Hello? I’m Marc Almond’s Long Lost Brother! Welcome to “I Synthesist”, whose just released his third album “Somewhere and Everywhere” last week. He has a retro-future synth pop vibe that is dark, dank and soaked in sweat but in a slightly menacing way instead of the cheesy pop way. It heavily reminds me of any Soft Cell work after their first album and that can only be a good thing! Here’s “Hello Virginia”
Watch out for the best glasses ever…
Young Summer is going to be a name I think we’ll hear a lot more of in the coming months. Releasing her first EP in June this year, the single “Fever Dream” came out earlier this month and its a sumptous dream pop track with a slight Zola Jesus edge to it that elevates it higher than a lot of the other dream pop that’s out there. Colour me very interested indeed!
Sometimes, not very often, Eurovision presents us with someone who you want to find out much more about because you see a spark of something you want more of. Loreen, whom won for Sweden last year was one such entrant and her début album “Heal” is something of a sombre dance album revelation.
Opening with “In My Head” Loreen lays down what becomes her sound for the album. A throbbing bass beat and low brooding synth strings build the way. Loreen’s vocals are soft and delicate and she is careful not to over sing the verses or choruses as you get so much in dance music. When things open up a bit in the chorus there’s still plenty of space to provide the more mature vibe that’s going on. “My Heart is Refusing Me” is more classic dance with huge tom drums and a huge soaring chorus complete raving synths and catchy ad-lib hooks. “Everytime” returns to a much more sparse movement with muted piano slowly ticking over for the first third before any keyboards come into play for what is a beautiful track with minor chords a plenty. You won’t have deep lyrics a plenty (“got my shoes, got my bag, got my nails on” is one example) but certainly there is real potential for channelling something much deeper than your average Pop Jo. The of course there is the mammoth dance hit “Euphoria” which is almost unaltered from its Eurovision form aside from a string intro. It is certainly the most straight forward dance track on the album and is still a killer track.
“Crying Out Your Name” has an epic chorus. Loreen really goes for it in the choruses and its one of the few tracks that has a big strong snare drum. There’s big dreamy 90′s bright piano chords pushing through over the sombre synth strings that haunt the album. It’s this fine balance the album does so well that makes it stand taller than many others. “Do We Even Matter” gets the reverb out on drum sticks for the skipping down tempo beat. Again things are low-key and brooding and there’s a lullaby outro of a finger piano just gently tinkling away over the main chord melody. It’s assured and much more effecting than it has any right to be.
“Sidewalk” is more dub-step induced than the rest of the album with psychedelic arpeggios bleeding over the razor-sharp keyboards and works well as the token dub-step track. “Sober” returns to the catchy low-key whispery verse / vocal display chorus over earlier tracks but is more stop/start to make big distinctions between the two before the slightly more Eastern infused “If She’s The One” gives us some great use of the pitch bending wheel for string and keyboard samples. It’s used to great effect for the bridges while the slight trance twinges bubble below the strings. Everything feels warm but sad. “Breaking Down” and “See You Again” are the two more straight forward tracks, especially the latter which brings in some guitars and pianos for what is the pop track of the album and sounds like something that you’d get in the charts normally. Returning back the sombre electronica feel “Heal” closes the album with a heartfelt finale where Loreen cries out the chorus lines like a diva whilst the keyboards sound slightly warped and discordant. It’s a great vibe.
Astonished? I am! “Heal” is on the whole one of the most solid albums from a Eurovision artist I’ve come across in years. It’s got everything a guilty pleasure would usually have but is given a much more mature edge with slick production, excellent vocals and enough minor chords to make each song sound valid and non-cheesed. Highly, highly recommended for those who look for “good pop”.
SPC ECO are Rose Berlin with crystalline vocals and Dean Garcia whom I know from a certain other awesome duo called Curve! You can hear Dean’s electronic influences throughout this brand new EP and here’s the video from Push which is on it. Sublime.
“Feel It Break” is the opening album from trio Austra – a smooth minor key laden electronic group from America. You can hear things being borrowed from other places but it still sounds quite unique on its own front.
Opener “Darken Her House” is a stomp beat track that slowly builds from its gritty bass lines into a sultry melodic shimmering number. Lead singer Katie has a strange vocal delivery. It reminds me, if I’m being lazy, of Florence and the Machine, but there’s a lot more vibrato to it. “Lose It” showcases a more poppier tone with upbeat melodies despite the minor keys and some good twisting of vocals to provide catchy hooks. Katie when in full steam can really belt out a chorus though as things turn towards a Venus Hum tone. “The Future” is a strange fusion of cute childlike melodies wrapped around a more sophisticated overarching theme. “Beat and the Pulse” however goes straight for the jugular with a catchy motif, hard bass and pounding beat. It’s like the first couple of tracks try to purposely avoid this so we can finally feel unleashed here.
“Spellwork” is possibly my favourite track on the album. It’s got a witchy kookiness to it and it feels like a fully formed song, coupled with the equally fraught and catchy “The Choke” it feels like the album now really has hit its stride. The vocals are strong, the arrangements are full and evolving. The second half of The Choke is mesmerising. “Hate Crime” too is up on the better half of the album with some good use of cymbals to mix up the percussive edge of the song.
“The Villain” moves things into a more Fever Ray territory and this is where Katie’s vocals shine. They have a raw quality to them and suit a slightly detuned composition better than a straight up pop track. Austra work better when a song breaks. “Shoot The Water” has the excellent lyric “silence speaks for you” whilst the piano motif sounds like something from a Victoria Wood track with its clumsy comedy turn. “The Noise” is a fantastic track for its simplistic hook and call/response of the main chorus. and unusual chord choice. There’s no percussion either but you wouldn’t even notice. The closing track “The Beast” is a complete departure from everything else, a piano/vocal track with minimal input from anything else. It slowly evolves into a really spacious orgasmic finale. Strangely arousing and uplifting.
Austra’s “Feel It Break” is a strange beast. It doesn’t quite hook me in, yet with each listen I’m appreciating it a little more. It’s like the album gets better as you go through it too as the songs I’ve yet to really click with all seem to be at the front end of the album. I think the best way to describe it is if you fancy Florence and the Machines to have a baby with Zola Jesus and go down electro-pop – this is for you.
A Mutual Core indeed. “Bastards” came out this week, a Biophilia remix album – a review will be coming soon!
Iamamiwhoami wouldn’t be possible in many ways without the wonder of the internet. I for one am in debt to it – all this wonderful music I discover daily! “Kin” is the first full release from the lady who has yet to put any clothes on since her début collection of singles.
Opening with “Sever” the album starts off with a sinister tone with airy electronica bleeding around echoed vocals and soft clasping beats. It’s a great opener to set the tone for the rest of the upcoming album which soon descends to a waving trance with the manic “Drops” which relies on heavy arpeggios, thumping beats that have been faded by the sun and some wonderfully obscure lyrics as ever. The chords chosen throughout the album are ones that are so close to being a massive tune but are often minor keyed or twisted. You’re always listening for the strange cue from something. This is what I love about Kin and Iamamiwhoami as a whole.
“Good Worker” is a breakdown in low-fi electronica and harks back more towards the previous set of works. The heavily processed vocals pierce through the depressed run down trance keyboards and pressed beats to give a very oppressive feel – one that shrouds the album overall. “Play” has an awesome bending note melody and a very catchy bridge. It again has this “I’m falling apart” feel to it as a track and it absolutely makes the track so lethargically elating – it’s a strange way to describe it but it’s how the song makes me feel. It is superb though.
“In Due Order” goes for the grizzly bass discord to drive a wedge in your brain as the vocals start in tune and slowly drift off on their own. It’s effective especially when the instruments switch on and off quickly at their own intervals. “Idle Talk” is the 80′s spangling track of the album with all the downtrodden excellence and heavily processed arpeggios breezing over your ears. It’s as melancholy as it is melodic. “Rascal” is a buzzing low-fi number that wallows in its ethereal ways.
“Kill” sounds exactly like how I’d imagine a collaboration with Royksopp working! Fun bass, cute drums, darkened minor key littered melodies. What more could anyone really need? Also props to the great tempo change at the end. The closing track “Goods” also sounds like someone writing an 80′s pop song with a broken 2012 DAW! It’s got the main rhythm and melody but everything is tweaked just that little bit to detuned so even though this is easily the most straight forward track on the album, it’s still surreal and slightly abstract.
“Kin” is a complete success. If you are fortunate to get the CD+DVD version, the videos just add to mystery as big furry creatures chase Iamamiwhoami around and about. The album just works perfectly as a broken down collapsing heap of everything you’ve ever worked for falling through your fingers in glorious synth pop heaven.
Huski’s latest album is by lore, the album they originally started making last time round and they ended up getting the magnificent “Strangelove”. “H” however strips out all the guitar in this bouncy pop rock duo and places the emphasis firmly on dance pop.
Opener “Sleeps Over” starts strongly with lots of keyboard gadgetry and Melanie’s smooth vocals hushing over the very “phat” bass lines and the very 90′s piano that pulsate and vibrate throughout. “Senseless” returns in a massive seven minute low-fi club mix too with dirty bass lines, vocal looping and lots of elongating of the original track. I wouldn’t say its better than the original though – it lacks a certain step up that the original has although it certainly has its moments. “Something Real” is a new track and it has a playful main melody of electronic marimbas that really give the track a unique touch in its understated euphoria. A standout.
“First Light” turns the rock anthem into a late night plinkathon with an interesting off beat percussion loop and the guitars replaced by smooth keyboard synths. Even Melanie’s voice is synthed. The chorus is completely reworked and is vastly understated and lacks the originals punch. “Pandora Smiles” is another new track that certainly utilises the keyboard well as the track is ethereal and hushed and so each gentle tinkle sparkles more.
“Make Up” is a wonderfully silly song and this gets the epic trance treatment with lots of vocal cuts and big bass lines. Here the remix treatment works perfectly as a viable alternative to the original. “Dont Look Away” slows things back down again with a swirling number that again shows a lot of technical wizardry but doesn’t push a song out that immediately sticks in your head. Repeated listens help it get there but it just didn’t stick with me. “Strange Love” now becomes a club mix using the original synths as a good template. This version is more meaty and beatastic but again – I feel like a broken record. Huski have already made a great rock/synth track from it before and now it feels like a pre going out clubbing track.
“Close to the Edge” reminds me of Niki and the Dove. It’s certainly a real hark back to the glamour of brightness of 1990 with its big hair pop synths buzzing out and it certainly gives this version a completely different feel to the original. Closer “Red Bird” is previously unreleased and is a wonderful piano led ballad. With this one track suddenly its like the previous Huski burst back into the room and remembered that actually they are a kick-ass dancing riff rock emotional explosion of talent.
Somewhere during what appears to be a merge of a remix album and a vent for some new tracks in a disco light, that talent is washed about with too much cheap bass, vocal ooh/aahs on repeat and a lack of punch that is stamped over the duo’s previous works. I guess remix projects will always divide people. I’ll take guitar rock Huski any day,
Lila Rose – one of the contenders for my personal album of the year award has finally released her first music video. It’s quite frankly stunning. I need not bother with any more words – here’s “Obsession”:
Another new duo I’ve discovered this weekend is the lovely electronica trip rock efforts of Dynastic Electric. Not only that but their music videos are sublime. So here we are – make sure you keep your Eyes Wide Open for this PV.
Little is known about Larissa Jaye as her main site is currently under construction but I do think this song is beautiful and is currently part of Ariel Publicity’s Hope After Tragedy campaign.
Being one of my childhood idols, I’m so glowing to see this on YouTube. Julia Child lives!!!
Francis Bowie’s début self entitled EP is an interesting mash-up of all kinds of weird and wonderful things.
Opener “Wasting My Time” slips perfectly into the electro-pop genre. It has a harsh stabbing synth bass over some intricate keyboard motif’s and some dreamy piano chords. Francis’ vocals are tuneful and sounds familiar but I really can’t think of where from. They like to veer slightly off chord at the end of some lines and it works really well with the slightly unkempt feel of the music.
“Endlessly” is a bit more electronic driven but isn’t as immediately catchy as the previous track. It’s a bit darker despite the xylophone riff. It’s still a decent pop song but its one that takes a few listens to get right into. “Sunny Day” is the song we showed people in our introduction post of Francis Bowie and it’s still a simple, catchy and understatedly beautiful as it was when I first heard it. It’s primarily a four chord pop song but there’s so much else warping itself around the chords to keep you amused along with the offbeat drums. Great track. Closer track “Silly and Crazy” has a nice tempo change between verses and choruses and again takes a few listens to really appreciate but reminds me of an electro-pop slightly sleazy version of Voltaire.
Francis Bowie’s EP showcases two superb songs and two definite growers. There’s a lot of potential here and we at Higher Plain Music are excited to see what he can do with a full album.
Kin is the first full album from iamamiwhoami and its CD/DVD version is coming to the UK in September. Until then, feast on one of the many music videos – “Drops”
Taken from an upcoming documentary of Imogen’s stay in China. Beautiful.
Francis Bowie is a Danish singer/songwriter/artist/painter/sculptor/design/gallery owner. As you do. As a result of that cluster of arty goodness – we get a slice of rather excellent pop! Here’s Franny!
The songs nice enough but the video is simply a classic in the history of music videos!
This brings me back teenage memories of playing Dance Dance Revolution in arcades – and failing miserably.
Lauren Edman has some beautiful music that straddles fragile electronic led piano pop and introspective thoughts. She has a wonderous voice too. There’s very little available on her online at the moment but hopefully that will change with her new CD “It’s Always the Quiet One”. Here is the song “Be the Light” taken from her CD from her YouTube channel.
Sometimes it’s hard to escape something when it grips hold of you and that’s something I got this year when I bought a PSP and imported Project Diva. Suddenly I was in Vocaloid world and quickly imported the live DVD stunned that such a thing even existed for a holographic pop star!
39 gives you two concerts around 100 minutes in length each and both have some cross overs in the set lists but both concerts have their own twists. Tokyo crams 39 tracks into its set with some serious medley mixes going on where the songs are not played in full and they bounce at speed from one to another. Sapporo goes for 27 full tracks instead and to me feels a bit more cohesive as I’m not a mega mix fan. The holograms which include Miku, Lin, Len and Luka all play their parts, performing routines that are well designed while a full live rock band play live instruments to accompany them. The result is a strange merger of real and trickery that is so infectious.
The most infectious though are the tracks. Ievan Polkka is insane, Melt is rock pop tastic, PoPiPo is a Eurovision winner in waiting, Yellow is simply divine dance pop, while Two Breaths Walking is head banging frantic. She caters for all and the songs just stay in your head for days on end!
The concert is fantastic, the audience are all cheering, singing in the gaps, waving their glow in the dark celery sticks to the beat – it really is an overwhelmingly positive experience. If you enjoy unabashedly excitable music. This is the place to begin.