Tag Archives: electropop

Tegan and Sara Get Closer

Tegan and Sara, indie-rock super-twins, have released a new song. And it kind of sounds like they’ve been hanging out with Robyn, my electropop queen. (In a recent Twitter Q&A, they cite Robyn as an inspiration for the new album.) That’s right, folks — the new Tegan and Sara single is utterly danceable. And I love it.

I have seen some fan comments to the effect of “I feel betrayed by this new direction.” These people have obviously not been paying attention for the last, oh, three years. The writing has been on the wall since Sainthood came out in 2009. While Tegan continued to hone her skills writing catchy alt-rock tunes, Sara was heavily incorporating electronic elements. For the first time as a fan, it was easy for me to tell their songs apart. I felt that Sainthood had some great songs, but it lacked the cohesion to make it a great album.

In the past few years, Tegan and Sara have also done several collaborations with DJs. The results are “Feel It In My Bones” with Tiësto and “Body Work” with Morgan Page. I’m a fan of dance music, and I find both of these songs endlessly enjoyable. So I was actually excited when I heard that the twins were working with two new producers on their latest record. My hope is that the new producers have helped them unite their individual experimentation into a more polished electropop sound. And if “Closer” is any indication, my wishes may have come true!

The only disappointment is that their new album Heartthrob won’t be released until January 2013. Tegan and Sara were very transparent about the recording process last spring. They released a series of weekly videos called Carpool Confessional, in which they discuss their progress and, of course, bicker. Rollingstone.com also posted in-studio photographs every week, which can now be viewed at teganandsara.com. All of this information was great, but it probably made the album feel more imminent than it actually was.

In the first Carpool Confessional video, Tegan asked Sara if she worries that fans won’t like the new album. Sara says, “My goal here is not to keep our fans. It’s to surprise, entertain, and excite our fans.” Any successful artist deals with the dilemma between sticking with what you know works and trying to evolve. I love So Jealous and The Con, but I also enjoy the progression of Tegan and Sara as artists. As long as their music keeps its quirky spirit, I’m onboard.

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What Is This Thing You Call Radio?

From my first days of driving, I viewed my car as a Jukebox on Wheels. I was also very anti-radio. There was so much to avoid:  the commercial breaks and the inane DJ chatter. For some reason, I’ve never had much patience for talk radio. But really, I think the main reason was that I wanted to be in total control of my music. I was a bit of a music snob, remember?

So for the last seven years of driving, I’ve kept a rotating batch of CDs in the car with me. In high school I even supplemented my collection with rentals from the library. Once in a great while, I would get tired of whatever music was in my car and flip to the radio for a change. The switch never lasted for more than a few minutes before I would get annoyed by commercials on every station or a horrible selection of songs.

Then along came The Current. Since my college was near the Twin Cities, I heard about The Current before moving to Minneapolis. A friend described it to me as “the really hipster radio station.” When I found myself in a new city and in need of car music, I decided to give it a try. The Current has a lot going for it that the Fargo radio stations did not. First of all, it’s member-supported, which means no commercials besides the occasional sponsor shout-out. Second, it plays a mixture of new alternative rock and quirky classics that appeals to me and apparently many others as well. Lastly, when the DJs do talk, they often give a heads-up about local music events. In other words, information that is actually useful!

I hear this new song by Fleet Foxes almost every day. That may sound too reminiscent of Top 40 stations, but it’s so beautiful that I don’t mind at all. Could I take a bath in this song or something?

Driving home last night, I had a moment of excitement when The Current played this new song by Brazilian band CSS. Their music was part of my college electronica exposure, and this song is way catchy. There’s something about the image of “hits me like a rock” that makes me smile.

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Fembots Have Feelings Too

Back in the day, I was a bit of a music snob. And by back in the day, I mean high school. Then somewhere along the way, probably amidst the academic pressure of college, I found myself enjoying pop music again. I came to the realization that there’s a time and a place for all kinds of music, and there’s room in my heart for many genres.

One musical genre that I was particularly against in high school was “techno.” Every time they played “Sandstorm” at a dance, I was filled with annoyance. Then, during a stint of late-night TV, I was exposed to the beautifully intricate electropop of Imogen Heap and was forced to concede that maybe electronic music wasn’t all bad. (I think it was this performance that I saw. She’s really impressive live.)

Fast forward to the present, and I’m listened to Robyn‘s Body Talk album on repeat while I run errands in the afternoons. In the hilarious track “Fembot”, Robyn takes on the persona of a robot with a broken heart. She may just be taking a metaphor to the extreme, but regardless, she makes a valid point:  “I’ve got some news for you / Fembots have feelings too.” It reminds me of how I used to dislike electronic music because I thought it lacked emotion. The truth is, in its best form, all the beeps and blips are just another way to tell a story.

There are many artists who fuse electronic tools with musicality in very interesting ways. I don’t claim to have an extensive knowledge of this genre, but I’ve come across some great examples in the past few years. Besides Imogen Heap, one of my first exposures to electropop was The Postal Service. Not exactly thinking outside the college indie music box, but their album Give Up is widely considered to be, well, awesome. Since one half of the duo is Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, you can bet that their songs have an emotional/narrative thread.

For your consideration:

 

Another group that’s close to my heart is Freelance Whales. Last spring I went to a concert with my friend Amy. I wasn’t really familiar with the headliners, the Shout Out Louds, but it doesn’t take much convincing to get me to a concert. As it turned out, I became a fan of the opening band, the Freelance Whales. Their quirky appearance and music reminded me pleasantly of Carleton students. Recently their songs have popped up in several commercials, which makes me a little sad, but their album Weathervanes is pure joy. (Wikipedia doesn’t classify them as electropop, but heavy use of synthesizers is enough for me.)

Here’s the song that first got my hooked:

 

College is all about personal growth, right? Maybe expanding musical horizons isn’t exactly what the brochure writers have in mind, but it’s certainly something that I appreciate. Without it, I would have missed out on a lot of great music. Just in case you’re clamoring for more, I’ll leave you with my new favorite Robyn song. O dearest Robyn, how you speak to me.

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