Notes from the Keybed – This Month In Synths [November/December 2014]

Merry Synthmas, y’all!

It’s the countdown to Christmas and you’ll all be writing your lists for the big man in red, I’m sure. Stuck for ideas? Well, aside from Moog branded mugs and Roland 808 socks, there are some fantastic records on the horizon to fill a hole in your stocking or plug your own holes whilst the family murders another rendition of Deck The Halls…

Kicking off December comes a (sort of) brand new EP from personal favourites, Issues! I say only sort of brand new as it primarily consists of stripped-back versions of the biggest tunes from their self-titled album, as well as a couple of oldies such as the fantastic ‘Hooligans’. The RnB-core boys were responsible for one of my records of the year, combining ripping synths with pop hooks and metulz chugs. Whilst Diamond Dreams is set to be a more sedate affair, there are still plenty of jazzy keyboards, chilled electronic beats and, of course, those songs that won us all over at the start of the year.

Speaking of records of the year, topping my list alongside Issues would be Heartsrevolution’s electro punk odyssey Ride Or Die, Death From Above 1979’s long-awaited return on The Physical World, the quite frankly mental debut from Emperor Yes on An Island Called Earth, and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly’s delightful swan song London Royal. All of these would make perfect presents for synth-hungry music fans.

Next year is already shaping up to be a good one for music, with a new album from synth pop pioneers Ok Go! Lead single ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ packs in some tasty disco strings alongside the quartet’s penchant for catchy choruses and retro guitar and synth sounds. In typical Ok Go style, there is also an utterly bizarre video that is well worth watching. Expect single wheeled scooter dancing, a troupe of Japanese girls twirling umbrellas, and some unbelievable choreography. Standard ‘band playing in a room’ videos have never been their modus operandi but this one goes even further with a HTML5-based interactive version… as long as you’re using Chrome. Hungry Ghosts is available on download sites here in the UK from February but you can get it now if you’re over in the US.

Another early contender for 2015’s record of the year will certainly be the new offering from rave-rock crossover kings Enter Shikari. Singles from The Mindsweep are already suggesting a continuation of 2012’s monumental album A Flash Flood Of Colour, with the radio-friendly chorus in ‘The Last Garrison’ sitting alongside the bass-heavy tribal rhythms of ‘Anaesthetist’ and ambient intro into surprise hardcore beatdown on ‘Never Let Go Of The Microscope’! It’s set to be another mix of intelligent songwriting and boundary-breaking soundscapes from the genre-hopping foursome.

We said a lot of goodbyes to some established synth bands in 2014, it was clearly the year that new rave finally gave up the ghost (sob). Klaxons returned with their pleasant, if a bit bland, third album before playing a final run of shows, grindie kids Hadouken went on indefinite hiatus, and even hip-hop heroes Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip went their separate ways following a triumphant farewell tour. In addition, we lost noisy electro duo Crystal Castles, with frontwoman Alice Glass departing with the tantalising promise of a solo career for her and a separate continuation from producer Ethan Kath.

With so many great acts throwing in the towel it seemed a perfect time to salute a much missed Keytar Hero, Pete Cafarella from Shy Child. Technically, the synth and drums duo are still a going concern, but having not heard anything from them since 2010, any hopes of a new album have fast dwindled. However at the height of electro indie, Shy Child stood proudly aside from their competitors fronted by the keytar-totting Cafarella’s dancey riffs and New York drawl. Although he hung up the keytar in 2010 to concentrate on being a ‘serious band’ with regular horizontal ‘boards he remains a true hero of the instrument and an influence to shy nerdy synthesists across the globe. Stand up and step out y’all!

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