Review: Iris – Blacklight

Iris is one of those bands we’ve always liked, but in a kind of “in the background” kind of way until their terrific 2005 album Wrath. With that album they took a bold step in a more mature direction. Often we lament those electronic bands that start plugging in the old school instruments (at least those that established their sound without) but in this case it worked. While great with a sense of melody and a hook, Iris sometimes suffered from a thinness of sound that was nicely fleshed out with the guitars. It was one of our picks of the best of the year that year and we were excited to see what was to come next.

Ultimately we had to wait a full five years to find out and we’ve gotten ourselves a solid, if unremarkable follow-up.

It’s a slight album for having waited so long – just nine tracks and around 40 minutes, but what’s here is extremely solid. It’s a well produced, beautifully mixed album with some lovely synthpop songs very much in the best Iris tradition. Directionally, it’s wonderful that the US duo have headed down this comfortable, if not all that challenging path. If there is fault to be found with the album it’s in the lack of urgency to the collection. There’s an almost laid-back lackadaisical quality to the bulk of songs on Blacklight that makes one a little sleepy instead of getting all het’ up or wanting to dance. That  said, Reagan Jones and Andrew Sega are rock-solid electronic song writers and that experience shows in spades here. “Xwires” thuds along with a passion and pulsating rhythm that’s irresistible. “Right Red Return” is a bass-heavy pop confection flicked with tinges of darkness. “Panic Rev” is a skittish, sparkly pop treat that’s a highlight of the album. And lead single “Closer to Real” is an awesome, old school synth pop anthem with balls. There’s a lovely, dark sheen that coats the album, front to back and a nice retro feel but one that manages to never feels dated.

It’s not all magic, and the band needs to guard against a samey-same feeling that runs through far too many of their songs but taken as a whole, this a fun, well constructed album that takes the band in a very encouraging direction and earns a solid Softsynth endorsement. We hope it’s not another five years before we get another taste…

Watch: Closer to Real

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