Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #95 DFA 1979
The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
#95 Death From Above 1979
Jesse Keeler and Sebastien Grainger, the duo that is Death From Above 1979, are notable for their versatility – each has spread out into surprisingly divergent hip hop and electronic efforts in their decade as active musicians. And while Keeler's electronic project, MSTRKRFT, may be the name that holds traction in the slippery trend-driven consciousness of the music world, it is undoubtedly DFA 1979 in which the duo most effectively nailed the aesthetic they set out to achieve. "We wanted our band to be like an elephant in your living room," said Keeler – and indeed, their brief and gripping explosion into nasty dance-punk was impossible to ignore.
The key to their success hinges on the handling of their guitarless setup – Keeler tackles overdrive bass and synth, while Grainger sings and plays what sounds like three drumsets at once. Between the two of them, they cover the noise and energy of a five-piece outfit. Take "Turn it Out," the opener on their defining release You're a Woman, I'm a Machine – the vicious string of cymbal crashes sounds like the equipment's flipping around in an earthquake, and the whinnying pitch swings on bass suggest an image of Keeler's strings peeling in two. Even in more contained songs ("contained" being a relative term) like "Blood on Our Hands," the delivery is crisp and militant: "you're a woman - we both know it's true / from the things that I have done to you / there is blood on all the shoes you wore / from the people you were stepping on." It's a fierce and unapologetic puppetry of a culture of degenerates, but at least the puppetmasters are fair and incisive. DFA 1979's unyielding commitment to driven dance-punk has influenced a whole grip of bands this decade, and a result they land the #95 spot on our top 100 artists of the decade.