Archive for November, 2012

Review: Shiny Toy Guns – III

Posted in Review with tags on November 12, 2012 by softsynth

With its unmatched soaring bombast and new-rawk sensibility Shiny Toy Guns are the quintessential American electronic band. That’s not a dig, one of the things we like most about the band are their unique voice amidst the din. No one else sounds like them and while they clearly show their influences from time to time they are on their island doing their own thing and when that thing works, and the proper balance is achieved, it can be a thing of beauty.

On their last album that sense of balance was knocked askew and the results weren’t pretty. Co-lead vocalist Carah Faye Charnow left the group and the released the viciously uneven Season of Poison, full of derivative rock songs and their electronic identity, so well-earned on debut We Are Pilots, was thrown to the wind. They just weren’t as good at making this new music and while there were a few standouts, the album was a bit of a dud.

Now Charnow has rejoined the band and they’ve made an album that is very much a welcome return to form.

Continue reading

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Review: Ellie Goulding – Halcyon

Posted in Review with tags on November 11, 2012 by softsynth

Twice this year we went into an album assuming we were going to hate it, and finding ourselves delightfully surprised. Dragonette’s utter winner of an album was one, this is the other (it should be noted, far less infrequent is the enormous hope and excitement for an album that turned out to be dreck, sadly).

We quite enjoyed Goulding’s debut, and in fact have been following her since well before even that album came out, so why the trepidation with this album? Chalk it up to the popularity syndrome. When Goulding earned her much-slogged-for success on the Billboard charts with “Lights”, she has felt very much like the latest flavour of the month (ironic, as we first wrote about her as a “Softsynth Flavour of the Week” some time ago…). She was starting to be compared with the likes of Adele vis-a-vis her future inevitable chart longevity, and that rarely bodes well for an artist whose sense of quirk is such a defining characteristic. Continue reading

Review: The Birthday Massacre – Hide and Seek

Posted in Review with tags on November 10, 2012 by softsynth

They fly under the radar much of the time but when one steps back and looks at the picture holistically, The Birthday Massacre have been delivering remarkably consistent, solid product. Their brand of industrial pop (is that a thing? that should be a thing.) has been a great presence on the scene and this album may be their strongest to date.

Always walking that fine line between synth-driven melody and spine-crunching guitars, they often default to the latter which works sometimes but often drowns out the musicality they’ve always had hidden away in the back. But throughout Hide and Seek they have discovered a lighter touch and it allows vocalist Chibi to shine as never before. She has a spooky, evocative, and while sometimes lost under the cacophony, beautiful voice and it’s a nice treat to hear it so crisp and clean as on this album. Continue reading

Is Kickstarter the saviour of the music business?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2012 by softsynth

Musical artists have been increasingly struggling in recent years, trying to monetize a business model that no longer works as it once did. No one buys music anymore, or at least when they do it’s not using the model most record companies still prioritize. There are exceptions of course, people are still lining up to buy the new Taylor Swift album or their seemingly tenth copy of Adele’s album (88 weeks and counting on the Billboard 200) or even Tony Bennett’s new Duets album, but those artists that have and maintain mainstream chart success are also increasingly those artists that can appeal cross-generationally. It’s become a niche market leaving the bulk of the music business struggling to survive, relying almost entirely on touring as an income generator.

The electronic genre has been hit particularly hard. There are few superstar electronic bands who can sell enough records to make a real run an ongoing viability. For every Depeche Mode, or Goldfrapp, or more recently, Ellie Goulding, we have scores of other artists who are trying to scrape together a model that allows them to continue to produce their music.

Enter the post-Kickstarter world. Continue reading