Getting into the spirit: New CD releases will liven up your spring

Getting into the spirit: New CD releases will liven up your spring

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Depeche Mode

“Spirit”

Columbia/Mute Records

It’s nothing short of amazing how electro-pop pioneers Depeche Mode has evolved and stayed interesting and ahead of the curve in its 35-plus years of making music. From their early new-wave and synthpop sound, they pushed into industrial and alternative-rock territory by the late 1980s and early ’90s, and then, as the new millennium came and went, into a sound that kept pace with the constant shifts in tastes, all with an admirable level of sophistication. Who else from that genre and the era besides Duran Duran (a comparison we’re pretty sure Depeche Mode is sick of) can still put out albums and tour without being lumped into and packaged on some form of nostalgia circuit? 

Sonically, Depeche Mode is sticking to the intricate and dramatically somber signature sound they’ve comfortably settled into in the latter half of their prolific career. The music is anchored by Dave Gahan’s soulfully brooding vocal style and alternates between densely layered electronic beats with big, sexy alien-sounding synths (“You Move” and “Fail”) and sparse noir-ish tunes with ghostly guitar or piano melodies (“Cover Me,” “Poison Heart” and “Poorman”).

Throwback ’80s synth sounds are showing up in pop culture more than ever these days, and while this album still has a toehold in that vibe, songs like “Scum” and “No More (This Is The Last Time)” have enough of an edge and songwriting prowess to feel fresh and innovative, while still coming across like the soundtrack to the next season of “Stranger Things.”

Electro-pop pioneers Depeche Mode have always come from a deeply personal place, with their dark and seductive style of music. It’s interesting on their latest album, their 14th, that they seem to be taking on global and political themes in their lyrics. That interpretation is up to the listener. But given the social and political climate, it’s hard to take in the confrontational lyrics on the album’s opening salvo of songs (“Going Backwards,” “Where’s the Revolution,” “The Worst Crime” and “Scum”) and not read some form of commentary about the state of the world into them. And if that was their intention, bravo! Keep it coming. That’s the … “Spirit”!

 

Goldfrapp

“Silver Eye”

Mute Records

After experimenting with folk influences on their last few efforts, electro-dance-pop duo Goldfrapp returns with disco and EDM guns blazing on a brand-spanking-new seventh album. And thank goodness.

The opening tracks, “Anymore” and “Systemagic,” waste no time in getting into a dirty, digitized groove with a grindingly pulsing mid-tempo dance beat that lays the foundation for singer Alison Goldfrapp’s breathlessly alluring vocal lines.

Not leaving all their experimentation behind, Goldfrapp delivers some pleasantly welcome detours into more ethereal, new-age and trippy territory on tracks like “Tigerman,” “Zodiac Black” and “Faux Suede Drifter.” But the album’s comfort zone is the kind of dark and sexy neon-lit ambience that sets an otherworldly mood. The robotic “Become The One,” the spacy “Moon In your Mouth” and the slow, building groove of “Ocean” are perfect examples of this.

Welcome back to the dance floor, Goldfrapp. We have missed you.

 

Tyce

“Hero”

Broadway Records

New York-based Broadway actor Tyce teamed up with Jim Steinman — the composer, producer and songwriter who penned massive hits for Meatloaf and Celine Dion, among others — for his debut double album, which finds him covering hits Steinman wrote for other artists. 

Legend has it that Tyce met Steinman at a tribute concert honoring the latter in New York where Tyce received a standing ovation for singing “Bat Out Of Hell,” the epic rock song Steinman wrote for Meatloaf. This inspired Steinman to sign on as the creative consultant and give Tyce his blessing for the project.

At first glance, Tyce seems to really be leaning into the idea of a Steinman-written album with the cover art by fantasy illustrators Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. And to be honest, we’ve seen enough singers — professional, Broadway and otherwise — belting out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Holding Out for a Hero” to expect this album to be an ego-stroking sonic cheese-fest of the highest magnitude. But, shockingly enough, it isn’t. It’s actually damned good.

Tyce and company strike a good balance in executing these songs. He has a stellar voice, and, more importantly, he knows when to show off and when to do what’s best for the song. It also helps that the album balances its dramatic songwriting touchstones with tastefully hard-rocking instrumentation. That attention to detail elevates his renditions of “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “I’ll Kill You If You Don’t Come Back To Me” to something infectiously epic that listeners will want to rock out to. Tyce can also sing the hell out of a piano ballad on tracks like “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” and “Left in the Dark.”

The second disc features acoustic versions of the songs for the people who want more of a cabaret vibe. While not as dynamic as the electric-rock disc that precedes it, the performances of classics like “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” are stellar and allow Tyce to show off his emotional range away from the bombast of the rock songs.

“Hero” is a solid effort and Tyce definitely deserves to wear cape for this performance on his debut album.

 

Nancy and Beth

s/t

Hepursef

Nancy And Beth are the self-described “punk vaudeville band” led by Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt. And at first listen, their album is more vaudeville than punk, giving off sassy waves of jazzy and bluesy charm that will make you want to open up a juke joint.

The duo definitely has some singing chops to compliment the captivating retro songs driven by upright bass and piano melodies. And while playfully upbeat songs like “Please Mr. Jailer” and “One Mint Julep” generate a carnival-like atmosphere, it’s when they dive into moodier and darker territory that they really start to impress. “Vibrate” is hauntingly good — so much so that Mazzy Star needs to watch her ass. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is a delightfully melancholy country song. Rounding out the madcap vibe are the filthy, hip-hop-influenced “I Don’t Love Her” and the gospel revival of “Saved.”

Nancy and Beth are a fun and talented pair. They can crash our party and get crazy any time.


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