Gold Fields – Black Sun (2013)
It seems appropriate that, on a week when I recommended revisiting a Duran Duran album (see Tuesday’s column), Gold Fields would release a debut album overflowing with elements of the New Romantic scene that Duran Duran helped to define. Dark synths dance over funk and disco rhythms while Mark Fuller sings about love without being overly specific.
Opener ‘Meet My Friends’ updates the 80s’ new wave scene much like The Killers have done time and time again. It’s a perfectly realized single with a chorus that sticks around in your head. ‘Dark Again (Lights Out)’ adds a ringing guitar to the mix and nudges the sound closer to contemporaries like Imagine Dragons. Gold Fields continue to cover new ground throughout Black Sun without losing sight of what they do best. Thick bass lines anchor ‘Happy Boy’ and ‘Treehouse’ to the dance floor, which is where Gold Fields’ music comes alive. The highpoint comes late on the record with ‘Moves’, a funky rocker with a guitar riff that gives way to a throbbing synth on the verse.
Reimagining 80s synth pop while simultaneously sounding ahead of the music scene, Gold Fields have released a powder keg of a record that could explode in 2013. – Jason Lent
Maxmillion Dunbar – House of Woo (2013)
I’ve listened to a lot of house/electronica in 2013, probably more than any other genre, and Maxmillion Dunbar’s House of Woo is at the front of a crowded pack that produces more than its fair share of duds.
What Dunbar’s effort has that others do not is not only a sprawling, layered texture of swirling sounds and loops, but also a refined sense of purpose. Too many of Dunbar’s peers are about the peak and climax of the song, whereas he has the ability to truly explore an idea and reach a sustained climax in that exploration. This may come from his much-talked-about method of simply looping the same sound over and over again for hours on end. However, that probably oversimplifies the technique and patience required to craft such a meticulously constructed effort.
Whatever the secret is, Dunbar’s House of Woo is sure to earn him deserved acclaim. – Joe Mateo
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Visiting This World (2012)
Who needs groundhogs anyway? Lazy fucks. When the hiemal chill feels more like pit than pock on a linear timeline, our creature comforts light the way out.
This is perhaps not as symphonic as 2010′s Love Is A Stream and it’s consequently even more rousing, augmenting Cantu-Ledesma’s prickly fields of static by subtraction, shedding a few strata to shed light on, well, blinding light. His din was never a fuzz to drift along with — it’s much sharper, rawer, resembling a legion of needles assaying our threshold for stridence, raking their mini-tridents through the marrow of our bones to guarantee that every last gesture is felt. Though this is a fiery affair, it isn’t hellish. On the contrary, it’s so celestial and fresh and agitated that we can already picture spring’s blossoms quivering under the promise of a new day. These 7 tracks proffer a bevy of unyieldingly lustrous tones to inflame our visions after months of wintry gray. Renewal in technicolor.
The thorns pierce our daily veils, setting our mind ablaze while bathing in elemental waters all at once. Visiting This World casts a holistic spotlight on our environs, filtering its washes of tranquil ambience through prisms that are equal parts wrenching and rarefied. A bewildering tonic of bygone dears and burgeoning years. The road ahead, grounded by the past, goaded by the future, dressed up in the fullest breadth of its uncertainty.
At present, nothing shines quite as bright as a clean slate.
This is the small and big picture. Interconnectivity. Inevitability. One bristle at a time, the thaw erodes and presents one step closer to the surface. To an awakening. To aurora’s vernal, eternal glow. – Vinh Cao