Archive for Shiny Toy Guns

The Best Electronic Albums of 2012

Posted in Commentary, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2012 by softsynth

The annual look back over the year is always so illuminating. Year over year we can see where the trends are, where the most exciting electronic music is coming from.

Last year harder-edged electro was quite prominent. From our choice for number one album of the year by Aesthetic Perfection on down, the industrial influence was riding high. When we compiled the initial rough list for this year it was dominated by albums more on the pop edge, particularly the more experimental quirky pop edge, but clearly melody was king.

It was a good, and more specifically, prolific year for electronic music. This year’s rough list was longer than any year previously and was duly difficult to whittle down.

As always, we know not everyone will agree with this list; if previous years are any indication there may be some heated, even extreme questioning of the choices, Such is the passion that rises from genre-specific music fans, the smaller and tighter the community, the more passionate.

There were some exceptional albums that didn’t quite make the grade for the top ten this year. Those include albums by Mari Chrome, Shiny Toy Guns (which, but for a last-minute switch would have been on this year’s list with their strong comeback, III), De/Vision, Sin Cos Tan,, The Presets, Carter Tutti Void, Passion Pit and Flux. Exceptional, sometimes joyously so, albums, the quality of which should be a good indication of how strong the top ten are. We also need to mention Metric’s 2012 offering. We referenced it when it came out and were somewhat meh on it at the time, while noting that the bulk of it couldn’t make any claim to being an electronic album, but no album has grown more this year on repeated listens, and if the “electronic half” of Synthetica were an album onto itself (“Dreams So Real”, “Lost Kitten”, “The Void”, “Clone”, “Nothing But Time”) it would easily have made our list. At a minimum, it deserves serious attention for it’s considerable strengths.

And with that, to this year’s best of the best… Continue reading


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

Odds and ends, observations and so forth

Posted in Observations with tags , , , , , on July 18, 2012 by softsynth

We found ourselves in another forced layoff when we were struck with the twin joys of a hard drive crash and the discovery, following the eventual, and far-too painful recovery process, of the DNS Trojan virus that shut us down and forced a rebuild of your humble bloggers computer. T’was a lovely time, rest assured. So meantime we banked more reviews and observations etc. A few things to help catch up:

– Really digging new songs by Shiny Toy Guns (“Waiting Alone”) and Rezonance (!! – we seriously thought this band had gone away, never to return, so = yay! Very much digging on “Obscurity” so far). The former is clearly returning to form with the re-establishment of the original lineup and the latter, whose debut, Black Filters (holy shit – seven years ago!) is a total Softsynth favourite. Yays all around here.

– We’ve been deluged by CDs from more established artists and digital tracks by new up-and-coming bands. Many reviews in the can.

– As we blogged (not that long ago at all in fact), still listening to the Rockets in a Coma album, Squared Strawberries a lot in recent weeks and though it’s been out for a few years and though we’ve already blogged about it – holy crap this is a good album. We know it’s a bit repetitive to keep saying so, but in the pantheon of “great albums you probably aren’t listening to” this is at the top of the pile. Still no idea if they are still together, coming out with another album any time soon, or still among the living (any news? Anyone?), but this album, though hard as hell to find, it so very worth getting your virtual hands on if you can.

– The Karin Park album gets better and better with the passage of time. Inside front-runner for our album of the year…in July. Check back in December.

– You know who’s pretty awesome? Lydmor. Review coming soon.

– We keep getting requests for mailing address and email to submit albums for review: for your records:; email for address. Note – as you can see in the previous post, we do not provide a blind publicity service; if we think an album doesn’t work we’ll say so in no uncertain terms (or we will withhold a review altogether if we’re feeling all precious and sensitive to hard working artists’ feelings), so, duly warned and all that…

Edited to add: Enjoying the track by Sudden Creation “Shouldn’t I be a Girl?”. A kind of distant cousin to Synthpop’s Alive. Clever and catchy at the same time that makes a good point actually…

Alright 2012, whatcha got for us…?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2011 by softsynth

So, 2011 is now on the way to the compost heap and we sweep the hearth clean in anticipation of what 2012 will bring. Lots of good stuff on the electronic music horizon, fortunately mostly slated for the early part of the year, which is a good thing as we’ll get to enjoy some good new music in advance of the looming apocalypse in the fall (or is it the spring? We get our apocoli confused).

Our list is topped by Assemblage 23’s Bruise (supposed to be out this fall, but we’ll take it whenever Mr. Shear wants to deliver it, so terrific was his last A23 album); and after hearing sensational advance tracks from Bunny Lake their The Sound Of Sehnsucht is also high on our anticipated list. But these two are far from alone. 2012 looks to be replete with potential awesomeness, to whit: Continue reading

Wasn’t there this guy who blogged electronic music…?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 21, 2011 by softsynth

First off, apologies for the extended absence from this space. Your humble blogger was sick with the pneumonia for quite some time which kept him away from the electronic music discourse. As it happened this absence coincided with a peculiar dearth of meaningful developments within the electronic music world. Made it easier to ease back into the process. A few things percolating though: Continue reading

Electronic cover versions

Posted in Commentary, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by softsynth

While listening to the new Collide album (which we were pretty hard on in our review, it still stands but some of these tracks have held up better than we would have thought…) Softsynth was struck by the number of songs that seemed like odd matches with a predominantly electronic band (John Lennon?) Got us to thinking about some of the great cover versions given new life by electronic bands over the years (and some of the noble failures. And some of the just plain shitty treatments).

Some of the early great electronic recordings were cover versions, none more notable than Daniel Miller’s 1979/80 Silicon Teens project which was mostly synthpop covers of classic rock songs from the 50s and early 60s.

It didn’t always work (like the too-twee-by-half “Judy in Disguise”) but sometimes, like the fantastic version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” it made for really refreshing takes on the classics.

Bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and The Human League diddled about with covers (Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man”, the “Nightclubbing/Rock n Roll” amalgam, respectively) in the early days of their careers and the likes of Depeche Mode messed about with classics like “The Price of Love” before becoming full-fledged recording artists.

Perhaps the most successful well-known electronic cover was Soft Cell’s monster 1981 hit single, their version of the Northern Soul classic “Tainted Love” (which for decades had the distinction of being the song to log the most weeks on billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart). Continue reading

The Softsynth 2009 Playlist (songs of the year ’09)

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by softsynth

So this will be the last in the long line of “lists” for the year. We had mused about doing up a “best singles of the year list”

and were both overwhelmed by the task at hand and felt persnickety about the notion of being limited to just singles.

The era of the single is definitely upon us what with the death of the CD as the last remaining form of “physical” music and the growth of iTunes culture, but damn it, Softsynth is a creature from the age of album appreciation and the best songs are so often not the tracks sent out to be appreciated by the masses, but those that remain buried in the outer confines of an album. (That said many of the best songs

released there were, indeed, singles, so we’re not limiting ourselves here). It’s what made for the great mixed tapes of yore. (And for those of a certain age, too young for the pure album era of the 70s, but older than those who know only the MP3 era, the mixed tape was a crucial part of our musical upbringing. we created our own playlists, as a kind of precursor to the era we increasingly find ourselves in today via one-off MP3 downloads, but with tracks culled from albums or singles as we saw fit, depending on our mood at a given time.)

This is literally the only time through the year that we open things up to acknowledge the best stuff from various genres, not just electronic music (and in our next post we will revisit the question of what exactly constitutes so-called “electronic music”).We will paint with a wider brush just to fully colour in the year. So away we go, the singles of the year, er, songs of the year, uh…no, the “2009 Softsynth playlist”…

Continue reading