Music Reviews

Artist: Emotikon (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Emotikon is a Dusseldorf, Germany based duo consisting of the Japanese Mine Voss (vocals) and the German Tom Tron (synths, programming). Mine trained as a musical theatre actress and Tom was a video game composer but they decided to combine their talents into the synthpop entity they named Emotikon. The self-titled 'Emotikon' is obviously their debut album.

When it comes to synthpop bands, I have certain expectations. One for sure is the 'pop' element; I expect to hear memorable songs with good melodies. I expect pretty good melodic (or at least quirky, interesting, intelligible) vocals. I expect solid synth and rhythm programming. Interesting visual presentation is a plus. A potential hit is icing on the cake. For the most part, Emotikon seems to have what it takes. Perhaps in a certain regard though, they sound a tad 'too commercial'. Some of this in part may be due to the nature of Mine's voice which has a traditional J-pop sound, but the vocals are (mostly) all in English. (Might I suggest a song complete in Japanese for the next album.) Songs are in the lighter pop vein; nothing I would call dark or goth, even though the album begins on a slightly melancholy note with 'The Eye in the Sky,' augmented by Lilian Mann on cello. Think Saint Etienne or Freezepop, although Emotikon sounds like neither of those bands.

Tom writes the music and lyrics but Mine seems to have a hand in adapting the melody to her voice. The synth and rhythm programming aren't adventurous but competent; simple and effective for the material. Mine's voice is smooth and clear with good range and tonality. The album is self-released by choice allowing them ultimate control and flexibility they might not have had with a label. Also, their music is royalty free, but I'd encourage supporting the artists by buying and not just downloading (stealing) it.

Of the album several songs are worth noting ' the oriental themed 'Walk Among the Clouds,' incorporating real cello in the music, and also with some German and Japanese lyrics; 'When Does My Life Begin' (gotta love their Lego video for this one); 'Money Isn't Everything' (another cute, inventive YouTube video); and what I would have chosen for a hit single ' 'Big Bad Dragon'. This song is just so cute, it's adorable! Sort of based on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and Godzilla movies, there's nothing serious about it, it's just movieola & popcorn good fun. I'd be surprised if it didn't turn up on the soundtrack for some animated dragon movie in the future. (Are you listening DreamWorks?... Disney?...) Emotikon should be of interest to those who like breezy synthpop. I'm looking forward to their next release to see how they grow. I'd also like to see a live performance video sometime in the future.

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