10 August 2010

Catching up with The Pinker Tones and Temposhark

I’m going to stick to two electropop albums for this one; I know … I know … I know … enough of the electro / synthpop. But these two albums are so damn good; my only regret is not having had the time to listen to them sooner. One hailing from España (Spain), while the other from the UK, both of these bands are not your typical electropop bands; mixing in some of the savviest songwriting, references to their music that is wider and broader than most of their contemporaries, and sense of humor, both albums are perfect for summer fun, but can actually be pretty introspective as well. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Enjoy!

The Pinker Tones: “Modular” (above)
Temposhark: “Threads” (below)

The Pinker Tones: “Modular”

The duo of Professor Manso and Master Fury who crossed paths in 2001, The Pinker Tones places España on the synthpop map. Singing principally in Spanish, though English does surface on the album, the duo recently released their latest album, “Modular” (29 June 2010 in the USA). Oddly, they launched their new album on 10 July 2010 on Central Park’s Summer Stage (New York City) during The Latin Alternative Music Conference (which sort of baffles me, as they are Spanish, that is European, not Latin American, but oh well). As per the band, there was a desire to return to basics with this album, which in their words is “la comunicación” [communication].

The album is zippy and poppy, employing more cues than the average electropop band. For instance, there is the occasional Spanish pop flavored rift or arrangements, and sometimes it is obvious that the duo is conscious of current indie rock scenes. However, the 80s synth- and electropop cues are everywhere from beginning to end. Opening the album with the titular track, an instrumental of electronic effects that runs less than one minute, you really have no clue what you are about to get with the rest of the album. With the second track, “Estriado Al Sol” [“Stretched to the Sun”], you get savvy 80s-esque infusion into a song that relies more on the catchiness of the rhythm than the sound effects. “Sampleame” [“Sample Me,” as in copy my music] rushes in with rapping in Spanish – an ode to our musically sampled world. Then the electropop magnum opus, “Tokyo.” Sung in English, lyrically it runs like an 80s Duran Duran song, “In my room I was lost in translation, and I get lost in my imagination, oh oh oh, why don’t we go to Tokyo?” Whether the lyrics follow each other logically or not is not the point here; many bands made a career with fractured lyrics, especially electro and synth acts (just Google the lyrics to “The Reflex.”) The point is that this song is not only musically homage to the past, it is also lyrically, as they capture the exact mentality to the style of 80s lyrics.

Though the magnum opus comes early on, the album is loaded with incredibly interesting songs. For instance, in “Polos Opuestos” [“Polar Opposites”], the duo returns to rapping. If you know anything about my taste in music, you should know I that I typically hate rapping in Spanish! But The Pinker Tones do it with such tongue in cheek (in this track rapping about every cliché imaginable, including that she’s beauty, and he’s beast, she’s Pepsi, and he’s Coke, she’s Facebook, and he’s MySpace), that you sort of laugh along with the irony and enjoy it. The last track, “Friends,” is also sung in English and is the slowest paced track on the album. It is a study in geography, as a list of different cities get mentioned, “They say you judge a man by his foes and his friends … you can find friends of mine all over the world… I couldn’t fit them all in just one simple song.” The song runs much like “Return to Oz” by Scissor Sisters, but where as that track is an admonition, The Pinker Tones ends there album with a sweet “communication” to all of their friends.

And though most of the songs are in Spanish, a disadvantage trying to break into the American or British scenes, the music itself is catchy. The Pinker Tones prove that a few years into their career, they are still able to produce an album that is vibrant and not plodding through the same ole clichés. Give “Modular” a chance at “communication,” you may just be impressed.

Track Listing:
1. Modular
2. Estirado Al Sol [Stretched to the Sun]
3. Sampleame [Sample Me]
4. Tokyo
5. Invisible
6. Con Mi Camera [With My Camera], Modular Mix
7. Polos Opuestos [Polar Opposite]
8. Invaders, Modular Mix
9. Game Boy Music
10. Sabiduria Popular [Popular Wisdom]
11. Viajes [Travels]
12. Un Dia Sin Numeros [A Day Without Numbers]
13. PinkerLand Vibes, Modular Mix
14. Friends Around The World

Keep up with The Pinker Tones at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Estirado Al Sol” from their YouTube Channel: thepinkertones.

Temposhark: “Threads”

I first heard of Temposhark when I came across their video for “Blame” – the video instantly got my attention (a little cartoon with a devil), but it was the actual song that blew me away. It was a perfect example of music that transcends genre in the same way the standards did. What I mean is that Temposhark is a pop band that happens to be electronic, and not really an electropop band. Think of back in the old days when Bobby Darrin was singing; each song had a personality, an attitude of its own. That is the exact case with Temposhark – it’s never about the genre of the song, but rather the song itself. So then there sophomore album was announced, and let me say with no hesitation that this is no sophomore slump; “Threads” (5 April 2010) is as savvy as Temposhark’s (Robert Diament’s brainchild) debut album, “The Invisible Line.” Even though he treads many of the same musical soundscapes, this time he increases his musical references to include the 60s and 70s, as well as some real house beats. Again working with Sean McGhee, who has worked with the likes of Robyn and Sugar Babes, together they craft nifty pop songs that are attitude laden.

Though Diament’s sense of playfulness was apparent on the debut album, “Threads” really sports out some of his most musically playful moments. For instance, the opening track, “Irresistible.” The song has a swagger to it, with all of its wooo-wooos. Like I always say, it is hard for anyone in an electronic format to really have a warm feeling to his or her music, and when that is accomplished you tip your hat – and I am tipping my hat, this is a warm and great invitation into the album. With a big band feel to the song, the expectations are laid out for a great album.

The first two singles follow back-to-back. “The World Does Not Revolve Around You” and “Bye Bye Baby” are two vicious songs masquerading around as pop ditties. The first one, musically warmer than the latter, is more of a chastisement, “I really want to like you, but you only talk about yourself, it gets boring very quickly. So someone has to tell you, and I think it should be me, no one is going to love you till you shut up and see that the world does not revolve around you.” The latter is lyrically subtler, but musically savvier. To quote the opening of the Madonna’s track of the same title: “This is not a love song.” A matter-of-fact tell off (“Bye bye baby, it’s too late for me to care anymore…. In the palm again, no more! It’s all over!”) wrapped in the mantle of danceable pop.

What I like about Diament’s songwriting is that you never know where he is going with it. I like the fact that the album is pretty unpredictable track-to-track, and most often even within the track. “Threads” and “Green Lights” revolve around ballad-esque posturing with pianos really guiding the arrangements. “Cold,” regardless of its sound effects, is closer to post-punk revival than electropop. “Fireworks” reminds me of j-pop, while “The Last Time I Saw Matthew” (the closing track) is a bare piano-singer fair. With indie and house references in between, this album, with references all over the place, flows effortlessly, never putting off the listener.

My only complaint, which is no reflection on the album, is that they did not bring back the little devil for another video! Other than that, Temposhark’s “Threads” is a spot on, perfectly execute pop music. Two thumbs up for not reproducing the debut on their sophomore effort and enjoying the process of treading new territories as much as we enjoy listening to it. Check this one out.

Track Listing:
1. Irresistible
2. The World Does Not Revolve Around You
3. Bye Bye Baby
4. Threads
5. Cold
6. Stuck
7. Green Lights
8. Fireworks
9. Say I’m Sorry
10. Frames
11. The Last Time I Saw Matthew
12. Threads, MaJiker Remix
13. Threads, Morgan Price Remix Radio Edit

Keep up with Temposhark at their homepage and MySpace.

Here are the videos for “The World Does Not Revolve Around You” and “Bye Bye Baby” from their YouTube Channel: temposhark.

No comments: