2019’s best electronic albums…
This year saw a wealth of electronic music talent competing for the attention of the public. There was a good balance between classic acts that were still capable of crafting solid tunes – and also contemporary acts often taking electronic music in unusual and interesting directions.
Here are 25 albums that are not presented in any particular order (aside from our top choice), but as a whole were the standout long-players for The Electricity Club in 2019.
Album Of The Year
NATURE OF WIRES – Modus
Modus is a curious album which includes songs penned by the band between 1986 and 1993, but each given a workover to give them a contemporary flourish. “We want to look back on this album in 20 years time and be satisfied that it is as good as possible” suggests Gary Watts. As a result, they’ve employed some talented producers to work on the project, including Steve Whitfield (The Cure, The Mission, Shed Seven, Terrorvision, Jah Wobble, Promenade Cinema, Zeitgeist Zero) and Mike Marsh (Calvin Harris, OMD, Human League, Chemical Brothers, Moby, Shamen, Massive Attack, Erasure, 808 State, The Prodigy, Depeche Mode).
The album is a joy from start to finish. Each track is also given some suitable whack care of Andrew Stirling-Brown’s not inconsiderable vocal chops. From the confident opener ‘Feel The Hunger’, the anthemic ‘Time is Come’, a more reflective approach on ‘Seagull’, the clubby rhythms of ‘Harry’s House’ and the spacious beats of ‘Madame Serena’.
Modus closes out with the excellent ‘First Light’, which manages to be the perfect distillation of the Nature Of Wires sound. Here, sweeping synths and solid percussion come together in a polished production.
Nature Of Wires have established themselves as the go-to outfit for top notch remixes, but Modus demonstrates that they’re no pushovers when doing their own thing either.
TEC Review: NATURE OF WIRES – Modus
QUIETER THAN SPIDERS – Signs Of Life
One of the pleasant surprises to land this year was the long-awaited album from 3-piece electronic outfit Quieter Than Spiders. Signs Of Life has been in development for several years since some initial tracks were first unveiled around 2014.
The simple percussive drive of ‘No Illusion’ has a raw electro appeal with some wistful lyrical musings (“Electric sound-waves that pulse through our sleep …and our dreams”). Elsewhere, there’s hints of Kraftwerk lurking on ‘Night Drive’ with some nice synth hooks and some beefy bass underpinning it all.
Meanwhile, ‘The Land Of Lost Content’ offers up one of the album’s best moments. Its a haunting electronic reverie (“A distant field I used to know/A place I’ve been but cannot go”) with big slabs of synths that deliver a real emotional punch. That pastoral theme is also carried over to ‘Fessenden Grove’, with its plaintive piano melodies contrasting with snippets of sampled dialogue.
Signs Of Life breathes with a heartfelt sense of vulnerability and loss reflected in the melancholic synth work. It’s been a long time coming, but the wait was worth it.
TEC Review: QUIETER THAN SPIDERS – Signs Of Life
CULT WITH NO NAME – Mediaburn
Cult With No Name (aka Erik Stein and Jon Boux) have a talent in crafting stylish pop that strives for an emphasis on mood and reflection. Mediaburn is the duo’s ninth studio album and serves up some of their finest compositions to date.
‘Blind Dogs for the Guides’ opts for a subtle combo of electronic rhythms alongside Erik Stein’s mesmerising vocals. It’s a mood that crosses over on follow-up track ‘Needle and Thread’, which also employs some effective backing vocals from Kelli Ali.
The fragile beauty of ‘In Hollywood You Won’t Find Bel-Air’ showcases Cult With No Name’s particular flair for haunting piano-driven melodies with subtle electronic flourishes. Lines such as “It ain’t CGI, when the trucks roll on by/In a smog that soon filters the sky” offers a pointed reverie looking at chasing an American Dream which is no longer there.
Meanwhile, on ‘She Sells Incels’, the duo dip into a more jazz-infused number – an unusual bucolic accompaniment for a composition that delves into the seedier aspects of modern pop culture.
One of the album’s sober highlights is laid out on the more melancholic ‘By Air or by Sea’. Here, the song’s seascape sounds are bolstered by a haunting violin (care of Blaine L. Reininger) giving this outing a more organic feel.
Elsewhere, ‘Mona’ is a slice of elegant lounge pop. There’s a hypnotic element to this intriguing paean to the world’s most famous painting, particularly the interpretation of its enigmatic smile balanced against our increasingly turbulent world.
‘All This Spite (Comes at a Price)’ seems to be an appropriate commentary on contrarian commentators delivered with polished piano-led melodies that have a ghostly aspect to them.
Our review summed the album up: “Mediaburn offers up a stylish collection of lounge pop perfection that also offers some pertinent commentary on modern culture.”
TEC Review: CULT WITH NO NAME – Mediaburn
PARRALOX – Genesis
Following on from 2016’s Subculture, new outing Genesis sees Parralox maestro John von Ahlen gather a range of talents for the new album. Johanna Gervin’s scintillating vocal chops are, of course, present and correct, but Genesis also features vocal contributions from Louise Love and Jane Badler on the album. Meanwhile, Ian Burden returns to lend his bass talents.
‘Tears Of Faith’ (which features Badler on vocals) is a slick slice of pop with a sturdy bass foundation. Meanwhile, ‘Goodbye Berlin’ offers up Johanna Gervin’s evocative vocal on a driving synth-pop number.
But Genesis offers up a wide variety of sounds, including the euphoric pop on ‘System of Pleasure’ or the more mechanised mood of ‘Robots of the World Unite’ with its vocoder-enhanced vocals. There’s also more Moroder-esque touches on ‘Resurrection’ in which Louise Love’s vocals breathe with an ethereal charm.
Our review summed it up: “Genesis demonstrates that Parralox are still at the top of their game with their distinct flavour of synth-pop.”
TEC Review: PARRALOX – Genesis
LEGPUPPY – Non Disclosure Agreement
Non Disclosure Agreement sees Leg Puppy delve into slightly darker territory, particularly on the sinister ‘Truth’ or the unsettling ‘Speak, Talk, Speak’.
But the album also offers brighter moments, such as the psychedelic ‘Tears’ (which features the vocal talents of Voi Vang). Their knack for social commentary with wit is also present on the chugging rhythms of the excellent ‘Nominate 10’, while ’Twit Machine T12′ is the spiritual successor to ‘Selfie Stick’.
Elsewhere,‘Corgi Stop’ suggests a very English nod to NEU!’s ‘Nazionale’, a similarly distorted delivery of the national anthem offering a comment of sorts on Brexit Britain.
Leg Puppy continue to be one of our national treasures – and the evidence is all over this album.
TEC Review: LEGPUPPY – Non Disclosure Agreement
HOWARD JONES – Transform
Despite its title, this album is less of a ‘transformation’ and more of a ‘restoration’ of Howard Jones’ early sound- and considering this was what brought him to prominence in the UK in the first place, this ‘restoration’ of sorts is certainly a welcome one.
‘The One To Love You’ is a perfect example of this, with rich layers of vocal effects and a soaring chorus melody offset by bright, well-placed arpeggiation. ‘Take Us Higher’, meanwhile, does just that, delivering a sufficiently theatrical intro that leads nicely into a crisp, crunchy slice of dance pop.
One theme that starts to creep into the album more as it progresses is one that perhaps hasn’t been as prominent in some of Jones’s earlier releases; tracks like ‘Beating Mr Neg’, ‘Tin Man Song’ and the album’s title track in particular deliver some intriguing sci-fi based concepts.
In the TEC review, writer Imogen Bebb summed the album up as a “…joyful reminder why Howard Jones’s music- and indeed, synth pop in its rawest form – still holds an endearing honesty and simplicity that is so easy for fans old and new to appreciate.”
TEC Review: HOWARD JONES – Transform
V-SOR,X – Reformer
Reformer, which is V-Sor,X’s third studio album, presents a collection of tunes with a heavy electronic foundation (including a few minimal nods), but also a warm, earthy feel to the compositions.
‘Dragged’ offers an engaging intensity, ramped up by Morgan Bryan’s emphatic “I’m alive”, which repeats across the song’s machine-like rhythms. Elsewhere, there’s the crunchy ‘Elektronisch’ or the twilight narrative of ‘The Return’.
There’s sharper edges for ‘Getting Back’, while ‘That’s Quite Enough’ sees Bryan ruminating on thoughts of blame, guilt and nostalgia (“The past no longer holds charm for me”). It’s electronic percussion clicks and purrs as subtle choral effects drop in and out.
“Reformer is an intriguing album that works its particular magic on the listener to full effect after a few spins” was our conclusion.
TEC Review: V-SOR,X – Reformer
FRAGRANCE. – Now That I’m Real
Back in 2017, we explored the dusty synth worlds of Paris-based musician Matthieu Roche. Since then, Roche has been honing his sound which has now resulted in debut album Now That I’m Real. Along for the ride are Maya Postepski (TR/ST, Austra, Princess Century) and Hélène de Thoury (Hante., Minuit Machine).
The result is an album of odd, evocative gems, such as the propulsive ‘Gone In A Wink’ gives the album a opening track, its percussive rhythms offset against Roche’s whispery vocal delivery. Or the reflective ‘At Last’ where Postepski offers up some co-vocals on a lounge pop piece that plays with themes of memory and the past.
But if there’s a track that jumps out of the entire album, it has to be the icy excellence of ‘So Typical’. There’s an oddly empty quality to the delivery of the lyrics (“But you were mine/And I was gone”) while the subtle rhythms keep the whole thing chugging along.
‘Hazy Strobes’ is a slower affair, with warmer textures – and also features some co-vocals from Hélène de Thoury (in her Hante. guise).
Now That I’m Real shows that Fragrance. is a force to be reckoned with within the French electronic scene.
TEC Review: FRAGRANCE. – Now That I’m Real
LADYTRON – Ladytron
The news of a new Ladytron album on the horizon back in 2018 led to the perking up of ears across the electronic music community. There had been times when it seemed as if the band were done, particularly since Helen Marnie had branched out on a solo career, which included 2017’s Strange Words And Weird Wars.
But their eponymously-titled 2019 album boasted the breezy melodies of ‘The Island’, ome classic Ladytron squelchy synth sounds on the excellent ‘Far From Home’, the synth noir of ‘Deadzone’ or the bass-pounding delights of ‘You’ve Changed’.
Our review summed it up: “Ladytron serves as a testament to the electropop outfit’s willingness to embrace change, while still staying faithful to their electronic roots. As an album, it presents a strong collection of songs that will likely mark it out as one of 2019’s finest.”
TEC Review: LADYTRON – Ladytron
SPRAY – Failure Is Inevitable
Having risen from the ashes of The Cuban Boys (see smash hit ‘Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia‘ – aka ‘The Hamster Dance Song’), Ricardo Autobahn and Jenny McLaren reinvented themselves as Spray. Failure Is Inevitable represents their fifth studio album – a collection of songs that bounce around with lyrical commentary on everything from the music industry and relationships, through to disappointment in the future and toxic masculinity. But at the same time there’s a sharp use of killer hooks and a lean-in to the pop end of the electronic music spectrum.
‘Here’s One From The New Album’ is a bombastic number whose witty topic is something that many a seasoned music fan can appreciate. Things don’t let up with the energetic ‘Astronomical’, a charged slice of pop which lyrically explores the quirks of musical fame (“Though we’re damned/It’s beautifully planned”).
‘We Gotta Get Haircuts’ is a euphoric synth-pop number that suggests older bands can impress a younger audience with a new barnet. Equally, ‘Anthologised By Cherry Red’ is a wry observation of the indie record label’s role in revitalising the careers of older bands.
Elsewhere, the topical themes of ‘Get A Load Of This Guy’ tackles the incomprehensible rise of toxic masculinity in online circles, which is given an expert dissection in McLaren’s wry lyrics (“He’ll take time to explain mansplaining/I play it thick so that he can still keep up”).
Our review concluded: “If you’re a fan of the likes of Lola Dutronic or Freezepop, you’ll find much to like lurking inside the tracks on Failure is inevitable. There’s a similar sense of humour along with a talent for sharp, polished electronic pop. While the competition is quite fierce, Spray may have delivered one of the year’s finest albums.”
TEC Review: SPRAY – Failure Is Inevitable
THE RUDE AWAKENING Feat Bridget Gray – Kaleidoscope
The Rude Awakening is a collaborative effort led by musician, promoter and radio presenter, Johnny Normal and singer/songwriter Bridget Gray. Of which, Kaleidoscope represents their debut album.
‘Let Nothing Take Your Pride’ (an early release which featuring the vocals of Brooke Calder) is a dazzling opener which reveals itself in the most sparkling, flamboyant, silver-sequinned fashion, and if you liked Duran Duran’s ‘Reflex’, you might notice some of those iridescent particles finding their way into the dance space right here. In complete contrast, is the possessive and provocative tones of ‘Your Wetness is My Weakness’.
The very Numan-esque ‘Emerald Dancer’ airs towards the duskier shades of the colour spectrum. Meanwhile, there’s a modern lift with ‘Another Song’ – exposing Bridget’s vocals nicely.
“As an album, Kaleidoscope is definitely one of contrasts” suggested Jus Forrest in her review “and it takes a certain amount of artistic courage to come up with something this ambitious, and for it to actually be good.”
GIRL ONE AND THE GREASE GUNS – Transmissions From The Glass Factory
After a remarkable journey, it looks like the Girl One And The Grease Guns story may have reached its conclusion. Transmissions From The Glass Factory delivers the final batch of tunes recorded at their Glass Factory studio on this 6 track mini-album release.
‘(It’s) A Warning Sign (Blue Lights)’ combines raw electronics with touches of Hooky-style bass guitar and reedy synth sounds. There’s a more crunchy structure to ‘Destination Yesterday’, whose lyrics delve into musings on the human condition. It’s topped off with a warm synth melody offering a gentle pop quality.
Meanwhile, ‘Noise And Fury’ presents one of the album’s finest moments. Originally a tune from label stablemates The Blanche Hudson Weekend, It’s an electropop wonder infused with 60s girl group goodness and some New Order guitar flourishes. The transition from the original’s fuzz guitar thrashout to electropop bop is inspired, demonstrating perhaps that good tunes can evolve into other forms.
Similarly, there’s some neat organ licks on the bubblegum pop of ’The Multiplex (Is No Good For Me)’. The album closes with the pop gem ‘Turn It Around Again’ whose Mellotron-esque chords wouldn’t be out of place on early OMD.
BRUTALIST ARCHITECTURE IN THE SUN – Monochrome Beach
Brutalist Architecture in the Sun lean towards that grey, brooding niche of electronic music that often seems purpose-built for dystopian science fiction films. Founder-member Dean Clarke’s vocal style certainly has a striking darkwave quality to it. Monochrome Beach sees Clarke teaming up with regular collaborator Cye Thomas providing some contrasting vocals (in contrast to Clarke, Thomas has an eerie fragility to his singing style that has hints of Bowie).
The album boasts tracks such as the frenetic ‘Humanise’ or the sleazy sounding ‘Peep Show’. That’s contrasted by the brighter tones of ‘Broken Machines’. Here, a wonderful burbling synth arrangement makes the composition stand out from its darker companions.
As if worried that things might be getting too fluffy, the chilling ‘Nuclear Sun’ opens with a sample from a public information film about an imminent nuclear strike. Despite this foreboding theme, it offers up some engaging synth melodies and another sharp turn from Thomas (“Is this the last place I will go/Is this the last day I will know”).
“If you like your analogue synths and coldwave wonders” the TEC review mused, “then Brutalist Architecture in the Sun will serve you in fine style.”
preston.outatime – Coplanar
Having worked his magic on the BOO remix album, preston.outatime (aka Preston Parris) followed up with his own album.
Coplanar has been conceived as a more mature outing than his previous releases. Here, the effort has been to combine electronics with more organic input – including found sounds and field recordings. The end result is a series of often angular compositions that play around with the idea of space and form that Parris refers to as “aural dioramas”.
‘Colinear’ delivers synth pulses with an oddly mesmerising quality. ‘Downcast’, despite the track’s title, has a similarly bright, warm aspect to it. ‘Semblance, Resemblance’ tracks closer to an ambient/Tangerine Dream flavour. The album then shifts a gear on ‘Fulcrum’, with its sub-bass muscle and fractured electronics.
The glitchy unsettling soundscape of ‘Thermals’ (which is also the first single culled from the album) is billed as “unfurling geometry and pairing of forces and form”. There’s a more baroque aspect to ‘Recursion’ with a weightier foundation and bass tones front and centre.
TEC Review: preston.outatime – Coplanar
TENEDLE – Traumsender
There’s very much a continental flavour to the music of Dimitri Niccolai (aka Tenedle), something the musician, producer and performer has honed over many years (and through a variety of disciplines). His latest album, Traumsender, continues to build his own personal universe – a Tenederland illustrated through songs that delve into themes of love, humanity, loneliness and beyond.
‘Stranger In My Own Tongue’, which has an easy lilt to it, is punctuated with some engaging melodies. ‘Sentenced to death’, which touches on climate change and the fleetness of life (“For all we create and destroy/We are sentenced to death”), suggests a composition that might have a more brooding quality elsewhere. Here, there’s a lightness to the song which revolves around busy electronic layers and Niccolai’s breathy vocal delivery.
At times, Tenedle calls to mind the more organic compositions that the likes of a-ha put out (the likes of ‘Let Go’ and ‘Spring Will Never Come’ being perhaps the most obvious examples).
Traumsender is an unusual album. Synths sit alongside piano, guitar, brass and strings to paint an earthy, vital sound.
TEC Review: TENEDLE – Traumsender
CYBERWASTE – Immerse
Cyberwaste is the musical brainchild of musician and producer Ashlinn Nash. Drawing from a wide range of influences, including Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails, Massive Attack and Moby, Nash has cultivated a talent for immersive soundscapes that throw a nod to the likes of trip-hop and electronica.
With the release of debut album Immerse, it’s an opportunity to also see Cyberwaste evolve with the addition of vocals for some tracks (courtesy of Jake Harding). ‘Eclipse’ offers up a diverse combination of sounds that bounces between crunchy electronics and a more subtle, softer aspect. Meanwhile, Harding’s vocals have a beguiling quality to them that’s echoed in the often cryptic lyrics (“How long are you gonna wait for that broken sun”). There’s the twilight reverie of ‘Grime’, the crepuscular ‘Sinking’ and even chilled-out beats on ‘Lunar’.
Our review concluded: “The mesmerising results reveal a talent for both composition and production whose aural delights seem to get better with each subsequent play.”
TEC Review: CYBERWASTE – Immerse
INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP – International Teachers Of Pop
This release tickled the fancy of Jer White, who declared it Pansentient League’s album of the year praising its “first-principle bleeps, eccentronic tweaks and synth-pop treats”.
“There’s so much to love about this record, especially if you grew up in the school of original synth” suggests Jer, “From the Kosmisher Broadcast of ‘She Walks’ to the singalong-a-tronic, end-of-the-night waltz ‘Oh Yosemite’, these 10 songs deliver a perfect mix of multiplex synth-pop with Confidence and old Yoda magic.”
Further reading: INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP – International Teachers Of Pop
KNIGHT$ – Dollars & Cents
Dollars & Cents marks the debut album for KNIGHT$, following on from two earlier single releases. The album embraces the Italo Disco vibe that lies at the foundation of James Knights’ musical love, while also zipping through a variety of different styles and approaches.
‘What’s Your Poison?’ shows a love for 80s-era disco pop that wouldn’t be out of place as a Madonna number. The pulsing delights of ‘Gelato’, meanwhile, channels the spirit of Giorgio Moroder.
‘Proving A Point’ offers a more minimalist approach seem to throw a nod to ‘Planet Rock’-era Afrika Bambaataa while the album’s title track delivers disco rhythms driving a slick composition designed purely to get your feet moving. The dynamic ‘Hijack My Heart’ beats a similar path with its tight percussion and pop hooks. ‘Alligator’ is all brash pop and synth melodies, with a witty line in lyrics (“Snap! Snap!”).
Our review summed KNIGHT$ up: “an electro outfit challenging its listeners to a dance-off on the disco floor.”
TEC Review: KNIGHT$ – Dollars & Cents
ELECTRIC YOUTH – Memory Emotion
One of 2014’s particular joys was the warm synth tunes gathered on Innerworld, the debut album from Canadian electronic duo Electric Youth (who featured on the soundtrack of Nicholas Winding-Refn’s cult film Drive).
Memory Emotion is an album that sees the pair looking outward to the external world, particularly the idea of interacting with the world via emotions that are connected to memories. The first flavours of this new approach arrived in June care of ‘The Life’, a track which had all the classic Electric Youth elements with brooding synth rhythms and Griffin’s breathy vocal delivery. But also a cinematic quality that seemed like a natural crossover from their soundtrack work.
Elsewhere, there was the summer vibe of ‘ARAWA’, the breezy pop of ‘Higher’ and the ambient qualities on ‘On My Own’. Meanwhile, the album’s title track comes across like like Boards Of Canada meets Princess Chelsea. It’s only a brief number, but it’s a gem of a tune with its wistful synths, organ tones and Griffin’s wistful vocals.
We summed the album up in our review: “Memory Emotion offers up a worthy successor to Innerworlds which, while it keeps on familiar territory, manages (ironically perhaps) to be a much more reflective outing than its 2014 predecessor.”
TEC Review: ELECTRIC YOUTH – Memory Emotion
BOO – Snared (The Remixes)
Electropop duo BOO – Battery Operated Orchestra – delivered an accomplished collection of tunes with their 2018 album Snare. The Cold War-inspired outing dabbled in the world of subterfuge and spy games, each track exploring the idea of a snare.
BOO returned to their 2018 album by assembling some of their electronic music contemporaries to produce a series of remixes of Snare’s signature tracks. Matt Culpin’s take on Snare’s opening track ‘Strange Goodbye’ gives the gossamer synth tones a much more physical aspect. ‘Poliakov’ is another track that’s been transformed here from its subtle synth-pop origins into a thumping floor stomper courtesy of midierror. Elsewhere, Chicky and Coco (who have previously worked their remix skills on OMD outings) reverse this approach on ‘Bella’. Here, they take the melodic electropop of the original and give it a much more languid approach that’s also peppered with charming electronic flourishes.
Jan Doyle Band take the sepulchral tones of ‘A Clearing’ and transform it into a piece dominated by raw guitar which presents a harsh, metallic reworking of the track. It’s a dramatic switch-up, but gives the song a peculiar vitality. Elsewhere, preston.outatime preserves the twilight feel of ‘Borders (Fall)’, but adds in layers of percussion and subtle electronic effects.
“As an album, Snared does a superb job of presenting BOO’s songs through the lens of a variety of talents” our review concluded. “Each manages to bring their own vision to bear on the Cold War classic, while also bringing the world of BOO back into a much-welcomed turn in the spotlight.”
TEC Review: BOO – Snared (The Remixes)
TR/ST – The Destroyer Part One
Coming some five years after his 2014 album Joyland, Robert Alfons acknowledges that TR/ST’s output is perhaps slower than many of his contemporaries. The Destroyer sees Alfons reunited with original collaborator Maya Postepski (Austra, Princess Century).
There’s a warmer quality at work here with more of a lean-in to mainstream sounds. The trademark vocal style of Alfons is also softened in places, often being more prominent in the mix. Nowhere is this more evident than the bittersweet pop stylings of ‘Gone’. The uptempo approach and wistful vocals (“Did I ever tell you I need you/To lead me through the fog”) pack an emotional punch. ‘Colossal’, meanwhile, harkens back to the sort of dark, brooding compositions that made up the 2012 Album TRST.
There’s a heavy synth strings element present on ‘Grouch’ which, like ‘Gone’, seems to be a much warmer affair and some fragile moments (“Life and all its lows/Can you heal me, can you heal me/In darkness no one knows”). Elsewhere, there’s some industrial licks on ‘Poorly Coward’ (which at times has the spirit of Depeche Mode lurking in the background). Album closer ‘Wake With’ offers a balmy workout featuring summer vibes that intrigue and charm at the same time.
Our review concluded: “Robert Alfons has exercised patience in the crafting of The Destroyer, an ambitious undertaking that raises the bar from earlier outings. Judging by the material here, that patience has been rewarded by some exceptional compositions.”
TEC Review: TR/ST – The Destroyer Part One
MARINA – Love + Fear
“I created Love + Fear from a place that was not influence by ego or validation” commented Marina on the album release, “It came from a soft space in my spirit. But releasing it is pressing those old buttons and I am trying to figure out why. Maybe it’s natural. Maybe artists need egos?”
‘Handmade Heaven’, which opens the album presents ethereal pop tune that touches on themes of a personal paradise or utopia (“But in this handmade heaven, it’s paradise/Bluebirds forever colour the sky”). Meanwhile, ‘Enjoy Your Life’ is a bright pop reverie which ruminates on themes of optimism.
The flamenco flavour of ‘Baby’ presents another fine moment. The rapid-fire lyrical delivery is contrasted with some superb melodic lifts for a sultry pop gem. Equally, the airy qualities of ‘To Be Human’ presents perhaps Love + Fear’s most intimate song – a travelogue of sorts revolving around a theme of common humanity and is, perhaps, a commentary on the turmoil that currently engulfs both the political and cultural landscape at the moment.
Meanwhile, ‘Life Is Strange’ presents a strings-driven narrative whose clipped tones explore the human condition. The more organic ‘Karma’ throws in some acoustic guitar on a tune that lyrically deals with the inevitability of karma catching up on people, while the more on-point ‘No More Suckers’ swerves back to the more arch narratives that Marina explored so well on earlier outings.
The TEC review summed it up: “Love + Fear is a more intimate album that diverts from Marina’s previous work in a way that might disappoint those that appreciate her more obvious pop bangers. But as a musician and composer, she’s clearly not interested in merely filing the serial numbers off of previous outings (something other acts could learn from).”
TEC Review: MARINA – Love + Fear
ELYXR – Eternal Life Eternal Youth
Musician and producer Kasson Crooker (Symbion Project, Freezepop) envisioned ELYXR as a project to bring onboard a variety of different singers. Eternal Life Eternal Youth sees the first album from ELYXR, a dizzying collection of songs which bounce about from crunchy electronic workouts through to stylish lounge pop.
‘Take Me There’, which is billed as an “anti-love song”, is a stylish pop outing featuring smoky vocals from Casey Desmond of synth-pop outfit CMB. ‘Strange Stubborn Proud’ features a guest vocal from Kurt Harland Larson (Information Society). Elsewhere, ‘Eye For An Eye’ pulls in Katrina Kope (Purr Gato) for a frenetic electronic workout whose angular angst has a curiously hypnotic effect.
The pastel synth tones of ‘Planes’ sees ELYXR offer up a sultry synthwave outing featuring Elissa LeCoque’s (Kodacrome) mesmerising voice. ‘The Last Day of Summer’ offers a shimmering, sunny number with lyrics revolving around the immutable passage of time care of Color Theory’s Brian Hazard.
The bucolic melodies of ‘A Love Song with Consequences’ is augmented by the airy voice of Sonja 3v3t3a (of synth outfit The Planets Won’t Let You Sleep Tonight). At times sounding like Electric Youth meets S U R V I V E, the song nonetheless has some sharper-edged percussive elements that kick in towards the end.
With its subtle, layered electronic pop, combined with Elissa LeCoque’s soulful vocals, ‘Engine’ breathes with a certain sadness that manages to touch the heart.
“Eternal Life Eternal Youth is a useful milestone for the ELYXR project” TEC concluded, “which enables those curious about the concept to experience a broad range of electropop. Although those styles dart around at speed, there’s a curious consistency at work through Kasson Crooker’s steady hand at crafting engaging electronic rhythms and melodies.”
TEC Review: ELYXR – Eternal Life Eternal Youth
STATIC SHORE – Panikon
Seattle-based outfit Static Shore is made up of Eric Smith and Shannon Alexander. Panikon represents their latest collection of compositions which, while employing a few different approaches, all embody Static Shore’s signature elements of chilled beats and lush vocals.
‘Fall’ has a particularly bright and breezy quality to it. Meanwhile, ‘Wednesday Grind’ dips into more obvious synth-pop territory. There’s more of a gossamer quality to ‘Many Times’ while ‘Innocent Tea’ opts for a simpler approach with more emphasis on the vocals against gentle beats.
‘Delphi’, meanwhile, opts for a much harder electronic approach with a raw percussive foundation. Lyrically, it plays around with more abstract ideas (“Follow me angel/Ditch the tangerine haze”) and offers a sound that’s closer in spirit to the chilled-out Balearic beats of Ibiza clubs.
“At times sounding like Portishead meets Goldfrapp” our review concluded, “there’s plenty of moments that will resonate with the dedicated listener.”
TEC Review: STATIC SHORE – Panikon
MAGNE FURUHOLMEN – White Xmas Lies
Better known as one third of Norwegian mood merchants a-ha, Furuholmen gets an opportunity to explore a collection of tunes that are less decking the halls with boughs of holly, more a critical analysis of the way the season has been almost completely subsumed by materialism.
It’s a collection of songs that have a bittersweet feel to them and, even by a-ha’s standards, offer up a bleakness with little in the way of festive cheer. It’s a theme reflected in song titles such as ‘The Season To Be Melancholy’, while the album’s title track presents a suitably cynical view of Christmas (“We sing cheesy songs”).
‘A Punch-Up On Boxing Day’ shows that Furuholmen can’t resist a good play on words. Here, the icy melodies and sturdy percussion cast a backdrop for the usual family drama of the Christmas period. ‘This Is Now America’ throws a nod to Radiohead’s own particular flavour of melancholia. Here, the discovery of a girl’s lost diary offers a lyrical narrative on the lost promises of the past measured against the more harsher aspects of contemporary America. There’s even covers of AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ and The Kinks’ ‘Father Christmas’ (itself a pointed comical commentary on Christmas).