-->
Music

Scientific Lifestyle: Modern Sounds for the New Era

ScientificLifestyle may call it "rocktronica", but Modern Sounds for the New Era is unabashedly pop.


ScientificLifestyle

Modern Sounds for the New Era

Label: Mean Red
US Release Date: 2006-02-14
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

If there was anything we learned from Gwen Stefani last year (other than that her shit is b-a-n-a-n-a-s), it was that pop music is at its best when it's unpredictable -- that it can pull from the past and incorporate the flavor of the moment, and as long as it does either or both well, it can be successful. "Hollaback Girl" was Toni Basil by way of the Neptunes, and "Rich Girl" mashed Eve and Dr. Dre with Fiddler on the Roof. Both, of course, were wildly successful, and played on the radio to the point of nausea. ScientificLifestyle, then, is a band that creates music that is unabashedly pop, but its members do so by combining so many different styles that the resulting mutli-genre pileup has no choice but to be called pop. Oh, and the vocalist, one Nicole Porter, sounds a bit like Gwen Stefani, except with more vocal training. So there's that, too.

Of course, they don't call the mixture "pop", they call it "rocktronica", but they're not fooling anyone. Fine, they open their debut album Modern Sounds for the New Era with a song called "A Fraud" that kicks off with a jazz lick on an electronic approximation of a Hammond Organ, but once it gets going, the beats are danceable, there are verses, choruses, and a well-placed bridge, and those choruses are impossibly catchy. It's pop! "You're afraid / That everybody thinks / That you are a fraud", sings Porter, making for what amounts to a seriously infectious electronically-dominated kiss-off tune. It's a fantastic start.

In fact, ScientificLifestyle finds its most successful footing when Porter is at her most emotional. "Crazy" might well be the album's highlight, thanks mostly to a chorus bolstered by the male backing vocals of Darius Holbert, finding Porter and Holbert singing "You say I'm crazy / You say you make me crazy / Try not to flatter yourself / You say I'm crazy / I'll show you fucking crazy / I'm way too big for myself". The wild-eyed anger in a chorus like that is palpable, and it's destined for big loud singalong moments at the ScientificLifestyle Concert Experience. Following up "Crazy" with a song like "Masterpiece" is inspired as well, as Porter sings in her deepest, most cinematic tones throughout the song about a broken, wounded, written-off soul that she'll never give up on, amidst a few gated trance-synths and a hip-hop beat. Porter also impresses on "Right Inside These Headphones", a song with its roots in hip-hop and a touch of country-western slide guitar, as she does her best torch singer impression à la Beth Gibbons.

Regrettably, most of the other songs smack of music for the sake of it, filled with vaguely wry observations and banal implications. "Paper Doll" twists some old clichés and makes them sound like slightly newer clichés couched in metaphor ("Cut me out and dress me up," Porter sings), mixing technoey noises with rocky noises and coming up with something that never quite finds an identity. "Shifting Scene" and "It Must Be Close (Safe and Sound)" are more of the same, forgettable, loud pop music that forceably skirts the line between electronic and rock music, with the occasional jazz or hip-hop inflection tossed in for good measure.

But, at least you can dance to it. ScientificLifestyle has managed to create a debut album that's never really an awful listen, and is occasionally a really great one. Modern Sounds for the New Era is never so steeped in futurism as its album title makes it sound, but it does do a fantastic job of melding a pile of different genres into a sugary pop mix that actually has a little bit of substance behind it.

Now, if they could just find a new name that didn't inspire thoughts of protractors, calculators, and the Periodic Table, they might even get played on the radio.

6
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

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
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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

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

rating-image