Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of unusual covers and collaborations from bands like The Flaming Lips, Ke$ha, and The Joy Formidable to name a few. Now, with Tears For Fears releasing their cover of Animal Collective‘s “My Girls,” the replication isn’t quite as different as you might imagine (or even hope.) Flooding listeners with sweet synths and haunting vocals, this cover takes everything you loved about the original and adds that extra dose of ’80s vibes to send listeners straight into a blissful trance.
Tears For Fears is also working up on a follow up to 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, with plans to release the new album in 2014. Check out the cover below. (more…)
There’s nothing like a little Scottish synthpop to ease you into a Monday morning. Performing in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, Chvrches recently covered East 17‘s “Stay Another Day”” and covered it well. Maybe it’s the added female vocals, or the steady synth, but this tune carries the perfect winter vibes, bringing us right into the holiday season.
Chvrches will take off on a UK tour this March, hitting Dublin, Glasgow, and Leeds before ending in London. Check out their cover below.
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Though many current synth pop artists attempt to recapture the vintage electronic sounds of the ’80s, OurStage act Go Periscope aims straight for the future and never looks back. With their new album Wasted Youth, Go Periscope’s Florin Merano and Joshua Frazier have released a dark and pulsating collection of songs that sound like the 21st century. While Go Periscope’s music does contain clear references to the ’80s synth sounds that inspired its members, the songs are more than just conduits for indulgent electro-nostalgia. In fact, Wasted Youth is unabashedly contemporary, with its obvious debts to EDM and dubstep on tracks like “Black Light Masquerade” and “Break Free.” The synth tones are expansive and thick, layering on top of each other to create rippling waves of sound that undergird Merano and Frazier’s heavily filtered vocals.
Yet, for all of its shine and polish, Wasted Youth speaks to the dark and increasingly unstable world around it. For a work that so heavily revolves around artificially engineered sounds, the album contains a significant number of lyrical references to nature. Fire, water, gold, and horses all appear as damaged or endangered elements in the wake of technology, which electronically manipulates the natural world described in the lyrics. Vocal lines are often sliced, rearranged, and panned until they sound like the inhuman sputterings of a dying computer. Clean vocals intertwine with computerized, bit-crunched harmonies that suggest the integration of human and machine to the point of indistinguishability. In the face of the mechanized depletion of the natural world around them, humans can only choose to “live in fantasy,” as the track “Make Believers” sadly emphasizes through the repeated line: “It was only a dream / But it was just like Heaven.” Ultimately, technology doesn’t just enable these escapist fantasies; it makes them necessary in the first place. At a time when people can’t let go of their smartphones and the world is becoming unyieldingly digitized, Go Periscope is making pop music for an uncertain future. Until then, the dance anthems on Wasted Youth implore listeners to party like it’s the end of the world.
You can buy Wasted Youth now at Go Periscope’s Bandcamp page!
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Okay, so you’re at your digital audio workstation (DAW) ready to make a killer tune. You’ve been playing around with your setup and put together an awesome loop or two, but now you’re wondering (or maybe even confused about) the direction the song is heading in. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there before, and have even said, F*** it, thus leaving a perfectly awesome loop useless for public display. Unfortunately, these dry spells can be difficult to overcome without prior conceptualization. However, there are a couple of simple techniques from that boring thing we call music theory that are pretty helpful for improvisational song-writing”in fact, these ideas can be applied to any genre, style or whatever ‘word’ music’s typically categorized under.
Musical dynamics and phrasing are two essential aspects of composing that all musicians take into consideration either consciously or not. Dynamics simply refers to the volume of sound, as well as its the stylistic execution over an entire composition. A “phrase” consists merely of a single loop and the term “phrasing” refers to the organization of two or more loops. For the most part, both of these “theories” require a macro perspective verses a micro. To simply put it, whenever you create a loop, you’re engaging in a detailed micro process of song-writing. When you organize a series of loops, you’re viewing the production from a macro standpoint. The problem we’re referring to regards the initial creation of a direction to “phrase” your loops. Therefore, if you’re experiencing this common dilemma, try experimenting with “dynamics” to inspire new ideas for musical direction. Hey, it may be your bus ticket to somewhere other than the sixteenth repeat of a single loop.
For example, lets say you made a loop and want to accomplish one the following: a) create another verse, b) transition a loop into a rhythm change, c) go for a key change, d) create a break down or build up, e) increase the emotional impact of the chorus. The easiest way to trigger inspiration for all this stuff is by channeling your instruments/devices through a mixer to experiment with muting and soloing particular tracks. Another way is by making a minute’s worth of copies and mapping your MIDI controller to your synth or device’s Filter, LFO, Mod Envelope, Filter Envelope or any other parameters your wish to test out.
From here, it’s pretty straight forward. Simply play the track and see what comes out. Essentially, alternating these parameters effects the dynamics of the song, as well as the tonation of the instrument. You can really get complex with this stuff and create some radical changes, however it’s not aways necessary. Remember, music is meant to be listened to so use your own judgement about the appropriate time to get wild. Plus, the unexpected is what creates that sought after emotional punch in the face. The point of these experiments are to inspire your compositional direction and if you come across another way of essentially playing the same thing, simply record the loop with the desired alternation.
Once you’ve created a couple different versions of the loop/s using dynamic and parameter alterations, try to become aware of too much repetition. As stated earlier, experiment with muting tracks and devices via mixer to break any repetition. However, don’t be afraid to completely change up various musical aspects such as the bass line, melody, chord progression or rhythm. Just make sure a radical change is reasonably spaced apart and is used as a new section within the song’s form. (e.g. a bridge or breakdown.) Phrasing these newly created loops shouldn’t be super difficult after you’ve played around and automated dynamic alterations and articulations via synth parameters.
Welcome to Beat Generation. With this column, we’re going to try and cover as many strains of electronic music as we can, from house to techno, from ambient to glitch. We here at OurStage have noticed a resurgence of electronic music in pop music in the past few months. It seems appropriate then that for starters, we’re going to do a quick and dirty overview of the relationship electronic and pop music have had over the years, from the ’80s to today.
Well, it’s about time. Electronic finally broke into the mainstream in a big way. Disagree? Have you listened to the radio lately? Did you see that Deadmau5 had a music video on MTV? It’s been a pretty long road from a genre that started as an obscure offshoot of rock to near total pop ubiquity.
You can argue as to when electronic music first came to be until the sun goes down but it’s clear that pop and electronic had their first real meaningful interaction during the ’80s, the era of big hair, Reganomics and synth. Gary Numan’s “Cars”, released in 1979, started off this trend for most listeners. The everpresent synth line of the song fits in well with the verse chorus verse structure and also worked as a bouncy instrumental counterpoint to the feelings of existential disconnect and uncertainty that Numan presents in his lyrics. Notable releases from this era included landmark singles from the Eurthymics, The Human League, New Order and Madonna. The popular electronic sound of the ’80s was rooted firmly to rock and disco traditions.
Now we’ll move onto the ’90s. The pop/electronic flirtation during this decade was apparent but more fleeting. The hot sound was coming out of the UK; Big Beat and Jungle were dominating the airwaves across the pond and it was only a matter of time before America got a taste of it as well.
Fatboy Slim enjoyed enormous and lasting success for the latter part of the decade into the early aughts. Groups like the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers and the Crystal Method were at their popular peak, winning rock listeners with songs featuring heavy guitar. The Prodigy were especially notorious, releasing the quick-to-be-banned video for their single “Smack My Bitch Up” and signing to Madonna’s Maverick Records.
And then we move on to the Aughts. The current new trend of trancey, dancey electro in the Top 40 is a little different, thanks in large part to the emergence of Lady Gaga. Her debut album, ‘The Fame, didn’t blow up. It was a seismic event that shook the musical landscape around it. This marked a move in dance music to embrace the pulse and beat of electro and techno over the influences of hip hop and R&B which were the previous standard.
While past trends in electronic music were driven by scenes, the current dance trend in pop music is a reaction to what the kids are into. In business and in pop music, aping the competition is not considered unoriginal or frowned upon; for many, it’s the only way to survive. Everywhere you look in contemporary pop music, there’s examples of the co-opting of electronic music. Look at Christina Aguilera’s stylistic makeover. Consider the difference between Katy Perry’s first and second albums. Think about Ke$ha and her entire career up to this point. Even Britney Spears is jumping on the bandwagon. While putting together her new album, Spears was in London working with dubstep producer Rusko. In a genre known for emphasizing the heaviest and dirtiest of bass lines and an uncompromising sound, the collaboration left some people scratching their heads. The first song leaked from that album, “Hold It Against Me”, features unmistakable dubstep touchstones, including the infamous “wobble,” or a shuddering electric bass line. While this may have some purists calling foul, it’s proof positive that electronic has not only arrived, but from the dance floor to the airwaves, it has already conquered the world.