Review: Northern Kind – Wired

Northern Kind, love them or hate them, provide a valuable service to the electronic community. Almost alone among electronic bands they harken back to an earlier era with an unapologetic early-80s-style synth pop. Often compared (even on their own web site) to Yazoo (which I really don’t hear aside from a mild, passing tonal resemblance to Alison Moyet)Matt Culpin and Sarah Heeley have produced something that perfectly captures a feeling, an aura of days gone by without feeling derivative or cloying. 

They previously released the wildly uneven 53°North which had highlights, like the delightful “You Belong” and “On & On”, but also contained a troubling amount of forgettable filler. 

Wired, on the other hand is a far more consistent and enjoyable album. It was preceded by an EP that contained two songs featured on this album, and interestingly those tracks showed the two directions the album could have gone into. “Dirty Youth” is a very ordinary, album-filler song that leaves one cold, while “Into the Blue” is a lovely, rippling ballad that feels original, catchy and pretty all at the same time. It’s the latter set of reactions Softsynth feels while listening to Wired.

Admitedly, most of the tracks on the album are not ones you will necessarily remember, or be able to easily distinguish from each other (with the notable exception of the clever, inspired “Pop”), but it matters less than you’d think. The album, to a song is fun, peppy, and sparkles with an energy and creativity sorely lacking in so much of today’s electronic scene. Songs like “Electric to Me” is both original and at the same time could have been on the UK charts in 1984, with a great chorus that plays nicely with language syncopation; “Tranquil Eyes” is weird and all kinds of Autotuney, but not in a way that makes one want to claw one’s eyes out; “Un.Titled” is a trippy instrumental that reminds me of 80’s-era Erasure b-sides; “Goodbye” is a hard-charging “poor me, I’m going home” ode that sees Heeley’s voice soaring beautifully – on and on, not a bad song in the bunch and you can’t ask for much more than that. It’s not the deepest album you’ll by this year but it may just be among the most fun.

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