Electronic Playground: Quarterly Review
Welcome to Electronic Playground. In this weekly column, we will cover tech-heavy music that is a large segment of the Alternative/Indie movement of today. In general, these bands do not see the popularity of some "less out there" acts, so do not be discouraged if you haven't heard of them. We will focus on all types of electronic music in a genre that is known for its subcategories. This edition is a special quarterly review, where we will share songs from artists that have been highlighted during the last several months.
This week, we thought we would venture way back into the synthwave/synthpop/retrowave segment for our Quarterly Review. Since it's been more difficult finding new artists that tickle my fancy, I wanted to cover some of my favorite tracks from all of the pieces that have been released in this segment. Enough talking, let's see the music!
Dark All Day - GUNSHIP
To say that this track comes in heavy is an understatement. The beat and melody take over instantly and draw the listener in. I will say, I'm not a fan of the overuse of the saxophone in the song, especially if listening on small speakers, but over the course of time since the article, it has grown on me greatly. Do yourself a fan and listen to this track in the car or on an actual stereo system. With small speakers, the sax is isolated and overpowers the rest of the music. This is ok during certain parts, but as the sax attempts to take the lead on melodies, it deviates quite a bit and makes the song sound a bit dated and obnoxious, which for a genre that prides itself on reminiscing the 80s really means something. During the breakdown toward the end, the sax is used perfectly and you can almost feel yourself fist pumping with its emphasis. When listening in the car, the powerful bass and melody came in to show why the sax was included. It gives the song a bit of a "Lethal Weapon" vibe, but we still like it. Also, what a heck of a title for a track and an album.
The Midnight - Los Angeles
The Midnight sound familiar to other acts in the segment in terms of musical quality, accuracy, and production value and really stands up against any other group I have covered in this series. The songs are heavily beat driven with explorative synth melody overlay and vocals produced to perfection. The vocals vary depending on the purpose of the track. In Los Angeles, we feel the vocals are very modern alt sounding (totes appropriate) and attention grabbing. The anthem convincingly acts as a rally cry to remind others we are not promised a tomorrow and to live up every day, especially this one.
FM-84 - Don't Want to Change Your Mind
We are super excited to talk about FM-84 again. The 80's style synthwave band features creator, Colin Bennett (AKA, Col. Bennett) and Ollie Wride, who had been featured in FM-84's most popular songs and was later added to the group. This track is a slower ballad featuring Wride's vocals, which truly shine on this track. The song builds like a typical 80s pop song, with the pace of a slow jazz or R&B song. This is refreshing amongst other faster power ballads that are littered on the album. The melody builds heavily and continually, which eventually leads to a larger breakdown toward the end of the song. We cannot say enough about Wride's vocals on this track as he sounds like many of the other 80s pop singers who have Grammys littering their floorboards (we assume they just leave them in their cars at this point). The backbeat and bass elements are a bit lighter on this track to complete the softer feel of the theme of the song. This song truly embodies modern electronic elements with classic pop, which satisfies so many different cravings. Since writing the article, this track has only grown on me more. Despite feeling as though GUNSHIP is still the greatest surprise for me in this whole segment, FM-84 was the only group from whom I decided to use two songs. That's because I haven't been able to let go since I first heard them.
FM-84 - Let's Talk, featuring Timecop1983 & Josh Dally
This song, from the album, Atlas, features a heavy intro beat as the rest of the background feel builds. The song features last week's featured artist, Jordy 'Timecop1983,' Leenaerts, a multi-instrumentalist producer, and Josh Dally, a songwriter/producer and vocalist. Dally's vocals have a Peter Cetera, Richard Marx, Bryan Adams quality that we absolutely love. This added element helps bring the 80s feel full circle. The collaboration resulted in a truly powerful song, with each of the artists contributing their signature styles in the music. Timecop1983 and FM-84 together bring the best elements of retro-electronic music while Dally belts the heavily chorused vocals over the melody. The lyrics tell a tale of a broken relationship and how a couple are passionately in love, but cannot be together anymore. There is a piece missing from the relationship that neither one can get over, so instead, they choose to spend this last time together and hoping for the impossible. We want to say this each time we talk about an FM-84 track, but this may be our favorite track on Atlas.
A Real Hero - Electric Youth
Ordinarily, we discuss bands who share a handful of songs through their inclusion in media, have enjoyed pretty decent mainstream success. One such act is Electric Youth. The Canadian duo of Bronwyn Griffin and Austin Garrick have a healthy recipe for making beautiful music. Having been exposed to them through their use in the film, Drive, which is a work of art in its own right, we are happy bands such as these are able to get out to as many ears as possible. Electric Youth isn't all about harsh effects and in your face Techno/EDM, Garrick's beats are slow and melodic and feature angelic vocals from Griffin and a lot of passion that shines through. The first song we will discuss, "A Real Hero," which technically isn't "their" song as it was written in collaboration with the band, College, has 25 times the number of listens as their second most popular song on Spotify for a good reason. This song is damn good. In fact, one of the main reasons (yes, we will say it) that we enjoyed the movie so much in the first place was the soundtrack and the setting it put us in. No song was more responsible for that than "A Real Hero."
The real kicker behind the track is, according to Garrick, part of the inspiration behind the song is about the US Airways Flight 1549 crash in 2009. You know, the "Miracle on the Hudson" featuring the one and only Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. Garrick said his father referred to Sully as "a real human being and a real hero," which became the basis of the track. Upon learning this, we get a completely new feel about the song. The song begins with the whistle of something quickly dropping (typically the sound of a bomb dropping) and a building and brooding melody building beneath. Incredibly catchy chorus vocals continue word play between the hero and human element and you just can't help but sing along. The beat and melody stay fairly consistent throughout, but you are able to follow the storyline with clearly defined verses. The more and more you hear, the more and more you feel as though you are watching the end scene of a movie no matter what you're doing.
These are some of my favorite tracks that I've written about so far. What are some of yours? Do you have other electronic artists that I should check out? Please feel free to comment or reach out with bands I need to hear!