The Post-Postal Service Generation: Electronica Gets Emo
Tue, 03 Jul 2007 13:06:14
If you're a sensitive young man looking to express your feelings in song, tradition dictates that you strap on a guitar and sing your broken heart out. You're not supposed to sit down with a laptop and a drum machine and spill your guts over programmed beats and gurgling synths. In electronica, the vocals have always tended to match the music's mechanized polish with some form of detachment, whether it be the cutting wit of LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, the hyper-sexual unattainability of Alison Goldfrapp, or the jittery reserve of Matthew Dear. But increasingly, a new group of singer-songwriters—call them the post-Postal Service generation—are bringing a more emo aesthetic to electronic music's chilly soundscapes.
At the forefront of this new emotronic sound is the British group Stateless, led by the soaring, Chris Martin-like vocals of frontman Chris James. Stateless' take on electronica is decidedly English, and more influenced by the baroque tones of Radiohead and Portishead than by relatively sunny American acts like Postal Service. But even on a dark track like "Bloodstream," which could almost pass for Bristolean trip-hop, James' willowy voice and aching, schoolboy poetry—"I think I might have inhaled you/I can feel you behind my eyes"—lead the song into the same naively romantic terrain explored by brokenhearted saviors from Keane to Dashboard Confessional.
Fellow Englishman Sam Duckworth, a.k.a.
Across the pond, where electronica remains outside the mainstream, fewer acts are adopting an emotronic sound. One notable exception is Svoy (pictured above), a Russian-born, New York-based newcomer whose music is a bizarre and occasionally brilliant hybrid of jazzy piano-pop, anthemic emo-rock and ambient electronica. On signature tracks like "The Other Side" and the drum 'n' bassy "Driving Away," Svoy sounds like Jamie Cullum singing a Fall Out Boy tune as remixed by Paul Oakenfold. Such brazen stylistic mashups can be a little hard to swallow, especially when Svoy's songwriting skills lag behind his production ingenuity, but there's no denying that his album Eclectric is one of the year's most intriguing debuts.
Other acts, like Norwegian balladeer Magnet and Canadian post-shoegaze prodigy Julian Fane, are less overtly pop-oriented, and draw on influences as varied as Sigur Ros, Air and Four Tet. But their music ultimately shares the same DNA as Svoy and Stateless, and is built around the same mix of raw emotionalism, looped beats and brooding electronics. With so many acts young enough to cite Give Up and Kid A as major influences emerging all at once, it seems certain that the passion of rock and the precision of electronica are bound to continue colliding in new and unexpected ways.