(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What's cool? Hot and cold electronic pop from Coeds and Tei Shi

Mirror images and musical reflections

Browsing through virtual piles of music this week, I found myself trapped between two extremes. Even though both of these tunes are rooted in electronic pop and feature strong female singers, they reflect radically different sensibilities. One runs hot with retro synthpop passion, packed with noisy energy. The other is a chill blend of polished pop vocals and precise sequencing.

Coeds' new single "Sensitive Boys" kicks off with Ryan Kailath's tight synth riff and a solid drum machine loop and quickly captures the retro new wave synthpop of Men Without Hat's "Safety Dance" along with some Billy Idol edge. Merideth Muñoz doesn't sneer like Idol, but she can summon a post-punk Blondie-style glee on lines like, "New chicks/ The same tricks/ Six six six." The production on her voice is just a little saturated, so she sounds like she's ready to rip right through the speaker. Her knowing tone fits the lyrical theme as she chastises all of the sensitive boys who will never be the kind of player that she is: "Who said anything about love?" Coeds fill the track with percussive bits and pieces, which makes it as danceable as it is catchy.

Tei Shi is every bit as memorable with "Go Slow", but instead of overtly pumping the track full of energy, she lets it simmer with repressed tension. The verses are buttoned down, with a sparse electro-pop groove behind Shi's breathy vocal. The brief bridge opens up into a freer expression when she loosens her control and sings, "Baby, won't you reach out to me." Almost immediately, though, she bottles it back up. The production is exquisitely choreographed, balancing the movement of rhythm and bass into a give-and-take dance of advance and retreat. It's clear that every sound is carefully chosen and placed. That precision is in turn complemented by the dreamy softness of the vocal line.

I love listening to these tracks together, where the heat and life of Coeds can contrast with delicate crafting of Tei Shi's music. Either one sounds great alone, but together they mirror one another. It's a dichotomy where both sides are right. 

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