Music Reviews

Red This Ever: Attack!

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (10046)
Sep 04 2017
Artist: Red This Ever (@)
Title: Attack!
Format: CD
Label: Nevitable Records (@)
Rated: *****
This Baltimore-based electropop band call themselves "synthrockers with shy angst and catchy hooks" but I think that kind of sells them short. Still, it's a catchphrase that comes in handy when more elaborate descriptions just make one's eyes glaze over when asked about what the band sounds like. Since their inception in 1997 they've released five previous albums making 'Attack!' their sixth. The band (on this disc anyway) is Roy Retrofit (vocals, synths, programming, stuff); Ada Retrofit (bass); Michael Waring (drums); with additional guitars by Gabe Perry. I'm kind of surprised that RTE hasn't gotten any press previously from Chain D.L.K. but we don't know, or know of, everything (yet). I was unfamiliar with the band's previous albums so I thought I'd take a few moments to check out some of their older tracks. What I heard was okay, but nothing quiet as compelling as 'Attack!'. This is a band that's heavily influenced by Brit synthpop bands, so much so that they sound like one now. Not a bad thing at all though, because back in the heyday, the best synthpop bands were British. (Some might disagree, but I can only say you're wrong, wrong, wrong.) If you took Gary Numan, New Order, The Cars (one Beantown band can't hurt), Depeche Mode, OMD, the Pet Shop Boys and the Human League, tossed them in a blender set to puree, you'd have Red This Ever. While some of their previous efforts sounded a bit derivative, the band has really come into its own on 'Attack!'.

The first impression you're going to get with this album is the band's sardonic sense of humor on the album cover - a great white shark chomping on a human victim with legs flailing outside. After a brief dark and moody instrumental intro ("Demagogues of Fear") RTE launches into the title track. Roy's vocals sound more confident and stylized, the music is bouncy and bold, and the hook is killer. Great arrangement too. The good stuff keeps on coming- the tongue-in-cheeky lyrics of "Negative Nine" are palpable, as is the resistance-themed "Man Up Now." The hooks keep coming fast and furious and the lyrics are clever as ever. The synthwork is pretty damn good as well, and the rhythm section is solid and foreceful. One song that ironically comes right in the middle of the album- "Thank You For Enjoying the Show" has such a Cars bent to it you could almost imagine Rick Ocasek covering it ("Thank you for enjoying the show-uh-o-uh-o"). This is big, bodacious, balls of brass synthpop that isn't afraid to put it all on the line, get in your face and tell you how they think it is. And dance-worthy to boot. Roy glibly turns more phrases than a hustling hooker turns tricks on a Saturday night. You've got a love a line like - "...true story, and it can get really gorey, I set my pants on fire, it doesn't mean I'm a liar, it just means that I'm not boring..." ("True Story"). There are so many gems like that sewn throughout 'Attack!' it will make your head spin. It will also keep you feet moving. There isn't one bad song on this album, not even a mediocre one. Nothing that makes me say "meh" or something of the sort. Sure, some are more captivating than others, but in total Red This Ever has dished up one heaping helping of electropop excellence that deserves to be heard and enjoyed. If you love synthpop, you'd be a fool not to buy this.

Hyperbubble: Pretty Plastic

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 22 2017
Artist: Hyperbubble (@)
Title: Pretty Plastic
Format: CD
Label: Pure Pop For Now People (@)
Rated: *****
If there's one thing San Antonio, Texas synthpop duo Jeff & Jess DeCuir certainly are, it's prolific. In the time they've grabbed my attention I've reviewed no less than five of their albums previously. But these folks go back way further than my acquaintance with them- all the way back to 1997 in fact. That's why 'Pretty Plastic' is such a cool and vital album in the Hyperbubble oeuvre- it's a compilation of singles, compilation cuts, soundtracks and vinyl-only releases over the years on labels from England, Scotland, America, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Very little of it have I ever heard before, so for me it's like a band new album! This is the "good stuff" too - quirky dance-oriented synthpop, mostly with vocals, and not a lot of it experimental or off-genre. There are wonderful gems here such as "Girl Boy Pop Toy," two versions of "Synesthesia," "Disgow Glasgow" (did that swipe that from Telex's "Moscow Diskow" ?), "Candy Apple Daydream," "Better Set Your Phasers to Stun," "Rollerboogie Babydoll," "Welcome to Infinity," "Kinky," "Pop Star," and more. One of my favorite Hyperbubble ditties on this album is "Theme from Modsnap" (2007) which was used for a San Antonio-based , a public-access television cable TV show on fashion. Sounds very Euro-'80s. Overall, 'Pretty Plastic' is a wonderful comp, and while it can't encompass everything Hyperbubble's ever done, it does give you enough odds & sods to make it absolutely worthwhile. Recommended!

Dreams Divide: 5 Years

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 22 2017
Artist: Dreams Divide (@)
Title: 5 Years
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Analogue Trash (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
This is a compilation release of the British Synth-/Futurepop-duo Dreams Divide, which compiles both previously released albums "Puppet Love" and their rare 2014 album "Tears from the Night Sky". It also marks the beginning of a new chapter in the band history of David Crout and Gemsy Davison, because they're now one of the new kids of the block of the hard-working Manchester-based label Analogue Trash.
Their upcoming new studio album is already in the pipeline for a release in autumn. Asides from re-releasing the bands' earlier discography it is also a clever promotional stunt to give these recordings free to the listeners with a "name-your-price" initiative via Bandcamp. Since both previous albums have been released in quite limited editions by now defunct labels like Glory & Honour and Juggernaut Records, this collection should be an ideal introduction as well as a teaser of their new recordings.
This duo unites musically an energetic mixture of Synthpop-like sensibilities with the drive and dancefloor-compatibility of up-to-date sounding Futurepop results. The tracks itself provide for the most part a high dancefloor-compatibility and should the ideal soundtrack to support their engaging live performances. As for personal favorites I tend to name with the catchier tunes like “Due”, “Wise”, “Tears Form the Night Sky” or “Heaven Comes to Get You”. Nice first overview especially for listeners who haven’t seen and heard of this duo before.

Ghost Twin: Plastic Heart

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 14 2017
Artist: Ghost Twin
Title: Plastic Heart
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Artoffact Records
The debut album from Canadian duo Ghost Twin is a bold bit of solid synthpop that is hopefully the beginning of something very big. The combination of dark-tinged stomping synthwave and guitar with a languid and lilting female vocal that’s more reminiscent of Maggie Reilly, Maddy Pryor or Kate Bush than of the normal synthpop vocal fayre works well throughout.

Tracks like “Blue Room” and “Plastic Heart” has a relentless, slightly teutonic single-chord thump to them, but this is mixed in with gentler set-ups like “The Haunt”, which beautifully holds back an uplifting chord change until halfway through in a very deft bit of songwriting. A similar trick makes “Not Our Time” a complex melting pot of different emotions.

Over the course of 11 tracks the energy level rarely drops, and as is so common on pop albums the second half isn’t quite as strong as the first, with the formula just beginning to show signs of wearing thin by “Mystic Sabbath” and “Evermore”. The male vocals on “Into Oblivion” lack the punch of their female counterparts. Considering it’s a debut album though, this tailing off effect is surprisingly minimal. The traditional ‘ballad at the end’, “Transfigured Heart”, is a strong showcase for the vocal, with the electronics edging back to good effect.

Though it’s a debut, both band members have some experience under their belts in other bands, and it shows. It’s a strong and unusual-sounding bit of dark synthpop with more than its fair share of highlights, and a remarkably strong debut album that means Ghost Twin are ones to watch.

Daily Planet: Play Rewind Repeat

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jul 31 2017
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Artist: Daily Planet
Title: Play Rewind Repeat
Format: CD
Label: Progress Productions (@)
Distributor: Border Music
Rated: *****
2017 seems to be a perfect year for friends of Synthpop music generally just if you look on the latest releases of global players like Mode, Erasure, Alphaville, Pet Shop Boys or O.M.D. Although the Swedish duo of Daily Planet doesn't play obviously in the same league than the mentioined veterans, someone could come to the impression to get with "Play Rewind Repeat" one of the true pearls this late spring- / early summer-time has to offer. It's kind of a deja-vu and comparable to the release of their second album simply entitled "Two" in 2014 with which they broke their nearly 18 years longing time-out after their highly acclaimed debut "The Tide" released during the heydays of the long out-of-business Swedish Energy Records label.
Johan Baeckström and Jarmo Ollila surely have found lots of inspiration to return with this new album which features 12 tracks of finest and perfectly produced classic Synthpop music. Baeckströms programming skills surely follow the works of idols like Vince Clarke to his being in Depeche Mode, Yazoo, The Assembly until his successful early years with Andy Bell under the Erasure moniker. But don't think that you'll get a retro-/mid-80s oriented Pop-/Wave-album - the studio perfection of the current times don't allow any reminiscences of long gone days.
You know that phenomenon but it is an unwritten law that Scandinavians still offer the finest and catchiest tunes for this genre and so Jarmo Ollila does his best to provide the required human warmth with his nice timbre into the synthetic sound of his partner. Both are teaming up perfectly and offer usable stuff to the dancefloor-addicts with the faster tunes like "Grains of Sand", "Set Me Free" or "Vicious Circle".
Deeper impressed I am with their more mid-tempo based and richly-detailled arranged tracks like "Fire In Me" (this one must be their secret "Any Second Now"-dedication track...) "Drown" and the brillant balladesque "Weeping" to close this album sentimentaly.
If you have heard the to my opinion excellent new Erasure-album "World Be Gone" and if you miss on it a bit more nostalgia into arrangements and a bit more rhythm-/percussion-work then you should definitely check out this brillant produced album of Daily Planet. Classic Synth- / Electropop cannot be produced much better than on this one.

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