Dangerous Muse – Red EP
Electronic synth-pop artist Mike Furey, AKA Dangerous Muse, has been on the scene for a while, breaking through with MTV-approved “The Rejection” in 2006 and with an enticing video for “I Want It All” in 2009 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN6sc-zpFL0). Mike has released a string of singles and EPs, with 2 more EPs on the way. Those 2 EPs plus Red will comprise the Dangerous Muse debut album, which will later be released in its complete form.
Of Red’s 5 tracks, 4 of them were previously made available on Dangerous Muse’s official YouTube profile. Those songs, however, have been remastered for the EP, with centerpiece “Fame Kills” exhibiting the most noticeable changes. It would be easy, but too simplistic, to classify these songs as dance-pop confections. While most numbers revel in dancefloor-ready structures and sonics, they are also very lyrics and vocals-driven.
“I Can’t Help It” is a sweeping rave-up that shines with Mike’s sweet, but desperately pleading vocals and squiggly squirts of starstruck synths. The aforementioned “Fame Kills” escalates the pace with a swift, crisp beat, scintillating rhythm, and an undercurrent of winding synth grind. Mike’s light and wistful vocals are processed, but not as heavily as on the original version. He regretfully intones “Fame will tear us apart.” on the verse before kicking it up a notch with the high-flying, yearning chorus. In an intriguing change from the previous songs, the dreamy, piano-based “Mr. StrangeLove” winds down to a contemplative pace, focusing on Mike’s subdued to expressive vocal delivery and occasional guest vocals from Sandflower.
Machine Birds – Save Yourself EP
Compelling pop-crafters Maria Skranes (vocals) and Marte Eberson (synths) hail from Norway and sail through poignantly sung and lyrically perceptive electronics ‘n’ synths-based songs on this EP. Marte’s bright and gently buoyant instrumentation take the edge off Maria’s fine-tuned, emotionally aching sentiments.
Maria gingerly navigates through upheavals of the heart, starkly admitting with plaintive regret on the title track that “I’m not what you need.” and to “Save yourself from me.” Maria and Marte go a different route with “The Way It’s Meant To Be”, both sonically and lyrically. Instead of pining over a broken relationship, Maria sings with matter-of-fact directness that “Maybe someday we’ll meet again…” against a grimy synth line and dwindling arcade game notes.
“If I” is another bittersweet, heart-on-sleeve number with Maria questioning a relationship, sighing in a crestfallen, but keening lilt “If I let you go / would it be for the better?” Pulsing washes of synths and plucked harp runs lighten the pensive mood. EP-ender “Time”, which actually came out as a single in 2011, incorporates globular xylophone strikes, a sporadic clacking beat, and waltz-like tempo that contrast with the bleaker lyrics of “Change is about to come.”
Field Mouse – How Do You Know 7”
Brooklyn-based, dream-pop band Field Mouse may not be roaring like a lion on the indie music scene yet, but that could change with the future release of the 4-piece’s debut album. In the meantime, band members Rachel Browne, Andrew Futral, Allison Weiss (a solo artist in her own right), and Geoff Lewit have released a single and two 7”s. Their latest 7”, out on Lefse, is fronted by the engaging “How Do You Know” and backed by a cover of “Falling” (originally by Julee Cruise and used as the theme song for TV series Twin Peaks to haunting effect).
On the verses of “How Do You Know”, Rachel’s vocals lift up with a breathy longing amid a steady, but quick beat and cyclical guitar jangle. When the chorus arrives, Rachel draws out her words more forcefully, but with a sweetly soft pull as she questions with a touch of uncertainty “What have we got now?” The band lightens the sonics on “Falling”, removing the deep reverb guitar of the original, but Rachel sings with a similar phrasing and tone as Julee Cruise, hitting the high notes with a slowly extended airiness.
Aimee Bobruk – /ba.’brook/
This Kickstarter-funded self-release from Austin-based, singer-songwriter Aimee Bobruk will see the light of day in January. Aimee previously put out an EP in 2003 and her debut album, The Safety Match Journal, in 2008. /ba.’brook/ is a collaboration between Aimee and producer Brian Beattie and drummer Dony Wynn. The arrangements aren’t fancy, yet they verge on the fanciful at times due to the use of unusual percussion, be it the wind-up toys, spinning bicycle spokes, and smashed glass sounds found on “In Your Own Language” or the tings of a tiny xylophone on “Perfect Circumstance”.
Most songs, however, are in the strummed to plucked guitar mold, with Aimee keeping it light, lyrics-centered, and focused on her hushed, sometimes wavering, sing-talking vocals. Aimee sounds like Alison Weiss on the upbeat “A Day in the Life”, employing a sharply winsome tone and electric guitar notes. “Two of a Kind”, the lead single, adds doubled vocals and a touch of horns and keyboards to the mix as Aimee sings with a bit of a tremble “Place your heart next to mine.”
Two of Aimee’s strongest songs are found near the album’s end. An alt-country vibe runs through “Is There Nothing”, which features pedal steel guitar lines that follow Aimee’s plaintive vocals as she asks “Is there nothing I can do or say / to make you wanna stay?” “Trigger Finger” is even more of a venture, with Aimee displaying an emotive frisson that is nonexistent on previous album tracks. Against minimal accompaniment of guitar and emphatic drums, Aimee sings in an anxious tone about the subject of violence and relationships, cutting through any niceties with the lines “Down on your knees / stop begging please.”