Review: Aaron M. Olson's CV expands in a myriad directions, with L.A. Takedown being his purely instrumental project, and one that invites natural comparison with soundtrack work owing to its yacht-rock stylings and sci-fi synth, not to mention taking his moniker from a 1989 movie. The vision here however is one of a land where sun-scorched urban vistas are seized by dystopian dread, and Olson's sleight-of-hand and atmospheric prowess render him a dab hand in creating evocative soundscapes that unite retro and future alike. Lovers of M83 and Johnny Jewel take note.
Review: The return of Baltimore's Lower Dens - now with half as many members as last time we caught up with them - could have been entitled "The Contrast", although that may be stating the obvious. As anyone familiar with the outfit's combination of heartfelt vocal delivery, dream pop ambience and brutally honest socio-political commentary will understand. It's a unique combination for a band that, on first contact, sound like they should be all about the love songs. Then again, there's an air of jilted love, or at least just jilted, about numbers like "Young Republicans", sliding into waves of powerful synth as Jana Hunter waxes lyrical about the world burning. While many of today's pop bands nod to the 1980s, Lower Dens are particularly convincing given the decade was, for many, defined by the death of America's big dream and a realisation that societal progress could be a 20th Century myth. Uptempo but stark stuff.
Review: It's been a long time between drinks for John Maus, the former college roommate of Ariel Pink with a fondness for blending baroque "modes" and moody, often lo-fi '80s synth-pop. Screen Memories is the producer's first new album since 2011, and glistens from start to finish. After opening with the grandiose synthesizer soundscapes of "Combine" (think Handel on Fairlights, and you're close), Maus delivers a range of atmospheric instrumental and vocal synth-pop gems dripping with Italo-disco style arpeggio lines, John Carpenter flourishes and decidedly cheap, lo-fi drum machine rhythms. At times, such as on "Teenage Witch", he sounds like "No More Heroes"-era Stranglers jamming with Com Truise, at others - see "Touchdown" - like Gary Numan circa "Cars". It's an intoxicating and entertaining blend.
Review: Thanks to the lengthy gap between 2011's We Must Become The Pitless Sensors of Ourselves and last year's acclaimed Screen Memories, John Maus built up a vast archive of new material. Hence Addendum, an album marketed as a "companion piece" to Screen Memories. Interestingly, much of the material is far more carefree and jubilant than the tracks chosen for its atmospheric and moody predecessor (for proof, see "Episodes" and "Running Man"). It's arguably more in keeping with the lo-fi, off-kilter style of skewed synth-pop - influenced by Baroque modes, as always - with which the Ariel Pink associate made his name. It is, then, a joyous blast from the past packed to the rafters with memorable moments.