Music I Found While Drowning In A Sea Of Bernie Sanders Memes.

It was a tough week for me. I think for a lot of people. It was also a time of hope and possibility. As so often I found myself taking refuge in the sounds of others, trying to feel something outside my own head. I have some releases here, some old, some new. May they offer you some comfort as they did to me at times I needed it most. I also wanted to say what a beautiful refuge our new Sounds and Shadows Facebook community has been to me. Many of these reviews were suggestions or submissions from new friends there. Keep sharing music and lifting each other up my friends.

https://deadastronauts.bandcamp.com/album/silhouettes

Dead Astronauts : Silhouettes– A new release from our friends at Cold Transmission from Seattle WA. This record was a articulate and purposeful release that had a craftsmanship that placed it in the upper echelons. That made a lot of sense once I heard Slade Templeton (Crying Vessel) had a guiding hand involved. Florence, and Jared seem to have an instinct for where a song needs to go. Melody to melody, song to song, everything seems to flow in it’s perfect natural direction. It makes it so easy to fade away and become lost in the futuristic textures. They each have such a distinct and soothing voice. Made stronger by their combination and ability to hold the depth of a conversation instead of a monologue. The music has a lot of subtle dissonance and complex themes. What really makes it effective though is how these details are woven around straight forward pop hooks that remind me of Peter Hook’s Revenge , or Pet Shop Boys. This is a record that doesn’t need to scream to get your attention or convey emotion. It tells you everything without ever having to raise it’s voice.

Favorite Tracks:

Strangers In A Room – I feel in love with this very funky dance beat. Jared’s voice is a sensual croon with muted horn synths behind. It sets a scene of adventure and tension. Florence is the low lights which create his shadows. Just expert construction and a hook that grabs you by the waist.

She Haunts Me – Holy fuk this is gorgeous. Dark synth driven ghostly introspection. This beautiful sense of ownership of action and the feeling of someone who is gone but still shapes you. The things you have acknowledged and learned to late. This idea hits so hard. The chorus highlights the depth of Jared’s voice which swells without ever losing it’s smooth contours.

Pain, I Know – The cadence of this song make amazing movement. Florence is a haunting presence that lifts this song on her airy ever shifting melodies. This one really tugs the heartstrings.

Overall this album is a total concept and a much needed blast of poetry and expression in the darkwave genre. It’s a great example of what you can create when you understand harmony and synthesis. I just keep coming back again and again.

Chant HYDRA – New album from Bradley Bills who’s pedigree is well known in the industrial scene as a drummer. This release is a venture deeply of his own device. It still starts with the power of of percussion. Just amazing and varied rhythms and mathematical constructs. The sound is massive. I picture a powerful sorcerer standing on a cliff face raising and lowering his hands while crystal shafts shoot forth tot he sky or crash back beneath the sea. The vocals are a raspy and passionate chant. I kept finding myself drawn and isolated on individual sounds and lines. Bills is a real magician when it comes to directing your focus while he is moving the next phrase behind your view. Some nice hard smashing guitars that hit and decay quickly. I think one of the most interesting aspects here is how the drums feel like melody and the guitars feel like percussion. The lyrics are very clever and poignant to the political and human issues of the moment from demagogues to media saturation.

https://chantproject.bandcamp.com/album/hydra

Favorite Tracks

President God – Powerful and lockstep. Again I can’t stress enough how much the drums take a front seat here in the best way possible. This paints a picture we are all familiar with in the last 4 years. A politician trying to move from elected official to dictator. Very cool old KMFDM feel with a stripped down clarity I found refreshing.

Primetime Annihilation – I’m loving this concept album story of this corrupt politician in the modern era. “The more you watch and the more you hate, the more that I get paid”. This song is such a bag of broken glass swung at your head like a mace. The edges hit hard but the melody is a beautiful hook that leaves you stomping your feet while it lives in your head.

Overall it is a politically charged chaos party of blasting beats and witty scathing one liners. I am here for it.

https://swissdarknights.bandcamp.com/album/overcome

Broken NailsOvercome – New full album release from Swiss Dark Nights, a label I should really be talking about more. Great minimal old school synth sound here. Singer Kim Bell has this smoky throwback Missing Person vibe happening. I’m loving the collision of the very dungeon crawl obscure sound of the music splashed against her focused soulful pop voice. The result is a sound you can weave your arms to in the club. A club you need to travel down a flight of stairs and give a password to get into. I feel like this entire album is shrouded in mist. It’s dark, swirling, and always on the move.

Mirror – Opening track starting strong with a nice build and snapping snare. This song really puts Kim’s voice front and center which is when this band shines best. I really like the transitions and the strange millionth of a beat behind delivery on the phrases. It feels like a bizarre carnival house of mirrors you become lost in.

Control The Delusion – Wonderful 80’s throwback. Here Kim does her dreamy Terri Nunn sound. Then the music does a well executed phase shift and she goes into a chanted affirmation.

I feel like this band is yet to hit their ceiling, that leaves me excited for the future.

https://nu-n.bandcamp.com/album/remember-me-ep

NU:NRemember Me – I knew there was some beautiful goth music coming out of Portugal that was not IAMTHESHADOW. Right off the bat what I love is that this is powerful unapologetic old school gothic rock. Precision striking bass and teardrop razor guitar lines. Oliver Heuer has a voice that is captivating and romantic. The whole sound has a beautiful throwback of early 90s Rosetta Stone An Eye for the Main Chance era. This EP only contains 2 songs and remixes but it left me hungry for more. I could have devoured 8 more tracks of these lush sorrow dripping cemetery jams. The great power is in the authenticity. They are on the serious side of the emotional gothic line. Hungry and longing with a sinister edge.

https://cherimondisj.bandcamp.com/album/cherimondis-unleashed

CherimondisUnleashed – Ok is this a little outside our usual wheelhouse? Yes. Is it absolutely brilliant and I can’t stop listening to it? Also yes. Gorgeous soulful beyond their young years cabaret trip hop sounds with poetic lyrics and an angels voice. I dare you to listen to this and not feel immediately moved and connected to it’s power. Derek Christopher (The Joy Thieves) does the mastering and leaves the edges sharp and jazz chaotic letting the immense power of Cherimondis voice shine like a glorious beacon in the tempest. I hear enough music to know a future star when i hear one and this is a star.

Wolf – A skipping quirky Dresden Dolls husky jerky glory. The pixie light vocals grow into a stalking beast. I love the dancing piano and flowing bassline. I could play this 1 million times and never regret it.

Mind Over Matter – Strutting backbeat and a affirming optimism. The lyrics are delivered in a rhythmic hurricane in a bottle of control behind a thin layer of glass. This song is a perfect portrait of the artists and makes a spiritual connection with all who listen.

I except we will also be hearing big things from this 21 year old future star.

What Are They Up to: Interviews with Vanity Kills, Ashes Fallen, and Black Rose Burning

Vanity Kills

[Photo Credit: Cameron Rhys McNamara]

Vanity Kills is the intense, cyberpunk-industrial band of Joe “Crow” Aaron. S&S has already covered them on several occasions: an interview from 2019, a review of album Chapter 2: Enemy, and a shoutout in the Halloween Compilation Release.

The band has been a friend of S&S for years. But where are they now? I reached out to Joe Crow himself to figure out what he’s been working on since the release of his last album. In the works are: 1- a third chapter album, 2- a B-sides album, and 3- a collection of covers.

The covers are being release intermittently on YouTube with the intent to compile them on Bandcamp upon completion. The B-sides, which are, according to Crow, “a collection of songs that didn’t make it on to the last album, alternate versions of previously released songs and remixes,” most likely going to be released in March. Chapter three’s release is as of now still uncertain.

Onto the topic of the B-sides and third chapter, do you see yourself exploring some uncharted creative territory?

Definitely. The b sides record is definitely a product of experimentation. There’s some more mellow moments there, some really dark stuff and some stuff that’s just outright weird.

The third chapter also tonally different to the second and first. It feels kind of like a 90s industrial album with modern production techniques. Sort of going back and taking influence from the places that first got me into the genre when I was in my teens.

It’s likely the B sides record will be a Bandcamp exclusive as a companion piece to Chapter 2. So everyone who has that will receive it automatically and be included with future purchases.

Regarding production, have you indulged yourself in any new equipment?

Nothing too extravagant. Picked up a Roland r8 for a bargain and a tb303 clone. I’ve also invested in a good amount of software instruments. As much as I’d love to get into more hardware it’s just not feasible at the moment and the ability to create new patches without routing audio and midi each time helps me stay in the zone with my limited attention span.

So, on your previous album and in a previous interview, you cited bands like Stabbing Westward, Ministry, and even Prince as having influenced you. Since the third chapter is going to be comparative to a “90s industrial album,” is there any new set of artists behind its inspiration?

Well all of those are there, probably more than the last record. As well as things like My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Circle of Dust, Nine inch Nails early material, through to the more electronic rave artists like the Prodigy, Underworld etc.

Gosh I love that early NIN stuff

Pretty hate machine and the broken EP will always stick in my mind as my personal image of NIN. I love damn near everything else but those are 2 I can go to any day in any mood.

Any closing remarks for your fans?

The support we’ve had for this album has been immense. I didn’t expect it after so many years if inactivity but old and new have come out in support and I’m eternally grateful. We’re going to finish off the album cycle with videos for every song from chapter 2 and swiftly onto the next chapter. So there’s plenty still to come. With some surprises along the way and one day more shows. Thank you so much and stay safe.

Ashes Fallen

Ashes Fallen is a California-based gothic rock band composed of James Perry (lead vocals, guitar), Jason Shaw (guitar), and Michelle Perry (vocals, percussion, keyboard, art).

S&S has previously reviewed their album Ashes Fallen as well as Thy Will be Done.

Their most recent release, We Belong Nowhere, was put out this august.
So, what have they been up to since then? I reached out to member James Perry to investigate.

Recently, they were part of the ARG (Anti-Racist Goths) streaming festival. It took place on January 1st, but you can watch their segment of it here.

“It was a real honor to be a part of it,” member Perry tells me. “Davey Bones and company are great.” The band performed their songs “We Belong Nowhere,” “Blood Moon,” and “Unrequited.”

How has it been adapting to virtual/streaming instead of live concerts?

I guess the main thing I’d want to add around that is just that the fact that we’ve been able to put on virtual performances has opened some doors for us and enabled us to participate in some really great events including being on the bill with some acts we really love and that influenced us, so while it’s unfortunate we can’t get out there in person, the situation has also presented some great opportunity for us. I don’t see livestreaming as a “replacement” for in person live shows, just another vehicle we can use to create and get our music out there. Michelle has always wanted to be able to design stage shows for us but it’s just not practical when you’re going on second out of four bands on a Tuesday night and you have 10 minutes to set up, but when we’re performing at home, we can have all the time we want to make something special visually! Last September, Michelle and I moved to a turn of the 20th century converted church and have made that our home base for the band, and it’s been a great space for online performances!

Do you have plans to take part in any more online streaming festivals?

We will be playing at Virtual Temple 3 at the end of January (January 30th, at 7 PM Pacific / 10 PM Eastern), hosted by Temple in Salt Lake City. We’ve been lucky enough to be invited to perform at all three of their “Virtual Temple” events and they’ve been great, a lot of fun. We go way back with DJ Mistress Nancy, she’s a good friend. Hopefully someday we’ll get out to Salt Lake City to perform in person, and get to meet all the new people we’ve met online through live-streaming performances and virtual club nights and everything! That’s all we have scheduled for now though. We’ve been working hard on writing our next album, and we’ve decided to take a break from performance to allow ourselves time to get it finished.

I’d like to hear more about that next album. What new creative directions are you exploring with it?

We were a brand new band when we recorded and released our new album, and most of the songs were songs I’d already written and had performed as a solo artist, and we’d only played a few shows together. We all think our sound has evolved some, although I don’t think people who liked our first album will be disappointed or anything! We’ve made a conscious decision to simplify and strip down our sound somewhat. The arrangements aren’t nearly as busy. We’re still very much a gothic ROCK band with two guitar players, but we won’t be relying on thick, metal-type guitars so much of the time. Michelle and Jason are both contributing more to the songwriting this time out, and Michelle’s going to be doing more singing on this album.

As far as subject matter goes, the last couple of years have given us an awful lot to talk about! We’ve got songs in the works about the political situation in this country, letting go of the past and moving on, the pandemic, as well as the passing of my mother just a few months ago. She was the sweetest person you could ever hope to meet and my first inspiration to become a musician. We’ve also got a song in the works about Maila Nurmi, better known as Vampira. Michelle really wanted us to record an ode to her, and it should be a fun track! It’s not so much about the Vampira character, but the woman who created her, and how she created this amazing legendary vision that was so influential, and yet she had her creation essentially stolen from her, and then lived in utter poverty and isolation for decades before finding some modicum of recognition in her final years.

Wow, that sounds like a lot to look forward to. Any estimate on when it’ll be released?                               

It’s a little hard to say. We haven’t been able to get together as often as we’d like because of the pandemic and because “real life” gets in the way so often! We’re just about done writing it though, and just need to spend some time getting it all together. I’m hopeful we can have it out the first half of the year.

The singles we put out last year, “Thy Will Be Done” and “We Belong Nowhere” will be on the album too, and hopefully they give some indication as to where our sound is heading.

Thanks! Last question- any closing remarks for your fans?

Thank you all for your support and please stay healthy! We can’t wait to be able to perform in person again and dance and celebrate the darkness together again.

Black Rose Burning

S&S has written about Black Rose Burning before in a review of Open the Gate, listing it as one of the “Top Postpunk/Synthwave/Darkpop albums of 2020” at the end of December. High compliments! Open the Gate was released mid-November.

So, what have they been up to since then? I reached out to instrumentalist and producer George Grant for more information. Plan to expect, if all goes well, the release of a second record in spring.

Are you diving into any new stylistic territory or techniques on this new record?

I think it will retain my signature “sound” which I think is mostly my voice (I don’t hear too many – if any- like it in the genre, and I’ll probably be relying on a more synth-based production this time. A bit more experimental? Probably. Still infused with heavy hooks? Definitely also. I don’t think I’m ready to write my version of something like Pink Floyd’s Echo’s yet. But I will at some point.

You released a cover of Red Skies- The Fixx in the past. Any plans for more covers, potentially on this new record?

I have a few floating around on my drive – the one that looks most promising right now (if it ever actually happens) is what I think is a cool version of Buzzcocks “Ever Fallen in Love”. Anything else I’ve been toying with hasn’t gone far enough to even count yet.

Oh I absolutely love that song!

I also may be doing a collaboration with Scary Black closer to spring as well. We’ve talked on it – but haven’t made solid plans as of yet

That would be cool, I love Scary Black

Yeah I dig him a lot too. As a writer/musician and just as a person too

Now for a hardware question- have you treated yourself to any new gear in preparation for your upcoming music creation?

A LOT of software. I’m always looking for new sounds. The more ammo – the more sounds. As far as gear – I have so much already I couldn’t even think of what more I could need. I even dug out the theremin to see if I could use it on the new record! The recordings could easily turn into a free-for-all.

Yes! A theremin! I’ve got a kinda-theremin of my own, and it’s definitely great for weird noises. Can’t wait to hear you potentially use it. Any last thing you can tell your fans about the new album without spoiling too much?

If they liked the last one – this one will be even more epic. The first record was my training course...

The First Reviews of 2021

We are really excited by the success of our new Sounds and Shadows Facebook group. It has sent a ton of amazing new January releases for me to go through. This last year has given us a lot of great music but also a lot of anxiety. Lets hope 2021 is more focused on the first.

Push Button Press – Black Swan – This is a long awaited album from our friend Jim Walker and Cold Transmission record. The title really sets the tone for an amazing artist which has been a bit misunderstood and on the fringe. Writing music that was visionary and a bit progressive for some audiences. Right from track one The End of Time we are pressing our foot steady on the gas and gaining speed with clarity and purpose. I am feeling a lot of smooth spreading bassline and Jim has a stabbing staccato.That blend calls to mind early Psychedelic Furs. I think the thing that strikes me most in track 2 Trace are the crisp and driving drum beats. It really adds a powerful element of rock to the post punk concept. Title track 6 Black Swan lays open the the heart of the band. For every truth there is a black swan. The transitions here are so abrupt but maintain a silky smoothness that create constant motion. The guitar work here has a lot of early punk elements with heavy rhythm guitars. It feels like jumping across fast moving water from stone to stone. Always a sense of danger and concentration.

Jim’s voice is always just barely above the water of the mix and it lends a clarity to his words and allow the well written lyrics shine. Darkwave/Postpunk music is desperately in need of meaningful lyrics and Black Swan delivers. Although it is early in the year I expect this album will remain in my thoughts when it comes time to write best albums of 2021.

https://pushbuttonpress1.bandcamp.com/

Jay Draper & The SubterraneansBehind The Night – This album was sent to me courtesy of my friend Ryan Clark in Toronto. It features a slew of talented collaborators like Ian Revell (Double Eyelid), Paul Mercer (The Changelings) and Faith and the Muse. With all that talent what really makes this record jump out is the piercing glam rich voice of Jay Draper. The level of razzmatazz pizzazz is glorious to behold. Jay truly understands the emotional bandwidth of Dave Vanian and Brian Eno with laser lightshow blazing colors issuing forth in a rainbow. Belly of the Beast opens the album with a powerful build of a crooning pied piper leading you through the streets of a broken city. Such an immersive tapestry of expression with both voice and verse. Track 4 Land of Anxiety has this wonderful bouncing bassline and swelling keys while Drapers cadence is breathy and and happens in great leaps until the chorus explodes in a choir of ecstatic beauty. The album closes with You Must Be Mad, the operettic conclusion with a lovely synthwave power of Yaz Upstairs at Eric’s. I fell in love with the expansive growing journey of this album as I felt it sink through my skin into my bones. I think it would be easy for this record to go over the top, but for me, I found myself wanting to leap over that line and trust in Jay to take me to a fantastical place. I highly recommend you do the same. Releases on February 5th but one track is available on bandcamp now for preview.

https://jaydraperandthesubterraneans.bandcamp.com/album/behind-the-night

Antipole – MarbleNew EP just dropped from the post punk King of Norway Karl Morton Dahl. Antipole still holds the distinction of being our most reviewed band and it just keeps finding a new space. This album opens with the title track and frequent collaborator Paris Alexander of (Blue Door Productions) Marble and it is an absolute journey of a song. I really feel like I am in a giant glass bubble rolling down a mountain, across a snowy field, along a craggy beach. Karl is a wizard with overlaid texture guitars and does so much imagery with them alone. Paris has a deep resonant voice that leads you through your travels. The song also includes a remix by Molchat Doma that turns this post punk standard into a dance club jam. Song 3 Narcissus is a darker reflection with warm bass tones and Paris singing from deeper in the mix in a wispy haunting plea. I think Rachel told me that it all just sounds pleasant. In a good way, I just feel like these songs would improve almost any experience. Karl is a true master of putting everything in it’s proper place. I do think this is the furthest he has strayed from the older post punk sound and I love the bracing new direction. Another Antipole, another hit.

I’m going to start adding in my thoughts about album covers. I think this one really matches the sound. It’s a variance of dark color with sharp technique and open space.

https://antipole.bandcamp.com/album/marble

Wandering StarsSomnambule – This is a band close to home in Ohio. It includes Joy Thieves member Derek Christopher. I immediately fell in love with with the jazzy trip hop flowing style. This isn’t a club thumping album, it’s a subtler more exclusive bar where you had to go down the back stairs and through a steel door to reach rich wood and velvet curtains. The duet vocals calling back and forth between Christopher and Lydia Brownfield are a perfect blend. He is smooth and resonant. She is sultry and glamourous. It has an amazing range of styles and elements. The album title means sleepwalker and that’s the journey it takes you on. Skipping from dream to dream. Opening with Anamnesis a flow down the 99 steps of deeper dreaming with the duet on full display and a lovely organic piano line. Track 4 Nina Bobok is this beautifully delivered ballad where Derek opens on this exposed and gently delivered plea. The subtle touch of violin really adds texture. Lydia comes in warm and shining. So many twists and turns they create with the always changing cadence. It’s one of those rare examples that you hear the genuine caring between the members. I’m definitely going to continue enjoying this and dig through the back catalog.

Love the cool steampunk metal work burned into parchment. A message just barely visible underneath. I think that speaks well to the layers present here.

https://wanderingstars.bandcamp.com/album/somnambule

Programmable AnimalOne Step to Hell – Unmistakable quality and execution from Chicago glam industrial Anthony Wonaitis now on Negative Gain. Sean Beavan (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Slayer, 3TEETH, & No Doubt) has done an expert job mixing these large crashing emotions into a pristine balance. One Step To Hell explodes out of the gate with crashing drums and buzzing electrical texture. Wonaitis has a sensual vocal charisma which croons you towards him and then blasts you with a growling scream. This is the part in the movie where the hero stares out at a dark city from a vacant rooftop. Track 4 Sunset has a furious guitar lead that impacts your chest. Grungy Stabbing Westward/ Machines of Loving Grace vibe. I was really drawn in by the fresh glamourgrunge take on Industrial rock and the piercing clarity of message. The next time I need to drive through a city on my way to make an entrance this is my soundtrack.

Wow this is wicked AF. The sharp edges and dragon chasing it’s tale. A striking and terrifying future view.

https://programmableanimalngp.bandcamp.com/album/one-step-to-hell

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Sounds and Shadows Top Postpunk/Synthwave/Darkpop albums of 2020

Part 3 of this series might have been the toughest to write. There was such a wealth of great new albums in this genre I found myself at a loss to pick and choose my favorites. However tough choices need to get made. These are all records released in 2020 and not singles. I feel like everyone on this list did something very profound.

Black Rose Burning – Open the Gates – George Grant is doing amazing things using stripped down elements of dark post punk concepts. His voice has this scintillating David Bryne expressive lilt. It harnesses such energy with an acoustic guitar and a percussive gate. It’s romantic, not like a relationship, but the way Star Trek is romantic about the love of stars and exploration. I find myself constantly lost in the beauty of it.

https://blackroseburning.bandcamp.com/album/open-the-gate

SceniusEnough Fears – I found this album at the very end of the year but I have a feeling this will be on my heavy rotation the next few months. The Leeds band is a bending maze of emotion and turns that I found myself deeply immersed in. The vocals from Fab Nau were so original and cutting. Perfect dark trance resonance and endless builds. This is a band I will be paying close attention to in 2021. I feel the beginning of something beautiful starting.

https://scenius.bandcamp.com/album/enough-fears

Vlimmer – XIIIIIIII – This series of albums reaches it’s conclusion in glorious and staggering fashion. Alexander Donat has an amazing gift to take emotion and transfer it into sound seamlessly. Taking a tiny burning ember of idea and gentle blowing on that fire until it swells into a blaze. Truly a criminally underrated talent in modern artistic expression through sound.

https://blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com/album/xiiiiiiii-18

White Mansion – Human – Arkansas brings us this strong front to back traditional post punk. I love the bold transitions here and open air vocals. I think the name Human was perfect for this record because it is all about relationships. You can really follow the story. It’s organic, full of heart, and makes a connection.

https://whitemansion.bandcamp.com/album/human

The Secret French Post Cards – Colors – More glorious post punk darkness this time mixed and mastered by Pedro Code (Iamtheshadow). This record is so understated and comes at you in subtle ways. Olli Ohlander has a ringing and smoky delivery that chews up scenery like a master actor. Blended reverb and echo makes the guitar build tension that pulls you into the moment. Paint a picture in your mind with this record. Another Cold Transmission band.

https://thesecretfrenchpostcards.bandcamp.com/album/colours-2

Danny Blu – The Pale Horse – Crackling energy and neck grabbing hooks from NYC. Personal soul threaded into club kid sleek trance. This record is everything cool I want to give off. The smoky saxophone trills add a beautiful contrast note. The cadence they lyrics are delivered with are an extra percussion and rhythm. It leaves me longing for more.

https://dannyblu.bandcamp.com/album/the-pale-horse

Elz and the Cult – Bloodlines – Elz is one of those beautiful and unique humans that takes their internal light and bleeds it into every track they make. It has such a genuine and soulful flavor which modern darkpop is so hungry for. It is a record of personal intensity that stands out in the landscape. A true gamechanger record that everyone should experience. On Cold Transmission Music.

https://elzandthecult.bandcamp.com/album/bloodline

Korine – The Night We Raise – Philly based band that is taking the scene by storm for good reason. They have such a glamourous beauty. While the lyrics are full of edge and venom. They truly have mastered the idea of taking two things you wouldn’t think would make sense together and then synthesizing it perfectly. It’s elegant, profound, and makes you feel like you are on the inside of secret. Also it has that glorious shake that ass factor. You will dance to this record all night long. On Born Loser Records now.

https://korine.bandcamp.com/album/the-night-we-raise

Panic Priest – Second Seduction – Chicago based Jack Armondo finds himself once again on my albums of the year. This sophomore album uses his rich and powerful baritone to great effect but softens the edges of the guitars in the first album. Putting the synths forward really captures the neon industrial aspects of his city. I love the way he captured the concept of isolation in the middle of a populated concrete jungle that became so relevant to us all in 2020. An impressive offering both in connection and execution on Negative Gain Records.

https://panicpriestngp.bandcamp.com/album/second-seduction

Soft Kill – Dead Kids R.I.P. City – Portland postwave glory with gorgeous and rich vocals and rainy flowing waves of synth sound. This record is so efficient and full of intention. This is one of those records it’s never a bad time for. It has that voice of a generation The Smiths sound but with a speed and energy of the modern era.

https://anopendoor.bandcamp.com/album/dead-kids-r-i-p-city

Idles – Ultra Mono – I love this album for the punk side of post punk. It’s intelligent, political, smash your fucking teeth in complex blasting rock. It has the true core of Fugazi. I wasn’t quite sure where to put this under but it belongs on some list.

https://idlesband.bandcamp.com/album/ultra-mono

Kiss of the Whip – We’re Not Here – Baltimore is doing some amazing things in the current scene and KOTW are near the top of that list. There is an amazing feeling when someone has such a wizardry of an instrument that it transcends and lefts everything in the song around it. That’s how I feel when Tristan Victor plays keyboards. The wide open textures and landscapes that flow through your mind at razor speed. His melodic whisper growl vocals really draw you in and let those complex synth changes do their work. I continue to be impressed with every new growth.

https://kissofthewhip.bandcamp.com/album/were-not-here

Spectres – Nostalgia – Sometimes I want a record that really pushes the edges of a genre. Sometimes I take comfort in bands that do a familiar sound with perfect execution. This album is so full of feelings that transport me back. Each song is original and new but the pallet of colors is brilliant with New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. The heartfelt homage to the music I grew up on cleaned and washed and sent straight to my heartstrings.

https://spectresvancouver.bandcamp.com/album/nostalgia

Loveblind – Sleeping Visions – What happens when a traditionally shoegaze label like Saint Marie Records puts together a superband of Shoegaze talent to make a darkpop album. In this case what happens is one of the most textural beautiful records of the year. Dorian Electique has a stunning and haunting vocal quality that floats on the waves of slushy wave crash guitars and striking drum beats. Every time I play this record I picture silk scarves flowing in my wake. it just makes life a little more beautiful.

https://saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-visions

Black Nail Caberet – God’s Verging On Sanity – This band from Hungary has been on my constant playlist. They had an album in my top list of 2019 as well. I love that they don’t sit idle and instead explore a new aspect of darkpop. Emese has a remarkable strength and depth to her voice that reminds me of Annie Lennox. The dance beats are a force to be reckoned with and are like a shot of energy in the arm. When I need to find a little something extra within myself this is the record I reach for.

https://blacknailcabaret.bandcamp.com/album/gods-verging-on-sanity

Algiers – There is No Year – If you have never witnessed Algiers live, once the world reopens that should be the top of your to do list. They are the best live show I have seen in the past 20 years. It’s breathtaking to behold. They are another band hard to put in a box in the most amazing away. Notes of Motown/Gospel/Post Punk/Electronica. It’s all thrown in the blender and spun to a smooth creamy glory. The lyrics are poignant, fresh, and delivered with a voice sorely lacking in this scene. This record is such an up and down journey through culture, injustice, and personal revelation. I really can’t stress the importance of this band enough.

https://algierstheband.bandcamp.com/album/there-is-no-year

Then Comes Silence – Machine – Swedish based dark rockers put out this album in March and I listened to it many times in it’s entirety. The single We Lose the Night is such a perfect jam it has to be my most earworm song of the year. Just walking through the world I found it constantly popping into my head. This record has what I think of as true Post Punk vibes. The bass is thunderous and driving. Vocals are enchanting and full of warm and captivating feeling. Also the track Ritual feat: Karolina Engdahl is a perfect duet to blend beauty and razor cuts. I was an instant fan for life.

https://thencomessilence.bandcamp.com/album/machine

Bootblacks – Thin Skies – NYC post punk stars took a giant leap forward in their evolution for this album. It truly takes it’s own life and direction. Adding on Jason Corbett (Actors) to chisel and magnify a sound that already had such a unique and dangerous flavor. It is sleek, mysterious, and is my number one soundtrack if I ever pull an elaborate jewel heist and car chase in the heart of New York City. I think the most magnificent part of this album is that it really took “Post Punk” someplace new. It’s easy to get hung up on nostalgia, and there is some of that here. There is also a sound so sensual and fresh. I can just smell the musk of this album. You need to feel it on your skin.

https://bootblacks.bandcamp.com/album/thin-skies

Our interview with Bootblacks

Empathy Test – Monsters – This album was my most played on bandcamp this year. I just couldn’t stop coming back to it. It holds a beauty and quality that touches on so many genres. It’s personal and full of imagery that transports you into a movie. Isaac has one of those once in a generation voices that speaks right to your heart. This record just struck a chord inside me like the first time I heard Radiohead The Bends. That feeling of dramatic intensity that makes me think of youth while the refined craftsmanship spoke to my changed perspective. This is a young band, and their potential to grow and make art on another level seems limitless.

https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/monsters

Our Interview with Empathy Test

It’s Time To Bring the Romance Back To Goth Music.

So dark music/goth has always run a parallel for with me Romanticism. Love, loss, passion, distance, these ideas that Robert Smith perfected and were such a intimate part of that original concept. Then as the scene evolved and became broader the norm stretched further from that idea. Today as the wind is chill and the leaves have abandoned the trees I am thinking about bands that are still pluming the depths of this idea. As a song writer the most difficult thing for me to write is a genuine love song, that captures the feeling but doesn’t step over into cheese. I tried to come up with examples of releases I have not previously discussed on the page.

A Covenant of Thorns: Black – I have been waiting on this release for a long time. It’s what inspired me to write this piece. Scott-David Allen is a true master of this idea. He has been making songs of heart rending sadness and beauty for decades. I can honestly say this is an opus. The best I have heard yet. The production level here is next level with it’s Depeche Mode level darkpop and his amazing voice pushed to the front where it conveys a delicate yearning and sadness which is lost in the modern era. The whole record is a pilgrimage to the top of a mountain where he offers up his heart like a saint to the object of his love. The passion and idea are so raw but the mixing and song writing is done with a craft that shows the dedication such a personal offering deserves. YOU NEED THIS RECORD! (He screams from the rooftops)

https://acot.bandcamp.com/album/black

Top Tracks: All of them…

but Numb – A gorgeous synthwave love poem full of hope and expression

Signs of Life – Damn it is hard to pick but this track is so crispy. Allen’s voice is everywhere on this one. The feeling cuts to deep and love lies at your feet. The chorus just opens up like a bird flying over the sea. It’s so bright and dark at the same time in perfect balance.

Choke – This one has a little more edge and sinister to it, but it is still yearning. Because sometimes a little kink can still be romantic.

Creux Lies : Blue – New single out from Sacramento’s favorite dark dreamers has thundering drums to drive is golden thread poetry. It’s a thicker richer sound than phenomenal 2018 release “The Hearth“. Ean’s voice is wide as the ocean and and dances on the mist. It’s really hard to capture the range and beauty of Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) but I feel like that is exactly what happens. My secret favorite part is the outro with old school lofi keyboards. I need a whole hell of a lot more of this and I need it now!

https://creuxlies.bandcamp.com/

Twin Tribes (Cult of Alia Remix) : Perdidos – Twin Tribes has mastered the post punk passion and sultry beauty of bands like The Cure. This latest remix by Cult of Alia is a softer more subtitle ghostly whisper tantalizing love lost beyond the void. the pulsing keyboard rhythms take the place of driving bass and conjure images of haunted towers. I’m so hungry for another Twin Tribes album, but this was a welcome repose.

https://twintribes.bandcamp.com/track/perdidos-cult-of-alia-remix

Selofan: Partners in Hell – This gorgeous Greek darkwave really deserves it’s own full review. I am embarrassed to say I have not written a review of them yet and they really deserve it. Per the theme I am going to focus on the track “There Must Be Somebody“. Driving mod synth tones flow down a moonlit river while a women in white calls forth with longing. This is beauty and horror blended together in true gothic fashion. Joanna Pavlidou’s voice is heavy with heart and touches you with icy clarity. Pavlidis’s basslines and chorus of synthesizers create a water color image of stormy regret and movement. Why have I not spent more time with this band?

https://selofan.bandcamp.com/album/partners-in-hell

Mortal Boy: Chronoception – LA darkwave band which is beautiful as it is intense. I love the Richard Butler flavor to the vocals. The star strike guitars really add a wonderful contrast to the darkwave style. This is definitely music full of plum red wines and flickering candles. It drips of both passion and loss. Favorite track “Kiss Me Poison” which combines all the best parts of the vocals and woven tapestry. If you have a special goth partner in your life, this is the music they want to hear as you bring out a romantic dinner.

https://mortalboy.bandcamp.com/

The Secret French Postcards: Colours – New Cold Transmission Music release from Sweden. I love the post punk feel and organic drum sounds that add clarity and precision to this droning croon. This album is the moment in the movie where the protagonist looks across a crowded club and locks eyes with their soulmate. Olli’s vocals are drenched in warm and earnest love. Offset by resonating guitar lines and keyboard cascades by (IAMTHESHADOW) Pedro Code. It’s feels modern and fresh while the melodic vocal chant reminds me of Steve Kilbey (The Church). This is a band I keep feeling grow with every release. This one is out on 12/11/20 and preorder is available now.

https://thesecretfrenchpostcards.bandcamp.com/album/colours-2

Lust For Youth: Lust For Youth – Self titled album from the Danish synthpop band giving huge New Order vibes, which is never a bad thing. This record feels like staring at the sky while rain falls down. It’s cool, it’s stark, and it reminds you why you want to keep hoping for more. I was two tracks in and I’m already a believer. They aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but they are doing something familiar very well. A dark tone while centering in on lyrical hope. My favorite track was “Great Concerns“. This album was a journey of connection and the power of the human experience.

https://lustforyouth.bandcamp.com/album/lust-for-youth

Korine: The Night We Raise – I have been deeply in love with this band since Twin Tribes played them for me on our podcast. From Philly this band is glorious dark dream slush with encompassing vocals and swirling synths. This new album from Sept took another step forward in production and clarity. It also has a razor fang edge to the beauty of the music. Sometimes love bites hard and while wrapped in a velvet glove of tone Korine cuts you to the quick. This is a record you really need to spend the extra moment with and peal back the layers. The cotton candy sweet on your tongue is truly just the first layer.

https://korine.bandcamp.com/


What are your favorite romantic dark tracks I missed? Post them below 🙂