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“Darkness”, the insanely catchy debut single from British producer Mighty Mouse and Australian vocalist Matt Van Schie of Sydney-based electropop band Van She, dropped in mid-January 2013, with the socially conscious, Simon Savory-directed video arriving months later in April. The song is undeniably excellent, but the video actually elevates the whole proceedings to an entirely different level, touching on issues of race, sexuality, and tolerance. Reminiscent of early Röksopp, with an indie-dance, nu-disco vibe, this is one track I’ve continually played throughout the year. Since its release, the duo have subsequently offered up three more singles, equally as strong, providing further proof that a full-length album will definitely be something to savor.
The fourth single to be released from Studio Killers’ dazzling self-titled debut album, proves to be an eminently catchy ode to switch-hitting and sexual obsession. With a splash of Caribbean-esque steel drums and a slight Parisian flair thanks to the incorporation of an accordion, the song has a distinct, cross-cultural, summery feel about it. If it weren’t for lyrics that bordered on the psychotically unhinged, I could imagine this played poolside at a party without anyone batting an eyelash.
As the audio-visual collective has demonstrated, though, they are incapable of simply concocting paint-by-numbers club fare. Psycho is the new sexy: The song describes a friendship between two women, one unknowingly obsessed with the other, and unconcerned with the fact that the Jenny of the title has a boyfriend. From the narrator stealing things out of her friend’s room, borrowing her lipstick, sleeping with her shirt as if it were a pillowcase, and announcing, “I want to ruin our friendship, we should be lovers instead,” the subject matter of “Jenny” luxuriates in all things darkly humored. With a winking nod to the film Single White Female, a tale of pathological stalking has never been so hummable. In an age when singles reign supreme, Studio Killers provide a strong argument that the dance record isn’t quite yet a dying breed.
British synth-pop duo Monarchy (Edward Nigma and Peter Uzzle) has remained masked, faceless and relatively mysterious since its appearance on the pop scene in 2009. It’s like they stepped out of an imaginary film drawn from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Tom Ford’s A Single Man. Their videos have gone from interesting to stunning artistic statements, and they revel in the visual avant-garde.
Their latest single “Disintegration” is harder edged than their previous output, yet it might also be the most accessible song they’ve released thus far. Assuming background duty this time around, they have thrust the entrepreneurial genius of Dita Von Teese to the forefront, twisting an immensely catchy chorus around her erotically-detached vocals. A brilliant addition to the duo’s electropop catalogue and an exciting buzz single in anticipation of a sophomore album.
“When a Fire Starts to Burn”
In a year of impressive releases, British electronic music duo Disclosure dropped its scintillating debut Settle at the beginning of June, and immediately established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Consistent in tone, sonically mature, cleverly constructed, and constantly engaging, it’s the kind of album one would have never expected from young musicians in their early twenties. Following a slew of excellent singles leading up to the album’s release, the group unleashed its latest musical odyssey in late May to widespread acclaim.
Out of all the tracks on the debut by British brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, “When a First Starts to Burn” stands on the shoulders of house music giants. Eschewing the straightforward guest vocal delivery of the majority of Settle‘s playing time, “When a Fire Starts to Burn” samples one of the spirited sermons by inspirational speaker Eric Thomas. The accompanying video boils over with evangelical fervor to the imagery of an impassioned minister preaching to a small, sweat-soaked congregation. They seldom make them like this anymore. Simply glorious.
In May, Danish-Canadian electropop artist ÁLI released one of the most stylistically inventive dance songs in ages, successfully bridging the worlds of opera and pop music in a manner that isn’t cringeworthy. “Cocoon” is that glorious exception, and one of the first recorded instances I can recall where a vocalist switches between classical technique and a legit pop voice so effortlessly and seamlessly. What’s displayed in three minutes and 42 seconds is something “crossover” opera singers Renée Fleming, Emma Shapplin, and Sarah Brightman have never convincingly pulled off in entire albums.
Singer-songwriter, designer, actress, award-winning cosplayer, and former professional opera singer Alexandria Beck decided it was time to operate outside of stereotypical genre conventions and reinvent herself as ÁLI. It appears the metamorphosis has given way to an abundance of creativity, but “Cocoon” still deserves a wider audience for a stunning voice that begs to be heard. Download it, give it to your local DJ, crank it up on the dance floor, and bathe in the euphoric brilliance of one of the year’s most infectious choruses.