I normally have the attention span of a forgetful fruitfly with a tequila induced hangover, so this top ten of stuff is er, my top ten of stuff as I write it. After a few rewrites it has changed a bit – there was just too much good stuff out there. Oh look! A cute dog on the internet!
See what you think of these.
Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death
It took me a while to warm to them again when they changed their sound, but now they have a real groove and they work it so well on this album. Musically, they flirt a bit with the mainstream but not enough to make you feel they are selling out – more selling up really. Their eighth album has found them creating a shiny surface of summery pop tracks, whilst lyrically they hint at some darker relationship related themes.
Lebanon Hanover – Babes of the 80s
I love this EP so much. Like a lot of current music it nods back to the 80s but here, that ambience is infected with a drizzle of cold wave layered over dark, nihilist lyrics and a backing track that the Pet Shop Boys would give their pop souls for. The two remixes by She Past Away and Tobias Bernstrup achieve the difficult balance of bringing out elements of the title track without straying too far from the original yet presenting something new.
Lola Dutronic – Lost in Translation
Sometimes the best pop can have dark undertones and that is certainly the case with this album. Track after track of upbeat tunes that are almost saccharine at times – they draw you in and let the lyrics do their work. It’s an album that shows the band perfectly skewering modern obsessions: social media, reality TV or appearing to have to the perfect relationship when the underlying reality is something different, and the triumph of surface over content. There’s plenty for those that love breakup period Abba as well – Go Fuck Yourself is the best end-of-love song I’ve heard in years and the cover of Harley Davidson is just heart-meltingly sexy and sad.
Covenant – The Blinding Dark
2016 has seen lots of changes and bands have picked up on that. Though Sweden’s Covenant have ventured in to the experimental in the past, generally their sound has been upbeat and apolitical. Blinding Dark sees them change that direction – giving us music with a darker feel, allied with political and searching lyrics and interspersed with almost abstract soundscapes. It’s an album that opens with us reflecting on WW2 and makes us look at the darkness and failures in ourselves and the world around us. Even bearing all that in mind, it is a fairly accessible album, one for the soul and the mind that deserves to be listened to.
Marsheaux – Ath.Lon
Marshaeux are a strange beast often more known for their covers than their own songs; which can cause their own work to be overshadowed. This album – the follow up to the successful cover album A Broken Frame – sees them effortlessly break through that potential barrier. An album full of sublime vocals, lashings of melodies and catchy hooks – the album really captures the feel of classic synthpop whilst not feeling dated or too heavily skewed by their obvious influences.
IAMX – Everything is Burning (Metanoia Addendum)
This release is classed as an EP, but with seven tracks and seven remixes it is much more than that. Billed as a companion piece to the 2015 release Metanoia it also delivers as a standalone work. Chris Corner lays down snarling guitars, icy synths and down-tempo beats then overlays some emotional and at times heart-wrenching lyrics to create a moody and angsty vibe. The EP features remixes from acts like Mr Kitty, Gary Numan and Aesthetic Perfection, all of which bring something new to the party. Well worth a listen.
Avec Sans – Heartbreak Hi
London based Alice Fox and Jack St. James make some of the best modern synthpop there is right now. The sweetest of female voices, powered along by pulsating beats and tunes that are almost anthemic at times; Heartbreak Hi is 13 slices of electronic heaven. I’ve seen them live twice this year, each time passing up other gigs because I know that musically, Avec Sans never fail to deliver. A glamorous and bittersweet take on pop music, with Fox’s vocals managing to be both emotionless and emotional in quick turn. A well crafted, well produced album, Heartbreak hi deserves to be heard more widely.
Glass Apple Bonzai – In the Dark
Oh, this is so 80s and has no shame in admitting it. Musically it takes its main cues from the early 80s English synthpop movement; nodding its head towards bands like Tears for Fears and Yazoo, but there are real hints of the cinema screen about it too. Add in a dash of Cameo, stir in some dance-pop (remember Let the Music Play by Shannon?) then that gives you a whiff of what lies in store for you on this album. It’s a fun, un-ironic love affair with the 80s and sounds all the better for it.
Alas, there is nothing on YouTube from this album.
Rotersand – Capitalism TM
You can call it vocal trance or you can call it Industrial pop, but whatever you call it, its dance floor friendly, anthemic music that is easy on the ear but not on the feet. The lyrics have a political edge to them, seemingly trying to shake us out of our post-everything ennui. I’m not sure I’ve heard many bands sing about political paradigm shifts so overtly before! Not Alone wouldn’t be out of place at a trance club night, and there’s a hint of modern EBM and And One in tracks like the title track. Monopole gives us a darker take on futurepop. There’s not a weak track on the album, with its mix of slow burners and 4am dancefloor classics. It is sure not to disappoint.
Underworld – Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future
There’s something very retro about this album, but maybe that’s because it sounds like classic Underworld. It’s got Karl Hyde speaking/singing in his style of yore; Mark E. Smith would be jealous! Track after track utilising drum and synth sounds that were probably last aired in the late 90s but for all that, it works – as old school as the sounds may be, the production and whole vibe of it make it very much an album of the modern day, looking backwards to find answers for today’s questions. Ova Nova (I see what they did there) has a hypnotic, chilled quality which makes it one of the standout tracks on the album. It doesn’t break new musical boundaries, but it certainly fills an Underworld shaped hole in my musical listening