Category: Synth Pop

Kristen Allen-Farmer is a classically train multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer singer/songwriter, and creative mastermind behind solo recording project Dream Tonic. Interestingly, with Dream Tonic, Allen-Farmer blends her lifelong love of dance music with a classically trained approach to composition and songwriting. The end result is material that is often simultaneously dreamy and gritty.

Allen-Farmer’s latest single, “I Taste” is an infectious club banger centered around synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, wobbling synths, industrial clang and clatter, squiggling Nile Rodgers-like guitar, a sinuous bass line and the classically trained artist’s breathy and sultry cooing. Featuring elements of house music, electro pop, French touch, indie dance and others, the slickly produced song brings Little Boots and others to mind — but while being a Halloween-themed song that tells the tale of a wanton vampiress, who enjoys the hunt and chase for new blood and new victims.

Jake Ward is best known as one-half of Athens, GA-based indie rock act Eureka California. Ward recently took to his home studio and completed a solo album, Never Had A Touch To Lose, which finds him stepping out into the spotlight as solo artist. performing as Mild Mild Country.

Mild Mild Country is a decided sonic departure from Ward’s work with Eureka California: Never Had A Touch To Lose is a purely instrumental. mostly synth-based, 80s influenced affair, unlike the crunchy, literature indie-rock he’s best known for. The album’s material finds Ward composing the soundtrack to an imaginary detective movie, set in Los Angeles, where the album coincidentally was recorded.

While the album is mostly synth based, you’ll hear subtle nods to post-punk, the blues and some inspired guitar playing. The album is slated for an October 22, 2021 release through HHBTM Records. To build up buzz for the album, Ward and HHBTM Records recently released a digital only bonus track off the album, an indie rock leaning cover of Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts” featuring a subtly different arrangement. While centered around heavily arpeggiated synths and industrial clang and clatter, the song also features buzzing guitars and a lengthy vocal coda. which pushes the song past the five minute mark.

Ward wrote a lengthy statement to me about Mild Mild Country’s sound and the new cover. I’ll let him speak for himself, below:

“I don’t know if it was a conscious decision to necessarily change my sound – I certainly didn’t think it was something that I had to do as much as it was that I wanted to try something new. There’s a quote by Warhol that I think about all the time – ‘Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.’ I think over the past year or so, I’ve really tried to adopt that mentality and to focus on making things (music, paintings, etc) that are interesting to me and then putting them out into the world. I’ve always enjoyed tons of different kinds of music and really the genesis for this new project was watching a documentary on Primal Scream’s Screamadelica and going ‘I want to try something like that.’ The only conscious aspect of it was that I didn’t want people to hear it and automatically go ‘oh, it’s a quarantine record.’ My thought was having it be an instrumental doesn’t really link it to a specific time than if I was singing about not going out, spending too much on GrubHub, etc. At the end of the day, I hope this isn’t my Hudson River Wind Meditations but that’s not really up to me.

I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve been a huge Depeche Mode fan for years and years. Honestly, before this year I maybe knew 3 or 4 songs and my biggest Depeche Mode memory was back in the winter of 2019 when my neighbors were blasting mariachi music for roughly 14 hours and the only break was at about hour 8 when they played ‘Policy of Truth,’ twice. And then on a random Thursday in August while I was doing some painting, everything changed. I put on a DM playlist because I wanted something with vocals but no guitars (sorry Aphex Twin), and put on the first song I knew, ‘World in my Eyes.’ But it was the second song, ‘Everything Counts,’ which was one I didn’t know that blew my shit wide open. It was so catchy, and intricate, creative, and clever in it’s arrangement. I’m writing this in October but I’m certain my Spotify wrapped is going to show this as my top played song of the year. And then every other song that followed just left me dumbfounded. I felt like I had stumbled upon a huge secret which is a hilariously sad thing to think about when hearing one of the most successful bands all of time. Still, where had this been all my life? What followed after this first listen was a blur. By Friday, I had listened to just about everything they’d released prior to Alan Wilder leaving and then on Saturday, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I spent the entire day learning and recording this cover. Ya know, for fun. And with that in mind, I hope when you listen to this you get a sense of the immediacy of someone discovering their new favorite band.”

New Video: High Waisted’s Jessica Louise Dye Steps Out as a Solo Artist with Dance Pop Project Hello Lightfoot

New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Jessica Louise Dye is best known for being the co-founder and frontwoman of acclaimed New York-based surf pop/surf rock outfit and JOVM mainstays High Waisted. Founded back in 2014 by Dye and her bandmate Jono Bernstein (drums), High Waisted has toured across the country both as an opener and as a headliner, with stops at SXSW and Riot Fest.

High Waisted contributed a song inspired by and written about the Eighth Amendment, which was featured on NPR’s More Perfect and 27: The Most Perfect Album alongside a who’s who list of indie artists. They were also featured on a Record Store Day compilation with Lenny Kaye, and fellow JOVM mainstays Atmosphere.

Besides being an acclaimed songwriter and musician, Dye has made a name for herself as a DJ, playing sold out rooms across the — and for throwing some of the city’s wildest themed parties in basements, rooftops and on boats. Just as a party organizer, she has received praise from the likes of NYLON, GQ, Noisey, BrooklynVegan, Consequence, Billboard, Paste and High Times. I’ve been to a couple of the High Waisted at Sea parties and they were they legendary.

2021 sees the High Waisted frontwoman stepping out into the spotlight as a solo artist with her brand new, solo recording project Hello Lightfoot. “I finally had the courage to finish the solo EP I stared nearly ten years ago, after the sudden death of my best friend,” Dye explained through email. “It was a heavy, cathartic process and I am really proud of myself for pushing through the pain to complete it.”

While we await details of the EP, Dye’s debut single as Hello Lightfoot “Twenty-Seven” is a slickly produced, hook-driven, club friendly confection featuring glistening synth arpeggios, thumping beats and a relentless motorik groove. While being a decided sonic departure from her acclaimed work with High Waisted, the song is centered around confessional lyrics delivered with an aching vulnerability informed by lived-in experience of heartbreak, self-doubt and uncertainty.

Directed by Zach Wright and Zack Bass, the accompanying video for “Twenty-Seven” is shot with hazy, candy colored hewed color palette and follows Dye as she navigates Las Vegas with an Elvis impersonator.

New Video: Absolutely Free Releases a Trippy and Mind-Bending Visual for “Epilogue”

Acclaimed Toronto-based psych pop act Absolutely Free — multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Matt King, Michael Claxton (bass, synths) and Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg (drums, synths) — is an offshoot of experimental rock outfit DD/MM/YYYY, an act whose multi-rhythmic, boundary pushing raison d’être provided a springboard for Absolutely Free’s sound and approach.

The Canadian psych trio’s full-length debut, 2014’s Absolutely Free. received a Polaris Prize nomination and widespread critical applause from the likes of PitchforkThe FADERStereogumBrooklynVegan,Exclaim!Under the RadarPopMattersAllMusic and countless others. 

Over the past decade, the members of the Absolutely Free have cultivated and developed a long-held reputation for an unorthodox approach to both conceiving and performing music: Since the release of Absolutely Free., the Toronto-based psych pop act have released an array of multimedia projects and releases including 2019’s Geneva Freeport EP, which features U.S. Girls‘ Meg Remy. And adding to a growing profile they’ve toured alongside the likes of AlvvaysYouth Lagoon and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations, and they’ve shared bills with Beak>, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, U.S. Girls and Fucked Up

Absolutely Free’s highly-anticipated Jorge Elbrecht-produced sophomore album Aftertouch is slated for release tomorrow through Boiled Records. Deriving its name from a the name of a synthesizer function, the album is fueled by the trio’s desire to “. . . to create an album that wasn’t bound by a physical ability to perform it live, to not only expand our palette, but also to consider the live performance as something completely separate.” Culling from a myriad of influences including krautrock, New Wave, early electronic dance music, and an array of international psych and funk complications, the album sonically and aesthetically finds the trio shifting in, around and between analog and digital sounds, and real and fabricated images while simultaneously reveling in and refuting the loss of tactility. Thematically, the album explores narratives of hegemony, grief and exploitation in the present while sustaining curiosity for the unknown post-everything future. 

In the lead-up to the album’s release, I’ve written about two of Aftertouch‘s previously released singles:

  • Interface,” a dreamily maximalist song featuring glistening synth arpeggios, percussive and angular guitar blasts, a chugging bass line and an insistent rhythm paired with plaintive vocals that reminded me of  Amoral-era Violens — in particular, “Trance Like Turn.”
  • Remaining Light” is a sprawling track with two distinct parts — a cinematic and atmospheric instrumental introduction featuring twinkling keys, glistening synths and clinking marimba. At around the 2:20 mark, the song slowly morphs into a slow-burning and brooding bit of pop featuring King’s plaintive, reverb drenched vocals ethereally floating over the mix. The end result is a song that — to my ears, at least — sounded like a slick synthesis of The Fixx’s “Sign of Fire” and Amoral-era Violens. 

Album opening track “Epilogue” is Aftertouch‘s latest single. Beginning with a whirring to life, “Epilogue” is a slow-burning and reflective track that slowly builds into a maximalist crescendo towards its conclusion centered around a lush, New Wave inspired arrangement of glistening synth arpeggios, skittering beats paired with a motorik groove and King’s achingly plaintive vocals ethereally floating over the mix. But underneath the breezy and expansive arrangement, “Epilogue” manages to possess a wistful and melancholy air.

“‘Epilogue (After Touch)’ conjures an existence, where a linear progression of time no longer seems applicable. With reference to cinematic narrative, the lyrics touch upon living in a contemporary culture that seems to be referential and symbolic of what’s already in the past,” the members of Absolutely Free explain in press notes.

Directed by Rachelle Walkers, the recently released video for “Epilogue” is brooding and trippy as it features footage of a rollercoaster rendered through a fuzzy, neon-colored negative with prismatic figures superimposed over the proceedings.

During the course of this site’s 11-plus year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed indie synth pop act Yumi Zouma. Last year, the JOVM mainstay act, which features members residing in New Zealand, the States and the UK, signed to Polyvinyl Record Co, who released their critically applauded, self-produced, third album Truth or Consequences, an album that thematically focused on distant — both real and metaphorical; romantic and platonic heartbreak; disillusionment and feeling (and being) out of reach.

Touring is often the important — and necessary — part of the promotional campaign for an artist’s or band’s new release. Before the tour, the artist or band will begin to figure out how to re-contextualize their new material and previously released material for a live setting, imagining how a crowd will react to what — and how — they’ll play in a set on tour. Much like countless acts across the worlds, the members of the acclaimed JOVM mainstay act had to cut their tour short and put the rest of their plans on hold, leaving scores of their devoted fans without the opportunity to hear the new album in a live setting.

Last October, Yumi Zouma released Truth or Consequences (Alternate Versions). The album was conceived as the band’s response to the lost opportunity to re-contextualize and explore the boundaries of the original album’s material through engagement with fans live.

The JOVM mainstays’ latest single “Give It Hell” is essentially classic Yumi Zouma — wistful and melancholy lyrics paired with breezy, hook-driven synth pop. As always, Christie Simpson’s gorgeous vocals float over an equally ethereal arrangement of glistening synth arpeggios and a gentle yet forceful motorik groove. But just underneath the song’s bittersweet air is a subtle celebratory note, a reminder that in the most difficult of circumstances, we need to be grateful for being here right now. Perhaps more than ever, “Give It Hell” is fueled by deeply personal experience:

“Before we went on stage for the only show we would play on our sold-out 2020 US tour, we held each other tight,” Yumi Zouma’s Josh Burgess says in press notes. “Fighting back the tears, someone said, ‘let’s give it hell tonight’. The next day, Truth Or Consequences was released. We drove to New York, took some photos, and dispersed back to our homes in the US, UK, and New Zealand. We haven’t been in the same room since. “To ‘give it hell’ is one of the strongest ways to stay present. Throwing yourself entirely into something, knowing it’s all you can give – it can be equal parts rewarding and humbling. This song encapsulates us digging deep, pushing through self-doubt, and being grateful for the purpose and process of making music together. Especially when it’s hard and feels futile. In the spirit of staying present, we wanted to release this song NOW, and not wait for any other moment than this one.”

New Video: Mexico City’s Petite Aime Releases a Hilarious and Trippy Visual for Dance Floor Friendly “Elektro”

Mexico City-based psych pop act Petite Aime was founded by Little Jesus bassist Carlos Medina. Last year, Medina (guitar) was joined by Aline Terrein (vocals), Isabel Dosal (vocals), Santiago Fernández (bass) and Jacobo Velazquez (guitar) to write and record the project’s self-titled full-length debut.

Slated for an October 1, 2021 release through Park The Van/Devil In The Woods, the Mexican psych pop act’s self-titled debut reportedly finds the band crafting material that fluctuates between different genres and styles based on psych pop and psych rock while touching upon influences like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Big Thief, Magic Potion, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Crumb. Lyrically the album’s material is generally centered around an expression of the existential angst gendered by the search for the “self” in an increasingly impersonal world,. where the line between what’s real and what’s virtual crystallizes.

The album’s latest single “Elektro” is a dreamy yet club friendly bop centered around glistening synth arpeggios, a hypnotic motorik groove, and propulsive four-on-the-floor paired with ethereal French vocals, complete with a vocoder drenched coda. While sonically nodding at From Here To Eternity-era Giorgio Moroder and JOVM mainstay MUNYA, “Elektro,” was actually inspired by dreaming and dreams. “We tried to translate a dream where you don’t know exactly where you are going but you let yourself go,” the band explains. “Stars come down to Earth and transport you to another world and although you know you are enjoying it you’ll always miss the place where you come from.”

The recently released video begins with a Members Only jacket wearing man, listening to music on his Walkman and jamming out in an abandoned mall. Initially, the viewer may think our protagonist is hopefully alone in a post-apocalyptic world much like our own — but towards the vocoder-drenched coda, the protagonist is surprised when he sees a crew of friends, who invite him to join.

New Video: Jenny Stevens and The Empty Mirrors Release a HauntIng New Single and Visual

Jenny Stevens, a.k.a. The Ukelele Girl is a Welsh-born, Finnish-based singer/songwriter and musician, and the creative mastermind behind Jenny Stevens and The Empty Mirrors, a songwriting project that finds the Welsh-born, Finnish-based artist dark alt-pop paired with quirky visuals.

Stevens released her latest Jenny Stevens and The Empty Mirrors EP, The Distance Between Us last week. Interestingly, the EP’s latest single “The River Rolls On” is a slow-burning and atmospheric song centered around atmospheric synths, twinkling keys and e-bow’ed guitar paired with Stevens’ gorgeous and yearning vocals. Seemingly indebted to Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Cocteau Twins and the like, the song as Stevens explains is a “dark and slow reflection on death and the persistence of memory.”

The recently release video is fittingly haunting, fueled by nostalgia, longing and desire.

Andrew Oliver is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind behind the rising, solo electro pop project Nightshifts. And with Nightshifts, the rising Canadian singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer has developed a reputation for crafting kaleidoscopic productions featuring vintage synths, groovy guitar lines and drum machines paired with soulful and lived-in songwriting. The rising Canadian artist aims to create a space where listeners can dance yet feel introspective while learning and feeling something new upon repeated listens.

Oliver’s work thematically focuses on imbalance and the challenge to stay present, with the Canadian artist confiding in press notes, “I very often get caught up thinking about past situations, and looking towards future ones. I write a lot about this imbalance. And ironically, the times I feel most in the moment are when I’m working on music.”

“Beach,” Oliver’s latest Nightshift single is features a warm and breezy production centered around alternating dreamy and fuzzy passages, complete with skittering boom bap beats, buzzing bass synths, looped strummed guitars, twinkling keys and Oliver’s plaintive vocal layered upon each other — with backing vocals being drenched with autotunes and other effects. While bearing an uncanny resemblance to the hazy nostalgia of M83 and Washed Out, the song as the rising Canadian artist explains is rooted in the idea of wondering what would have — or could have — happened if we took a different path in our lives. Yes, it’s the old adage of “if I had known then what I know you” but placed in a vivid and languorous daydream that feels lived-in yet somehow exaggerated. “I have a tendency to daydream, to second guess choices I’ve made in the past, and to think about what could have been,” Oliver says in press notes.

New Video: Mindy Releases an Immersive Visual for Dance Floor Friendly “Poolside”

Mindy Song is a Southern California-born, Korean-American., classically trained multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who first emerged into the national scene as a co-founder of Night Dreamer with Smashing Pumpkins’ Jeff Schroder. Song emerged as a solo artist earlier this year, after working with an eclectic and acclaimed collection of producers including Ryan Kim and Aris Maggiani, who have worked with BTS, Exo, and HyunA; Lior Goldenberg, who has worked with Alanis Morissette, Macy Gray and Allen Stone; Josiah Maccaschi, who has worked with Soko, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Warpaint’s Jenny Lee; and Tristan Calder, who has worked with Kill The Computer.

Performing under the mononym Mindy, Song’s solo work challenges the conservative ideology of her upbringing while displaying transcendence from loneliness and confusion. Song recently released her debut EP Version 1.27, which features “Am I Alive” and the EP’s latest single “Poolside,” a slickly produced number centered around glistening synth arpeggios, thumping beats and Song’s sultry delivery. And while being a dance floor friendly bop, the song thematically is about finding comfort within the smallest aspects of life.