ARTIST: Ashbury Heights
At long last, Swedish duo Ashbury Heights have finally released their much-hyped debut album. It was more than worth the wait. It's been a long, long time since a synthpop band has put out such a promising first effort. Anders Hagstrom and Yaz Uhlin don't break new ground here; they don't take drastic sidesteps away from the genre established by such acts as Depeche Mode and Berlin. This is solid synthpop: clean, dramatic vocals delivered over club-ready rhythm programming and tinkling synths. It's so perfectly crafted and delivered, though, that you can't help loving it. A big part of the appeal is Hagstrom's voice, which combines the velvety croon of VNV Nation's Ronan Harris with the arch flourishes of Morrissey, as evidenced by his falsetto yips on "Angora Overdrive" or the dandy rebel pose he strikes on "Stormbringer." Uhlin, for her part, is less arch than deliberately provocative, as on the melodramatically morbid "Suicide Anthem" and the swaggering "Christ," complete with perky exhortations to "Clap your hands, you motherfuckers / Buy the record, sing along!" That said, she's also capable of evoking a real sense of melancholy, as on the comparatively understated but still club-ready "Smaller." While this album is full of modern touches, like the progressive techno synths of "Corsair" or the slick production of "I Paint Nightscapes," it's clear that Hagstrom and Uhlin's real love is the classic sound of the '80s. "Penance" in particular throws in a touch of everything from electronic piano lines to synthesized bells and choirs. It's impressive, then, that this album doesn't sound dated or retro in the least; despite their obvious influences, Hagstrom and Uhlin have managed to take the overplayed elements of '80s synthpop and turned them into something fresh. If you're a diehard synthpop fan, you're likely a fan of Ashbury Heights already, but if you've given up on the genre, give this album a listen and see if it doesn't change your mind.
Hear tracks from the album on MySpace at www.myspace.com/ashburyheightsmusic.
|< Prev||Next >|