worth of a song in such a state; but it's stayed with me ever since. It's the ultimate new romantic gesture, encapsulating all the dissonance, longing and romance that the genre was striving for. I used to end DJ sets with it and played it as the first dance at my best friend's wedding.

Tom Waits, “Who Are You?” (Island, 1992)

I can't place exactly what it is about this song that makes it so unique and ultimately tortured, but it's as sad a song as I hope to ever know. It's dusty and raw and feels like the circus after everyone's gone home. I still get shivers every time I hear him say "How do your pistol and your bible and your sleeping pills go? / Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?" For some reason, that's one of my favorite written passages of anything, ever. I saw him play it once in 1999, and for some totally cosmic reason, he decided to sing that line twice in a row—no kidding. This prompted one of only a select few times that I have wept profusely at a concert.

Pixies, “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)” (4AD, 1989)

It's funny how many of these songs I first heard in a movie...and this time, a pretty bad one. It was the Christian Slater film Pump Up the Volume where I first heard this sublime take on the song I already knew and loved from their Doolittle record. I was a huge Pixies fan, and a number of their other songs could definitely come close to making this list, but this version sent me to an even further level than their ultraweird but generally grounded songs. I think this was the song that really opened the doors for me to get into shoegaze and other more ethereal-rock records. It's a truly alchemical achievement when a weirdo-surf-punk band pulls out something this beautiful.


Brian Eno, ”An Ending (Ascent)” (E.G., 1983)

This is the sound of floating in space.




And here are the other 36 songs on Circlesquare's list:

"Trouble," Cat Stevens
"Five Years," David Bowie
"Fashion," David Bowie
"Up the Hill Backwards," David Bowie
"Sound and Vision," David Bowie
"Teenage Wildlife," David Bowie
"Always Crashing in the Same Car," David Bowie
"Sweet Thing," David Bowie
"Wolf Song," Patrick Wolf
"Kerosene," Big Black
"Rain," Tones on Tail
"World in My Eyes," Depeche Mode
"Crimson and Clover," Tommy James and the Shondells
"Welcome to the Machine," Pink Floyd
"Melt," Leftfield
"Mookid," Aphex Twin
"Pancake Lizard," Aphex Twin
"Lather," Jefferson Airplane
"Don't Ask Why," My Bloody Valentine
"Dream Baby Dream," Suicide
"DL 1.2," William Basinski
"This Woman's Work," Kate Bush
"Be My Baby," The Ronettes
"Julie With...," Brian Eno
"Spider and I," Brian Eno
"Prayer for the Paranoid," Mojave 3
"I'm on Fire," Bruce Springsteen
"Kangaroo," This Mortal Coil
"Plainsong," The Cure
"If It Be Your Will," Leonard Cohen
"Feels So Different," Sinead O'Connor
"The 15th," Wire
"Bela Lugosi's Dead," Bauhaus
"All We Ever Wanted Was Everything," Bauhaus
"The State I'm In," Belle and Sebastian
"We Rule the School," Belle and Sebastian