As the world begins to stir, gently putting the gears back into production, and steadily adjusting weary eyes to the bright new horizon of 2019 (I mean, it probably won’t be that different, other than some cases of lingering hangovers, apparent nationwide incense about a vegan sausage roll, and more than likely international condemnation of whatever Donald Trump does next), we at least have a period longer to contemplate how good a year of music 2018 really did provide us with. However the longer it took to mull over how a good year of music it was, the more frustrating it became to whittle down and distil the ten best. It’s very safe to say EVERY album about to be mentioned was in contention for a top ten position. Tantrums happened and tears were nearly shed. An iron resolve and persistence eventually paid off, and in the settling dust, lay the final ten chosen to represent the best of 2018. Just one of them became the victor and declared ‘the undisputed favourite.’ Continue reading
While this is the very first of the end of year posts for this site and officially the first time anything like this has been on the site before, it gives me great pleasure and happiness to write a piece, giving a greater emphasis on an artist that has been a constant for me this year. Limitations bore me and if locking a piece like this solely to any artist’s accomplishments in one year, it doesn’t grant the necessary freedom to write something engaging enough. For me anyway. So take this as a love letter to the one artist or group of artists whose music I have cherished through thick and thin this year, and I would like to dedicate this year’s piece to self-proclaimed ‘suicidal synth-pop’ artist Forrest Avery LeMaire a.k.a. Mr.Kitty.
If you want to talk about 2016 for Mr.Kitty, then it hasn’t been as active as past years. Despite playing numerous shows over in the States, we were expecting what was to be Mr.Kitty’s sixth album in as many years to be released in October, making him certifiably in the conversation as one of synth-pop’s hardest working artists around. Sadly but understandably, the album was put on hold until next year as health concerns became a priority into the latter half of the year. But that does not speak for the quality of the music that Mr.Kitty has produced over his six-year plus lifespan as a recording artist. Far from it.
Channeling the mechanical heart of classic 80’s electronica and the drum machines of the great original goth movement, into chilling dreamscapes and darkened dancefloors, narrated by the oft distorted and reverb-drenched lullabies and shrieks of Forrest; the output of Mr.Kitty is an emotional outpouring of a vulnerable soul against an array of unforgettable analogue synth dialects. His first four albums form part of a quadrilogy of works known as the Dark Youth collection, spanning both light and darkness which broadcasts and touches upon many subject matters in that time frame, moving and macabre. It also serves as the perfect window or measuring post to show how much Mr.Kitty has grown and matured as an artist. But every release is its own separate universe, with its own atmosphere and a complete anthology of melodic masterpieces.
Arguably the greatest of his works is Dark Youth’s final installment Time, which although is one of the darker albums of that collection, is uncompromising in its vision, truly emanating the rawest feelings of every song, no matter how black its subject matter. How so many of these songs contain the musings of a mind much darker than you can imagine, but are entangled in some of the most memorable synth-pop written this decade is a true wonder and testament to Mr.Kitty’s abilities as a songwriter, let alone a fascinating juxtaposition. Although we have had snippets of a new album this year, how Forrest has tirelessly spun such outstanding retro-contemporary electronic webs together year after year is commendable. Each one is more enchanting and enrapturing than the next, and I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that everything that Mr.Kitty has created is consistently among the best music I have heard all year.
So if Mr.Kitty does get to read this, thank you for your music, and a Happy New Year, with love and kind regards,
The Soundshark xox
Five Essential Mr.Kitty tracks:
The vast majority of everything Mr.Kitty has ever produced can be found on his Bandcamp page, and if it can’t be found there, then it can be found on his Soundcloud page instead. Though unconfirmed, a 2017 release window is pencilled in for A.I., to be Mr.Kitty’s next album of which this site will take great interest in. You can shop here if you are in need of any t-shirts or the likes in the near future.
And finally, you can find all news and the means to give him a virtual hug right here:
And if you wish to give me a virtual hug at all for whatever reason, then you can do so at these social media channels, or by subscribing to the site using the link below:
Following my original article on Leeds electropunk outfit Autopsy Boys and my over excitement to share my words with them, they got in contact and they were impressed with my musings and tipped me off about the first preview of their forthcoming new album Return Of The Acid Casualty Auto Humans. So as you might expect, I was poised waiting, and a little over 24 hours later, here I am writing about that new song. Titled Song for Debbera, in tribute to B-movie legend and now music video curator, Debbie Rochon, is the beginning of a five-part narrative depicting a day of urban anarchy, in the style of the 80’s horror flicks they so cherish. The scene and the stage are set strongly, both the Queen of Scream introducing her illustrious career and the tale about to unfold, and the band start at pace with a subtly catchy guitar hook, whilst synth throbs like the Blob below. It’s really from this point onwards, you can really marvel at the lyricism at work, billowing with 80’s references that flow off the tongue like water bursting from a dam. There’s also not so much of a chorus of sorts, but one particular moment that a well-informed crowd could harmonise with beautifully. Moments that recall a certain Mr. Gary Numan in his prime, then again, Tubeway Army were a punk band, just not in the strictest sense of the definition. As you expect, amplitude starts to ramp up and vocals cease to focus on instruments building tension, coinciding nicely with the on-screen imagery of a party dispersing from some sort of humanoid attack, as well as insane scientist back story in the process. Furious chords play out as synths turn haywire and drums keep that panic and hysteria constantly moving, culminating in the first person camera being thrown into the boot of a car. As an introduction to the work of Autopsy Boys, this could be no more perfect. As a fan, I can no doubt imagine that they already hunger for the next instalment, as well as more new music in tandem. On the basis of this first track alone, this Leeds four piece look set to continue and build upon the already stellar synthpunk slasher sound, and with visuals in tow, only confirm their status as one of the country’s most exciting under-the-radar bands around.
Song For Debbera is out now via all good music retailers, taken from their forthcoming new album expected sometime this year.
Coupling seems to be very much the main life objective, the desire to find company so you don’t spend your years on this planet alone. For some people that means friendship, or a relationship, sometimes both. In the case of Los Angeles electro punk legends Babyland, the precursor to Continues’ one man tour de force, they shared a long lasting friendship and a business relationship that lasted over a 20 year career. Daniel Gatto, the voice of Babyland, since 2009 went in a different direction, and toned down the jittery synth strokes, industrial strength percussion and throat-run-raw shouting, into a smoother, refined synth pop operation. The same impassioned delivery is there, verging on almost desperation at times, and the same production values remain, sticking heavily with an array of modular synths and drum machines, but the formula has been distilled into far more digestible nuggets of electronica gold. Love On The Run, by far my favourite song of this week, is an exceptional seance of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy, bar extra eerie, chilling synth lines and Jimmy Somerville’s falsetto range swapped for the spirit of punk in a spoken poetry rehearsal. But there’s a groove that the coincidental inspiration lacks that Continues makes up for in the precision engineered synths and drum pattern working in unison that edges it out very slightly. VERY, very slightly. At times, the 2012 self-titled debut recalls The Cure, but if Robert Smith abandoned the gloom of goth to make perfect electronica an elder crowd swore they remembered, and that is a compliment of the highest order. For a one man show, Continues is utterly fantastic, pure and simple.
The 2012 debut can be found on Mattress Records’ Bandcamp and at most respectable music retailers, for a reasonable sum. Also, for your own amusement, Love On The Run was edited into a loop of Noel Fielding dancing in The Mighty Boosh, if that seems like something you might be entertained by. Go YouTube it.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MUSIC VIDEO MAY NOT ENTIRELY BE SAFE FOR WORK. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
Let me ask you a question. If given the choice to live on a diet of popular culture in the 1980’s, could you be persuaded? Bearing in mind this is the same decade that popularised video games, cartoons, comic books and slasher flicks. Doctors advise that living on such a diet may cause frequent outbursts of electronic-infused punk rock, with an explosive tendency to cleverly inject this experience into lyrics at every given moment, pen choruses with melodies that writhe like parasites in your grey matter and an obsession with snuff film themed music videos. If you answered yes, you’re either in, or will most likely enjoy the work of, Leeds’ Autopsy Boys. Already a sensation from their chaotic live performances across the country and superb horror homages, these gentlemen are deservedly garnering acclaim for putting literal blood and sweat back into punk. No Ambition, a guaranteed contender for one of my songs of the year (despite being out for at least a year or so already), is the culmination of a super-violent fight sequence and a fiery, no-prisoners-taken hardcore clinic, oozing with delicious synth undertones that urges replay after replay. I implore you to seep deeper into their self-proclaimed suburban nightmare of a world, Autopsy Boys may come across as psychopathic in nature, but their heart is truly in the right place. On the floor. In front of you.
Everything Autopsy Boys can be found on their website, or singles can be found at most respectable music retailers, all for a reasonable fee.
An old saying goes that you never really know how much you miss something until it’s gone. That seems to be the curious case of the retrowave explosion, a movement of electronica producers embracing the warm synth driven beats and hooks of the 1980’s. Oft caught somewhere between a night’s drive mixtape and the score to Tron, the meeting of old school production values and modern age music distribution has truly helped this scene to thrive and flourish. And it shows no signs of slowing, garnering more mainstream attention year on year. Onto Florida residents Bourgeoisie, two brothers near the frontline of the movement. Neon Black, perhaps one of their most well known efforts from their self-titled debut of 2012, is everything you could ever ask for in a faithful reconstruction of the 80’s sound. Though more cinematic in its scope, the classic Moog modular synthesizer sound is present, more refined a la digital technology but as powerful as it ever sounded. The three minutes you spend are woven lovingly with layers upon layers of glowing analogue, ranging from the bright, complicated hook to striking detuned pads to add authenticity to the visage made here. Bourgeoisie are just two of the hundreds of producers now out there, but they are among the apex of the scene’s brightest and best.
Their self-titled debut and 2013’s album Space Tapes And Vice, as well as a few odd singles, can purchased for a reasonable sum on the brothers’ Bandcamp page.
There’s a trend of bands or groups taking vowels out of their names, the problem is, it’s getting harder to distinguish if they are words or abbreviations. My guess with this Belgian electronic duo, is I haven’t a clue. All I’m interested in is the blurring between the boundaries of 80’s synth-pop, industrial and some colder, darker electronic ambient compositions. Sadly, the group have split has of 2012 (I’ve had a real morbid obsession with dead or defunct bands recently, fuck), but their music could just as easily score a factory production line as it could an EBM club. Although their murky, gritty synths and basslines prowled the seedy underbelly of the latter 00’s and early 10’s, there’s a satisfying timelessness to the drum machines and keyboard arpeggios. Not to mention, whilst the vocals take upon a harsh tone, it’s not excessively aggressive nor drenched in unnecessary distortion, unlike so many of the genre’s stalwarts. There isn’t an abundance of their material around the internet, but People Like Gods from the 2009 album of the same title, emphasises that perfect reproduction of the synth-pop/cold wave sound, whilst bleeding through shades of that EBM club floorfiller personality that other songs personify better. A true underground gem, this pair of Belgian producers, although gone on to pastures new, had a winning formula on their hands, it just seems a shame it never gained greater exposure.
2009’s People Like Gods and 2011’s Hardlines are available at most select online retailers, in a noticeably expensive physical format or digital mp3.