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ALBUM REVIEW: Karl Kling – Self-titled (2015 LP)

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This article first appeared on The AU Review.

If you’ve listened to Synth-pop artist Karl Kling here in Australia, like me, it’s most likely as that featured player from the RAC album Strangers. You would be forgiven for that one. Karl is not big by any means, not yet. But as usual, that’s what makes his self-titled debut album so exciting. It was released earlier this month and going off the kind of influences he’s been hanging around, I couldn’t wait to wrap my ears around it.

The intro track “Figurehead” is a slow dance of space-like synth pop. One that builds and builds but never seems to reach the top. Not that it’s bad. It just has the promise of an anthem but instead glides along in a monotone and safe fashion. “I Will Wait” is where it picks up with impressive originality. It just stinks of RAC and that’s an unreal compliment for any musician. It was the first single he released from the album and it’s a humble, fun and slithery number that slinks along with confidence. All the while digi-pop hooks will keep your finger firmly set on that repeat button.

The second single to be released, “Careful” is a happy turn from the cold tones of the first few tracks. It still has a sadness about it but bops along with aggressive enthusiasm nevertheless. It’s a welcome turn into the dancier style of electro I hoped from this album. It’s followed by “All I Want More Than Anything”, a track that could have been straight from the early nineties. A golden tune that’s easily one of the more catchier on the album. Karl Kling finds the sort of Motion City Soundtrack pop vibe in his synth solos and vocal melodies that will put a smile on your face for days.

“The Struggle” is a nice multi-layered and moody track that plugs along pretty casually and seems performed in a real natural style. You could imagine this as a bedroom recording project, with Karl Kling casually strumming along as he contemplates the narrative in the song. It’s here that you kind of realise how authentic this album is. It’s a guy giving his all, from top to bottom. The song “When I See You Again” has this weird garage rock sound to it that is immediately noticeable following the other tracks on the album. It’s a tonne faster than the others and feels liberating from a listeners perspective. Bold and speedy.

“Job Well Done” is a cracking tune. It’s very eighties with talkative verses and group vocals backing him up and choruses with a crap-load of effect pulsing their way to some decent vocal hooks. The outro track “Life On The Run” is another great, memorable track that places its footsteps in the wake of bands like Stepdad and Architecture In Helsinki who have been putting together really fun electronic music for years now.

In the end, Karl Kling bursts out of the shadows of being a featuring artist (in my eyes) and into his very own spot on the path to synth-pop royalty. His unique style of moodier, new season electronic music is a welcome change from the party hard vibe I’ve been getting used to from a lot of artists. Although I found some of the tracks dragged on towards the end, there are some solid tunes streaked throughout the album and it’s well worth a spot in your next backyard party playlist.

 

*****

7.1 / 10

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CRUISR – Go For It

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The American summer is just coming into full effect, so it makes sense that be releasing tropical tunes of this sort. But as the sun starts to fade over our side of the world, and the drowsy folk and minimal artists come out of hibernation, CRUISR have released about the brightest tune you could imagine.

Known for their optimism and melodic sunny side, the band from Philadelphia released an as expected indie-pop tune to start the season, in the unreal “Go For It”. Filled with mystical keys and happy tidings vocals leading into a chorus that lifts so high you won’t know what to do with yourself. The band have been releasing a few singles leading into 2015 for (I’m assuming) another album to come. It’s one you should definitely be excited about, so stay tuned.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Coach Bombay – Sunshine (2015)

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This article first appeared on The AU Review.

Melbourne’s Coach Bombay AKA Terry Mann has been busy over the past few years transitioning from a bedroom recording project to a fully fledged pop monster. His previous full length Pops kicked serious A, but with no live CV and a humble social push it was received lightly (albeit impressively) by the small group that were paying attention. Since then, he’s formed a tight live act, toured the East Coast and even hit viral fame this past Australia Day with a mock-take on Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, entitled “Straya”. This week his new album Sunshine was released in Australia, giving the local scene something to seriously pay attention to.

Sunshine is the musical equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Not simply because it’s awash with bubblegum pop licks, but also because of the sheer imagination Coach Bombay has brought to the record. It’s a fucking ride. It’s no easy feat to bring to life a sound like this with tasty electronic fillings and hooks to inspire ever-lasting happiness. This vibe is staple-gunned to you when you hear the second track “Sunshine”, a tune that just bursts with immediacy from the first second. A dreamy chime sequence turns into a formulaic rise and fall procession of synth as the vocalist enters, spitting positivity imbued into some of the most memorable melodies of the year.

I half expect somebody may have discovered the wonderment of love this year. Tracks like “Silly Sweethearts” and “(So Fucking) Beautiful” drop clues throughout the record. The coach has always been a happy guy, but this is something different. It’s focused, and whether or not that statement is true, it’s something that contributes greatly to the output you get from the listen. The latter mentioned track is scattered and brooding but in a hopeful way. It’s a sweet listen and a necessary break from the insanely chirpy set you have before that point.

The cheekily named “Funtitled” could be liken to something like Architecture In Helsinki’s work, running through that kind of bright colours and bounce-dancing feeling. “Party Kitchen” is a god damn rager. Taking notes from eighties staples like Talking Heads The Coach spins a good yarn with the story of a crazy party heading all the way to the kitchen. Out of all the tracks on the record this has the biggest bravado of all. It’s got all the makings of a good party anthem, with crunchy electronics, vocals masked with attitude and a sweet post-chorus synth breakdown. It’s even got beer samples in it! My word, it is good.

The singles leading up to Sunshine, “Cool Thing” and “Girls” are old favourites, and although they’ve been out for a little while, I’ve been listening to them on and off and loved them every step of the way. Absolutely nothing bad to say there. But for those who haven’t heard them, they’re classic pop tunes. “Girls” is another formulaic procedure, streaking with a day-dreamer’s chorus and the kind of instrumentals that could potentially drive you crazy when they eventually get stuck in your head for months.

The big take-away from Coach Bombay‘s Sunshine is happiness times infinite. At its core is a likeable procession of pop tunes that don’t get old. But on deeper inspection, it’s a masterful collection of well-written, instrumental genius complemented by vocals that are purposefully morphed to fit the vibe. I sincerely hope 2015 is huge for this guy; Sunshineis the best album of the year (so far).

8.9 / 10

*****

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Geographer – I’m Ready

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 The first single off the upcoming album, Ghost Modern, is “I’m Ready” and it’s a sweet little pop tune with chiming synths and smooth vocal lines. Allegedly the last song to be written on the upcoming 12-track the song makes itself immediately known as a Geographer presentation, with unique vocals and minimalist pop.

Ghost Modern is set for release on March 24th via Roll Call Records.

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Smallpools – Karaoke

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Nothing cooler than a smooth tune about getting loose and crazy in claustrophobically built dark rooms with nothing but a basic mic and a plasma , singing at the top of your lungs to an oddly placed makeshift video of a guy looking sad on a train ride while the worst cover of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ bursts your eardrums. Yeah, I think we can all agree Karaoke is pretty sick.

Honestly though,  Smallpools have done some pretty catchy tunes in the last year, and in the lead up to their next album coming out in a few days, they released “Karaoke”, as the follow up single to “Killer Whales”, and it’s a perfect insight into what to expect out of these guys. A familiar verse and easy to digest chorus make this nothing but slick, likeable pop tunes for days.

It’s also the creepiest thing ever that the lady on the cover of the single looks eerily similar to my Mum. Like mannerisms, love of karaoke, everything.

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BESTiE – Asleep On The Bus

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No I didn’t mispell the name, that ‘i’ in BESTiE is in it’s place. Yet another indie band messing with the format, these guys from the greatest city in the world (in my opinion) Vancouver have been rocking this tune for a solid year now but only getting some quality recognition after time. Sometimes music does that to you, you need some time to stew to appreciate.

That said, the first time I heard this it hooked me truly. Despite being from Vancouver, they have a truly British ring to them. That’s a crazy complement too, the Brits have that shit down. The track adds a heavy dose of shambolic good times to something that sounds widely emotive. Simple repetitive guitar parts match up with unique vocals tones, but it’s the brooding bass tunes that bring this tune together strangely enough.

Just recently a bunch of remixes of this track have surfaced to give fans something fresh, and you can check them out on the soundcloud account.

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Adam Snow – All I Need

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Adam Snow is a relatively unknown producer out of Washington D.C. with a very humble following on Facebook (I’m talking like one or two likes on every post, poor guy). His new track “All I Need” dropped like five hours ago, and you should all seriously stop what you’re doing and check this shit out.

It’s a short but sweet blend of electronica, with touches of dream-pop reaching for a little RnB. It’s emotive, impressive and one of those tracks that just makes you feel a little bit. For something that was only released a few hours ago, it’s getting quite a bit of buzz and it’s not wonder why. This guy will be a festival-hold name very soon so get in while the gettins good!

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Karl Kling – I Will Wait

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The little known Karl Kling has made the first moves since his epic collaboration with producer / artist RAC earlier in the year on the track Repeating Motion. The first solo single to be released from the Portland based artist ahead of his debut full length is called I Will Wait and while it’s an impressive solo effort, I can’t help thinking back to his feature work and feeling like this track stinks of RAC. If that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is!

It’s a fun, energetic and slithery number that slinks along with a lot of confidence. All the while digital pop hooks will keep your finger firmly set on that repeat button.

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Night Drive – Young Rivals

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Some exciting news on the new-find front as Austin duo Night Drive’s latest track, Young Rivals hit just over 24 hours ago via Sound Control Records. The dark, synth-heavy electro pop shines through in this 80’s style number complete with David Bowie-esque vocals and New Order style melodies. A lot of bands have decided to bring back that retro feel in the last year, and it’s a seriously good move. But if you’re going to have a proper crack at it, at least be like David Bowie.

Apparently Night Drive toured with Gold Fields last year, which peaked my interest initially, quickly garnering a reputation as a must see, high energy live show. The duo are also currently prepping a remix of Young Rivals from producer ASTR and an official video for the single.

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