The Rabbit Hole, Vol. 5: Electro-stylin’

The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.

What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.

So, to begin:

  • Allie X – Cape God

As I was participating in last week’s song exchange on the DBC (check it out live at WTSR every Thursday night from 8-10 PM ET, song exchange happens at around 9 pm ET and I’m “Bastard #1) I presented Bastards #2 and #3 with “Super Duper Party People” by Allie X, which they fucking hated because their tastes are highly suspect but I also left them a note that said “I think if I were to really get into a new genre now, electro-pop would be it.” And this is how a rabbit hole begins.

I work from home, isolated in my basement like I have the coronavirus (editor’s note: I don’t) and regularly, the only thing that gets me out of my seat is a danceable song. And I’ve been finding more and more of these in the electro-pop genre. I love upbeat, fun songs, with singable hooks and totally memorable beats and that’s what the genre gives me.

I feel like Electro-pop as a label is near the top of the food chain for the genre at least but there’s so many variations. It’s all a branch off of pop music, of which I would then branch off synth-pop from that and then a branch off of synth-pop is electro-pop. Could I explain to you the difference? Well, I don’t know. To me, snyth-pop sounds like it’s fully synth based as the base and happens to be a pop song while electro-pop like you hear on Allie X’s record is more of a pop base with fun electronics. That’s what my ears here. Is that right? I have no idea.

But I love this Allie X record from the fun “Super Duper Party People” that the guys detested to something a bit more poppy like “Sarah Come Home” but it was the former that made me get up and dance and start me down this path.

  • La Roux – Supervision

Unlike Rabbit Hole #4 which was based on the Eurovision contest I’m back using just the Tidal “similar artists” algorithm to move down the chain. La Roux had one hit in the US called “Bulletproof” back in 2009, so it’s been a while since she had a moment here but she’s been busy on other people’s records. This is her third album and I had high hopes for it when it came out in early February but there’s one thing missing – the hook in the chorus. With this type of electro-pop sound, I very much expect the hook to be catchy as hell it’s not on the vast majority of these songs. All the songs are kind of funky but for some reason the whole album feels like the band just isn’t letting go. It feels too safe. I mean, it’s still solid even if a bit too cold and calculated. Although, I swear there’s a George Michael’s Faith album vibe in a lot of the songs, like the one below in which I hear the key riff from “Monkey” in it.

  • Betty Who – Betty

La Roux took me to Australian singer, Betty Who and her album from early in 2019. I had heard this before also thanks to the DBC Song Exchange with the track “Just Thought You Should Know” which she and her “writers” should be sued for since it’s basically lifting Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking” note for note. But the rest of the album is a great representation of electro-pop, super catchy, hook filled and Betty has a great voice to go along with it. Fun record for sure.

  • Robyn – Body Talk

From there, I could have chosen Carly Rae Jepsen, which would have gotten me off the electro path too far, so instead I chose the inevitable path, to Robyn. So if you only know Robyn from the song “Show Me Love” in 1997, you have no idea what you’re missing. Unfortunately, she’s kept a pretty low profile since the point but Body Talk was my album of the year when it came out in 2010. But it’s also hard to imagine that it’s been 10 years since this came out and that she’s only had one full length since then, since this was so fucking good. With Body Talk, she reinvented herself as a electro-pop artist and created some of the catchiest material of the decade on this record. In 2010, this sounded almost groundbreaking. In 2020, it still sounds relative – I don’t know if the pop world has even caught up to this yet. You feel it right away with the second track, “Fembot” which sounds like it’s coming from a sexy rapping robot, followed by the spoken word track about everything that’s killing her while warning everyone “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do.” There’s also more straightforward songs like “Call Your Girlfriend” in which Robyn tells a dude to call his girlfriend and break up with her and then crazier tunes like the pseudo-reggae “None of Dem” or the actual Reggae song “Dancehall Queen.” Overall, it’s a fascinating trek into the different realms of her mind and all the corners of electro-pop.

  • MØ – No Mythologies to Follow

The only problem with hitting up Robyn so early in this is that I usually end the trek on something really good or really bad and well, I’m not sure it’s going to get any better than Robyn. But can’t stop the Rabbit Hole three albums in, so the algorithm gave two interesting choices – Grimes and MØ. Grimes just released an album so I listened to it but I had no idea who MØ was, so I went there and picked her first of two LPs, released in 2014. So yes, this is electro-pop, I suppose but it’s a lot more midtempo than I would like. Not one song made me pause from the paying gig to stop and dance – so not really my bag for this album.

  • Icona Pop – This Is…Icona Pop

Conscious effort to go backwards from MØ as I was getting trapped in the same type of material. So I went backwards to the recommendation of Icona Pop. I knew the name but didn’t even recognize them as the “I Love It” group – which, since it’s the first track, I was quickly reminded of. And now this is the type of electro-pop I would really like to get into. If I was to move forward, I would move from this to Kesha, as it’s similar for sure but for this, the whole album is a super fun burst of energy. Now a song like “Ready for the Weekend” is more electro house than pop and I’m not moving info Diplo territory, so I prefer tracks like “All Night” or “We Got the World” which don’t have the house beats with them. Or just the simple silly fun of “Then We Kiss.” They haven’t released an album in 7 years though, but supposedly there’s a new one in the works.

  • Dragonette – Fixin To Thrill

This is a new one for me as I’ve never even heard the name Dragonette before but heavens, they are on my radar now. The only full band on here so far, this 2009 album was their second and is pretty much the definition of electro-pop as I define it in my mind. Fun, upbeat and even a little quirky (with a banjo in one track) this is the exact type of record that I want to find more of and focus on in the future.

  • MNDR – Diamonds

Another woman I’ve never heard of before, she released one electro-pop album back in 2012 and only some singles since that point, so there really hasn’t been a point to get on my radar and there’s really no reason to be. This is half good, half dull. For every momentum builder, there’s a pretty dull track bringing the album back down to earth again. There’s promise here but nothing that reaches full potential.

  • Sleigh Bells – Treats

The algorithm popped Sleigh Bells near the top after MNDR for some reason, even though these guys are more noise pop but I guess something about keyboards got them mixed together. This is the only record I know from Sleigh Bells and the one that critics nut over when they talk about the band. I think I liked it when it came out in 2010 – maybe I drank the cool aid at the time because I hate this thing now. Fuzzed out rock, random noise, a true assault to the ears. And with that, I’m derailed.

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