Body Language: Mythos

Seasoned though they may be, Body Language maintain the youthfulness and vigor of a band just starting out, and this album still has the charm and promise of a debut.

Body Language


Label: Om
US Release Date: 2016-11-04
UK Release Date: 2016-11-04

Thick, chunky bass lines. Gauzy analog synth stabs. Danceable house beats. Breathy, slinky, R&B-inflected vocals gliding over an electropop arrangement. Perhaps you've heard this band before?

Of course, any act is more than these descriptors alone, but it cannot be denied that in 2016 there is a glut of artists making music using these sonic materials. Jessy Lanza, AlunaGeorge, How to Dress Well, Harrison, and Kaytranada have all released albums this year that faithfully mine such territory, taking after the lead set by larger acts in previous years like Disclosure. When all of these familiar sounds come to the fore immediately on "Addicted", the first track and lead single from Brooklyn quartet Body Language's Mythos, it might be easy to get a bit dismissive. The track is pleasant enough, but it's a bit of a paint-by-numbers run-through of the elements outlined above. Angelica Bess's vocals are alluring and sensual; the synth bass is nimble and, if not danceable exactly, then at least wiggly. Nonetheless, the overall product comes across as an arid and somewhat lifeless attempt at flirtation.

These same elements bleed into the first minute of the following track, "Can't Hang On". At a mere seven tracks and thirty-two minutes, Mythos is by no means a lengthy listen, but for a brief moment, there is the sense that it could all get quite exhausting very quickly if Body Language persist in milking this style without variation. And then that chorus hits. "We've fallen further than we knew / I can't hang on / I love you but I cannot move", Bess sings, her voice suddenly opening up into a full-throated, commanding belt. She sounds like an entirely different singer compared to the slinky coyness of before, and it turns out this style suits her far more and makes for an enthralling listen. Bess continues in this manner on follow-up track "Free", at which point former skeptics such as myself will be locked in for the remainder of the ride.

From this moment forward, Body Language put their full arsenal in play, and the remaining tracks are an inventive, complex, and playful blend of genres and styles. Rather than adhering strictly to a particular arrangement of variables, Bess, along with bandmates Matthew Young, Grant Wheeler, and Ian Chang, mix and match their house, disco, R&B, funk, and pop influences in inspired and dynamic ways. It starts to sound like they're having, well, fun, and it becomes easy to have fun along with them.

When Young takes over for a vocal turn on "Changing Tides", and then again on "Be Mine", it injects the experience with a further sense of variety and, yes, a welcome statement about gender. Lots of electronic projects feature female vocalists backed by male producers. While this puts the woman in the forefront of attention, it can also play into a troubling dynamic wherein women become the objectified "face" of the band, and men are portrayed as the serious and technically savvy masters behind the scenes. This is why, perhaps unintuitively, it can be a bit subversive for female and male bandmates to democratically share both the vocal stage and the production backdrop, as Body Language do on Mythos. Unlike other synthpop acts like Chvrches, Bess and Young more evenly split their time as lead vocalists, and more importantly, Young's turns feel like more than mere obligations. "Be Mine" in particular is one of the highlights of the whole record, with a shimmering, spritely, fragile poppiness all but guaranteed to make you smile and sway.

Mythos is a physical album that does not take itself too seriously, but it is still thoughtfully and intricately constructed enough to persuade even the most dour of listeners. Body Language have been around since 2008, and seasoned though they may be, their music maintains the youthfulness and vigor of a band just starting out, and this album still has the charm and promise of a debut. Such energy will doubtless generate new enthusiasm for Body Language moving forward, making them just as exciting to watch now as they were eight years ago.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.