Category: Synth Pop

New Audio: Nation of Language Releases a Chilly ’80s Inspired Bop

Nation of Language is a Brooklyn-based synth pop trio — Ian Richard Devaney (vocals, guitars, percussion), Aidan Noell (synth, vocals) and Michael Sue-Poi (bass) — that can trace its origins back to 2016. At the time Devaney and Sue-Poi were members of The Static Joys, a band that became largely inactive after the release of their sophomore album. As the story goes, Devaney was inspired to start a new project after hearing OMD’s “Electricity,” a track he listened to in his childhood while in his father’s car.

What initially stated out as Devaney fooling around on a keyboard quickly evolved to Nation of Language with the addition of Noell and Sue-Poi. Between 2016 and 2019, the act released a handful of singles that helped them build up a fanbase locally and elsewhere. (Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site, you may recall that I caught them open for JOVM mainstays Still Corners a couple of years ago.)

The trio’s debut effort, last year’s Introduction, Presence was released to critical praise, landing on the Best Albums of 2020 lists for Rough Trade, KEXP, Paste, Stereogum, Under The Radar and PopMatters. Nation of Language capped off 2020 with a 7 inch single “A Different Kind of Light”/”Deliver Me From Wondering Why” — and to start off 2021, the rising Brooklyn-based synth pop trio recently released the 7 inch’s B side “Deliver Me From Wondering Why.”

“Deliver Me From Wonder Why” is chilly synth pop bop centered around repetitious and trance-inducing synth arpeggios and a persistent motorik groove that has a decidedly 80s vibe — in particular, you can’t help but think of A Flock of Seagulls, Simple Minds, and others. “‘Deliver Me From Wondering Why’ is a bit of an exploration, rooted in a desire for something repetitious and a bit spacey – something that would make you really want to zone out or go on a long drive on the highway,” Nation of Language’s Ian Richard Devaney says in press notes. “We worked with Nick Millhiser (Holy Ghost!) and it was just a really fun exercise in letting the track carry us wherever it was going to go. The backbone of the steady synth arpeggios and rhythms just leads endlessly forward and lets the mind wander around it.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay HAERTS Releases a Hazy and Feverish Visual for Glistening “it’s Too Late”

Tracing their origins back to a budding high school romance in Munich, the acclaimed indie pop act and JOVM mainstays HAERTS have evolved as its founding (and core) duo — Nini Fabi (vocals) and Benny Gebert (keys, guitar) — have evolved: the duo met their bandmates while studying at Berklee College of Music. Upon graduation, the then-quintet relocated to Brooklyn, where they quickly built up a profile and released their major label, self-titled, Jean-Philip Growler-produced. full-length debut.

After a series of lineup changes, the JOVM mainstays have settled on its founding and core duo, Fabi and Gebert relocated to the Upstate New York woods, where they wrote and recorded their sophomore album, 2018’s New Compassion. Interestingly, since the release of New Compassion, Fabi and Gebert have embraced their multi-national roots by splitting their time between Berlin and New York. During that same period, they’ve been fueled by a renewed spirit of collaboration with artists and visual artists they’ve long admired, including Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste and Julian Klincewicz, who they worked with on POWER/LAND.

The JOVM’s mainstays third, full-length album Dream Nation is slated for a March 12, 2021 release, and reportedly, the album’s material is marked by a sense of urgent intensity: Fabi and Gebert wrote the album over the course of about a month — and then they recorded most of the album with their touring band during a week-long, live recording session in New York. They then went to Los Angeles, where they put the finishing touches on the album and collaborated with Ed Droste on the album’s first single “For the Sky.” (More on that later.)

Sonically, Dream Nation finds the usual comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and First Aid Kit, making way for subtle nods at Portishead and Lamb. “We went into the studio without setting limits or parameters other than that we wanted to make a record that moves you emotionally and physically,” Fabi and Gebert explain. “We wanted it to feel like an invitation into the strange and fantastical night time world, like the songs they play just before the lights come on, when the party is almost over, and the polish is gone.”

Late last year, I wrote about “For the Sky.” Featuring Fabi’s ethereal and plaintive vocalists shimmering guitars, persistent drumming, a soaring hook and a guest spot from Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste, “For the Sky” continues a run of carefully crafted pop that references Fleetwood Mac centered around lyrics that come from lived-in experience.

“‘For the Sky’ came from a dream I had when I first found out that I was pregnant, which was the catalyst and beginning of writing the new music,” HAERTS explained in press notes. “When we finished the demo for the song I kept hearing Ed’s voice and just thought he would sound amazing on it. We didn’t know him at the time, but were such fans. When we reached out we honestly thought we’d never hear from him. But we did and we went into the studio in LA, and ended up recording it just singing together in a room. Now that feels like such a nostalgic notion. But even then it was special. It was that feeling you get when you sing with somebody and something just clicks. And it’s especially crazy when you sing with a vocal force as Ed. I wish everybody could sing together more and feel that.”

The album’s second and latest single “It’s Too Late” is a glistening, hook-driven pop confection that sonically — to my ears, at least — is a slick synthesis of Fleetwood Mac, Shuggie Otis, Avalon-era Roxy Music, and disco centered around Fabi’s gorgeous, plaintive vocals.

Directed by their frequent visual collaborator Julian Klincewicz, the recently released video for “It’s Too Late” is a lo-fi, hazy, fever dream through Los Angeles that follows HAERTS’ Fabi as she struts, walks and flirts with the camera. But as the band’s Gerbert explained to PAPER, the video captured both the sensual and dangerous energy of nighttime in Los Angeles: “We filmed the video with Julian during one of the craziest nights in LA. It was all about Nini walking through the empty streets of the city. We wanted it to be a journey through the night, both physically and emotionally, and also capture some of that night time energy of LA. At some point during the shoot I was in a parking lot with a friend, when someone came running towards us with a gun. Luckily, we were able to get away unharmed and we finished the video that night. It was definitely a huge shock. I guess we captured the night time in more ways than we set out to.”

New Video: Dayglow Releases a Playful Visual for Shimmering Pop Confection “Close to You”

20-something Aledo, TX-born, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Sloan Struble is the creative mastermind behind the rising, critically applauded indie rock/indie pop project Dayglow. The project aesthetically is centered around a hard-fought, hard-won yet palpably sincere optimism that can trace its origins to Struble’s adolences, growing up in a Fort Worth suburb that he has referred to as a “small football-crazed town,” where he felt irrevocably out of place — and as a result, he turned to music, as a escape from his surroundings. “I didn’t really feel connected to what everyone else in my school was into, so making music became an obsession for me, and sort of like therapy in a way,” Struble said in press notes. “I’d dream about it all day in class, and then come home and for on songs instead of doing homework. After a while I realized I’d made an album.”

Working completely on his own with a minuscule collection of gear that included his guitar, his computer and some secondhand keyboards he picked up at Goodwill, Struble worked on transforming his privately kept outpouring into a batch of songs — often grandiose in scale. “Usually artists will have demos they’ll bounce off other people to get some feedback, but nobody except for my parents down the hall really heard much of the album until I put it out,” Struble recalled. With the self-release of 2018’s Fuzzybrain, the Aledo-born, Austin-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer received widespread attention and an ardent online following — with countess listeners praising the material’s overwhelming positivity.

In 2019, Struble re-released a fully realized version of Fuzzybrain that featured Can I Call You Tonight,” a track that wound up being a smash-hit lat year, as well as two previously unreleased singles “Nicknames” and “Listerine.” With the two new singles, teh album further establishes Struble’s reputation for illuminating emotional pain in a way that not only deeply resonates with listeners but while managing to make that emotional pain feel lighter.

Continuing upon that momentum, Struble kicks off 2021 with the infectious and sugary pop confection “Close to You.” Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, and a two-step inducing groove, “Close to You” sonically is indebted to 80s synth-led soul — in particular Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald’s “On My Own” Cherelle’s and Alexander O’Neal’s “Saturday Love” and other duets, but imbued with an aching melancholy and uncertainty.

“There is just a certain danceable yet melancholy feeling about 80’s pop duets that I wanted to channel into,” Struble explains. “‘Close to You’ was intended to be performed as a duet, but ended up essentially being a duet with myself (which makes sense in the context of the lyrics).The song itself is about the tension between two people at a party that never said hello. It’s about the excitement and perfect fantasy you play in your head prior to seeing that person, the mediocre and nervous reality of the actual moment you see them, and the let down that always comes afterwards it not being what had always and only been living in your head. I envision the song being played inside someone’s brain— kind of like the movie Inside Out– after they are leaving a party, thinking about what they wish would have happened. But in reality, they are actually just singing to and about themselves.”

Directed and edited by Amos David McKay, the recently released video for “Close to You” manages to dial into the 80s-inspired nostalgia of its accompanying song: we see Struble in a teal suit dancing to the song in a orange lit studio space — and singing to himself in the mirror, making the song a duet with himself. Although it’s subtly implied, the video finds its protagonist essentially attempting to pump himself up and deal with disappointment — with a smile and a positive outlook to it all.

Struble is currently working on his highly-anticipated Dayglow sophomore album, which is slated for release this year. Be on the lookout.

New Video: L’Impératice Releases a Campy and Defiantly Feminist Visual for Strutting Disco Anthem “Peur des filles”

L’Impératice — founder Charles de Boisseguin (keys), Hagni Gown (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), Tom Daveau (drums) and Flore Benguigui (vocals) — is a Paris-based electro pop sextet that formed back in 2012. And since their formation the Parisian electro pop act has been extraordinarily busy: they released their self-titled, full-length debut in 2012. their sophomore EP Sonate Pacifique in 2014 and their third EP Odyssée in 2015.

In 2016, the French electro pop act released a re-edited, remixed and slowed down version of Odyssée, L’Empreruer, which was inspired by a fan mistakenly playing a vinyl copy of Odyssée at the wrong speed. L’Impératice followed that up with a version of Odysseé featuring arrangements centered around violin, cello and acoustic guitar.

During the summer of 2017, the members of L’Impératice signed to microqlima Records, who released that year’s Séquences EP. They followed that up with their full-length debut Matahari, which featured “Erreur 404,” a song they performed on French TV show Quotidien. Now, if you were frequenting this site last year, you may recall that I wrote about “Voodoo?,” a slinky disco strut featuring a propulsive groove, layers of arpeggiated synths, Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar and Benguigui’s sultry, come-hither vocals.

Directed by Aube Perrie, the recently released video stars L’Impératice’s Flore Benguigui and is set in an alternate universe in which she kills every man in her path during a potential extraterrestrial event. She later figures out a way to have her headless victims dance and play instruments — all while she collects more victims. Visually the new video makes playful references to Mars Attacks!, horror movies and Warren G among other things.

The French act’s highly anticipated sophomore album, the L’Impératrice and Renaud Letang co-produced Taku Tsubo is slated for a March 26, 2021 release through their longtime label home. Interestingly, the album derives its name from the medical term for broken heart syndrome takutsubo syndrome (蛸 壺, from Japanese “octopus trap”). The condition usually manifests itself as deformation of the heart’s left ventricle caused by severe emotional or physical stress — i.e., the death of a loved one, an intense argument with someone you care about, a breakup, a sudden illness or the like. And while the condition can occur in men and women of any age, it primarily affects older women.

“Peur des Filles,” Tako Tsubo’s latest single is a shimmering disco floor strut, centered around a sinuous bass line, atmospheric synth arpeggios, squiggling funk guitar, an infectious hook and Benguigui’s sultry come-hither vocals. But underneath the slickly produced dance floor friendly vibes, the song is a scathingly sarcastic ode to femininity and the differences between men and women. “Vive le difference! But be careful of those men folk, they’re afraid of strong and confident women,” the song’s narrator seems to say to its listeners.

Jim Casanova is a Paris-based experimental pop singer/songwriter, producer and mixing engineer. Casanova has been rather busy over the past year or so: he released his solo debut single “GTI” through London-based label Femme Culture. He has released a series of singles with Casanova Kidd, his collaboration with Raph Kidd — including “Guatemala,” which he recently remixed.

Casanova capped off a busy year with the release of his debut EP Canimorsus. The EP’s latest single “Le Vieux Monde,” feat. Serujío features lyrics and spoken word portions in Portuguese, French and English paired with a mid-tempo, hook-driven trap meets Caribbean production: shimmering synths, skittering beats and clang and clatter. Interestingly, the song is a slick balance of deliberate craft and inspired improvisation.

remove2020 – Casanova Kidd’s “Guatemala” remix 2019 – Latest single “GTI” released on UK based label Femme Culture.

New Video: Rising Italian Act Les Flâneurs Teams Up with Alice Greco on a Folksy Road Trip Anthem

Initially starting his music career as a member of Italian indie band Il Disordine delle Cose, Alessandro “Alex” Marchetti is a multi-instrumentalist and producer, and the creative mastermind behind the rising solo recording project Les Flâneurs.

Deriving its name from the French word for “stroller,” “lounger,” “saunterer” or “loafer,” Marchetti’s Les Flâneurs can trace its origins to when the Italian multi-instrumentalist and producer began writing and recording material that possessed a much different vibe and feel from his primary gig: Sonically, Marchetti’s solo project meshes elements of trip hop, electro pop and folk while featuring lush orchestral arrangements and samples.

Interestingly, Marchetti has viewed his role in Les Flâneurs as part director and part producer. And much like a film, individual talents team up to bring material to life and improve upon it — or to create something entirely new. With his new solo project, the Italian multi-instrumentalist and producer has collaborated with an eclectic array of up-and-coming international artists including
Italy’s Carlot-ta, Sweden’s Hanna Turi and Brazil’s Priscila Ribas among others.

The past year has been an extraordinarily busy year for Marchetti: After releasing the attention grabbing debut single, the trip hop-like “Dark Souls,” he released his full-length debut A Long Season earlier this year — and to cap off a big 2020, he released the standalone single “On y va.” Featuring Alice Greco’s plaintive vocals over a lush and folksy arrangement of strummed, shimmering acoustic guitar, plucked banjo, shimmering bursts of twinkling keys and a soaring hook, “On y va,” is a road trip anthem that celebrates freedom — the freedom of being on the road, the freedom of youth and so on. Sonically, the new single is inspired by an unusual guitar tuning that Marchetti heard in a Grizzly Bear song. “I wrote the lyrics as I was traveling at the time, not just in a car, but inside my soul, exploring every day a new unknown part of myself,” Greco says of the song’s lyrics.

Shot in the Italian countryside at golden hour, the recently released video follows a young woman who hitches a ride into the city, to meet up with a dear friend. The two young women get tattoos together, meet up with other friends for drinks and conversation. If it wasn’t for the disorientating impact of the pandemic, everything about this particular video is a reminder of the bliss and passion of youth.

New Video: Black Marble Releases a New Wave-like Synth Cover of Mariah Carey’s Christmas Smash Hit

Black Marble is an acclaimed synth pop/coldwave project founded by its creative mastermind Chris Stewart in 2012. Initially started as a duo featuring Team Robespierre’s Ty Kube, the act has released an EP and three full-length albums — with 2012’s Weight Against the Door EP and A Different Arrangement, and 2016’s It’s Material recorded as a duo.

Interestingly, It’s Immaterial reflected several major changes for the acclaimed act: the album marked Kube’s departure from the project, and Stewart’s move from Brooklyn to the West Coast. And since relocating to the West Coast, Stewart has released his third Black Marble album, last year’s Bigger Than Life and this year’s I Must Be Living Twice EP, a covers EP featuring covers of Wire, Robert Palmer, Lives of Angels, The Field Mice, and Grouper.

Closing out 2020, Stewart, along with an impressive array of indie synth pop stars took part in a charity video compilation Synthmas: A Holiday Special, which encourages donations to two important and worthy causes:

Alexandria House: Founded in 1996, Alexandria House is a Los Angeles-based transitional residence that provides safe and supportive housing for women and children — particularly women and children of color — who are in the process of moving from emergency shelter to economic stability and permanent housing, They also serve the broader Mid-Wilshire section of Los Angeles by providing educational and enrichment opportunities for their neighbors, as well as for their residents.

In response to the needs of the women and children living in Alexandria House, as well as the larger neighborhood, Alexandria House’s goal is to be community-orientated and intentionally multicultural and anti-racist.

More than 92% of the women who have moved through the Alexandria House program have succeeded in securing financial stability and permanent housing.

Save Our Stages : Created by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and its 1300 member venues, NIVA’s mission is to preserve and nurture the important ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters across the US. As a result of their efforts, NIVA was able to win crucial federal funding as part of the most recent COVID relief bill. But while the federal funding was desperately needed, indie venues across the country could still use your help during one of the most difficult economic periods in recent memory.

Stewart’s contribution to the Synthmas compliation is a decidedly 80s New Wave/New Order-like cover of Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous smash hit Christmas anthem “All I Want For Christmas Is You” that turns the song into a lonely and bittersweet ode to longing for the family and friends we can’t see because of the pandemic — and for the hope that we’ll be able to do the very human things we all miss so much right now.

“Given all that’s happened in the last year It struck me as likely that many of us are in the same boat right now and thinking about this idea of missing our friends and loved ones and wondering when we will be able to gather together again,” Black Marble’s Chris Stewart says in press notes. “I usually take it for granted that I’ll be able to see my family for instance at this time, but for me and a lot of us this year, those plans were put on hold. The original intent of the song seems more playful, but because of these ideas, it took on, for me, more of a tone of longing and wishing to be with the people you care about and not having much appetite for the usual more commercial trappings of the season in light of this thing we’re all going through. Also, I mean who doesn’t love some Mariah Carey around this time – and I thought it would be fun to do a more synthy take on such a well-known classic pop song as well as update it tonally to reflect this current reality.”

Co-directed by Ashley Leahy and Stewart, the recently released video for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was shot in Los Angeles and features Stewart unwrapping his gifts — a synthesizer and guitar — and performing the song in a bare green-walled room and in front of Christmas-themed sights across Los Angeles. Additionally, we see Stewart rocking out and passing out gifts. There’s a restlessness and boredom throughout that should feel familiar — like the restless boredom we’ve experienced over the past few months.

“For the video we wanted to get across the idea of this character who is sort of restless and longing for someone who’s not there and doesn’t really have the time or headspace for the usual holiday festivities,” Stewart explains. ”
That’s why we shot the scene of presents being passed from hand to hand and sort of discarded as if they are unimportant or an afterthought, and why we shot the exteriors all over town as if the character is in search of someone or something. Or this idea that wishing for someone or something is universal right now and not confined to one particular place.” He adds: “In addition we wanted a humorous offbeat tone and took inspiration from the classic ‘80s video ‘You Can Call Me Al’ that Paul Simon did with Chevy Chase. I wanted two versions of me and for them to have distinct personalities, with one character really feeling the sentiments of the song and the other kind of aloof and absent minded and sort of breaking the fourth wall with all these technical problems.”

Before I forget, the single is currently available through Bandcamp and additional digital retailers — and will be widely available on Christmas Day.

New Video: French Elelctro Pop Artist DeLaurentis Releases a Cinematic Visual for Shimmering “Life”

DeLaurentis is a French-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and interpreter, who can trace some of the origins of her own music career to watching her father play music. She quickly understood that music notes would spring up and fly away from her arms, hands and fingers — that music was essentially a part of her.

After spending several years studying in the conservatory, DeLaurentis returned back home, where she began working on material with keyboards, sequencers, computers and other electronics. Inspired by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Max Richter, Brian Eno, Oneothrix Point Never, and Laurie Anderson, DeLaurentis eventually developed and honed a lush and cinematic sound centered around modern and vintage analog synthesizers, piano, loop machines and arpeggiators paired around her ethereal vocals.

The French electronic music artist and producer relocated to Paris, where she released her first two EPs, which featured some attention-grabbing videos. Several tracks wound up being placed in commercials and American TV shows. Building upon a growing profile, the French electronic music artist and producer began working on what would be her full-length debut Unica in a spacious and luminous Paris studio intensifying her relationship between her instruments and technology over a two year period.

Unica is a synth pop concept album that tells the tale of the fusion between woman and machine. Interestingly, the album features a track recorded with artificial intelligence, supervised by Benoit Carré, a pioneer in A.I. Additionally, the album finds DeLaurentis collaborating with Dan Black, Yaron Herman, Daymark and Fabien Waltmann.

“Life,” Unica’s cinematic first single is centered around shimmering, Giorgio Moroder-like synth arpeggios, soaring strings, skittering, tweeter and woofer rocking trap beats and DeLaurentis’ ethereal and plaintive vocals singing lyrics that draws from one of the more famous lines in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “It is a tale/Told but an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing.” Thematically seeming as though it were influenced by Spike Jonze’s Her or Steven Spielberg’s AI, “Life” tells the tale of Unica coming alive and bursting out from the screen that contained her. The song goes on to have the fictional DeLaurentis and Unica meeting each other and observing each other with curiosity — and a bit of fear of what may be next for both.

Directed by the directorial collective ACCIDENT and production company Noside, the recently video is inspired by the collaborators fascination for sci-fi androids in films like Blade Runner and Ex-Machina and others. Visually, it’s a brooding and symbolic fever dream seemingly set in a dystopian world that’s not too far from our own.

As the collaborators explain the concept behind the video was to introduce the main concepts and themes behind the Unica with the video serving as a visual origin story into DeLaurentis’ Unica. “We wanted to develop this idea of birth and this coming alive process by infusing it with graphic and metaphysical references,” the collaborators explain. “The idea is to minimize the robotic aspect and to focus on the ambiguity of its double. In order to make the final revelation even more powerful: this entity that we thought was human is in fact driven by artificial intelligence. The choice of focusing on the hand is not trivial, it is in our opinion the strongest symbolism of humanity and the most powerful member on a visual and emotional level.”

The music video uses hybrid techniques combining real shots and 3D computer graphics to give life to a robotic hand, supervised by Laurent Hamery and Raphael G. while the Parisian teams of the ACCIDENT collective developed the environments and mood maps.