Paul Banwatt (left) and Dan Werb bring back the new-wave days where hamming it up was serious business.
Dan Werb and Paul Banwatt are the kinds of guys who somehow manage to be in, like, 35 bands at one time (okay, seven). But their Toronto-based group Woodhands is the focus of the moment. The band's second album, Heart Attack (Paper Bag, 2008), is all about awesome synth riffs, precise rhythms and occasional Electric Six-style vocal freakouts. Check out the catchy-as-hell bass synth line in “Can't See Straight” and the pretty vocals of Maylee Todd versus Werb's punkish blurts in “Dancer.” When they're not freaking out on their instruments live, the guys also DJ. Here are some of their favorite tracks they're spinning. — Kylee Swenson
The Carps, “All the Damn Kids”
“Jamal says at the beginning, ‘This next track is dedicated to Toronto on that Soca vibe.’ And ‘All the Damn Kids’ legitimately deserves anthem status,” Banwatt says. “It's unbelievably accessible considering how raw and aggressive it is. By the end, you'll feel like you've been drafted: ‘If you don't wave, we will leave you behind.’”
Green Go, “You Know You Want It”
“This song has such a great hook,” Banwatt says. “A song has to be legitimately good to pull off telling you to ‘dance 'til your death’ and to further state, ‘You know you want it,’ over and over. Green Go is amazing though, and it's additional proof that little Guelph, ON has a disproportionate amount of incredible music coming out of it.”
Junior Boys, “In the Morning”
“This song is probably better enjoyed at home with someone who you want to spend hours exploring naked,” Werb suggests. “But before you do that, consider it on the dancefloor. Jeremy Greenspan can whisper like no one else, and the things he is telling us sound dirty and heavenly at the same time. With the sparse, banging drums and that synth in the background making you go quietly crazy, ‘In the Morning’ couldn't be better designed to make you take a deep breath and just…feel. It's one of those rare songs that makes you realize that even if everything isn't okay with you, the world is still doing something right.”
The League Unlimited Orchestra, “Do or Die (Instrumental Remix)”
“In the early 1980s, before DJs got all the girls, The Human League released Dare!, and everybody lost their minds,” Werb says. “Then they released Love and Dancing, an instrumental remix album of Dare!, and I lost my mind. This is like Daft Punk's Alive 1997 but made for total nerds. There's something so delicious about new wave because they took it all so seriously. And I say, why don't we honor the memory of that special time and do the same? This version of ‘Do or Die’ is The Human League at their most baroque. Don't be fooled by the ridiculously long, undanceable intro. There's a major synth payoff at the end.
M.I.A., “Bamboo Banger”
“It's not so dated to be cool again and not so new as to be fresh, but I like M.I.A. a lot,” Werb says. “Paul always says that we have to write a song that gets people dancing before the snare kicks in — think LCD Soundsystem's ‘Get Innocuous’ — and ‘Bamboo Banger’ is one of those tracks. We hear M.I.A. wailing and the dude telling us to c'mon, and what do we do? We dance. And when the drums snare kicks in, we lose our shit completely and devote ourselves to any global cause M.I.A. wants us to. Couple that with an amazing old-style Bollywood sample, and suddenly you're somewhere else entirely, helped along by M.I.A.'s incredible and all-encompassing sexiness.”
Midfield General, “Disco Sirens”
“This track was apparently partially produced by Justice and Soulwax, which is incredibly easy to believe when you hear it,” Banwatt says. “What excites me when I hear a song like this is the knowledge that it's going to spawn countless remixes and people are going to explore what makes the song special. The Calling in Sick remix sounds like glam-metal electro, but it also pushes the song to one of the extremes that it initially suggests.”
Ohbijou, “Black Ice”
“Too much dance music will hurt your feet in the short-term and will eventually warp your ability to assess music in any meaningful way,” Banwatt insists. “At some point, it's worth taking a break from that relentless, pounding kick drum to listen to something that's legitimately beautiful, like every song by Ohbijou. ‘Black Ice’ is lush and lilting and rolls along in a way that's so lovely, I can't do it justice in description. I can't wait until someone remixes it into a electro-dance banger! (Please don't.)”
The Rapture, “No Sex for Ben”
“I'm not going to bother trying to justify it by saying something like, ‘I love tasteful and well-placed cowbells,’” Banwatt says. “This song is plain awesome. It makes me dance naked around my room…. And I do love tasteful and well-placed cowbells.”
UGK feat. Outkast, “International Players Anthem (I Choose You)”
“Not only does the total lack of drums for the first minute and a half greatly facilitate mid-set mixes, but when the drums finally do come in, it's the most blissful hip-hop moment of the last few years,” Werb says. “The timeless soul sample means this song is going to stay relevant forever. And having Andre 3000 rap over just a soul sample without drums and Big Boi rap over just the drums equals great production.”
Vitalic, “Repair Machines”
“Everything this French electro producer puts out makes me scared,” Werb says. “There's some kind of unrelenting, jittery energy in all his tracks. This is one of those songs that starts off sounding undanceable until the snare hits and then…heart-pounding emotion. The vocals are 100-percent androgynous and 75-percent designed to break your heart. I think that this song is what that blue creature should have sung in The Fifth Element…and it goes perfectly with a cappella rap tracks.