Album Review: Tropics – Rapture

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Chris Ward, also known as Tropics, and his follow up to his 2011 album Parodia Flare, is one filled with the feelings of love and loss. Ward’s gracious attempt to cater to the needs of a audience that’s hurting from rejection is admirable, and marks a good continuation point from where we heard him last.

Rapture gets off to a shaky start, with the first few tracks – excluding “Blame,” which is actually lovely – sounding detached and lost in the beats, yet clearer than what he did on Parodia. “Hunger” and “Indigo” sound scattered, and the inclusion of a spliced, unincorporated spoken vocal in the former just adds more confusion to the mix. The beat is solid, but is missing the real emotion that I crave with electronic music.Things pick up with the title track “Rapture,” with an addictive piano hook reminiscent of Rhye’s “The Fall.” It’s memorable and beautiful, and it’s the real start of the album for me. It’s here we finally hear an indication of a new path, along with honesty and Ward seeming to find personal meaning and definition. The energy and vulnerability that runs throughout it is undeniably addictive, and is well thought out, with lyrics that are nothing short of poetry. “Gloria” is a solid addition to the album as well, but its after this where the album veers off course again. “House of Leaves” and “Not Enough” are emotionally draining, and aren’t a good indicator of how skilled Tropics really is. The album as a whole, however, does seem to serve as a way for Ward to achieve personal gratification, with the rampant simulations of isolation in the instrumentals and the vulnerable yelping in the vocals.

However, the track “Home & Consonance” is the best on this album for sure, and perhaps even the best that Tropics has ever done. It’s so great, in fact, that it barely sounds like it belongs with the rest of the songs on this album. It’s minimal and gorgeous, with swelling synth beats, mysterious chimes, and of course, Ward’s breathtaking vocals. It’s here that I finally hear who Tropics really is as an artist, and it’s upsetting that we as listeners had to wait so long to hear it. “Home & Consonance” is wonderfully genuine, and a true diamond in the rough.

Overall, Rapture is a solid, honest effort, but somewhat lacks in organization. It is clear what Ward is trying to do – perhaps shed some more light on the devastating feelings of love and rejection – but the shakiness in confidence  and passion is what made it feel underwhelming. With electronic music, since the beats are synthetic, I need to feel like I’m hearing truth and real passion in the vocals, and I rarely got it here. There are some solid tracks that save it, however, and there is a silver lining – Chris Ward has found his own voice, now it’s just time to refine it and make it even more poignant.

Best tracks: “Home & Consonance”, “Rapture”

5.9/10

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photo by Lulu McArdle

Purity Ring – “Bodyache”

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Purity Ring is all set to release their follow up album to Shrines, released back in 2012, and they’ve been releasing singles left and right in order to drum up even more hype than what’s already been accumulating. “Bodyache” is perhaps the most impressive of the bunch, with glittering beats and that classic neo-pop Purity Ring sound. It’s wonderfully drunk on whimsy and hovers with grace, but is perpetually tethered down by heavy drum beats and serious vocals. It’s clear that the band is trying to evolve Shrines into a larger force rather than create something entirely new – all that’s left is to see how that plays out. Another Eternity will be released on March 3rd.

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photo courtesy of stereogum

Viet Cong – “Continental Shelf”

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Post punk rockers Viet Cong released their debut self-titled album earlier this year, and from listening to it, it’s clear that this was done with finesse. Since the disbandment of Women, member Christopher Reimer’s tragic death, and Viet Cong’s formation, overwhelming emotions have no doubt been a key factor in production of this album. “Continental Shelf” is an impressive track off of the album, fueled with heavy guitars, a muffled, hazy melody, and beautifully raw and pained vocals. The discordance and dissonance in the instrumentals calms slightly in the chorus, and then erupts again, letting the listener know that these pains are everlasting. It’s horrifying, but lovely all the same.

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photo courtesy of noisey

Warpaint – “No Way Out”

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Warpaint’s last release was in 2013 with their self-titled album Warpaint, and it was given relatively good reviews. Now, they have finally released a new single, albeit it’s still in production. “No Way Out” is dark, brooding, and ominous, with a dynamic drum beat that meshes incredibly well with sullen, yet beautiful guitar riffs. The vocals echo and reverberate throughout the track, and gives the whole thing such an atmospheric feel. Warpaint has announced that this is the first of many new tracks to be released this year, so that is definitely something to look forward to.

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photo courtesy of indiecurrent

#1 Dads – “So Soldier”

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Tom Iansek’s (frontman to Big Scary) recent project #1 Dads is wonderfully introspective, wistful, and beautiful, taking a page out of the book he wrote. However, this new project yearns to be listened to separately from Big Scary, and it’s possible to do that – especially when you listen to the track “So Soldier.” It’s a collaboration with singer Ainslie Wills, and it’s softer, considering the lack of heavy drum beats and inclusion of a shoegaze guitar melody. There’s a Real Estate-y folk feel to it, but it is overwhelmed with intense nostalgia and vulnerable emotions that it’s almost a new genre all it’s own.

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 photo by Louise Agnew

Album Review: Years & Years – Y & Y EP

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It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed an album (or EP, in this case) that was exclusively upbeat, exuberant electronic pop, and that needs to change. When English indie music trio Years & Years released their single “King” back in January, I was absolutely starstruck. I was ecstatic when their Y & Y EP was released this month, and I was pleased by what I heard. The four song record showcases the best of the band and their broad skill sets in the terms of vocals, rhythm, and instrumentation. Frontman Olly Alexander is the main attraction throughout the EP, and his vocals are incendiary among the colorful, upbeat background that is the synth and beats provided by Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Turkmen. “Desire” is fast, furious, and absolutely addictive. The beats are bouncy, the synths tight and clean, and the vocals are stunning. It’s a strong opener, and it leads remarkably well into track “Take Shelter,” a more funky, minimal sounding beat that’s reminiscent of Glass Animals. Alexander’s voice morphs and changes with each track of the album, going everywhere from brooding to an almost falsetto. It houses that quintessential indie feeling without that overly sappy and obviously-dance-pop attachment that other electronic dance music sometimes comes with. The only part where the band somewhat loses me is in their slower, more introspective track “Memo,” where I feel that it didn’t match the rest of the album in tone. They take some more experimental risks with synth and overlays, which I have to give credit for, but in this case just didn’t mesh as well as I had hoped. However, the absolute gem in this EP is the amazing track “King,” which gives the best that Years & Years has to offer. The shimmering, glittering synth clears the path for a beautiful drum beat that perfectly merges with Alexander’s gorgeous voice. There’s strength and tenacity, but also an unquestionable layer of vulnerability that’s easily heard through the overpowering, yet organized instrumentals. With a powerful, artistic music video to go along with it, I can say that “King” is definitely one of my tracks of 2015.

I appreciate electronic indie bands like Years & Years because you can tell in their actions and in their words that they are genuine and passionate about what they do, and that they appreciate a mixture of different styles in order to cater to every audience. In the end, Years & Years do make catchy, addictive dance music, but also tries to keep that raw emotion and passion that supplies a heart and makes it worth listening to.

The band has said that they do want to release a full-length album soon, but they don’t know when or how. This EP, however, will happily join the Real EP in their archive as a triumphant place holder until that time. 

8/10

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photo courtesy of the line of best fit

Von Sell – “Ivan”

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I’ve been missing that electronic vibe recently, and this new single from Von Sell has me easing back into the groove. The technological, metallic sounding melody lies underneath the pulsating synth and jungle style rhythm, turning this into quite an impressive, complex, and expansive track. “Ivan” is a colorful, upbeat treat for the ears, and it takes you on a journey with every glowing beat.

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photo courtesy of the artist

Grooms – “Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair”

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Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair is Brooklyn indie band Grooms’ fourth studio album, which was released this week. The title track showcases the band’s garage rock background, but with an upbeat quality that is not exactly pop, and not exactly punk. It’s a solid mixture of the two, allowing for more range and skill throughout the track. It echoes and reverberates with the inclusion of hollow drums and guitars, along with a shrill synth undertone that creates a sense of urgency and eerie mysticism, which fits the monotone vocals.

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photo courtesy of the artist

Everything Everything – “Distant Past”

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Everything Everything released their second album, Arc, back in the beginning of 2013, and have since then been working on the release of their third. Thankfully, that wait will soon be over. Their new single “Distant Past” maintains some of the distinct sound that EE have cultivated over the past few years – technological, deep, and often times philosophical – but also explores the realms of electronic and pop. Vocalist Jonathan Higgs and his forceful, narrative voice merges into a passionate falsetto that’s surrounded with bouncy synth and guitars, and it shows that the band has taken a somewhat newer path. I can’t wait to review the new album, Get To Heaven, when it is released in June.

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photo by Nadev Kander