synthpop

SPEAK AND BE HEARD: THE FINEST SYNTHPOP
June 3, 2016 2:14 pm

SPEAK is a synthpop group from Austin, Texas. Combining ear pleasing vocals with catchy synthesizer backdrops, Speak breaks out of the mold typical to the genre. None of their recent songs sound forced; in fact they jam in ways that I was unprepared for.

Composed of Troupe Gammage on keys and lead vocals, Nick Hurt on guitar, Joey Delahoussaye on bass, and Jake Stewart on drums, the band has been putting out material for over five years now. They have a comfort with one another that comes with ease translated in their music. These smooth dance tunes will help even the most awkward of us find our groove.

Their latest song is “Gates,” which hopefully might be a lead single off a forthcoming album. Ridiculously catchy, between the synthesizer and Gammage’s vocals, I am hooked. True to the new wave style of Austin, in the music video everybody looks slightly lost, or out of place. Maybe it’s the thick rimmed glasses and the awkward carrying of the magic metal box. Regardless, the more I listen to this song, the more I like and appreciate Speak. I found myself coming back again and again to “Gates,” even humming it first thing in the morning after I woke up.

Gammage truly has a fantastic set of pipes, not only making dope music with Speak but also performing voice work for many and multiple video games. Even though each member of the band is talented beyond reason, it is Gammage that I find ties the whole shtick together.

Improving and tweaking their sound much over the course of their last few projects, their latest album Pedals, which came out mid ’14, is a good place to start if you’re not hip. Their lead single off Pedals is “Peaks”; sick drums over elegant harmonies. The beat will immediately get your head a bobbin’, if you have a pulse.

“Heavy Metal Way” may be my favorite track on the project. It brings a more rock-friendly feel with the drum-line intro that sets the rest up perfectly. Again, Gammage’s vocals are truly inspiring. He reminds me of a young Adam Levine the way he seamlessly switches between low scratchy growls and pristine falsetto.

Much of Speak’s appeal to me while listening through their discography is how they don’t lean on the category of ‘synthpop’ as a clutch, but instead uses it to fuel the basis of who they are. They incorporate gnarly guitar solos and blistering drum beats to round out a healthier end result. Some of their instrumentals take on a post-rock sense of depth and longing. Nothing resembling pedantic, Speaks excels at surprising the listener track after track.

I am sincerely looking forward to the next tape from the lads of Austin. With a ton of new music already infecting the airwaves of Summer 2016, I think Speak has a bonafide chance to really be heard.

JOHAN ANGERGÅRD: SWEDEN’S INDIE-POP MASTERMIND
February 5, 2016 9:46 am

You know that unique feeling of gratification you get when you discover a new sound?  It’s an impulsive need, an addiction.  I’m constantly searching for that next infectious dose. Thankfully the freakishly endless Internet universe never ceases to deliver new sonic pathways.

Sweden’s bustling independent music scene is as robust as it gets.

Johan Angergård is the founder of Stockholm-based Labrador Records.  He’s a DJ, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and producer.  His career spans back to the early 90’s and his prolificacy is profound, having been a key component of several noteworthy bands including Acid House Kings, Club 8, Pallers, and The Legends.

Labrador specializes in a particular brand of indie-pop classified as “twee”.  Quaint, naive, cute. There’s a distinct nostalgic nod to early 80’s indie-pop bands like The Smiths and the cheerful innocence 60’s rock. But that’s where any easily drawn comparisons end.

Labrador is first and foremost, an electronic music label with a sleek,  distinctly Scandinavian twist, an off-the-cuff repertoire of bright, audacious, and irony-tinged pop.  Labrador’s sonic pallet encompasses the so-called “balearic Sound”, popularized in Ibiza night clubs in the early 90”s. A notable manifestation of Labrador’s nuanced grooves can be heard on the The Radio Dept.’s highly acclaimed 2010 record Clinging to a Scheme.   These influences are the glue that make Angergård’s vision come to life.

If you’re in need of some new tunes, Labrador’s SoundCloud is a vault of music worth excavating.  It’s crammed to the brim with singles, EPs, remixes, and playlists that encapsulate Labrador’s touchingly off-kilter world.  It feels like an exhibit curated by Angergård himself, which I suppose, is part of what makes indie labels like Labrador great.

According to Labrador’s Facebook page the label is gearing up for an exciting year with “something like a handful of new artists” releasing music.  In the meantime, his own band Club 8 released their 9th full-length album Pleasure.  The leading single, “Late Nights“, is a sleek synth-pop that defines both where Angergård comes from and also where he intends to take us next.

WET IS THE BEST
February 2, 2016 11:30 pm

Kelly Zutrau, Joe Valle and Marty Sulkow make up the electronic, synth-pop R&B trio Wet. Coming off a stellar self-titled EP released in 2013, Wet has just released full length album Don’t You.

Pitchfork roasted the album calling it boring and surmising this to the fact that Wet is taking the worst elements of its varied influences (folk, R&B, 80s synth stuff), however after taking a listen to the album myself I have to completely disagree. It is merely chilled out.

The R&B element is understated. Just because tracks like “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” don’t remind me of TLC doesn’t mean there isn’t a softer, Destiny’s Child-esque sincerity. “Deadwater” is catchy, classically structured and an all-round jam; the album even picks up and shows some diversity with “All The Ways.”

I’m still attached to their EP’s “You’re The Best.” I caught one the band’s CMJ showcases and she is dynamic live. I especially enjoyed Marty Sulkow’s adorable stage presence.

An album doesn’t have to be exciting or attention grabbing to be good. Don’t You is more a soundscape and less a hit-factory kind of album. You can flow seamlessly from one song to the next, perfect for those moments, looking out the train car imagining yourself on the set of Girls or some other quintessential indie set featuring Adam Driver. Upon my first listen I thought it was unique, hypnotic and relaxing, I played it for days on repeat. Pitchfork should give their content a second listen before jumping to conclusions.

STILL CORNERS LIVES
February 1, 2016 12:10 am

When a band goes more than two years without releasing anything, their fans begin to worry. Or worse, forget. That’s why it was something of a Christmas miracle when Still Corners released the single “Horses at Night” at the end of 2015. It was their first release since their 2013 LP Strange Pleasures and well worth the wait. I’m pleased to announce that Still Corners is very much alive.

To commemorate the occasion, ATYPICAL SOUNDS had a nice chat with writer/producer Greg Hughes and vocalist Tessa Murray.

You released a new single, “Horses at Night”, at the beginning of December. Is this in anticipation of a new album?

TM: We wanted to put something out before 2015 ended, we had just finished that song and thought yeah, let’s put this out. It’s not on our next record and was just a one-off really.

Will there be a tour in 2016? Any U.S. dates? How about SXSW?

TM: Yes we’re planning some SXSW shows and a new tour as we speak.

You toured with Chvrches in 2013. Are there any experiences on that tour that stood out to you?

GH: There were tons of people at the shows, lots of great cities. I remember driving through New Mexico, just seeing this massive expansive flat desert with mini-tornadoes everywhere, appearing then disappearing as we drove. We spent a lot of time in our van. Nothing like waking up on your friend’s armpit, just in time for sound-check. I just remember having my imagination rejuvenated more than anything else.

Tessa, you sang in choirs before moving to singing with Still Corners. What was it like to make that jump? Was there anything that surprised you about singing with a band?

TM: To suddenly be standing in front of a huge drum kit and guitar amps and synthesizers took some getting used to. I didn’t really have any idea what it would be like, but we hit our groove. The feeling you get after a performance is similar though, it’s a big high when you come off stage and know that the audience was into it.

What are your favorite venues in London? Are there any parties or club nights you’d recommend?

GH: Bush Hall is great. For larger shows the Barbican and Shepherd’s Bush. Any night at Cafe Oto.

Greg, what advice can you give for someone in the U.S. who is looking to move to London? What was it like for you when you first moved there? Scary? Fun?

GH: When I first arrived my mind was blown; I needed a new mind after that. My advice is to do it all. Ask around for a cheap room, rent is high. Bask in the glory that is the National Health Service and never worry again about convoluted over-priced healthcare. Drink pints often. Get rid of your car, you won’t need it.

Are there any foods from your native Texas that you wish they had in London? What have been your favorite foods in the U.K.?

GH: Proper Mexican food, but there isn’t proper Indian food in Austin. You can’t win.

Be on the Lookout for Still Corners in 2016.

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’S INEVITABLY TRIUMPHANT RETURN
January 14, 2016 1:40 pm

By now the “farewell concert” has become something of a cliché.

Ever since Jay-Z hosted his retirement extravaganza back in 2003 (which didn’t last very long), the legitimacy of other acts celebrating their exit from show business has been somewhat questionable. Let’s be honest though, are we ever upset when one of favorite artists decides to come out of the wood work and start performing again? Absolutely not.

LCD Soundsystem, what hasn’t been said about them already?  For a band with a relatively short life span of only 10 years, they released three critically acclaimed albums, and for many of us, defined an indelible era of musical history.

Although it’s easy to forget sometimes, given how popular music has shifted toward an EDM-dominated landscape, that there was a time when electronic music wasn’t very ‘cool’ at all.

It was flaunted by cool kids, hipsters.  LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy first made a name for himself by co-founding DFA Records, a record label that quickly picked up steam as an underground advocate for house music’s accession into the mainstream.

By the time LCD Soundsystem formed in 2001 their hometown of Brooklyn had already been transformed into the central hub of hipsterdom (yeah I know, I made up a word, but so what?!).  Indie electronic music was about to explode into a global phenomenon.  Albums like Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours, Jus†ice’s , and lest we forget, LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver, received not only rave reviews from the music press, but were starting to cut mainstream pop out of the picture all together. This empowering shift marked the beginning of the digital age, for the first time since recorded music’s inception, listeners were choosing their own music, and plugging their iPod’s (that’s right) into their car stereos rather than listening to overly-glossed Top 40 hits and mainly commercials.

By the end of the decade LCD Soundsystem was on top of the world.  Sold out concerts, packed festivals, and Murphy plastered onto the front page of every music publication possible.

Then, like all good things, LCD Soundsystem decided it was time to call it quits.  On February 5th, 2011, the band announced on their website that they thought it was better to quit while they were ahead and go out with a bang.

On April 2nd, 2011, at Madison Square Garden, the band performed their final show.

Hold on, hold on. Where have a heard this before? This is bogus! You know this isn’t going to last! Come on!

Sure enough…on January 5th this note was posted to their website.  That’s right, they’re back. Like really back.

Of course, it’s no surprise that somehow Coachella managed to cash in on their triumphant return. While we can safely assume plenty of festival-goers will flock to the outskirts of Palo Alto to sweat it out this April, where will LCD Soundsystem appear next?  For now, my friends, the answer to that question is shrouded in mystery.  The only hint is a promising yet cryptic message on their website: “2016 tour dates coming soon.”  I supposed we’ll have to wait it out (although, I think it’s safe to assume they’ll be playing somewhere in the vicinity of New York.)

By far the most important tidbit of information is that there’s a new album in the works.

LCD Soundsystem has a pretty awesome discography. It’s dancey, but sophisticated. It’s music that celebrates dusting off obscure records for audiophiles with an interest in obscure music. You know, like cool kids. Hipsters.

So in short, farewell concerts are probably a sham, so don’t drive halfway across the country to celebrate your favorite band’s early–er, I mean, botched retirement. LCD Soundsystem is back and 2016 is going to be an awesome year to ”Dance Yrself Clean yet again!

MiiKE SNOW REV UP FOR iii
January 6, 2016 1:46 pm

Miike Snow is revving back up. Their highly anticipated iii is set to drop via Atlantic March 4th. But let’s face it, this Swedish synthpop trio is all about their propensity for bombastic club hits.

“Heart is Full,” the first single off their new album, dropped late last October.  The track fits neatly into Snow’s boogy-inducing catalog.

In typical Miike Snow fashion we have here 4 minutes of polished, immaculately-produced, radio-ready dance pop.  The track opens with a sample of “The Cook Up“, a deep album cut of Apollo Brown and Guilty Simpson’s 2012 record Dice Games.

Andrew Wyatt compares the heat of love, or perhaps the commitment, to a prison sentence: “I’ve got you locked down like police / And no three-to-five, you’re doing life, so.” The chorus here doesn’t exactly make sense either; “Please don’t knock over my heart / because my heart is full of you.” It’s a bit perplexing. It’s damn catchy.

This one’ll get the crowd jumpin’ for sure when Miike Snow takes the highly coveted Coachella stage this April. We’ll see you there.

ST. LUCIA KISSES DEATH ON THE CHEEK BY DANCING ON GLASS
December 18, 2015 3:37 pm

   The first thing I’m reminded of after listening to “Dancing On Glass,” St. Lucia’s new single, is The Lonely Island’s YOLO. It took the then used-to-death phrase that legitimized any and all reckless decisions and completely flipped the tone behind what “You Only Live Once” should mean. You only live once! So Stop being stupid! Be more pragmatic with your one allotted life!

    St. Lucia comes in with all of that awareness in mind, conceding that logic should win out in most situations. The mighty chorus even begins with a couple of rhetorical pro-safety questions: “how long until we find that dancing is dangerous?” and “how long until we find the devil inside of us?” Also,  Soda’s bad for you! Meat accounts for 50% of greenhouse gases! Put your seatbelts on!

    But despite knowing all the hazards, excess is simply way too fun to pass up on. So let’s just keep chugging along until the train derails, who cares. It’s an often discussed topic, especially in the world of intoxicatingly fun Synthpop, St. Lucia steers clear of the usual carousel of platitudes spun out and seems to be the only one in the club with enough foresight to at least know how shitty tomorrow is going to feel on all of their slowly decomposing bodies.

   At this point, I find it necessary for me to mention that I’m usually the person in the back of the dance floor, using my crossed arms as a makeshift coat rack for all my friends’ jackets. So for everyone else, “Dancing On Glass” probably doesn’t need to come with as much existential baggage. It’s a super fun song! You’ll love it! Who cares if you’re gonna die soon!

BLSHS Brings The Synth Pop
October 8, 2015 10:37 am

BLSHS, pronounced ‘Blushes’ is a synth-pop band based out of Houston TX. The trio of Chris Gore, Rick Carruth and Michelle Miears formed in 2013 and have been taking over Bandcamp ever since. The group makes for a badass indie collaboration. They each have amazing skills and put together, they will warp your mind into a waterfall of crimson blush. They are a tight group with songs that transcend you into another frame of mind from heavy pressure to a mix of non-gravity once you just close your eyes and listen. Get sucked into their music and float the sound wave with the deep bass and spacey synth. Their most recent EP album release was Abstract Desires and they killed it with their label Synth Records. They have 6 songs on the EP, the first titled ‘Blushes’, brings you into the electronic vibe and most beautiful vocals from Miears. The group knows how to take you through a story of their music, ending with the song ‘Runaway’ that is up beat and leaves you wanting more and the BEASTS can’t wait to hear more!

XOXO Wakeena

Atypical Beasts Fall Playlist 2015
September 30, 2015 11:47 am

Summer’s over and it’s that time of the year where basic bitches galore walk around with a PSL in hand. The air is starting to feel chilly and we can finally bust out our sweaters and walk around the city without dying from the heat (..well, almost). It’s the best setting for you to listen to our fall playlist that we, the BEASTS created for the fall as you watch the season shifts and leaves change color. This compilation of indie rock and electro-pop music will certainly get you in the mood and get ready for the cold weather that we’re approaching.

  1. Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby – Cigarettes After Sex
  2. The English Softhearts – Literature
  3. Chariot – Soren Bryce
  4. Above The Clouds of Pompeii – Bears Den
  5. Blue Obvious – Skating Polly
  6. Sleep In – Telekinesis
  7. Rotten Human – Youth Lagoon
  8. How Bad We Need Each Other – Marc Scibilia
  9. Don’t Wanna Be Anywhere – La Luz
  10. Weathered – Jack Garratt
  11. Feelin – Lazer Cake
  12. City of Bugs – The Cribs
  13. Midnight Garden – Expert Alterations
  14. Loveletting – Sons
  15. Waited 4 U – Slow Magic
  16. Might’ve Misheard – Fort Lean
  17. Dark Days – PUP
  18. Slumlord – Neon Indian
  19. I Don’t Want To Be That Guy – Zechariah Funkhouser
  20. It’s Too Late – Shannon and the Clams
  21. West Coast – Fidlar
  22. Could Have Been Me – The Struts
  23. Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots
  24. Sights – London Grammar
  25. Black Moon Spell – King Tuff
A BLAST FROM THE PAST WITH PAPERWHITE
September 16, 2015 2:38 pm

Katie and Ben Marshall are fire.

The second I pressed play on their soundcloud to their new music, I instantly had a mental flashback of dancing in my room with Michael Schoeffling (my lamp) to the Sixteen Candles soundtrack.

Paperwhite Live @ Cameo Gallery

Paperwhite Live @ Cameo Gallery

This Brooklyn based dream-pop duo Paperwhite clearly grabs their influence from a handful of 80s pop artists like Aphex Twin, Depeche mode, and Stevie Wonder in addition to some more modern electro pop figures. They addict you to their wistful, synthpop sounds, plunging you into a nostalgic haze while Katie’s smooth vocals swim over your skin. Ben is the producer and co-writer while also drumming with the Brooklyn band Savoir Adore. They played this year’s SXSW and absolutely killed it. It’s no secret that their music is worth listening to; they’ve been listed on Hypem’s most Blogged Artist twice in a row and just let out their debut EP Magic and the beasts have gotten our eyes on them.

Recently, they were selected to be one of 84 obviously awesome international bands to join Converse Music on their journey to Iceland to record at Greenhouse Studios with Rubber Tracks. Being selected for a stellar program like this one is a reassurance, if you needed any to begin with, that listening to their stuff is not a waste of time. A ton of amazing artists have been honored with the highly sought-after free recording time in the iconic studios, like Via Audio, Journalism, The Veevees, and hundreds more.

Paperwhite’s sounds grabbed me and wrapped its silky, dreamy arms around me and I cannot wait to see what they come up with when they return from Greenhouse.

Written by Annie Paul