2020’s best electronic albums…
2020 has proved to be a grim year for many reasons, but chiefly because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, despite the gruelling impact of Covid both personally and professionally on so many people, many electronic acts still managed to battle on through as our 2020 Review of the Year feature explored.
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 2020.
Album Of The Year
FREEZEPOP – Fantasizer
Freezepop have carved out an impressive catalogue of tunes over the years, excelling in delivering a particular combo of quirky and melodic electropop. But their latest album Fantasizer was not only thematically in tune with recent events, but it also seemed to set the bar for the band’s own musical talents.
Fantasizer shows Freezepop demonstrating a more thoughtful, reflective approach that embraced ideas of escape.“ Fantasizer is about needing to be somewhere else” as the band described it, “whether that’s a hedonistic purgatory, or just a new corner of comfort deep inside your own head.”
While that could have resulted in a depressingly dour album, Fantasizer instead takes the listener on a journey that manages to light up emotional responses like a pinball machine. The beefy synth foundations of ‘Queen Of Tomorrow’ serve to show off Liz Enthusiasm’s stylish, carefree vocal delivery. ‘Anchor to the World Below’ is a bittersweet affair that bounces between bold synth tones and a polished vocal. Meanwhile, the album’s joyous title track is a captivating narrative on what it’s like to love and lose someone. There’s also a few nods to synthwave care of the lush soundscapes of ‘Memory Disappears’ or the emotional tour de force that’s ‘Heart-Rate’.
“We wanted every second of this album to feel like ‘Wow, they’re really going for it. Because we did” commented Sean Drinkwater on the album’s genesis. The final album is a fitting testimony to that statement.
Ultimately, Fantasizer is an impressive body of work which, arguably, is Freezepop’s finest album to date. The more mature approach to penning songs seems natural and doesn’t rob the band of their ability to deliver witty lines – or indeed their ability to touch the heart. The compositions on this album are warm, engaging narratives that are packed with hooks and well-crafted electronic flourishes.
TEC Review: FREEZEPOP – Fantasizer
SOCIAL AMBITIONS – A New Frontier
Social Ambitions delivered a stunning piece of work in the shape of new studio album A New Frontier, showcasing the talents of Anders Karlsson and Mikael Arborelius.
There’s not one moment on this release that feels like filler – it’s a ride from start to finish. The breezy pop appeal of ‘Space’, the quirky ‘Kincroft Chaos’, the widescreen synth-pop of ‘I Want You, I Need You’ and the epic ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’. Meanwhile, tracks such as the percussive ‘Young Hearts’ hits like an emotional mallet to the head.
The euphoric, uplifting pop approach that Social Ambitions employ lends this album some considerable weight, while also keeping things tight and down to earth.
A New Frontier is a smartly crafted collection of synth-pop that also manages to weave in some indie pop elements, resulting in some striking tunes for the modern era.
TEC Review: SOCIAL AMBITIONS – A New Frontier
EMPATHY TEST – Monsters
Much of Empathy Test’s magic comes from the odd chemistry between founder-members Isaac Howlett and Adam Relf, which Howlett summed up as a safeguard against “being too saccharine and too overtly pop.”
New outing Monsters takes on the unenviable role of the difficult third album. The good news is that the signature Empathy Test sound is present and correct, but here it’s bigger and bolder. In particular, it’s Christina Lopez’s percussion that lends these songs an earthy, more organic sound. That element of mood and shadow is still there but there’s a more upfront and dynamic quality.
The album’s title song is a more muscular approach than most people might expect. which is a perfect showcase for the evolution of Empathy Test’s sound. But Monsters also boasts similarly well-crafted compositions such as the sepulchral ‘Holy Rivers’, the urgent energy of ‘Empty-Handed’ and the disturbingly prescient themes of isolation and loneliness on ‘Fear of Disappearing’. Meanwhile, the angsty ‘Making Worlds’ offers up one of the album’s secret weapons.
Those who have already accompanied the band along on their musical journey won’t be disappointed by the songs on this album. At the same time, Monsters demonstrates a welcome evolution in Empathy Test’s sound – and some stunning tunes as a result.
TEC Review: EMPATHY TEST – Monsters
TWIST HELIX – Machinery
Previously, Twist Helix had demonstrated that the electropop trio could weave in social commentary into their music with an emotional impact. New album Machinery continues that tradition with eleven tracks of pulsating pop that also address contemporary concerns.
As a result, ‘Louder’ offers a euphoric catharsis of the frustration of the ongoing gender imbalances present in the music industry. Meanwhile, the music itself delivers catchy pop hooks and shimmering synths. These themes are are carried over onto the brash electropop banger that’s ‘Vultures’ while the anthemic ‘Frida Kahlo’ offers commentary on vanity, art and the striving for authenticity.
The album bows out with the spirited ‘Good Night Little England’, a powerful polemic on Brexit Britain (“Here’s a song for the North Sea, for all the things that divide you from me”). The song employs a dynamic vocal melody matched with some slick synths that also harbour a brooding, gothic quality.
Machinery continues to demonstrate that Twist Helix are a band that’s continually evolving, but also a band that proudly stick to their strengths for euphoric pop bangers.
TEC Review: TWIST HELIX – Machinery
PROMENADE CINEMA – Exit Guides
Baroque synth-pop due Promenade Cinema returned in 2020 with Exit Guides, the follow-up album to their stunning 2018 outing Living Ghosts.
Here, the duo of Dorian Cramm and Emma Barson are interested in crafting longer, more immersive compositions. As a result, Exit Guides allows the band to utilise textures and space to good effect, although it does ask the listener to devote the necessary time to appreciate it.
The album starts off strongly with the robust ‘The Arch House’. That cinematic sweep carries over into the perkier ‘Cold Fashion’, while Promenade Cinema’s penchant for the dramatic gets dialled up to ten on ‘Nothing Nouveau’. It’s a gorgeous number that delivers layers of evocative electronics alongside some noir lyrical deliveries (“When the critics arise, with a glint in their eyes, it’s wearing thin”).
Elsewhere, the album offers the stark synth-pop theatre of ‘Passions In The Back Room’ and the more softer piano melodies of ‘Memoirs On Glass’. Similarly, the stately ‘After The Party, It’s Over’ offers up a more introspective piece with its sweeping strings.
Closing track ‘Fading In The Arcade’ plays around with brooding synth rhythms alongside a haunting narrative about loss and the passage of time (“No one is ever really gone/They’re in the arcade, playing on”).
In conclusion, Exit Guides is an impressive dark pop outing, boasting more emphasis on the baroque elements utilised in their previous work and continuing to demonstrate that Promenade Cinema are one of the UK’s finest synth-pop outfits.
TEC Review: PROMENADE CINEMA – Exit Guides
ANNIE – Dark Hearts
Dark Hearts is billed as “the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist.” It’s an apt description for a collection of songs that have a cinematic vision to them. The album also sees Annie teaming up with Stefan Storm (The Sound Of Arrows), whose magical pop credentials are well served on the songs on offer here.
From the smoky retro vibe of ‘In Heaven’ through to the immersive intimacy of ‘Corridors of Time’ and the twilight pop of the stunning ‘American Cars’, it’s a captivating body of work.
But the track that will likely resonate most with diehard Annie fans is ‘The Streets Where I Belong’. There’s a bittersweet quality at work here on a song that has a deceptively simple arrangement, its magic working through the lush production and the mesmerising draw of Annie’s narrative (a potted biography of Annie’s own musical journey).
Elsewhere, the album boasts the dreampop leanings on ‘The Untold Story’ (which sounds as if it’s dropped out of a lost David Lynch movie) and the quirky Americana of ‘It’s Finally Over’.
In essence, Dark Hearts is a superb album that embraces a wistful melancholia with some stylishly crafted melodies which, during a fairly glum year, offers a solace of sorts. It’s also an album that shows Annie remains at the peak of her musical powers.
TEC Review: ANNIE – Dark Hearts
ELISABETH ELEKTRA – Mercurial
The debut album Mercurial from cosmic pop princess Elisabeth Elektra delivered one of 2020’s pleasant surprises.
Tracks such as ‘My Sisters’ and ‘Inanna’ play around with nods to occult themes, giving a lot of the songs on Mercurial an engaging off-kilter appeal. At the same time, there’s recurrent themes of love and loss scattered across the album.
Describing the boisterous ‘My Sisters’, Elektra offers it as “a cabalistic anthem for witches, sex workers and marginalised women and femmes everywhere.” In action, it’s one of Mercurial’s best compositions with a rallying call riding on sharp melodies and a dancepop sensibility.
Elsewhere, there’s a more fractured quality to the icy pop on ‘Crystalline’ while the curiously titled ‘Hypersthene’ sees Elektra dipping into lush electronica.
Mercurial offers magickal pop perfection via a strong debut from Elisabeth Elektra. If you like your tunes quirky, yet accessible then this release will deliver on all fronts.
TEC Review: ELISABETH ELEKTRA – Mercurial
BOO – Yesterday Tomorrow and You
The return of Battery Operated Orchestra (aka Chris Black and Brigitte Rose) sees the electronic duo going big with their fourth studio album release. Yesterday Tomorrow and You boasts songs that dart around themes of escape, memory, disappearing places, ideological subversion and glam rock on an album billed as “a survival handbook for the future in four chapters”.
In 2020’s Covid culture of lockdowns, songs such as ‘The Getaway’ offer an escape of sorts (“Step by step I’ll climb through air/And make my getaway”), Brigitte’s airy vocals soaring over a chunky electro foundation. Elsewhere, ‘The Dissolve’ is an exploration of loss and uncertainty looking at a continually dissolving landscape.
There’s also the acerbic ‘Mr System’ and the excellent wry pop of ‘World Over’ (which features Chris on vocal duties). But the album takes a sudden jump to the left with the playful glam electro-rock of ‘Lady Megawatt’, a wonderfully euphoric workout which invites you to slip your dancing shoes on.
In our current troubled times, Yesterday Tomorrow and You offers an album packed with electronic charm and wit – the perfect escape from the Covid crisis.
TEC Review: BOO – Yesterday Tomorrow and You
SHE’S GOT CLAWS – Doppelgänger
2017’s excellent War Torn album brought grassroots act She’s Got Claws onto the TEC radar, which paved the way for 2020’s new album outing.
Doppelgänger builds on War Torn’s impressive foundations to craft an album that’s bursting with hooks and crunchy electronic percussion alongside Micci’s distinctive vocal style. The end result is a raw synth-pop selection which dazzles from start to finish. It also boasts the production talents of OMD’s Andy McCluskey on a few tracks.
‘Adulation’, which kicks off the album, explores the idea of being yourself without needing permission from anyone else (“I don’t need your adulation/Don’t dress me up as your fun occasion”). It’s a brash electronic pop tune, given a particularly percussive drive care of Andy McCluskey’s production talents. Equally, ‘Loves Lies Bleeding’ offers up some Numan-style synths weaved into a track that also employs effective bass work from Chris O-Ten.
Elsewhere, ‘Lithium’ is easily one of Doppelgänger’s best tracks. Here, Micci’s vocals have a perfect melodic symmetry on a tune that explores toxic relationships (“I hate you then I love you/I walk away then I run to you”).
Even in an already busy year for music, Doppelgänger is a stunning album that’s engineered for peak synth-pop perfection.
TEC Review: SHE’S GOT CLAWS – Doppelgänger
ERASURE – The Neon
With the release of new album The Neon, Erasure have stepped back into that energetic electropop world that the band built their legacy on, demonstrating that Andy Bell and Vince Clarke still have the chops to produce engaging electronic tunes.
The first half of the album doesn’t let up, throwing a sequence of high octane electropop that’s tough to ignore. Opening with ‘Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)’, which offers a muscular outing packed with tight melodies and engaging rhythms. The slower ‘New Horizons’ (apparently Clarke’s favourite album track) manages to take things down a notch, but despite the more sober approach here, it’s ultimately a song about hope with Bell earnestly singing “There will be new horizons/We will live to love again”. While the album, as a whole, is pitched towards a euphoric, upbeat feel, there’s still something comforting about a quieter moment that offers optimism.
The Neon is a welcome respite during a year that’s been generally terrible, both politically and culturally – exacerbated by an ongoing pandemic that’s crippled the music industry. Erasure’s strengths for producing euphoric, hopeful electronic pop arrives as a suitable panacea; the album’s neon-fuelled optimism offering a bright spot on the horizon.
TEC Review: ERASURE – The Neon
PET SHOP BOYS – Hotspot
2020 saw synth-pop veterans Pet Shop Boys return with new outing Hotspot, which writer Jus Forrest summed it up as an album that had its “own unique blend alongside a narrative that blurs the lines between the personal, the political and the idealistic.”
The album boasted tracks such as the hook-laden ‘Will-o-the-Wisp’, the lively pulses of ‘I Don’t Wanna’ and ‘Monkey Business’ as well as the anthemic ‘Dreamland’.
Hotspot mixes things up, however, with the slow and ethereal ‘Hoping for a Miracle’, the acoustic guitar of ‘Burning the Heather’ and the harsh Industrial-like ‘Wedding in Berlin’, which offers up purist techno blended with the celebratory bell-like punctuation of the Wagner Bridal Chorus.
The Pet Shop Boys of course, manage to spin it all into their own unique blend alongside a narrative that blurs the lines between the personal, the political and the idealistic, all quietly contemplating vocally, against the electronic drama herein. A fitting cocktail hour accompaniment.
TEC Review: PET SHOP BOYS – Hotspot
TENEK – Smoke and Mirrors (Instrumental)
Celebrating the 5th anniversary of 2015’s highly acclaimed Smoke and Mirrors album, Tenek opted to release an all instrumental version of the original standout record.
“An obvious point with this album” suggested reviewer Jus Forrest, “is a work that is massively characterised by some of the most exceptional and catchy bass playing you’ll ever hear in this genre.”
“Smoke and Mirrors is all about the groove” she adds, “The eleven weighty tracks loan themselves to supernatural soundtrack – one that journeys to somewhere dark, decadent and is sometimes racy. It’s content, while being varied, offers synergies in various energetic forces.”
From the atmospheric ‘Everything Lost’, the slap back bass drive of ‘Fear for Nothing’ and the memorable riffs of ‘What Kind of Friend’, Smoke and Mirrors in instrumental format, is a lively and alternative take on a classic album, seasoned with perfectly polished washes of musicality.
TEC Review: TENEK – Smoke and Mirrors (Instrumental)
BRUTALIST ARCHITECTURE IN THE SUN – The Sadness Between Cities
The Sadness Between Cities emerges as a more mature, thoughtful collection of songs than previous outing Monochrome Beach.
The album starts out in a strong place with the dynamic rhythms of ‘Goodbye’ with its moody synths and Cye Thomas delivering a powerful angsty narrative while the excellent ‘City Long Gone’ (described as “4AD meets Yazoo” by the band) is more ethereal and ambient in its immersive electronics, while Thomas delivers a wistful narrative revolving around a sense of not belonging.
‘My Poison’ sees Dean Clarke deliver a hard-nosed invective on addiction, which also weaves in some neat synth flourishes. Meanwhile, ‘Concrete Mezzanine’ utilises some nice wordplay from Thomas (“So easy to see, the floors of my life stretched before me”) and some polished synth work from Clarke.
Summing up, The Sadness Between Cities sees Brutalist Architecture in the Sun opening a compelling window into the human condition.
PSYKELEKTRIC – Collected
Psykelektric are an energetic synth-pop duo hailing from North London consisting of Greg Riddle and Nik Hodges.
Collected offers up a defiant sense of the vintage in terms of sounds – think Roland Juno 60 synths and Boss Dr Rhythm drum machines. There’s even an ARP Odyssey in there.
The album offers up the dance-driven opener ‘Only Lies’, the bright and modernistic splashes of ‘Kill Our Own Time’ and the majestic overtones of ‘This Illusion.’
Reviewer Jus Forrest concluded: “There is so much on offer here. It’s both imaginative and conceptual, dipping into the vibrant while also managing to hit on the dark, and all with true vintage characteristics.”
TEC Review: PSYKELEKTRIC – Collected
JOHN FOXX AND THE MATHS – Howl
Seasoned veteran John Foxx returned in 2020 with new John Foxx And The Maths’ release Howl. It was an album that Jus Forrest stated: “portrays a fitting exposition – effortlessly setting the template for a nostalgic re-take on the aforementioned post-punk-styled, angst-driven guitars that often unleash their discordant energies, and all of which are shaped into something spectacularly individual.”
As an album, Howl sets the template for a nostalgic re-take on the post-punk-styled, angst-driven guitars. The album’s title track is in many ways reflective of John McGeoch’s guitar style. The guitars drive a rain dance of adolescent post-punk vitality that fuses with the electronic soundscapes, creating a static haven of pent-up energy, that also manages to be very Bowie.
‘Tarzan and Jane Regained’ punches to yet another high point, featuring reverberated guitar sounds. Its dark sounding force is enhanced with a liquid filled, bottom heavy bassline. ‘New York Times’ offers up more guitar fused with electro perspectives whole closing track ‘Strange Beauty’ is a ballad-like offering that allows for a slowing of tempo.
TEC Review: JOHN FOXX AND THE MATHS – Howl
AXLS – First Contact
Newcastle Upon Tyne’s AXLS delivered a storming debut album under the title of First Contact – a concept album that played with themes of alien invasion. As with any record that toys with lofty ambitions, it always stands or falls based on the quality of the material. Fortunately, AXLS produced a slickly produced album of sharp synth-pop tunes that made First Contact one of the most impressive electronic albums of 2020’s first quarter.
First Contact certainly boasts some fine moments, including the celestial pop of ‘Alone’ and the tighter percussive groove of ‘Snowblind’, which shows off some big cinematic synth licks. Meanwhile, ‘Integration’ steps the groove up a notch; a dreamy swirl of beats and haunting vocal refrains. One of the album’s finest moments is with the wistful ‘Heaven’, which sounds like a merging of Electric Youth alongside some New Order-esque bass.
The overall result is a solid collection of tunes which, for a first album outing, is quite impressive. AXLS are hardly stopping there, however, with plans for some “dark, poppy singles” in the near future.
TEC Review: AXLS – First Contact
CERRONE – DNA
Veteran French musician Cerrone is probably best known for the iconic 1977 track ‘Supernature’, but the composer has kept on going through to the modern era. DNA represents his 17th studio album and its throbbing soundscapes held a particular appeal for TEC contributor Jer White.
As an album, DNA continues themes that ‘Supernature’ previously explored with concerns over environmental issues, epitomised on the space disco of ‘The Impact’. The album also includes the slow groove of ‘Experience’ as well as more dramatic offerings such as ‘Close To The Sky’.
“When people ask me whether I’m still inspired by love and sex today” Cerrone suggests, “naturally my answer is yes.”
VOGON POETRY – Deep Thought
With Vogon Poetry’s last studio album release, 2018’s Life, the Universe and Everything, the Swedish outfit demonstrated a particular flair for combining engaging electropop with sci-fi themes.
Deep Thought, their latest album, shows Vogon Poetry on fine form with a perfect balance between euphoric electropop and more intimate, heartfelt moments. This includes the breezy ‘Exposed Thoughts’, the squelchy sample-packed banger that’s ‘The Nightflyer’ through to the quieter tones of ‘Changes’. The latter is described by the band as “a moody track about all the choices we have faced in life and perhaps also regret we never made and the paths we had to choose between which took us to where we are today.”
Deep Thought delivers the well-crafted effective synth-pop that you would expect from Vogon Poetry, but also tinged with a more mature approach to composition that shows a band moving forward.
TEC Review: VOGON POETRY – Deep Thought
THE STIR FRY POP STAR – Groovebox Messiah Sessions
With the release of Groovebox Messiah Sessions, The Stir Fry Pop Star offers up a selection of tunes that lean heavily into a groove and dancepop direction. At times recalling the likes of Scritti Politti or the funkier efforts of early Heaven 17, there’s a broad series of influences that gel together well under the watchful production eye of Gary Meek (formerly of D-Ream).
There’s the tight rhythms of ‘Pale Scene’ and the lounge pop appeal of ‘Soul Riser’ (featuring some inspired sax). But perhaps the album’s best moment is summed up on the amazing ‘Destroy The Stars’. It’s a composition that seems to distil the album’s diverse influences into the perfect cocktail. The track boasts a slick vocal melody and some engaging electronic rhythms that work their magic across a song ruminating on yearning and desire (“Destroy the stars, so I’ll be the one you come to”).
Groovebox Messiah Sessions will find a home with those that appreciate the more dancier corners of the electronic music scene, particularly of the classic era. Ultimately, it’s a nicely polished collection of tunes that will help put The Stir Fry Pop Star on the map, regardless of your tastes.
VIOLENT VICKIE – Division
The arrival of new album Violent Vickie’s Division delivers a darkwave journey that offer up moments of raw sleazy electropop one moment, then curiously ethereal beauty the next.
Based in Los Angeles, Violent Vickie describes herself as a “Dark Synth-Riot” artist. Embracing themes that include consumerism, relationships, gender, hedonism and all points in-between, Vickie carves out a strange dreamscape of sound that can be unsettling, but always intriguing.
The album includes the brooding ‘Serotonin’, which is easily one of Division’s finest moments, the mesmerising beats of ‘Circle Square’ and the garage-punk rhythms of ‘The Blame’. Here Vickie builds up a foundation of raw electronic percussion against distorted synths and guitars.
There’s a more raw, stripped-down arrangement for ‘Get Violent’ which also weaves in some dirty guitar into the mix. Similarly, ‘Under the Gun’ delivers a slice of gritty synth-pop.
Violent Vickie also isn’t planning to slow down any time soon, with a remix album on the horizon. But for now, Division serves as a perfect intro in her synth-riot world.
TEC Review: VIOLENT VICKIE – Division
LEGPUPPY – A Guide To Social Distancing
Never an outfit to sit back for long, anarchic pop terrorists Leg Puppy delivered the aptly titled A Guide To Social Distancing, an album that the TEC review described as “a frenetic fever dream journey which somehow seems to encapsulate Leg Puppy’s desire to not merely point at a culture going through its own ‘Chapel Perilous’, but to actively accompany it through the darkness. As with any period of darkness however, there’s always light at the end.”
Leg Puppy takes a step into sleazy synth territory on the broken erotica of ‘Kinky Emoji’, thumping club vibes on ‘Paycheck (Take my Life)’, the buzzy, cosmic workout of ‘Gravity’ and the disconcerting rawness of ‘266 (Petter Potter)’.
TEC Review: LEGPUPPY – A Guide To Social Distancing
SUBJECT:2 – Love Betrayal Deceit
Consisting of Gary Starky and Sandra Tully, Subject:2 is a synth-pop duo that draws influence from the likes of Yazoo and Erasure, but with their own unique style.
Love Betrayal Deceit offers up plenty of bubbly synth-pop along with more intimate moments. Unsurprisingly, it’s an album that does indeed delve into the three themes illustrated in the album’s title, which gives the various songs an emotional punch.
This includes the brash ‘No One’, which is a purely indulgent slice of synth-pop that fizzes and buzzes with electronic goodness. ‘Nobody’s There’, which is one of the album’s clear highlights, is a bittersweet composition with some engaging synth elements. Meanwhile, ‘Is It You…’ delivers a wonderfully warm vocal from Sandra Tully on a slow pop gem peppered with some wistful melodica moments.
Love Betrayal Deceit is an album that embraces a talent for classic synth-pop that also keeps things human and relatable. It bounces between perky pop and softer, warmer moments which keeps both the ear and the heart engaged.
TEC Review: SUBJECT:2 – Love Betrayal Deceit
POLLY SCATTERGOOD – In This Moment
Having carved out a suitably impressive musical path with her own distinct style, Polly Scattergood has returned on the back of new album In This Moment.
The album has a more intimate quality to it, informed by motherhood and also a period of time spent outside of the UK to absorb a slower, more sedate life outside of the city. Opening track ‘Red’ is a stirring piano-led reverie which is presented as a “clarion call to womankind”. There’s a crystal quality to the shimmering ‘After You’, a more personal affair that was conceived after the passing of a friend. Meanwhile, ‘Pearl’ has a stately beauty to it, even in the face of Scattergood’s raw vocal delivery.
One of the album’s undoubted highlights is the magnificent ‘The End Was Glorious’, a rousing anthemic outing which makes fine use of Scattergood’s ability to carve a vocal melody out of rock.
As an album, In This Moment is a delightful collection of songs that invite the listener to slow down and reflect. It presents a stillness of sorts that resonates long after the album has finished. It’s also perhaps a perfect showcase for why Polly Scattergood is one of our national treasures.
TEC Review: POLLY SCATTERGOOD – In This Moment
SIMEN LYNGROTH – Looking for the Spark like It’s Just Around the Corner
Nordic indie-pop artist Simen Lyngroth’s music has previously been described by Clash Magazine as “Tense, melodramatic electronics.”
His 2020 album release is offered with the rider that “The songs explore a fairytale-like, yet modern environment in which the main character embarks on a journey in search for “the spark”.”
Lyngroth’s music has previously drawn the attention of TEC contributor Barry Page with 2017 debut release Take All The Land (see TEC review previously) and new album outing Looking for the Spark like It’s Just Around the Corner continues that tradition.
AUSTRA – HiRUDiN
Following the release of Austra’s 2017 album Future Politics, Katie Stelmanis took a slower approach to its successor HiRUDiN, an album that Stelmanis has described as “an experiment in vulnerability and collaboration”. It’s also an album that, lyrically, delves into toxic relationships as a theme.
The album starts strong with the bittersweet form of ‘Anywayz’. Elsewhere, ‘All I Wanted’, is a more plaintive effort with its plucked strings and more stripped-down arrangement. The throbbing rhythms of ‘Your Family’ offers a showcase for the (not inconsiderable) vocal abilities of Stelmanis. It’s a raw and fragile moment, encapsulated in some eerie layered vocal effects.
Equally, ‘Risk It’ keeps things quirky with the high pitched delivery of the song’s title. Lyrically, Stelmanis describes the composition as “When you know the one you’re with is bad for you but you’re too scared to quit.”
HiRUDiN delivers an album that’s intensely personal and open, yet throws in some curveballs in its arrangements and flair for engaging melodies. It’s proof that Katie Stelmanis is still a powerful songwriter – and that Austra’s ever-evolving musical journey is not over yet.
TEC Review: AUSTRA – HiRUDiN
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