Archive for the Review Category

The Best Electronic Albums of 2013

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2013 by softsynth

Such a different process of culling the best albums of the year without regular blogging beforehand. Without the regular reviews and check-ins it’s a more daunting, from-scratch process to paw through the various offerings from our genre.

And it’s been a cracker year. In some previous years our first cut narrowed the best of the best to 25-30 great albums, but this year numbers more than 40 in the first cut. Some notables that deserve a mention:

– Depeche Mode return with their strongest album in many years promising more life for the band. The kind of life even old school fans could learn to look forward to again.
– Erasure release a holiday album that turns out to be their best since Nightbird. Haunting Xmas tunes with terrific    originals, the likes of which we weren’t sure they could do anymore.
– Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark make good on the previously-mild promise of their comeback with a great return to form with English Electric.
– Technoir, one of Softsynth’s all time favourites come back without singer Julia Bayer, and with Steffen Gehring becoming “all of Technoir” for We Fall Apart and the results are uneven but surprisingly satisfying.
– Another Softsynth favourite, Diffuzion return with a fantastic EP that promises so much for their new album in 2014.
– Polly Scattergood ends the debate of “electronic, or no?” once and for all with her great album Arrows.
– Goldfrapp begin a debate of “electronic or no?” with a strangely unsatisfying new album.
– Vile Electrodes finally, at long last, released their debut full length album and it fulfilled the tremendous promise we knew the band had.

But what of the best? The cream of the electronic crop in this year of plenty? The choices were difficult but there were a “best”. To whit… Continue reading

Review: Miss FD – Comfort for the Desolate

Posted in Review with tags on August 1, 2013 by softsynth

Miss FD, the erstwhile Frightdoll, has been a Softsynth favourite since the very beginning. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen with a critical ear, but more it suggests that distinction is earned as the result of continued extraordinary work. A consummate DIY artist, she has perfected the art of blending goth, industrial, and melodic pop together in her highly stylish cauldron. That’s not an easy combination to pull off without drifting into cliché or parody, but pull it off she does.  Continue reading

Review: Marnie – Crystal World

Posted in Review with tags , , on July 31, 2013 by softsynth

Shortest review ever – fucking. extraordinary. Continue reading

Review: Feathers – If All Here Now

Posted in Review on June 17, 2013 by softsynth

Love them or hate them it’s hard to deny just how influential Depeche Mode have been on the world of electronic music lo these last few decades. So much so that rare is the new electronic band that isn’t at some point described by how they compare to some era of DM. We remember back in the mid-’80s when Book of Love were often compared to DM, more specifically as the “Female Depeche Mode” (assisted by opening for the Mode on a couple of tours, including one gig where the crowd was a little hostile and lead singer Susan Ottaviano tried to placate the crowd by noting they were “Depeche Mode’s girlfriends). We’ve been thinking of Book of Love and their place as the Female Depeche Mode because we can’t help but listen to the incredible debut album from Austin, Texas’ Feathers, and think, now *this* sounds like the Female Depeche Mode, specifically the sainted Violator-era Mode.

That’s not to oversimplify what this band has pulled off, because trite comparisons to other bands aside, If All Here Now is about as good a debut as we’ve heard in a yonk’s age. Continue reading

Review: Marsheaux – Inhale

Posted in Review with tags on June 13, 2013 by softsynth

When we reviewed Greek electro duo Marsheaux’s last album, Lumineaux Noir, a full four years ago, we were pretty hard on it. We were lukewarm at best, largely because it didn’t build on what had come before and it seemed to disappointingly fade into the background. (That said, the album has had remarkable staying power and still sounds pretty fresh.) What a difference an album makes.

Flash forward four years and without any kind of major makeover, the ladies have produced an album that is anchored in stellar songwriting and a stark awareness of what makes for a meaningful, smooth electronic musical experience. It’s an album that borrows heavily from the genre’s roots but in a reverential way, not a gimmicky or lazy manner. When someone can bottle the sound of the Golden Era of electronic music and reproduce it in a thematically-relevant way in 2013, they’ve stumbled upon the Good Shit.

Inhale is chock full of the Good Shit. Continue reading

Review: Ayria – Plastic Makes Perfect

Posted in Review with tags on June 12, 2013 by softsynth

As a Canada-based blog it’s always a delightful surprise when a Canadian electronic artist rises from the cold to make a stake in the firmament. It’s all-too-rare, but a nice treat when it comes along. Jennifer Parkin aka Ayria has been a consistent presence on the scene over the years and she has only gotten stronger with each release.

An unbelievable, heart-rending, five years since the release of her last album, Hearts for Bullets (which was on the first Softsynth best of the year list in ’08), she’s come back strong.  Continue reading

Review: Love and Radiation – You Will Know Me

Posted in Review with tags on April 20, 2013 by softsynth

While we loved the first two singles we heard from this Chicago duo, we were nervous that they wouldn’t be able to sustain a full album’s worth of material and keep the songs distinct or interesting. We needn’t have worried. The whole thing kicks serious, genuine ass.

What sounds at first listen like pretty standard synthpop is actually so much more. Members Lakshmi Ramgopal and Adele Nicholas have crafted something with a lot of layers and something strangely original while still drawing the best from the familiar tropes.  Continue reading