For those of you who are unfamiliar with Regina Spektor, she is a Moscow born and New York based classically trained pianist who has announced her fifth album Remember Us To Life. Her first album in four years will be a marker for Regina, who has gradually experimented and strayed away from the piano based tracks at the turn of the decade. Her new track ‘Bleeding Heart’ provides a healthy balance between her subtly delivered piano pieces and minimalist electronica presented in a innocent Pop fashion. The song is for the most part a delicate and steady piece of eccentric Pop, but it concludes with a full rock arrangement with reverberating guitars and distorted synths that allow Regina to unleash some of the power in her vocals. Remember Us To Life is out on September 30th and they’ll be some more interesting singles before that date so keep an ear out for them.
British/Sri Lankan artist M.I.A has finally announced details of her upcoming fifth album A.I.M, the follow-up from her 2013 album Mantangi. There’s been rumours about a spat with her record company and that this might be her last album, but either way her new track ‘Go Off’ has arrived. It is not yet certain whether her singles from the last twelve months will feature on the new effort, but this single certainly will. Though Scrillex taking up production of the track set alarm bells ringing, M.I.A maintains her mark on the track. It features dropping beats, snappy percussion behind it and grinding samples. On top of this are pitch shifted backing vocal samples and a slight auto tuned tinge to M.I.A’s vocals. The track is bold, yet fluid and doesn’t pull any punches musically. It is a potent mix of Western Hip Hop and Sri Lankan styles and this bodes well for the impending album that might be another classic from M.I.A.
When 2Shy came onto the scene last year, I wasn’t sure Shura would travel further than a decent cover by Mumford and Sons in the Radio One live lounge. Yet, her distinctive take on euphoric eighties-ness sets her in good stead for resounding success. In the debut, Nothing’s Real, the 25-year-old displays a spread of lively pop meshed with touching slows, the sharp yet soft tones in her voice intensifying a striking statement to the world electropop.
Shura has previously expressed an admiration of Madonna and Janet Jackson. Their influences are felt throughout an album laced with electronic intricacies and vivacious bursts of disco, minus the outrageous fashion choices. The eponymous opening track fizzes in with a robotic intro and gliding synths, before strings back the ghostly harmonies of the chorus. However, a sharp edge is also quickly established, as behind the buoyant pop are lyrics wired with the fear and anger Shura experienced after being hospitalised due to a panic attack. It’s this slant that sets her aside from the other eighties-pop-rejuvenating hopefuls: a stirring personal flair that doesn’t detract from the fun. The enthusiastic approach flows into the energetic and honest What’s It Gonna Be? which carries a chorus to get your hands clapping and your voice singing. Other influences seem to have taken hold within other tracks, as an underlying sense of Blood Orange seeps through in Tongue Tied. Contrasting this is track 3, Touch. Though it still carts a certain disco funk in the bass, the track is more settled, its glistening harmonies being the song’s greatest asset. The lyrics track an emotional relationship, making this song, and its predecessor Kids ‘N’ Stuff, which relays a similar break down, the hardest hitting on the record. The echoic effect used on Shura’s vocals, as well as her naturally gentle voice, has a profound effect, making the tracks less like songs and more like whispering ghost stories.
Travelling further down the track list, you’ll come across White Light: the album’s biggest gem. Ten minutes qualifies for an extremely long song – one I’d usually give up on by the end of the vocals at 4:45 – but the dynamic and diverse ways in which she explores electronica in those empty minutes is captivating. It takes listeners on an oscillating ride of optimistic highs and depressing lows, before concluding with hidden track 311215, in which her mother isn’t best pleased after catching her smoking. In The Space Tapes, Shura masters an uneasy close. Another essay of a track lasting nine minutes – this one features a dominant robotic voice repeating “kill them all of course”, alongside a recurrent pained shout and an alien-like synth. For the most part, the song is muted synths, giving us time to reflect on a weird and wonderful closer, but also the album as a whole, before being driven into enhanced synthesiser magic.
Shura’s Nothing’s Real hasn’t revived the eighties, but rebranded it. Taking the dancefloor inspirations and layering them with great transparency has added a new face to modern pop. How she has merged moving and brutally honest lyrics and ecstatic pop to make something quite beautiful I can’t quite get my head around, but in one way or another, the album is bound to impress.
Shura – Nothing’s Real: 7/10
The Canadian electronic/dance duo has seen Alice Glass depart and Edith Frances join. Their new album AMNESTY 1 which you can expect on August 19th. This announcement has been accompanied by the release of new tracks ‘Concrete’ and ‘Char’. The latter is a song full of light and softened beats and shifting electronica and from this base are more aggressive tones and overtures from grinding, distorted synths. Edith’s vocals act as a distant and haunting echo throughout the track and she certainly gives the duo a new dimension in terms of atmospheric delivery. An album to keep an eye on then.
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