The Love of Your Life
Charlottesville • February 14, 2017
Synthetic Division emits vaporous echoes onto the dance floor, transforming the space into an ancient, hallowed chamber adorned with statues of post-punk idols Depeche Mode and New Order. Shawn Decker and Alan SIegler make a worthy offering to the darker side of synth-pop in the form of The Love of Your Life.
The album’s amorous theme is aptly bittersweet. After the title track states, “I’ll be the love of your life,” it quickly adds, “Don’t tell the next guy.” The cold sterility of the music plays up the creeping sense of loneliness. Still, there are hopeful themes shining through. “Do Your Best” is a simple plea in the face of massive adversity. Over rolling drums and piano, “Patience is a Virtue” paraphrases the oft-spoken mantra that good things will come to those who wait.
The final track, “Everybody Counts,” features glittering electronic percussion and an affirmation of isolation, “Everyone’s been taken … but me.” There are allusions throughout to the fact that Decker has survived three decades as HIV positive, a condition resulting from a faulty hemophilia treatment in his youth. Still, Synthetic Division’s nuance and talent allows for a multitude of themes to resonate, both sonically and lyrically. Available on limited edition compact disc.
It Was Time to Fly
Dumfries • February 25, 2017
It’s inconceivable for It Was Time to Fly to be any more laid back. This second full length from Ty Sorrell features a sly sense of stoner humor and personal introspection over scratchy jazz and folk samples. It’s hard to miss Tribe Ninety Five, a Northern Virginia collective spanning a multitude of styles, as Ty has provided his talented associates plenty of airtime. Listen for Jam Matsuji’s booming baritone reggae solo on “Forest Endeavors,” or Bien’s interspersed background vocal dreampop. Sorrell is at his best when cracking wise, waxing personal, and sharing with his buds. Available on limited edition cassette.
Harrisonburg • March 1, 2017
A swirling tapestry of guitar paired with gently looped beats, Reorient—the debut effort from Monopolyopolis—blooms into a beautifully meditative instrumental album. Ben Rellick’s delicately arranged instrumental layers shine without vocals, allowing listeners to focus on their intricacies. Examples include the gently strobing rhythms and infectious strumming of “Immutable,” or the repeated piano mated with freely roaming electric organ on “Forever.” Both demonstrate incredible grace through precision. The dozen tracks pass by breezily and leave you wanting more, making Reorient an easily replayable album.
Here and Now
Bristol • February 17, 2017
Here and Now is the latest from Annabelle’s Curse, a quintet spanning the Bristol/Tennessee border. Its three songs are somber, soulful, and searching. “Light of Day” stands out as an apocalyptic epic, struck by a sudden dynamic breakdown only to gradually rebuild. The crunchy guitar and resonant drums offer a uniquely post-grunge quality not typically found in folk, reinforcing the vocals, banjo, and mandolin with a slightly muscled edge. It’s clearly an intentional step toward alt-country and away from traditional folk. Nonetheless, Carly Booher’s voice on “Be Here Now” somehow manages to be simultaneously stoic and tender.
Richmond • November 11, 2016
Zim Digital’s double-disc dissertation College Bound was written and recorded as the artist attended visual art classes at John Tyler Community College. Incredibly ambitious and remarkably clean (save a half-dozen tracks), Digital spends much of these forty songs demonstrating his high-energy flow and acute ear for modern production. He also experiments with slow jam-influenced pieces like “Love in the Making” and social media commentary on “Baked.” Recorded over three years, the sheer amount of music presented here is remarkable on its own, but some tracks—such as “Stupid and Retarded”—should have been omitted. Less can be more.