New Year, New Decade and New Sounds

Hello 2020 and hello new possibilities. The beginning of a new year always begins with high anticipation of what’s ahead, and for me the turning of the calendar always brings to mind the promise of new music from favorite artists.

Despite another lackluster Grammy Awards ceremony, the new decade began with a bang as we were treated to the surprise release of a new album by Eminem, the third set of the Pet Shop Boys’ Stuart Price trilogy, as well as a career-spanning 18-disc box set by Depeche Mode.

As for the rest of 2020, my ears are already anxiously awaiting new records from: Garbage, The Killers, Panic! at the Disco, plus the long-awaited new set from Tame Impala. Also, in the works are new offerings from Green Day and Weezer, which will be profligately supported by this summer’s unabashed Hella Mega Tour along with Fall Out Boy.

Other noteworthy releases in the musical pipeline for the new year include the much predicted sixth album from Lady Gaga, and also Coldplay’s follow-up to last year’s unexpected Everyday Life.

So, here’s to new songs, new albums, new artists and hopefully, the demise of auto-tune used as a disconcerting crutch.

40 Years of Love: Donna Summer and the Derivation of Electronica

It’s been 40 years since the world first heard the future of music when “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer shocked us into a new sonic awakening. The electronic masterpiece – composed by Summer along with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte – was the foundation for what was to become known as electronic dance music. Whether you loved or loathed disco, “I Feel Love” commanded everyone’s attention and became a dance floor anthem during the summer of 1977. At the time, no one had previously heard anything like it. It’s hypnotic melody, combined with an irresistible synthesized bassline and pulsating dance beat was musical nirvana. Summer’s sensual vocal delivery was the icing on top of the cake as she perfectly conveyed the euphoric essence of the song’s timeless and universal message of love. The first lady of love had struck gold (and platinum) again and delivered another game-changing record every bit as earth-shattering as her breakthrough hit, “Love to Love You Baby.” [Read Full Review]

Depeche Mode: ‘Delta Machine’

Depeche Mode: Delta Machine

Depeche Mode has progressively become more esoteric with each new release over the past decade, and Delta Machine, the pioneers of synthpop’s thirteenth effort, is no exception. The set opens with raised expectations (“Welcome to my world/Step right through the door/Leave your tranquilizers at home/You don’t need them anymore”), but Martin Gore’s lyrics (with occasional help from lead singer Dave Gahan) quickly tap his usual arsenal’s vein of longing, lust, and guilt, albeit this time with an ostensibly more reflective slant.

Production duties are again bestowed upon Ben Hillier (Blur, Doves), although this is reportedly the final installment in his Depeche Mode trilogy. While the album’s somber lead-off single “Heaven” is more of the same of what we have come to expect from DM of late, the synth-heavy moodiness of Delta Machine, more times than not, ends up sounding like the soundtrack underscoring a melancholic indie film. With only rare and occasional dashes of delight (the upbeat “Soft Touch / Raw Nerve” and “Soothe My Soul”) in an otherwise underwhelming set, we can only guess Gore and Gahan have become self-satisfied in regards to Depeche Mode’s musical mythology. Perhaps it’s time for Alan Wilder’s long awaited return to offer some much needed perspective?

Those envisioning a return to form like the band’s glory days of Black CelebrationMusic for the Masses, or Violator, will ultimately be disappointed, but Depeche diehards who are willing to settle for an updated A Broken Frame or Exciter will revel in Delta Machine’s austerity. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than extreme DM reactionaries finding anything here essential besides the abovementioned tracks, the stirring “Secret To the End,” and the mid-tempo “Broken.” We can only hope this isn’t the way Depeche Mode intends to end its legacy.

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