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Electro-popping and breakfast muffins - New and newer releases from Bearstonaut and Stereo Telescope

Posted by Jonathan Donaldson  February 28, 2013 05:39 PM

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When I need to get up, I need two things to make the magic happen. Caffeine and music. Caffeine is my drug (and I bet it's safely yours too), but it's still worthy of Rick James at his most ambitious. In terms of music (my other fix), it's got to be either punk, rockabilly or electro-pop--that lovely little subgenre born out of '80s new wave and '90s techno whose clean lines and smooth sheen feel so good in the morning before that cynical side kicks in.

One record of recent note in this department comes from Bearstronaut (whom I have written about here), who recorded their dazzling Paradice EP (released Nov 2012) largely in their apartment--though you would never guess that was recorded in anything other than a limo with a portable studio roaming London in the middle of the night. Another dandy comes now from Stereo Telescope (whom I have also touched on here) who are just now in the process of letting music listeners like you and me pry the secrets of their debut LP On and Running (Released Jan 2013) away from their warm vibrant mittens.

Bearstronaut, who will release a new single "A Better Hand" this coming Friday at Great Scott (March 8), mix up 5 solid tracks on Paradice, a few of which could be easily pegged for a single. "Birds of Prey" establishes their fun, disco sensibilities both with its working-it drums (see also '80s esque roto-fills) and its Donna Summers-esque reasoning to "let me be what you need." It's extra light on the funk guitar, as sequenced synth-patterns come to the forefront as the primary focus of the track. "Passenger Side" drops in a slap-bass and a cool falsetto on a reverberating chime motif that gives the song a somewhat exotic feel . It almost makes you feel like you're on vacation (Singapore?) and it's ok to let your guard down a bit. My favorite here though is "Painted in the Dark;" the sensitive song of the bunch. With Bearstronaut's best chorus, "Painted" drops the disco-dressing of the EPs opening tracks to give way to just the splended sequencers laid bare against heavenly lean and spongy New Order-eque guitar tones.

Stereo Telescope, who host their tour kick off at Great Scott on March 5, make a very strong case for themselves with On and Running. The Telescopes play their 'duo' status into a strength by keeping their music focused on simple boy/girl vocal interplay, quirky beat tracks and almost overly rainbow-tastic synth layers. Their low bit-rate sound-aesthetic embodies the same kind of wide-eyed bedroom expressionism of a band like the High Places, and comes across here as pleasantly warm and not harsh or brittle (like more conventional chiptune productions). For Stereo Telescope, it is not so much the limited tools that they choose on standout tracks like "Fires," the tension/release-filled "Lighthouse" and their gentle anthem "Geography" but the manner by which they choose not do too much with those tools. The most soothing tracks are the perfect playground for the sincerest vocals, such as on "Draw me a Sky," which is sung with the sort of subtle rock conviction that makes you *feel* rocked while actually being maybe barely buzzed at most. On and Running's compositional complexion flows like a mix tape as it coos from one sunny major-sounding patch of mellow-deez to the next. It all packs up into one awfully cozy popsicle igloo that erects itself over you in multi-colors while you zone out in headphones land. Stay cozy.

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About the author

Jonathan Donaldson is a Boston-based musician, writer, and second-generation music junkie. An Ohio native who moved to Boston in 1998, Jonathan's musical loves include R&B, psych, punk, bubblegum, country, electronic, More »

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