We’re all familiar with one Derek Vincent Smith aka Pretty Lights, due to a multitude of factors. His ability to innovate, his influence on so many other artists both locally and abroad, and his ability to construct a sense of unity among his fans. Music will always bring people back to a time and place, and is also unparalleled in its power to bring us together.
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard any new music from the enigmatic artist, and we’ve found ourselves recently digging through his catalog more than ever. Tracks such as “Hot Like Sauce”, “Finally Moving” and “I Know the Truth” are all well-known, and for good reason. But today we wanted to talk about some of PL’s work that doesn’t get as much attention, whether it be a studio release, remix, or an internet bootleg.
Here are 10 tracks by Pretty Lights that deserve to be mentioned among his best work:
Someday is Everyday
This is included purely for my own sentiment. Simply put, it was my first exposure to PL’s brand of electronic music when I first heard it over ten years ago. It was a favorite then, and it remains a favorite now.
Ask Your Friends
One more from the Passing By Behind Your Eyes release, we like this one not only for the incorporation of the Notorious BIG sample, but also because of the other musical elements in here, mainly the guitar. This is an early example of Pretty Lights’ influence that he’d begin exerting on his contemporaries.
Fly Like an Eagle
This one is a flip of Steve Miller Band’s 1976 hit, and it seems that it was tailor made for Derek. A good remix is one that pays homage to the original and builds on it, which he does in spades. The master stroke being the retention of the mellow, dreamy feeling of the original.
Chicago Bulls Theme (Remix)
This track was included for both it’s crossover appeal (even casual music fans will recognize its origin) and also how it is seemingly the perfect track to kick off either a long daydream, or a long night. Pretty Lights’ appeal lies mainly in the details, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll inevitably find the one which appeals to you.
We like this cut from 2009’s Filling Up the City Skies because it throws us back to a time when Derek was a hip hop producer more than anything else. The sample used in this track was also utilized by renowned producer Jake One, to a much less dramatic effect. It really is a testament to his range as a producer…even back then.
Pretty Lights vs Summertime
Another one from the mashup era, this track incorporates eight different tracks (released in eight different eras of music) about summertime into the mix. While Derek’s crate digging on this one is no doubt impressive, most of the kudos stem from including DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince‘s “Summertime” in here. It is NOT officially summertime until the first time you hear that track every year. This is not up for debate, and Derek clearly realizes that.
High School Art Class
This track is one that, while considered a throwback in terms of Pretty Lights’ discography, marked the jumping off point for a lot of current fans. All the elements of full Pretty Lights flex are in here making this a prime example of his self-styled “electro hip-hop soul” vibe.
This EP is where Derek’s music took a decidedly darker turn, but the results were arguably this writer’s favorite release of his to date. A powerhouse album with no skippers top to bottom, this represents the lead track on that delightfully gloomy journey that is Glowing in the Darkest Night.
We Must Go On
A standalone single from 2012, this track has a soul at its core which makes it incredibly topical, especially considering what we’re all experiencing in 2020. We’re not saying that PL is psychic or anything, just that he was and remains ahead of his time.
Pretty Lights vs Nirvana vs Radiohead vs NIN
Born during a time when mashups were all the rage, PL took his version a bit deeper. While artists like Girl Talk and then-Denver locals The Hood Internet made their mashups with two individual tracks, PL melded elements of Radiohead‘s “Everything In It’s Right Place”, Nirvana‘s “All Apologies” and Nine Inch Nails‘ “Closer” and synced them with a melody that he wrote himself. The result is essentially a master class in mashups.