Tag: synth pop

New Video: Uma E. Shares an Atmospheric Cover of 80s Synth Pop Hit

Ulriqa Fernqvist is a Swedish multi-disciplinary artist, who strongest forms of expression have always been dance, theater and singing. Over the course of two-plus decade career, she has worked on an experimental, improvisational concerts, musical installations, theater and dance performances. Along with producer and collaborator Don Gog, she runs the performing arts company Art of Spectra, a company that has been invited to perform at numerous festivals, theaters and art centers around Europe.

As a pop artist, Fernqvist is the creative mastermind behind solo recording project Uma E. Her latest single, sees Fernqvist and her longtime producer and collaborator tackling a-ha‘s 1985 song “The Sun Always Shines On TV.” The original begins with a dramatic introduction featuring twinkling keys and atmospheric synths before quickly morphing into a hook-driven, prog rock-like anthem reminiscent of Yes‘ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and Duran Duran. Clocking in at a little under six minutes, the Uma E. rendition sees the Swedish collaborators stripping the song down to the bare bones, transforming the song into a brooding and uneasy, Portishead and Massive Attack-like bit of trip hop built around thumping kick drum beats, gently twinkling synth arpeggios, grainy bass synths and atmospheric electronics paired with Uma E.’s ethereal and plaintive delivery.

“I worked in the theatre play TOUCH by Falk Richter in Germany at Münchner Kammerspiele during the pandemic. I was asked to perform the A-ha song, ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’ and it started off quite close to the original,” Fernqvist says. “I realised after a while I wanted to express the song in a different way to make it feel right. I got very attached to this song and the lyrics as it was a song I heard a lot growing up. I felt that I wanted to express it more like a poem – slower and more intimate.” 

Changing the style of the song was planted in the Swedish artist’s mind, and came to fruition later that summer, when she returned to Sweden. Me and my producer Don Gog started to experiment with what that change  could be. It developed to what we came to call ‘a techno prayer’ and we started building this track with the idea that it was to be performed in this play. Later we reworked that version to make it more like a track without the theatrical context – even though those memories still live in the track. The challenging thing with the vocals was to keep it very fragile and honest even if we wanted the music to have this constant rise. It was also very interesting to blend the electronica with elements from techno. 

Directed by Fofo Altinell, the accompanying video for “The Sun Always Shines On TV” is a hazy fever dream, following the Swedish artist in the countryside during golden hour.

New Audio: No Rest for the People Shares Swooning “Hair Dresser”

Andros Bonn Mitch is a singer/songwriter and musician, who has spent much of his life creating music — primarily with bands. Earlier this year, Bonn Mitch stepped out into the spotlight as a solo artist with his DIY indie synth pop project No Rest for the People.

Bonn Mitch explains that his life had been turned upside down by a family tragedy that had him spiraling. He started deeply listening to music again, which led to him rediscovering a love of songwriting, a love that he had lost some years ago. Music and songwriting helped him heal, and as he says “hopefully make music that not only brings me joy, but you too.”

His debut No Rest for the People single “Hair Dresser” is a swooning and carefully crafted bit of 80s pop built around glistening synth arpeggios, Bonn Mitch’s dreamily yearning delivery, remarkably catchy hooks and laconic yet propulsive beats. While sonically recalling Pet Shop Boys, Spandau Ballet and others, the song as Bonn Mitch is about falling in love with your hair stylist.

New Video: Neon Valley Shares Breezy and Hook-Driven “Fortune Cookie”

French singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Deji Seigert is the mastermind behind the emerging synth project Neon Valley. Inspired by late 70s and early 80s pop, Seigert’s work, which is created in his home studio, has a decidedly nostalgic feel — with a modern twist.

After working on Disiz‘s latest album L’Amour, the French singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist returns with his latest single “Fortune Cookie” a moody, hook-driven bit of synth pop built around glistening synth arpeggios, a funky and propulsive bass line paired with Seigert’s punchy yet plaintive delivery. While sonically bringing St. Lucia to mind, the song thematically touches on disillusionment and nostalgia for seemingly better times.

Directed by Baptiste Erondel and starring Agathe Bokja & Nicky Naudé, the accompanying video for “Fortune Cookie” is a slick sendup of infomercials and commercials, while featuring a disillusioned women seeking answers — and not quite getting them.

With the release of their debut single, 2021’s “Colder,” Los Angeles-based synth duo Sacred Skin — Brian DaMert and Brian Tarney — quickly stole the hearts of coldwavers and goths globally with melancholic undertones and pitch perfect songwriting.

A subsequent series of singles starting with “Eyes Closed” and “Far Away” earned them live shows at Substance Festival, the Hollywood Palladium and elsewhere. Building upon a growing profile, last year’s full-length debut The Decline of Pleasure saw the rising synth duo quickly establishing their sound and approach: dreamy New Wave-inspired arrangements made from the use of early digital outboard gear and samplers paired with DaMert’s vocal delivery, expressing lust and longing throughout.

The rising Los Angeles-based synth duo recently signed to Artifact Records. And to celebrate the occasion, Sacred Skin share a cover of Seona Dancing‘s “Bitter Heart.”

Seona Dancing was a short lived synth duo featuring Ricky Gervais (yes, that Ricky Gervais) and Bill Macrae. They released a two Phil Thornalley-produced singles back in 1983, which were released through London Records before they were dropped and never heard from again. Sacred Skin’s Brain Tarney has had a copy of the “Bitter Heart” 12-inch single in his DJ bag for about a decade. And when reflecting upon covering the song, he said that people always ask him about it, without fail, and that they’ve never been able to track down a single cover of the song — until now!

While the original was an icy, New Order-like take on post punk and synth pop, Sacred Skin manages to craft a fairly straightforward cover that subtly soften the song’s edges and gently pushes the tempo up a bit while retaining the brooding nature of the original.

“We are thrilled to announce that we have signed with Artoffact Records amongst so many of our peers and heroes. Our second LP (and first for Artoffact) will be released in Spring of 2024,” the band excitedly says. “In the meantime we are dropping a cover of a little known new wave anthem from Ricky Gervais and his short lived career as a recording artist before finding his second calling as one the world’s biggest comedians.”

Sat, Oct. 14 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah w/ Forever Grey
Sun, Oct. 22 – Reno, NV @ Holland Project w/ Fearing
Mon, Oct. 23 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Liquid Joe’s w/ Fearing
Tue, Oct. 24 – Denver, CO @ The Crypt Bar w/ Fearing
Thu, Oct. 26 – Austin, TX @ LEVITATION – Elysium 
Fri, Oct. 27 – San Antonio, TX @ Vice Versa 
Sun, Oct. 29 – El Paso, TX @ Modern Art Bar w/ Fearing
Tue, Oct. 31 – Mesa, AZ @ Nile Underground w/ Fearing
Wed, Nov. 1 – Las Vegas, NV @ Backstage Bar w/ Fearing
Fri, Nov. 10 – Los Angeles @ Substance Festival

New Audio: Kirsten Ludwig Shares Glistening “Less”

Initially staring her career in Calgary and currently based in Toronto, acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter, musician and producer Kirsten Ludwig has spent the past decade writing, developing and recording a sound that transcends city boundaries and exists in perpetual transition while supporting her work touring.

Ludwig’s full-length debut, 2018’s We Get It Now, created with Colin Stewart is a haunt-folk album that touched upon ethos of loss, grief, anger and fleeting optimism received critical praise and reached #19 on national college charts. The album’s critical and commercial success led to a headlining European tour.

Ludwig’s sophomore album Sunbeam is slated for a November 10, 2023 release through Oscar St. Records, the Victoria, BC-based artist-run indie label founded by The New Pornographers‘ and Frontperson‘s Kathryn Calder. Created with Layten Kramer and Colin Stewart, the nine-song album is a decided change of sonic and aesthetic direction with the Canadian artist embracing an 80s-inspired synth rock/synth pop sound.

As the material from Sunbeam began to materialize in mid-2020, Ludwig relocated cross-country. Wrestling with incessant chronic pain and homesickness, the album and its creative process came to a grinding halt. At the time, it was unknown if she would ever return to it. But moments before defeat, Ludwig summoned the determination to revive and finish the album.

For the Canadian artist, Sunbeam is aptly named — fully formed and a return to self. Thematically, the album touch upon themes of solitude, self-discovery, and the search for connection in a seemingly disconnected world. While sonically, the album sees Ludwig shapeshifting genres including indie rock, psych pop and synth pop throughout, the album is rooted in the same vulnerability and inner workings that she has always drawn from.

Built around shimmering synths, a motorik groove punctuated with relentless, driving drums, Ludwig’s ethereal delivery and chanted vocal-driven hook and chorus, “Less,” is an anthemic and decidedly Kate Bush-like track that seemingly evokes ice slowly cracking.

“It’s an exploration of rewriting patterns, changing directions, and choosing softness,” Ludwig says. ” As cheesy as it sounds, ‘Less’ is my way of acknowledging that it’s possible to let the goodness of others melt away your ice-queen tendencies,” she continues. “I spent over half of my twenties feeling numb to the world and, one day, a warm wave of tenderness engulfed me. It’s a head-nod to those who keep showing up for me. ‘Less’ started out as a quaint indie song with just me and my guitar. Layten Kramer (co-producer) and I knew we wanted something different from the song and we both decided to just have fun with it. My last record was this heavy, cathartic release I had been carrying around for years, so allowing myself to be playful was a new experience.”

The visualizer features gorgeous, dreamlike watercolored animation by Amélie Haeck.  

New Audio: The Serfs Share an Icy, Club Banger

Cincinnati-based synth punks The Serfs — founding members Dylan McCartney (vocals, percussion, guitar, bass, electronics) and Dakota Carlyle (electronics, bass, guitar, vocals) along with Andie Luman (vocals, synths) — can trace their origins back to when McCartney and Carlyle were working the fryers at a local pub and generally wallowing in puddles of despair.

The duo decided to express their grim outlook through the self-hypnosis of drums and synthesizers. After a couple of bungled attempts to play live shows, Luman joined the project, finalizing their lineup.

The Cincinnati-based trio’s third album Half Eaten By Dogs is slated for an October 27, 2023 release through their new label home, Trouble in Mind. The album reportedly sees the trio putting a decidedly Midwestern spin on the modernist twitch of future-forward acts like Total Control, Cold Beat, Skinny Puppy, Dark Day, This Heat, and Factrix while being informed by the existential doom of our current moment — with the album’s material at points featuring doomed proclamations of natural and supernatural disasters.

Half Eaten By Dogs‘ latest single “Club Deuce” is an icy, industrial-inspired club banger built around glistening and shimmering synth arpeggios, burnt out, tweeter and woofer rattling 808s paired with Lumen’s sultry cooing. Channeling early Depeche Mode and mid-80s New Order among others, “Club Deuce” is specifically designed to make you head to the dance floor and move — right now.

“I thought of the idea for this song at first like a movie in my mind,” says Luman. “It was the story of a fated man and a modern day Venus with complete and unrelenting control. The set was a quiet corner in a thunderstruck city with endless commotion in the distance. The whole thing glowing like a neon sign. ‘Club Deuce’ churns unhurried until it billows all around you and you’re caught like a fly in the jaws of a venus fly trap.”

Lyric Video: Jenn Champion Shares Meditative “Famous”

Born Jennifer Hays, the Tucson, AZ-born, Seattle, WA-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Jenn Champion can trace the origins of her music career to when she met her then-future Carissa’s Wierd bandmates Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke at the local pizza shop, where they all worked at the time. In 1997, the trio moved to Olympia, WA for about a year, before settling in Seattle, where the trio formed Carissa’s Wierd.

The trio released three albums before splitting up in 2003 — but interestingly, the trio cultivated a rabid cult following, which has resulted in the release of three compilation albums of their work, including 2010’s They’ll Only Miss You When You’re Gone: Songs 1996-2003, which was released through Hardly Art Records.

Since Carissa’s Wierd’s breakup, Champion has moved forward with several acclaimed solo projects including the guitar and vocal-based pop project S, with which she has released four albums, including 2010’s I’m Not As Good At It As You and 2014’s Chris Walla-produced Cool Choices. While critics and fans have raved over her open-hearted and willingness to eschew conventions while crating sad songs meant to be cried to and with.

The last half of Champion’s last S album found her moving towards an electronic-based sound with album track “No One”  being a complete embrace of electronics. “I feel like a door got opened in my mind with electronic and digital music. There was a room I hadn’t explored before and I stepped in,” Champion said at the time. And although she intended to follow up Cool Choices with “a rock record — guitar, a lot of pedals, heavy riffs,” her plans had changed. “I couldn’t pull myself away from the synthesizers and I realized the record I really wanted to make was more of a cross between Drake and Billy Joel than Blue Oyster Cult.”

After the release of “No One,” Champion’s music publisher partnered her with Brian Fennell, an electronic music artist, songwriter and producer best known as  SYML and the pair co-wrote “Leave Like That,” which was featured on SYML‘s Hurt For Me EP.

Champion and Fennell hit it off so well that after Champion had written the demos for 2018’s Silent Rider, she enlisted Fennell as a producer. Fennell agreed and then they spent the next five months working on and refining the album’s material. “In the studio with Brian, I was more open than I had ever been,” Champion recalls, and as a result the material evolved into a slickly produced collection of dance floor friendly anthems. But the album saw Champion maintaining the earnestness and vulnerable that has won her critical praise — all while imploring the listener to dance, dance, dance, dance, dance their heartache, outrage and disappointments away for a little bit.

Champion’s long-awaited third album The Last Night of Sadness is slated for an October 13, 2023 release through Gay Forever. The self-produced and self-recorded The Last Night of Sadness will remind the listener of her technical skill as a musician, but more important, it places her production process front and center. “I’ve always been able to be vulnerable in my music but with these songs and what I was feeling I wanted to keep this album pure. I was afraid that if I let it go outside of me, I’d dilute it,” Champion explains. “Sadness is in the title but this is the most confident record I’ve ever made. I took away all the places I could hide.”

When asked what it was she wanted to express with the album as a whole, Champion says “Suffering. And what a miracle it is to be heavy.” So yes, the album is heavy. But it’s also open and vulnerable the way you can only be when grieving. The album’s material sees the Seattle-based artist grappling with morality — of others, of herself and of the world in general. And yet it isn’t hopeless or joyless. There are moments of reprieve, in which you’re reminded that life is ultimately about the small joys and small victories.

The Last Night of Sadness‘ first single “Famous” is an 80s synth pop-inspired mid-tempo ballad built around glistening synth arpeggios, a poppy drum machine-driven groove paired with an incredibly catchy hook and Champion’s earnest, heartbroken delivery. At its core, is a wizened, self-aware narrator, who is coming to terms with their life — and they do so with an unvarnished, vulnerable honesty as she reflects on a rebellious youth and the gradual compromises and adjustments of adulthood. But the song is rooted in an existential dread and uncertainty that comes as you get older.

“I wanted to make a song about coming to terms with fame versus success and what it feels like to realize I have what I want,” the Seattle-based artist says. She continues, “As an artist sometimes it feels like fame and success are used interchangeably and over the course of my career in music I’ve seen how fame can bring with it all this money and opportunity but is also a gilded cage. This song is one that just came to me on a run one morning as I looked out over the city and I had to pull out my phone and start writing. I’ve gone through a reset of my priorities in the last few years and this song and this album are about the journey through existential dread that has me where I am now.”

New Audio: Minneapolis’ speakeazie Shares Lush and Swooning “Love Me Wild, Love Me Crazy”

This weekend has been an extremely busy but very fun one:

  • Friday night, I caught French 79 and JOVM mainstay Brothertiger at Racket NYC.
  • Last night, I was at GlobalFest at Lincoln Center. I specifically wanted to see JOVM mainstay Juana Molina. But was thrilled to see a collection of great artists playing music from all over the place, including Native American rapper Supaman, Congolese outfit Jupiter & Okwess and Haitian rockers Ram. It was a full day and my feet and knees are paying for it.
  • Today, I’m hoping to catch Xylouris White at Union Pool‘s Summer Thunder. Much like yesterday it’s looks to be a glorious day to see live music and to drink a few beers.

But in the meantime, there’s still work to do, right? So let’s get to it.

Emerging Minneapolis-based electro pop artist speakeazie with an obsession for noir aesthetics from the 1920s. Sonically, she pairs effortlessly soulful vocals with a dreamy synth pop-driven sound.

Although the project started back in 2021, she released her full-length debut Prohibition Hippie last year. The album featured “Disintegrate,” which amassed over 70,000 streams in its first five months. Building upon a growing profile with the dream pop and synth pop scenes, the Minneapolis closed out the year with the Bootlegger’s Blood EP.

The rising Minneapolis-based artist’s latest single “Love Me Wild, Love Me Crazy” is a swooning track built around a relentless motorik pulse, strummed reverb-soaked guitar and skittering beats serving as a lush bed for speakeazie’s effortlessly soulful and yearning delivery. It’s the perfect song for dancing by yourself in your room — or for an intense makeout session.

New Video: Ohio’s SUMMORE Shares Eerie and Brooding “Magic Pill”

Central Ohio-based synth pop duo SUMMORE — Julie (vocals, lyrics) and Justin (synths, production) specialize in a a brooding and hypnotic sound: Their brighter sounds are often laced with hidden meanings and darker interpretations just beneath the surface. Their darkest and most bleak material often have brief moments of optimism that help to create an emotional balance that opens them up to a state of meditation, self-reflection and healing.

Last September, after playing a packed house at an intimate venue in Columbus, the duo stopped for a late night bite. As they sat parked, a drunk driver lost control, became airborne and hit them like a missile. The impact blasted the drop from one side of the parking lot to the other within a second and changed their lives — except for one constant: their love and dedication for creating music.

They boldly continued. In spite of everything, including long-term injuries both physical and emotional, they found enough strength through their recovery to chronicle their harrowing personal experience on their sophomore album New Pain.

New Pain‘s latest single is the brooding and atmospheric “Magic Pill.” Featuring glistening synth oscillations, atmospheric electronics, skittering trap triplets, “Magic Pill” is an eerie soundscape built for Julie’s plaintive and ethereal vocal. The result is a song that brings Soft Metals‘ 2013 effort Lenses to mind but full of palpable unease.

Directed by the duo, the accompanying video features the duo brooding and longing for a magic pill that would take their pain — both physically and mentally — away forever.

New Audio: Sweden’s Split Vision Shares Decidedly 8os Inspired “The Fire Within”

Swedish synth pop outfit Split Vision — currently Dan Hansson and Henric Palmqvist — formed back in 1985, when four Kristianstad-based high schoolers, who were influenced by Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure and Pet Shop Boys started the band.

The quartet quickly developed a sound that they described as melodic, dance floor friendly synth pop, which they began playing live: They played several live shows in Northeastern Skåne, radio shows and talent shows. And by 1988, they signed to Platina Records, who released their single “How Will I Ever.”

After some intense and difficult years, the band split up. But in the spring of 2019, the band’s Hansson and Palmqvist decided to revive the band, with the goal of writing new material with a clear and deep connection to their 80s roots.

2020’s Among The Stars, their first full-length album in 30 years, saw the Swedish synth pop outfit actively giving listeners a decidedly retro experience — and to recreate the sound that they’ve strived for back in the 80s.

The duo’s latest effort, Elements EP was released earlier this year. The EP’s latest single “The Fire Within” is a decidedly 80s-inspired synth pop song built around glistening synth arpeggios, thumping boom bap-like beats paired with a yearning vocal. But underneath the slick production is earnest lyricism paired with deliberate attention to craft and some razor sharp, catchy hooks.