by Gregg Shapiro
These days, dance music is showing up in some unexpected places. Of course, the title of Glaswegian group Belle and Sebastian’s splendid new record, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance (Matador), should have been a clue as to the direction they’ve taken at the moment. Belle and Sebastian are no strangers to danceable pop, but a number of the songs on Girls In Peacetime… are downright clubby. The exhilarating electro of “Enter Sylvia Plath,” for instance deserves to be a tea dance standard, beginning now throughout the end of the summer season and beyond. “The Party Line” is a sexy and throbbing number sure to set booties to bumping and hips to shaking, and folks jumping “to the beat of the party line.” The seven and a half minute “Play For Today” and the funky and flirty “Perfect Couples” are also enchanting.
Don’t be put off by its name because Night Terrors of 1927 is a riveting live act. The mixed gender band, led by the unlikely pairing of Jarrod Gorbel (of emo act Honorary Title) and Blake Sennett (of hipster band Rilo Kiley), also makes unexpectedly dancey music on its debut album Everything’s Coming Up Roses (Atlantic). Songs such as “Perfect Day,” the funky rock of “When You Were Mine” (featuring Tegan and Sara) and the active motion of “Running In Place,” are custom made for loft dance parties in up and coming neighborhoods swarming with urban pioneers. What makes Night Terrors of 1927 especially interesting is the way that Gorbel’s emo vocals work so well within the dance framework.
Like Night Terrors of 1927, with which it has toured, Joywave is an exciting band to catch in concert. Joywave is the perfect name for this great electronic dance band fronted by Daniel Armbruster, whose hipster-nerd appearance belies the electro genius within. The question in Joywave’s debut album’s title, How Do You Feel Now? (Hollywood/Cultco) is easy to answer after the first listen. Elated, mesmerized and addicted are three words that immediately come to mind. Dance-floor delights such as “Carry Me,” “Tongues” (featuring Kopps), “In Clover,” “Feels Like a Lie” and “Now” deliver swells of ecstasy.
Big Data, aka Alan Wilkis, has lots of cool friends and isn’t afraid to call on them as you can hear on his debut album 2.0 (WB/Wilcassettes/Crush). The coolest thing about the collaborations with the guest artists is that they are heard on the songs they co-wrote with Wilkis. Joywave makes an appearance on “Dangerous,” co-written by the previously mentioned Armbruster. Other collaborations of note include “Clean” with Jamie Lidell, “The Business of Emotion” with White Sea, “Get Some Freedom” with Dragonette and “Sick For Me” with Bear Hands.
Faceless corporate prog-rock confection Imagine Dragons (starting with that name!) incorporated electronic and dance elements into the songs on its 2012 debut breakthrough Night Visions. On the follow-up, Smoke + Mirrors (Kid In A Korner/Interscope), ID wastes no time in hitting the dance-floor on the appealing opener “Shots.” “Gold” makes interesting use of samples and rhythms. “I’m So Sorry” has a stomp worthy of vintage Billy Squier, while “I Bet My Life” imagines Mumford & Sons as a clubbier act. “Friction” warms up the strip-club grind/vibe.
Olly Murs’ fourth album Never Been Better (SYCO/Columbia/Modest!) is better than his previous albums, especially if you like to dance. The focus has been shifted from pre-fab Brit-pop (thanks Simon Cowell!) to more straightforward dance-pop (there’s a difference!). There’s less stylistic borrowing and more innovation. You can hear it immediately on the club strut of “Did You Miss Me?” and the bouncing beat of “Stick With Me.” For the most part, though, Murs hasn’t completely abandoned his carefully and commercially manufactured sound as you can hear on duets with Travie McCoy (“Wrapped Up”) and Demi Lovato (“Up”) and ballads such as “Tomorrow” and “Hope You Got What You Came For.” Sam Smith he’s not.
Smallpools put a distinctly sunny L.A. spin on the dance-pop heard on its debut album Lovetap! (RCA). With the hand claps and shouts of “hey” on “American Love” you might be tempted to dance the kazatsky, but please resist. “Killer Whales” draws on the Cars playbook, while “Dreaming” has more of a club vibe. “Street Fight” goes for a stadium-sized dance feel, “Over & Over” brings the suburban white funk and “Admission To Your Party” invites a great big beat.
Even if you don’t understand a word that Stromae says – he sings and raps en Francais – he wants one thing and one thing only from you; that you danse (translation: dance!). Stromae gives us plenty of opportunities to do so on Racine Carée (Casablanca). Just try not moving to rhythmic tracks such as “Ta Fête” (“Your Day”), “Papaoutaí,” “Bâtard” (“Bastard”), “Tous Les Mémes” (“All The Same”), “Humaín Á L’eau” (“Human To Water”) and “Sommeil” (“Sleep”).
Just a few short years ago Brit twosome The Ting Tings were riding high on the success of their 2008 debut album We Started Nothing, a disc that spawned hit singles such as “That’s Not My Name,” “Great DJ” and “Shut Up and Let Me Go.” But the 2012 follow-up Sounds From Nowheresville failed to maintain the momentum. The Ting Tings are back with Super Critical (Finca), a nine-track disc that has them moving in a decidedly dance direction. They flash a sense of humor and history on “Wrong Club.” “Do It Again” is good enough to listen to again and again. “Only Love” and the title track are reminders of why we listened to the duo in the first place, while “Communication” sounds like a fresh start. Canadian club music
Canadian club music duo Humans leaves its mark with the hypnotic full-length pop-tronic debut Noontide (Hybridity). British trance trio Above & Beyond hits new heights on We Are All We Need (Anjunabeats/Ultra). The third time’s the charm for French DJ Etienne De Crécy as he revives his Super Discount series with the aptly named Super Discount 3 (A+LSO/Sony/Pixadelic). German electro artist Fritz Kalbrenner’s new studio disc is titled Ways Over Water (Suol/BMG). SPC ECO raises the bar on the beats on The Art of Pop (Saint Marie/Kaboom).