After a rather slow and mediocre start to the year, some great new electronic albums have finally started to appear. Here’s a quick look at some of my favorites.
Digits – Death and Desire
I featured Digits’ single Lost Dream on my Synthpop 2011 playlist last year: an excellent track, but it only hinted at the quality of this Digits album. Moody and brooding, there’s something intoxicatingly late-night about the tracks on here. Similar to Kelley Polar, the synthesized introspection has a distinct North American flavor (unlike, say, the British pop-noir of Mirrors) which might appeal to the growing army of fans of the Drive soundtrack. The tempo varies across the album, but even at its highest this is an album to listen to properly rather than have on in the background. Highly recommended; Death and Desire is fast becoming my most-played album of the year so far!
Genre: dark electronic pop, lo-fi synthpop, downtempo funk
Similar to: Kelley Polar, Shakatak, Glass Candy
Titans – For the Long Gone
Titans released a cut-down “sampler” version of this on Spotify a month or so ago, and now the full 10-track album is available there too. Expectations were high for this release and for the most part Titans won’t let you down, especially if you like the edgier side of synthpop. There are quite a few bands releasing this kind of music at the moment, but what rises Titans above their peers is Dan Von Hoyel’s incredible voice. While most electro acts have servicible but often similar-sounding vocalists, Von Hoyel is unique: he almost croons his lines, displaying “phonaesthetics” rarely heard in this genre (yes, track Apex Predator does even feature the phrase “cellar door”
Genre: futurepop, EBM
Similar to: And One, Covenant, Black
Sesto Sento – Peace Love Respect Unity
I often think psytrance is like manga: there’s a constant deluge of it, most of it is throwaway mediocrity but occasionally a work rises up to remind me why I check out that scene in the first place. Sesto Sento’s P.L.U.R. is one of these gems, a more dancable album I’ve yet to hear this year. Each song pumps perfect production and intricate construction that never leaves you bored. Several tracks feature vocals (some in a Daft Punk style) which definitely go towards this not being just another psytrance release.
Genre: psytrance, progressive trance
Similar to: G.M.S., Vibe Tribe, Infected Mushroom, Daft Punk
Moonlight Cove – Hearts Of The World
2012 has been a pretty dreadful year for synthpop so far. There is a glimmer of hope though, as this great new album from Sweden’s Moonlight Cove brings some much-needed optimism and euphoria to the genre. While the more Europoppy side of electropop can often end up sounding like it came out of a synthpop sausage factory, Moonlight Cove add strong dynamic vocals and a bit more range to the mix, all backed up by a great set of songs and accomplished programming. Something about Hearts Of The World reminds me of Erasure in their hey-day: this record oozes electro confidence. Plus, I really love that album cover!
Genre: synthpop, futurepop
Similar to: Vision Talk, Mesh, Erasure
AlterRed – Dollstown
I nearly wasn’t going to bother mentioning this album from AlterRed (they totally ignored me on Twitter when I said hello!) But since I always judge an album on its own merits, I had the include Dollstown as it really is a rather fine album. With intelligent lyrics, grandiose arrangements and vocals that channel mid-80s era Midge Ure, Dollstown keeps on getting better with every play. At first I thought it was lot like IAMX, but whereas Chris seems to have written himself into a self-repeating Corner, AlterRed show a flair for invention and creativity that the electronic genre is much in need of. I just wish they hadn’t given me that blank stare though… :p
Genre: electro-cabaret, synthpop, darkwave
Similar to: IAMX, Patrick Wolf, The Dresden Dolls, Ultravox