Hopefully by the time you read this, spring will feel a bit more like spring. For now though, spring hasn't sprung outside this writer's window in dreary Chicago, so my fluffy spring music fling isn't fully in effect, but I'm trying. With so much great mid-tempo EDM (Electronic Dance Music) crossing my desk so far this year, let me guide you through the best and not-so-best albums to form your ideal spring soundtrack.
Somewhere in between Ellie Goulding and Lady Gaga lies British pop tart Charli XCX. You might only know Charli from her work collaborating with soon-to-be one-hit-wonders Icona Pop on "I Love It," but if you love it, you'll love her more. Similar to Fiona Apple signing for Sneaker Pimps, her debut CD, True Romance, is a dark, electronic pop affair meant more for headphones than the dance floor, but with just enough BPM to make your tulip bloom.
Tegan and Sara were always one of those lesbian twin bands that I never quite got. The landscape is littered with them, right? Well, that is until now. Usually when non-dance bands go full pop (Liz Phair, Taylor Swift) it's a wrong turn they spend their careers trying to recover from. Hopefully not this time, as Heartthrob is arguably their best album. From start to finish Heartthrob is pure polished pop borrowing equal parts Marina & The Diamonds and La Roux, not abandoning their guitars, but picking up the pace, adding smart synths, and cleaning up their songwriting to a high gloss.
Kylie Minogue's collaborators and best buds HURTS have taken a darker tone on their second album, Exile. On Exile, the dashing Brits Theo and Adam drop some of their more life-affirming pop tracks in favor of a heavier Dave-Gahan-on-heroin-meets-Muse vibe. While not bad, Exile will most likely alienate some of their pop fans, while not really gaining new ones. Maybe next album.
And finally, two of my '80s heroes, OMD and Depeche Mode have new CDs out, and one is decidedly better than the other. OMD's English Electric delivers an even better album than their recent reunion collection, History of Modern. EE is peak-era OMD: 50% sexy synth pop and 50% experimental weirdness. Fans of their mid period John Hughes style might find this one too real, but true OMD fanatics can completely rejoice, especially over upbeat standouts like "Metroland" and "Dresden." The same zeal can't be used on Depeche Mode for their 13th platter, Delta Machine. While far better than the laughably bad Sounds of the Universe, and while they've made great strides to get back to what they do best, they're only halfway there on Delta. With standout DM classics like "Heaven" and "Soothe My Soul," and a few fun/odd Martin Gore cuts, there's still too much Dave Gahan swagger and guitar and not enough of their atmosphere that their departed Alan Wilder took with him when he left about the time they peaked with Violator. Skip this one and wait for Wilder's eventual return.
DJ Moose will be getting very "synthetic" at the debut of The Sofo Tap's Otter party, April 20.