Posts Tagged ‘Synth Pop’

Patience

When an artist so deftly nails a genre, its sometimes beguiling that they’d ever leave it behind in their wake. Veronica Falls was one of the most instantly brilliant jangle-pop bands of the last decade. They merged wistful, tip-of-the-tongue influences into a seamless pop vision that was quietly catchy, incredibly intimate, and bittersweet to the point that songs could make your heart ache for days. As the band faded away to their separate pop corners leaving behind an enviable, albeit brief catalog in their stead, neither half has pursued quite the same niche they once found so comfortable. As her bandmate James Hoare has wandered more autumnal with his works, Roxanne Clifford has found space on the dancefloor of sorts. After several singles under the name, her debut as Patience applies the same artisan’s ear and bittersweet heart to synthpop that she once saved for the jangle.

There are still a few flecks of guitar that grace Dizzy Spells (“White of an Eye”) but they’re garnishes at best. Clifford instead focuses on a stripped-down analog sound that’s delightfully minimal, though never unpolished. She’s channeling the early years of dance-pop, the kind that found itself creeping out of the corners of disco, but also found itself in thrall of German electronic pioneers and bedroom pop singers alike. She crafts the kind of detached, yet hypnotic hits that made Grace Jones and New Order kindred spirits with slinky underground acts like Monopol and Autumn. The opener “The Girls Are Chewing Gum” could easily find itself bound up with the kind of sharp, kinked club hits that wind up on Minimal Wave compilations.

The bulk of the record swings a different direction, though. The songs, for the most part, aren’t built for dancing in public, but rather caressing a wounded soul and broken heart away from prying eyes. The sort of intimacy that permeated her work with the Falls is still readily apparent here, and Clifford is able to apply a dreamy veneer to the skeletal beats and gauzy auras she’s constructed. The shift is admirable for its desire to steer quite wide of her comfort zone, but more so because she pulls it off jus as naturally as she has any other vision of her songwriting prowess. Whether this remains a temporary direction or a new standard for Clifford, she’s proving that no matter what genre she’s exploring, she brings a deft pop palette and that perfect pang of heartache that makes the songs stick.



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Business of Dreams – “Ripe For Anarchy”

Still one of the most criminally overlooked releases of the year, Corey Cunningham’s (Terry Malst, Smokescreens) Business of Dreams showed no signs of a sophomore slump on his latest LP for Slumberland. The record perfectly encapsulates the melancholy, wistfulness, and tenderness of the best jangle-pop and synth-pop, slotting him in easily among bands on the Creation and Sarah Records rosters in any mix. He’s heading out on tour with Jessica Pratt and released a new video for the album’s title track “Ripe For Anarchy.” The spare treatment of the video sums up the album’s vibes with its overcast hues and sighed atmospheres. Check out the clip above, and if you haven’t snagged a copy yet, its probably about time.



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Patience – “The Girls Are Chewing Gum”

Following the dissolution of revered band Veronica Falls, Roxanne Clifford’s taken a shift towards synth pop, using her gift for gauzy pop to pin down deft hooks to a more propulsive muse. Patience has been issuing a sterling run of singles since 2016, but today she announces her debut LP, Dizzy Spells for Night School/Winona Records. The announcement comes with a new video in tow for the Eurythmics via Tones on Tail slanted cut “The Girls Are Chewing Gum.” The track dances in the corners of the room, lost in its own dream. The synth tones sidle up just this side of goth, but those skittering drums splash a bit more sun on the track, keeping the velvet curtain of that particular genre at bay. Slotted alongside former standouts “White of An Eye,” “The Pressure,” and “The Church” the album already feels like a future classic. Check the neon nostalgia of the video for “Girls” above and watch for the LP May 3rd.

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POW! – “Disobey”

SF synth-punks POW! are back with a new LP for hometown powerhouse Castle Face and they’re leading into the album with new single “Disobey.” The track’s shredded and shambolic – dredging up shades of The Twinkeyz, Tubeway and The Units. They pair an insistent pummel with headspins of effects, guitars that unspool like discarded wire and the manic yelps of Byron Blum shaking listener’s out of their somnambulant safety. The cut’s got a paranoid core and like Timmy’s Organism or Mind Spiders, they’re not afraid to unnerve. Its just the tip of the future-fogged freakout, but good enough for now. Get jittery with the new track below.


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Business of Dreams

I was surprised and delighted to see Corey Cunningham back at the controls of Business of Dreams so quickly. His eponymous LP from 2017 showed a deep love for the smeared and smudged end of the Creation catalog and more than a blushing brush with indie pop conduits Sarah, Postcard and Subway Organization. Folding back into his onetime home at Slumberland, where he previously worked in Terry Malts, the songwriter is riffling through the same single stacks as last time with a touch more polish and a slight step out into the sun. Where his previous album seemed custom made for long nights alone, the curl of fog around lamplight, and the drawn bedroom curtains, there’s a bittersweet edge to Ripe For Anarchy.

Blurred against the blare of the sun, the album’s still gum-stuck to the skitter of drum machines and hung on melancholia, but it’s also a perfect companion for enjoying the day and shirking off the lingering pang of depression that gnaws at the belly. Cunningham dips into the jar of jangles more often here, and even slips the beat altogether to croon against the soft pad of synths entangled in nylon strings with a heartsick heavenliness. While Business of Dreams might not be fully beach ready, RFA is out of the darkness and living for the little moments.

There’s something inherently perfect about synthpop for dealing with love and loss, and for every band that nails the nuance, ten more miss the mark horribly. On his sophomore outing, Cunningham proves to be not only an adept crafter of hooks, but an artist gifted with the ability to tap into just the right mix and measure of self-loathing, celebration, joy and frustration to make the genre work. He coats it all in an earworm bliss that’s hard to shake, making this an essential listen for the start of 2019, and likely a habitual home to return to as the year progresses.



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V/A – Electroconvulsive Therapy Volume 4: The Art Of Survival

Still sifting through the dust of Record Store Day for the worthwhile bits that inevitably get stranded and trampled underfoot. This compilation from Medical Records that rounds up singles from UK minimal synth label Survival Records is just such a gem. This is the label’s third collection of older Survival material, but they’re still uncovering some propulsive, twisted tunes from a time when offbeat electronica was relegated to underground club nights and sifting through mail order addresses was the only way to slot a few of these onto your shelf. The collection’s notable for highlighting Survival’s disco fallout paired with scotch-taped synth-pop for crossovers that are equally as danceable as they are stuck in the pre-Devo dominance, post Heldon prog-punk hybrid pocket.

The dichotomy is evident on excellent b-sides from The Limit, whose “OK Go” and “Do It” pack both spacey atmospherics and hard-edged funk breakdowns. This collection also highlights a few tracks from Richard Bone, a soundtrack composer moonlighting as a synthpop overlord who wound up being regarded as a founder of the NYC electronic boom in his time. The label also gave new life to Bone’s Brave Tales as part of RSD, a treasure in its own right. The comp probably isn’t tops on the list of essential rundowns wrapping up this type of sound, but for collectors of Survival or general synth-pop archival explorers, this is a worthwhile pickup for sure.




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Wyatt Blair – “The Want To Be Wanted”

Wyatt Blair tackled ‘80s excess with a deft scalpel on his last album, finding a way to push Kenny Loggins’ towering tentpole radio hits to a place that was somehow nostalgic and quaint without feeling like he was trying too hard on Karaoke night. Now he’s on the verge of a new album and the first single is taking aim at another sweep of the ‘80s cinematic arm. Instead of guitar anthems that conjure visions of shirtless volleyball, caddy parties and repressed heartland teens, this time he’s taking aim at The Breakfast Club set. The latest single is packaging synthpop heartbreak into the kind of radio fodder that once buoyed Tears For Fears and Simple Minds with some new wave guitar slices that pull from the sheath of Echo & The Bunnymen or Modern English. Needless to say, I stand a bit curious to see if he continues this bent for a full album or if this remains an aberration on his style, but “The Want To Be Wanted” pulls off its trick nicely just the same.


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Cave Curse – “Drones (We’re All)”

RSTB fave Bobby Hussy (The Hussy, Fire Heads) has taken a turn through synth-punk territory with Cave Curse, pounding out dystopian grind since the band’s debut single on Volar back in 2015. The latest pins kaleidoscopic keys to a dark, corrosive undercurrent that’s shrouded in evil. “Drones” pulls some real Angry Angles vibes, which is always a good thing in my book. Fraught, frantic and unconcerned for its well-being, the band’s album on FDH breaks form with many of its synth-wave compatriots with bright, bold keys that explode out of the speakers. Check out the premiere for the band’s latest video “Drones (We’re All)” above.

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The Green Child

Sometimes it’s hard to resist a combination of favorite forces, and such is the case for The Green Child, which brings together the long-distance relationship of Raven Mahon (Grass Widow) and Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control). The duo jumps off from their inspirational namesake, Herbert Read’s 1935 utopian, communist, sci-fi novel for a sound that’s slaloming into the valley of retro-futurist synth, with a dollop of jangle. The two have mostly shed their past personas to find common ground in works that are antiseptic, but with a human heart. They dress up in the veneer of ’80s new wave, synth wave and goth and work the weave of the three into an oddly invigorating set for the dawn of 2018. If a certain measure of numbness is anthemic in the new age of world politics and daily life, then The Green Child is a magnetic beacon – part armor, part intoxicant.

The record feeds off of Young’s recent excursions into instrumental synth and it’s apparent that the same inspirations for his entry to Moniker’s “Your Move” series also fueled the bedrock of The Green Child. Though, here he’s less interested in the Kosmiche serenity than striving to balance Mahon’s distillation of icy detachment with the the proper amount of Teutonic cool. By the end, the record finds an even keel in a subdued slickness that wards off the caustic deluge of modern life. There’s something comforting in the future perfect sounds that the band rouses up out of the weeds. With the year just cracking in, The Green Child’s eponymous debut is a balm for these modern times, taking inspiration from somewhat psychedelic and strange texts, to endure some what strange and unbelievable times.





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The Green Child – “Traveler”

As the year winds down its time to get excited about 2018 recs already, and topping the list is this collab from faves Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control, Lace Curtain) and Raven Mahon (Grass Widow, Bridge Collapse). The record eschews the comfort zones of both, going for a synth-driven sound that’s dark, terse and sinewy. The pairing feels like a good fit, with the two having built the record over the last couple of years since meeting at an Oakland show in 2014. The band’s name was inspired by Herbert Read’s 1935 utopian, communist, sci-fi novel called The Green Child and the novel plays a part in some of the album’s lyrics as well.

The record features fellow traveler Al Montfort (Terry, Total Control) and finds a home on RSTB fave Upset The Rhythm January 12th. Highly Recomended!




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