Archive for IAMX

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

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Review: IAMX – The Unified Field

Posted in Review with tags on March 28, 2013 by softsynth

Chris Corner never makes it easy on his listeners, one needs to earn their place at the IAMX table. Listening to a new IAMX album requires patience, time and a keen attention to detail. Rarely does he bring forth straight ahead pop or accessible rock, instead a typical IAMX album is replete with thematically complicated anthems, dirges and operatic calls to action. And when it works it’s just this side of brilliant. On The Unified Field, it works.

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

The 2011 Softsynth playlist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2011 by softsynth

So, as we do every year, we have assembled the individual songs that made up the soundtrack for Softsynth this year. We are generally more about albums than singles but there are individual songs that stand on their own as outstanding. Some of these come from albums we found underwhelming as a whole, some were one-off singles, or standouts from excellent EPs.

We don’t do a singles list because as often as not it’s album tracks that get us all hot and bothered but the song collection that truly moved us, our “top 25 songs” to go with our albums of the year, starts with the following: Continue reading

The Best Electronic Albums of 2011

Posted in Commentary, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by softsynth

This has been something of a peculiar year for electronic music. Some of the most compelling music from the genre has come from unsigned or yet-to-record-an-album bands. Discoveries like Curxes, Vile Electrodes and Nightlife provided some of the most alive, exciting and dynamic electronic music of the year. It was a year where EPs, instead of full albums, which we measure here today, brought us some of the most interesting glimpses of how good electronic music can be from the likes of Softsynth mainstay Miss FD, The Golden Filter, Tenek, or the three aforementioned bands (perhaps the latest example of how differently we now consume music in the digital age). And it was a year when many of the bands that make up the very foundation of this blog and this blogger’s bedrock musical interests, released new albums only to fall flat. In a year when Erasure, Ladytron, VNV Nation, M83, She Wants Revenge, And One and The Human League released new work it felt like assembling this year’s chart would be a pre-ordained affair, and yet it was surprises, resurfaces and new discoveries that provided the real fodder for our best of the year list in 2011. It was a year when Amy Lee of Evanescence, of all people would give us one of our most compelling electronic songs of the year, covering a Muppets song no less. There were curve balls but ultimately, as is the case every year, the best of the best rises to the top… Continue reading

Review: IAMX – Volatile Times

Posted in Review with tags , on March 24, 2011 by softsynth

Sometimes there is no winning for trying. Sometimes a bar is set so ludicrously high, that no matter what an artist does it will pale as compared to what has come before. The better the work, the increasingly impossible to reach those heights again. Two years and change ago Chris Corner released what Softsynth considers to be one of the greatest electronic albums ever recorded, our far-and-away pick for album of the year that year and one that we believe will stand the test of time. No matter what Corner and friends recorded as follow up was going to pale in comparison.

And it does.

But is that fair? Can we ever assess a work of art within a bubble, without the context of what has come before? Well that’s beyond the powers of this reviewer, so with that context laid out what hath M. Corner wrought in 2011?  Continue reading

“Ghosts of Utopia” – have a listen

Posted in Commentary, News with tags , on January 29, 2011 by softsynth

We are in giddy anticipation of the new IAMX album, Volatile Times. Full stop. Their last album was pure genius. As we have written, ad nauseam, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, was a near-perfect album, and our far-and-away pick for album of the year in 2009. Upon hearing it, we are hard-pressed to remember the last time we felt so viscerally enthusiastic about and emotionally connected to an album. Maybe Goldfrapp’s Supernature, but we think maybe all the way back to Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration. But, as with any follow-up to an important album, we get nervous about what will come next. The stakes get high. “Think of England”, from KoWD, was a serviceable track but not one that excited us all that much. Well, now we get a listen to lead-off track from the new album, “Ghosts of Utopia” and we’re far more jazzed about this. Cluttered, dirty and ragged, and pulsing with emotion and we’re hooked already. Bring on the new album!

Watch: Ghosts of Utopia