Category: Synth Pop

I’ve written quite a bit about Stockholm, Sweden-based indie electro pop act Club 8 throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history. The act, which features Labrador Records label head and incredibly prolific and eclectic producer and electronic music artist Johan Angergård and vocalist Karolina Komstedt has a long-held reputation for being difficult to pigeonhole sonically: With the release of their debut album 1995’s Nouvelle, the duo initially was a Bossa nova-inspired pop act. However, with 1998’s The Friend I Once Had was a decided sonic left turn for the duo. with the material primarily being electro pop and electronic dance music.  The duo’s next three albums, which were released between 2001 and 2003 found them dabbling in old school soul.

2017 began an incredibly prolific and busy period for Angergård: his solo recording and production project The Legends released an album; Djustin, his collaboration with Rose Suau released their full-length debut Voyagers; and Club 8 released their ninth album Lost. Now, some time has passed since I’ve last written about the Stockholm-based JOVM mainstays — but this year has been busy for the acclaimed duo. They released a single earlier this year that landed on Hype Machine‘s Top 5. And following up on the momentum of that single, the duo’s latest track “The Hospital” may arguably be the most industrial/goth-leaning bit of material they’ve released in some time. Centered around thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, layers of shimmering and arpeggiated synths and Komstedt’s breathy and ethereal vocals, the club banging track manages to subtly recall the likes of Depeche Mode and Soft Metals. And while being a dance floor friendly anthem, the song finds the duo at their most contemplative: the song’s narrator is in a hospital bed, acutely aware that the end may be near — but desperately hoping that it isn’t.

 

 

 

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New Video: Brisbane’s Confidence Man Releases an Occult Themed Visual for 90s House-Inspired “Does It Make You Feel Good?”

With the release of last year’s full-length debut, Confident Music for Confident People, which featured a handful of breakthrough singles, the Brisbane, Australia-based dance pop act Confidence Man — led by Janet Planet and Sugar Bones and featuring Clarence McGuffie and Reggie Goodchild — received attention nationally and internationally for a crowd-pleasing, club friendly sound seemingly inspired by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder and Deeee-Lite-era house music. 

Adding to a growing profile and busy summer, the rapidly rising Aussie dance pop played across the international festival circuit, including a stop at Glastonbury Festival — and amazingly earning an opening slot for the legendary New Order. Interestingly, Confidence Man’s latest single, the shimmering, club anthem “Does It Make You Feel Good” continues on the momentum of the past year. Centered around a slick production featuring  a thumping and propulsive beat, shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line and a rousing hook, the song manages to be heavily indebted to late 80s and early 90s house and Club MTV-era MTV — i.e., Black Box, C+C Music Factory, the aforementioned Deeee-Lite and others. But instead of ascribing to soulless mimicry, the song reveals an act with a careful  and deliberate attention to craft. 

Directed by the Aussie dance pop act’s longtime visual collaborators Schall and Schanbel, the recently released visual is s striking fever dream that’s reminds me quite a bit of the work of Dario Argento — but with an extensive dance sequence in between the gore, ecstatic occult rituals and laser shooting boobies and cute animals. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about the rapidly rising Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist and electronic music producer, Luna Shadows.  Interestingly, the Los Angeles-based pop artist began her career as a touring member of the acclaimed New Zealand-based synth pop act The Naked and Famous — but Shadows went solo, because she felt she had a voice that demanded to be heard on its own terms.

Since then, Luna Shadows has developed a reputation for a staunchly DIY approach, as she writes, performs, records, produces, edits and engineers every single note of her work — and for crafting sultry, melancholy pop that Billboard has called “. . . refreshingly soulful and haunting .  .  . ,” and compared by some critics as Lana Del Rey taking Lorde to the beach.

Adding to a growing profile, the Los Angeles-based artist’s work has amassed over 35 million Spotify streams with tracks landing on tastemaker playlists like New Music Friday, Indie Pop, Weekend Beats and Weekly Buzz and landing as high as #7 on the US Charts and #18 on the Global Viral Charts. Her live debut. which took place at the renowned Los Angeles indie music showcase School Night was a sell-out — and she also has received airplay on a nubmer of radio stations globally, including  including KROQ, BBC Radio 1 and Beats 1. And amazingly, she accomplished all of that without the support of a label.

Now, as you may recall this past year has been a momentous year for the Los Angeles-based pop artist: She recently began collaborating with two highly-acclaimed mainstream indie pop producers — s Now Now‘s Brad Hale and The Naked and Famous‘ Thom Powers to help shoulder the production and editing load — and she signed to +1 Records, who released her first single of the year, “lowercase,” a track imbued with the bitterness, heartache and confusion of a dysfunctional relationship full of power plays, recriminations and accusations paired with a sleek and hyper-modern, trap-leaning production. “god.drugs.u” continued in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor but while centered around a plaintive and unfulfilled yearning.

“practice,” Luna Shadow’s third and latest single of the year continues a run of sleek, hyper modern, radio and club friendly bangers, as its centered around the sort of synth arpeggios reminiscent of Stevie Nicks‘ “Stand Back,” Shadow’s plaintive vocals and tweeter and woofer rocking beats. And while being a rumination on love and loss meant to remind the listener that every love affair throughout your life is essentially practice for the next one, it’s also a reminiscence on the one that might have worked — but somehow didn’t. And instead of harboring bitterness, the song suggests that it’s all a part of being human.

“Like all songs in this series, this song involves a breakdown or barrier in communication both in the digital and physical worlds,” Shadows says of the song. “In the most literal interpretation, ‘practice’ is an imaginary conversation with a bridge jumper, beginning with a retroactive plea for them to check their Twitter mentions as they might’ve seen the outpouring of love left for them before they made an irreversible decision. The chorus is a sentiment that someone once expressed to me in a dark hour: that love is a process, something in constant refinement, something never damaged beyond repair, somewhere that you can always return. This message reached me at a necessary moment, and I wanted to forward it musically with the hope that it might reach someone who needs to hear it right now.”

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Introducing the Sleek and Propulsive Synth Pop of Vlossom

Vlossom is a new electro pop collaboration between two acclaimed Australian musicians — Nick Littlemore, best known for his work with multi-platinum acts Empire of the Sun and PNAU and Alister Wright, the frontman of Aussie indie rock act Cloud Control.  Interestingly, the project can trace their origins to rather a serendipitous moment: while walking down the street in Adelaide, Littlemore bumped into Wright and immediately proposed that they make an album together. “He had this exuberance that shone through as he approached me, and right away I felt compelled to offer myself up for the slaughter,” Littlemore says in press notes. 

Several months later, the duo met up for their first writing and recording session, during which Littlemore played a nubmer of backing tracks he’d recently created, including a few pieces made with Tim Lefebvre, best known for his work with David Bowie. “Without really talking or anything, Nick threw me straight in and had me sing over all these instrumentals,” Wright recalls. “I ended up getting so lost in it, and just singing whatever came into my head at the time.” The end result is trance-inducing material that effortlessly meshes pop, psych rock and electronic music into something that’s strange and multi-sensory — a body of work that reportedly possesses a distinct texture, temperature, color and even smell. 

The duo’s Vlossom debut EP is slated for release next year, and the EP’s first single is the lush and hypnotic “Catch Your Breath.” Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, a motorik-like groove, Wright’s ethereal and plaintive vocals and a dance floor friendly hook that sonically brings Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories to mind, as the duo meshes sleek, electronic production with with warm, live instrumentation featuring musicians Littlemore met through his work with Elton John. And while being a club banger, the track thematically speaks to a metaphorical loss of composure. “It’s that feeling of seeing a thing of absolute beauty, whether it’s a girl or guy or plant or animal, and being brought into a heightened reality,” Littlemore says in press notes. “For the most part our everyday lives are fairly menial, so those moments when we do lose our breath are really something to dwell on.” 

Directed by Nicolas Randall, the recently released video for “Catch Your Breath” is a vividly colored and gorgeous fever dream, filmed at a haunting and eerie mausoleum in Los Angeles. 

“The clip was directed by the incomparable Nicolas Randall, a visionary director whose understanding of colour and movement is second to none,” Littlemore says of the video treatment. “It was shot in an amazing mortuary; the song deals with crossing over to parallel dimensions. Nicolas played with this concept in this location, breathing wondrously strange energy into a lifeless place, uber-styled and choreographed by masters in their field.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Neon Indian Releases an Absurdist and Politically- Charged Single and Visual

Alan Palomo is a Mexican-born, Denton, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist, producer and film maker, who’s best known as the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed recording project Neon Indian. I’ve written quite a bit about Palomo and Neon Indian over the years, and as you may recall, with the release of four albums and an EP, 2009’s Psychic Chasms, 2013’s Era Extraña and  Errata Anex EP and 2015’s Vega Intl. Night School, Palomo firmly established a slickly produced synth pop sound indebted to Prince, Michael Jackson and others. 

Last year, Palomo released his first narrative short, 86’d, “a love letter to New York cinema and in a way, a final recapitulation of the Night School universe,” the JOVM mainstay explained in press notes at the time. “Shot on 16mm over the course of three nights, it was an ambitious undertaking for all parties involved but honestly making it was such a blast that at times felt like just that, a party. I’m eternally grateful to all the wonderful people that came together to realize this kooky project and proud to finally be able to share it with music and movie goers alike.”

Directed by Palomo, written by Palomo and Kai Flanders, edited by Pete Ohs and Dustin Reid, the film stars Buddy Duress (Good Time, Heaven Knows What), Lindsay Burdge (Easy, Thirst Street, The Midnight Swim), Seaton Smith (Top Five, Mulaney), Chase Williamson (John Dies at The End), Mitzi Akaha (Lowlives, Dark Side of The Moon) and musician Alex Frankel (Holy Ghost) as well as Palomo. Set in Ed Koch-era NYC, Max takes a mouthful of mescaline and desperately tries to make it home before it kicks in. On his way, he decided to stop at an all-night deli for a quick, late night meal. After numerous order delays and full-on trip stampeding into his psyche, he is made to pay witness to the colorful cast of Lower East Side weirdos, visualizing their stories through his newly altered lens: A Times Square dominatrix meets up with one of her regulars to reveal an answering message left by his wife. Two punks discuss an ultimatum as one reveals his connection to a pistol found in a drug bust. A recording engineer convinces an aspiring singer to re-record a destroyed vocal take from a canonic 80s group and attempts to pass it off as the original. Visually speaking, the short would remind a lot of viewers of Martin Scorcese’s After Hours as its centered round a New York and peculiarly New York characters that are sadly long gone — and situations that can’t possibly happen in a sanitized, suburban mall version of New York. 

Along with the film, Palomo wrote and recorded the short’s theme song “Heaven’s Basement,” an 80s inspired, synth pop, club banger centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, scorching, distorted guitar solo and Palomo’s dreamy falsetto. And while continuing on the slickly produced club friendly sound of his previously released work, the song managed to possesses a lysergic buzz. 

Interestingly, Palomo’s first single of 2019 “Toyota Man” is a decided left turn for him and for Neon Indian, as the song is the first song written and sung in his native Spanish — and perhaps more important, finds the project leaning towards a seamless mesh of synth pop and psychedelic cumbia. Interestingly, “Toyota Man” may arguably be the most politically charged song, Palomo has even written and released, as he sings in Spanish “We came here to study, we want to work” as a protest, which is followed by mischievously dueling riffs of “La Cucaracha” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” In some way, it points out that the experience of the Mexican, Central American and South American migrants and immigrants are equally as American and as valid as yours or mine. 

Directed by Alan Palomo and starring Palomo Brian DeRan, Chris Silcox and Veronica Sanders, the recently released video is part a proud and defiant view of the border culture that Palomo grew up in and an absurdist comedy inspired by a wild melange of things that features a proud and defiant view of the culture of his people and a possessed Trump piñata that gets its deserved comeuppance. 

“’Toyota Man’ was filmed along the road map of what essentially was my path to American citizenship: Monterrey, the Nuevo Laredo border, San Antonio, and finally Austin. The process is a multiple decade commute known by many Latinos and other Americans,” Palomo says of the video. “Though my music has always been generally apolitical, I realized when recording this song that it was impossible to write biographically (in the rhetorical context of the Trump administration) without being entirely that: political. The story of my family, which before felt commonly American, was suddenly politicized. Recognizing the absurdity of it all, I thought it would be refreshing to address the social narrative around immigration through comedy – nods to Benny Hill, misremembered San Antonio car commercials, and School House Rock. My family and I had a ton of fun making this and I hope it’s equally as fun to watch. Enjoy!”

New Audio: Introducing the Sleek Dance Floor Friendly Sounds of Chicago’s DRAMA

Na’el Shehade is a Chicago-born and-based, Palestinian-American producer and DJ, who inherited an entrepreneurial drive from his late father, who immigrated from Palestine to the States in the 70s to build a better life. Shehade fell in love with DJ culture as a kid and as an adult took up music production and engineering. The Chicago-born and-based producer and DJ’s interest and passion led to a diverse and eclectic array of professional opportunities, including early studio work with Chance the Rapper and Kanye West and music projects for MTV and Bravo. 

Shehade’s collaborator Via Rosa grew up in a rather musical household: her parents played in a reggae band and toured as a family, homeschooling Rosa into her early teens. Although her music listening was limited primarily to oldies, Sade, Brazilian music and Afrobeat, a teenaged Rosa kept poetry journals — and by high school, she started writing songs and making beats. After relocating to Chicago in 2010, Via Roa connected with THEMPeople, a collective at the center of her adopted hometown’s sprawling hip-hop scene. 

Interestingly, the Chicago-based duo’s collaboration together, DRAMA can trace its origins to a chance meeting between them back in 2014. And since its formation, the duo have bootstrapped a subtle yet rapid rise on their own terms, centered around a sound that meshes Shehade’s Chicago house-infused production and Rosa’s soulful delivery, inspired by jazz, hip-hop and Bossa nova while managing to blur the lines between R&B, dance pop, heartbreak and bliss. Along with that, the duo have had a long-held history of a proud and bold DIY ethos, self-releasing several EPs and making multiple tours — on their own terms. 

DRAMA’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Dance Without Me is slated for a February 14, 2020 release through Ghostly International. Thematically, the album’s material reportedly finds the duo recasting romantic tragedy as moonlit self-acceptance while the material pairs  Rosa’s candid lyrics focused on expressionistic narratives about the intricacies of interpersonal relationships with sleek, dance floor friendly production. Instead of wallowing alone in their blues and heartache, the material features characters who sashay and strut, knowing their self-worth while being vulnerable. This album is dedicated to the people watching their friend’s love-lives grow and happen around them, and not having anyone,” Rosa says in press notes. 

“Gimme Gimme,” Dance Without Me’s second and latest single is a sleek and slickly produced club banger, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, Via Rosa’s effortlessly soulful vocals, twinkling hi-hats and a euphoric hook. And while seemingly being a sultry synthesis of Between Two Selves-era Octo Octa and classic, Larry Levan-era house, the track finds its love-sick narrator wobbling between aching vulnerability and proud, self-reliance, as she searches for a sign that it’s okay to love again. 

“The idea was to have a conversation with my myself about what kind of man I’m looking for,” Rosa explains in press notes. “In the chorus I repeat the line ‘I need you to stand and deliver. Cause I need a man that’s not gonna give me any any…’ The end I purposely left blank so listeners could insert what they don’t want from their next lover. Oddly enough the song was inspired by the closing scene in the movie Grease where Sandy sings to Danny ‘You better shape up cause I need a man.’ Only in my world, I’m Sandy, my heart is Danny and I’m telling my heart to shape up and give me what I want.”

New Video: French 79’s Intimate and Contemplative Visual for “Code Zero”

Last month, I wrote about Simon Henner, a Marseille, France-based electro pop producer and artist, best known for his solo recording project French 79. And with the release of his first two releases — his debut EP Angel and his full-length debut Olympic — Henner quickly and boldly emerged into the French and international electro pop scenes. 

Henner’s latest French 79 album Joshua is slated for a Friday release through Alter K Records, and the album reportedly finds Henner drawing from his past — in particular, his love of Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Soft Machine, the soundtracks of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner and Jacques Cousteau. Each of Joshua‘s songs are meant to evoke a lived-in moment, relationship or experience during Henner’s childhood.

Now, as you may recall, album single “By Your Side” was centered around thumping beats, shimmering synth arpeggios and Ocean Springs, MS-born, Paris-based vocalist Sarah Rebecca‘s plaintive vocals to create a nostalgia-inducing track that recalls — to my ears, at least — From Here To Eternity . . . and Back-era Giorgio Moroder, and the Stranger Things soundtrack. And while being remarkably dance floor friendly, the track is a sweet declaration of loyalty that feels delightfully old-school. 

“Code Zero,” Joshua’s latest single is lush, instrumental track featuring twinkling Wurlitzer, shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats and a motorik groove. And while subtly recalling Tour de France-era Kraftwerk, Daft Punk and the aforementioned Giorgio Moroder, “Code Zero” the track possesses an intimate quality, as it feels like a contented sigh in a rare moment of peace. In press notes, Henner explains that the track, which also references his passion for sailing is “about how I find a path, how I use my music compass to move forward.” 

Directed by Vincent Desrousseaux, the recently released video is an intimate look at Henner’s creative process, as he writes the song in a gorgeous, sun-dappled apartment with with vintage gear — and it includes a brief moment in which Henner pauses to watch the 1983 motion picture War Games on his laptop. 

Deriving their name from a playful, Anglophile nod towards the famed physicist Issac Newton, the Paris-based electro pop act Isaac Delusion was formed back in 2010 by its core duo, longtime friends Loïc Fleury (vocals, guitar) and Jules Paco (keys). Shortly after their formation, the project expanded to incorporate a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators. Interestingly, with the release of 2014’s self-titled debut effort, the Paris-based act began to receive attention for a sound that meshed acoustic instrumentation with electronics — while nodding a bit at dream pop.

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them in the French electro pop scene, the act toured extensively across France and Europe to support their full-length debut. The band’s sophomore effort  2017’s Rust & Gold found the duo shifting away from ethereal and atmospheric dream pop and leaning heavily towards more soulful rhythms, tangible emotions and insightful observations on love and the human condition.

Since the release of the French electro pop act’s first two albums, they’ve amassed over 500,000 Spotify streams a month, played Pitchfork Paris, as well as sold-out headlining shows at venues like  L’Olympia and Elysee Montmarte. Now, as you may recall, the duo’s third album uplifters is slated for release this Friday through Microqlima Records, and the album reportedly is centered around a misplaced nostalgia for a long-passed youth (which is fitting for the act’s core duo, as they’ve inched into their 30s). As a result, the material is imbued with a longing for the freedom and unguarded honesty of their younger selves — and reset for the missed opportunities you can never get back. And much like its predecessors, the material off uplifters is primarily written and sung in English with a handful of songs written and sung in their native French.

Last month, I wrote about “pas habitude,” a breezy synth pop song centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, plaintive and dreamy vocals, a sinuous bass line and an infectious, razor sharp hook  — and yet, the song’s breeziness is at best superficial, as the song possesses a bittersweet heartache and nostalgia for a seemingly simpler past. Coincidentally, “pas habitude” is one of the few album tracks written and sung in the duo’s native French. Interestingly, the album’s latest track “disorder” is a taut yet breezy track centered around a disco-like bass line, shimmering synth arpeggios, four-on-the-floor drumming and plaintive falsetto vocals that finds the duo recalling Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk.

“Like natural laws, order can rise from chaos,” the duo says in press notes. “We sometimes need to follow our intuitions and desires, even when they seem to lead towards dangerous ground.”

The duo will be playing a handful of European dates in 2020. Check out the tour dates below.

 

LIVE DATES
25 February LONDON Omeara
28 February KÖLN Artheater
29 February BERLIN Bi Nuu
 2 March HAMBURG Nichtspeicher
 4 March AMSTERDAM Paradiso Upstairs
 6 March BRUSSELS Botanique
 7 March LAUSANNE Les Docks