Archive for Maps

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



Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by softsynth

When we look back at the history of electronic music, and more personally Softsynth’s own journey to embrace our shared genre, Daniel Miller’s record label played a larger, more significant role than any other entity. As a young lad in a small Canadian city in the pre-internet era there were only a few ways to discover new music. Mainstream radio was the big one and we’ve waxed on about how we discovered Depeche Mode in 1984 thanks to the then-ubiquitous “People Are People” which aired on MuchMusic, daily video shows like CBC’s Video Hits, and on radio programs like Dick Clark’s op 40 Countdown which aired on Halifax’s C-100.
Continue reading

Review: Maps – Turning the Mind

Posted in Review with tags , on October 27, 2009 by softsynth

Maps, aka Brit James Chapman are (is?) back with another go around of sweet, slightly syrupy electro drone following on the heels of their (his) critically acclaimed 2007 Mute Records debut, the Mercury Prize nominated We Can Create. That album was among the most somnambulant albums of all time, but beautifully so.

Now Maps are back with something a little different. Does it pass the sniff test? Answer: sort of.

We Can Create was a piece of art. Beautifully constructed, lush, meaningful with lyrics that made you sit back and sort out what they meant. It was also sleepy. Like, comatose sleepy. One could appreciate the care that went into the album’s construction without, you know, actually “enjoying it” (full disclosure – Softsynth did…in the right mood). Continue reading

2009 Mercury Prize nominations in

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on July 23, 2009 by softsynth

We’ve often found the Mercury Prize – the UK’s de facto “best album” award – quite interesting and often of real quality, with electronic artists regularly recognized with a shortlisting, if not the prize itself (Portishead’s win in 1995 an exeption to the rule); when Maps were shortlisted two years ago for their debut album We Can Create, Softsynth had to doff its metaphorical cap in appreciation – an awards process that includes the likes of the awesome Maps is one Softsynth can get behind. (Worth noting the prize has included some downright bizzare nominations like the Spice Girls in 1997, but overall, for a mainstream award, the quality has been consistently solid.)

This year it’s nice to see two of the nominations in particular, self described electropop duo La Roux for their high-quality self-titled album, and particulartly hybrid artist Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) for their (her) awesome, awesome album Two Suns. We haven’t yet written about Bat for Lashes on this blog to our great shame but suffice it to say it ranks very highly in our “what will make the Softsynth Top Ten Albums list this year” discussion and would be our pick for the prize this year. Good on the Mercury folks for recognizing the good stuff, no matter the genre.

Full nominations:

Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Florence & The Machine – Lungs
Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
Glasvegas – Glasvegas
Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
La Roux – La Roux
Led Bib – Sensible Shoes
Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men
The Horrors – Primary Colours
The Invisible – The Invisible