Archive for Ultravox

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, mind.in.a.box, 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

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Review: Ultravox – Brilliant

Posted in Review with tags , on June 13, 2012 by softsynth

We’ve come to approach “reunion” or “comeback” albums with a great deal of trepidation. So many times we’ve built ourselves into a frenzy of expectation waiting for new albums from re-assembled lineups from great days of yore (and yore was such an awesome time. Loves us some yore…) only to be disappointed when the release fell flat. The big exception was the tremendous return from Blancmange last year, an album that was one of our picks for the top ten of the year, and well deserved, that.

So what made the Blancmange effort work so successfully? It was a perfect bland of two qualities: remembering and bringing forward the sound that made them special back in the day and a necessary updating of their sound for this day and time. Other reunions leaned too far to the extreme in one direction or another and suffered for it. So where does this one fall? Continue reading

Absence makes the blog grow staler

Posted in Observations with tags , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by softsynth

One the hallmarks of a solid blog, vs a shitty one is the consistency of the blogging. This unfortunate blogger has been traveling and dropped the blogging baton. Humble apologies. Was temped to blog from the beach at Bellaire but…nah. The big rush is yet to come in any case. Nearly every band we care about is due to release a new album in the coming months and all will ramp up among the best perveyors of electronic music. Meantime we’ve banked a few reviews, a couple of artists we’ve been digging and a bands we missed piece that will get stuck on here sooner than later.

That said, some random observations to help catch up…

– If you had told Softsynth twenty years ago…hell, even ten years ago that Martin Gore and Vince Clarke were to collaborate on a new album, considering the degree to which this blogger fetishizes the Speak & Spell era of Depeche Mode, said blogger would likely had gotten a case of the vapors. And yet for all the trying (and there has been a lot of trying here), the album just comes off as so dull and dreary. Oh, hazy memories of our youth, hast thou forsaken us?

– The Titans album release flew totally under our radar, but it’s really quite impressive and deserves an audience. Full review coming.

– We are weeks away from a new 80s-era Ultravox album (!) Excited? Hells yes. But after the O.M.D., Human League, and countless other reunion albums that disappointed enthusiasm is being held in reserve.

– Lots of terrific bands have been sending in music for review or general thoughts. We have been listening, and will catch up, swear.

– Huski have a new single out from their upcoming album and it absolutely kicks ass. So excited about the album and the new direction for the band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhGd5-vqvfc

– The other song kicking our ass right now is “Infatuated” from Softsynth fav Miss FD. Not only is the track terrific, but the video is lifted right our of the worst part of the Softsynth brain. Get out of our head Miss…but keep doing exactly…”this” because you are truly filling a void in the music biz…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvFNi6kkFuc&feature=player_embedded

Won’t leave you so long again. Lots to chat about, the electronic scene is about to heat up in a serious way…

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

Ultravox back for more

Posted in News with tags on January 20, 2011 by softsynth

Ooh, ooh, yes = this. Amidst the rash of defunct classic electronic acts starting to resurface (Human League, O.M.D.), the latest to hit the boards is Ultravox. They’ve been touring the classic Rage in Eden album but now, best news of all they are recording new material for a new album. They left things back in the day on a bit of a sour note with the disappointing, overblown U-Vox album in 1986 and then a line up change that saw Billy Currie the lone original member still hanging in and a trio of pretty ordinary, lousy albums left in the wake. But the Midge Ure-led line up is recharged and has been working on new material since last year. No release date yet but the band have confirmed the great news on their web site.

One of our favourite bands back in the day, and the purveyors of Vienna, one of our very favourite albums of all time, this return is most welcome. While we know the classic returns can sometimes be underwhelming following perhaps-unrealistic expectations, we have high hopes for this one. Welcome back, boys.

Ten essential electronic albums – Part III and IV

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2009 by softsynth

And on we go. We arrive at the 80’s. There were many more great albums that saw us through the tail end of the 70’s from Can, Throbbing Gristle, DAF, Neu, Einsturzen Neubauten, even at very end the Silicon Teens, but while all made an indelible impact on different aspects of the genre it would be some time before the more industrial acts, in particular, felt their true resonance (Neubauten in particular were ridiculously influential, and yes, important to the growth of the genre, but their influence owed more to a movement, to a sound, to a general sense of pushing boundaries and experimentation than to a particular album in my opinion. I’ll revisit Neubauten in a separate post before long, because frankly, they deserve it.). The next major waves were in the synthpop vein. For it was this subgenre that opened the doors to mainstream audiences finally embracing music made by machines in conjunction with their humans. Their influence is still felt today.

Continue reading

What exactly constitutes “electronic” music?

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

I have been asked following my posted review of Lily Allen’s great new album, what do I consider electronic music? Where does the line get drawn? Why is it that many bands lumped in as part of the electro universe only possess a tentative link at best? There are obvious rock bands that some consider part of that universe and other artists that clearly find themselves driven by electronic soundscapes but would never be considered part of the electronic scene. What gives? Continue reading