Posts tagged: electro

Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

By , February 4, 2013 12:00 pm


Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

Warner Bros. 2013

Rating: 7/10

At the heart of it all – the cheesy, shimmery synths, dolled up with a glorious major-label sheen, the dance-floor bass wallops, the nostalgic grooves that call to mind bad movies and worse outfits – Heartthrob is still the same old Tegan and Sara fans have always known. The touchstones are now more Breakfast Club and Madonna than power chords and Metric, the production slicker, shinier, the cover a colorful, stylized wallpaper than an ominous tome or a blood-red rose, yet there they are on opener “Closer,” still dreaming of “how to get you underneath me.” There’s no way around it: Heartthrob finds Tegan and Sara finally bowing down at the altar of pop that they had been paying occasional respects to ever since So Jealous, yet those hooky melodies and incandescent synths only serve to cleverly disguise those exposed emotions, sharp lyrics and distinct, powerful voices. Heartthrob still bites as incisively, forgives as breathlessly as the Tegan and Sara of old, and that’s a wonderful realization after the culture shock of hearing the twins translated through producer Greg Kurstin’s (the Bird and the Bee) arena-geared sound. The drums here punch along fearlessly, robotically, while the synths paint things in day-glo colors and with fluorescent clarity, and signposts generally not associated with the sisters’ punk reputation – Pink, Robyn, Cyndi Lauper, et. al. – show up with increasing regularity. Yet where this carefully manicured sound can sometimes come off as prepackaged, Tegan and Sara present an interesting dichotomy between the glossy production Kurstin serves up and the strong emotional content the duo’s lyrics and vocal performances reveal. It makes Heartthrob a fine example of what pop music can accomplish when one doesn’t lose sight of the feelings that led to it.

Not to say that Kurstin’s work here is mere window dressing for Tegan and Sara’s typically adroit observations. “Drove Me Wild” is a vintage new-wave hit that very well may be the finest pop song of 2013, the kind of unassuming hook that burrows around and refuses to leave your head, “Back In Your Head” with those fantastically sleazy synths replacing that insistent keyboard line. “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” pairs a herky-jerky rhythm with a straightforward chorus as plain and simple in its pop ambitions as the venomous lyrics that propel it angrily forward. The best songs are those that combine Kurstin’s direct, anthemic style with Tegan and Sara’s unhinged emotion and insistent vocal melodies, be in it the manic, thrilling chorus of “Closer” or the defiant, bleak synth-pop kiss-off “Shock to Your System,” which closes out Heartthrob in suitably dramatic fashion. Even when the album crosses the line from glamorous to tawdry, as on the big-hair-and-leg-warmers nightmare of “I Was A Fool,” Tegan and Sara never sound like they are running through the motions. Heartthrob doesn’t intend to shack up with the electro-pop fad for a quick cash-in, but instead transforms their sound wholesale into something that sounds like a natural evolution.

Occasionally, the bright lights and mammoth, sparkling sounds detract from the flow of the record, a ceaseless dance party broken up only by tempo shifts. It’s a blueprint that comes off as more than a little uniform, especially in regards to some of the band’s loopier records (2007’s The Con comes to mind). Indeed, Heartthrob nears exhaustion by the time the one-two depressive punch of “Now I’m All Messed Up” and “Shock to Your System” close things up, a regretful hangover to a torrid night of affairs. Yet songs as pristinely produced and playfully constructed as “Now I’m All Messed Up” and “I’m Not A Hero” are not usually this immediate, this visceral; painfully detailed recreations of romantic entanglements gone right and wrong, often as quick one way as the other. For all its narrow musical sensibilities, Heartthrob never marginalizes its heart. “I’ve never walked a party line / doesn’t mean that I was never afraid / I’m not your hero / but that doesn’t mean we’re not one in the same,” the sisters sing, and it’s as telling a line about their musical ethos as it is a satisfying statement about their own identities. As crushing as some of these songs are, Heartthrob never lets you feel the weight, but prefers to revel in emotions good or bad, most often while sweating everything out under a crystalline disco ball. You can’t ask much more from pop music than that.

Heartthrob, the highly anticipated follow-up to Sainthood, gives us Tegan and Sara in their superhero tights and capes, ready to conquer the pop universe, and the new outfits suit them just as well as their old-school jeans and T-shirts.
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Boys Noize – Rocky 2

By , October 11, 2012 10:00 am

German producer Alex Ridha aka Boys Noize just dropped his third proper LP, and it’s a prototypical electro banger from one of my favorites in the genre. Out of the Black is more focused around building up songs with proper structure and then pulling and twisting them into what most have to expect from Boys Noize: a warped, tech-y, slightly sinister brand of electro house. “Rocky 2″ is a fine example of the harder  side of things, almost as unrelenting as his punishing/fantastic live show. Please, Boys Noize, just no more collaborations with Snoop Dogg.

Boys Noize – “Rocky 2″

Dragonette – Run Run Run

By , September 24, 2012 10:00 am

Canadian electro-pop group Dragonette just released their third album, Bodyparts, on Universal Music last week. It’s the same hi-octane pop (heavy on the synths and breakbeats, with some fine electro house production here and there to boot) that people have come to expect from the lovely Martina Sorbara and bandmates Dan Kurtz and Joel Stouffer, but I do think the songwriting has become much more consistent over the course of an album-length here. “Run Run Run” is the opener here, starting slowly out of the gate with a synth line extremely indebted to the ’80s before launching into a sky-high bridge that Sorbara unsurprisingly kills.

Dragonette – “Run Run Run”

The Presets – Promises

By , September 13, 2012 10:00 am

The Presets are relatively huge in Australia; on these shores, not so much. That’s a shame, because their Cut Copy-esque electro-pop delves far deeper into the electronic side of things than many of their peers (think Underworld). It’s led to massive acclaim in Australia, which third album Pacifica hopes to translate to America with a stunningly well-produced collection of ten tunes. Check it out if you like house, dance, post-punk, etc. etc. The beats are huge.

The Presets – “Promises”

Jack Beats – Epidemic (ft. Dillon Francis)

By , August 31, 2012 10:00 am

Jack Beats doing what Jack Beats does, with the aid of L.A. moombahton auteur Dillon Francis. Has there ever been a production duo with a more distinctive sound than Jack Beats? Literally every time you hear that wobbly bass and ADD synths, it’s automatic brand recognition. Marketing 101. “Epidemic” is off their new EP Careless, which you can snag off Beatport here. Happy Labor Day weekend everyone, see you L.A. folk out at Armin van Buuren tonight at the Palladium…

Jack Beats – “Epidemic (ft. Dillon Francis)”

Felix Cartal – Tonight feat. Maja Ivarsson (Autoerotique Remix)

By , August 17, 2012 10:00 am

New electro single gunning for the clubs from Vancouver producer Felix Cartal, this one stands out for me in particular thanks to the vocal stylings of Maja Ivarsson of Swedish indie band the Sounds, who themselves had been going in a more dance-oriented direction on their last album, 2011′s Something To Die For. Fellow Canadians Autoerotique do a nice job maximizing the harder electro sounds of the original, producing a track that pays off more in its buildups while at the same time highlighting Ivarsson’s unique style in the verses. She does well in a house environment.

Felix Cartal – “Tonight feat. Maja Ivarsson (Autoerotique Remix)”

GRiZ – The Future Is Now

By , July 20, 2012 10:00 am

I’ve been a big fan of this guy’s remixes for a while (Kanye West and Damian Marley in particular), with his seamless integration of jazz and funk styles and a willingness to use plenty of oddball (for electronic music, at least) instruments regularly in his electro and dubstep jams – horns are a notable favorite. It works extremely well on “The Future Is Now,” one of the first original tracks I’ve heard from GRiZ (aka Grant Kwiecinski) and what the 22-year-old Detroit producer calls “future funk.” His debut album Mad Liberation is slated to drop later this year.

GRiZ – “The Future Is Now”

Justice – New Lands (A-Trak Remix)

By , June 14, 2012 10:00 am

Justice’s Audio, Video, Disco was a bit of a disappointment for fans of the duo’s old, more electro-heavy sound, often coming off as a bad ’80s rock imitation, but the remixes have been going quite hard. This remix of “New Lands” takes one of the better songs off that record and turns it into a bass-heavy pulse of a tune that has all the slinking, insistent groove A-Trak has become known for.

Justice – “New Lands (A-Trak Remix)”

Knife Party – Centipede

By , June 1, 2012 10:00 am

Accurately described as “seizure music,” Knife Party is the electro side project of Pendulum founders Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen. Ostensibly inspired by their own raucous party-starter “The Island – Pt. 2 (Dusk)” off Pendulum’s last album Immersion, the duo has put out some seriously vigorous electro in the past year. Their second EP, Rage Valley, was just released over on Beatport a few days ago and is a nice mix of filthstep and hard electro. “Centipede,” in particular, goes quite, quite hard. Check out the rest of the album here (I like “Bonfire,” in particular).

Knife Party – “Centipede”

Blood Eagle – Transvestite Fistfight

By , April 13, 2012 10:00 am

From my hometown of Orlando, production duo Blood Eagle are making a name for themselves with this original mix, which is as ruthless and heavy as the method of execution the pair takes their name after (influences include: Vikings, R.L. Stine, and lasers). The two have a mutual appreciation for grindcore, and it shows in their music, which is as hard and bass-heavy as electro generally prefers to go. Show them some love on their FB page by clicking the above photo.

I’ll be in Coachella for the weekend – look for some sort of review of this crazy weekend next week. Cheers!

Blood Eagle – “Transvestite Fistfight”

Candyland & Dirtyrock – Four Loko

By , March 30, 2012 10:00 am

I’ve mentioned Candyland on the blog before, but fellow SoCal native (Palos Verdes) DirtyRock aka Alexandre Williams is another burgeoning electro house banger savant a la Porter Robinson, Dirtyloud, and Madeon. “Four Loko” is not only a fair representation of what the two do so well but is a rather accurate musical recreation of the infamous original Four Loko – energy in spades and a blackout promise later that night.

Candyland & DirtyRock – “Four Loko”

Mord Fustang – Windwaker

By , March 22, 2012 10:00 am

Plasmapool flagship artist Mord Fustang recently released yet another killer EP of new material entitled Welcome to the Future, and if there’s a DJ out there looking to claim the crown of fastest up-and-coming star, they’re going to have a hard time wresting it away from the Estonian Ecstasy. Each of his singles has gotten progressively more airplay while building on and refining his sound. That sound is a nice mixture of wobbly low-end bass and a whirling-dervish of space-age synths, with an overarching emphasis on melody and that essential groove that makes this fit in just as well in the club as it does on headphones. This guy’s gonna be headlining bigger and bigger electronic music events soon – with Welcome to the Future and, in particular, “Windwaker” (which is a fine example of everything Fustang does well), 2012 is already shaping up to be his year.

Mord Fustang – “Wind Waker”

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