I feel like I go through the motions every year, repeating the same diatribe, but this time, there is a minor change of circumstances, and even a little bit of excitement. After all, who knows what can happen next in this crazy time we live in? As the site, and ourselves by extension, enter a new decade, one that hopefully that leads to plenty of promise, and one that can only dismay us from the gradual doomsday scenario that the planet seems to be sliding into of late, we glance back one final time into the 2010s (the tenties?) and upon the last year’s worth of music. Compiling this list was somewhat difficult this time around, as I appear to have forgotten more incredible albums than I remember listening to. Even then, to get to the point of narrowing down a contendership of just ten albums, the list was very much disputed the entire time. Alas, the list was finally cemented, and here’s what delights 2019 provided my, and now potentially your, earholes.Continue reading
Tag Archives: Synth Pop
20 Bands And Artists With New Music in 2019 You Should Keep An Eye On
By now, the hangover of 2018 should have long subsided, and 2019 should now begin to be as familiar to everyone as much as your work colleagues, classmates, or friends you go clubbing with, are. We’ve conversed, debated and voiced our collective opinions on what the best of the best of 2018 was, and ahead, we look into the eyes of 2019 longingly, yearning for continued musical excellence as this decade draws to a climax. So bearing that in mind, the site has put together 20 bands and artists bearing a variety of new musical fruit in 2019, that you should absolutely sample, and hopefully savour and find immense pleasure from.
The Soundshark’s Top 10 Albums of 2018
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
The Soundshark’s Top Ten Albums of 2017
I’ll be among the first to admit that 2017 is now a fading memory in long and short terms of immediate recollection. After all, we’ve reached a quarter of the year in already and only now do I find myself reflecting on and scrutinising the year past, since coming to terms with my current situation. Of which I feel is moving in a more positive direction. That said, while my own personal presence took a negative slant in the seventeenth year of the new millennium, musically, there was such a creative surge of magnificence which resulted in many, many excellent albums being released. Also one such reason for this list being delayed as it is. So, with ever-so-slightly wistful eyes, The Soundshark casts its spotlight on my ten favourite albums released in 2017, and for your listening indulgence:
Chris Kelly & Nicole Gibson
Normally, any piece highlighting new and emerging musical talents on this site begins with a tale, an anecdote or even a little music history, eventually tying the two subject matters together in a philosophical or whimsical manner. Such may not ring so true this time round. Instead, this begins with honesty. Truth is, this site has been out of sync, almost out of touch, with the pulse of brand new, underground, independent, and unsigned music for some time now, that what little reputation has been building has dissipated from existence. To put it simply, and to quote Jesse Lacey of Brand New – life is a test, and I get that much, so much so that all motivation and production of content stood frozen solid in time. Whether it would ever thaw again, remained a worry for the best portion of four months. But something that kept the tiniest of embers ablaze, was the genuine warmth of kindness. Despite absolute silence, PR companies and musicians alike continued to reach out to the site. I rarely contact artists or their correspondents preemptively, so to have a one-way overflowing direction of content without ever asking for it, goes beyond words and has kept the gears in a functional state in lieu of their dormancy. The ember truly came to life however once Nicole Gibson of the titular Montreal duo came into contact. Her authenticity and heartfelt words, with regard to what this site has accomplished so far, were a moving read and most certainly a reflection on her songwriting partnership with Chris Kelly. Hell, they’ve just been nominated for Best Adult Alternative Song by the Hollywood Songwriting Contest if that’s any indicator.
The pair have an incredible work rate, releasing weekly covers of recent music chart entries on YouTube, but their own songwriting endeavours, of which their debut EP is due for release in the coming months, captures their chemistry, versatility and sheer talent better than someone else’s words can. Their most recent single, Ghost of You shows the upbeat, poppier side of their capabilities, both Chris and Nicole’s contrasting, reverb-touched vocals, in a realm of grumbling bass, understated percussion and airy electronics, delivered so refreshingly, and with a hook so catchy, you wonder how it is yet to crack the airwaves. Arguably however, it is Out of The Dark’s moodier, minimalist soundscape that has a far greater impact and establishes exactly why the pair have a songwriting nomination in tow. Immediately, Nicole’s dulcet tone welcomes you in, as does the slight melancholy of piano keys and programmed but subdued kicks and snares. There is a marginal breeze of ambience ever-present also, but it all culminates in a formidable emotive vehicle, for the lyrical premise of never giving up hope. The tale is not complex, but it doesn’t need to be. They are simply the right words for the greatest effect. Their voices unite for the chorus, emanating true passion and belief in their message, with Chris’ solo bellow between each line sounding almost pained, but powerful nonetheless. Piano also gently builds behind them, furthering the big, emotional right hook of a chorus; it’s ultimately a subtle touch but again contributes massively to tone and overall delivery. Chris takes the lead for the second verse, showing his softer, soulful voice, with the now more prominent piano accompanying him, right up to a second chorus where after we are treated to a wailing guitar bridge, adding an extra ambient dimension without being intrusive. The song closes on its chorus, yet there is a refrain with only vocals and piano just before, that may rank among the most tear-jerking 15 seconds you’re likely to hear all year. No doubt Chris Kelly & Nicole Gibson have a prosperous career ahead of them both, with their attention to detail transforming the insignificant into the extraordinary. But it is their authenticity and emotional resonance in their music, that will make them stars. To borrow a quote from the duo:
‘In order to never quit, you have to see hope, and in order to see hope, you have to never quit.’
Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Nicole. It’s taken some time, but it feels like the site can come out of its own dark. And this masterpiece has been instrumental in guiding it through.
Chris Kelly & Nicole Gibson have a fabulous YouTube channel which houses all of their various covers so you can see how wonderful they are as musicians. They’ve also just launched their own website, in case there is any other content your heart desires you wish to view. As already mentioned, their debut EP is due for release really soon. Keep your eyes peeled.
In the mean time, give them a like or a follow on their social media right here:
And if you feel like doing the same for myself, then you can do so by giving me a like, a follow, or by subscribing to the site using the button below, and we can give each other a virtual hug:
20 Bands And Artists You Should Listen To In 2017
It seems very few people utter a breath about 2016 any more. Probably for good reason, it seemed very much like a culling of revered figures and idols of popular culture, let alone a universal gasp of disbelief at what idiocy we may have unleashed on the world. 2017 isn’t really fairing any marginally better in that department, by a hair strand at best. But whisper it: The music is fantastic. If you want to invest in it of course. Admittedly, this list was compiled at the inset of 2017, but as the halfway stage of this year rapidly approaches, it still holds as an all-star ensemble of killer bands you may have overlooked, some yet to release their brand new material and some you may never have heard of. It seems like a solid enough foundation for this article to still exist, while maintaining some resemblance of relevance. That, and you may be reading this, looking for some new music to listen over the summer. Let’s get started, shall we?
Track of The Week: Bullet Height – Hold Together
Let it be said that some things carry on the way they started. In Bullet Height’s case, it carries on the sonic storm previously began by debut single Bastion in February, heading towards potential live dates in the near future and a forthcoming album tentatively inbound for the year’s close. But Bullet Height’s roots date back much farther. Circa eight years ago to be precise. For Pure Reason Revolution, the former band that frontman Jon Courtney had a significant hand in, after the success of their opus The Dark Third and subsequent departure of violinist James Dobson, their songwriting took a turn in a more electronic based direction, birthing second studio album Amor Vincit Omnia; an album that transformed the band’s sound from an atmospheric progressive rock opera, into a punchier, synth-injected rock hybrid, with scaled down but still ever-present progressive leanings. This evolution was completed on third and what would become final album Hammer And Anvil, which in my opinion remains one of the most underrated albums of the decade, and would be the only Pure Reason Revolution album to be published by Superball Music, whom the band signed with prior to its distribution. Pure Reason Revolution were to disband in 2011, a year after Hammer And Anvil’s release.
Fast forward some five years later, elements of the sound encapsulated from Amor Vincit Omnia and Hammer And Anvil, the revival of the partnership with Superball Music and the union of Jon Courtney and IAMX keyboardist and vocalist Sammi Doll in Europe’s second biggest capital, brought together Bullet Height, a duo whose talents can equal the exhilarating and electrifying nature of their music. Though quiet for several months since being hotly tipped as one of the bands to keep an eye on in 2016, the emergence of second single Hold Together is a swift reminder of what whipped up the frenzy and excitement in the first place, and an excellent point of entry for anyone curious about the diversity of electronic rock.
And a reminder and point of entry none more swift and excellent than the blasting of intense volcanic guitar tones, dark and deep synth throbs and a incredibly forceful percussive pattern. Such is the impact and ferocity of the introduction here, that it relegates Bastion to a mere nursery rhyme in comparison. If your eyes weren’t open before, they certainly will be. The cavalry is quietened for the vocals to take centre stage, the warm hum of synth hovering below and the drums remaining as imposing a presence behind them. It’s here we’re also treated to the luscious vocal harmonies that Jon and Sammi are capable of conjuring. Each individual voice has its own powerful merits, but together it produces an intoxicating sensation yet still a hint of menace which serves the aggressive instrumentation well throughout. Especially as it reaches the pre-chorus, where against a thunderous series of drum kicks and synth throbs that devolve into shrieks, adds that extra edge to twist the tension into a truly explosive chorus. Hitting with the accumulated musical force of a tempest, the guitars, synth and drums decimate anything in the immediate vicinity, with vocals picking up a soaring pop sensibility which sounds eerily calming considering the annihilation unfolding before you. The result however is unfathomably satisfying. A quick glitch from the synths and a drum fill later, and you’re thrown head first back into the carnage. Nuances like additional fury vented on the microphone, jagged guitar you can feel the volatility of, synths expanding and growing in character and ambience and even solo moments of formidable gritty synth stabs all keep the soundscape an unpredictable thrill ride all to the very end. Hold Together is much less a song and more an event; a shockwave of inconceivable artistic and musical vision which can be experienced as both punishing and piquant. It almost seems as if Bullet Height had a crack at their own personal Manhattan Project, and boy did they nail the execution. This duo have the chemistry, talent, uncompromising attitude and simply immeasurable ambition to solidify their status as one of the most awe-inspiring bands in the world at this moment, with the potential to supercharge their electronic rock engine into one of the planet’s all-conquering live acts, just around the corner. The world is theirs for the taking. If they don’t destroy it first.
Hold Together is out right now at all respectable music retailers as a digital only single. You can pick up their previous single Bastion at the same music retailers also. The band are in the process of gearing up for live dates in their native Berlin which are yet to be announced, but certainly worth keeping an eye out for. Bullet Height’s debut album has been pencilled in for a release in Winter 2016 which no doubt you’ll hear more about in the coming months. And for a taster of what’s to come as well as back story for the band’s formation, check out this short documentary on them.
Once you’ve digested all of that, go give them your support right here:
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The Soundshark’s Top 20 Songs of 2015
Something somebody said recently struck me as it made an awful lot of sense. Exactly when do you stop saying, ‘Happy New Year,’ to one another? Or at least when does it become acceptable at the least. I honestly don’t know, but for now, I’m still considering it an appropriate time to talk about my favourite songs of last year. Seeming I’ve made a habit of it, and I finally have time to sit down and write about them.
2015 was a challenging year as it more or less marked my transition from degree student to having to fend for myself. Sometimes it sucked, sometimes it didn’t. But something that I didn’t previously have was a companion, somebody that I hold very dear to me and somebody I look forward to what the future holds for the both of us. As such, she has had an impact on deciding this list, just as much as the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve gone through in the past year has. Like I’ve said before, I do these lists for biographical reasons, to show where I’ve been and what’s happened in years gone by. Music and memory are powerful things.
So my rules for the list are as follows: I don’t always pick songs from this year to put on the list, it involves literally anything I’ve listened to in the past year that I’ve enjoyed frequently enough (that said, there are a lot of 2015 entries on this list which makes a change), but I try to avoid putting more than one song by the same artist in. Some of my past lists had more than one or two. You can find them on Spotify if you want to.
I would like to make an honourable mentions list, but there were far too many to include on this year’s list, so I’ll skip that formality this time. Just so many good moments or songs to include the entire list. And if you would like to listen to this list uninterrupted, commentary-free, then head on over to the Spotify playlist instead.
Righty then, on with the show…
Who Is Louis
I’ve often looked at band names and wondering if there is a market for bands whose names are questions. In a romantic sense, a fictional band in my favourite film ever is called Where’s Fluffy? A band I wish existed due to how obsessed I actually am with that film, so I could find out how awesome their music is/was. They wrote a song called Black Carnage. Do the math. On the other hand, and on a point I may expand upon at a later date, when you name your band something along the lines of Sarah Where Is My Tea or Did You Mean Australia?… yeah, those bands have broken up now. One of my favourite bands ever are Does It Offend You, Yeah?, responsible for one of my favourite albums ever, but sadly they too will be calling it a day this year. Maybe it’s just the irony of having their band name as a question that gets far too much for them. Pure speculation there. So just who exactly is Who Is Louis? And can people count on them to break this unfortunate curse? The answer seems more positive. Who Is Louis are a Danish electronic-pop troupe with a delicately sassy female vocalist and an ear for hypnotic rhythms and chilling, euphoric atmosphere. Singles of theirs currently float around on the internet if you go in pursuit of them, but they’re looking to the immediate future and to the imminent release of their debut album, which has seen more than its fair share of adversity to reach the surface. They have every right to be excited for the future. First single Fancy Me is a shape-shifting head phase of a track, skilfully blending pseudo-EDM hooks with the cool breeze of mellowed guitar ambience. I’m not intentionally writing a drinks commercial here, but it is like asking for a refreshing cocktail and piling on the ice. Synth with an analogue touch, backs the echoes of a femme fatale in the making, all paced by the gentle plucking of bass underneath to lead the track in. Icy, reverb-soaked synth stabs later replace the moderately warmer pads, like ghosts leaving the body of their hosts and give an air of tension and build-up to proceedings. The drums certainly imply as such too. But what happens as you expect the first club hit of 2016 to drop in, is something far more breathtaking. A wave of guitar brushes past, while its synth counterpart elevates the mood to being within a distant but fond, happy memory. Wandering through a realm of the serene if it were. It certainly livens up the track, as synths become far more grander and confident in their presentation in what follows and drums get rowdier, but just enough without becoming overpowering. Vocals are given more freedom and the stabs from before are allowed back into the mix as an extra hook into the skin, to ensure you don’t forget this track in a hurry. It all culminates in a luscious, surprisingly complex and layered, atmospheric pop showcase that displays the talent of three hungry and compelling musicians. So just who are Who Is Louis? A name you need to be paying attention to. The potential for a tantalising world woven together with an inventive twist on electronic pop music is only moments away.
Who Is Louis’ debut album is expected to be released sometime in January/February 2016, with Fancy Me being officially available at the end of this month. In the mean time, occupy yourself with their Alive EP which can be found on most respectable music retailers. It’s full of good music.
Tell them their music is wonderful by going here:
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I’m semi-proud of this post, as I feel like I’m near the very front of the line for a group on the cusp of their emergence into the wider world of underground music. This is about as new and exciting as I have possibly ever gotten to a write-up of a group I have had next to zero interaction with previously, bar a chance encounter on Instagram. Like my namesake suggests, I do my homework and have laid in wait ever since. Seriously, the name isn’t just for show ladies and gents. It’s a lifestyle. If you interact with me over social media, even if you work on a follow-for-follow mentality, I do pay attention. Anyway, I digress. New Jersey’s Mechanical Vampires, after a promising ambient-industrial etched teaser known only as The Lynchpin and what seems like months of masterminding since early this year, finally unveiled their first full length song in Gemini and I sit here only 24 hours or so later, telling you why you should be excited by this enthralling new duo in the doorway of electro-industrial. If the minute of freezing cold keys against harsh distortion and air-tight percussion in The Lynchpin didn’t whet your appetite, then Gemini is by far the entrée you should be sinking your teeth into, literally. Obviously it fleshes out the icy atmosphere to a greater dimension, being nearly three minutes longer than The Lynchpin, but there’s a contagious pop undertone that partners so well with the thundering beats and muted abrasion from the guitar too. Sawtooth synth stabs enter like footsteps through that aforementioned doorway before bursting into life from dense percussion, echoing strong enough to hit straight through you, soft arpeggios to give some frostbite to the ambience and bass that rumbles the pit of your stomach. A male voice of reassurance cuts through the soundscape, but suits this colder, darker electronic manifestation perfectly, truly doing the scale of this track justice as gigantic as it becomes. There’s something about his spoken demeanour that is as soothing as it is inspiring, bringing a mesmerising human warmth to a mostly frozen atmosphere. And when it comes to that chorus, it glows brightly enough to bask in. Adding that vocal hook into the mix also, is just one more reason for Gemini to seep deep into your skin. The effect only becomes greater with each listen until it reaches maximum infatuation point. You could make a lazy comparison and claim that Mechanical Vampires are a more industrial-sounding PVRIS, but whilst PVRIS resemble an electronic-tainted Paramore, Mechanical Vampires already breach atmospheric and emotional depths far greater than they realise on the strength on a single song. Gemini is a stunning composition, a beautifully produced electronic master stroke that delicately reaches beyond the barriers of both industrial and pop music and seduces any onlookers with its alluring gaze. When is more on the way?
Despite being developed over the course of the year, Mechanical Vampires is still a project in its infancy, so they need all the support they can get. Gemini can be bought from CDBaby for a hardly change bothering sum, or they are generously giving it away for free from here at the exchange of sharing the song, which you should definitely be doing anyway.
Go send some love in their direction:
And if you are feeling especially generous, why not consider sending some love in my direction too? You don’t have to, entirely optional: