Daring new synth-hop from the nation’s capital
Twerking, circle pits, the wave, confetti, balloons, crowd surfing, and inflatable sex dolls. Just another night with Matt and Kim.
The indie-pop duo of drummer Kim Schifino and keyboardist Matt Johnson have consistently won over crowds since the mid-2000s, but they hit an inflection point when Scifino tore her ACL at a festival appearance in Mexico in March 2017. They cancelled their remaining tour dates, but a torn ACL can’t stop them - they went straight to recording their next and latest album, Almost Everyday. The album was released just two hours after the end of their 9:30 Club show and is seen as a lyrical shift for the fun-loving duo. Lead single "Forever" is as catchy as it is straightforwardly pessimistic about how things are going in the world right now. But while some of their lyrics have a bit less youthful abandon, their live show is one of the most exuberant and fun experiences you'll ever get to take part in.
In the guide to the essential indie synth-pop musicians of the 2010s, Penguin Prison will absolutely make an appearance. Since 2009, Chris Glover’s one-man music-making and remixing operation has put out two albums alongside remixes for the likes of Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey, and Imagine Dragons. He’s got an ear for knowing how to get the masses to dance, and his latest EP keeps the streak going. Turn It Up is a compact quartet of toe-tapping tunes that deal with topics that are more introspective than songs past, focusing on adversity and uncertainty about the future. Sure, the lyrics are growing up, but the melodies are as catchy as ever.
#mondaymotivation doused in catchy guitar riffs
Why You Should Care:
Chris Glover has been one of the most reliably fun musicians to grace the synth-pop landscape in the last few years. In the time since his 2015 sophomore album Lost in New York, he’s been DJing venues worldwide and putting out remixes for artists like Freedom Fry, A R I Z O N A, and DC-area band Broke Royals. But he’s also recently put out the four-song EP Turn It Up. The title track is quintessential Penguin Prison - there are four-on-the-floor drums, and poppy guitar riffs abound - but it’s also one of positive reinforcement, encouraging you to push through regardless of the obstacles.
The French are known for great dance-oriented musicians like Daft Punk, Phoenix, and Justice. Yelle is no stranger to this group. Starting with their breakout hit “Je veux te voir” in 2008, Yelle has been entertaining audiences on our side of the Atlantic to rave reviews. It’s been a few years since we've been graced with an album from the duo of Julie Budet and GrandMariner. All signs are pointing to an imminent album announcement very soon. Over the last few months, they've released three new songs, "Romeo,” "Interpasion," and “Ici & Maintenant (Here & Now)” that continue to bridge the pop and electronic gaps in new and exciting ways that span continents and languages.
Sometimes, it’s hard to separate Little Dragon - the band - from Little Dragon - the feature on another artist’s track. For years, vocalist Yukimi Nagano has made the rounds with musical tastemakers like DJ Shadow, Gorillaz, and Big Boi to give their songs that extra flourish and indie cred. Though there are lots of sounds indebted to Nagano's standout voice, the Swedish band has garnered a lot of well-deserved recognition of their own. From their 2007 self-titled debut to their latest outing, the 80s-influenced Season High, they have toured the world and pushed the synth-R&B genre forward time and again. At their two-night stint at 9:30 Club, they once again proved their prowess in melding genres into a sound that's uniquely their own. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a charismatic singer like Nagano at the helm.
For 18 years, Mew has been a band with arena rock tendencies and indie rock workmanship that has uplifted fans all over the world. The much-lauded Danish trio spent six years crafting their previous album +- but surprised fans by releasing Visuals in April, a much quicker two-year turnaround. While Visuals did away with some of the glossy production of their previous album, their desire to create dazzling sights and sounds that convey hope and joy hasn’t gone away. In fact, on the visual front, they were as strong as ever at 9:30 Club.
Twenty-one years after forming !!!, singer Nic Offer is still channeling his inner Mick Jagger. The band came to prominence amongst the crop of early-2000s dance-rock bands, most notably with 2004 album Louden Up Now. Though many dance-rock bands came and went in a flash around the same era, !!! have thankfully stuck around and released their seventh album Shake the Shudder (available through Warp Records). The album continues to light up your friendly neighborhood hipster dance floor with funky songs that retain the punk-rock energy that made them so beloved in the first place. Fresh off a set at Primavera Sound in Spain, !!! kicked off their US tour at U Street Music Hall.
In a 2016 interview with music site Nothing but Hope and Passion, Lauber described what he wants out of the live music experience: “I’d like to see something, well, ‘larger than life’, something that’s bigger than the tragedy of everyday life. That’s what pop culture is all about, to create something that’s bigger and in a way more important than life.”
Hailing from Cologne, Germany, Marius Lauber has been doing just that by writing, recording, and producing music under the name Roosevelt since 2012. Following the likes of groups like Escort and Hot Chip, Roosevelt brings together the live instrumentation and slick bass lines of disco with modern pop melodies that are a perfect addition to summer and late-night dance club playlists. On a three-show pit stop in the US in-between European shows this spring and summer (including Governor’s Ball in NYC), Lauber brought a live band to a sold-out U Street Music Hall to turn his self-recorded creation to life.
Great Good Fine Ok, Savoir Adore, the synth-pop song of the summer
Why you should care:
Paperwhite, the brother-and-sister duo of Ben & Katie Marshall, are two of the most reliably productive musicians in the synth-pop world. They have been putting out new songs on a monthly basis lately, and that streak continues with their latest single, “Only Us”.
The end to a perfect day spent with all your friends, complete with dancing, laughing and a glorious sunset
Why you should care:
With their 2012 debut “Pacific Standard Time”, Poolside made ‘‘daytime disco’’ - something that can best be described as music you can jam out to on a sunny day - a thing, . Artists like Goldroom and Viceroy have carried the genre forward into 2017, but the time is right for Poolside to take back the mantle and expand on it in a big way.
Some bands like to take time before releasing their music. Great Good Fine Ok is not one of those bands. As one of the more prolific synth-pop bands in recent years, they have been steadily chugging onwards, releasing six singles over the past year and culminating with a January EP release, III. If a sold-out DC9 is any indicator, the steady stream of singles has helped keep the duo in the forefront of people’s minds and playlists, but the live show itself is the real reason that fans should stick around.