Another ten tracks of discovery for you this week, many of which feel like explorations in electronica as much as anything else. There’s a real sense of artists pushing musical and personal boundaries, and also at times, the listeners ability to connect with some rather uncompromising sounds and ideas. So, on we go!
American duo Cutts (Lillian Cutts and Peter Bonaventure) take some of the more personal and reflective elements of the 70s Laurel Canyon sound and bring them up to date on The Way Out. Gentle percussion and chiming melodies combine with a slightly folkish but somewhat wry vocal delivery, soothing the listener as the heart quietly breaks. The arrangement takes understated RNB tones as the lyrics build in emotional intensity, before the track climaxes in a crescendo of personal and musical revelation; the more anthemic backing vocals instilling a sense of hope and joy as the track fades.
Staying in America, The 10X have come up with a real indie-pop stormer in new track Think of Me. With its booming percussion that’s reminiscent of big 80s pop hits, vocals that feel more like a call to arms and a brooding bassline that sounds like the long-lost brother to Radio GaGa; Think of Me is unashamed and uplifting pop. As if designed to hit you in the feels with every note and every bittersweet word, it just lays on one emotional punch after another. If you like Apoptygma Berzerk and Blaqk Audio you’ll love this, as it captures both bands’ ability to meld heartfelt lyrics with stirring sounds.
A cursory perusal of the blog will show we’re big fans of Brian Hazard’s Color Theory, and with one listen to In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry you’ll understand why. Hazard says he was going for a sound that was part Morrissey part Blade Runner, and for me it’s something he pulled off with considerable finesse. Lyrically, vocally and sonically it evokes the sensation of someone that’s dissecting love and reality as a reluctant observer, but would prefer to be a willing participant were it not for their own emotional barriers. The futurepop stylings of the arrangement create a wonderfully apt retro-futurist sound, showing that as much as some things change, they still stay the same. You can check out the Color Theory Patreon page to find out more about the inspiration for the musical and lyrical genesis of the song.
The word smokey seems to be quite a loaded one these days, but it’s a perfect one to use in relation to elements of Elohim’s vocal performance on Half Love – a song from her new eponymous album. There’s a lovely quality of sensual faux-innocence that wouldn’t be amiss on a classic Gainsbourg or Prince track, with the song as pure or as devilish as you choose it to be. The dirty sax and pulsating bass add to the sense of purity and wild abandon battling for supremacy, as sugar sweet vocals give way on occasions to something more raw and sensual. Temptation never sounded so good.
I’m not sure if there was a medieval equivalent of a concrete jungle (Wattle and daub forest? Brick barony?) but it’s one of the strange streams of thought that occurred to me as I listened to Alchemy by Concrete Disco. Though obviously born in the modern age it has a timeless feel, as if post-Brexit minstrels found themselves at odds with the world and used their musical and lyrical skills to try make sense of it all. There’s a quiet anger that seeps through, almost a sense of confusion and wanting to make things right in a world where we can no longer be certain what ‘right’ is.
It’s difficult for me to define why You’re So High by Jane Machine is such a good song. The vocals are a highlight obviously as they soar and swoop like an eagle, and so for that matter do the lyrics, occasionally majestic and sometimes harsh like nature can be at times. That’s something you can also hear in the arrangement and melody which can go from stark simplicity to radiant beauty within seconds as if in symbiosis with the eloquent lyrics. It all works, I’m not quite sure why, though the catchy but bleak chorus certainly helps. The track comes from the recently released Back Seat Driver album which is well worth a listen.
Deep Water by Panzerkardinal is a track you’ll either love or turn off within seconds. The opening synths are icy to say the least, setting up the overall arid but addictive (for me at least) atmosphere of the track. Bleak, uncompromising and brooding it rolls along like a storm cloud, with Arnor Hermannsson’s emotionless vocals reinforcing the sense that some kind of dark revelation – emotional or otherwise – lurks just out of reach, ready to come to you whether you like it or not. If Bowie had explored the more gothic, dark scenes of Berlin he may have come up with something like Deep Water.
With a voice and vision far in excess of her youthful nineteen years on this planet, Eloïse combines urban edge, southern gothic charm and pop hooks on new song Suckers. It’s a track that oozes an air of contradictory streetwise sophistication with lyrics that show that knowing to handle yourself on the mean streets of a big city doesn’t give you the skills to successfully negotiate matters of the heart. Managing to convey complex ideas and emotions through vivid but down to earth images, and an overall sound that feels born of pain, it marries defiance and defeat to devastating effect.
Yelderbert is to solo project of Max Dowling from alt/pop collective Tetrahedra, but has a sound that ploughs a very different furrow when compared to their artistic take on pop music. DreamZ has a layer of warm and accessibility to it, but that is tempered by a sense of challenging conventional boundaries, mixing jazz and classical progressions, minimal beats and looping, frequently pitch shifted vocals. The overall effect is one of being caught in someone else’s half-remembered daydream, with the predominantly chilled atmosphere occasionally being unsettled by the sensation of things being just a little out of focus.
With a background that has seen him live in Berlin but now resident in Brooklyn, (David) Von Sell has a sound that reflects elements of both places’ musical scenes. Electronic, experimental and very idealistic but with an ear for a melody – albeit one you’re not likely to hear in the charts such is its complexity – Digital Sleep has elements of baroque and stadium rock bubbling away in a broth of bewitching musical intricacy. As much as it eschews commercial norms, Digital Sleep still has a captivating aura to it, warm and enticing like a sea siren.
That’s it for this week, we hope you enjoyed some of what you heard this weekend and be sure to check out more of the artists’ music. Have a great week!