First Spin: The Week's Best New Dance Tracks From A-Trak, Mija, Cassius & More

Shane McCauley


New Music Friday is intense. Hundreds of songs drop from artists around the world, and you're supposed to somehow find the best ones. It's fun work, but it's time-consuming -- so we at Billboard Dance want to give you a hand. Each week, we sift through the streams and dig into the digital crates to present absolute must-hears from the wide breadth of fresh jams. 

This week, we honor the late Philippe Zdar with a Cassius remix by his musical brother Hubert Blanc-Francard. We "Blaze" up the dance floor with a funky groove from A-Trak and Friend Within. Mija breathes new life into a '90s classic, Machinedrum makes the beat pop like rain drops, and Louie Vega plays jazzy over the lounge house beat. Let's dig in. 

A-Trak and Friend Within, “Blaze”

A-Trak really nailed it on the collaborative front in 2019, from working with club veteran Todd Terry (“DJs Gotta Dance More”) to big-upping newcomer Loods (“What Can I Do”). To close out the year, he’s teamed up with UK stalwart Friend Within, who recently remixed A-Trak, and who himself has had a great last couple months with singles “Set You Free” and “Space Jam” on Toolroom.

“Blaze” seems to be a companion track to “What Can I Do,” but whereas the latter is slower, softer and more pensive, the former is an all-out dancefloor igniter with wailing vocal samples, a fat bassline, sprightly piano riffs and - -are those dog barks? Hard to tell for sure, but what’s certain is this bangs. -- KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ

Cassius feat. Owlle, "Don't Let Me Be"  (Brozeur Remix)

Philippe Zdar was 52 when he took a fatal fall in June of this year. The celebrated producer was just about to release his latest album as one half of French touch duo Cassius, with Dreems unintentionally becoming the group's final release. Today, his long-time partner Hubert Blanc-Francard releases a touching reimagination of album single "Don't Let Me Be," a dark take on the feel-good disco groove that started as a collaboration before Zdar's sudden death.

"This variation of 'Don’t Let Me Be,' a single extract from our latest / last LP, had been imagined by the both of us in June, 2019," Blanc-Francard says in an emailed statement. "We made it for ‘Boomerang,' a french program on France Inter. They asked us to create a different version of the original track. We imagined something with Philippe, a new music, two days before the recording of the show. Owlle joined us and sang on this new version of the track during the recording of the program. After my siamese twin's death, I really needed to re imagine this track, to work on it again. The ‘Brozeur’ appellation is not used for anybody. And it is now used for my brother Philippe."

As heartbreaking as the story is, this Brozeur remix is a beautiful tribute. -- KAT BEIN

Mija, “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)”

This month proved to be a strangely meaningful one for Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless).” After Coldplay performed an unplugged version at BBC Radio 1’s Maida Vale Studios, the 1991 house classic also received another revamp by Mija. The producer has long subscribed to the “fk-a-genre” mentality. Here, she strips the song of its pumping house energy in favor of something mellow and modern. Legend has it Waters, frustrated that listeners were too busy dancing to “Gypsy Woman” to really listen to its lyrics about a real-life homeless woman, insisted that label execs add “(She’s Homeless)” to the song’s title. Mija’s light, almost wistful vocals, which don’t have to compete with the original’s bold instrumentation, make them the sole focus. 

Waters’ “Gypsy Woman” is untouchable, no doubt -- it’s a classic for a reason -- but Mija’s cover brings it to a new, younger audience. Catch it, along with other ‘90s house covers by fellow new-generation stars like Warner Case and Baltra, on Kitsuné’s forthcoming House Kitsuné America compilation, out Jan. 24, 2020. -- K.R.

Machinedrum feat. Jesse Boykins III, "Wait 4 U" 

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim Singles series is a virtual crate-digger master haul. The outlet has always championed visionary beat makers, and their marquee music series lands another big win with this laid-back, hyperdrive beat feast from North Carolina's Machinedrum. "Wait 4 You" flows like meditative breathing exercises over a racing heart. Machinedrum's characteristic glitch rhythms tick madly under a dream-weaving synth atmosphere. Def Jam's Jesse Boykins III (who you might recognize from work with The Internet, Mac Miller and others) croons a soulful song, waiting patiently while the seconds race by for his love to return. "Wait 4 You" is the seventh song from the 2019-2020 Adult Swim Singles package. Look out for Machinedrum on the road with Dam-Funk and Nosaj Thing in Portland (12/26), Seattle (12/27), Vancouver (12/28), San Francisco (12/29), and Los Angeles (12/31). -- Kat Bein

Louie Vega, “A Place Where We Can All Be Free”

“There is a place that we go / to let it all flow / to hear the maestro / no cares or worries,” sings Janine Sugah Lyrics Lyons on Louie Vega’s “A Place Where We Can All Be Free.” The aforementioned maestro is Vega, a U.S. dance pioneer who makes house music that’s as authentic and soulful as it gets The place in question is his weekly club night, Expansions NYC. Made alongside regular collaborators Gene Perez and Axel Tosca, “Place” sounds like a jam session with fluttering jazzy keys, divine chords and a silky-smooth bassline. While it’s named specifically for Expansions, the track really can be a tribute to any club, anywhere, where a person feels they can completely surrender themselves, their worries and insecurities, to the rhythm of the night. “Place” is part of Vega’s Expansions in the NYC (Preview) EP, with a proper album en route. -- K.R.

Zeds Dead & Subtronics, "Bumpy Teeth"

It might be the season for silver bells and cozy nights by the fire, but Zeds Dead and Philadelphia-born producer Subtronics are ringing in Christmas with a bass cannon. Enter "Bumpy Teeth," a track whose lyrics -- "it's gonna be a bumpy ride!" -- serve as a thesis statement for the glitched-out bass jam, with the trio throwing down a gauntlet of wobble outfitted with cosmic flourishes, for a ride that's indeed bumpy, hyphy and entirely enjoyable. The song comes from the duo's forthcoming We Are Deadbeats Vol. 4 label compilation. -- KATIE BAIN