Notes from the Keybed – This Month in Synths [May(be slightly late) 2015]

A slightly delayed ‘Notes From The Keybed’ this month as I’ve been moving house and been without internet for several weeks! Connected normality has now returned and I’ve had lots of great new synthy music to catch up on, starting with the return of everyone’s favourite Irish anarcho-synth-brats Fight Like Apes, whose new self-titled third album has barely left my speak-ers (and head – damn catchy earworms!) since its release at the end of May. Their most accessible work yet, the album sounds made for pop chart domination, but still retains their distinctly cynical lyrics, McCluskey-esque indie gloom wrapped in ear candy, and tasty twin-synth attack. Single ‘Pretty Keen On Centrefolds’ is the sort of song that will remain in your head for days, with a sing-along chorus and quirky synth hooks dancing around a typically deadpan vocal that rejoices in its own self-loathing. Elsewhere the album takes in chiptune influences on ‘I Am Not A Merry Man’ as well as possibly my favourite pop song of the year so far with ‘Pop Itch’. Fight Like Apes was the result of a successful Fund It campaign launched in 2013 that raised €20,000 within a matter of days following the band splitting from previous label Model Citizen before finding a new home on consistently excellent UK indie lovelies Alcopop! Records. Despite scaling new commercial heights by achieving #1 in the Irish indie charts, the band haven’t lost their punk roots with song titles including ‘I Don’t Want To Have To Mate With You’ as well as closer ‘Carousel’ concluding with a nursery rhyme ‘Satan Satan Satan’ chant-a-long. Delightful stuff as ever from MayKay, Pockets and chums.

Sticking with Alcopop!, the label are releasing a new EP from indie disco tykes Waylayers during June. ‘Re:Verse’ combines the carnival vibes of ‘Sleepwalking’ with new wave house jams on ‘N2U’ and will no doubt be a perfect sunshine soundtrack throughout the months ahead. The London three-piece are recommended for fans of the futuristic pop sounds of Delphic and latter-day Klaxons and will be hitting the festival circuit this summer.

Back in 2012 I stumbled across a video online of one of those cool-looking hipster parties that only ever really happened in films. You know the sort, a bunch of attractive people dancing (and not being at all self-aware like in real life) in a darkened room – oh look there’s one with a camera (as you do), another with a silly hairstyle, etc… However in the middle of this hot mess was a duo playing the most ridiculously nasty trap jams with deliciously 80’s bell sounds sprinkled on top. Accompanied by a smorgasbord of musical gear from samplers and drum pads to all manner of effects units, it piqued by interest beyond my expectations of the usual ‘frat boy’ shenanigans. Turns out this was a live session of ‘Bells’ by Plant Plants and I was hooked. The London duo have now evolved into a three-piece live act called M.Y. MACHINES, with a sneak preview EP streaming over on Soundcloud. Included in the Stay Pift EP is a rerecorded version of ‘Bells’, now called ‘8E!!S’, and it is still just as devastatingly catchy as it was three years ago. Stick it on in the car and try not to nod your head like the hip-hop mogul you really are. The other tracks on the EP are just as great, with the the Battles-esque staccato guitar trails of ‘Machine House’ sitting nicely alongside the trendy vocal house of ‘X’. It’s seriously well-produced stuff that will appeal to people well outside the demographic of that original video. Check it out – you might be surprised!

Nerdcore synth-pop-rock is one genre that never fails to make me go ‘YES PLEASE!’ and that is exactly what was promised in my inbox when this fine zine’s editor sent me a link to The Robot Knights. Fronted by Maddy Myers, a games journalist who also plays a mean keytar, the Boston trio write songs about robots and dragons and zombies and cool stuff like that! On songs like ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ and ‘Werewolf On The Dancefloor’ their indie disco shines, with hooky keyboard lines meeting garage punk guitars and dancey drum beats. I just wish there was more like the synthy arpeggios of ‘Clone Machine’ and less of the standard pub rock of ‘Amazon’, which is a fairly uninspiring slice of bluesy guitar rock. When they crack out the synths though it is brilliant – more of this please! Their entire catalogue is available for free download from Bandcamp so is def-initely worth a look and a click. For being a badass lady standing her own in the still regrettably male-driven worlds of video-games and music – and for being damn handy on the Roland shoulder synth – this month’s Keytar Hero award goes to Myers! Keep slaying those dragons and riffs, synth fans, and we’ll see you next month…

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