Here are six singles, studio albums, and scores you need to get on board with right away. Life is uncertain, and our unsettling times make it all even more intimidating. These will help take the edge off.
Better Person – Something to Lose
If you’re anything like me, you’re very much into the 1980s offerings of Bryan Ferry both on his own and with Roxy Music. Perhaps you tend to get even deeper into sophisti-pop, spinning discs from Sade and Prefab Sprout, among others? If this is you, then Berlin-based Better Person (AKA Adam Byczkowski) will be your jam. Better Person, singing in both English and Polish, cultivates catchy, dreamy sonics with an impeccably clean sheen and glued together with delicately executed tender loving care. Atop that is the slow-melting butter of Byczkowski’s velvety dexterous vocals. “Hearts on Fire” and the title cut are great examples of this. Meanwhile, the glassy, fire-roasted instrumental cut “Glendale Evening” levitates like a gossamer of hypnosis. Something To Lose, produced by Ben Goldwasser of MGMT, is one of the best releases I’ve heard in years.
The Midnight — Horror Show
What if preeminent synthwave powerhouse duo The Midnight decided to do a darksynth release? It’s a question that’s answered with resounding affirmation on their latest EP, Horror Show, which is streaming solely on Amazon Music and available in a vinyl and cassette pre-order. With the help of synthwave producer Essenger and stalwart collaborators like saxophonist Jesse Molloy and singer Nikki Flores, Tim McEwan and Tyler Lyle offer up a haunting blend of the Carpenteresque and modern darksynth. What’s the same as any release from The Midnight is a deft mastery of musical world-building from McEwan and a meaty lyricism from Lyle. Essenger helps the band dive deeper into the dark side without getting lost in the treacherous world of the cardinal sins of darksynth.
Fans of the song “Nocturnal” from the EP of the same name or cuts like “Night Skies” from Monsters will find much to love in the minor-key contemplations of this Halloween-themed release. Among the songs is a standout cover of Bruce Springsteen’s and Patti Smith’s “Because the Night.” It’s a natural cover, considering just how effortlessly The Midnight evoke the socioeconomic storytelling of The Boss and the visceral energy of Smith in several of their songs.
Here’s what McEwan and Lyle had to say about Horror Show in a press release:
Through the process of making the album art for Monsters and thinking about the ephemera in a teenager’s bedroom, we began to ask ourselves questions about the television. What was that shadowy figure coming out of the static screen?
The world of late night television that I remember from my teenage years was much older than the era in which I grew up. The Twilight Zone. The black and white Universal Monster films from the 50s and 60s. Plan 9 From Outer Space. That world of intrigue seemed so much more romantic and timeless through adolescent eyes. More than the rise of big budget horror movies, that quiet era of Creature From The Black Lagoon, House on Haunted Hill, and Plan 9 From Outer Space did far more to inform me about the darkness and strangeness in the human condition, than did the more brutal and gory films that would come later. It was those films you just stumbled upon, that you couldn’t look away from — the Kurosawa films, Hitchcock, the melodramas of shows like Dark Shadows.
This is our little homage to the eerie romance of the stumbled upon late night black and white horror film.
Also, don’t miss The Midnight’s full-band livestream on Oct. 30. Tickets are available now.
Various Artists — After Dark 3
It’s a given that some of Italians Do It Better’s most influential and best releases have featured on its After Dark label comp series, which at this point comes every 6 or 7 years to redefine the label to the world. The first, released in 2007, showed us all another way to produce catchy, danceable, and influential electronic music without losing one’s humanity. It was like a lightning-strike into the ages with earth-shattering offerings from a newly configured Chromatics, along with Glass Candy, Mirage, Farah, and others. It was far rawer and more Italo Disco than later releases, encapsulating a crucial and special time for the label. The more polished AD2 came in 2013, featuring those aforementioned artists and others such as Appaloosa and Twisted Wires — this was the album that introduced us to Chromatics’ “Cherry,” Desire’s “Tears from Heaven,” and Glass Candy’s “Redheads Feel More Pain.” It was also the release that followed Chromatics’ and Desire’s inclusion on the 2011 Drive soundtrack.
In keeping with that release schedule, After Dark 3 arrived Friday in the face of a very different Italians Do It Better. Although flagship acts Chromatics and Desire appear multiple times, there’s no Glass Candy in sight. Symmetry and Mirage are also absent. (Although, thankfully, Farah makes her periodic return in beautiful form.) In their place is, and dominant generally on the album, is a newer crop of talented artists from around the world. Some like Prague-based Pink Gloves, Rhode Island-based Orion, and Paris-based Double Mixte have been on the label for a few years. Others, such as Causeway, MOTHERMARY, Love Object, JOON, Glüme, and Club Intl. are new family members who bring some seriously compelling songs to the table. Israeli artist Guy Gerber joins them with a hypnotic deep house expression reminiscent of the label’s 2010 Solid Gold collection. Overall, it’s an engaging compilation from a label that never ceases to provide a joie de vivre bathed in the types of colors, sounds, and emotions that make the human condition a fun thing to experience.
You can buy the digital version from IDIB’s webstore right now in mp3 and lossless versions for only one dollar. I imagine a beautiful vinyl release is imminent. And, of course, it’s streaming in the usual fine places.
Clint Mansell — Rebecca (Music from the Netflix Film)
Clint Mansell is one of the most gifted composers out there, employing a diverse array of instruments and modalities to expertly complement the film at hand. For Black Mirror episode “San Junipero” and Duncan Jones’ Netflix film Mute, Mansell leaned into beautiful synth compositions. For Requiem for a Dream, it was the haunting string stabs of the Kronos Quartet. For Ben Wheatley’s new adaptation of gothic drama Rebecca, Mansell builds a soundscape of organic strings, glimmering guitars, and yearning piano notes laced with trepidation.
Out now digitally via Invada Records.
Jeremiah Sand — Lift It Down
Linus Roache’s Jeremiah Sand, the unhinged leader of the dangerous hippie cult The Children Of The New Dawn from Panos Cosmatos’ sensory onslaught Mandy, returns with a full-length release via Sacred Bones, replete with an elaborate backstory and liner notes from Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. The music — a delectably entrancing foray into late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelia and even ’70s synthesis — is equal parts ritual and curiosity. The delightfully deranged “Message from the Mountain” and the explosive closing track are standouts, but really you should just listen to the whole album in one feel swoop to really internalize the unsettlingly arresting compositions.
Pre-order the vinyl variants today in advance of Friday’s release.
Emi Kusano — “Glass Ceiling”
The frontwoman of Japanese synthwave trio Satellite Young has come out with her first solo cut, a catchy number tinged with more modern pop and R&B elements than the ’80s retro common to her band. As always, the video is worth it alone, but this Japanese-language cut is overall sublime.
(Editor’s Note: The One-Liners column is a concise but meaningful way to highlight Vehlinggo-recommended releases. It’s not exactly weekly, but it can be. Entries are almost never one line, but they could be. Check out the most recent One-Liners post.)