SPC ECO: THE ART OF POP
The best artists are those who are constantly changing colors like a chameleon if not downright evolving and SPC ECO make a great leap forward with The Art of Pop, an album that ditches all of those raw, distorted guitars in favor of delicious, pristine pop beats, uplifting melodies and some of Rose Berlin’s sweetest, most gorgeous vocals to date. Word around the campfire is that they just put this out without any publicity — that would explain why we didn’t hear from them — because it was different from their usual sound. But, in all honesty, I feel like this is their best album to date. And it’s definitely a strong contender for the best electro-pop album of their year award. My only complaint? As with all SPC ECO releases, I can’t help but wish the vocals were louder in the mix. You can understand more of them than usual here but it would be so much easier if they were a bit higher in the mix. And why not make them louder when your singer has such a remarkable, hypnotic voice? It could only serve to make these fantastic songs that much better.
LA ROUX: TROUBLE IN PARADISE
To be honest, I didn’t think this album was nearly as good as La Roux’s self-titled debut the first time I heard it. The songs just didn’t seem to be as immediately catchy. (There was clearly no “Bulletproof” or “In For The Kill” here.) I’d fallen in love with each of the songs on the debut the very first time I heard them, so when I didn’t immediately find myself hooked on any of Trouble In Paradise’s tunes, my feeling was that it was inferior. But, of course, I forced myself to keep listening to it. And, to that end, I’ve found myself liking it more and more each time. I still feel like the songs on the debut are much more immediate and accessible, but I’m learning that Trouble In Paradise is well worth your attention, too, that it’s just one of those keepers that takes several listens to really charm you. A grower, if you will. Songs like “Tropical Chancer” and “Uptight Downtown” will probably be the first to entice you, but the epic “Silent Partner” and the tender “Let Me Down Gently” are my favorites after half a dozen listens. And there is one area where Trouble In Paradise is superior to the self-titled debut: Elly Jackson’s voice is much more vulnerable here. If her heart was locked inside a platinum box on the debut, here that box is wide open.
First off, the band’s name is simply pronounced “Always.” They only spelled it with two Vs instead of a W so they wouldn’t wind up getting sued by a late British band called Always. In any case, this is the music of twentysomethings who wish they were old enough to experience true nostalgia but who are, in fact, experiencing nostalgia for times before they were born. Yes, their music sounds modern — at least 60% 2014 — but it also sounds undeniably like ’80’s indie pop. There’s something of a ’90’s vibe, too, Molly Rankin’s vocals splitting the difference between Fuzzy and Veruca Salt, things that were probably on the radio when they were kids. To anyone who lived through the ’80’s and ’90’s — such as myself — Alvvay’s sound is sure to cause some major nostalgia. Yet to those were born during the ’90’s, it should merely sound like modern indie rock with a few dashes of pop. Either way, it’s plenty enjoyable stuff that walks the fine line between raw and polished, the album sounding like its indie rock songs were recorded live in a garage when, according to reviews I’ve read, the album features synth and drum machines in the mix. But don’t get hung up on that, just enjoy the tunes. I especially recommend “Party Police” and “Ones Who Love You.”